CHICAGO – The Windy City again will host the two biggest events in both the bear and leather worlds – Bear Pride and International Mr. Leather.
Both events take place during the Memorial Day weekend and fill the city with bears and leathermen. Things start off early with the Thursday events for IML.
Registration begins for IML at the Hyatt Regency Riverside just off Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. The openning ceremonies for IML begin at 9 p.m. Attendees will get a chance to meet the International Mr. Leather contestants and judges. There is also a Demo Party at the Chicago Eagle from the country’s oldest leather club, Chicago Hellfire Club. Inside Porn Magazine has their kickoff party at the CellBlock in Boystown and Touché welcomes visitors up in Rogers Park.
Bear Pride opens up for registration at noon on Friday at Ann Sather’s Restaurant in the Norwegian Room. Bear Pride will also be participating in the IML transportation system. The bears welcome the world to Chicago at a joint party with Touché and Jackhammer, a bear friendly dance bar next door to Touché.
IML gets going at noon with the vendor market at the Hyatt Regency and 70,000 square feet of space. Both bear and leather vendors will be present from businesses from all over the city and country. Canadian and Texas leather groups will have their parties Friday night along with contestants for International Boot Black which runs throughout the weekend. The IML 2001 Class Reunion and Roast will be in the Toronto/Hong Kong Room at the Hyatt.
More IML activity takes place up in Boystown. Pornopalooza IV takes off at Circuit at the northern end of the Halstead Strip at 9 p.m. while the Mr. Ebony Leather 2002 contest starts across the street at CellBlock at 7 p.m. The Rubber Wear Fetish Party kicks off at 10 p.m. at CellBlock hosted by Yannick Kerjose, Mr. International Rubber 2002. The Chicago Eagle in Andersonville holds their DogTag Party while adult video starts take the stage at midnight upstairs in Manscountry. IML 1998 Tony Mills, who also happens to be a doctor, will address health issues for the leather community in the Hyatt’s Comiskey Room with “Ten Things Every Leatherman Should Know for Good Health” at 8 p.m.
On Saturday, both runs are at full force. Bear Pride registration continues at 9 a.m. at Ann Sather’s until 2 p.m. It’s also that last chance to get tickets for the Wet-N-Wild Party at Steamworks and the Nutts-to-Butts Party at the Chicago Eagle. An optional Bear Buddies Brunch will start at 10 a.m. at Buddies Bar and Grill just a block north of Ann Sather’s on Clark Street. There will be brunch specials for “hungry bears.”
The traditional Boystown (Lakeview on maps) Bar Crawl begins at noon and hits every bear-friendly bar in Chicago’s gay downtown. There are four simultaneous parties going on. The most popular is CellBlock’s On-Line Party where “You’ve Got Mail” can be heard over the roar of a couple hundred bears. North End, across the street and a little north will host the Hot Ash Cigar Party . Charlie’s Chicago, just on the other side of the block behind North End and Chicago’s only gay country/western bar (Think Garth Brooks), will give bears a chance to shake it with Country Bear Line Dancing. Buck’s Saloon, a pub in the classic sense further south, hosts the Bear Boxers Shorts Party.
Bear author Ron Suresha also holds a signing up at the Gerber-Hart Library in Edgewater Beach. The library is the largest repository of gay history in the Midwest. Ron will be reading from his new books, Bearotica and Bears on Bears, at 2 p.m., as part of his national book tour. It’s sponsored nationally by Alyson Publications and American Bear Magazine and locally by Midwest Ursine and NightSpots Magazine.
The parties go on until 5 p.m. Attendees get a chance to rest up before the Bear-It-All Dance Party and Coffee House kicks off at Ann Sather’s. Bear Pride has the entire restaurant at there disposal. You can dance to a retro-flavored Classic Bear Dance upstairs at the Norwegian Room or relax downstairs in the main restaurant, sip great, fresh-made coffee and have some of Ann Sather’s world famous (literally) sweet rolls. This goes until 2 a.m.
At IML, the vendor market opens things up at 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. The Leather Archives & Museum holds their General membership meeting in the Toronto Room with a bus trip to the museum’s building up in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood. Touché will have specials for visitors to the museum Saturday night.
They Hyatt will be hosting plenty of seminars and activities. Masters and slaves Together will have their gathering at noon in the Soldier Field Room. Lolita Wolf will speak at “Leather Leadership On The Road: How To Be An Effective Leader” at 2 p.m in the San Francisco Room. The IML Boy Gathering takes place at the same time in the Acapulco Room. Members of the Leather Navigator website <http://www.leathernavigator.com/index.html> can see each other face to face in the Toronto Room at 3 p.m.
Those who love a big stogie can get their fix at the 4th Annual Cigar Smoker at the Knuckles Sports Bar at the Hyatt. Free raffle tickets to those who are smoking a cigar at the event. The big prize will be the original signed Smoker Poster by Loren Macias (AKA Butchdick of Bear-pics.com and ButchBear.com fame). Marco boyCIGAR and Size Matters Cigar Co. host this event. Uniform lovers will gather at Truffles Restaurant at the Hyatt at 6 p.m.
