Sunday, May 30, 2010

“M.U.D.“: (“Men Under Dirt”) Naked Male-to-Male Emotions, on Stage.

Photo 1: The Poster for "M.U.D."
Photos 2-6: Scenes from "M.U.D."
Photos 7-12: Scenes from the film "Karpos and Kamalos"

 “M.U.D.“: (“Men Under Dirt”)
Naked Male-to-Male Emotions, on Stage.

      “M.U.D.“ (“Men Under Dirt”) is the new multi-dimensional performance piece by Prismatic Productions and Ollom Movement Art.  The provocative new show was conceived, directed, and choreographed by Dancer/Choreographer/Professor of Ballet John Ollom. The sold-out production incorporates music, drama, dance, and even video (the short homoerotic film “Karpos and Kalamos“).  “M.U.D.“ is a delight for the eyes, ears, and-- as the audience soon learns-- our other senses as well, some of which the attendees of this show (including this reviewer!) may not have tapped into yet.  No doubt, many theater aficionados would be intrigued by the show’s promotional artwork, with its promises of male nudity.   Indeed, “M.U.D.“ is simmering with sexuality, and will satisfy admirers of the male beauty in all its glory-- made more impressive by the athletic talents and dynamic movements of the attractive cast.  However, the more provocative aspects of the piece-- intimacy between men -- come through to the audience as much as the visual delights of the well-toned male bodies.  As creator John Ollom has pointed out, the main theme of “M.U.D.“ is man-to-man love (as opposed to gay male sexuality alone), which still sadly remains under-explored in the world of theater.

     The story begins in a way that can only be described as  “the choreography of life”.  Through Ollom’s vision, the opening Movement, “A Man of War”, makes the viewer realize that even ordinary, day-to-day life is something of a dance: a continuum, rich with fluidity.  (We speculate that life as we know it could possibly be more graceful if we could just learn to see things Ollom’s way!) Set to music that conveys a million feelings without a single lyric, we look in on what appears to be an unhappy relationship.  There’s a sad man, known only as “The Man/Kalamos” (played by Ollom), sitting at a table with his head in his hands.  A wordless, equally forlorn-looking woman (“The Wife/Divine Feminine", played by the amazing Janet Aisawa) enters. Things don’t stay “ordinary” for very long: The story goes from reality to fantasy as another character, a handsome man known as “The Lover” (Paul Hays), enters and proceeds to arouse some suppressed desires in The Man.  We soon get the idea that our main protagonist may be dealing with repressed sexuality, and that those feelings are about to explode.  They do.  The audience is also introduced to The Internal Voice ("The Divine Masculine", played to perfection by Douglas Allen), something of a angelic yet tough character who approvingly watches the two men and offers some philosophical insights as well.  What happens next is a elaborate and seductive mating dance of sorts between The Man and The Lover-- an expression of primal and carnal desires  mixed with the quest for an emotional connection.  Just when we start to think that The Wife will remain silent throughout the entire piece, she “comes to life“ in a big way, engaging in her own dramatic show of strength of wills against The Man.  It’s at this time we get to see some of “M.U.D.”’s  most astonishing, eye-popping choreography.  In Movement 2, The Lover temporarily leaves the scenario, and another character, “The Shadow Self" (Preston Burger)-- complete with a seriously toned physique, a Caravaggio painting-inspired head of hair, and covered with mud-- is "birthed" by The Man.  “M.U.D.“ climaxes with four of the dancers engaging in an expertly executed sequence that can best be described as a Clash of the Titanesque personalities.  It’s not difficult to understand why this final Movement was named “Integration”.

      “M.U.D.“ is far, far more than a performance piece about one man consummating his sexual desires. More complicated emotions are in place: possibly including  jealousy, dominance, and passionate desire alongside equally passionate anger.  The show is bolstered by the acting and dancing talents of all four characters, as well as some innovative, highly impressive dance sequences-- particularly a sequence involving the three male actors Ollom, Allen, and Burger.  The legendary Leslie/Lohman Gallery proved to be a well-chosen location for “M.U.D.“  The actors' performance space is surrounded by the Gallery’s unparalleled display of erotic male artwork.  It really boosts the show's feverish eroticism, but also magnified the essence of "M.U.D.": The show is genuinely a piece of erotic, romantic artwork come to life.  And, as with any painting displayed on a wall, many different meanings can be interpreted from John Ollom‘s newest creation.

     John Ollom gave an exclusive interview to Jed Ryan about "M.U.D." and his upcoming creative endeavors:

JR: Hi John. Congratulations on the success of "M.U.D." ("Men Under Dirt"). That must be exciting that the show sold out its run!
JO: We are excited that all three nights sold out at the Leslie/Lohman Gallery. We were most excited to see new faces seeing this innovative work. This tour of "M.U.D." has been amazing for the Ollom Movement Art company. We started at C.W. Post campus of Long Island University when the Director of the Tilles Center saw A Man of War performed at an Honors Conference. He invited us to his arts festival. We were then asked to perform "M.U.D.") at the Long Island Gay and Lesbian Film Festival where there they built us a stage to perform in front of the movie screen. We were the first dance theatre company ever brought to that festival in their history. After that performance, we were invited to a National Conference organized by Soulforce in West Palm Beach, Florida. The film "Karpos and Kalamos" was also selected for the New FilmMakers Festival here in New York City. Now we have our sold out run in the Leslie/Lohman Gallery in SOHO and next week we travel to Easton Mountain Retreat Center. It has been wonderful seeing new people's reactions to the work. Prismatic Productions, Inc. and Ollom Dance Theatre/Ollom Movement Art have had faithful fans since our beginning in 2003, but it is always nice to see new faces seeing our work.

