Wednesday, May 22, 2013

L.O.V.& E. is in the Air! An Interview With Singer/Songwriter Eric Alán

L.O.V.& E. is in the Air!
An Interview With Singer/Songwriter Eric Alán

"My musical style is simple and direct in production value, infused with electronic dance vibes and driving, infectious rhythms with a Latin flare. It's expressive, a bit haunting and definitely danceable, cocky and fun." - Eric Alán

What makes New York City unique?  Well, MANY things!  However, what this writer and culture vulture especially loves about this town most is the seemingly infinite amount of TALENT!!!  That talent comes in all shapes, forms, sights, and... sounds.  It takes a lot to stand out in the New York City music scene in 2013; it requires a unique combination of artistry, sheer charisma, and the ability to showcase yourself.  Latin-American, New York-based singer/songwriter Eric Alán has done just that.  He's carved a unique musical niche for himself on the ever-enduring and ever-evolving dance club scene... and people are taking notice.  Eric has performed live not only in New York but also in Houston and Miami.  He names Spanish pop/rock artists Moenia, Elefante, Ricky Martin and Paulina Rubio as his influences.  The performer recorded his first two songs "Carcel de Oro" and "Nadie" in Spanish-- which shortly thereafter, led to performances in many festivals and night clubs.  Since then, his 2011 English language release "Pornstar" has been on the playlists of influential DJ's, with remixes by DJ Gomi and Jeff P.  His new single is "L.O.V.& E.", which Eric has described as "cocky, sexy, and fun with a Latin flare". The striking video for "L.O.V.& E." has also been getting a lot of attention as well, largely because of its the video features one of the last screen appearances of late gay porn icon Arpad Miklos.  Eric Alán celebrated the release for the video with a wall-to-wall party at the NYC hotpsot Vlada in March.  The artist is currently dedicated on completing his first full length album, which promises to keep everyone out on the dancefloor.  The sexy singer spoke with me about his music, his icons (including Madonna), and how he plans to keep you moving and shaking!

JR: Hi, Eric. Thanks for speaking with me! So, it looks like "L.O.V.& E."-- the song and the video-- has taken on a life of its own. How has the reaction from your listeners and the audience been?
EA: Jed!  Thank YOU so much and I’m happy to be here and chat with you for a bit!  I’m really fortunate to say that both the song and video have received positive reviews.  I think the music and the video delivered a one two punch that has resonated with the audience. I couldn't be happier about it! 

JR: That's great to hear!  With its pounding beat and high energy, the song is patently designed for the clubs. Is dance music the direction you're going in with your upcoming album?
EA: Dance music is definitely where my heart is.  However, just as with “L.O.V.& E.”, the album is focusing on minimal yet driving and danceable production values at the core.  I plan to let the DJ's/producers put their own spin on remixes that will resonate in club venues.

JR: The video for "L.O.V.& E." definitely has influences of Madonna's notorious video "Justify My Love" from a while back. Is Madonna one of your influences? Who else inspires your music and image?
EA: Thank you!  I love being compared to Madonna!  It’s no secret to anyone that knows me that Madonna has been a major influence.  I admire her drive, ambition, artistry, passion and longevity in the music industry.  She’s not afraid and despite harsh criticism at times continues to be true to herself and consistently forges ahead. She is an example for ANYONE in the music industry to look up to.

When I was initially coming up with the video concept for “L.O.V.& E.”, the “Take a Bow” video came to mind where you see a barely clothed Madonna rolling around in bed, alone.  I thought to do something similar but take it a step further and add someone else with me in the bed as the song ‘climaxed’.  Not only someone else, but another male.  I definitely wanted to push the gay envelope.

Growing up, music was very diverse in my home.  It ranged from Donna Summer disco to Celia Cruz salsa beats.  I was instantly hooked to anything that I could dance to.

As far as image, influences can come from so many different places. I notice that I like a more classic look but with a twist or a flare to it.  For instance, the look in the “L.O.V.& E.” video is basically a version of a tuxedo.  The twist is the patent leather cumberbund, patent stripe down the pant leg, shear mesh tank top and patent boots….lest we forget the classic "tightie blackies" for the bed scenes. Plus I love just about anything that has sparkle or shine to it. But when it comes to style and image, it’s all about wearing the clothes, not the clothes wearing you.

JR: How true!  Well, the results are pretty damn sexy!  Now, the video also features late adult film star Arpad Miklos (Peter Kozma) in what was clearly one of his last appearances. What was it like when you received the news that he passed away?
EA: Peter.  Before, during and after the shoot I got to spend some time with him.  He was very kind and funny.  He knew what we were filming was for a music video but didn’t know anything outside of our scenes together.  When the video was at about 95% completion I called him up to show him how the whole project came together.  We met on a Thursday afternoon at Penn Station; he was the first one to see the near completed video.  I carefully watched him and tried to gauge his reaction.  His smile from ear to ear made me feel proud of what we did and instantly gave me his seal of approval.  We talked more about the video, what he was up to and a few other things. He congratulated me on the video and told me that he was glad to be a part of it.  We hugged, shared a ‘see you later’ and started walking away from each other.  We hadn’t gotten but 10-15 steps away from each other and I heard him call out my name.  I turned around, our eyes met.  Something in his eyes and demeanor instantly stunned me.  There was a far away sadness and longing that I couldn’t put my finger on.  Then he simply said, “Goodbye Eric.”  That moment will haunt me forever.  Little did I know that was the last time I would see or speak to him again.  I believe it was the following Monday that posts on Facebook  started showing up about the tragic circumstance and that, unfortunately, is how I found out what had happened and it completely wrecked me.  I seriously considered not releasing the video, but instead chose it to be a vehicle for celebration of Peter’s life and beauty, inside and out.  While the video is erotic in nature, Peter appears smiling, warm and beautiful and I sincerely hope that he is remembered that way.

