IML

If you are at all into the leather/ SM/ fetish scene than you have to attend this event at least once.  If for no other reason than to say that you have done so.  There is little else like it in the world.  The International Mr. Leather contest is held each year in Chicago and is an absolutely huge entertainment event.  The central event of the whole weekend is the contest to choose the International Mr. Leather to hold that title for the next year.  As leather title pageants go, this one is the ultimate.  It is also the longest running, having gotten its start way back in 1979, and has gotten bigger and better each year.  Originally IML was just a clever marketing idea sprouting from the talented mind of Chuck Renslow as a means to get more folks into his bar, The Gold Coast, which was just north of the Chicago Loop.  Since then the event has grown out of all recognition to the leather version of a "wet T-shirt night" contest at your local pick-up joint.  Yet, that is IML's roots.  That is the root of all such leather pageants.

I won't go in to the detailed history of this event for there are enough other sites out there which have done a far better job of it than I could here.  Besides, I don't go to this event for its history and nor for its pageantry.  I go for the men.  I go for the camaraderie.  I go for the fun.

IML draws thousands of folks to it.  That can make for an awful lot of connections.  These are leatherfolk from across the world who come to party and have fun with the other leatherfolk from across the world there to do the same.  Put in the middle of such a crowd it is intensely difficult not to have fun yourself.  The fun is what I count on each year that I attend.

IML 2003 marked my fifth attendance.  I was at my first IML in '91, my second in '92, did my third only in '01, and my fourth in '02.  I would like to have gone back sooner but poverty, a relationship, and timing got in the way.  Now no longer.  I've had fun each year that I've been.  Some years I had more fun than others and some years I would like to have had more fun than I did, but I did have fun each year.

At IML 25 I was the best prepared for it out of all the years I've attended.  Knowing what to expect, and being better prepared for it, also allowed me to more fully enjoy the event this time around.  I again brought along my digital camera and again wound up taking over three hundred pictures with it that weekend.  I've worked through them and posted the results here.


International Mister Leather
25th Anniversary
2003

IML 25.  Twenty five years of this contest.  That's a long time.  That's longer than almost any other leather/ SM/ fetish organization or event has even been in existence.  There are even very few leather motorcycle clubs left that are that old or older.  Twenty five years.  As this is a historic milestone, IML 25 promised to be a bigger deal than the big deal it normally is.  That added to its drawing power and was among the reasons I went.  I have to say though, that I really didn't get a feeling that this year was truly different, truly bigger, or truly better.  It seemed more of the same.  Not that more of the same was bad, just that I was hoping for something more than the same.

This year the event was at the Palmer House hotel, same place as back in '01.  I got to Chicago on Friday afternoon and benefited from my having learned the ins and outs of the Palmer House from two years prior.  In short order I was checked in, had bought my event pass (I did the whole deal) and had even found both a convenience store and a liquor store to stock up the supplies in my room.  As a result of that I didn't have to spend $15 for a Denny's quality breakfast in the hotel and nor did I have to spend $5 for a Dixie cup sized drink down in the lobby either.  I had my own supplies and the total cost of all them probably was less than two or three hotel drinks.  A word to the wise, that.

After getting my room in order I was off to the Hotboots party over at the Cellblock.  This is the third year in a row that I have attended this shindig and it was good to once again see some familiar faces at this year's event. 
My Dehner's First IML Shine
The crowd at this year's Hotboots party was fewer in number than in years past.  For one thing the party was on Friday night as opposed to Saturday night.  This was the only time they had open at the Cellblock and that put the party in direct competition with the Bootblack contest at the hotel.  An unfortunate combo for boot fans.

Still though, we had fun at the party.  I was wearing my brand spanking new custom Dehners as I wanted this to be their first IML shine.  Black was kind enough to take this photo
here on the left of me getting my boots done.

The smaller crowd didn't affect the bootlust though as you can see with these two on the right here!
Bootlust
I left the Hotboots party somewhat early and headed back to the hotel.  As I expected, the lobby was packed.  But then, it always is...

The Palmer House Lobby

The Usual Suspects
Once back in the lobby I ran into the usual suspects.  That is one nice thing about IML and it's one of the reasons why folks do keep going back year after year - their friends.  It is good to run into folks from other places and folks that you don't otherwise run into.  The lobby was full of such folks.  It was also fun to just hang around and watch the eye candy.  So, that's what I did on Friday evening. 

I went up to my room, changed outfits (can't be seen in the same thing too many times!) grabbed a beer, and then came down to the fray.  I cycled through doing that a couple of times and managed to polish off most of my first six pack.  It was a good way to end the first night at IML.
More of the Usual Suspects
That set a pattern that really wasn't that much different for the rest of the event.  Saturday I spent most of the day just putzing around, cycling between the lobby, the Leather Market, and back up to my room.  Saturday night there were some parties and contest stuff going on by I mainly stayed busy roaming around doing the loop.
Perry showing his wares
Sunday was the day of the contest so a lot of folks were focused on that.  I kept up doing the loop and enjoying the eye candy and the various things on display.  One thing I simply had to do on Friday was find a vendor who was selling leather belts.  In preparation for getting through airport security I usually don't even wear a belt when I'm headed to the airport.  Instead, I simply pack it and wear it once I've arrived at my destination.  Usually.  This is the second time this year however, that I have forgotten to pack a belt!  So, I then have to scramble around getting one once I arrive. 

Anyway, it was good to see Perry here at the Palmer House with a fully stocked booth.  It wasn't that way the last time he was here!
Once the time came to be the time, I headed down to the street level and hoped on one of the buses headed up to the Congress.  That is one of the nice things about buying a full event ticket is that it includes the Bus Pass and that gets you from the hotel downtown up to Boy's Town where all the bars are and where the contest is held.  It is no small trip and not terribly cheap via cab if you don't do the full event ticket.  A couple of cab rides to and fro and you're pretty close to the full event ticket price anyway so why not spare yourself to headache and just buy the whole thing?  That's what I did.  This also meant I got to ride on the bus and meet some of my friends like Gene and Dale here on the right as well as chat up other sexy guys riding along too.
Dale and Gene on the Bus


The Contest

Half of the contestants
There was a whole bunch of them up there, as usual.  Fifty eight this time around.  I took this shot to try and get #34, Joe Beach, as he is a fellow Longhair and we'd come to know each other before he ever went after a sash.  I knew two other guys up there as well, Alex and Doug as well as knowing a bunch of the other titleholders from the SoCal area that I've met over the past years.
Kickin' it! The contest itself was held at its usual haunt, the Congress theater, and was its usual elaborate stage production.  They did ad some history references back to each year of the prior twenty five and there was some slick entertainment. 
As usual though, there were also a whole lot of empty seats in the theater.  This allowed some folks to get very comfortable whilst taking it all in, like this gent here above on the left.