 JR: There are some very spiritual and metaphysical aspects to "M.U.D." Is the show based in part on any mythology, or classic literature, or perhaps your own spiritual beliefs?
JO: "M.U.D." is a very spiritual work. It is based on the revelation of the "shadow self" from Jungian psychology. The "shadow" is anything within ourselves that we deny or are not honest about. It can be anything for people; it can be lust, rage, anger, prejudice, insecurity, anything that lies in our "shadow". To be honest about this revelation makes many people uncomfortable as Movement 2 is intended to do. It shows the psyche of my character breaking open to reveal chaos and panic.  It has been a joy to me for reviewers and audiences members that have seen that this work is more than a homosexual desire, it has do with intimacy between men. This deals with father and son relationships as well as all relationships between men. Cock competition and curiosity exists between all men regardless of sexual orientation.  The impetus for the choreography was based on my looking into my own father's psyche. His alcoholism and his athletic desires and his desires to be naked in locker rooms amidst other men gave me much material to analyze. 
I also took the divine masculine and divine feminine within myself to become natural characters in my psyche fighting for domination. I have done much research on the goddess from my past work "Anatomy of Woman" at the Clark Theatre in Lincoln Center in 2006. This divine essence within all MEN and women has been denied in current cultures due to dominant Judaeo-Christian thought, Muslim and other religious paradigms. I wanted to reveal divine forces that had been cut out of  society's awareness. 

     Cernunnos, "the horned one", was my basis of research into my cock, balls, perineum and sphincter. His divine celebration in his desire to spread his seed influenced my unapologetic male lust and sexual desire. It could be seen as counter to the goddess but also a force that eventually finds balance within me as I revere my masculine and feminine sides and embrace my shadow to be my deepest love.  The god Shiva can also be an equivalent male reference in the Hindu paradigm.  The film "Karpos and Kalamos" was based on my research into the ancient Greek love story between these two men Karpos and Kalamos. This calamus reed is also a phallic reference that Walt Whitman eludes to in his codified and secretive display of homosexual love.  There are also countless symbolic images within the choreography that are too many to list here.

JR: What was the most challenging aspect about bringing "M.U.D." to the stage?
JO: The most challenging aspect about bringing the show to the stage was the personal insight it brought to me as a person. I found how much pain and suffering my alcoholic father has in real life. I have not seen my biological family since 1998 and to go into this character gave me great insight into the alcoholic mind. It gave me compassion that I never had towards alcoholics. For my performance to be affective, I could not judge the character that I played. I had to go to very dark places, and in that fear I found some beauty. I also have to thank Preston Burger, my "shadow", for his amazing courage in his ability to go to dark places with me. He is truly an artist with me as well Janet Aisawa, Douglas Allen and Paul Hays and their trust in me to go to some very dark places. We all came out "changed beings"!

JR: Did any of the cast have any inhibitions about appearing au naturel?
JO: The cast never had any reservations about being naked. I never ask my company members to do anything that I would not do myself. I have done nude work myself also. The challenge was not the physical nudity in this piece, it is the "emotional nudity".  I had many actors and dancers audition for me that were intimidated by the "emotional nudity".  To clarify even more, I never had nudity or body issues with my European students as much as I did with my American students.

JR: You know and I know that male nudity is a big draw for gay male theater audiences. Do you ever feel that the nudity in the show may overpower some of the other, more deep elements of the piece?
JO: The nudity in this show is very specific to this work. I use nudity for very specific reasons in my art work. In no way is it superfluous. In John Ollom's "The Journey" (2004) at the Clark Theatre Lincoln Center, I had a priest who was a closeted homosexual. He killed himself in despair and was covered into the bright light of the next world as two naked men came out walking nude, holding each others hand with the Lord's Prayer written on their naked bodies. Their nudity was a reflection of their lack of shame. In my work "Anatomy of Woman" (2006) at the Clark Theatre Lincoln Center, there was no nudity. In my work "Love Stories", there was nudity in the beginning as men discussed Greek philosophy as we discussed love stories between men from ancient Greece. This nudity was to show the Greek aesthetic of how the body is beautiful. Consequently, I use nudity for very specific reasons.

     In  "M.U.D.", my "shadow" (Preston Burger) comes out of my cock, balls, perineum and sphincter. That is where he originates in my body and he has no boundaries and no shame. His body is covered in mud to imply that this area of our body is "bad". "If you deny any party of your body, you are denying a part of your psyche" Sylvia Brinton Perera, author of "Descent to the Goddess" and a Jungian analyst. This quote inspired me to analyze my own cock, balls, perineum and anus in a choreographic work that would reveal to the audience a part of myself that had been hidden from society. It is a celebration of our shadow; all guilt and shame is thrown away from a current penis-phobic society that we live in now. The "divine masculine" character Douglas Allen rips off his clothes as the Cernunnos character possesses his body and his sexual and animalistic lust take over his body. I have actually received feedback from the audience that the nudity is necessary and really makes sense in the character development as the central premise of the piece is HONESTY. Shame is being torn away within "M.U.D.".

JR: You have mentioned that gay male love, as opposed to gay male sexuality, is vastly under-explored in theater, cinema, etc. Why is that?
JO: You asked me about love between men as a concept that is not portrayed in current film, dance or theatre. Our current society is so afraid to see love between men. It is getting comfortable seeing men fuck and fight and be objects of sexual desire, but to see men desiring each other's touch and love is truly radical. That is why this work is so important. Look at "Brokeback Mountain" for example. I know homosexual men who hated that movie. There is so much internalized homophobia and self hatred, that only one scene shows them fucking. You do not see any love or tenderness or joy in their life. You only see pain and suffering. This is 2010. Have we not progressed since the films and theatre works in the 80's when so many men tragically lost their lives to AIDS? Can we not see men loving each other and having no shame in this part of their life?

