Friday, July 20, 2018

Memoirs of a Gay Leather Elder 15: Gayborhoods

The page listing all of the articles in this series can be found here
and my Mentoring for Tops page can be found here.

Mobility Created The Gayborhoods

For centuries, most LGBT folks lived and died within a few miles from where they were born.  Then, when cars, trains and planes became common, large amounts of us had useful choices, at long last.

Think about it:  You are a special, blessed child, born among hicks, yahoos and bigots.  You have creativity and an open mind.  You may as well be a pink monkey in a cage full of mean, brown monkeys. Instead of being warmly welcomed into the local community like everybody else, your LIFE is in danger, just because of things that you can't change about yourself.

Who the hell wants that?  So, you head out on your own, as soon as you possibly can.  You pick a coast or a big city, far, far away from Chicken Leg Arkansas, swearing never to return.

You would find a neighborhood that caters to the disenfranchised, and where LGBT folks can be themselves as much as the local police will allow.  It's not perfect, but it's a hell of a lot better than Squaw's Ass, Idaho.  You can finally find folks of like interests, and plenty of sex that is pleasing.  We could also band together and protect each other from bashers and police.

Folks had plenty of Gay Ghetto choices, according to Wikipedia:
Among the most famous gay villages are New York City's Greenwich Village, Chelsea, and Hell's Kitchen neighborhoods; Fire Island and The Hamptons on Long Island; Boston's South End and Provincetown, Massachusetts; Chicago's Boystown; Philadelphia's Gayborhood; Washington D.C.'s Dupont Circle; London's Soho, Birmingham's Gay Village, and Manchester's Canal Street, all in England; Los Angeles County's West Hollywood; as well as Barcelona Province's Sitges, Toronto's Church and Wellesley neighborhood, San Francisco's Castro, Madrid's Chueca, Sydney's Newtown, Berlin's Schöneberg, The Gay Street in Rome, Le Marais in Paris, Green Point in Cape Town and Melville in Johannesburg, South Africa.
In North America, the following gayborhoods are also noted: Asbury Park, MaplewoodMontclair, and Lambertville in New Jersey; Wilton Manors, Florida; Atlanta's Midtown, Montreal's Le Village, Houston's Montrose, San Diego's Hillcrest, San Jose's St Leo neighborhood, Dallas' Oak Lawn, Sacramento's Lavender Heights, and Seattle's Capitol Hill.
It was an exodus caused by pain and rejection.  LGBT folks wanted to get the hell out of a miserable, unsafe environment, and into a place of our own choosing and design. Gay men wanted career choices other than being florists and hair stylists.

As more and more distressed refugees from flyover country arrived, businesses sprang up to suit our tastes.  Boutiques, bistros, barbershops, book stores, bars and bathhouses.  We developed our own subcultural slang, styles and traditions.

Any open-minded, sassy waitress made a LOT of money on tips in the 1970's.  Particularly if she worked an all-night restaurant after the bars closed.  Gay men love us some divas, and any woman who could entertain a table full of drunken homos with her brassy ways was our QUEEN.

LGBTQ Junior High Arrives At Last

I have hosted hundreds of Men's Discussions.  Periodically, I will stop and ask "How many of you have attended a high school prom?"  A bunch of them will raise their hands.  Then, I ask "Keep your hand up if you feel that it has prepared you for the life that you are living now."  All hands drop, and rueful laughter ensues.

My point is that we were all put on a track.  That track was designed for heterosexuals.  During our formative years, most young men and women were playing games of "Does he like me, or does he REALLY REALLY like me?" They were testing their attractiveness and dating freely, while queers lacked such choices, and sat by the sidelines.

Picture this concept:  In Junior high, when you attended "Health" classes that were really "Sexual Education" classes, an announcement comes over the loudspeaker: "In Room 24 at 2:30PM, we will be teaching a class on how to have sensational male-male intercourse.  Directly afterward, we will teach the basics of long-term gay-male relationship dynamics."

Well, THAT never happened, so we had to figure out that mysterious stuff through direct exposure.  So we gay men would dive right in to our new Tribe, liberating our dicks and asses.  We slutted out, baby.  The pendulum needed to swing.

Once we hit the gay neighborhoods, all of that repressed pleasure started revving up as fast as we could manage.  Sexual intercourse was gay men's way of shaking hands and saying "Howdy!"  We called sexual conquests "numbers,"  "He's a hot number" was a sassy way of saying "Now serving Number 63!"

West Hollywood

I recommend reading this wonderful article about West Hollywood's gay history.  There are MANY articles online that can speak more knowledgeably than me.  All that I can share is what I saw, back during the heyday of Boy's Town in the late 1970's, and early 1980's. There are long stories coming up.  This is just an overview.

I took these photos during Los Angeles Pride in 1979.
You could see where MY mind was...

I lived near West Hollywood for a short time.  Santa Monica Boulevard in the late 1970's was intensely gay.  The sidewalks would be crowded with cruising men on a Saturday afternoon.  For miles.

There were gay bars everywhere, and many bathhouses. It felt like you could go a full month without seeing a heterosexual in West Hollywood.  I used to joke that we'd have to bus "breeders" and "front-loaders" into town once a month for Diversity Day.

You could walk into a supermarket and find yourself facing a magazine rack with muscular, scantily-clad men on the cover of BlueboyMandate and Drummer magazines.  I don't think I got used to seeing that for a few years.

Cops Harassing The Gay Bars

Being gay in the 1970's was still a very bad thing to be.  Sure, Stonewall had happened, but the culture around us was still very disapproving, and changes came slowly.  That's why the earlier Pride parades were confrontational, angry and political.  We wanted a lot of bad treatment to end.

Cops were still a hazardous problem.  There was a recent KPBS documentary about San Diego's Gay Bar History, and I'm in it.  I'm the one who is crying, and also making jokes.  The point is made by somebody that hundreds of bars have existed in our city, but they tended to come and go like spring mushrooms, due to police harassment.

It all started at the top - The local Attorney General or Police Chief could encourage the hiring of hateful law enforcers, and set up stings to entrap the homos.  Bars would get busted for having signs outside that were too big, having porn on the TV, or having people in the bar who didn't have ID's in their pockets.

