DOUBLE PENETRATION, Part 2
(AKA: A LEATHER LOVE STORY):An Interview With Tom Savage, American Leatherman 2011 & Danny Tamez, Mr. New Jersey Leather 2012
(Photos 1& 2 courtesy of Tom Savage/Danny Tamez
Photo 3 courtesy of DJ Kaiser
Photo 4 courtesy of Peter Lau)Call it a true Leather Love Story. Chances are you’ve already met this dynamic and dedicated duo-- or at least seen the two of them-- at any given Leather event, be it big or small. (Trust me, these guys are difficult to overlook. Woof!) But perhaps it’s time for a formal introduction: Meet Tom Savage, American Leatherman 2011. At 6’1”, Tom makes a very imperious presence, especially when in full gear. He is originally from Colorado, but has clearly found his true home with the New Jersey Leather family. Savage is a member of the Argonauts, an Asbury Park Leather club, for which he has served as President. He is also Mr. New Jersey Leather 2006. Tom’s successful philanthropic endeavors have included the hugely popular NJ Leather Family Chili Cook-off every February, as well as “Foreplay”: the Leather, Bear, and Kink block party held every June in Asbury Park which kicks off New Jersey Pride.
Now meet Danny Tamez. In October 2011, this boyishly handsome charmer won the envied title of Mr. New Jersey Leather 2012, taking on the role of The Garden State‘s Ambassador to the Leather Nation. Like Tom, he takes the job of activist very seriously, making many public appearances and donating loads of time and energy at events both in his home state and beyond. (Incidentally, he also fills out a pair of Levis very well!…) Tom and Danny had their first date in January 1998 (For some perspective, the hit songs on the radio at that time were Savage Garden’s “Truly Madly Deeply“, Janet Jackson‘s “Together Again“, and Celine Dion‘s “My Heart Will Go On“.). They’ve been seemingly inseparable ever since. The two Leathermen had a commitment ceremony in the summer of 2002 in Denver, before moving east; and then had a Civil Union Ceremony in New Jersey in January 2009. Today, they share their home with their two cats, brothers Mickey and Max. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Tom and Danny spoke with me about their unyielding commitment to each other and to the Leather community at large:
JR: Hello, gentlemen! So, let’s start at the beginning. How did the two of you meet? Would I be too bold to assume it was at a Leather event?
TS: Well, it wasn’t at a leather event, bathhouse, or backroom. It was late 1997 and I was recently divorced from my ex-wife after having come out. There used to be a phone line called Interactive Male. I called and left an ad message on the line. After a few days I got several responses, and I liked Danny’s the most. Somewhere we may still have the piece of paper that I wrote everything down on. He’d left a number so I called. He was reluctant to meet with me, I think because I was more interested in meeting for coffee and talking. He was only interested in meeting for a fling. We talked several more times, and finally set up a date to meet at the 17th Ave. Grill in Denver, on or about on Jan. 10th of 1998. He was wearing a green flannel shirt and jeans, I don’t remember what I was wearing. We had dinner and drinks then went to The Grand, a bar just down the street (now closed, but would become my favorite hangout for the next several years before discovering The Wrangler Bar). We went to his place afterward, I stayed the night, and for probably the next six months we stayed with each other every night at either his or my place. We moved into an apartment together the summer of 1998 and have lived together ever since.
DT: Yes, we met over a phone hook-up line. This was before the age of computers. We met face-to-face for dinner and never separated from then on. Leather came into our lives later, and in many ways gave our relationship a new bond. We had our NJ Civil Union in Leather.
JR: Very cool! So, the two of you have been a couple for a long time: 14 years. Wow! Do you have any secrets for a successful relationship? Inquiring minds want to know! But then again, I guess if you told us, it wouldn’t be a secret anymore, huh?
TS: Fourteen years this last January. Hmmm… Secrets for a successful relationship? Good question. Not every day is like a honeymoon! We bicker and fight like any other couple. Trust is important, we love each other, and we have a lot of time invested between the two of us: something that I think which solidifies a commitment between two people. We’ve had our ups and downs like anyone else. We’re not infallible. Love, patience, give and take, and a feeling of knowing you’re with the one you want to grow old with.
DT: Sometimes I think it is either dumb luck or that we are too lazy to split up. Really though: For me, even through the tough times, I know Tom is a good man and that is why I married him. I am very fortunate and know it, although I should say it to him more often.