     I have had two experiences in my career as a choreographer with an Artistic Director from a company (that will remain unnamed here) and a composer at a university. They were both terrified that I was showing men in love on stage. They begged me to "hide" or abstract my work. I refused. This caused my work to be cut from one venue. This was done by homosexual men. One of these men later wrote me and thanked me for showing me that he was a "homophobic" homosexual.  I don't think that shame and self hatred have to be a part of our collective experience. I think with HONESTY this work can reveal the male condition. This work can comment on how we as men are conditioned in this current society.  I have had to look into other cultures that have revered the male-to-male relationship as a rite of passage to honor the phallus, the male comradery, but the male intimacy is still something that can only lie in the "shadows". That is why "M.U.D." is truly revolutionary. I think man to man love is truly the "shadow" of the film, theatre and dance industry. Men are insecure about their penis size, their lust for other men, their desire to love or be loved by men, regardless of sexual orientation.  Audience feedback has also revealed that they highly appreciated my awareness in not being binary in the sexual expression of my bisexual character. There was an ambiguity and complexity to love and sex that was not oversimplified into "gay" or "straight" manifestations of one dimensional characters.  Different types of love, lust and rage were shown on a spectrum of a complex human being.

JR: I have always had enormous respect for dancers-- especially the athletic aspect of it. In the past you've commented about how age should never be a barrier to men or women that want to explore the art of dance. Given our culture's obsession with age, where do we stand on that now? Perhaps put another way, Is there an age limit to anyone who wants to become a dancer?
JO: In my company Ollom Movement Art and Ollom Dance Theatre, I actually prefer "older" dancers because they have more life experience to bring to the work. My BFA is in Ballet and ballet has a lot to offer people technically; but it can also hurt many people with its elitist paradigm of anorexia encouraged by George Balanchine and New York City Ballet and its ageist belief that people are done at 35. I disagree.

     There was a documentary done on my class by Annette Cyr, an art professor at San Diego University. The film is called "Late Bloomers". It interviews students of all ages in my class. One of my students is an 84 year old man; he has perfect splits. He has been dancing since 32. He has no pain in his body and loves to dance. I know people at 82 that are sitting in nursing homes waiting to die. Dance has fed his spirit and his body. 

     I love working with "non-traditional" dancers. I actually started my methodology Internal Landscapes© because so many traditional dancers in ballet, modern dance and also actors were "over trained." They had difficulty being "authentic" and real. I helped them find their true humanity on stage via this methodology. Some actors and dancers had forgotten that the years and years of training is supposed to  be a TOOL to create art that moves people. It has to have an emotional resonance in each movement and I have found some AMAZING "non-traditional" company members in my company that have created authentic art in "M.U.D." Look at Paul Hays, Janet Aisawa and Douglas Allen. Could you not be more moved by these artists? Ask them their age (I will not reveal that here), but I have great respect for them as artists in my company.  I have also found people seeking me out for my classes and workshops due to my unique belief in this area of my training philosophy.

JR: As an true expert in your field, what are your secrets for staying in such great shape to be able to do what you do?
JO: As far as keeping in shape, I teach my ballet class based on correct anatomical placement. Not cranking turnout from the ankle, knee or acetabulum. I do this class five times a week at McBurney Y on 14th St. I also teach at CUNY Hostos and CUNY In the Heights on Saturdays. More information can be found on our website

     The Ollom Floor Series© has helped many of my students to increase flexibility and increase abdominal strength and erector spinae strength. This methodology has been created after me teaching for 10 years and seeing many injuries and pains in my students. This Ollom Floor Series© has helped many students, especially men with lower back pain in their quadratus lumborum. Plans are in the works to create a DVD and training program for this methodology. 
Consequently, my technique class and my Ollom Floor Series© has been my regiment for over five years now. For the internal emotional work, I lead Internal Landscapes© workshops and classes to lead people into exploring their psyche in the dance of movement art.

JR: What's in store next for Ollom Movement Art and Prismatic Productions?
JO: Ollom Movement Art is traveling to Easton Mountain on Wednesday, June 2nd. I will be leading a workshop in Internal Landscapes© to help students create their own movement art. The company will perform "M.U.D." on Saturday June 5th. More information can be found at  Sunfire, our documentarian, is also working to complete a documentary about the creation of "M.U.D."  From August 7-14th, I will be teaching the 8th Annual Ollom Movement Art Summer Intensive at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. The syllabus is at under "Summer Intensive". I will be teaching there along with the Ollom Movement Art company members and our exceptional faculty: Karen Brown and Deborah Massell, Ph.D.  In September, I will be the Artist in Residence at Eastern Michigan University. I will be setting a new choreographic work on their dance department while teaching their students.

     We are exploring new performances of Ollom Movement Art for the Fall 2010. Please visit to see any information about future performance locations.  From February through March 2011 I have been invited to be the guest artist at the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, where I will be working on a new production for 2011.  This is all in addition to our regular classes.

JR: Thanks, John!  And congratulations again!

For more information, email the company at or or call the company at (212) 592-0103.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

OH, DADDY! Original Village People Cowboy Randy Jones Plays Father Figure in "When Joey Married Bobby"!

Pics 1-6: Randy Jones, through the years!
Pics 7-8: Randy with "When Joey Married Bobby" castmates Matthew Pender and Tina McKissick.

Original Village People Cowboy Randy Jones Plays Father Figure in "When Joey Married Bobby"! 

      Let's make this perfectly clear: A guy in a cowboy hat is ALWAYS sexy! But there's much more to singer/actor/man-about-town Randy Jones than his killer smile, trademark mustache, and buckaroo sex appeal. This urban cowboy is also one of the busiest men in showbiz.  At any given week in The Naked City, you may catch this multi-talented star taking the mic for an impromptu performance at a downtown hotspot, then strutting down a red carpet at an A-list celebrity event the next night, then "just hangin' out" the next night in... where else? The Village!  Having sang and danced for live audiences all over the world, New York City's favorite cowpoke hits the stage again in an exciting new role as Eddie Edwards, the father of "Joey" (former Detroit Tiger pitcher Matthew Pender) in the critically acclaimed comedy romp "When Joey Married Bobby" at The Roy Arias Theatre in Times Square. 