Beaten By the Cops

In 1981, I was dancing at a local bar called Mister Dillon's (it has been Rich’s for the last few decades).  I am huge, and a very enthusiastic dancer, so I was up on stage.  I wanted to avoid colliding with others who were smaller than me.  As a result, I could see what happened:

Two uniformed cops were shoving their way through the crowded dance floor, throwing punches and whacking people with their billy clubs.  I jumped off the stage to try and see their badge numbers.  Bad plan.  Being six foot five (five foot seventeen when standing fully erect), I do NOT do the "unobtrusive" thing well at all.

Fresh out of jail the next morning, 
I had a broken eye socket and broken nose, 
plus many deep bruises all over my body.  
Just for being in a gay bar at the wrong time.

They caught me, and knocked me to the ground.  One of them stomped and whacked at me with his club while the other one called on his radio.  Within seconds, four more cops arrived and all six of them beat me while I cried out for help.  When they got tired of doing that, they arrested me, my boyfriend, the bar manager and a few others who hadn't left quickly enough.

I was convicted of "assaulting a police officer" and "resisting arrest," despite the fact that the ringleader cop had earned over 150 citizen complaints for excessive force.  Shortly afterward, the police chief was replaced, and the new one started firing the bad cops.

It took me several decades before I could stand to be near cops.  Seeing friendly uniforms at Pride festival booths, actively recruiting gay cops, helped a lot.

San Diego's Spreading Gayborhood

In San Diego, Hillcrest was widely known as the where the gay community lived and played. When I first started living there, it was referred to as "The Gay Nineties," because in order to live there, you had to be either gay, or ninety years old.  As the old, original owners of the cute little bungalows died or moved away, gay couples moved in and GENTRIFIED.

We would plant flowers, peel away old aluminum siding, remove green-painted, low-maintenance concrete, and restore the interiors and exteriors.  Property values skyrocketed, and fewer working-class folks could afford to buy a home in Hillcrest.  So, we started spreading outward, into University Heights, Mission Hills, Talmadge, and on and on. From Highway Five to the west, to Golden Hill on the south end, and all of the way out to Lakeside in the east.  One big, well-blended, straight and LGBT, open-minded culture, and almost NOBODY was born there.  They were all refugees.

Even the heterosexuals had fled the Midwest. These intelligent, creative and flexible-minded folks had to get the hell AWAY from where they were born.  This is why the Red states were getting redder, and the Blue states were getting bluer.

On one hand, we benefitted from the "Brain Drain," but on the other hand, the folks in Wisconsin, Iowa etc. lost their champions - the folks who would fight the good fight.  That's why I was so pleased when the Kentucky men who confronted Kim Davis stood up on their hind legs and confronted her bigotry.  This is why the Red states are now turning Purple.

Papa Tony's Parties

I live in a suburb of San Diego called Normal Heights. A century ago, a "Normal" school was a school that taught teachers.  I love living here, and it is very neighborly, but it's a bit discriminatory.  I tried to join the Normal Heights Book Club, but they wouldn't allow me to, because I am not of "normal height."  Hardy har har.

When my husband Dennis and I moved into our home in Normal Heights in 1993, I saw a gay leatherman buddy of mine, behind our home's back fence.  He lived there, and I said "Wow - We shall have to have a nice party together, once we have fully moved in."  I talk like that.

He said "Don't forget to invite the other gay couples in the area," and started listing them.  I thought "We should have the party in our yard!"  A couple of months later, I got onto my bicycle, and started riding up and down every street in Normal Heights.

Back then, rainbow flags, lambdas and pink triangles were very popular and visible on car bumpers, window stickers and flags.  For a long time, I had been one of the few thoroughly and openly-gay folks.  Now, everybody was doing it.

I'd stop at a house, and knock on the door.  It would open just a sliver, and I'd hear a doubtful voice say "Yes?"  I'd say "Is that your red Toyota out in front?"  "Yes, why?"  "Well, I saw the rainbow flag sticker on the back bumper, and I have a neighborhood party invitation for you!"  I'd hand them a sheet of paper that was festooned with many rainbow flags, and I'd ride away.

The first year, we only had 26 households who showed up.  The next year, we had over 250, because word had gotten around.  I was the real deal.  That second year, I had created a map of Normal Heights.  It was printed and mounted on foamcore board.  I had created little rainbow-flag pins, and as soon as folks arrived, they would place a flag where they lived.

Most blocks had a MINIMUM of three gay or lesbian households.  I showed this map to local community leaders in other neighborhoods, and they assured me that their local area contained the same density of LGBT households, for miles and miles.

These were not "gay" neighborhoods.  They have just become peaceful, comfortable and diverse.  25 years later, the level of diversity has only gone up.

The Bashers

For years, there was a constant hazard of assault by bigots.  Groups of rednecks would ride into town in pickups and station wagons.  They would drive around Hillcrest, yelling and throwing eggs at homos who were walking along the streets. If the fag reacted badly, they'd pile out and beat him with baseball bats and fists.

Now, you KNOW that every one of those bashers was sexually repressed, and wanted nothing more than to suck a nice big, juicy cock, but their cultural programming didn't allow for it. So, they acted out in violent ways.

Things got very bad, in phases that lasted for years.  You'd read in the gay newspapers about men hiding outside of gay bars, and when a gay man would walk out of the bar and past the hiding-place, the basher would swing a lead pipe at the back of his head, leaving him permanently brain-damaged.  I can't recall how many men this happened to, but it went on for months until we started our own Neighborhood Patrol.

A buddy told me that he was leaving town, because he had been traumatized.  After leaving the San Diego Eagle, six men had chased him with baseball bats, and when he jumped into his car, they broke his windows before he could drive away.

Once we finally got the leadership in the local cop culture on our side, the problems stopped, but not before I studied karate and weapons training for four and half years. I was tired of feeling like a victim.  I mean, come on - we were being handed rape whistles.  That seemed like some pretty feeble protection.