Also as usual the folks who run IML spared no expense in making sure there were adequate facilities to keep up with the crowd's needs.  Yes, that's right, more Port-a-Potties!
Doin' it in style at IML!

As part of the show Chuck Renslow made sure to have some good entertainment.  One part of that was a group of performers who were sort of a "leather Cirque de Soliel" and were rather fetching doing their various rope tricks.  There was also some singer from back during the gay disco/ New Wave heyday who entertained the crowd singing her hits from back then. 

One difference that I noted was that my favorite coat check room was not used for check coats this year.  I was somewhat surprised at that but not terribly put off by it for it still was an interesting place where you could find all sort of people - some of them rather fetching themselves.

The End of It All


The Mad Rush

I thought this one to be amusing enough to note.

Most of the folks who came to the contest came there via the event shuttle buses.  Those buses ran from the hotel to the contest.  Usually there might be one or two buses making the normal shuttle bus shuttling from the downtown hotel up through all the leather bars in Boy's Town.  For the contest, IML Productions rents out a whole bunch of tour buses and brings the whole herd of folks up from the hotel to the Congress.  And then the buses stop.  During the contest there is no shuttle bus service elsewhere.  It's all to the contest and that's it.  This means that the vast majority of guys at the contest are therefore dependent upon those buses for a cheap ride back to the hotel.

Now, Chuck Renslow is a smart guy and he wants the crowd to stay at the contest for as long as possible.  So, while there are buses aplenty to handle the crowds he's made sure to not run those buses back from the contest until the contest is over.  And this is where the fun comes in.

The contest is over when the new International
Mister Leather is named - and it's not over even a second before that!  It is, however, over the second he is named!  And that is when the crowd makes its mad rush for those buses.  This was the first time in a while that I stayed for the whole thing myself.  I was being cheap and I figured to wait for the buses to head back.  So I found myself standing in the theater as the drama heightened up on stage as they named the final three contestants.  First they named the guy who came in "second runner up" - i.e. in third place - then they named the guy who came in "first runner up" - i.e. second place - and then [a drum roll please!] they named.... the new International Mister Leather... IML 2003... the winner of the twenty-fifth International Mister Leather Contest... is... and as soon as the man's name was spoken aloud the rush began!  I'm not kidding.

Guys lept from their seats and burst into the aisles of the theater.  Then they burst through its doors and ran out through its lobby.  I was standing toward the back of the theater at this time and I saw this wave of leathermen all making a bee line straight for the doors - and for the shuttle buses outside.  Buses which would now be authorized to start up and do their shuttling.

Heading back out into the lobby myself, I turned and got the photo above.  I really had to laugh at this.  I don't think even half the guys at the contest even bothered comprehending the name of the guy who won it as they jumped up from their seats to get to their buses.  It didn't matter.  All that did matter was the fact that the contest was now officially done and they'd be fools if they tarried to watch the rest of the show's closing protocols.

I know a number of folks _did_ stick around though.  For one thing, the crowds clotting the shuttle bus que rendered it pointless to head out to if you weren't up front to begin with.  There was also the folks who were going to take a cab no matter what and then there were the folks who had some connection to the three men left up on stage out of the original fifty eight.


The Aftermath

That was about it for me.  I made it back to the hotel in a very melancholy mood.  I found the Palmer House lobby to be its usual overcrowded self and full of too many drunken pushy queens to be much fun.  I decamped rather quickly that night.  Julia was quite amusing when she finally did come back in.  She'd gotten to ride with the Texas crew as they celebrated how they fared that evening.  The limo ride after the contest was rather entertaining for all concerned.  What she told me about their Dunkin' Donut stop won't bear repeating on this page but it does have something to do with new uses for donuts and their donut holes.  I'll let you do the math on that one.

On Monday I bid Julia goodbye as her flight was mid-morning while mine was early evening.  I then made one last jaunt through the leather market where I picked up a really cool looking leather arm wrap from a sexy man vending them from Ft. Lauderdale.  I'll have pictures of this item once he sends it to me.  After that I bailed from the hotel in a heartbeat.  There was nothing there for me.  I spent the rest of my day down at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.  I went there specifically to take in their U-505 exhibit.  The U-505 is one of three remaining Nazi U-boats from World War Two and they've had it since the commander of the US Navy task force, Captain Gallery, captured it during the war and then persuaded the Navy to part with it and transport it to Chicago after the fighting ended.  The sub is a big thing on the outside but very, very cramped on the inside.

Finishing that up I got back to the hotel, picked up my bags from the bell captain, and hit the subway back out to O'Hare.



Closing Thoughts

I'm not going back to IML.  Perhaps not for some time, perhaps not ever.  I had fun there this year but not the sort of fun I went there for, not the sort of fun I'd hoped to find there, and not the sort of fun I used to have at IML.  There are a number of reasons for this.  First off was the event hotel itself.

The Palmer House Hilton is a grand hotel.  In their promotional stuff they make sure to point this out.  The Palmer House is one of Chicago's oldest hotels and it is also one of its largest.  The hotel certainly is big enough to house many of IML's attendees.  But as an event hotel, the Palmer House simply isn't big enough to house IML.  Take the Leather Market for example.  The convention space available at the Palmer House was really too small for IML's Leather Market.  This year, as was the case back in '01, the Leather Market was scattered across three separate rooms and two and a half floors.  This really served to break it up and also made it seem cramped.  At least this year the Palmer House enforced the no smoking regulations in the Leather Market area and that made it actually one of the better places in the entire hotel for a non-smoker like me. 

Then there was the lobby.