       The 6'2" Jones achieved worldwide fame with The Village People during America's most deliciously decadent decade.  With achievements that include an American Music Award, the cover of "Rolling Stone", a Star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording, and over 75 gold and platinum records worldwide, The Village People created songs that cemented their status in U.S. pop culture history forever-- camp factor notwithstanding!  Both with The Village People and on his own, Jones has made well over 100 appearances both on TV and on the big screen.  Twenty years after his first starring role in 1980's guilty piece of vintage vice "Can't Stop The Music" (Anyone who doesn't like this movie can't be my friend!), Jones has worked on six films ready to be seen in 2010-- including Douglas Langway's "Bear City" (with Gerald McCullouch) and Caspar Andreas' "Violet" Tendencies (with Mindy Cohn).  Mr.  Jones may have been born in North Carolina, but to borrow the title of one of his songs, he is the ultimate "New York City Boy".  (And here's a bit of trivia: Randy is the only member of The Village People who actually resides in The Village; he's lived there since 1975.)

     The eternally youthful performer spoke with Jed Ryan about his fatherly role (Dare I say "DILF"?) in "When Joey Married Bobby" and his other upcoming endeavors:

JR: Hi, Randy.  Congratulations on your new role in “When Joey Married Bobby”.  Is this your first time playing a father? 
RJ: Come to think of it, I believe it is. Ah, the joys of Fatherhood....(Laughs) And what a son! Have you seen my boy, Matt Pender....?!!!
JR: Oh, yes I have!  Those shoulders are broad enough to hang your entire wardrobe on!  So, did you model your character Eddie Edwards after anyone, either real or fictional?
RJ: I'd say I've probably drawn from every dad that ever caught my eye. This character is a contractor with a construction company and is a Southerner, with a wife and a couple of he's rather a familiar figure in my growing up experience.

JR: What surprises do you and the new cast have in store for the audience, especially for those like me who are going to see it a second time?
RJ: Well, for starters there's Lady Clover Honey and me...there's a scene where I'm in boxers like my son "Joey" played by Matt Pender! We both have pretty good legs, but as always, I will defer to youth!!! Plus, all the other zany antics that happen in this "Southern Farce"!
JR: Nice!  Now, through the years, you have acted in movies, appeared on TV, and sang and danced with The Village People on stages all over the world.  How does live theater, especially comedy, compare with your other entertainment endeavors?
RJ: I am blessed to continue having all manner of opportunities to get out there and do it, but there is nothing like live theater. It's where I first began performing-- at about the age of 10 or 11 years old back in Raleigh, North Carolina. It embodies the essence of being "in the moment". In live theater, when the curtain goes up, the train is leaving the station, and there are NO second takes. You better know your lines, your blocking, and your business. You only get one chance a night to get it right. And there is nothing like the sensation of getting that immediate audience response! And we get lots of laughs!

JR: Stuntwoman-turned-actress Tina McKissick plays your wife in the play, and she really turns it out.  What is it like working with her?
RJ: Tina is a joy to work with. Such a pro. She makes me laugh every night. Her timing and physical business is impeccable. She's a professional stuntwoman, you know.  She reminds me of the classic comediennes like Carol Burnett, Imogene Coca and Lucille Ball.
JR: I agree! “When Joey Married Bobby” is a comedy, but it has the serious issue of gay marriage running underneath.  What kind of statement does the play makes about same-sex weddings?
RJ: For me, the statement that an audience would most likely take away after a performance is the enormous normality with which the subject is handled. It's the major plot point of the play...and all the complications and dynamics that come with the hoopla involved with the planning of any wedding.  It just happens that this three-tiered wedding cake with pink icing has TWO men on the top!

JR: In addition to “When Joey Married Bobby”, what other projects do you have on the horizon?
RJ: Now, knowing me, Jed, that's a loaded question. I'm continually doing dates out on the road. And the "Joey" producers let me out of the show for a few days at the time to do that. I just got back from performing at the first Charleston, South Carolina Pride Celebration at the Hagood Johnson Stadium on the campus of The Citadel...yes, THE CITADEL!!! The revered Southern Military Academy. It was hot! So hot that five minutes after I left the stage, all the smoke and effects from my show set off the fire alarms and the space had to be evacuated. There were FIVE fire engines that arrived on the scene. We just got into the limo and headed of to the after party at Club Pantheon...with a couple of cadets and firemen that we found along the way. Hmmm...Sounds like the beginnings of a new boy band!!!  Currently, I'm in four different upcoming films debuting at film festivals in May and June.  "My Guaranteed Student Loan" with Richard Pryor, Jr., Oscar winner Celeste Holm, and Kate Luckinbill (Lucille Ball's grandaughter) was at the Cannes Film Festival, "An Affirmative Act", in which I play an attorney, opens June 4th at the Hoboken International Film Festival; and both "Violet Tendencies" with Mindy Cohn, Marcus Patrick and Jesse Archer and "Bear City" with Gerald McCullouch from "CSI" open at the NewFest Film Festival June 11 and 12 here in NYC.  Later this year, I'm scheduled to shoot a couple new films, "Cafe A Go Go" with David Bowie's former wife, Angela Bowie, out in Arizona; and a modern version of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" with Alan Rowe Kelly.  And I've got nearly half the material recorded for my new CD. We're lookin' to get that out in 2011.  My latest book, "Macho Man: The Disco Era" has been in it's second printing. It is now in more than 20,000 libraries around the world.  Of course, last but not least, I've got a couple of reality/documentary projects in development with the folks involved with the History Channel and A&E.

JR: Wow!  That's what I call "multi-tasking"!  So, Randy, are you going to spill your secrets for looking and feeling so youthful?  And don’t tell me it’s all just about having a positive attitude! (Laughs)
RJ: Positive attitude sure helps. So does drinking a lot of water and keeping fit. All the good things that contribute to keeping one's energy level elevated. I think it's the fact that any day that I wake up, I've always got something to do. I've never been bored. It seems there is continually something interesting with which to be involved...and I still get invited to the party! What's better than that?!
JR: Not much else! (Laughs) Thanks, Randy!  See you on Broadway!
RJ: From your lips to God's ears!

     There are only two more performances of  "When Joey Married Bobby": Friday May 28 and Saturday May 29, at 8PM.  "When Joey Married Bobby" is playing at The Roy Arias Theatre, 300 W 43rd St @ 8th Avenue.  Get tickets and see more at  See much more about Randy Jones at!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

GET YOUR LEATHER ON! Jeffrey Payne, International Mr. Leather 2009, will see you in Chicago!