JR: He will be! Thank you for sharing that. So, what's the hardest part about being an independent singer/songwriter and performer in 2013?
EA: We are living in the age where independent artists in just about any media are on the rise.  I feel like our biggest challenge as a whole would be getting our foot in the proverbial door and having our voices heard.  It’s harder for independents to compete with huge names and the financial backing and marketing that they come with.  For me personally, that just means I have to work a little harder to achieve my goals, which I’m not afraid to do. I’ve done my best to surround myself with some really talented people in the field and I am very proud of the people I work with. I am allowed to be me without compromising my art, freedom of expression and integrity for the sake of a dollar or to please anyone else; it's very liberating.

JR: Where are some of your favorite hotspots to spend time in New York City? And, who are some of your favorite NYC nightlife personalities?
EA: OMG!  It’s New York City!!  There are too many to choose from on BOTH counts!!

JR: (Laughs) How true!  What do you like to do for fun... when you're not performing or making music?
EA: You know, performing, making music and all that surrounds it IS my fun!!  But aside from that, I really enjoy a night on the town dancing until the wee hours of the morning and I like to travel as much as possible. I enjoy my time in the gym and catching up with my dear friends and family; you know who you are. (Winks)

JR: While we're on the subject of the gym: It's clear that you're very into health and fitness! Want to spill any of your secrets for looking good?!

EA: Good lighting and Photoshop! (Laughs)  In all honesty, it’s just good old fashioned diet and exercise.  I eat as clean as possible and routinely lift and do cardio.  I’m not one for the latest workout crazes or fad diets.  Protein shakes after every workout and cheat meals, however, are essential for results and motivation!  Also, working on an oil rig for 21 days at time keeps me focused on working out.  We have a gym on board so, that's where I spend most of my free time when I'm away at work.

JR: Well, it's working!  Lastly, where can we catch you perform next?
EA: Right now my effort and concentration is on completing the album.  No dates for live performances have been confirmed as of yet, but there are definitely some in the works and I will keep you posted!

JR:Thanks Eric!

You can follow Eric Alán on Facebook at

(Jockstrap photo of Eric by Rob Ordonez.  Headphones photo by Traci Law.)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

WELCOME TO BOYLESQUE! An Interview with Matt Knife, Boylesque's "It Boy"!

An Interview With Matt Knife, Boylesque's "It Boy"!

"Intelligence is very sexy!" Matt Knife

If it seems like burlesque is everywhere again, particularly in New York City (This is the Naked City, after all...), it's not your imagination.  It is!  Why are so many people discovering this new-but-old form of entertainment?  My humble theory is that we Americans are searching for new ways to appreciate and enjoy our sexuality. Just where do you go in the digital age, where we have lost our shockability once and for all, and where satisfaction of any sexual craving is available at the click of a mouse? Back to “old school“ sexiness, of course! Many admirers of both the male and female form may agree that performers who leave something to the imagination-- some vestige of fantasy-- can often be more sexy than those who show it all. (Although I do admit, I’m partial to both!) Put another way, the essence of eroticism is often gauged by what is NOT shown. However, anyone who knows about burlesque knows that this art form is about more than just showing skin.  True, the sexual thrill is a big part.  Burlesque, however, also incorporates style, comedy and-- dare I say-- intelligence into the mix as well.  With its focus on pageantry, spectacle, raunch, a little bit of glamour, and the art of striptease, burlesque had its heyday in the early 20th century before languishing in the 40’s.  By the sexual revolution of the '60's and '70's, it all but died out as audiences moved to more explicit entertainment. However, burlesque not only survives but is newly thriving in a particularly vivid underground subculture in New York City, where it is sometimes called “neo-burlesque“. It is vastly appreciated... by audiences who are inclined to appreciate it!

If the new burlesque movement is a relatively neophyte phenomenon, then boylesque is still in its infancy phase.  New York City native and aptly self-described "Renaissance man" Matt Knife  is hellbent on ushering it into puberty.  His monthly boylesque show Homo Erectus, at Manhattan's legendary Stonewall Inn, will be enjoying its one year anniversary this June.  In addition to creating and performing in Homo Erectus each month, Mr. Knife has also proven to be one of the busiest guys in New York City.  He has plied his titillating trade at events all over town, from the Second Annual Boylesque Festival last April to such testosterone-heavy gatherings as Urban Bear Week and the popular Bear party Furball at New York City's LGBT Center.

The fiercely self-styled star spoke to me about the art form of boylesque, what he finds sexy, and why every guy should run out and buy a kilt!

JR: Hi Matt. Thanks for meeting me! So, your monthly show, Homo Erectus, has the distinction of being the only regular boylesque show in New York City. How did it start, and where did you get the inspiration to do it?