The Ghetto Slowly Loses Relevance

Living in Boys Town in any city has its charms.  After so many of us have been cast out of our homes, disinherited and shamed, we needed a space where we can hide out from the world for a while.  It's a great place to live, but it doesn't move our lives forward.

Decades ago, my husband Dennis left Buffalo, New York, and moved to San Diego.  He rejected Buffalo's hetero-biased culture, and had no intention of ever moving back.  His attitude changed radically when we went back for our niece's wedding in 2016.

We were walking around downtown Buffalo, and when we turned a corner, there were rainbow flags everywhere!  We had arrived without knowing that it was Pride weekend, and we had arrived at the festival, which was being set up.  Folks there told us that the parade would start shortly, so we made our way over there.

That's Dennis on the far right, smiling blissfully.

Dennis cried as he watched 150 teenagers lead the parade.  The crowd for the parade was enormous, and I noticed a lot of heterosexual couples smiling, waving and hollering in the crowd.  It was a cheerful, mind-blowing day for the both of us.  Our minds were changing about Dennis' home town.  Sure, when he lived there, there had been a gayborhood, but it was small and furtive.

We stayed in Buffalo for two more weeks.  As we power-walked through every neighborhood, we'd see rainbow flags hanging on nearly every church (and Buffalo has a LOT of old, massive churches.) Buffalo was revitalizing in every area, even the most-deteriorated ones.  There were rainbow flags flying on every block for miles around.

I started testing my hunches on dozens of strangers:  Dennis and I would be at a street fair, or an open-air concert, and we'd meet a heterosexual couple.  I'd introduce us, adding "We are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary!"  Within a second or so, the first words we ALWAYS heard were "DID YOU MAKE IT TO PRIDE?!??!!"  Those straight folks wanted to take sure that we didn't miss out on something that THEY were invested in.  They were proud allies.

In Conclusion

I have been using Buffalo as a metaphor for what has been happening in the USA.  Younger folks can't imagine why anybody would want to fag-bash.  They have friends who are queer.  Based upon the fact that the horrid mommy-porn book called "Fifty Shades of Gray" was the fastest-selling paperback book in history, I suspect that many heterosexuals wish to be more flexible.

Over the decades, folks who are closed-minded are being excluded from the now-dominant, open-minded urban places.  In my neighborhood, I know of only two households that have been proudly anti-gay, and both places no longer fly hateful flags or bumper-stickers.  They know that their opinions aren't welcome.

In 2018, I still see plenty of negative crap in the news from folks who want to drive us back into our gayborhood ghettos.  I don't see that ever happening again. The trend is ever upward.  All of the current aggravation from hateful people is their last gasp of resistance to generational and demographic change.

The gayborhoods have expanded, and are popping up in new places.  My wish is that the day will come when every child is valued, and never driven away.  Then, everywhere will be a safe space.  Based upon my last forty years of close observation, the positive changes are accelerating.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Memoirs of a Gay Leather Elder 14: The Most Unethical Titleholder Contest In History

The page listing all of the articles in this series can be found here,
and my Mentoring for Tops page can be found here.

The following story is NOT a whine-fest from a disgruntled participant.  I promise.  It's a story with a moral core… a parable.  I am writing about a pivotal point in our local history.  I will now talk about what went wrong, and then the huge benefits and blessings that came about as a result.

Landing With A Splash

As I wrote earlier, I came back to San Diego with a new, international leather title.  It was time to see what else was possible.  I had already invented Leather Pride.  I had started the local Leather Archives.  I was the Leather columnist for the local gay newspaper.  Nothing seemed impossible to me, and I was ready to keep innovating.

What I did NOT expect, in my naiveté, was that local self-important folks didn't LIKE any of this, and they wanted it all to STOP.  I had shown up, wagging my tail like crazy, and started helping out at various public events.  If I volunteered at a fundraiser, then I would cause a massive surge of donations in my section.  That irritated the other folks, who wanted to keep a lid on this tall, overly-enthusiastic upstart.

I wouldn't get asked to help, ever again.  This was fine with me.  I decided to create my own initiatives, without any further desire to ask for permission.

Empress Nicole Checks In

A week or so after I came home from winning the international contest, I received a phone call from Empress Nicole, who continues to be a powerful mover-and-shaker in Southern California. Here is an article I wrote around then, called "Forty or Fifty Nicoles."

Nicole said "Congratulations on being San Diego's first international titleholder in ten years.  Have they thrown a welcome home party for you, yet?"  I said "No… in fact, some folks are trying to have my title removed."

We continued the conversation, but all of the air had gone out of it.  We both had had experience with being community-minded, and a target for attacks.

A few years later, I brought 124 leatherfolks to the Imperial Court's Coronation Ball.  Nicole still talks about that, and we continue to be warm, respectful friends.

Something Seriously Wrong With Me

In the local leather community, I soon discovered that there was a deeper problem, which I had no way to fix.  I was the wrong SORT.  Over and over and over and over, there have been glorious stories blessing virtuous lesbians who stepped up to help their gay brothers when AIDS hit.  I do believe that this happened, but I never saw it in my own town.

Instead, I saw that the local kinky lesbians saw a delightful opportunity when so many gay men died.  It created a leadership vacuum, which could finally fill up with anti-male dykes.  They would then actively discourage any white, cisgender and dominant males from obtaining any leadership roles.  To them, males were just useful idiots, to flatter into doing their bidding.

Anyone who didn't suck up to them, was going to be taken DOWN.

How do I know this?  As the years went by, I would notice the patterns… If this crowd of self-important lesbians (I called them The Powers That Be) sat as judges during titleholder events, they would ALWAYS vote against dominant white males.  They tried to make those contestants cry during interviews, and would boost the one contestant that they liked. Folks of color, lesbians and transgender folks got encouraged, and folks like me got attacked and driven away.

They would gladly choose the opposite of what the title was supposed to exemplify… a tiny, submissive man of color with zero experience in the community would win, over vastly more-qualified, experienced men.

So, I showed up as a new, seemingly-unstoppable force of change.  This made me a target.

