Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Memoirs of a Gay Leather Elder 12: Giving Permission

Hundreds more articles like this can be found
at the Kink Mentoring Archives… Spread the word!

The page listing all of the articles in this series can be found here

UPDATE:  Here is the audio from the follow-up discussion.

In my last few chapters, I was covering "Funny and Fun" topics.  I have lots and lots more of those, but for now, I want to cover some of the most philosophically meaningful stories from my life.  When I mentor people, these are the stories that I always include.  Some of them are going to sound like bragging stories, and that's always possible, but it's not my intent here.

I want to explain why I have been able to do so MUCH in my life that created magical, lasting memories for tens of thousands of people over the decades.  I can't claim to be like everybody else.  I'm extroverted, perceptive and highly intuitive.  This may or may not describe you.  However, I'm going to assume that you share my desire to guide people into doing what they want, with all of their hearts.

This applies to me as a community leader, and also as a Sir to submissives. These concepts work just as well with one person, a small group, or a large group.

Giving Permission As A Guiding Philosophy

Here is my premise, in short form:  Most people do not give themselves permission to have a good time.  They wait for others to ring the bell and say "It's time!"  Once we understand this, the world opens up to us, and to others who we care about.

I have extra-big perceptions about people.  It would be very easy for me to take advantage of people. Instead, I chose to use my powers for good, and not for evil, about forty years ago. After many years of therapy, I think that I understand why.

I have spoken before about my abusive childhood.  At some point, I made an unconscious decision… If things were going to be peaceful, predictable and end well for everybody involved, then I was the most qualified to make that happen.  For the most part, that decision has worked out pretty well.

I make mention about giving OTHERS permission to have a great time, but this concept works the same for ourselves…

The Two Oranges

In the late 1970’s, I used to hang out all summer with about eighty men, at the gay end of Black’s Beach. Black’s is still the largest nude beach on the West Coast.  Skin cancer?  Never came up as a topic, forty years ago.

Gathering of the Bears Clubs at Black's

One day, everybody was scattered on their blankets, never more than twenty feet apart. Men would mix and mingle, lay out and burn for a while. The goal was to achieve a “healthy tan.”

One day, an incredibly beautiful, shirtless man arrived, alone. On every blanket within eyeshot, every man was doing his best meerkat imitation.

The new guy was very handsome and well-built, but he looked like a farm-hand accustomed to tossing bales of hay. He didn’t have the currently popular “Gym Bunny” build.

He laid out his blanket, stripped down naked, and started applying suntan lotion. The men on every other blanket were buzzing excitedly, talking about the new guy, but nobody doing anything about it.

I sat there agonized. I knew beyond all doubt that he was way out of my league. Somebody like that would have no interest in the likes of me. Blah blah blah. My inner voice was giving me a full workout.

That inner voice has a job. Its job is to flatten my life, so that I avoid risk. Failure is possible. Maybe even probable. The problem is, avoiding risk can mean that I miss out on joyful, memorable life experiences, too. The only person who has a flattened life is a dead person.

Screw probability. I am dedicated to possibility.

I said to myself “If I don’t do anything about this right now, I will remember this day sadly when I am eighty years old.”
Not Keith, but similar

So I stood up, grabbed a couple of oranges, and walked over to the handsome stranger’s blanket.  He saw me coming up, so he was ready when I said “Here ya go!” and tossed  him one of the oranges.

I asked this pale Midwestern beauty what brought him here, and asked for his name. Keith was in town for a day or so, and had heard of Black’s. He had been feeling shy, and way out of his element.   He was grateful for my friendly company.

I offered to give him the Grand Tour.  We started with some affectionate contact.

I offered to apply lotion to his back, and it all progressed from there. Butt, thighs and everywhere else. The Meerkat crowd watched every move.

Back in those days, it was trendy to bring tractor tire inner tubes to the beach.  They are huge flotation devices, but very, very hard to inflate using your lungs.  I had a small bicycle pump.

Like this, only naked, hard and greasy

I invited Keith to help me push the inner tube out beyond the waves.  Once we were on smoother water, I fucked him on top of the tube.  Then, we did it again.

After we came back to his blanket, I fucked him one more time. This is tricky.  Sand gets EVERYWHERE.  After relaxing, drowsing and caressing for a while, I brought him up into the bushes at the base of the cliffs.  This was a notorious place to have sex with strangers.

After discussing it beforehand, he shyly told me which of the cruising men he found attractive. I bent him over a tree, and invited each one of those men to fuck his pretty ass.  He was deliriously happy.