MK: It was after taking Go Go Harder's class. A bunch of my classmates and I were addicted to burlesque, and we wanted to keep performing. But, being new performers, you have to establish yourself, and you have to convince the producers that you can do it, which is understandable. They don't know you, and they've never seen you before. I have a BFA and an MFA in Costume Design, so production is sort of my thing. We started talking-- and realized that there was no regular show and there's all these talented performers... so I was like: Why don't we just do it, and make it happen? So, that's where it sort of came from. And once it started, it really started taking off because the community really wanted a regular boylesque show. Everybody just sort of jumped aboard.  I do run a tight ship, which is not common in nightlife. I take this seriously, because it does have my name on it  I feel like I have to bring that professional edge to it.  We are doing this for a paying audience.  That fact that it is a Stonewall is really thrilling.  I feel what we do needs a good solid foundation.   

JR: Well, you do seem to be acquiring a legion of loyal fans. The last show that I went to was packed. What was the reaction by the people who maybe don't understand burlesque or boylesque, or don't know what do expect at a "Homo Erectus" sh

MK: It's been mostly positive. When Stephen Merritt came to his tribute show, he wasn't 100% sure what to expect! He was telling me this, and I was like, "Oh, that's great!  I love when people come here and they DON'T know what to expect, because honestly, I don't know what to expect”.  What you can expect to see is talent, fun costumes, sexy men, and lots of fun.  

What is "boylesque"? What is "burlesque"? It's still being defined. Burlesque, as far as humanity is concerned, is a relatively new concept. Its like 150 years old... so if you compare it to ballet, which is several hundred years old, that's relatively recent. So where still in the definition period of what "burlesque" is... and then "boylesque" is burlesque, but is this new little sub-genre which is still being defined as well. So, that's the reason why I love this. We're helping that vocabulary along. So... I'd say that the reactions are mostly positive. We have let a couple of people in from the downstairs level of Stonewall who didn't know what the show was, and they sort of get confused and even angry, because they maybe were expecting "Magic Mike", Chippendales, or Greek Gods. The reaction to that confusion sometimes is anger, and sometimes rejection and negativity thrown at the person. Luckily, those things have been few and far between... but it does create that dialogue. I hope that those people go home and think about what they saw and how they reacted to it. If somebody doesn't want to see that, then I'd rather they don't come. The more genuinely you put your true self out there, I think that people are open to that and appreciate that... and then it also empowers THEM to do the same!  It has been positive because I think NYC is thirsty for a drink of something new, fun, friendly, and sexy!!!! 

JR: You mentioned how some people may compare burlesque to "Magic Mike" or the Chippendales... but classic burlesque has never been solely about sexuality. There are also elements of comedy, and pageantry involve

MK: I love all this conversation about semantics! I have to disclaim this is all my take on this.  There is nothing wrong with “Magic Mike” or Chippendales.  I would say "theatre" is the difference. Burlesque is a theatrical art form. We put “Sex Work” on the top of the chart: You've got porn, you've got strippers, and on the fringe you do have burlesque/drag.  So  then I'd say you have "strip club" and "burlesque". I wouldn't say that one form is superior to another-- because I do think that they are married-- happily!-- but I think that what burlesque brings that stripping does not is a theatricality, a story, comedy. When burlesque declined in the '60's and '70's, and go-o started... and the producers didn't want any clever stuff. "We just want you to take your clothes off and dance!"  My style of Go Go is what I call "geisha style", where I go out and I talk to people. I would engage people intellectually and socially while I'm standing there in a jock strap. I was talking to someone about Salvatore Dali or something like that, and he said something like, "Wow, that's way too smart for a go-go boy." People that see Burlesque want to be mentally stimulated as well.  The cleverness is part of the fun!  I think intelligence is very sexy.

JR: I've always thought so!

MK: So have I... but some people believe that they are mutually exclusive. I never understood that... because sex begins in the mind. You have to stimulate someones brain first, and get them to start thinking about stuff. Once their imagination starts running, then really fun things start happening... and can happen later!

JR: How true! So, I know that you're one of the busiest guys in New York City. What is it like being a true independent New York City artist?

MK: Thank you for that... because I do believe that I am an artist first, and I don't mean that in a pretentious, “artist-with-a-capital-A”, being here with my pinkie raised kind of way.  I have been embracing the term "Renaissance man" more and more... because I relate to it.  I work really hard to stay informed and to nurture my curiosity of the world. it amazes me what things I was interested in when I was eight that are feeding me now. "Oh I'm obsessed with the Titanic. Now I can do a Titanic number!"... or "Now I'm obsessed with Greek mythology!"

 (The artist at home)
I love painting, cooking, gardening. I love creativity and working with my hands... and I love people. I mean, that's the other thing is that I absolutely love people. So, burlesque is a nice marriage of my interests: It's theatre, it's costumes, it's sex, it's political... It's a lot of things. Let's say you come out in the world as a singer, then everyone says, "Oh, you're a singer! Well, you can't be a dancer too", or "You can't be a painter..." Like, Jim Carrey is an amazing painter... but nobody sees that because they identify him as a comedian. People get annoyed with him for doing drama. I'm like, "Why don't we take a step back , look at this man, and be like, 'No, he's TALENTED! He's an artist'?" That's what an artist is. Someone who can do lots of stuff.  I'm very interested in geisha or geiko culture... and the way that is, you have to be a good conversationalist, in addition to being a good dancer/artist.  I think the Japanese have a handle on that in that respect.  I aspire to leaving behind a life full of different artistic mediums. 