I had won a local title, and then my international title.  Now, I was going to run for Mr. San Diego Leather in 1999.  I was strongly discouraged from doing so.  "It's Mike's turn!"  Being an amiable soul (and Mike's best friend), I agreed to step away from the contest for 1999, after telling everyone that I would run for the title the following year.

I Keep Myself Busy

The banner was advertising a local leather bar, 
but the men were at Shooterz to DANCE!

I spent the following year fruitfully.  I created even more initiatives, including what became a hugely successful Gay Leathermen's Dance Party called Rampart.  I had created a gay leathermen's resources site called the PT-Website (Papa Tony Website).  I created a gay leathermen's group called the San Diego League of Gentlemen, based upon LA's Avatar group.

I traveled all over the West Coast, helping to create Leather Pride celebrations in Los Angeles, Inland Empire, Long Beach, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Palm Springs.  Each of them had at least ONE Leather Pride weekend, but if there wasn't an aggressively active local leadership to keep the energy building, then Leather Pride wouldn't happen in that town again.

My Guiding Principles

I have worked every day to make sure that everybody is always given fair chances to succeed.

I have the Golden Rule in every cell of my body.  I believe in the power of Cooperation, versus Competition.  I believe that the tools that are missing from my personal toolbox are supplemented by the ones in yours, and vice versa.

On the other, competitive side of our local culture, there were constant, aggressive efforts to destroy anyone's reputation if they got in the way.  Folks were spreading evil gossip, like Mean Girls Gone Crazy.  Folks were saying that:

• I was HIV-positive, and actively infecting unsuspecting victims.
• I was a sociopath.  AND a narcissist.
• I was intentionally breaking up couples, so that I could steal the boy for myself.
• There was a murder at my house, I was stalking people with a knife and calling them incessantly to threaten their very lives, and that people had witnessed me breaking other people's limbs.

The stories kept changing.  Folks were trying to take down my most precious asset, which was my integrity.

Imagine a battlefield with bloody corpses all around, with one or two victors left standing.  This is toxic, and instead of buying into it, I just created my own, separate and rapidly-expanding social circle.

Creating A Social Network

Metaphorically speaking, each time that I reached out to the local Powers That Be, I'd pull back a bloody stump.  I was NOT wanted, welcome or respected.

So, I created my own social network.  This was LONG before things like Facebook existed.  Yahoo used to offer free email lists.  If you set it up properly, a Yahoogroup provided a way to announce upcoming local events.  Nobody had ever done anything like this before.  So, I went around at events, asking for email addresses.

Imagine that:  I manually added 3,300 email addresses, one at a time, by asking nicely.  This is not normal behavior.  Luckily, I am a charmer, and over 99% of the folks I approached were happy to get connected.  People REALLY wanted what I was promoting… a way to be connected to something far larger than just a few folks.  It was most folks' first such experience, and I gave my solemn word of honor that I would never cause them to regret giving me their information.

I was the only one with the keys to this newfangled invention.  I got to run it MY way.  Every word that went out was kind, accepting and supportive.  I supported all events, whether the producers liked me or not.  I promoted annual, out-of-town events, and suddenly, there were hundreds of newbie San Diegans showing up where they never had, before.  Folks in charge noticed.

Omens And Evil Signs

Three months before the Mr. San Diego Leather 2000 contest, an email went out to announce the panel of judges.  Every single one of them hated my guts, and made no secret of their antipathy.  I was upset, but I steeled my nerves and went ahead with the entry form and fee, which the producers accepted.

Three days before the contest, an email was sent out to over 700 folks all across the USA.  The subject line was "The Final Solution to the Tony Lindsey Problem."  In case you missed it, my name is Tony Lindsey.  I learned about this spam-blast via a swarm of phone calls and emails from many cities, asking "What the hell is going ON in San Diego?!??"

The email invited interested parties to come to an event that very night, where they would discuss ways to keep me from participating in the Mr. San Diego Leather 2000 contest.  This event was being hosted by four of the contest's judges, at one of our long-ago leather bars. My buddy Mark went, and berated everybody else.  They had accepted my money and my entry-form.  Legally, they were honor-bound to let me run for the title.

I didn't bother to go.  I didn't see any cheese down that rathole.  I was tired of being yelled at.

My Final Tribunal

Just one month earlier, I had had to endure my NINTH public tribunal.  I was working very hard to make the upcoming San Diego Leather Pride a success, and I was the only one doing any work.  At long last, I was informed that there would a Planning Meeting on the following Wednesday.  I showed up with an armload of three-ring binders.  Each binder had somebody's name on the outside, and tasks that needed to be completed on the inside.

I set down the binders, looked up and saw around forty folks glaring at me.  I sighed.  This again.  I held up my hand to forestall the angry recriminations.  I was already aware that I was being called a "Loose Cannon," and that I had somehow "Screwed the Pooch."  I didn't need any more public shaming.

I said "I can save us all a LOT of time.  What is the single, WORST thing that I have done?"  Everybody looked at each other, shuffled their feet and muttered.  After about a minute, I said "Come on, folks - I am not asking for three things, or two things.  What is my biggest harmful act?"

After another minute or so, a tiny leather lesbian stepped up, and said "Well, you're awfully big and scary."  I said "Well, there is therapy for that nowadays."  Immediately, the angry shouts rang out: "How RUDE!"  I said "You just demonstrated the perfect definition of bigotry.  You don't like something about my externals that I have no control over.  If you have issues with men who remind you of your father somehow, get therapy, and leave it off of me.  It doesn't belong to me."

"As for the rest of you:  The invitation remains, and is always open.  If I have done anything that is bad, bring it to me, face to face, and we will work it out.  In the meantime, you are wasting time.  Leather Pride is coming up fast.  Here are your tasks.  If you have any questions, call me."

With that, I left.  Decades later, I am still waiting for the answer to that question.  I have always assumed that I was the wrong sort because I had no interest in "kissing the ring."  I had big plans, and I easily re-routed around interference.

I LIKE diversity, and have always endeavored to encourage it.  I object to ANYBODY being shut down on the basis of their unchangeable nature.  Reverse discrimination is still discrimination.

Everyone deserves a chance.

