Den Talk: Mr. Chicago Leather Travelogue and Recap

Den Talk is an occasional column by GLD staff reporters.

This past weekend, slave Angie was honored to be asked to judge at the Mr. Chicago Leather contest. This is a “bar title” contest, run by Touché of Chicago. The man who wins this contest goes on to the International Mr. Leather contest on Memorial Day weekend to compete for the title of the same name. The contest has become a weekend event and a big deal for our local community. Angie being asked to judge was a huge thrill for her.

heartochicagoThere is a well-known and very … hmm… how to describe the “Heart ‘O’ Chicago” motel? It’s a throwback to the 1950s and 60s for sure. It’s on the border of the Edgewater and Rogers Park neighborhoods. It’s at the connecting point of several major side street arteries into Chicago. It has a reputation for being a trashy place and you might think that when you walk by, but the both times slave Angie and I have stayed there, it’s been decent. It’s not five star, but it’ll do. We decided to stay there, as it’s very convenient to Touche. Many leather folks have spent the weekend at “the Heart” so it’s a bit of a tradition. And, compared to other prices, it’s not that bad of a deal.

Miguel Torres, MCL 2014 and Nick Zuko MCL 2013 (Photo by Great Lakes Den
Miguel Torres, MCL 2014 and Nick Zuko MCL 2013 (Photo by Great Lakes Den

Slave Angie was nervous about judging for this contest. It’s a very different sort of title than what we are involved in. Where the M/s title is about education and community, the bar contests are, by and large, about sex. About the hottest man or woman. About the contestant who impresses the judges most on the criteria that the bar title is about. In Chicago, the MCL title has become a very active and well-represented title, by the efforts of the past few titleholders. Nick Zuko and Miguel Torres have been the past two MCLs that slave Angie and I have known and worked with. They are passionate about the Chicago men’s leather community and about outreach, inclusiveness and education. We’ve loved getting to know them and help them out whenever we could. They’ve done the same in spades for us. It has really felt like a family in Chicago with these two wonderful men. And hello… hot as well too.

So the festivities started on Friday night at Touché with a packed bar and introductions of the judges and contestants. There were a lot of folks from around the country (and world) at the bar. John Pendal, holder of the 2003 International Mr. Leather title was the MC and kept the crowd quiet and entertained (which is hard to do in a packed bar!) Anytime you have these sorts of meet and greets, it feels like a big family reunion. People who haven’t seen each other in awhile get to reconnect. And… of course… the cruising and checking out and date making. The contestants for the contest are supposed to use the time to meet the judges and make a good first impression – always important! The judges are also watching the contestants and although they may not be officially judging, it’s a great time to see how the contestants interact with the crowd. The evening ended with a roast of the outgoing MCL, Miguel, done by Thib Guicherd-Callin (Mr. SCCL 2012… and say that name 3 times fast!)

The judges: Ramien Pierre (IML 2014), slave Angie (Intl slave 2014), Joe Spaceman (MMR 2014), Sir Volt, Miguel Torres (MCL 2014) (Photo by Great Lakes Den
Contestants: Michael, Luiz, Shadi, Clint, Stitch. (Photo by Great Lakes Den

Mr. Chicago Leather has become a weekend event, instead of just contest nights. During the day on Saturday, the Titans of the Midwest – a new group that huge on education from Des Moines Iowa – hosted 3 “KinkU” classes. At the same time, a small vendor mart was held in the front room of Touche. During this time, the contestants were grilled by the judges in private interviews, held at the new Gerber Hart Library & Archives – a library for LGBT history. The classes were very well attended, with subjects of Wax Play, Rope Bondage and one other that I’m forgetting.

Saturday night’s contest was another homecoming of sorts. Chuck Renslow, “The Godfather of Chicago Leather” (OK, an exaggeration, but one of the men who paved the way for US Leather and created Internationl Mr. Leather contest.) was there. It’s always a treat to see him out and about – he still has an energy about him. Lots of hot, sexy leatherwomen and leathermen filled the seats at the Leather Archives & Museum and there was an electric buzz in the air, as well as a warm feeling of family.

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I had the pleasure of being asked to help with the judges, making sure they had everything they needed. Not a problem, I love being able to help and fill needs where they may be. I was able to be there at the interviews and be involved with the running of the contest. There is a hard working group of folks behind every event. The people who work their asses off and don’t see the spotlight, but they are what makes the thing go. There are former MCLs who are very passionate about making this contest and event as a celebration of the leather bar, the leather experience and the sex that results and the bonds that form from shared experience, whether as a contestant, judge, volunteer or attendee. I was really honored to be a part of that, and I am hoping to be able to help again next year.

There were tons of laughs, a gross story that was delivered in the most dead-pan fashion that had the audience ON THE FLOOR both gasping in horror and laughing. There were the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence giving their blessing to the crowd, in the way that only the Sisters can do it. There was John Pendal – he’s from London and delivers his jokes in that dry British way that leaves you laughing and wondering “wait.. did I just get nailed?” There was free candy for the volunteers, there was Ramien Pierre with a wonderful talk about reinvigorating the leather bar, and there was the contest, and eventual winner – Luis Tipantasig.

Stitch, Luis and Michael. 1st runner up, MCL, 2nd runner up.

Angie and I had a blast getting to spend some time with our friends and the folks who’ve been with us during 2014 as we traveled the country. That’s the thing that Angie spoke to me about as we drove our tired butts home on Sunday… that when people travel to the many events, they start forming a bond between the other people they see at the events. People we might have never had the chance to meet, but have discovered wonderful friendships and bonds through working, presenting or competing. If I listed them all, we’d be here till next week, but at an event like this, it’s a chance to see them again, make that connection again, maybe flirt a little, cruise a little, maybe … if we’re all not exhausted and secretly heading back to our room to have pizza-TV-sweatpants night … maybe have a little sexy time.

It was a great weekend. I can’t wait till next year.