At the end of the day, we parted ways with hugs and affection, and he took off for Arkansas. I’m not eighty years old yet, but I know that I won’t have any regrets about that glorious day.

I gave Keith permission to be true to his fantasies. I gave myself permission to let go of my own insecurities. I gave those horny men permission to unload into a glorious man.  If I hadn’t been there, and if I hadn’t stepped into my courage, it is likely that none of the fun would have happened.

Roller Skating in the Park

Decades ago, during the days of Xanadu, roller-skating was trendy.  Every road in Balboa Park was divided down the middle with asphalt barriers. Cars went on one side, and thousands of skaters went on the other.

David and I were out skating in the park at sundown one day.  We approached a large parking lot that contained around 400 people in a large oval-shaped crowd, facing inward.

Somebody had brought a big, bulky boom-box. The type that contains a dozen big, fat batteries. Those cassette-players were super cool, and this one was blasting out superb dance music.

I slowly moved toward the center of the crowd, and found about a hundred folks dancing to the music, and the other 300 folks were avidly watching.

I was JUST about to join the dancers, but I stopped myself. I looked around me and yelled out “It’s time for EVERYBODY to dance!”

So, everybody did.

Here is the obvious point:

In many of life's circumstances, nobody would have gotten the party started, and those folks would have missed-out on a memorably good time.  My ability to see the need, my desire to cause a breakthrough opportunity, and then my impulse to act upon it, made a pleasurable difference in those people's lives.

If that describes you (when you are at your best), then please read on.

Colt Models

In the 1970’s, gay porn went in two distinct directions:

- Young, smooth and fit young twinky-boys, and
- Colt models.

Colt’s hypermasculine ideal males had muscles, rugged, handsome faces and perfect asses and cocks. Porn was in the form of calendars and magazines. Porn movies that you could take home didn’t exist, unless you had a film-projector.

Gay-owned gyms were finally available after years of hetero repression. Straight-owned gyms were emptying out, as men were eagerly joining friendly gyms that catered to our crowd. No more inane rules designed to keep us apart and in the closet.

For a short time, David and I lived in Los Feliz, above Silverlake, above North Hollywood.  I was going to the local community college, and working out six days a week.

The gym that I attended decades ago is still there. It’s called Bodybuilders, and it was very, very gay.

I remember a rather obviously heterosexual male being given a tour of the facilities. He was liking the gym, but he had some concerns.  He asked the attendant “Uh, I understand that this gym caters to, uhhh, a specific clientele.“

The staff member pretended not to understand, saying “Yes, we do cater to men.”  Not giving up, the prospective client said “C’mon... you know what I mean!”

The employee finally gave up and said “Yes, about sixty percent of our members are gay.”  From across the gym, I chimed in, saying “SOME of us however, are a HUNDRED percent gay!”

Oh, Yeah. I Was Talking About Colt Models. 

Back in the 1970’s, Bodybuilders Gym had an agreement with Colt Studios, which had a photography studio down the street.  Their models could show up at the gym to pump up their muscles before a photo session.

I would be there, laying in wait, and ready to pounce.

The following scenario happened a dozen or so times, in the exact same way:

I’d be working out, and I would see this week’s Colt model arrive.  He’d see me staring at him from across the gym. He’d look down, then look up, and see me still staring. I’d lift my chin, drop it down, and then ignore him for a while as he began his workout.

I’d wait for him to sit at the Preacher Curl bench. It was bolted to the floor, and faced the mirror. As soon as he’d start working his biceps, I’d stand directly behind him, so that he could only see me in the mirror.

I’d say “How much longer will you be working out?”  He’d say something like “Twenty minutes.”  I’d say “Let me know when you’re done.”  Then, I’d go back to my workout.

Twenty minutes later, there would be a tongue-tied and confused (but horny) man at my elbow.   I’d say “Are you done?” and he’d say “Yes.”  I’d say “I’ve got another five minutes to go - why don’t you head for the steam room, and I will join you there.”

Even if my original intent was for an additional hour and a half of working out, the clock was now reset to five minutes.

After five minutes, I’d head into the steam room, naked. I’d sit across from him, our legs touching. I’d start gently rubbing his nipple while talking dirty. My cock would go thump-thump-thump as it got harder.

As horny as he would be, this was still a man whose face was on a lot of magazine covers and calendars. This made him reluctant to have gossipy men tell stories about his public behavior.

I could tell when he’d start getting nervous, checking the glass window of the steam room repeatedly.  I’d say “I know that you are nervous. I have the perfect answer.”  He’d say “What’s that?”