Jeffrey Payne, International Mr. Leather 2009, will see you in Chicago!

     "The Windy City"? Whatever... This Memorial Day Weekend, Chicago will be the
hottest city in the world as
thousands of leathermen, leatherwomen, and their admirers from all over the globe convene for
International Mr.
Leather 2010
.   It's an extra long weekend-- and every leather-clad minute of it promises to be packed.  IML 2010 kicks off with The IML Pre-Party on Thursday, May 27, and the grand finale is The Black and Blue Ball at Chicago's Excalibur Nightclub on Monday night.  In between, there are educational seminars, meet and greets, merchandise marts, silent auctions, and many, many parties to represent a wide range of our community's assorted fetishes and lifestyles. (Rubber, Uniform, BDSM, and more...). The climactic Contest to select the 32nd man to represent the worldwide Leather community will be on Sunday the 30th, from 5PM to 9PM at The Congress Theater, followed by all-night Victory Party at The House of Blues.

     Mr. International Leather, considered to be Big Daddy of all the Leather events in the word, is all about leather
awareness and education, unity in the leather and GBLT communities, and... celebration!   Now, a little bit of history:
IML's forerunner was the 1970's
"Mr. Gold Coast" bar contest held at Chicago's Gold Coast leather bar, owned by Chuck Renslow and his then-partner, Dom Orejudos.  As the "Mr. Gold Coast" contest became one of the bar's most popular events, it expanded to a larger venue in 1979.  Along with the change of venue came a change in name to "International Mr. Leather", and what was born as an annual bar contest gradually became the major happening it is
today.   IML has expanded from 12 contestants its first year to approximately 50 or 60 today, with Contestants from a
number of countries who encompass all races, genders and kinks.  This year, International Mr. Leather has secured
the prestigious
Hyatt Regency Chicago to host the event.  All IML Contestants are either the Winner of a bar, local 
regional leather contest, or have been sponsored by a leather bar, business, club, or organization.

Jeffrey Payne is Mr. Dallas Eagle 2009, Mr. Texas Leather 2009, and International Mr. Leather 2009.  To state the obvious, this Texan has had quite a busy year-- traveling to five continents, 14 countries, 34 cities and 47 events over the last year representing the Leather community.  At this year's IML, Payne is one of nine envied Judges for the selection of IML 2010, as well as the Host of "The Texas Party: Deep in the Heart of Leather" with Jack Duke, Mr. Texas Leather 2010 on Saturday night, May 29.  The party will be a fundraiser for Hearing from the Heart, a project of Payne's Sharon St. Cyr (SCC) Fund to help people in our community with hearing aids who can't afford them and offer grants to events to provide sign interpreters for hearing impaired and deaf individuals.  Originally from Maine, Jeffrey Payne relocated to Louisiana at the young age of 3 after the death of his mother, Sharon St. Cyr.  He grew up in a Louisiana orphanage, going on to attend Louisiana Tech University and settling down in New Orleans.  Circumstances (a.k.a. Hurricane Katrina) relocated Jeffrey to  Dallas, Texas.  With a BA from Texas A&M University, until recently Jeffrey worked as a Human Resource Director for a Fortune 500 company.  Upon being selected International Mr. Leather 2009, Mr. Payne now devotes his time to living his dream of serving as a full-time Ambassador for the Leather Community.   He works night and day through the SCC Fund to create awareness and raise money for the many charitable organizations that his SSC Fund supports.   Jeffrey is married to David Roy, who co-founded The SCC Fund.  Together they share their home in Dallas with their boy, adam, and their four children: miniature dachshunds Isabella & Lucy, and miniature poodles Korbin & Konner.  Payne appeared at Cleveland Leather Awareness Weekend (CLAW) in April 2009.  During CLAW's International Leather Family Dinner, Payne spoke to the crowd about his experiences as a role model in our community.  It couldn't be easy to bring an entire ballroom of leathermen and leatherwomen to complete silence.  Jeffrey did just that, with his empowering yet affable persona, as well as his provocative story about his friendship with a very smart, HIV-positive, 8-year old boy who is currently living in an orphanage.  

     Jeffrey Payne is every bit as charismatic and, shall we say... "easy on the eyes" in person as he is in those eye-popping, fund-raising calendar photos you can see on his official site.   Before heading off to Chicago, Payne spoke with Jed Ryan about his reign as International Mr. Leather, the state of the Leather community, and his post IML plans:

JR: Hi, Jeffrey!  It was great meeting you at CLAW.  So, first off, what was the greatest thing about holding the Title of International Mr. Leather 2009?
JP:  I have been asked that question quite a bit lately as my title year comes to an end.  I still have the hardest time
answering it, though.  This entire year has been an incredible opportunity, and on so many levels the term “greatest”
can be used.  The smaller events, the larger events, the fundraisers, the parades – how could I possibly select “the”
greatest thing?  So I’ll choose to answer your question in this manner:  The greatest thing about holding the title of
International Mr. Leather has been the fact that I began the title year with my husband, David, and I am ending it with my husband, David.  But what makes it so great is the fact we not only are ending the title year together, we are ending it with a stronger commitment and devotion to one another.

JR: On the flipside, what was the most challenging or most difficult aspect about it?
JP:  Time zones.  It was extremely difficult to keep up with the time zones I was in and to maintain some type of
schedule.  The worst was over a ten-day span of time in which I had been in so many different time zones, I didn’t
know if it was morning or evening without looking outside to see if it was dark or light outside.  The difference in hours
was an adjustment of 14 hours back and forth between time zones.  I would show up to an event ready for breakfast
and it was dinnertime, or vice-versa.  (Laughing)  Seriously, though, I felt that at each event I needed to give them all of who I was and deliver a speech or judge a contest with the clearest mind possible and my being tired was not an
acceptable excuse in my book.  I felt the community needed to know I was fully committed to their event.  So my ability to take care of myself and my health and getting the appropriate amount of sleep was a challenge.

