CHICAGO – International Mr. Leather once again took over the city for four days of parties, events and the contest itself.
Patrick Smith, Mr. Los Angeles Leather 2015 took home the IML title on Sunday night, the first Angeleno to win the title since Mike Gerle won in 2007. The first runner-up was Kevin Murphy, Mr. Leather Ireland 2015, and second runner-up was Brian Donner, Mr. Tri-State Leather 2014.
Boy Bam-Bam of California won International Mr. Bootblack. A former International Leatherboy, he is one of a small number of people to hold multiple international titles. Zach of Ohio won first runner-up and Brooklyn of Texas won second runner-up. 13 won the Golden Brush Award.
As usual, there were some stand outs during the contest. One of the biggest was Pup Tugger, Mr. Phoenix Leather 2015. Unlike most of the other contestants, he came out on stage in stiletto-heeled leather boots and a fox fur stole. Despite some boos in the back of the Harris Theater, Tugger actually got some of the biggest cheers of the night for breaking the usual look of hypermasculinity. “I want every faggot, ladyboy, and poodledog to know they can be themselves,” Tugger said in his speech. “People are going to look. Give them something to look at.”
Kevin stood out as well. The contest was taking place just two days after his native country voted overwhelmingly to add marriage equality to its constitution. At the end of his speech, he proposed to his partner from the stage. (His partner said yes.)
There was another first with the contestants as well. Chile and Ireland both sent contestants to IML for the first time.
Diversity and supporting each other were the big themes of speeches during the night. More than one contestant spoke about supporting those affected by HIV, depression and supporting the young members of the community.
The mood was strikingly different on Monday. News had hit that Greg Slaven, an IML 36 contestant from Indiana, had committed suicide the night before. The class of 2014 had been especially close and the news devastated many at the event. Greg had actually been at IML Friday and Saturday, making the impact that much stronger.
Other events made news during the weekend as well, with Peter LaBarbara, aka “Porno Pete,” of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, tried to stage a protest at the Leather Archives & Museum in Chicago. With four people. They were far outnumbered by neighbors of the LA&M who told him to go home and that the museum was a great neighbor.
The other big news was the Chicago Hellfire Club giving all of its records, including active ones, to the LA&M. The CHC’s records were received water damage after minor floods at the club’s clubhouse and the club had struggled to preserve them. The move will help preserve the CHC’s archives and the club will establish a fund specifically to help with the preservation of their records. LA&M Executive Director Rick Storer said it was the first time an active club had given its archives in such a manner.