I’d say “Upstairs, there are two bathrooms. The one at the far end of the hall has a door that locks, and a fan that comes on really loudly. I want you to wear just your gym shorts. Nothing else. Head on up there, and I will join you shortly.”

Now, be aware that I had set up the following situation as soon as I joined the gym. That bathroom door was warped, and it wouldn’t close in a satisfying way.  So, I packed a wood-shaving tool into my gym bag, and made that door close as smoothly as silk.  The man-trap was now set.

Imagine if you will. Here is this gorgeous hunk of a man, trying to hide a raging erection in a pair of flimsy, wet gym shorts.  He’s attempting to stroll nonchalantly through a gay gym with over 100 cock-eyed queers asking each other “Did you see THAT?!?”

In due time, he would make his way up the stairs and into the proper bathroom. I’d make a big show of closing and locking the door after myself. As the overhead fan roared, I’d seduce him with words and touch.

I’d (gently) slam him up against the wall, and stroke his cock while growling lusty words and kissing him. After getting him to a peak of excitement, I’d use my deepest voice and say “Now turn around.” He’d say “What?!?”  Every time, with every man that I would place into this situation.  I'd say "You heard me, boy.  Turn around."

By the grace of God, I just happened to have a small jar of lube with me.  By this time, I was the King of Prostate Massage, as a direct result of playing with a lot of eager, older teachers.

So, I would play with this horny man’s ass, easing-off each time that his prostate would swell, signaling impending orgasm.   Finally, I’d stand up behind him and say “Back up to me.”  By this time, he wasn’t saying “What?!?,” he’d be saying “Oink OINK!”

In my youthful days, I was already deeply invested in what later turned out to be the kink called “Orgasm Control.”  More than anything else, I loved to enforce a fierce roller-coaster of sexual pleasure, ending in a mind-bending orgasm for all concerned.

I still want that, but I have to go about it in different ways, now that I am old.  Mister Troublemaker doesn’t always cooperate.

So, using intuition and keen observation, I’d always time our fucking so that we both achieved orgasm at the same time.  We’d hug and thank each other, caress and part ways after showering together.

Continuing Onward…

In those days, David and I had a big house by the entrance of the Greek Amphitheatre.

It didn’t have hardly any yard, but it featured a large sling-room.  We hosted big parties that involved fucking, fisting, flogging and whatever kinks each man brought with him.  Being young and fertile, I’d be quite happy to fuck any willing asses that were offered up.

By Monday morning, I was fucked OUT.  I’d be so drained, emotionally and physically.  Nothing on earth could make me want any form of sex, no matter how nicely it was offered.

As you could well imagine, after I had pounced upon so many willing bottom-boy porn models, word got AROUND.  Big, buff muscle-boys hang out in packs, and they do talk.

Early on, I discovered that men with large penises are always grateful that somebody wants to fuck THEM, for once. The same goes for large men, tall men and muscular men. Many muscle-men can tell you that they can sometimes spend a weekend feeling lonely.  So many men at a bar will look at them and think “He’s out of my league” and turn away.

So, I’d show up at the gym on a Monday morning with empty balls, trying to get some weightlifting done.  I’d notice a group of big, tough muscle-men huddled together, peeking at me periodically and smiling, and I’d sigh.

So, I’d go to one of them a few minutes later, and I would point at the clock on the wall.  “At a quarter to ten, be in the locker room.”  Then I repeat the message with the same guy.

At 9:46 (I arrived one minute late, as intended), I’d find six or seven men standing in the locker room, looking at each other with bafflement.  I’d say “Everybody strip down, and head into the steam room!”

Once they were all crammed together naked in the steam room, I’d point at one man and say “You!  You are the target for today!”  I’d point at another man and say “You!  Play with his nipples!”  “You!  Play with his ass!”  “You!  Suck his cock!” And so forth, until the target-man was covered in swarming men, giving him pleasure.

I would then loudly pronounce “My work here is DONE!”  Then, I would head back to the gym floor to continue my workout.

Making My Point

By engaging in Permission Giving behavior, I'm causing "explosions of joy" that would never have occurred, in that time, in that place, and in that way, otherwise.

The secret is to tell folks to do what they want the MOST to do, but usually, they can't get over their inhibitions first.  My gentle nudges are what shove 'em over the edge.  Why gentle?  Because there is a huge difference between Force and Strength.

You will notice that I did not bark abusively at them, bully them, or assume that they would follow orders that were not to their advantage or pleasure.

NOBODY wants a Sir to assume that his orders will be followed, before having some form of credibility first.  We've all heard of the Top who walks up to a stranger in a bar and yells "Slave!  Drop to your knees!"  At that point, the vast majority of men or women will laugh and walk away, even if he is otherwise attractive.  His words are writing checks that his credibility can't cash. He hasn't learned the distinction between being bossy, and being a leader.