The lobby of the Palmer House is piss elegant.  They make much of how wonderful all the lobby's decor is and they certainly are right about that.  Murals, marble, lotsa brass, shiny lights, and just a general piss elegant feeling to the place.  And no chairs.  In fact, in order to accommodate the IML crowd, the Palmer House removed all the furniture from their lobby.  The furnishings of the lobby might well have been just as piss elegant as the lobby's decor but that's something we'll never know.  Instead, with the chairs, tables, couches, and seating removed from the lobby, it turned the space into just that - a space.  A big, high ceilinged empty space.  A big box with piss elegant walls.  That's it.  It also served to kill the energy of the space.  And it served to make the lobby a very uncomfortable place to be in for any length of time.

There was no place to sit down in the lobby.  The only place even near the lobby where you could sit was off to its southwest side and that was pretty worthless as the escalators blocked any view of the lobby.  There were some other places to sit which had a view of the lobby, those places were up on the mezzanine level and the balconies formed by the arches which surrounded the lobby.  Here too though there were problems.  Each of these balconies had a nice bit of architectural detailing in that centered at the bottom of the railings on each of the balconies was a shiny brass sculpture and each one had a very powerful spotlight trained on it to make it gleam.  This made for a nice effect when viewed from the lobby below.  Up there on the balconies though the effect was not so nice.  If you tried taking one of the seats up there then that spotlight was right in your face.  If you tried standing and leaning over the railing of the balcony then the glare off the sculpture was right in your eyes.  Either way those balcony spots were not very comfortable and went largely unoccupied as a result.

So what we were left with was simply standing around.  Standing around in a packed crowd.  There were too many folks down in that lobby all trying to stand around there at the same time.  This meant it was always butts to nuts and shoulder to shoulder.  That can be fun, for a while, but not the whole weekend.  It also meant that everyone was in everyone else's personal space.  And as there was no furniture to break things up, that also meant that no matter where you were standing you were invariably in the way of someone who wanted to get from their point "a" to their point "b" and that meant you were constantly being shoved, pushed, squeezed by and cut in front of.  It also destroyed any ability to cruise.

If you tried looking someone over then immediately there'd be three other guys jamming into your view.  If you came upon someone of interest it also meant you were right on top of him before either of you got a chance to react.  That usually meant you were right in his personal space and most guys get real defensive about that - not good for cruising. 

What all this meant was that you were left with running a circuit all day.  You'd get all slung up and head down to the lobby.  You'd hang out there for as long as you could stand it and then head over to the Leather Market rooms.  Make the round of those and then it was back to the lobby.  This could be fun, for a bit but not for the entire weekend.  For one thing, we're talking about leatherfolk here - and while some might call us cowhide queens no one has ever accused leatherfolk of being "people wear sensible shoes."  Instead, we wear boots.  Sexy, shiny, hard boots.  Boots are sexy but they're not really made for standing around in for hours at a stretch.  Yet, standing around was the only option the Palmer House offered.

So, the Palmer House really sucked as a place for IML.

Compare this to last year's venue, the Hyatt.  The lobby in that hotel was vastly better for IML.  It was bigger, it was multilevel, it was more spread out, they kept all their furniture in it, and there were plenty of places to sit down and watch everyone else.  Hell, even the Hyatt's Leather Market has places where you could sit down and watch the crowd roll by!  I had a lot more fun at the Hyatt than I did at the Palmer House in either year I've been to the Palmer.

The physical layout of the place wasn't the whole of it.  It did count for a lot and went a long way why I had so much more fun at the Hyatt last year than at either year IML was at the Palmer House.  But that's not the whole of it.

IML is all about quick and easy connections between the attendees.  You've got a whole herd of leathermen there who are all slung up in their finest fetish attire and are all primed for play. As everyone and everything is all right there it makes following through on those quick connections very easy.  It's just a brief elevator ride up to your room or to his and then you can boink all you want - and then be back down in the lobby fast enough for another round!  That's how it's supposed to be and that's what IML has always been about.  That's also what I'm used to IML being about for me.  It certainly was that way the first two years I went to it.

But those first two years were back in the early 90's and now it's a decade later and a lot else has changed.  IML is still much the same but the folks who attend it have changed.  I know I've changed too.  Looking out at the crowd of leathermen at IML I see that they have changed as well.

Back in '91 and '92 Safe Sex was IT.  There was nothing else but Safe Sex.  Well, the leather community has become as different a place with that as has the gay community at large.  What used to be a mantra that was all but shouted from the rooftops now is something hardly mentioned.  Or when it is spoken of now, it is done so as a hollow ritual spoken with empty words.  Back in '92 the only treatment for AIDS was AZT (you remember that?  When's the last time you heard someone mention that as a "treatment" option?)  Back then when someone said Safe Sex you heard the capitalization in their words.  It meant something.  Now, safe sex is an option.  It is something that is up to "the personal responsibility of the individuals involved." 

I thought it ironic that Chuck Renslow would open his contest this year by speaking of barebacking and saying it was; "Uncommitted fucking without a condom is stupid -- period."  Yet at IML's Leather Market there wasn't a single vendor who was selling porn videos there who wasn't carrying at least one barebacking title in their selections.  In fact, one of the vendors at the Leather Market was a porn video production company which specializes in making barebacking videos.

So it was hardly surprising that when I looked out at all those big, buff, heavily muscled leathermen at IML what I saw looking back at me were the faces of many a POZ man.  It wasn't like that a decade ago.  It is like that now.  For a HIV Negative guy like me, especially now that I'm in my forties, I can no longer accept that risk.  Perhaps that risk was at the same level ten years ago but it just wasn't as visibly obvious.  Now it is though and I find that stops me cold when it comes to making any more of those quick and casual connections for which IML is all about.

I can no longer rationalize the risks such quick and casual sex
entails - even when its Safe Sex.  And since IML is all about those quick and casual hookups, I now see I can't rationalize being there anymore.  I'm not happy about that, in fact I got downright depressed over it while on the bus back from the contest.  All this being so, I don't see any reason for me to return to IML any time soon.  I can't make the connections there like I used to and that is all that IML has been for me.

I wish it were otherwise but it's not.