JR: Do you have any icons in burlesque?

MK: Yes, I do... but I also have icons, period. In burlesque, of course one of my icons is Tigger. Tigger was at the very first show I ever went to, he was at my debut.  Tigger is the godfather of boylesque.  He has been very supportive and a wonderful Host at Homo Erectus.  He has also been an invaluable resource.  And of course, there's Go Go Harder, who taught the Boylesque 101 class.  His class was the best thing I could have done for myself.   Harder is  so talented, a great teacher and costume designer.  We jokingly call him “Drag Daddy Harder”.  You also have to look at the female performers. Women are the ones who started this... and as gay men, a lot of us do emulate women. So, we have female icons whether or not you take that on yourself. There are so many: Dirty Martini, Julie Atlas Muz... Cherry Pitz I am a big fan of... Minnie Tonka, I absolutely love. She's one of those people who when I am around, I just learn so much.  Her performance in my January show was incredible.  and educational.  Jo Boobs Weldon, of course, wrote the handbook... but she's another good resource too: someone I feel very comfortable reaching out to.  As far as non-burlesque icons, I am a big fan of Salvador Dali, and Morrissey, Depeche Mode,  Freddy Mercury, and Steven Merritt, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, and Quentin Crisp.  Tori Amos is a big influence... and Bjork!.  I could right Thesis on both of them.  You think I am joking, I am not.  Some of these are very stereotypical gay icons (Laughs), but these people did form my aesthetic and my philosophy towards art.

JR: Indeed! Now, sex is still a big part of burlesque...

MK: Thank God! (Laughs)

JR: (Laughs) Yes! So, what do you personally find sexy in a guy?

MK: Calamity Chang told me once, "Burlesque brings the tease back to striptease!!" (Laughs) That's the thing. Sally Rand, a fan dancer, would be naked, but she was covered by these huge ostrich feather fans... and it wasn't so much about what she showed as much as what she DIDN'T show!

I'm sorry... What was the question? Oh yeah... "What is sexy?!" (Laughs)

People try to figure out what my "type" is, and I don't really have a type! My type is human, you know? Burlesque has really challenged me. There have been times when I have been really turned on by female performers, and thought, "You know, if she tried really hard, she would convince me to sleep with her!"... because, it's the human body. The higher self is sexless. So, I don't necessarily think that sexiness comes from wanting to fuck someone. The thing I love about burlesque is that sexiness is timeless. Like, we live in a very ageist culture-- and gay people are even more guilty of that than the straights. I'm over 30, and thank God, because I'm finally into guys who are my own age now! I always liked older guys, but wouldn't kick someone who was younger out of bed either. I do like Bears, but I wouldn't reject someone who was smooth or skinny either. I think it all depends on personality and confidence. Confidence, I think, is really what people think is sexy... not to be confused with arrogance. I definitely do not think arrogance-- or entitlement-- is sexy! I think it's really a "Twilight Zone" "Eye of the Beholder" kind of thing. One person may say "fat", while another may say "Venus de Milo". There's a pot for every lid. You just never know what pot and what lid might fit together! I try to keep an open mind. In my show, I don't cast what I think is sexy. I have to admit that with "My Furry Valentine", I wanted to do a hairy man show. I selfishly wanted to be backstage with a bunch of hairy naked men, because that's what I wanted to see! (Laughs) But then, I also know that there's a market for that... so I knew that I was not just being self-indulgent! I was actually trying to pay tribute to guys who I find sexy. I don't want to have to fuck someone to cast them in my show.  If you're a good performer, that's the first thing... and then if I think you're sexy, then that's an added bonus!

JR: That's great! So, you mentioned age before. Let's say there was someone who was on the older side who was thinking about going into burlesque. What would you tell them?

MK: I'd say that if they want to do it, do it! It's just like everything else. If you want to learn Japanese flower arranging, then just do it. You don't have to be Japanese or be a woman! I actually know a guy who's super into that right now. Like anything else, I think you just have to give yourself permission to do it. Once you've given yourself that permission and opened yourself up to it, then you'll be amazed at the response you'll get. You do have to be prepared for it to be positive AND negative. You may be in a room full of people where you're the lid that doesn't fit on their pot.

JR: I'm sure you mu
st get hit on a lot!

MK: People are kind of afraid of Matt Knife, I think. I can be a little shy, and I think that shyness sort of projects a "Don't talk to me!" kind of vibe. I mean, I do OK (Laughs)! Don't cry for me, Argentina! But it's an interesting dichotomy.  Mainly I am at a show to entertain the audience there.  If I meet nice people, that is an added bonus. 

JR: Along those lines: What age do you think that a guy or girl should just hang up their G-string once and for all?

MK: When they're dead! (Laughs) When they just can't physically do it anymore! And even when they can't physically do it any more, some people do it. Why not? There's a burlesque performer named Satan's Angel who's is a mature women still going strong. Its timeless. It really is. But you're also talking to someone who is attracted to maturity and attracted to wisdom. Again, it goes into the fact that the brain is connected to the penis: This person's wisdom is sexy! This person's experience is sexy! That's the thing I love about burlesque: It really does force you to accept people, flaws and all-- even if they perceive their age to be a flaw.