Based upon what I have said in my story up to this point, what is the difference between me and that other, bullying guy?  I am calm, sensitive to the people in front of me, and gauging their reactions in a pleasant way. I'm playful, and I'm not hiding my feelings.  Stoic isn't attractive to most folks.  I'm being TRUE to my feelings, from moment to moment, and showing how I am having fun with it.  This establishes trust, and credibility.

Group caressing, after an intense public scene.

I used my observations of the surrounding circumstances to be able to tell when it was time to act, so that everybody (including me) had the most fun.  Our culture devalues intuition, because not everybody has it in large amounts.  We are supposed to elevate logic above all.  However, intuition is like a muscle.  The more that you trust your gut, the better that you get at succeeding.

I want you to succeed.  That is why I am giving away my secrets for success.

Touch = Credibility (Most Times)

Imagine some stranger coming up to you without any howdy-do. He starts pawing at you sexually, and without any warning. Been there.

Now, imagine some guy "talking at" you, from a distance, with his arms crossed, and giving no sign of emotion or empathy.  This is also familiar.

Those two extreme examples are what we have to balance between in the middle, shifting from moment to moment. Our goal is to connect with others in an effective way, where everyone wins, joyfully.  I'm going to use the word "joy," one more time.  That's the best goal, so please keep it in mind.

I play with new people in public spaces as a kinky man and mentor, very regularly (dozens of times per month, lately).  My specialty is newbies.  When I am seeking to connect with somebody for the first time, I use touch as my main form of communication.  My spoken words add value, too, but when I touch the shy, new and unsure new playmate, I say so much more, and on a deeper, instinctive level.

I use NON-sexual touch, when I am establishing credibility - I may touch their shoulder, or their hand, or on their lower back.  If they are starting to relax more, I may use the "Reassuring Dad" touch - the gentle, affectionate hand on the back of the neck that says "I am here to take care of you".

I'm being the opposite of the "all hands and glands" approach.  I am patient, respectful, and attentive.  I am using keen observational skills to reassure them on many levels that the scary Sir is going to help them to reach their next level, and to thank me for it afterward.

As I explain elsewhere, words aren't enough.  Otherwise, we could simply text-message our desires at each other, and be done with that.  The goal when playing with somebody new is to feed the parts of their brain that need reassurance, seduction and relaxation.  That shy new playmate WANTS to be seduced.  We are just providing the Enzyme Effect:

Imagine a 55-gallon drum of clean, fresh milk.  You drop in a tiny speck of enzyme, and a few hours later, you have a whole bunch of cottage cheese.  The enzyme doesn't provide the energy for such a massive transformation. The MILK does.  The enzyme "gives it permission" to shift into this new phase.

This is true of human interactions, as well.  If we are conscious of our powers as permission-givers, then we can cause massive transformations in how the people around us experience life.

When I am playing with somebody for the first time, I am being transparent as water, from moment to moment.  I am not hiding my feelings at all.  The shy, new playmate's Bullshit Detectors are going at full crank, and I'm consciously aware of it.  So, I don't offer any conflicting information. My calmness and self-assurance provide signals that increase trust.  I am consciously, and continuously, developing credibility.

Obviously, the previous paragraphs apply to the beginning of the play.  Once trust has been established, then the intensity and the power-flow will ramp way up.  Words will give way to actions. However, you can't skip any steps, if you plan to be the kind of Dom/Top/Sir that excites, pleases and SUCCEEDS, every time.

Permission-Giving as a Way of Life

I've been working with these concepts for over forty years. I make no guarantee that they will work for everybody.  Some folks might not have the right perceptive abilities that allow for establishing commonality and trust.  They would need different advice, which I cannot provide.

Illuminated Cellophane Suspension

My goal in kinky play is to create "extreme intimacy." This requires focus, sensitivity, and caring.  If you've stuck with me so far, you're very likely to be exactly the sort of person who needs to hear this.

I have been very successful as a family-member, as a father, as a community leader, as a Neighborhood Watch Block Captain, and as a computer consultant.  At all points, I have been creating circumstances that lead to exciting breakthroughs, for myself and the folks around me.  I am well-loved and respected, and when I arrive, heads turn to keep an eye on me.  Everybody's waiting to see what new, magical possibilities will show up.

However, I'm getting old, and tired.  Physically, I can keep up, but mentally, I struggle.  So, my hope in sharing this information is that more and more younger folks will take up the challenge, and create "happiness explosions" for decades to come!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Memoirs of a Gay Leather Elder 11: I Invented Leather Pride

Hundreds more articles like this can be found
at the Kink Mentoring Archives… Spread the word!