So, IML 25 ended on a rather melancholy note for me.  I did have fun, I did meet some pretty neat folks there, I did catch up with some of my friends there, and it was worthwhile for me to go this one last time.  Doing so provided me with the confirmation that IML is no longer a place for me.  I'm not the same guy I was ten years ago when I could enjoy being on my knees at the Manhole with three guys taking turns filling my mouth.  I'm still just as passionate and still just as intense but I can no longer rationalize the risk that being so casual with my health entails.  In that light, IML 25 was a good way to wrap it all up.  An expensive way, but a good way.

I was in a pretty depressed mood coming back from the contest.  In the weeks since I've done a lot of thinking about what I experienced at IML and what I've experienced within the leather community in general.  This has been building for some time as I've noted changes in the community I used to call my home.  It is my home no longer.  I see nothing there for me anymore.  The men in that community have changed in ways I no longer find anything in common with.  The negligence, the fatalism, and the self-destructive hedonism at any cost are not things which drew me to the leather community to start with.  I've more to say about all this, so much so in fact that I've put it up on its own Changes page.  Please, have a look and then let me know what you think of the changes I see.



IML 2002

MEN!

HOT DAMN!

Hot Damn!

Wow!  These four guys here are awesome to look at.  Gorgeous and sexy as hell in their birthday suits, they're made all the more so by their beautiful hides.  This is all way over the top and very much "show leather" but, hey, it's IML!  [06/03: I've since discovered that at least one of these guys is a current porn star.  This might explain the oh-so-jaded look they're all giving when yet another leatherman asked to take their photo!  You'd think that porn stars would enjoy having their photos taken as it would enhance their sales.  I guess not!]

The lobby of the hotel was full of this sort of stuff, morning, noon, and night.  Big, sexy, muscular, intense, beautiful leathermen.  THIS is why I go to IML.  I could give a rat's ass about the pageantry or the drama going on with the contest.  In fact, at this year's contest I didn't even stay there all the way through it.  The only reason I went to it in the first place was because there wasn't anything else going on during the contest except the contest.  That and I also had some plans to repeat a little bit of scandalous nastiness I did at last year's contest.  Once I'd done that, I didn't see any point in hanging around.  So I left.  I'd already gotten enough pictures there, done what I wanted, and felt the lobby back at the hotel - a lobby still filled with guys like these for men above here - beckoning me.  Besides, in leaving when I did, I managed to miss last year's IML give a step down speech which lasted for fifty seven minutes (57) during which he actually started singing!  That might have been fine but the guy apparently can't hold a tune to save his life!  Don't get me wrong, I like pain - when it is done right - but having to sit through something like that would've been excruciatingly too much even for this cadet!  No, I go to IML for the men and not the contest.  So, enough about the sash queens - let's get to the men! 
 
 

Butts! Butts!

Man, do I ever love a nice ass in a good pair of chaps!  This fine gent had the most perfect bubble butt displayed by a really nice bit o' hide.  That plus he has a gorgeous body and an even more dazzling smile to boot!  Oh, and he's also a top!  Hard to get better than all that.

He was pretty flattered by my desire to focus on just his butt, however, he was displaying it for all the world to see there in the lobby of the hotel.  I don't think that was entirely "legal" per the rules of the fine city of Chicago.  But, if you don't say anything about it, then neither will I!
 

While the man here on the right was really just dropping his pants to better show his tattoo, he also managed to reveal another gorgeous set of glutes in the process.  You better believe I didn't complain!

Baskets!

From back to front, there was a lot on display.  This fine lad was a nice bit of eyecandy parked in front of the IML booth in the Leather Market.  That was his job.  Just to stand there, look good, and draw people to the booth.  A real booth babe.  It must have been rough being on such a visible display and in such a high traffic area (just to one side of the Leather Market entrance.)  Yet, the lad seemed up to the task.

I haven't a clue as to what they had for sale at the IML booth, but this lad sure got my attention!

Baskets!


 
Rings! Rings!

There was also a lot of jewelry on display at IML.  It seems that a lot of the leathermen there like having such additions.  Done right, and almost every example I saw in Chicago was, they can really enhance the visuals.  That was very much the case of the ring on this man shown here on the left.  He was a truly massive and sexy black guy and the silver of the metal really set off well against his dark skin.  Even looking at it today I miss not getting a taste!  Still though, I did get a good shot of it so that will have to do.  Perhaps next year.

There were also a lot of piercings and rings that were hinted at but not shown.  Given how tight and flimsy some of the outfits some of the guys were wearing, the fact that the were legally covered was but a "technicality" as you could easily see not just that they were a male, not just that they had a whopper of a package, and a big chunk of metal running through it - but you could just about see the thread pattern on the jewelry stud their shorts were on so tight!  Mind you, I'm hardly saying this was a bad thing... 



Ink!


Now there's a web to get caught in!

Ink!

There were so many well painted men at IML!  And not just guys with a "Panther, pattern 1927A" from some tattoo shop flash sheet either!  These men were wonderfully done and had obviously chosen some superb artisans to use their exemplary bodies as canvases.

It helps if you have such gorgeous arms as does the man here on the left...
 

...or, if you have such a broad and long back as the man here on the right.


Either way, the ink at IML was wonderful.  One of the things I particularly like doing with a well tattooed man is to challenge him.  I'll declare my disbelief that his tattoo is a real one and claim it must therefore be a painted on one.  Of course, the only way to tell if this is so is to see if it can be easily removed.  And the best way to do that is through licking it.   Of course, such licking is best done in private as it could take a while...

The work done on this fine gent here on the left was very extensive and he told me of his further plans for even more work to be done.  Mind you, while I was listening rather attentively and was interested in the tale behind his ink my mind was on some other possibilities!
 

 

 

Ink!


A lotus by any other name...



Up on a pedastal!
Putting It All Together!

At IML, the men were everywhere and doing everything and you could find them displayed in every which way.

There were guys up on pedestals.  Like this one on the left.  This guy was awfully sexy in his little chainmail outfit and sword.  Earlier he'd been wearing this little white leather "Roman" outfit that'd get him arrested for indecent exposure if he dared step out in it in the light of day!  In the Leather Market or a IML though, he looked fabulous!
 

There were even guys in rangear - although I have to wonder just what sort of shower this man was expecting in this outfit!
Raingear!



Men on their knees
There were men everywhere and doing just about everything at IML.  There were men on their knees in front of their masters, as was this fine gent.
 
There were boys (boyz?) gathered around beautiful women


Some Likely Lads in the Lobby

Boys and beautiful women

And some likely lads gathered in the lobby.
 