But, to answer your question: Yes, death is when you should stop! But also, when you stop having fun. That's my first rule about Homo Erectus or any project I do: If you're not having fun, then you're not doing it right. You'd be breaking my first rule there, and then you should be like, "Maybe I need to be doing something else!"

JR: I'm a firm believer in having fun! So, let's talk about the Bear community, since I know you've performed at
a lot of Bear events. A lot of guys believe that their identifying as a Bear has to do with reclaiming their-- and I am going to use another buzzword here-- "masculinity"! Meaning, it's a rebellion against that over-polished, over-groomed image of gay men. How do you feel about that?

MK: It's interesting. I think I'll disagree that the Bear community dislikes labels... because I actually think that the Bear community LOVES labels! (Both laugh.) I feel that labels are prisons. It's like, "Oh, you're a Bear!", and I'm like, 'Bear' can be a loaded word for some people, because some hear 'Bear' and they think '300 pound guy'... and someone who's not a 300 pound guy but who's hairy may not want to be lumped in with that group of people... but, you know what? "You are, Blanche!" Some have called me a Bear, and thank you, because I feel that that's the closest thing I am. "Otter" never fit with me. I'm not an otter! I am not a little animal that...breaks shells on my belly (Both laugh.) "Satyr" works for me, because I'm hairy from the waist down and I'm also Pagan. I think that it more accurately describes the kind of body hair I have. I don't know. I've watched some documentaries about Bear culture, and I think that they have become worse than the community that they were rebelling from. I mean, some of the tone that these people use: that we eschew femininity, or that you have to drink beer, or be a specific kind of gay person. I have a beard because I like it... but I also like to wear eye makeup... and I like to sit with my legs crossed...

JR: Well, you HAVE to if you're wearing a kilt! (Laughs)

MK: (Laughs) I have a dick, so I feel that anything I do is masculine... and I know some pretty masculine transmen who don't have penises, and they challenge even THAT definition. As I said, the higher self is genderless. Gender is social. It's a conditional thing. It's a clothing thing. The costume designer in me gets frustrated because everything we wear is a costume... and the Bear community is like, "This is to show everybody that I'm a man! I'm gonna wear my sleeveless shirt and cargo shorts..." No, sweetie. You're in a uniform. You're in a costume. You're in your "Bear drag"! Not that there's anything wrong with that, but what I do think is wrong is when you're not AWARE of that! The awareness of the fact that it's a costume is one thing, but then when you say it's a lifestyle choice and that it has to be this way, then I feel bad for you: You've really dug yourself into a hole... and I want to try to help liberate people from that. If you want to wear a sleeveless plaid shirt and cargo shorts and you feel sexy in that, then do it. But don't think that you're more of a man because you do it this way, and I'm wearing a kilt with painted nails. It's ALL drag... It really is!  I am a man, and it takes balls to be Matt Knife.  

JR: Speaking of the kilt...

MK: Wear a kilt, because they're hot, and they're comfortable. Guys. you've never known the joy of peeing until you've done it in a kilt. Women find it sexy, and men find it sexy, and you have easy access, and it's warm... It's just wonderful. Men in skirts. Just do it! 

JR: Well, I've always said that a guy in a kilt is always sexy! So, lastly, where can we see you next?

MK: The next Homo Erectus will be on May 23, which is our Steampunk Show, which I'm really super excited about. The Goth kid and the dress-up part of me is gonna come out... and I think Steampunk is very sexy! June 13th is our year anniversary show. We started June last year during Pride, and World Famous B*O*B was our hostess... and she is reprising her hostess role this year too. She is honoured to do it, and we are honoured to have her. Add World Famous B*O*B to that list of people who have been really supportive from the start, but "realistically" supportive... and that will be our "Duet" show. That's something you don't often see-- a whole show of duets-- because it gets expensive. But it's our Pride show and our Anniversary show, so it's worth it! There's gonna be a lot of women in that one, because I've been overwhelmed with the response from the female burlesque community. We usually have one spot in our show for a female performer, and I am open to having a woman host. As a gay man I just love watching women perform, I feel that the normal formula is usually a lot of women and one man, and we kind of flipped that around: a lot of men and one woman... and also to Honor our foremothers.

JR: Sounds like fun! So, is there anything else you'd like to tell the masses? Besides "Come to Homo Erectus!"?

MK: Yes, come to Homo Erectus... but the bigger thing outside of burlesque is: I feel that artists are an incredibly valuable resource in American society... and I think we're incredibly DE-valued... so I would really encourage everybody to support their local artists in any capacity: painters, live performers... Somebody doesn't have to be on "American Idol" to be talented. They don't have to be anointed by media or the powers that you perceive being above that. If you like someones art, then support them. They need your money and you're support... And that's what I'd like to leave off with. (Pauses) Sorry, I didn't mean to get on my soapbox!

Whether it's on a soapbox or on a big black box at a nightclub, Matt Knife ALWAYS  makes a statement!   See more about Homo Erectus at their Facebook page,

Top Hat Photo Credit: Kaz Senju
Heart Photo Credit: Dick Mitchell
Matt Knife Painted: Francine the Lucid Dream

Monday, May 6, 2013



Philadelphia is famous for Independence Hall, the iconic Liberty Bell, and-- for foodies-- its soft pretzels and  cheesesteaks.  It's also the home of The Liberty Bears, a furry fraternity with events going on all year long.  One of their biggest soirees will be the upcoming Bears in Boxers party on Saturday, May 11th, at Philly's famous Leather bar The Bike Stop.  In between bumping into each other at Furball and Urban Bear Weekend in New York City, I got to speak with Thom Caggiano, President of The Liberty Bears.  He spoke with me about his club, what makes a Bear a Bear, and why you should head to the City of Beary-- uh, I mean Brotherly Love... next weekend!