My Favorite Compliment

Right around this same time, I got a call from Mr. Marcus.  Marcus Hernandez was the leather columnist for the Bay Area Reporter in San Francisco.  His email address was (which stood for "Hatchet Queen".)  This should give you an idea of his prickly nature.  His nickname was Marcus the Merciless, and he was also the Head Judge at the International Mr. Leather contest for decades, until his death.

We knew each other well by this time. He had taken me under his wing, and mentored me as I learned how to create high-quality publicity.  He could be mean to other folks, but he was an unfailingly kind mentor to me for years, until he died.  I have passed-on his shared wisdom with dozens of new community leaders.

When he called, he got to the point right away:  "Why are you running for Mr. San Diego Leather?"  I started to give my standard reply, saying "Well, I gave my word, and…"  He stopped me, and said "No - Why are you, of all people, running for a title?  You're PAPA TONY!  You don't need a title any more than I do!"

This was high praise from a trusted friend, and I have treasured it, ever since.

The Pre-Contest Interview

On Saturday morning, I arrived at the bar for my Pre-Contest Interview.  The four other contestants clung to each other, recoiling away from me in open fear.  I said "What the hell is wrong here?"  One man said "They told us that you had sworn to beat us all up if you didn't win the title."  I laughed and said "That doesn't exist.  I don't think that way, and it is a lie.  I already KNOW that I have no chance.  I am here to support YOU guys."

They calmed down, and we hugged.  The first contestant was called in, and would leave again after twenty minutes.  Each contestant took twenty minutes.  I was called last, but only after waiting for an hour and a half.  I entered the bar to find the judges in a row.  Nothing surprising there.  However, off to the side, there were about forty other folks, with crossed arms and frowning faces.  They were seated in rows.  I am guessing that the long delay was to make sure that everybody got a seat.

In case you're not familiar with titleholder contests, this was unprecedented, and has never happened since.  This was an intimidation tactic.  Those "observers" had no right to be there.

The head judge started barking questions at me.  "Name each judge, and what role we have in the community!"  This was easy for me, because I had been diligently documenting our local history for the newly-created Leather Archives.  I went down the row, answering perfectly until I started naming the folks off to the side.  The judge stopped me, saying "That's enough.  They are only observers."

Among other things, I was asked "You seem to have an awful lot of energy, getting things done.  What is the source of all of this energy?"  I said "Two things: Rage, and Grief.  I stopped counting when I lost 140 dearly loved ones to AIDS.  If I gave in to my despair, I would probably kill myself.  So, instead of being a fragmentation bomb of unresolved grief and Survivor's Guilt, I have chosen to use my pain as a focused power source."  I learned later that I was given bad marks for my answers to every question.

The Contest

Now, this next part is outlandish, but there is documented proof.  The VHS video tape of the entire contest is still in the possession of the San Diego Eagle bar:

We all arrived, and at the very beginning, the emcees announced that there would be no ninety-second speeches.  I knew that this was because they didn't want me to speak publicly.

I could have picked any of eighty tight, punchy speeches, with no problem.  I was a charismatic and inspirational speaker, talking to standing-room-only crowds in many cities, nearly every month.  I was building teams and exciting the troops, wherever I went.

My goal was to kill off the AIDS Holocaust Phase for gay men, worldwide, and to replace it with a new age of kindness and cooperation.  We needed new traditions to replace what had died with our beloved elders, and I wanted to co-create those traditions.  I wanted to create a series of Guaranteed Safe Spaces, where our AIDS-era PTSD-damaged brothers could find safe havens.

My ability to excite crowds was not going to be allowed.  So, in a four-and-a-half-hour contest, we five contestants were seen onstage a total six and a half minutes.  How do I know this?  I watched the video later on, and used a stopwatch. The rest of the time consisted of drag shows and self-serving speeches by local big cheeses.

The first four contestants were lovingly announced, and were treated very kindly onstage.  Lots of encouragement and flirtation. "Shake that beautiful ass, baby!"  Then, it was time to announce me. The two emcees had a problem:  How to handle my introduction to the crowd?  In the entry form, one of the standard questions had been "List your contributions in the community.  Use a separate sheet if needed."

Well, I had answered honestly, and had added multiple pages, single-spaced, listing just the bullet-points of what I had done so far.  So, they had a clever solution.  As I was waiting backstage, one of the emcees loudly flapped the stapled entry-form pages and said "Our NEXT contestant appears to have written a novel."  The other emcee said "Yes… a SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL!  Here is Tony Lindsey."

The music turned off. I stepped onto the stage in my jock and boots, and the emcees very carefully ignored me.  They chatted with each other, as I silently walked around the stage, waving at my friends.  After a while, one of them says "Well, that's enough of YOU.  That was Tony Lindsey."

Unbeknownst to everybody involved in running the contest, the packed crowd was there for ME.  These were folks who I had affectionately kept informed about local Tribal culture, and warmly welcomed at events, usually with hugs.  There were dozens of heavy hitters from every major city for hundreds of miles around.  I had happily given them support without expectation of reward, and they had shown up to be supportive of ME.

They could see that the contest was a sham.  Over half of the attendees left before the contest winner was announced.  When it came time, the emcees started out with "Our Fourth Runner-Up is Tony Lindsey."  The crowd booed, because it's a terrible insult to let contestants know that they failed.  The kind, polite thing to do is to mention only the first runner-up, and the winner.

After the contest, I went home and cried.  During the contest itself, I had been endlessly supporting the other contestants behind the curtain.  I had helped them to change outfits, and to get comfortable, because they were stressed.  Once that was all over, the LAST thing that I wanted was to be a Drama Queen Victim.  So, I didn't talk to anybody about it, except for my boys and my husband - my Leather Family.

The very next week, I went to Los Angeles Leather Pride and stayed with fine folks.  I am sure that they wanted to discuss what had happened, but I just wanted hugs.  All weekend long, I received hundreds of sweet unsolicited hugs, seemingly from every direction.

The Blessings Flow...

This event turned out to be the pivot-point that changed everything for our local kink community.  In their efforts to squash me like an annoying insect, the Powers That Be faced a backlash from a lot of people who had resented them for years.  The word went out to many cities:  Papa Tony was a great guy, who had been wronged.