And there were also men who were simply massive, period!

A couple of good ol' LA boys


The joint was jumpin! Bootblacks!

Held in conjunction with IML is the International Bootblack competition.  Men and women who have this as their fetish come to IML to work their craft in the hopes of winning the title.  With all the men and women in boots, there aren't enough bootblacks to go around and these folks work their fingers raw with the effort. As this is truly a fetish for most of these folks, they are living their dream even as it exhausts them. 

You can see what sort of crowd they deal with but even with that, some of them take the time to worship a good set of boots the right way, as this man here on the right was lucky enough to do.  If ever you've had your boots done by someone who truly loves their craft and pays such attention to it, then you'll know it is truly a unique experience and well worth pursuing.

Boot love

Hotboots!

Me and the gang
Once again Larry & crew held a Hotboots Party over at the Cellblock.  There were a number of boot fetishists there this year as last.

It was a friendly crowd...

And a crowd that pursued its interests...

More boot lovin'



 

...avidly pursued its interests!
A boot slave and his master's boots


The Leather Market

What was available in the Leather Market

My oh my!  The things you could find in the Leather Market!

This basket above belongs to one very sexy man from Florida.  Aside from his having a handsome face, a winning smile, an awfully sexy body, and killer basket, he also had on a nice pair of low-cut stretch jeans.  In fact, it was a lot of fun seeing just how much those jeans would stretch.  You see, the trick is to rub on them in just the right way and in just the right place.  Seems his jeans could stretch quite a bit.  Or perhaps it was what was in them that was causing the stretching.  Hmm....
 

Just laying around
Aside from guys with stretch jeans, there were also guys doing a whole lot of different things. 

The guy on the left here was "just laying around" enjoying the ambiance.  He was also nicely strapped to a really nifty bondage table.  Which fits as he looks like a rather nicely strapping lad to begin with.
 

And then there was this bunch on the right here.

This is pretty typical for the Leather Market at IML.

There are vendors of some rather specialized gear at IML and some of it looks rather strange and forbidding until you see what it looks like with a man in it.  Of course, there's no shortage of volunteers to "man" that gear.  Another rough job!

Just hanging around...


Chew toy puppies
Puppies!

Never let it be said that leatherfolk are not inventive, creative, or fun loving.  Puppy play is a case in point. 

I was walking up from the Leather Market when I spied this puppy pile going on.  There was a bunch of "puppies" romping around with each other as their "owners" stood by and watched.  This was replete with several chew toys and some even were play fetch!

Back up in the lobby was this pair.  This puppy was a whole lot more obedient than those downstairs.  He also had a nice bark and it was pretty clear he knew how to nuzzle very well too!
A master and his dog



A happy guy in his grand booth Aside from the men running around and the interesting sites you could find in the Leather Market, there were also the things for sale there and the vendors selling them.  Perry, here on the left, is a case in point.  Another one of San Diego's Finest, Perry is a much happier guy this year than last.  The reason being is that he has a booth.  More to the point, as he did have a booth last year as well, is that this year he has a booth filled with the things he wanted to fill it with.

He had all that last year too.  The problem was he didn't have it all with him at IML.  This, through no fault of his own.  Perry had dotted his "i's" and crossed his "t's" and sent his booth filling stuff off to the Palmer House with ample time for it to be properly received and ready for him to use it at IML.

Well, it turns out that the Palmer House got his goods just in time to think it part of the previous event's goods and they made sure to include it among those items being shipped back to the previous event's headquarters.  In Utah.  Not in Chicago and most assuredly not in time for IML.  Perry was a bit disappointed with the Palmer House.  Yes, disappointed is a good word.

This year though, the Hyatt had their act together and Perry's booth was chok full of all his great stuff.  From what I could tell, he had a banner event this time around.  That's good because he deserves it.  When next you're in SD, drop on by his shop and see for yourself.  You can also check out his store's website by heading over here: Ringold Alley.

Aside from the vendors with their wares, there was also the vendors themselves.
 
Some of them, as shown by this fine lady on the right here (actually a "sexy-ass black woman" by her own words - with which I fully agree!) are worth seeing just in and of themselves. 
The LA Pucker! And then there are guys like this bunch!

If ever you've worked a booth at such an event or trade show or Pride, you know that after a while you start to get a bit... punchy.  These fine gents from LA proved no exception.  One of them started it, looked too damn precious for words and then I cajoled the other two into it and took the picture.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Either that or great blackmail material!

Also proving that the boys from LA have no lock on twist humor, I spied this little gem in my roamings through the vendor area.  It seems that Barbie really does have everything - including a full bondage set up replete with gag & flogger!
Barbie does IML
A boothbabe!


The Contest

Hail, hail, hail the gangs all here!



As I said before, I did go to the contest.  There really wasn't much else going on at the time so it wasn't like I was missing much by doing so.  Besides, there were a whole bunch of men there, I had plans for my time there, and there were also two guys from San Diego who were competing; Tom and Richard.

I've known Tom for some many years now.  Oddly enough, I first met him when we both lived in DC and both did volleyball with the DC Sports Association.  A few years later he turned up here in America's Finest City(tm) and it has been a pleasure to watch him grow within the leather community. Tom also looked damn fine in his custom made leather military tunic and riding pants!

Our man, Tom
The other guy competing from San Diego was Richard.  Richard was going for the International Boot Black title whilst Tom was running for the Mr. Leather.  Richard has also grown over the years in the leather community and has been exceptionally active in Club X.  He has done a lot of work within the club and the community and has grown tremendously over these few short years.

In the process, and by virtue of the path he has chosen to do so, he has caught the attention of some pretty notable folks who are rightly impressed with Richard's focus on service and the benefits derived from that act alone.  It was a treat seeing these two guys in the running at IML this weekend.

I don't know who had the harder time of it as Richard was working non-stop through the weekend shining boots and Tom was working non-stop through the weekend doing all the contestant stuff.  In any event, I'm glad it was them and not me doing all that!

[06/03: I wish this were a happier update as far as Richard is concerned.  But it's not and that's the way life is sometimes.  I will miss Richard.

Our man, Richard

An interesting bunch from the Bonding Company There was a lot of interesting folks and things to see at the contest that weren't up on the stage.