JR: Hi Thom.  Thanks for speaking with me.  So, how did the Liberty Bears get started?
TC: Like many Bear groups, the Liberty Bears began as a group of friends who hung out and socialized in the Gayborhood. Many of them lived in Center City, Philadelphia and hung out at The Bike Stop, one of Philadelphia’s Leather bars. About 17 years ago, these guys decided to form the Philadelphia Liberty Bears and wrote a Charter and formal Bylaws. The Charter members wrote down three points that explained what the Bears were about:
1. We are a social group which promotes camaraderie between Bears and their admirers, by promoting and engaging in fun events and activities;
2. We are an inclusive group. We don’t discriminate against others based on race, color, gender, religious or ethnic origin; and...
3. As a not-for-profit group in the gay community, we recognize our responsibility and as such raise funds for charities within the community at large. We choose a beneficiary for a two year period. We tend to focus our efforts on charities which deal with people affected by AIDS/HIV, especially children and young people.

JR: That's great!  So, what distinguishes the Liberty Bears from other Bear groups?
TC: I think what makes us different from other groups is the diversity of our membership. Over the years, we have had gay, straight, bisexual and trans men as well as women among our members and associate members... sometimes to the chagrin of some in the community! In fact, one of our stronger Board Members, of many years, is a straight dominatrix! We practice a policy of inclusion.  We work with all kinds of groups in the community.

JR: So, what are some of the events that the Liberty Bears have going on throughout the year?
C: Our next event, as you know, is Bears in Boxers 2.0. This is one of our signature events. Jonny Mack is coming down to make sure the music is hot and that the dance floor crowded with Bears!  There will be a Sexy Bears and Sexy Boy/Cub contest. Some local hotties will be dancing and selling 50/50 raffle tickets and shots for the crowd's appreciation. We also will have a “special competition” …looking for the hairiest man in Philly.  Why? Come and find out!  It will be a night of Bears, Booze and Buns… May 11th, from 10pm-2AM at the Top of the Stop, at the Bike Stop at  206 S. Quince St., Philadelphia.   Five bucks gets you in! Like all of our events, this is a fundraiser for our beneficiary Galaei

In August, we will be reprising our pool party, SWEAT. Last year, we had the party in New Hope and sold out three local hotels. This year, we are looking to do SWEAT in Philly. Of course, during the Summer we will be at Pride in Philly, NYC, and Asbury Park. Summer is the camping season, so some of us will be playing “in the Woods” on the “Hillside”. We will be participating in Outfest in the Fall (a pride event held in the Gayborhood) and helping our friend, The Philadelphia Leather Alliance, with their Pride weekend PLPN in November. In December, we will be doing Santaland: Naughty or Nice?  You know what they say: "Good boys get toys…bad boys get better ones!" And Santa is ALWAYS watching!

JR: Hmmm... That sounds kind of voyeuristic!  So, when someone visits Philadelphia, what are some of the things they need to put on their itinerary, especially our Leather and Bear brothers?
TC: Must do/sees in Philadelphia? I guess it depends when (and why) you are visiting.  As a slogan used a few years ago “In Philadelphia get your history straight and nightlife Gay!”. Everyone should visit the Olde City. See Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.  After all, this IS where it started!  Visit Elfreth’s Alley, Ben Franklin’s old haunt. Everyone goes to “The Rocky Steps” (Philadelphia Art Museum on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway), but don’t checkout the parkway itself.  There is something for everyone along the Parkway: world class museums, gardens along the river, bike paths...

Bears do enjoy good food. Philly is a melting pot, foodwise, and has plenty: soft pretzels and Sticky buns (German, at the Reading Terminal Market), water ice and gelato (Italy, at the Center City and South Philly), canola, burrito, bahn mi (all available in the Italian Market). Cheese steaks ("With or without?"), roast pork sandwiches, hoagies (all over…I’m partial to South Philly!)... Great micro and major breweries (Philadelphia Brewing Co., Yards Brewery,  Yuengling (west of Philly)... You HAVE to hangout in the Gayborhood. The Bike Stop is our home bar (206 S. Quince St.). If you want to dance ‘til 3AM or so, checkout Voyeur. Interested in the young set? Check out Tabu, Woody’s, Icandy or Stir.

Traditional haunts? Go to The Westbury, Tavern on Camac, UBar, Venture Inn. Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods.  Some of my favorites (for food, music, drinking) are Northern Liberties, East Passyunk Avenue (South Philly), Fishtown, Port Richmond, and, of course, the Gayborhood (in Center City). There are also tons of events on the campuses of our many universities (Penn, Temple, Drexel, LaSalle and St. Joe's). College hoops is big in Philadelphia. If gear or attire is what you are looking for, visit Passional and the Sexplorium (704 S. 5th St.). My friend Kali Morgan will kit you out. There are tons of great bars where you can go to hear local and nationally known musicians.  It just depends on you mood!