Suddenly, it was as if I had just won THREE international titles, simultaneously.  I became super-popular as a judge, an emcee, or a tally-master at titleholder events all over the West Coast, and in places as far away as Salt Lake City, Washington DC, New York and Seattle.  I was treated with great love and respect, and those were very happy days.

Later on, I chose to concentrate on my local community.  I don't miss the crazy days of being a Big Name.

My Theory About Their Motives

I showed up in the midst of an existing power-structure, and I was out-shining folks who were very comfortable in their domination of the local scene.  These were folks with rigid brains - Unable to deal with constant, transformational change.

Then, I show up, and I'm creating new and exciting traditions, affinity-groups and other concepts that WORKED.  I was drawing the public's eyes in new directions, away from the Powers That Be.

Worse yet, I was popular with an ever-growing constituency, and I was on an upward trajectory.  I would have been a shoo-in for International Mr. Leather, so I had to be stopped, RIGHT NOW.

...And The Tribe Changes

It is traditional for cities to invite various nearby potentates to work as contest judges, emcees, or guest speakers.  After the disastrous Mr. SD Leather 2000 contest, those invitations dried up, for everybody but me.  Nobody associated with running the contest was trusted, ever again.

The man who won that contest was never seen again.  Years later, one of the emcees from the contest sheepishly told me "You really should have won."  I thanked him.

Everything changed in the local community after that disastrously unethical contest. Decades later, the reputation of San Diego's kinky community stands out.  We are a lot more accepting, diverse and affectionate than other cities. I have spent tens of thousands of hours, working to make that happen.  I never took a day off, for decades.

I have trained new generations of leaders, showing them how to lead flexibly, wisely and effectively.  I have preached the gospel of cooperation and respect.  I have defused old-style conflicts when they arose, by taking responsibility for the conversation, and never giving in to the drama.

In the decades since, I have hosted thousands of events (here are just a few), and they were all sweet, accepting and diverse.

There is still a tiny number of people who believe that self-importance, domination games and glory-hounding are enough.  They no longer get any traction in the local Tribe.  They are not missed.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Memoirs of a Gay Leather Elder 13: Tales of Assless Chaps

The page listing all of the articles in this series can be found here
and my Mentoring for Tops page can be found here.

I am currently writing several chapters with entirely different topics, but this one just popped up.  So, I went with it.

Sterling of West Hollywood

One of the very first things that I did when we moved into the gayborhood near LA in 1979 was to stop by the shop of Sterling of West Hollywood, on Santa Monica Boulevard near Highland.  I am shocked to find zero references for him on Wikipedia, because he was the man who invented assless chaps for gay leathermen. He deserves great honor for that.

I was intensely excited.  This was my first experience with being in a dedicated kinky gay leather tailor's shop, and I bounced around Sterling's store, saying "Oh!  I want that, and I want THAT!"  Sterling and his boyfriend followed me around, amused by my youthful enthusiasm.  Then, he stopped me, and gave me some very wise advice:

"A man of your size doesn't need all of the shiny-shiny accessories. Simple and elegant, plain black leather works better for you.  Leather is just a frame for the picture within.  I would make more money selling you any old thing, but I want you to look your best."

During the year and a half that I lived in the area, I stopped by Sterling's shop dozens of times.  He saw potential in me as a rising young star.  We never had sex, but he was a deeply-experienced mentor, and he shared his kind wisdom with a generous heart.  Decades later, I realize that everything that he told me was true, useful and practical, with no expectation of reward.

I learned so much of the Tribal wisdom that I know now, because of kind older men like him. When I mentor folks nowadays, I emulate his patient style.  I help others as a way of gratefully repaying my debt of love to dozens of men like him.

 I regret having lost touch with him during the AIDS holocaust.  Like so many wonderful men who died young, he exists now only in the memories of the rapidly-aging gay leathermen who survived.  If I want to have ONE thing locked into the public record, it's Sterling's name and place in our Tribal history.

My Oldest Piece of Leatherwear

I currently have a walk-in closet full of leather fetishwear.  I have owned at least ten times more gear than is currently in my collection.  I've given a lot of it away, mostly out of respect and approval for rising new stars, and partially because of the biggest problem with kinky gear:

The longer that leather gear hangs in your closet, the more that it shrinks!

The one thing that I will never give away is the leather harness that Sterling custom-made for me in 1979. I can't wear it in public, even though it still adjusts to fit me nicely.  Here is the problem: it yanks out my back-hair by the handful when I change position.  I can't engage in polite conversation without holding perfectly still!

I remember when my boyfriend David ordered a custom-made pair of Sterling's chaps in 1980. He had a cute little ass, and proudly wore his new chaps to the LA Eagle when it was at the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Fairfax. While we were walking toward the bar, we passed a crowd of big, scary straight men outside of a biker bar. These men had seen a lot of gay men in the area, and they were cool with us.

Tom of Finland didn't start adding assless chaps 
to his drawings until he arrived in Silverlake.

They saw us coming, and were highly amused when they saw David's butt-cheeks passing by. Instead of being threatening, they practically fell down on the sidewalk in their honest laughter.  There was no meanness in it.  They had just never seen anything like it.  I can't help but think that this started the trend for hetero bikers to start wearing (baggy) chaps as well, since those didn't start showing up for a at least a decade or so afterward.

Ugly, baggy, hetero-chaps.

Gay men's chaps did NOT require the ownership of a motorcycle. They were designed so that a man in a sling with his legs up could express his kinky fetish while being fucked or fisted.  They were also ideal for showing off your great ass in a crowded leather bar, while wearing a codpiece.  To this day, it's common to wear a hanky spread across your naked ass as you are on the streets, until you get to the bar or street-fair. At that point, you can let your ass out on proud display.

International Mr. Cheeks & Chaps

As I said elsewhere, I had been approached by a buddy to step up and take more of a leadership role in the gay leather community in 1998.  I pondered for a day or so, and signed-up for a "Mr. San Diego Cheeks 'n Chaps" contest that same night.  I knew nothing about being in a titleholder contest, or what it meant, but I wanted to start with a silly bar title. No pressure.