I am hoping that someone from this bunch of guys will drop me a line so I can learn just what it is, exactly, that they are trying to pull off here.  They looked great but there was definitely a theme going on and too much could be read in to it.  Are those guys with the plumes supposed to be ponies?  Are the ones without the plumes supposed to be their riders?  Do tell!  I recently found out that these guys from the Bonding Company in Miami and that the second guy in from the left is March, the designer of these outfits.  I got this info from going the Cain Berlinger's site: MrCain.com.

The place the contest is held in is the Congress Theater which is a big ol' movie palace dating back to the 1920's.  There are a whole bunch of wonderful architectural touches in the place and a whole bunch of rather odd nooks and crannies too.  Nooks and crannies that are really useful for a lot of things.  Nooks and crannies like this one here on the right.  An unattended coat check room up on the balcony level.  Hmm... I wonder what sort of use that could be put to?

An interesting room



The LINE Any time you gather a whole bunch of guys, run a few kegs around, and leave 'em all milling for a while, and you gonna have lines at the bathrooms as the guys start paying the rent on that beer.  IML is no exception.  Last year at the Congress there were so many guys trying to pay that rent that they took over the women's rooms on both the ground level and the balcony level!  Being the proper gents though, the guys did allow any woman who had to go to have "cuts" privileges in the lines to get in to the Ladies rooms. 

The lines at this year's event were no less long, as seen here on the left, but there was something new, as seen here on the right.  That is, Port-A-Potties!  Yup, a weekend pass to IML costs $140 and for this you got the privilege of pissing in a Port-A-Pottie!  Woo hoo!  Livin' large!  And proof that elegance is not dead at IML!

I paid a $140 to pee in a Port-A-Potty!



The Hyatt Regency Chicago


The Hyatt This is some hotel!

I really liked this year's venue.  The hotel itself is one of the larger ones in Chicago.  So big, in fact, that it occupies two tower buildings.  The East Tower being the main one and the West Tower being just to my right in this photo.

This place was rather impressive.  The hotel is pretty new and its facilities reflect this.  They also seem to have done a much better job mitigating the effects of all the smoking than did the Palmer House.  I like that too.

The Hyatt is right on Wacker Drive which means it is also right on the Chicago river.  That, in turn, means it has a choice view of the urban landscape the river front provides.  Chicago is an awesome city when it comes to urban landscape and even though I didn't get out to explore it this year as I did the last, what I did see I enjoyed.

In this view of the hotel you can see the multistory glass enclosed lobby in front there.  Along the front of the upper level is a pretty large sports bar that was always crowded during the event. On the street level was a nice hotel restaurant set behind some nice "water feature" architectural treatment.  All in all it was a great lobby to hang out in and enjoy all the sights strolling by.

On Saturday night I took a break from all the running around and sat down in the hotel restaurant to get myself some grub.  While decompressing and filling up my empty stomach, I set out my camera and took a few pictures of the place.  The low light level in the lobby really enhanced it and made it seem to glow.  The place was packed with guys and it was fun just to hang out and watch them in action.
 
 
Aside from the hotel being pretty damn cool and the city of Chicago being pretty cool as well, there was also the airport.  As I said, Chicago takes its architecture seriously and they do a really good job of it.  One of the connecting tunnels out at O'Hare is proof of this.  I spied this little detail on one of the ventilation panels on one of the walls along this neon sculpture. Cool stuff
Public art in public for the public I know that most folks making use of this tunnel are simply slogging between destinations and really don't have the time nor the energy to pause and take it all in.  Still though, some great thought went in to this bit of public art and I was really impressed with it.  Perhaps because I didn't have to rush anywhere when I encountered it allowed me to appreciate it all the more.  In any event, I thought it pretty cool and worth noting.
A glowing lobby filled with leathermen



The Donut Shop


Don't we live in a wonderful world or what!

I didn't think there were any more places like this left any more.  Yet, here it is - and it is not in a museum nor in some artificial, recreated theme park setting.  This is a real store, in the real world, doing exactly what you think it's doing - selling donuts.

In checking airfares to IML I found that the tickets to O'Hare from Los Angeles International were about half of what they are from San Diego to O'Hare.  That made the two hour drive up there worth it.

I checked around for a place to park my truck while I was away and I found that LAX Parking & Fly had the best rates.  Their lot is off of Manchester so I took that exit to get off of the 405 instead of heading in to the airport directly.  That is when I first spied this monument.  I was amazed and simply had to get a picture of it even without stopping.  I made a vow to check it out more thoroughly on my way home, and that I did.

After collecting my truck I made sure to pull in to Randy's to give it the once over twice.  It was too damn obvious to miss.  In typical fashion, I was not alone in seeking to check it out.  As I was getting out of my truck, another Ford Ranger owner pulled in, hopped out and he and his girlfriend began taking pictures of the place.  We traded shots and I got this one to come home with.
 

Randy's Donuts
I was there!
 
 

Randy's did have its own website but that went away for some reason.
Here is a good write-up of this great American Icon.
Randy's Donuts

I was there!

After exchanging donut shop photos, and after making sure the shop's products were worth it, I then took some more photos to document this moment.  I even got the self-portrait timer running to take this shot of me by the shop.  Perhaps the next time I'm by there I'll get one of me & the donut too!
 


Ending my IML adventure at this LA landmark was a fun way to wind up the weekend.  I had a lot of fun at IML this year, more fun than last year and I had fun there too.  I was more prepared, knew more of what to expect, and was therefore more at ease to take it all in.  I enjoyed myself enough to know I'll be back next year too.  Next year will be IML 25 so it's bound to be a blow out and I want to be sure to be there if for nothing else than the bragging rights in my old age...

IML 2001

I was there.  For the first time in nine years, but I was there.  I had fun at IML which is why I went after all.  No point in shelling out all that money just to not have fun! 

As I said, this was my first time in nine years.  I went to my first IML back in '91 and my second in '92 and then that was it.   Well, now I had no excuse so I made my plans. 