CellBlock continues to be the center of the bear and leather universe with a list of parties. After the On-Line Party comes the Boot Fetish Party hosted by Hotboots.com and Stompers Boots at 7 p.m. The Chicago Brigade of the American Uniform Association takes over at 10 p.m. with the Uniform Fetish Party until 3 a.m.
Chicago Eagle and Manscountry keep busy with adult video stars in the Theater at Manscountry and a CD release party hosted by leather DJ Bill Bennett with CD giveaways.
Parties will be taking place away from the bars with the ONYX Old School Dance Party in Ballroom C at the Hyatt at 10 p.m This party has become legendary in its time at IML. Leather Rites IV and Sperm, begin at 11 p.m. at The Metro and Smart Bar respectively. Tickets to Leather Rites IV cost $40 at the door if their available. Sperm will cost you $30 at the door, or at least the tickets will.
And for those of you who came just for the contest, Physique Judging takes place at 9 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom at the Hyatt. This will be a chance to see the contestants from around the world in little more than a leather jockstrap.
Things come to a head, so to speak Sunday. Bear Pride has the Classic Picnic-In-The-Park at 11 a.m. in Lincoln Park at the intersection of Wellington and Marine Drive. This is how Bear Pride got its start, as a bear picnic during the festivities of IML. Lunch will be from Ann Sather’s. The Wet-N-Wild Party starts at noon at the Steamworks Gym & Sauna. Attendees will get a private locker, towels and the run of the building.
Ron Suresha has another book signing at 11:30 a.m. at the Borders Bookstore at Broadway and Clark Street in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Sponsored by Alyson Publications, American Bear, Midwest Ursine and Nightspots, this will be your last chance this weekend to meet Ron in Chicago.
The Nutts-To-Butts Party, the most popular of the newer features, kicks off at 10 p.m. as the Chicago Eagle goes bear for the night. Only ticket holders will get into the dance in the upstairs ballroom and tickets can only be bought at registration. Those without tickets will have to stay in the Chicago Eagle, which seems to be a source of entertainment anyway.
The market opens things again for IML Sunday at 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.. A panel discussion, “Play or Pathology? -Addressing Psychological Perspectives on Leather,” will have a host of mental health professionals will discuss psychological aspects of kink. It’s open to the public and there will be an question and answer session. It begins at 1 p.m. Those who need more than leather to be spiritual can attend the Metropolitan Community Church service at 2 p.m. in the Toronto Room.
Finally, the centerpiece of the weekend for IML, is the International Mr. Leather Contest. Over 2,000 attended the event at the Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, last year. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with festivities beginning at 6:30 p.m. The winner of International Mr. BootBlack will also be announced during the contest.
Afterwards, the celebration continues across Chicago. The Victory Celebration begins just after the contest at the House of Blues <www.hob.com> and goes on until 4 a.m. The Chicago Eagle and CellBlock both host After-Contest Parties. CellBlock also hosts the Hot Ash Cigar Smoker from 3 to 7 p.m. Touché gets in on the fun with the Full Moon Party hosted by the Chicago Naturists.
For those not wanting to travel through the north side or dive into the entertainment complex the House of Blues has at Marina City, the IML Family welcomes all to the Welcoming Party at the Grand Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency. The new winners and IMLs of the past will all be here.
Things finally start to wind down on Monday. The bears brunch at Ann Sather’s one last time before heading over to what has become a tradition. The Bear Showtune Farewell Party at Sidetrack, the city’s largest video bar. Sing along to your favorite Broadway and movie songs with a couple hundred bears. The Great Lakes Bears have made a reputation for themselves with dance moves and talking back to the screen. Hearing a few hundred bears yell “Run, Barbra, run!” can be hilarious, if slightly frightening.
The IML vendor market opens for it’s last day at 11 p.m. This is also a good time for deals as many of the vendors are trying to lower their stock before going home.
CellBlock goes from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. with an all day party hosted by three clubs: ONYX, Trident Windy City and the Windy City Boys Troop. The Cock and Brew Ball begins at 8 p.m. and the full moon contest is at midnight.
The Chicago Eagle, the home bar of IML, hosts the Black and Blue Party, the “IML final blowout high-energy grand-daddy of all sweat discos.” Hosted by MaleHide Leathers <www.male-hide.com>, it goes from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. with DJ Bill Bennett. Touché gets in a few licks with the Black, Blue and Brusied – Beer Bust Part II.
Events will be changing as the weekend progresses. If you’re attending the events, check out the registration room at IML in the Hyatt and the bulletin board for Bear Pride at Ann Sather’s Norwegian Room. For daily Bear Pride updates, check out our partner in crime at bear-pics.com for info from TechnoBear. Check out the Midwest Ursine for the full story on both events next week.
For more information, check out the IML website <www.imrl.com> and the Bear Pride website <http://www.glbears.com/bp/index.html>.