: No doubt!  In your opinion, where does the Leather lifestyle stand now?  A lot of guys have speculated that a new generation is discovering the scene, and we're due for a renaissance.  Do you think that's true? 
JP: There is always another generation discovering the scene and that will never change.  I remember years ago when I was “the new generation.”  I’m not sure I would say we were due for a renaissance, however.  I think it just comes down to “change.”  Change is inevitable.  We just have to work together to ensure that whatever change we experience as a community is change in a positive and progressive manner.  Change just for the sake of changing isn’t necessarily good.  We have to actively guide the direction of change, with open minds and open hearts.

JR: What can all of us do in the Leather community do, on a day-to-day basis, to keep the lifestyle thriving?
JP: Communicate face-to-face.  Wait, I’ll take it one step further and say, “effectively communicate face-to-face.” I
believe with the onset of blogs, websites, text messaging and instant media communication, we have virtually lost our
ability to effectively communicate face-to-face.  That is why I enjoy traveling to so many communities and meeting the
people who make up our community face-to-face.  There is that human element to communicating that is missing more and more these days with so much technology taking over.  Don’t get me wrong, I blog, I have a website and I use email like there is no tomorrow; however, I still make it a point to communicate with people face-to-face.  With the
written word, we may sometimes lose the essence of what a person is saying because we have lost the facial and
body expressions of how they are saying something and we loss the inflection of a person’s voice when they make a
point or show passion for a topic.  So on a day-to-day basis, I would say we should work on getting out in the
community more and effectively communicating with one another, face-to-face.

JR: One of the events at IML is to benefit the Hearing from the Heart project of the SCC Fund, to help people in our community pay for their hearing aids.  How has this become one of your chosen causes?
JP: Let me start by saying, I am fortunate to be a part of this community.  They have simply embraced this cause
wholeheartedly with such vigor and support.  My husband and I began the Sharon St. Cyr Fund (SSC Fund) after we
purchased my own hearing aids.  They cost $5,000.  I remember hitting the floor in amazement over the cost.   Then it was a double whammy when I found out my insurance would not cover them.  David and I are fortunate in that we are able to afford them; however, there are too many people in our community who need hearing aids and simply cannot afford them.  So David and I decided we would do what we could to change this by creating the SSC Fund.  We also supplement the cost of having sign interpreters at events to ensure the deaf community is able to participate and enjoy events as well.

JR: You were certainly one of the most admired men at CLAW this year!  What was your most memorable moment from the weekend?
JP: CLAW was very exciting this year.  I had a great time.  I have to admit the most memorable moment was when I
spoke at the dinner.  To approach the stage and have the very men and women I admire in our community stand up
and applaud for me before I uttered a word was humbling and very surreal, to say the least.  I have spent years with so many of these people, admiring them, hoping to emulate them in some form or fashion, and they were standing for me!  That was a moment I will never forget.  Then to share my story about what had transpired that day, speaking about being HIV positive, my eight-year-old friend Darrell at the Children’s Home, and our community and how all of these things share this incredibly beautiful bond.  To convey to everyone how each of those things affects the others, how they affect our individual journey and our journey as a community. That was truly a moment I will always remember.

JR: A lot of guys look at Leathermen as the epitome of masculinity and sex appeal.  As a bona fide expert on the
subject, what makes a guy sexy?

JP:  You can ask a million guys that same question and you will receive a million different answers.  So I can’t speak for everyone on that subject, only for myself.  If you want to know what I believe makes a guy sexy, just look at my
husband - intelligent, giving, supportive, humorous and he also “gets” my humor.  The fact that all of this is rolled up
into a drop-dead gorgeous man, just makes it even better!  But with anyone, I find a man hot as long as he is true to
himself, respectful of others and understands what being “real” is all about.  Therein lies the true essence of sexiness to me – knowing what being “real” is all about.

JR: In your speech at CLAW you were very open about being HIV positive.  As a role model for our community, what's the most important piece of advice you have for those who are living with the virus?  
JP: Keep living and keep moving forward!  My HIV status does not define me as a man.  How I live my life, how I treat other people, how I strive to live by example each day are what will define me in the long run, not my HIV status. 
Honestly, there are days in which I struggle with the medical issues of being HIV positive; that is to be expected. 
However, the manner in which I handle those issues and overcome those obstacles are what is important.  But that is
the same scenario with all issues and obstacles I face.  Face it head on, deal with it and keep moving.

JR: I agree!  Finally, what are your plans for the rest of the year, after the new IML is crowned?!
JP: I will be doing the same thing I have always done:  Working within our community, attending events across our
globe, building bridges, working with the deaf and hearing communities to ensure we continue to move forward and
continuing to work with the SSC Fund to ensure the mission of the Fund is reached each and every single day.  And I
definitely will be spending some much needed time with my husband and family.

It's not to late to go to International Mr. Leather!  Visit the official IML site at

Visit Jeffrey Payne's official site at where you can see photos, learn about his philanthropic efforts, buy his hot fund-raising calendar, and more!!!


Wednesday, May 19, 2010



     As a kickoff to Gay Pride both in their home borough, throughout New York City, and nationwide, the hardworking men and women of Staten Island Pride Events (SIPE) are presenting an event that both celebrates our pride in who we are and honors our past history.  
The event will honor a true pioneer and hero of modern gay history: the late San Francisco City Councilman Harvey Milk.  Milk, whose life story was the basis for the critically acclaimed big-screen biopic "Milk" in 2009, was the first openly gay man ever to be voted into public office.  SIPE's Kickoff to Pride will be held at The Staten Island Museum and will feature exhibits, a reading of "Dear Harvey" by Patricia Loughrey, raffles, refreshments, a cash bar, and entertainment by Athena Reich with Glenn Firester, Lovari, Anne Guinta, Caroline Murphy, and Dr. Hyde. 