The page listing all of the articles in this series can be found here

Papa Tony:

I have a long, long history of activism and community leadership. So far in this series, I have been trying to tell my stories in chronological order. My heart now calls me to jump ahead to one of the most important parts of my legacy.

A portrait from 1998

I invented Leather Pride, twenty years ago. I'm the guy.

I'm not talking about titleholder contests. I am talking about a coordinated annual, local celebration of artists, artisans, vendors, volunteers and affinity-groups, built by a team of dedicated, cooperative leaders and volunteers. A titleholder contest or two was the cherry on top, for the week leading up to Leather Pride.

I'm sure that there will be folks who will reflexively discount my story for whatever reason. They are welcome to their opinion. I invite everyone to click the links, which prove that my story is true. I was there. I know what I did, and finally, so will you.

The Holocaust Phase

In the late 1990's, the Leather Tribe was horrifyingly traumatized. In my own case, I stopped counting when I had lost 140 loved ones to AIDS. I will go into more detail in later stories, when I talk about holding dozens of dying men in hospitals when no one else (including nurses in hospitals) would come within fifteen feet of our lonely, dying brothers.

I was going to two or three funerals a week, for a long time. As a young man who had found love and intimacy among men for the first time, the losses devastated me, and they kept coming like hammer-blows, for years.

Then the Cocktail arrived, and the endless dying slowed. It was a huge blessing, but it wasn't ENOUGH for the survivors. All of the PTSD, rage, grief and Survivor's Guilt that had built for almost two decades wasn't going away. We didn't know how to handle the pain.

The devastation still lives within the survivors, every day, even now, twenty years later. As many others would agree, the sadness never goes away. We've gotten pretty good at pretending otherwise.

The Early Days of Titleholder Contests

In the 1970's, titleholder contests were just a goofy, fun way for a bar to sell more beer. A "Best Ass Contest" or a "Best Chest" event would bring out the leering, horny men, and the night would be a success. Then, Chuck Renslow and his team created the International Mr. Leather Contest in 1979, and the ultimate titleholder contest became an annual tradition that built up as the years went by.

Then, AIDS happened. The first man in my circle of close friends who died of AIDS was a sweet 22-year-old redhead, in 1981.  At the time, it seemed as though he was fine, fucking like a bunny, then he had a cough, and then three weeks later, he was dead. We had never seen anything like it.

Then, more men died, or disappeared forever without warning, as they fled to Kansas or Arkansas, to try to escape the epidemic that stalked us all, or to die among family. If the family would let them in. Not many did.

And, the avalanche accelerated.

The Second Phase of Titleholder Contests

Calling folks together for a contest became a way to drag new leaders into the community. We kept losing more and more folks who would coordinate AIDS fundraisers and volunteer efforts. Winning a contest was conditional upon doing good works, for the first time. Not many felt called to do so. Most contests had only one or two participants on stage.

Next year, another contest was needed to replace the earlier titleholder, who had burned out, swearing never to return. This happened often, and it kept tearing up our local Leather culture, repeatedly. We were under constant bombardment of bad news. We no longer had reasons to come together as a community in relaxed pleasure. It was every man for himself.

Sex had been a celebration of our liberation from the culture of shame that we had endured as children. Now, sex meant Disease, Disfigurement and Death. Intimacy could kill you, and often did.

There was NO FUCKING POINT in investing in new friends. They were too likely to leave you brokenhearted, like so many others, and the pain and fear were unendurable.

Stepping Up

Then, a friend asked me to get more involved, in 1997. He said "We need you. It's time." He had been one of two contestants for a bar title, and the winner had died a month later. This new titleholder had no support from the community. All that he had received were attacks that had escalated. The toxicity came from all of those intense, negative pressures that never went away, and we had no healthy way to express them.

He knew that I had been a car-club president, and knew how to accomplish things as a leader and team-builder. I was reluctant to step into the spinning blades, but I knew that he was right. I had been sitting back and complaining about things for years. It was time to get my big ass into the game.

I started creating dozens of new initiatives: I created the local Leather Archives, I created a VERY early Leather Resources Web site and an email list of around 3,000 folks called the PT-List, I was the Leather columnist for a local gay newspaper, I won a local and International title (more about those later), I created an intensely popular Leathermen's Dance Party, and on and on. I was a whirlwind of constant innovation and change, but with a specific goal:

I wanted to bring an end to the Holocaust Phase. Worldwide. 