Folsom Street Fair, 2016.

Out of seven contestants, I was the oldest by at least a decade, and the others had cute little peachy, perky asses.  Mine is big and blocky, even now, several decades later.  During the contest, I was silly and relaxed.  I was not attaching my self-worth to whether I won or lost.  I was in a zen space on the tiny stage.

Whenever one of my drunken buddies in the crowded bar would yell something at me, I'd yell back with an affectionate, quick and witty reply.  I have that ability, and the crowd loved me.  Example: Emcee:  "Our next contestant is known to be slutty!"  Drunk in audience: "Hey!  I'm slutty, too!"  Me: "Yeah, I know, honey - I've seen your web-page!"

When the emcees went down the line and then held their hands above my head, the crowd screamed for me, more than the others. I was asked if I would be willing to travel to San Francisco during Folsom Street Fair week to represent San Diego during the International title contest, and I said yes.

On the Road to San Francisco

Recent baggage-claim portrait

Being huge, I always have to travel to large annual leather events while dressed in full gear.  My boots and jacket don't fit into luggage, and I will not willingly crush my Master's cap inside a bag, so I like to strut through airports as a proud, gay six-foot-ten-in-full-gear leatherman.  If I have my slaves walking a few steps behind me, they will say "EVERYBODY turned around to watch you go by!"  Being a big, sassy extrovert, and as out of the closet as you can get, I have always liked to hear that.

My Only Experience As A ProDom

So, I arrived in the San Francisco airport at the beginning of Folsom Street Fair week.  I dropped off my bags at the hotel and took the trolley to the Castro. A man in a baby-blue business suit started flirting with me.  His name was Shawn, he told me.  I could tell that Shawn was "fuck-struck" with me, but I wasn't in the mood for hooking up.

He started asking me questions, and I would fire the answers back in funny ways.  Example: "I see that you are wearing a fireman's t-shirt.  Are you really a firefighter?"  My response "No.  You wouldn't believe how far I had to chase him to get it.  The last words that I said to him were 'Be grateful that I let you keep your pants!'  However, I DO get hired periodically to stomp out forest fires with these big boots."  I was in a sassy, friendly mood.  I don't do unkind "humor."

After a while, I realized that his increasingly-horny attempts to flirt, combined with my comedy routine, had caused the entire trolley to go silent, interspersed with roars of laughter.  Suddenly, he panicked, saying "This is my stop, and I really want to see you.  Here is my business card." I had printed up a few title cards of my own ("Mr. San Diego Cheeks 'n Chaps 1998"), so I amiably gave him one, and that was that.

I strolled down the Castro after brunch, and this was how I looked that same morning, carrying my bag of kinky toys.  I asked a bystander to take this shot.  If I had had my boy with me, he would have flipped the extra-large cock-ring on my shoulder to the proper position.  It always pays to advertise.

That night, I went to Daddy's Bar on the Castro, and it was Underwear Night.  I stripped down to white boxers covered with red hearts, and flirted for a few hours.  At one point, I had five guys groping me and smooching, and I said "I'm tired of all of this dry-humping.  Who wants to leave with me and go FUCK?!??"  Four men scattered, and the fifth guy said "Let's go!"

We went back to my hotel.  We had a grand time fucking, and I topped him in a variety of kinky play styles.  A few hours later, he got up to take a shower, and my phone rang.  I was not in the mood to be disturbed so close to midnight, so I answered with a fake-sleepy voice.  It was Shawn, my admirer from the trolley.

"I have to see you!"  "Not gonna happen.  Call me in the morning."  "No, I REALLY NEED TO SEE YOU!"  "Listen, dude - I am going to be honest.  I am all fucked-out, and it's not going to happen."

"I'll give you a thousand dollars."

"I will call you back."

I hung up, and saw that my recent fuckbuddy was standing in the doorway, wondering what all of the fuss was about.  I said "A guy just offered me a thousand dollars to play with him."  His response: "Hey, man - If you want to get rid of me, then just TELL me."  I said "No!  That is what really happened."

The thought occurred to me… What would my non-kinky husband say?  I realized that he would say "Get the money up front." So I called the guy back, and I said "Bring the CA$H."

Before I had left for the trip to SF, my boy Kevin had given me my very first Viagra, so I crunched it down (it activates faster that way, but it tastes vile) and waited for Shawn to arrive.  I fucked him, I tied him up, I flogged and then whipped him (he begged me to), and I basically took him around the world of kink.

Afterwards, we cuddled naked and slept in.  In the morning, I took him to a local bistro and bought him breakfast.  I was feeling rather generous, under the circumstances.  While eating, I mentioned that Mister S Leather would be opening soon, and I had my eye on a very high-quality jacket.  He said "Oh!  I have always wanted to buy leather gear for a submissive, but I was afraid to shop, because I didn't want to ignorantly get any combination of items that would look inappropriate together."

I invited him to walk down the street to Mister S with me, and that I would help him shop.  I was wearing a string tank-top, flimsy red gym-shorts with the inner lining removed (I like to flop around), and tennis shoes.  He was still wearing the baby-blue business suit.  I gave him his orders:  "You must keep my cock hard the entire time that we are in the store, and you are not allowed to use your hands."  Then, we entered the crowded store.

Alan is standing, second from the right.

To this day, a major highlight of San Francisco's tour of gay mecca is Mister S Leather, created by Alan Selby.  Yes, shopping there is expensive, and the "Mister S Tax" is legendary, but you really do get what you pay for. It is THE shopping destination during Folsom Week, and the place was jammed by the time that Shawn and I arrived.

He scurried around on his knees the entire time, keeping his slobbering mouth on my erection through my shorts, while I would make a big show of ignoring him.  I'd casually chat with other Sirs wearing leather (this is called doing "Top Talk"), while Shawn was given orders to bring me various items for my inspection.  Then, he'd resume his greedy cock-worship.