     A longtime resident of Staten Island, Gerard Mawn of Staten Island Pride Events is one of the coordinators of the event.  He has been happily committed to his life partner, Angel Love, for 13 years. The two were one of the first male couples to register their domestic partnership with New York City.   In addition, Mawn stated, "We are the first couple to have a marriage ceremony performed by the Reverend Pat Bumgardner of MCC in the chapel at the City Clerks Office in downtown Manhattan."   In a sign of slow but steady progress, he adds, "It's interesting that yesterday, New York City announced that they are promoting ceremonies. (You can read that story here.)  When Angel and I did it five years ago on Valentine's Day, we were asked to leave."

     Gerard spoke with Jed Ryan about the upcoming event and more of the prideful activities that Staten Island Pride Events has in store for us:

JR: Hi Gerard.  Congratulations on the upcoming event on May 22nd.  Now, Harvey Milk was definitely a pioneer in our community. In 2010, what is his legacy for all of us? What is his legacy for you, personally?
GM: I think Harvey would be mortified that in 2010 we do not have full equality. Where would we be today if Harvey was alive? We will never know that answer. Every day we must look at ourselves in the mirror and ask, "Have we done enough today? Could I do more? Have I made enough people angry because I will not be silent, or made them uncomfortable? Will I accept rejection and be defeated?" Harvey Milk said, "It takes no compromising to give people their rights. It takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no survey to remove repressions.”

JR: I agree.  That's quite an entertainment lineup you have planned for May 22! What made you choose these artists for the celebration?
GM: The artists we have chosen are a mixture of those who have been with us at other evnt and performed at last year’s kickoff. With the exclusive area reading of the play "Dear Harvey" by Patricia Loughrey, we believe that the evening will be very satisfying.

JR: It looks like Staten Island Pride Events (SIPE) has been more active than ever: more activities, different kinds of events, etc. What are some of the highlights you have in store for us in the future?
GM: We have a very busy month ahead. Our kickoff at the Staten Island Museum is this Saturday, May 22nd. On Saturday, June 5th we will participate in the Staten Island LGBT Pride Parade.  On Saturday, June 19th, we host the annual Pride B&W Dinner Dance, and for fun we are hosting a Night OUT at the Staten Island Yankees on Wednesday, June 23rd. We will be there to cheer on our Out friend Jeremiah who was chosen to sing the National Anthem for the Staten Island Yankees home gayme during NYC Pride Week!

JR: Wow!  Now, people who live on Staten Island have a lot of pride in their borough, but with GLBT events, sometimes Staten Island gets overshadowed by things going on in Manhattan and even Brooklyn and Queens. What would you want to tell people about the GLBT community in Staten Island?
GM: Don't forget The Bronx, Long Island and New Jersey. We all have pride. Yes, we are overshadowed. We're young - only our 6th year, but we call ourselves "First in Pride" as our events happen at the beginning of June, on the first Saturday.  Also, Manhattan's events are not referred to as "Manhattan Pride". It’s an event for all of us. We are all one in celebration. As Milk said, "Here's to homogeneity."

JR: It looks like your work with SIPE and being an activist keeps you really busy. What's your secret to being such a successful, shall we say, "multi-tasker"?
GM: I have strong support: level-headed and creative people who keep me grounded. I'm tenacious, mission driven, a dreamer, and never satisfied. I break boundaries. I'll call for help from those who do not believe in my mission. I also put people in situations that make them uncomfortable. I’m a risk taker.  I'm no Harvey Milk. but I probably piss people off just as much as he did.

JR: That's a good thing!  Harvey Milk felt that full equality for our community, in the eyes of the laws, should be our primary endeavor. In your opinion and from your experience, what can each and every one of us do, on a day to day basis, to reach that goal?
GM: Harvey Milk said in his 1973 concession speech: “I have tasted freedom. I will not give up that which I have tasted. I have a lot more to drink. For that reason, the political numbers game will be played. I know the rules of their game now and how to play it.” He eventually succeeded. Talent, tenacity, and opportunity: That’s the recipe for success. Most importantly of all: Be truthful to yourself! Create hope in yourself and others.

Now, that's an inspiring launch to GLBT Pride Month!  Contact SIPE for more info at

SIPE's Kickoff to Pride
Saturday, May 22 7PM-10PM
The Staten Island Museum
75 Stuyvesant Place
Staten Island
$3 admission
RSVP: (718)483-7105

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

FAIRY SIGHTINGS IN NEW YORK CITY! Company XIV Presents “Le Cirque Feerique” (“The Fairy Circus”)

(Photos of Company XIV by Christina Ramirez) 

Company XIV Presents “Le Cirque Feerique” (“The Fairy Circus”)

      “Le Cirque Feerique” (“The Fairy Circus“), features eight classic children‘s fairy tales, including “The Ugly Ducking“, “The Princess and the Pea”, and “Ferdinand the Bull”.  The all-ages show kicks off with “The Frog Prince”.  Most of us know this oft-retold love story… but I guarantee that you’ve never seen anything close to the opulent vision of the Neo-Baroque theater-dance group Company XIV. This time around, the frog seduces the princess not with wit or sympathy, but rather with an elaborate dance routine that would make even the most ardent ranidaphobe pucker up.  The princess gets her mate -- but this is just the beginning, boys and girls: The audience remains seduced throughout the entire spectacle.  Making its world premiere in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn at The Bond Street Theatre, “Le Cirque Feerique” creates a storybook world come to life: a glittery, ruffled, peacock-feathered fantasia which defies everything from gender to time and space.  The interpretations of these beloved tales of our childhood, all done with unyielding elegance and visual splendor, will fascinate and thrill the masses. (To echo the words of our Ringmaster [Jeff Takacs], that includes “ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, young and old, rich and poor”, etc… )  The choreography shows enormous respect for the art of dance in many of its varieties, but what impresses us most of all is how Austin McCormick (“Le Cirque Feerique”’s co-creator, director, and choreographer… and one of the dancers as well) brings some bold, awe-inspiring creative innovations to every scene.  Likewise, the eight tales keep their timeless appeal, but there‘s a humor and sensibility that’s very much in tune with audiences in 2010 and beyond.   Some of the stories are tweaked a bit: The Company’s version of “Cinderella” is deliciously darker than the tale we’re used to hearing, complete with a revisionist ending that you’ll probably like better:
“She’s wishing for a decent man,
 They're hard to find. D'you think you can?
 Within a minute, Cinderella
 was married to a lovely feller;
 By trade, a simple storyteller,
Whose every story was really stellar;
Their house was filled with smiles and laughter,
 and they lived happy ever after.”