I was ready to put a period at the end of the last chapter, and start a whole new era that included kindness and cooperation. I was dedicated to creating an ongoing series of safe occasions for joy in a Tribal environment.

No little dreams. Ever.

I started gathering together the very best kink, leather and fetish men and women in town for a new group - the San Diego Leather Leadership Coalition (SDLLC). This group included volunteers, not just titleholders or self-important, bossy people, and it made the local "Powers That Be" very uncomfortable. They liked competition. If things went their way, then there would be a field of bloody corpses, with themselves as the only ones left standing.

That's me, on the upper left

I had no interest in that. I prefer cooperation, not competition. So, I chose the very sweetest, most effective folks of every kind, color and body-shape. The folks who had been shut out of power before.

We created our own, separate power-base.

The visitors from Palm Springs

The first year for San Diego Leather Pride was in 1999. Among the attendees were four folks from Palm Springs led by Dale Breunig, who wanted to see how we did it. They asked if I would help them get their first Palm Springs Leather Pride off of the ground, starting later in 1999. Then, I got together with Dave Murdock and George Wong to start up Los Angeles Leather Pride, which began in 2000. Both cities had had a few Mr. Leather titles before, but these were now their first massive, coordinated efforts.

The Underlying Motive

I had seen how terribly mean we could be to each other in our Tribe, and I knew what was underneath. We simply had no tools to deal with that much shared loss. Just a few years before, I had paid for something called the Grief Recovery Workshop. The facilitators kept trying to steer me toward focusing on the death of my parents, but I didn't WANT that. Those two people were merely my genetic family. My Tribe had been my Family of Choice.

I wanted to learn how to mourn for the death of a generation, and then teach others in large numbers. The Workshop staff had no tools for that. It was time for me to take matters into my own hands.

I told folks in each city that we could focus our shared energies for the betterment of all, and USE our grief as a power source. By focusing like a laser, we could stop being "fragmentation bombs" of bitter emotions, that squandered and wasted the times that could have been happier.

No Support From the Larger LGBT Community

Back in those days, folks were TIRED of drag queens and leathermen in assless chaps ruining the Pride parades for everybody else. WE were heavily-featured in the news, instead of the average folks around us. So, we got picked on, shamed and shoved off to the side.

Right around that same time, I was sick of the local Lesbian & Gay Center. I wanted to take a can of spray paint and do this to the front of the building:

If we wanted to have events there, we were given restrictions that no other groups were given - No flyers or educational pamphlets were allowed (what if CHILDREN found them?) Folks followed us around, waiting for us to screw up so that we could be banished, yet again. Each year, the new Board of Directors would find NEW reasons to shame us.

It was tiresome, and we needed our own thing. We were going to be just fine, with just each other.

As I have said elsewhere, the opposite of "Shame" is "Pride." So, Leather Pride was born.

Traveling On My Own Dime

So, I hit the road. I was using up the money that really belonged to my husband and me, that should and could have been making our family life better. 

I was on the road for eight years, traveling from city to city, preaching the gospel of Leather Pride as a way out of our sorrows. I have never received a single penny of Travel Funds, ever. I was also building teams in Las Vegas, Long Beach, Inland Empire and Phoenix. Not all of them got off of the ground, but not for lack of trying on my part.

Our Deaf Brothers and Sisters

Part of what I insisted on, was the inclusion of our deaf brothers and sisters at EVERY Leather Pride event. I wanted to leave no one behind. Our diversity needed a big upgrade, so I took two semesters in American Sign Language. I paid for sign-language interpreters for every major event, until the various cities could budget for their work instead.

Preaching and Exhorting

That's me in the middle, giving a speech, no doubt.

I would arrive early for the big weekend, and give separate, passionate talks to the volunteers and contestants.  My goal was to inspire them so that they would do their best.  Many times, I was the emcee at the weekend opening banquet, and inspire everybody with a variation on this speech:
This is our new tradition.  Our Family Reunion.  We are here for each other, and from many places. We are kind, and we are open.  Let's take a few minutes to introduce ourselves to the people around us.
Who here is from another city?  Shout it out!  Next year, you will be able to re-connect with your new friends, and they will become your regular friends.  Year after year, we will become even closer family, and we will hug, all weekend.
This is a joyous time, and let's be nice to the newest ones among us all weekend, so that they will come back again and again, and make our Tribe richer and better.
400 people would hear this message, and they all co-created the delightful times together, in harmony.