JR: Well, you’re saying it now! So, Tom, you are originally from Colorado. What was your adjustment to life in New Jersey like when you first moved here?
TS: I moved out to the East Coast in 2002 to be closer to my daughter, who is now 16. At the time she lived with her mother in the NYC area. She now lives in Virginia, so I travel there often to see her. The adjustment for me was more along the lines of being around people who sounded much different than in Colorado. The various NY and NJ accents were something to get used to… and not being able to pump my own gas in NJ. (I dislike that!) It’s kinda funny, but some friends say I’ve picked up some of the local accent in some words I say.
JR: (Laughs) Now, the legalization of gay marriage is gonna be a very hot issue in New Jersey this season. How do you two feel about it?
TS: We both think it’s important that people in the GLBT community get the right to marry with all of the same legal benefits afforded to straight people. Our arguments against opponents of marriage equality echo those of others in the GLBT community. We plan on marrying if marriage equality becomes a reality in New Jersey.
DT: It should be a hot issue. Civil rights are to be fought for. I think sometimes we forget that in all the fun of Pride Celebrations. We are still fighting for our civil rights. We as Leather people need to be heard and seen in this fight. A right is a right regardless, and not to be subject to popular vote!
JR: I agree. A lot of the GLBT community at large may view the Leather community as “vintage”, “outdated”, “caught in the past”, or even “scary” and “menacing“. Some of them think that we are stuck in a time capsule from the ’70’s or ’80’s. What would you say to these fools?
TS: I think there’s something vintage about the Leather community but I don’t think that makes it outdated. Rather, I think there’s something timeless about it. To me Leather represents family, integrity, and strong bonds between us. If “vintage“, it’s because some of that look and feel which began a long time ago is something that I find raw in the masculine sexuality that drew me into Leather. Think James Dean and Marlon Brando back in in the 50’s, the biker clubs since then, denim, leather, boots, rough sex… all of it! For the people that think of it negatively as being scary, menacing, or stuck in the 70’s and 80’s, I try to tell them it’s not like that. When they persist, I say, “Fine, you don’t know what you’re missing“, and leave it at that.
DT: I honestly don’t spend a lot of time caring what others think about my Leather or how I express it. I don’t have the time. If you don’t like Leather, then don’t take it as a lifestyle. But in the same breather, if you are interested I’ll be more than glad to talk to you or to direct you to resources that are more versed in the history and culture than me. I am a proud, open Leatherman with family, at work, and with everyday life. I hope people see who we are and the work we do in the community-- and not hold on to negative predispositions.
JR: Well said, gents! While we are on the subject of the community: There’s a lot of talk about The Old Guard and The New Guard when people discuss Leather. A lot of our older brothers believe that the only way to be a bona fide Leatherman is to be initiated, and others feel that if you choose to identify as a Leatherman, then you are one. And then you’ll have someone like Mark “Spanky” Bialous-- Goddess bless him-- who definitely marched to the beat of his own drum. How do you two feel about the Old Guard versus the New Guard theory?
TS: I feel there’s a lot of chivalry and respect in Old Guard ways-- things that were part of what captured my interest in Leather in the first place. I think Old Guard teaches us history, and it serves as a foundation for all of us, and it’s bound in tradition. That said, while respecting Old Guard ways, there’s New Guard-- or in my mind, an evolution of sorts in that the Leather community isn’t as secret and rigid as it once was (having to be initiated, as an example). I respect Old Guard protocol and tradition, but I view New Guard (loosely defined, I guess) on building upon those Old Guard ways with a new flexibility in rules and groups associated with what we collectively call “Leather”.
DT: I like the fact that this is being discussed. A culture takes time to develop and with that comes the vernacular, the rituals, and the identifications. This is natural growth of Leather as we truly take the mantel of a Culture. As far as Old Guard vs. New Guard, I really don’t take a point of view. I respect and treasure all I have learned from both camps. I feel there is room for all.
JR: One of the responsibilities of a Titleholder is to raise money and awareness for our community. Danny: As Mr. New Jersey Leather 2012, what are your philanthropic goals this year? What charities do you have a particular affinity for?