Prince?  What prince?!  And, it just doesn‘t get any more fabulously indulgent than the Company‘s “Little Red Riding Hood”, featuring three “finches” (The Charities Baroque Opera Trio. in red dresses and Lady Gaga-esque blonde wigs) singing Ms. Gaga’s “Monster” while Miss Riding Hood and the Wolf square off.  

     The dancing is flawless.  As Ringmaster, Mr. Takacs (who also co-created the show) comes across as the hardest working man in show business.  Forget Mother Goose.  He’s more like Big Daddy Hawk, imperiously overseeing a truly magical kingdom… and, to complete the role, he gets to play the bamboozled monarch in “Emperor’s New Clothes”. (Fear not, parents: This version is safe for the kiddies!)

     How do I feel about “Le Cirque Feerique“?  I think Alice put it well in “Alice‘s Adventures in Wonderland“, 1865: “When I used to read fairy-tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!”  The audience will no doubt feel the same!

      Company XIV‘s “Le Cirque Feerique” plays at The Bond Street Theatre, 303 Bond Street (between Union & Sackett) in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.  Performances are Saturdays at 2pm and 7pm and Sundays at 2pm and 5pm, through June 6th. Tickets are $30 for adults and $25 for children 16 and under, students and seniors.  Visit for more!

AN INTIMATE EVENING WITH BARBRA: “Barbra Streisand at The Village Vanguard”

“Barbra Streisand at The Village Vanguard”

     Every once in a while, a major diva will make a surprise appearance at a popular NYC nightspot for an impromptu performance, delighting their fans and creating priceless buzz for their latest creative endeavors.  Madonna, Cher, and Britney all did it in the last few years; Madonna and Cher at The Roxy, Britney at SBNY.  On September 26, 2009, enduring gay icon (like it or not) Barbra Streisand did just that, appearing at the jazz club The Village Vanguard, which has a seating maximum of 123 and an “old fashioned 60‘s mic“.  What a happy coincidence that Donna Karan, Nicole Kidman, and the entire Clinton family (Bill, Hillary, & Chelsea) just happened to be in the audience that night!  And apparently lightning struck several times that evening: Babs managed to bring not only state-of-the-art recording equipment to create a live CD, but also a film crew to record the night’s concert for a DVD.  Whoever “just happened” to wander into the club that night must have gotten the surprise of their life!  

      Actually, that‘s not exactly how it happened.  Promoted as Barbra‘s “first club appearance in the concert in 28 years”, the CD/DVD recording “Barbra Streisand Live at the Village Vanguard” was an invite-only event for Barbra’s close celebrity friends and a few contest winners.   Most of the songs were from her jazz-flavored, 2009 studio album “Love Is the Answer”, released the day this show took place.  With that particular album, like many of Barbra’s others, the listener can’t help but get the feeling-- knowing what an ardent perfectionist this diva is-- that the singer must have done about 300 or more takes of each note before committing it to disc.   The ironic thing is that, when listening to the studio “Love Is the Answer” and “Barbra Streisand Live at the Village Vanguard“ side by side, the live album is arguably the better of the two.  The inevitable post-recording tinkering aside, the spontaneity of this Streisand-fest works very well.  Barbra  sounds relaxed and seems to be (Dare I say?) having fun.  Of course, her singing voice remains as smooth and unblemished as ever, even (Dare I say again?) girlish at times… and our diva can still hit those high notes.  

     Barbra talks almost as much as she sings on the CD.  She opens with,  “This is hysterical… I mean, are we a box of sardines here or what? Gosh, it’s so funny.  I haven’t sung in the Village since 1962... After everything I’ve done, and after everywhere I’ve been, I’m back to where I started.  Life is a circle, right?  So, this is where I was, and this is where I am now”. The chanteuse then breaks into “Here’s to Life”, an admittedly timeless classic.   Throughout the CD, Ms. S. inserts a lot of banter between the songs: She comments about how her 1967 album “Simply Streisand” was a commercial flop,  she recalls a phone conversation with her then-matinee idol Marlon Brando, she dispenses some Streisand-esque musings about the good things about getting older, and she tells the now famous story about how one of her auditions in the ’60’s was at a gay club--where Babs and her friend/mentor Cis Corman were the only women present.  Only at one point does the diva talk a bit too much: She gives a fawning shout-out to our former Prez Bill Clinton that goes on way too long.  

     Her newer recordings, like “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” and “Gentle Rain“, really seem to please the crowd.  Once she breaks into the classics like “My Funny Valentine“ and “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered“, even those who don‘t worship at The Church (or Synagogue) of Streisand should be impressed and maybe even a wee bit nostalgic.  By the time she delivers the first few notes of “Evergreen” near the end, Barbra’s hardcore fans will likely need mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.   As for the companion DVD, the best parts-- like with the album-- come with the spontaneous moments.  They include the shouts of “Barbra! Barbra! Barbra!” and the shot of a trio of gay guys looking like they’re ready to faint outside the club before the show; as well as the camera shots of a grizzly-looking James Brolin (AKA Mr. Streisand), and a luminous Sarah Jessica Parker watching Babs during the concert (and wiping tears away afterward). Barbra admittedly doesn’t look quite as relaxed as she sounds, although the cinematographers light her up like a princess. 

       Barbra Streisand  may not tour as much as her worshippers  would like, but with 60 albums in 37 years of performing, she certainly turns out he material.  Compare that to some gay icons who are one step away from appearing on a milk carton. (Donna Summer: Your deviant homosexual fans miss you-- actually miss your MUSIC! Grace Jones: No album of new stuff in over 20 years? WTF? Liza: We‘re waiting!) Love her or hate her, Barbra Joan Streisand gives her fans what they want.  You fans know who you are…