Winding It Down

During this time, I was Master of Ceremonies for around sixty contests for the Bears, the Rodeo and the Leather community. I judged at least sixty contests, and have attended a good 300 titleholder events in my life.  I stopped saying "Yes!" to offers to do such work a long time ago - I felt that my big ass taking up space in a judge's seat meant that some other person wasn't getting a chance to prove their own value.

I finally burned out, and stepped away.  I was thrilled with how things had progressed, and I trusted the folks in charge of our new traditions.  Now, there are Leather Pride celebrations in cities all over the world.  I didn't want glory, and I don't want it now.  If I did, I would have behaved differently.

I am telling this story now, so that it won't get lost, like so much of our history.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Memoirs of a Gay Leather Elder 10: Funny and Fun, Part Two

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Uhh - Where's All The Women?

Forty years ago, David Dollahite and I liked to give our San Diego fuck-buddies time to recover😄, so we would take one weekend off per month.  We'd head up to the 8709, which was one of the hundreds of thriving 1970's gay bathhouses in and around the United States.  In the late 1970's, there were so many bathhouses, they could afford to specialize in which clientele they encouraged.
There was a club in LA called The 8709. It was on the second floor. In its day, there would be a line down the stairs to the street, and you'd wait and you'd climb all the way up, and if the attendant didn't like your looks he wouldn't let you in. I got rejected there once, but I got let in three or four times, and I remember the process quite well. But if they thought you weren't attractive enough they wouldn't let you in. – Interview on Vice

The tubs at 8709 Third in L.A. are long gone, replaced by this building.

I remember attending the bathhouse. It had a rickety wooden stairway up to the entrance on the second floor.  As you stopped at the entry, there was a spotlight above you.

If you wanted to go any further, you had to lift your shirt and flex your abdominal muscles under the harsh overhead light.  This was to prove that you had a six-pack, before they would take your money and let you go in. Another bathhouse had an entryway that was narrow - If you didn't fit through, you weren't welcome.  This was balanced by Bears bathhouses elsewhere.

The 8709 was legendary.  On a typical weekend night, there would be around 400 men at a time, and the sexual action was INTENSE.  Everything was going on, everywhere… in the hallways, in the Dark Room, in the showers, in the gym.  I still have images from that place burned into my retinas. I remember a sex-maze made of mirrors.

David and I would arrive on a Friday afternoon, in order to get a room at the 8709. Then, he'd go one way, and I'd go the other.  He was a bottom, I was a Top, and we had monkey business to attend to.  Later on, we'd meet at our room, insert earplugs, and sleep until the morning.  Why earplugs?  Because the walls were rickety, and there was no ceiling above each room.

The disco music would be pounding away at all times, and the men in the next room over could easily wake you with their orgiastic cries and grunts.  Wearing earplugs was a LOT less expensive than spending the same time sleeping at a nice, quiet hotel.

One Friday night, there was a well-built man (similar to the picture above, but a lot more naked), wearing a military cap, dog-tags, military boots, and nothing else.  He was handing out party invitations to the men that he thought were attractive.

David and I realized that we had both received invitations to the party.  We decided to attend the party, since we WERE up in the area for fun.

The next evening, we followed the turn-by-turn instructions written on the invitation. We drove up, up into the Hollywood Hills, up into the Bel Air neighborhood. We came through the gate to find around 120 cars parked on the front lawn of an immense mansion.

Not the same house, but VERY similar.

If you’ve ever watched re-runs of the Beverly Hillbillies, then you would know the style of mansion. Two stories, and immense, with a huge front yard.

We never went inside the house itself.

The entire, massive basement was a third floor belowground - a separate fuck-palace.

It was rectangular, divided into three rooms, with a hallway at one end. Men arrived in the first room to find seven slings hanging from the ceiling, and seven fuck-mats (mattresses covered in Naugahyde).  Each sling had an open can of Crisco hanging next to it, supported by macramé, which was very trendy back in those days.

There were lots and lots of raunchy posters on the walls, coming from worldwide bathhouses and bars.

In each of the four corners of the room was a Magnepan Magneplanar speaker. These cost $15,000 a pair at the time, and there were FOUR of them, playing Disco music. Most impressive of all, there were color televisions hanging near the ceiling in each corner. And, they were playing GAY PORN.

Back in the late 1970’s, the only people who had video-recording and playback capability were the very richest folks. The owner had clearly hired somebody to project 16mm porn films onto a screen, and recorded it with a video camera attached to a Sony U-Matic videotape machine.

I was thoroughly impressed. Clearly, this idea had potential!  Porn on tape!

In one corner of the room was a bodybuilder wearing nothing but a bow tie and a smile, standing behind a bar. The drinks were free, so everybody grabbed a beverage and continued to explore the basement dungeon.