JR: Wow!  That's a lot to do!  So, as President of the Liberty Bears and someone who's very involved in the Bear community, where do you see the Bear brotherhood going in the future?
JR: Many people comment and complain that the internet has killed “The Scene”. I disagree! While there is no denying that electronic media has changed how we can find Mr Right (or, more often, Mr. Right Now!), there is no substitute wrasslin’ with a bear "mano a mano". I can’t tell you how often guys ask me about where they can meet Bears. Whether they are Bears, or admirers, or not sure…They are interested! Look at the crowd at Furball! Three floor stuffed with Bears. Part of this, I think, is because Bears are very social and easy to approach. We like to play and have fun. Electronic media also makes it easier for Bears and our admirers to meet when we travel. The proliferation of chat sites and Bear events says, to me, the Bear community is alive and well. I think we will continue to see more Bears out and about. Some don’t like the label “Bear” because they have an image of what a Bear is…I tell people that being a Bear is about what is on the INSIDE…The hair is just a nice additional benefit!

(Laughs) How true!  So, just for fun: As a bona fide representative of the Bear world, what do you personally find sexy in a guy?
TC: The first thing I notice, about anyone, is their eyes. I love the ones whose eyes laugh and tell you they’re up to something.  A mischievous smile is HOT. I especially like hairy guys (DUH!). A few hairs peeking out over the collar, a hairy happy trail, a furry butt... That gets me going! And, if he’s a good kisser…. That’s not to say I don’t like less Bearish guys, especially the chasers.  That's a whole different game! (Laughs)

JR: How true!  Lastly, without giving too much away: What are some of the surprises that you have in store for us at the party next weekend?
TC: If I tell you, they won't be surprises! (Laughs) Are you our next Sexy Bear or Boy? Who’s that sexy dancer with dat Bear? Could be you? Do you dare to be "bear" on May 11??? Or, are you the Hairiest man in Philadelphia…?

Who knew it was so hot in Philadelphia?  Learn more about The Liberty Bears at!

KILKER ALCAREZ, Mr. Leather Europe 2013: Smoking...!

(Above photos of Kilker by Matt Spike, London)

Some Titleholders take their job as a role model and an ambassador to the Leather community VERY seriously-- and also manage to look damn hot in Leather while doing it as well, I might add.  As one of the most visible Leathermen in the diverse international Leather and Fetish community, 26-year old Kilker Alcarez fits that description.   His hometown is Pasai Donibane in the North of Spain, and he is of Basque origin.  London, England is his adopted home-- and both the fast pace and the diversity of that city, complete with its thriving after-hours subculture, fit him like a leather glove.  In 2011, Kilker was named Mr. Leather UK 2012, and he went on to be a finalist in International Mr. Leather (IML) 2012 in Chicago.  Later that year, Kilker again emerged victorious.  He came out on top amongst a wide variety of sexy Contestants for the Title of Mister Leather Europe (MLE), a pan-European contest of Leathermen held annually around October since 1985.   Through the last few years, Alcarez has had a very busy travel itinerary, planting his boots in more countries than most of us will see in a lifetime. ("If it's Tuesday, it must be Belgium!") He has made appearances in Italy, Germany, Poland, and many cities in he United States, as one of the community's most envied Judges and Special Guests at Leather and Rubber weekends.   No matter what country Kilker finds himself in, however, this handsome and hirsute osito makes an impression, gaining attention and admiration not just for his looks but for his (Dare I say?) sweet personality as well.  His striking image has made him a muse for a wide variety of popular photographers.  Alcarez took some time from his busy travel itinerary to speak to me about the Leather Nation, how the European guys differ from their American brothers, and-- best of all-- what gets him hot!

JR: Thanks for speaking with me, Kilker!  So, from what you've told us, England
is your adopted country, but your ancestry is Basque.  For those of us who
aren't sophisticated in European culture, what would you want people to know
about Basque Country?

KA: I'd say although it's legally in French and Spanish lands, it's very different
from both of those countries. The food is amazing-- among the best in the world
and renowned internationally. The Basque Country has strong and old traditions,
and it's home to one of the strangest and oldest still spoken language in the
world, Basque!  Basque is really different from Spanish and French.  It's an
isolated language. I'm really proud to have been raised in that language, as it would
been impossible to learn it now.  Men are bearded and stocky in general, and quite
rugged. We're great people, though (Laughs).

JR: I think a trip is in order! (Laughs)  So, it seems that you've had quite a busy last couple of years, with being Mr. Leather UK and Mr. Leather Europe.  What was your most exciting experience so far as a Titleholder?
KA: I have had lots of exciting moments the last couple of years. The most shocking
ones probably were when they announced me as Mr Leather UK, being in the Top 20 at IML, and being named Mr. Leather Europe too. The feeling of that moment is very weird... almost impossible to describe.  But if I had to choose a very specific moment, that'd be the whole experience of IML. It is mind-blowing being part of it. I'd never thought I'd have the courage to do that. But I am glad I did, as I found an amazing family there.  Overall, these couple of years have been very exciting. The experience has literally turned my world upside down in a good way. Sometimes, I still find myself looking back and wondering how or why it happened! I guess destiny is written.

