John Pendal of England is the most recent international winner of the International Mr. Leather contest held each Memorial Day weekend. Since then he’s been very busy almost literally globetrotting in support of his title. Luckily, he was able to land at home long enough to give MU a email interview.
MU: Basic question first, how has the first half of your IML year been?
John Pendal: Exhausting, exhilarating, hard work and great fun.
MU: One of your goals after being given the IML title was to help build the leather contest system, and the community in general, in Europe. How has that been going?
Pendal: My goal has never been to build the leather contest system!! <LOL> I think that’s doing well enough without my help. I may have said I wanted to raise IML’s profile in Europe, which I’ve done so far by visiting Amsterdam Canal Pride, a leather summit in Reykjavik [Iceland], Manchester Europride and Mr Leather Europe in Hamburg. I’m also booked for events in Zurich, Rome, Belgium and I’m working on some others. I’ve also been to America quite few times as well and I may be going to Ottawa in February (don’t laugh – I know it will be cold).
MU: You seem to have been busy writing with your column on your www.iml2003.com website and another one on BeefyBoys.com. (Very nice photo of you with your October column on the IML site.) Have you always been interested in writing or is this just in response to demand since the title?
Pendal: I’ve been writing as a hobby since the age of 8. I sold my first short scripts at 15, worked as a scriptwriter for a touring theatre company for 8 years and reached the final shortlist of ten people in NBC’s global employee writing competition in 1997 (yes, that NBC – the TV company behind “Friends” and “ER”). Over the last ten years I’ve stopped writing professionally and concentrated on online articles, but who knows what affect the IML year will have on my career?
MU: After winning the title, you said you planned to devote most of your fundraising efforts to the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago and the Spanner Trust in London. How have those efforts been going?
Pendal: I won a 100th anniversary special edition Sportster Harley Davidson bike at IML this year. I’m giving it away as the prize in a free draw at next year’s IML. All you have to do to enter is go to the official IML website www.imrl.com and follow the links to donate $10 (USD) to the LA&M and $10 to the Spanner Trust. Every time you do that you’ll be entered into the free draw for the bike, and you can enter as many times as you like. So please make this worth my while!
MU: Could you tell us more about the Spanner Trust and its goals?
Pendal: The Spanner Trust is campaigning for changes to the law in the United Kingdom regarding BDSM between consenting adults. In December 1990 sixteen men were convicted for causing marks, bruises, cuts and other non-serious injuries in the course of sexual activity with other consenting adults. Some of them were sent to prison. The police investigation leading to their arrest was known as “Operation Spanner” and the Spanner Trust was set up as a result to campaign for changes to U.K. legislation. It’s vitally important that this is done, as it’s currently very difficult to teach BDSM or get medical attention if a scene goes wrong. There’s more information on the Spanner website at http://www.spannertrust.org/
MU: IMLs travel often in support of the leather community. Has it been harder than you expected since many leather events are here in the States? How are some of the ways you have coped?
Pendal: I’m extremely fortunate that I’ve been able to give up my job for a year to travel full time, so I’m able to be in the U.S. more than Europe this year. The hardest part has been leaving my partner behind. In our first ten years together the longest we were apart was one week – and we only did that once. Now I don’t see David for weeks at a time and there’s a big hole in my life whenever I’m travelling. Coping strategies include running up huge phone bills staying in touch, chatting online as often as possible, and if all else fails finding big hairy bears to hug!
MU: Europe seems to have a strong if also underground leather community. What are some of the most interesting differences you’ve seen between the American community and their brothers and sisters over there?
Pendal: This is a dangerous question because if I give a quick answer I’m going to receive emails from people offended by my generalisations. One obvious difference would be the American leather community’s love affair with titles. Lots of guys have said to me that “you’re no-one in this town without a title”. That seems very sad, because in Europe you tend to be judged by what you’ve done for the community rather than what title you have. I’ve met some dedicated leatherfolk that I greatly admire in America, but they don’t seem to get the recognition they deserve because they don’t have a title. On the other hand, many of the things that the title system raises money for in the United States are paid for by the central government in Europe – health care being a good example.
MU: Are there areas where the North American and European leather communities can learn from each other?
Pendal: Definitely. I see good things in every community that could be shared with others: whether it’s a $2 million Hepatitis vaccination scheme in Kansas City (http://www.outinomaha.com/home/news.asp?articleid=5009), the Leather University BDSM educational event in Fort Lauderdale (http://www.leatheru.com/), the Revise F-65 Project in Norway (http://www.revisef65.org/) or the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago (http://www.leatherarchives.org/) to name a few. We all have things to share.
MU: Are there any things or events you especially want to remember?
Pendal: On a personal note, I’ve enjoyed seeing my first tornado in Omaha, humpback whales in Iceland, raccoons in Florida, and discovering what it’s like to be drunk in Kansas City! Within the leather community I’ve loved the opportunity to learn new BDSM skills at places like Inferno and Dungeon 801.
MU: Is there anything you want to forget?
Pendal: It’s been a steep learning curve and some of the experiences have been more challenging that others – but there’s nothing I want to forget.
MU: What are your plans for the next six months?
Pendal: More of the same: visiting leather communities that IML would not normally attend, supporting health projects and voluntary groups and encouraging BDSM education around the world. You can see my schedule at www.imrl.com (click on “travel calendar”).
MU: What advice do you have for future IMLs?
Pendal: Be yourself. Take every opportunity that you can to give to the community, learn from those wiser than you and have fun. Build in time every month for you and your significant others. And don’t schedule five weeks continuous travelling! <laughs>
MU: Are there any final thoughts you’d like to give us?
Pendal: Please treat other people with respect. Play hard. Have fun. And please come up and say hello if you see me at an event (especially if you’re big and furry).