Every Memorial Day Weekend this contest takes place in Chicago.  It attracts thousands - literally thousands - of leathermen from across the globe.  Many of them attend every contest event and are there for all that the pageantry is worth.  Many others are there for the cruising and the sex.  A lot of those guys don't even leave the hotel for the weekend.  Some are lucky enough to hardly leave their rooms they are so "busy."  A lot of the other guys fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

Another reason a lot of the guys go to IML is the leather vendors.  The best of these craftsman turn up each year to sell their wares.  Not only are their creations fantastic but so to are some of the deals they sell them for.  A number of guys do all their year's leather shopping at IML.  This used to mystify me since I knew that, at least as far as apparel went, it made a lot more sense to have it custom made as then it would fit better than off the rack and the price difference really wasn't all that much when you compared the better fit.  Then someone clued me in about tailoring. 

You can buy for a killer deal that awesome looking pair of chaps that doesn't fit too well off the rack at IML and then take them home to your local leathermaker to tailor to your body for less than a custom pair would cost.  A method to the madness. 

There is also the fact that for a number of guys living in the smaller metro areas or out in the sticks there are simply no leathermakers near them.  IML is it for those guys.  This year though I didn't come to shop, I came for the men.  So, I only bought a few things, nothing major.  Just two T-shirts and this leather tank top.

 

Coming back to THE LOBBY from a night out at IML
Aside from the cruising, the sex, and the vendors there is also the camaraderie.  There really is nothing like being around hundreds and hundreds of other leathermen all at once.  The lobby of the host hotel, The Palmer House, was stuffed full of leathermen standing around talking to each other and cruising.  This was true at almost any hour of the day or night.  For a number of guys first coming into the leather community this sort of thing is like an Epiphany.  It's better than any leather contingent in a Pride March because it doesn't pass you by.  Instead it stays put for a whole weekend!  There are guys in that crowd who are into every imaginable fetish and kink - as well as some you haven't thought of.  It really does make for a heady atmosphere even for guys who have been in the scene for many a year.
I brought my camera along on that trip but really didn't bother trying to take any pictures of the event while it was going on.  I was lucky in that there were a whole bunch of other guys there with their digital cameras documenting the whole thing.  That is how I got this picture of me in my leather vest.  That vest used to belong to a good friend of mine, John Atherton, who loaned it to me when I went off to my first IML back in '91.  It is one of the few things I have left of him and I'm glad to keep his memory alive in wearing it.  Tony Lindsey was the man who took this picture above to the right.
The San Diego Crew at IML 2001
A Fine Bunch of Leatherfolk

That and the "usual suspects" thrown in amongst them for flavoring and fun.  This photo was taken after we had all finished eating our meals at the "San Diego Brunch" which Tony (wearing the hat in the upper right corner of the picture) had organized for all those from San Diego at IML.  A nice touch that.  I recognize most of these folks but now I know them even better.  This was a good, fun thing to do and a nice way to rebuild the tribe.



 
Bootmen from the world over
Another Fine Bunch of Leatherfolk

These are some bootmen I came across while in Chicago.  The second guy in from the left is the cause of it all.  That is Larry Kenney.  He runs a site devoted to men and their boots called Hotboots.com.  The most used feature of Larry's site is the hyperboard he runs on it where guys from the world over can discuss their boot interests and fetishes.  Probably the second most used feature of Larry's site is the page where he lists a number of bootmen.  I am on that list.  Since I got on it, traffic from Larry's site has been huge.  It seems that Larry's little endeavor on the Web is now a major thing that gets an enormous amount of traffic each day.  Some of that spills over onto my site.  I don't mind that at all.  Thank you Larry!

At IML '01 Larry called for a "meet and greet" for all the guys at IML who also frequent Hotboots.  This was held in conjunction with the bootmen party put on by Tom's Men in Boots at the Cellblock on Saturday night.  It was a fun gathering and that is where I met this bunch.  I only knew these guys through their online handles so it was good to put faces with names.  From the left are Robert,Larry, Mark, Dave, Me and Todd.  We're standing by the Mr. S Leathers booth to our left as I am playing the roll of a "Life Sized Ken Doll" for some of their wares.

Larry brought along his digital camera and took a bunch of pictures that evening.  Once back in SF, he put them up on his site.  You can check out his digital photo album by surfing over to here.  It is also a pretty slick bit of Perl coding.
 


A Life Sized Ken Doll from Mr. S Leathers It is good to have friends!

Sunday morning I went through the vendor areas and checked them out once again.  I stopped by to say hello to some of the folks I knew as they were working at the different booths. Bailey was one of them and she was working at the Mr. S Leathers booth.  After I had moved on she got into a conversation with a couple of my other friends who work for Mr. S in San Francisco (Bailey was just helping out at IML) Frank and Andre.  She told them of my priority for the weekend (to meet more guys!) and together they hit upon a way to "help" me do just that.  So Frank and Andre sent Bailey off to fetch me and make the proposal to me.

They wanted to use me as a "Life Size Ken Doll" and dress me up in some of their best leather outfits.  All I would have to do in return was agree to wear the outfit out among the crowd and point anyone who asked about it over to the Mr. S booth.  I really had to think on this.  First off this meant letting two very sexy leathermen undress me out of my clothes and then redress me in one of their leather outfits.  Then it meant that I would "have to" wear that outfit out in a crowd of other sexy leathermen and try to attract their attention to me and to the outfit.  At the end of the day I would return to the Mr. S booth and then these two sexy leathermen would once again undress me.  Hmmm....  Added to this is the fact that the stuff Mr. S sells is some of the best leather goods in the world and that their outfits are almost always nothing short of fantastic.  Here I would be wearing one of those outfits without having to purchase it first.  Yeah, I really did have to think on this one for a while.  A long while.  I think it was maybe all of two seconds between Bailey telling me of it and my jumping at the chance to do it.  Yup, a long time that...

In short order Andre & Frank had me out of my clothes and trying to squeeze into this new rig.  It is a two piece affair consisting of a pair of shorts and a sleeveless shirt.  Both of these are bondage items however.  Yes, there had to be a catch - actually it was more of a series of locks than just a simple catch - but the point remains.  Andre and Frank were having a fine time laughing at all of this as they stuffed me into a pair of bondage front shorts and a "sleeveless straight-jacket."  Both of these things came with a whole series of padlocks to insure that they both stayed on once put in place.  The shorts were the more restrictive of the two but the shirt wasn't loose by any means.
 
