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Twenty-five years of leather: as the International Mr. Leather contest turns 25, its first-ever winner describes why cowhide means so much to gay people. (Behind the Headlines).



David Kloss was named International Mr. Leather in 1979 before a crowd of about 400 who had gathered in Chicago for the first IML See Simputer.

IML - Initial Microprogram Load
 contest. Since then IML has evolved into the premier leather event, drawing thousands of gay men and lesbians from all over the world. This May the IML holds its 25th annual contest in Chicago.

The Advocate caught up with Kloss, 53, in Toronto, where he lives with his partner, Remi Collette, 34. The pair, who had met at IML a few years ago, were named Pantheon pantheon (păn`thēŏn', –thēən), term applied originally to a temple to all the gods. The

Pantheon at Rome was built by Agrippa in 27 B.C., destroyed, and rebuilt in the 2d cent. by Hadrian.
 of Leather Couple of the Year in February. Still active in the community, Kloss looks back on 25 years of life in leather.

What was IML like back in 19797

It was a totally new scenario with no history. [IML founder] Chuck Renslow put out a call to the bars, saying we are holding a contest in Chicago and asking them to send candidates.

I was living in San Francisco San Francisco (săn frănsĭs`kō), city (1990 pop. 723,959), coextensive with San Francisco co., W Calif., on the tip of a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, which are connected by the strait known as the Golden  at the time, and a bar called the Brig Brig, town, Switzerland
Brig (brēk), Fr. Brigue, town, Valais canton, S Switzerland, on the Rhône River, at the north entrance of the Simplon Tunnel.
 sponsored the local contest. I was the first representative from San Francisco and established the tradition of Mr. Leather San Francisco.

The contest was held at the Radisson Hotel on Michigan Avenue, and I remember there was also some sort of Baptist convention going on at the same time.

The contest was relatively simple: There was a brief interview, and then you had to come out in leatherwear leath·er·wear  
n.
Clothing made of leather.
 and in what they called minimal wear. I remember I wore a bathing suit.

The prizes were the medallion, which was real 18-karat gold back then, a check for $1,000, and a Yamaha 500 motorcycle motorcycle, motor vehicle whose design is based on the bicycle. The German inventor Gottlieb Daimler is generally credited with building the first practical motorcycle in 1885. The motorcycle did not become dependable and popular, however, until after 1900. .

What does being the first IML mean to you today?

I'm honored by it. I feel that once you have achieved some recognition, giving back to the community is what you should be doing. And a lot of people know my name. I've had guys come up to me and say, "Wow, I wasn't born when you won!"

How has the leather community changed over the years?

When I arrived in San Francisco from Philadelphia in 1977, there was a lot of leather activity. There were something like 17 motorcycle clubs--and they actually had motorcycles.

Back then the leather scene was marginal, even within the gay community. There was always a sense of community. Because you were different, you hung together.

AIDS took the heart out of the leather community. We were hit very hard by AIDS, and the leather community was the first to band together to raise money. You will never find a more caring, giving group of people.

Today, it seems a bit more structured and maybe a little more mainstream. That's good, because it's nice to be accepted. But I kind of liked that sense of the forbidden too.

What do you think of the recent protests of leather events by animal rights activists?

I think it is a little ridiculous. I understand that you have to do something to get your message out, but why pick on us? I think a lot of people in the leather community actually support [the activists'] goals. But let's face it--what we're talking about here is cowhide cow·hide  
n.
1.
a. The hide of a cow.

b. The leather made from this hide.

2. A strong heavy flexible whip, usually made of braided leather.

tr.v.
, something that is seen in everyday use. We just use a little bit more of it than most people.

So what is it about leather?

Leather, to me, represents something that's on the edge, something that has an element of danger by pushing the limits. It represents maximum gratification GRATIFICATION. A reward given voluntarily for some service or benefit rendered, without being requested so to do, either expressly or by implication. , and it has an almost tribal feeling to it. Back in the '70s it was a very masculine MASCULINE. That which belongs to the male sex.
     2. The masculine sometimes includes the feminine, vide an example under the article Man, and see also the articles Gender, Worthiest of blood; Poth. Intr. au titre 16, des Testamens et Donations Testamentaires, n.
 scenario, and it had a real sense of freedom. You could dress the image and be the image.

And the smell of leather is just wonderful!

Any advice for this year's IML contestants?

Be yourself. Do not try to be what you think they want, because you can't maintain that facade facade (fəsäd`), exterior face or wall of a building. The term implies ordered placement of its openings and other features and thus seems inapplicable to a wall without design.  for long. Be involved in your community. Deal with everybody on an equal basis, not just the pretty ones and the ones you want. And don't laugh at the judges.
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Article Details
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Author:DeLaMar, Roy
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:May 13, 2003
Words:679
Previous Article:Across the nation. (The Advocate Report).
Next Article:Lesbian assist. (Sports).
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