Room Two

The next room was brightly-lit, covered in white tile. There were racks and racks of clean, white fluffy towels. There were shower heads, douche hoses and toilet seats. The only thing missing was partitions and dividers. What’s the point of privacy in a fuck-palace?

Room Three

The last room was the biggest. It was dark. Everything painted black. One eighty-foot-long wall was entirely covered in perf-board... covered with holes to hang with hooks that were holding floggers, whips, clamps, chains, ropes, ball-gags, dildos and every other kind of kinky toy. The only lights were spotlights for the  St. Andrew's crosses.  Excellent aim while throwing kinky whips and such is crucial, dontcha know.

The men explored the slings, crosses and other delights, and then went back to hang out in the first room. This was winter-time in the Castro Clone era of the late 1970's, so these men were bundled up in Cop Drag, Lumberjack Drag and High Cow (head to toe black leather).

Male Archetypes

Remember the Village People? They didn’t influence my Tribe, they copied us.  At some point, I suggest that you watch the Celluloid Closet by Vito Russo. In it, he makes it plain that the culture around us had portrayed all homosexuals as sissies, perverts, murderers and objects of scorn.

We didn't fit into this ever-present stereotype, and it pissed us off.

Once the hypermasculine gay males finally found each other in constant close proximity, the pendulum of our lives swung HARD in a reaction against the sissy stereotype. We were attracted to strong male archetypes, and we wanted to define ourselves in our preferred manner.

Getting Back To The Party

So, here are well over a hundred men, fully-dressed in gear… standing idle and tense.  Nobody knows each other, except for me and David.  Nobody's talking.  The owner of the place never showed up.

The music finally dies down, and in the silence, one man unzips his jacket. It's loud.  It's also a signal to get the party started, so men sit down on the ground to pull off their boots, and all around me I could hear zippers and snaps being opened as those silent men got naked.

I had a sudden impulse, and stood with my arms crossed, with my legs apart.  In a deep, booming voice, I said

"Uhh - Where's All The Women?"

The place got VERY quiet, and every man froze in horror.  I could hear them swallowing their gum, as they each thought "Who is going to deal with this idiot?"

I let them stew in their own juices for about fifteen seconds, and then let out a roar of laughter as I grabbed a man and kissed him.  The crowd exploded with relieved laughter, and the men had something to talk about.  The party was suddenly a success!

All night long, I'd be fucking or flogging a man, and another one would slap me on the ass and say "Save some of that for ME, stud!"  I was the de facto host, and it felt right.

I like to tell this story, because it is an example of taking responsibility for the safety and success of a space, even if it isn't YOUR space.

Piggy George and the Crisco

David and I had a favorite fuck-buddy nicknamed Piggy George.  "Piggy" was a huge compliment in our crowd in that time.  It meant "uninhibited and playful."  After a lifetime of repression, we admired men who could let go of the shame that we had all endured.

The reason why we call it a "Pride" festival, is because "Pride" is the opposite of "Shame."

So, one morning, we got a panicked phone call.  George's mom was coming over at any minute, and he needed help to remove the dildos, kinky gear and porn (consisting of magazines, posters and calendars, back then).

This process is called "Straightening Up."

We arrived, loaded everything into boxes, and got it all whisked away, just in time.  After George's mom left the next day, George told us what had happened:

He had slept in on Sunday morning, and was woken up by his angry mother, shaking a can of Crisco at him.  "You need to learn how to cook!  Use a spatula!"

She had intended to make George some waffles, and had found finger-grooves in the grease!

Crisco was everybody's favorite sexual and fisting lubricant in those days.  Forty years ago, supermarkets would limit purchases of one can per customer per day, in gay neighborhoods.

Personally, I NEVER liked to use Crisco for sex, because it's shortening!

Ten-Inch Coils

For six months, I was handed a wonderful job on my ship in the Navy. I was given the pleasure of being a Fire Control Technician. Everybody wanted that job, so it was limited to six months per person.

This meant that I was free to spend the work-day as I pleased, as long as I did my rounds of inspecting all of the ship's fire-safety equipment.  I took this job very seriously, particularly after watching the Forrestal fire film.

The Chief in charge of me liked me a lot, and was an early ally of this young, openly-gay sailor. He was testing me on fire safety, and after putting me through my paces, he asked "and what do we do with the loose communications cables after a fire?"

I said "We loop them in ten-inch coils," as I began to do so.

He asked "And, how do we know that they are TEN-inch coils?"

I dropped the cable and said "Oh! That's easy…" as I stood up straight, and began to un-zip my pants.

He said "NEVER MIND, Lindsey!"