Lips firmly attached, he'd scramble on his knees as I slowly moved to the next section, and picked out gear in his size.  He'd throw the most-recent item on the pile by the cash register, and then crawl back to me.  As we approached the jacket section, I pulled a $900 jacket off of the rack and said "I'm considering buying this."  He released my cock and said "Throw it on the pile, Sir." I did so.

At the end of the shopping, he paid for everything, and I was stunned at his generosity.  I felt that a good reward would be for him to wear his new leatherboy gear, along with my rope around his neck during the Street Fair the next day.  With great regret, he declined, saying that he had to return to Minneapolis that very evening.  This was a business trip, and he had had no idea that it was Folsom Weekend.

I asked him "Why did you pursue me so vigorously?  You could have had any number of men to play with."  He said "When I saw you on the trolley, I knew that you were the King of the Leathermen.  I wanted you to be my first."

So, I bid him farewell, and escorted some other sweet boys around the Fair the next day.  All during the fair, folks stopped me and said “Was that YOU at Mister S yesterday?  That was one of the hottest Dom/sub scenes I’ve ever seen, and you weren’t wearing any gear!”

I haven't been a Professional Dominant (ProDom) since, though I could certainly do so, even now.

My International Title Contest

So, I showed up an hour or so later at the Lone Star cowboy bar for the pre-contest interview.  One by one, each of the sixteen contestants (from three countries) were led to a separate room to be interrogated by the eleven judges.  A woman came to fetch me for my interview.  I stood in front of the seated judges,  and I felt as transparent as water.  I was mellow, had nothing to hide, and had no issues left to work through.  I was ready.

The judges were tough.  They were looking for leaders.  Not one of them asked to see my ass.  They were too busy asking me about our history, and what I intended for the title.  Some of the questions were focused on stuff that I knew nothing about, and I would answer "I don't know, but I will find out, and get back to you."  I did so, before the weekend was over.

One judge asked me "After your title year is over, how would you like to be remembered?"  I said that I would be the hugging-est international titleholder ever.  They liked that.  Then, when things wound down, I got asked the crucial question: "What would you like to tell us, that nobody here has asked about?"  I said "That's easy.  I want my turn."  Facing their baffled faces, I continued:

"I will explain.  For decades, I have complained from the sidelines.  'Who elected these idiots?  Why can't they do anything right?'  There has been no power in my bitching and complaining, and I am done with it.  I am 42 years old, I know how to network, organize huge events and build teams.  It's my turn to shut up, step up and DO something.  For all that I know, it might be a terrible experience, but I don't care.  I will work every day to make you all proud of me, so please let me have my turn."

Later on, the woman who guided me back and forth to the interview confided that she had told her friend "You see that tall guy?  He's going to win."

The evening came, and we arrived for the contest.  I walked through the audience beforehand, getting a sense of the crowd.  It was almost entirely made up of titleholders from all over the world, and I was very pleased to meet them.  Unlike the bar titleholder contest, it wasn't a random crowd of rowdy drunks.  I had a strong sense that these were my peers, and I trusted them to support me.

Sterling made me these chaps, twenty years earlier, along with the studded bandolier holding my flogger. His excellent work undoubtedly helped me to win my "International Mr. Cheeks & Chaps 1998" title.

I was the oldest contestant by seventeen years, and the first Top to ever run for the ten-year-old title. The boys around me were emotional wrecks, worried about how they looked, and whether they were good enough.  So, most of my time around them was spent encouraging them, and giving them tips for making a great impression onstage.

The contest began, and the emcee was Lenny Broberg, who has been the go-to guy for Master of Ceremonies work for decades.  Well, I was starting to get annoyed with Lenny, because he clearly had a bias for me above the other contestants, and I wanted them to get some praise, too.   Lenny kept announcing my entry onto the stage with "Papa Tony, standing six-foot five, and 235 pounds!"  So, I started interjecting comments like "Actually, I am only five foot seventeen, when I am standing fully erect!" which he would gleefully repeat for the crowd.

At one point, I had taken off my jeans offstage, and wore my chaps with a codpiece, so my ass was hanging way out.  Lenny placed a quarter onto a beer bottle on the stage, and invited me to pick up the quarter with my ass.  I didn't hesitate, and when I handed him the quarter, I said "Luckily for you, I have been sanitized for your protection!"

Later on, I was asked "What will be the benefit if you win the international title?"  I replied "Well, for one thing, up to now, my ass has only been nation-wide!"  Then, came the inevitable "silly question:"

"If your ass was an animal, what would it be, and why?"  I pondered, and said "If my ass was an animal, it would be a squirrel."  Then, I intentionally stopped talking.  Lenny did the perfect straight-man thing and asked "A SQUIRREL?!??  But WHY?"  I said "Because I can crack Brazil nuts with my ass!"  The crowd just about turned inside out, and once the laughter died down, Lenny asked "Are there any Brazilians in the audience?"

When they announced me as the winner, I feigned surprise, and Lenny chided me for that.  He said "You owned this stage from the beginning."

Mike Pereyra.  One time, he bleached every 
black hair of his body bright white.  
It was an eerie effect on a young man.

Then, I went home to San Diego. I was the first international leather titleholder in ten years in San Diego.  International Mr. Leather 1988 Mike Pereyra was the previous one.  As soon as I got home, I  didn't get a celebratory party.  The folks that I will refer to as "The Powers That Be" tried to have my title removed instantly.  That story will be coming up soon, along with The Most Corrupt Title Contest in History.  It ends wonderfully, I promise.

The Hazard of Wearing Chaps

I have newer chaps now, custom-made for a man of Heroic Proportions. 😀  I rarely wear them, though.  My big ass is starting to point toward hell, now that I am in my sixties.  When I wore them more often, I noticed a peculiar thing.  This happened several times.

Some ignorant drunk would come into the leather bar, and my submissives would catch him winding up to take a hard slap at my ass.  When he would protest, saying "He LIKES it, right?" the boys would tell him - "No... WE like it.  You don't want to mess with him!"

That's why I don't go shirtless in bars any more.  My nipples are at just the right height for some drunk to BITE them when I least expect it!  Rather than make the idiot eat through a straw for months, I'd just slap him and warn him to leave the bar right away.