JR: That seems to be a common consensus!  So, Spain is getting quite a reputation for being a Bear lover's paradise.  True?
KA:  (Laughs) So true! Not only that, but we are caring and lovely, just like teddy bears! What else can you ask for? (Laughs)  Honestly, Spanish men in general are quite hairy and generally bearded too.  It's the Mediterranean culture we share with other countries like Greece. The Bear movement has increased significantly in the last few years too, and in the summer there are lots of Bear parties. Being a bear lover myself, Spain is one of  my favourite countries for men.

JR: So, while we're on the subject: Out of all the places in the world that you have visited, which one was your favourite?  Why?
KA: Wow! When I go on holidays, I love visiting the USA. It sounds really cheesy but people has always been so friendly with me. My favourite place to visit is New York City. It's always been. I am a huge fan of the New York fireman and policeman departments (and their uniforms of course!), so there's no better place to visit (Laughs).  The first time I visited was a month on my own. I spent over $1000 only on their souvenirs and filled my room in Spain full of their stuff. I can see myself living in Florida sometime though. It's very relaxing there compared to London.

JR: Yes, that's the Florida way of life for you.  So, where are some hotspots in London that you recommend for any Leathermen or Bears who are visiting?
KA: For Bears, I love XXL. The music is good and they have theme nights like Workgear, Cop Nights, and of course, Leather nights. I just wish more people would make a little effort in dressing up, as it creates a nice atmosphere every weekend. It's a huge club with dancing area and playing area too. For Bears who prefer to have a drink (in gear or not), Eagle London is the place.  For Leathermen and people into Fetishmen in general, there are so many options. The most popular probably are The Hoist and Backstreet. It's just a matter of checking their websites when visiting London, and it depends what you're into.  There are many Fetish parties in other clubs depending what you're into. I still keep discovering new stuff!

JR: As someone who's spent a lot of time in the US, have you noticed any big
differences in the way the American guys and the European guys cruise, flirt,
and hook up?  

KA: (Laughs) There's a huge difference! Americans are very funny towards Europeans.  I'd say its easier to make a conversation with guys in America. Guys there don't have to think twice to come and throw an nice compliment to you. Every time I visit the US, I come back with few funny stories to tell. In Europe, we might be more serious at first. It might seems harder to break the ice, but once you do it...
JR: I got it!!! (Laughs)
KA: When it comes to sex though, Europeans are much more open than Americans in
general. We are not afraid of talking about it or even playing in public. The
Leather scene in America seems more socially orientated, whilst our Leather scene
is more sexually orientated.

JR: One of the responsibilities of being a Titleholder is raising awareness for a
particular cause or issue.  What philanthropic cause or charity do you feel most
strongly about?

KA: At work, I am one of the charity ambassadors for my company.  We work mostly for
children in need and endangered animals, which one of my passions... and I'm happy
to spread that passion towards other colleagues too.  Within the Fetish community, I feel quite close to HIV and its stigma. Perhaps because of the size of London and its Fetish community here, this is one of the biggest causes and the one that affects me closer. On the other side, we have amazing social services-- and HIV tests and treatments are free, easy, and quick to get in United Kingdom. But for that reason, some people rely too much on that and don't take care of their sexual health, and that's why is important to still
bring awareness out there.

(Above photos of Kilker by Richard Yates Photography)

 JR: That's amazing!  So, Leathermen are seen by many as the epitome of sexiness and masculinity.  As a bona fide sex symbol yourself, what do you personally find sexy in a guy?
KA: Definitely a nice beard. I've got such a weakness for facial hair. I don't really have a preference for colour, but I absolutely love them.  The other one is the eyes. I have a huge weakness for blue and green eyes, dark blue being my favourite. All that would mean nothing with a good personality and sense of humour though.

JR: What would be your ultimate turn-on?
KA: A hot, blue eyed hairy man in cop uniform on his police bike, smoking a cigar.
Is that too much? (Laughs)

JR: Sounds hot!  So, do you have a celebrity crush?
KA: I prefer real grounded men, to be honest. I've got no celebrity crush but I have
few crushes around the world. I get a bit shy when I meet them in real life!

JR: I am sure a lot of guys would be happy to help you overcome your shyness!  So, one of your "fun facts" is that you have a non-similar straight twin.  What does he think of your visibity as a Leather icon-- and your being one of the most photographed men in the Leather world?!
KA: (Laughs)  He thinks I'm crazy and finds it funny. I keep sending my family some of
the pictures (not all, bless them!) from my Leather trips, and they're very
proud. I guess it's harder to understand for him as he's my twin. We always had
this battle of who was more handsome and I always lost! (Laughs) He's got gay sex
appeal though and gets along very well with gay people.

JR: That's great!  Lastly, what events are you planning on attending this year?  In other words, where can we find you?
KA: For now:
Amsterdam Fetish Pride and first ever Mr. Leather Amsterdam, May 10-12th;
International Mr. Leather in Chicago and possibly another US or Canadian city
(Toronto most probably) end of May;
Dore Alley in San Francisco (and another US city) at the end of July;
... and of course, Mr. Leather Europe 2013 at the end of October, location to be confirmed
as of yet... but everyone is welcome here!
For work, I expect to fly to Orlando often and visit Fort Lauderdale as much as
I can.  Other trips depend on work schedule each month. But I made a promise to visit my
IML brothers often in USA, and I'll keep that promise!

JR: We'll be waiting!  Thanks, Kilker!

You can follow Kilker at