Randy Stern: The Return of …

It all began in February of 2001…

Yes, I am about to throw down some history. This is not just some single person narrative that would bore the daylights out of you, but some factual truth that involves the Great Lakes Den’s predecessor and a launch for some bear’s career as a member of the automotive media corps.

Randy Stern

Randy Stern is a past managing editor of the GLD predecessor Midwest Ursine and an automotive journalist. His work is published at Victory & Reseda and Why This Ride You can contact him at randy@randystern.net

That day 13 years ago was the first time I met Ruff Wray, several other bear-identified guys from Chicago and the Twin Cities. We had brunch at Clark’s on Clark Street near the Belmont “L” Station and had our own cadre of guys to mingle, talk and so forth. Towards the end of the trip, Tom proposed that I helped him at Midwest Ursine. Who knew that would entail being its Managing Editor?

This was done remotely from Madison. If I needed to, I could hop a bus to Chicago and meet Ruff, but the phone and e-mail sufficed during those times. I will admit that I was a bitch at that job – still am, to some extent. Yet, I did what I could to bring content to the site until 2004, when I had my sights elsewhere.

During my time at Midwest Ursine, I dabbled in automotive writing. I had enough bylines to get me into the Chicago Auto Show on a media credential. That first year – 2002 – Ruff and I went on media credentials to the first public day at the show. Ruff had a digital camera, which was a novelty at the time. Still, we came up with a decent piece covering the show. I read it recently – boy, have I progressed since then.

In one column, I did a comparison between three cars I rented to see which one would be suitable for a road trip involving a car load of bears. Between a Buick Century, Dodge Intrepid and a Mercury Sable, I considered interior and trunk space and ride comfort. The Mercury won, but let’s be realistic. Did we know of anyone in our community who owned a new Mercury Sable back in 2003? Maybe a couple of folks…

These were precursors to what transpired years later.

Since 2011, I have been heavily active in the automotive media corps. This, after practicing my review writing style and photography methods. My “break” came after Chrysler’s Digital Communications Facebook page asking if anyone was attending the 2011 Chicago Auto Show. The social media person asked about my site. I sent links to my Chrysler-related material, and he came back asking whether the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport I rented over the previous Thanksgiving was actually mine. Well…no, but Chrysler invited me to their social media breakfast at the Chicago show along with a guided tour of Dodge’s offerings by then-brand CEO Ralph Gilles.

A couple months after that, I began to receive vehicles from the manufacturers to review. That is actually a milestone, since bloggers were not on the same level as journalists in our business at that time. Now, there is some parity.

The rest has been one hell of a journey. Media junkets are few and far between, but well worth the time made to attend them. I try to go to one major auto show per year as media, but I also work my local shows in the Twin Cities and beyond. Not only that, I became a standing member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, affording opportunities that are simply amazing. For example, I did my first lap of a major motorsports venue – Road America in Wisconsin – thanks to the media association.

My work now appears on three sites and a regional LGBT magazine. Although my byline did appear on a couple of other online and print outlets – one distributed in three daily newspapers in the Midwest,  It has been an amazing ride, but perhaps it was time to come home – to identity, attraction and community.

This is where I have been. What transpired in the past, and before I met Ruff and everyone that Sunday in Chicago 13 years ago, were precursors to success. Now, Ruff has asked me to share my thoughts on the automobile on this site. I am indeed honored, but where do I go with this?

In truth, I’m a bear – or, at least I am associated with the community despite not being active in it. I honor my Leather/BDSM brothers and sisters, despite having very limited experience in play. However, my energy has been concentrated on the automobile. They are my work and my play. They satisfy me more than any man has tried to do.

What feeds me in this business is the fact that I am not alone. There are plenty of LGBT folks alongside me in the automotive media corps and on the industry side. A few of us just happen to be bears. I do not know of anyone who is in the Leather/BDSM communities, but one may never know.

One thing is true – we are enthusiasts, consumers and others who work in and around the automotive business. It would be great to connect with you. That would make this work easier for Tom and I.

A lot of the lessons from Midwest Ursine remain true today. I’m still a bear-identified guy with a oblong belly. Though, weight loss has allowed me to now fit in a lot of vehicles I would never thought possible 13 years ago – and would never do again. I’m sorry, but the wide door sill gap in the Dodge Viper, the Alfa Romeo 4C and McLaren 650S makes for an ungraceful exit for this guy.

This week, I’m off to Los Angeles to cover the Auto Show out there. There are a few outlets to feed on this trip, plus some meetings, interviews, photo ops, potential verbal volleyballs with fake journos and their tape measures…let’s hope that won’t happen. Otherwise, it’s a trip to the Gauntlet on Santa Monica for paddles…

I digress. The automotive world is a wondrous one. Not perfect, but still worth exploring as a community. Come along for the ride!