DT: They are varied, from The Center in Asbury Park, to The Carter-Johnson Library, to Imani House-- each serving a significant need in NJ. But I have to say both Tom and I find The Center in Asbury Park to be dear to our hearts, as it serves persons living with HIV/AIDS.
JR: Speaking of fundraising, Tom, you created the Chili Cook-Off Fundraiser which is now in its seventh year. How did the idea for that originate?
TS: It originated shortly after I was chosen to be Mr. NJ Leather 2006, and I was excited to put on a fundraiser. I was watching “Iron Chef” one afternoon at Cruisin’ (a men’s bar in Asbury Park, now closed unfortunately), and thought chili and competition. It’s been fun ever since, and continues to pack the house every February.
JR: While we are on the subject of food, I have to ask: I am always very fascinated by how couples divide the household responsibilities. Which one of you is the cook? Which one of you does the home repairs and that kinda stuff?
DT: I cook and do most of the cleaning and the bills. Tom does laundry. We both are bad at home repairs, so if there is a handyboy out there, applications will be accepted.
JR: (Laughs)…and make sure to include a photo with that application!…
DT: …and you can often find Tom under the hood of our two VW‘s.
JR: Besides the Chili Cook-Off and Foreplay, what events throughout the year are we always guaranteed to see you the two of you at throughout the year? Put another way, what events would you never miss?
TS: We’ve been to MAL every year since 2006 and we attend and assist at most, if not all, of our NJ brothers and sisters events. We go to almost every New York Eagle Contest, most events and contests in Maryland, and we try to get to the campgrounds and Bear Week in P-Town during the summer. Of course for me, ABW every year will be something I try to get to from now on. And we’d never miss the Mr./Ms. NJ Leather contest every October!
DT: CLAP, CLAW, NYLPN, IMsL, IML, MAL, SECC, to name a few. I am also looking forward to branching out through my year to visit other Titleholders and their events.
JR: That’s quite a schedule! You should be proud. Actually, you should be tired! Now, Leathermen are often seen as the epitome of masculinity and sexiness. As a role model/Ambassador to the Leather community, what makes a man sexy? Danny, you first…
DT: It’s all in how he carries himself. Does he feel comfortable in his skin and his Leather? After that, it is very individual. Personally, I am a butt man. Just look at my husband.
JR: If you insist! And, Tom?
TS: I think a man is sexy in this context especially if he shows that he feels sexy and comfortable in his own skin. To me, it’s not about being a perfect 10, an Adonis, or porn star poster icon. Sexy is so much more that-- like being approachable, welcoming, and eager to share in discussion with all types in our tribe.
JR: In your opinions, what is the most important single issue our community faces?
TS: I think our tendency to meet online, versus at bars and other meeting places, is a big issue. There is what’s becoming an age-old issue of the loss of Leather bars and places to meet and to interact socially, beyond hooking up online. Leather Contests are another controversial issue. While some may die a natural death because they no longer serve their purpose, contests in general I think, are important as long as they serve to grow our community beyond what we are today. We choose Titleholders as ambassadors of our community to spread the word, to help grow and sustain our community. Contests and other events are important in bringing all of us together, sharing and learning tradition, and hopefully getting some new blood in our community. Our inability or lack of interest in carrying on our traditions to new generations is one of the biggest issues facing our community. We need to mentor those to take our place in the future.
DT: I feel we are losing our places to gather. Bars are being closed or altered to appeal a “broader” demographic. The internet has replaced face-to-face meeting. This lack of meeting places for Leathermen and women, and being reduced to a “profile” online, does not allow for the interpersonal communication needed to really maintain our community.
JR: How true! Now, Lastly, what are your plans for Valentine’s Day?!
TS: A nice date and some hot sex.
DT: A smooch and sleep! Well maybe a bit more. ;-)
JR: Thanks, guys! See you soon!
Learn more about the New Jersey Leather family at:www.LeatherNJonline.com.
You can visit Danny Tamez’ Facebook page at:www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Mr-NJ-Leather-2012-Danny-Tamez/237235279664154
Learn more about the American Brotherhood Weekend at:www.AmericanBrotherhood.com.
Visit Tom Savage’s Facebook page at:www.facebook.com/pages/American-Leatherman-2011-Tom-Savage/308449185843418
DOUBLE PENETRATION Part 1: Mr. Connecticut Leather 2011 and Mr. New Jersey Leather 2011 Speak!