 

 

So, here I was at the leather convention with these two "friends" of mine locking me into this leather bondage outfit before sending me out into a crowd of hot and horny leathermen who were just looking for trouble.  Yeah, I got it rough I tell ya!  I got it rough!  It is good to have such friends.

Once Frank finished squeezing me into this rig he turned me back over to Andre who put the "finishing touches" onto the ensemble.  We took the cloverleaf nipple clamps which I had been wearing and hooked those to some of the many D-rings on the shirt.  Then he whipped out a bandana and stuffed it into my boot.  That he chose a red bandana and put it into my left boot was the only thing I had a problem with.  I don't have the experience to make such a claim by flagging that way.  Andre laughed and switched things to yellow/ right. I could live with that.  I also couldn't do much in that regard either.

I was lucky enough to have hit the head shortly before coming into the vendor area.  That was a good thing.  Those shorts were bondage shorts and they were padlocked closed.  Not with just a single lock but with four locks.  These didn't just prevent me from taking the shorts off (like, why would I want to do that?) but they also prevented me from opening them up to do anything with.  Aside from anything sexual (yeah, like you didn't first think of that!) this also meant anything bladder wise.  Unless I wanted to hose down the inside of the shorts, then I couldn't go take a pee unless I got the locks removed first.  Guess who had the key?  Getting out of this outfits was going to "cost" me a whole lot more than getting in to it.  No surprise that.  I mean, who was I dealing with here?  While I had taken care of things before I started that morning I had also just finished off a nice tall cup of cafe mocha as well.  After a couple of hours that began to make itself known to me.  Yup, I do live a rough life.

Before that however, was the fun I had walking around in this outfit.  It may look over the top taken separately but I blended right in among the rest of the guys at IML that day.  Well, perhaps "blended in" isn't the right way of putting it.  Let's say that I wasn't inappropriately dressed for the occasion.  It was a lot of fun.  The shorts and the shirt felt wonderfully constrictive.  Even though I had full freedom of movement it felt like I was in the middle of a heavy bondage scene.  I can really see where some guys get off on such a heavy bondage scene.  Walking around in this outfit was great.  I did attract attention and made sure to let everyone know that this outfit came from Mr. S and that they should immediately head over there to buy one of their own!

All too soon though it was time to peel out of it.  The day was coming to an end and the vendor area was shutting down until the next day.  As much fun as it would have been to keep on wearing the outfit I didn't want to bear that sort of responsibility for it.  The shirt and shorts were great but they also cost a pretty penny.  Any damage to it from my wearing it through the night would have been mine to pay for.  There was also my bladder.  By this time the rent was really due on that cafe mocha I'd had earlier in the day.

Fortunately for me Andre & Frank were understanding.  Well, sort of.  I still had to go through them to get the key to unlock all those damn little padlocks before I could take care of things.  As I find both of these men very attractive "having" to go through them wasn't as bad as it may sound.  They knew this and I knew they did as well.  We all had fun with it and that, in the end, is why we are all into this.  It was a whole lot of fun and I am really happy that they were all so generous.

 

 
A couple more photos of me taken in the Mr. S outfit

Yes, I'm a happy guy!

The two images above here were taken by William Reynolds of the Better Existence with HIV organization in Chicago.  They had a booth at IML where they had a digital camera set up and would take your picture for free.  All the asked for was a small donation and a bit more awareness of their program.  A very slick idea and a good way to get the word out.
Cruisin' the lobby! The Contest & Afterwards

I had fun at the contest even if I wasn't in the theater to watch it for very long.  I didn't go to IML for the pageantry, I went for the men.  The stuff up on stage is fine, as far as it goes, but it is the crowds at IML which make the event what it is.  I fully enjoyed that crowd out in the hallway and lobby of the theater!

I stayed an extra day this time around so that I could attend the infamous "Black & Blue Ball."  This is a big leather dance party held at the Eagle on Monday night.  I spent the day on Monday circling through the vendor area and then down to the lobby and then back up to the vendor area.  There weren't that many places to sit so keeping moving was about the only option.

Monday night I went off to the B&B B.  I think that was a mistake for me.  By this time I was fully exhausted.  Up too late, too little sleep, eating too poorly, and having to deal with the smoke -   that is one of the biggest things for a non-smoking California guy like me. 

A few years back California banned smoking in its bars and clubs.  I am reminded of how good we have it in the Golden State every time I head east out of it.  I know we're spoiled out here and I know that used to be able to deal with it back when I came out in DC.  These days though I really can't stand to be breathing that filth.  Having to stand around in the middle of such a toxic cloud is even worse.  It hurts my eyes, leaves a filthy residue on my skin, makes my clothes smell bad and my hair smell worse.  It also seems to suck the energy right out of me.  Can you tell I don't like smoking?

Well, the Eagle was packed to more than overflow and it seemed that every other guy was puffing away on a cancer stick.  It also seemed like a lot of guys had to light up their stogies too.  I have never understood how smoking a big fat cigar is supposed to make a man seem more butch.  In a well ventilated area the aroma of a fine cigar can actually be rather pleasant.  With so many of them packed in together and with too many guys being utterly clueless about the difference between a fine cigar and a length of burning rope the smell wasn't pleasant at all.  As a result I bailed VERY quickly on the Eagle and headed back to the hotel.  In fact, I left so early that I was the only passenger on that particular bus headed back to the hotel.  At least the conversation with the driver was good!

IML '01 was worth going to if for no other reason than simply to get going.  Sometimes to get going you have to just get going.  So, that I did.  I was rushed and I was fried before I even set foot in Chicago - and I do mean literally fried!  I had wanted to get some color on me before showing my face in the lobby so I tried using the tanning bed at a friend's gym.  Bad mistake.  Theirs was one of those cheap Wolffe tanning beds and I wound up getting an indoor sunburn more than I got tanned!  So, I arrived at the event still pink and raw.  Not a good way to start a fun weekend!

Still though, I did have fun and I met a lot of good folk.  My heading off to IML in '01 also got me started back on a good track and it really helped in '02 to have so many familiar faces at that year's event.  Faces of the men I met at IML '01.


 
 
 
 

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In the meantime, I hope you have enjoyed your "stay" at this site.  Check back again to see what new images I have added.  Until then, stay well, play hard, play safe, and have fun!

Madoc

This page was last updated on: 05 May 2006