LATE NIGHT LAVENDER

LATE NIGHT LAVENDER

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

LOVE, INTERNATIONAL STYLE: An Interview With International Mr. Leather 2015 Patrick Smith




Chicago has been known to have some very cold winters, but one thing's for sure:  Every Memorial Day weekend, the so-called "Windy City" becomes the hottest place in the world.  That's because thousands of Leathermen, Leatherwomen, kinksters of all varieties, and their admirers from all over the globe convene for International Mr. Leather (IML).  It's an extra long (and sometimes overwhelming) weekend-- and every sweaty minute of it always promises to be memorable for the participants and attendees.  The weekend always kicks off with pre-IML activities on Thursday, and the traditional grand finale is The Black and Blue Ball 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 kinks.  IML, widely considered to be the "Big Daddy" of all the Leather events in the word, is all about Leather awareness and education, unity in the Kink and the GBLT community at large, and... celebration! And, of course, there's that climactic moment on Sunday evening when one lucky man is selected to be the face of the Leather Nation.  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 as we approach 2016.  IML has expanded from 12 contestants its first year to 52 in 2015, with Contestants from a large number of different countries who encompass many ethnicities, ages, and lifestyles.




Patrick Smith of Los Angeles is International Mr. Leather 2015.  Originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, the striking Leatherman had been named both Eagle LA Mr. Leather 2015 and Mr. Los Angeles Leather 2015 in March early this year.  At Cleveland Leather Awareness Weekend (CLAW) in April, his jockstrap was auctioned off for the equivalent of a down payment on a small home.   And at his big win in Chicago, his mother and sisters joined him on stage in what was one of the most memorable moments of IML 37.  As full-time Ambassador for the Leather Community, Smith is determined to emphasize the "International" in IML.  He is committed to the fight for universal equality and sexual freedom.   That commitment included traveling to Uganda, the African country which received widespread attention in North America for the law that was nicknamed the "Kill The Gays Bill".  The hard-line stance in that nation was largely stimulated in 2009, when a Member of Parliament introduced The Anti Homosexuality Act.  The Act would have broadened the criminalization of same-sex relationships in Uganda, as well as introducing the death penalty for "serial offenders", HIV-positive people who engaged in sexual activity with people of the same sex, and persons who engaged in same-sex sexual acts with people under 18 years of age. In addition, individuals or companies that "promoted" LGBT rights would be fined, imprisoned, or both.  A slightly watered-down law (punishment of life in prison, instead of the death penalty, for "aggravated homosexuality") eventually emerged in 2014. That law was annulled (on a technicality), but not before ushering in the more extreme and even violent spirit of homophobia which exists today.  Homosexuality remains a criminal act in Uganda, as is the case in most of the countries in southeast Africa.




After Uganda, Smith went on to visit the Ukraine.  When I asked him about why he chose to visit there, he tells me, "I wanted to learn about how the ongoing Russia/Ukraine conflict has affected the community there. I was actually expecting a better situation than what I found, which is unfortunate. Despite now living under a pro-European Union regime, things have gotten worse for the gay community since the revolution in 2014. Pro-Russian forces in Ukrainian border communities are terrorizing LGBT people there - assaulting them, driving them out of their homes. I met with four women living in a shelter in Kiev, who had to flee their homes in Donetsk and Luhansk along the Russian border. They had to pack up everything and flee at a moment's notice, fearing for their safety due to their sexual identity. It was a terribly heartbreaking story to hear." 

Needless to say, Mr. Smith has kept himself busy, and he's not even into half of his Title year!  Patrick took the time to speak with me about being IML, his international travels, and... what makes a guy sexy!
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JR: Hi Patrick.  Thanks for speaking with me.   So, it's been almost five months since you were named IML 2015. So far, what's been the most exciting and/or rewarding experience you've had?
PS: Definitely my travels to Uganda and Ukraine. I love the Leather contests and the parties, but it's more rewarding for me to learn about-- and hopefully, help to influence-- the state of our community in parts of the world where LGBT people still live on the fringes of society.
JR: Before your mission to Uganda and Ukraine, what other countries did you visit? Which one was your favorite?
PS: Those were my first two international stops as IML. Prior to winning the title, I had traveled to India and to numerous Latin American countries. I also traveled to Germany following my Uganda and Ukraine trip, which was another amazing experience. The nightlife in Berlin is to die for.
JR: Yes, I've heard!  So, it's a safe bet that most of us will probably NEVER make it to Uganda. It must have been culture shock. What was your biggest impression on the day-to-day life of the people there?
PS: There was a culture shock, but I will say that the people of Uganda are incredibly warm and friendly, and did all they could to make me feel welcome. Day-to-day life is so different based on your socioeconomic status there. On one hand, I visited a church with some of the country's most affluent citizens all dressed to the nines, who could fit into the Western world without anyone batting an eye. On the other hand, you see extreme poverty with citizens selling their wares on the side of the road just to make enough to put food on the table.
JR: Wow!  What was it like for a tall, striking-looking Caucasian guy to be visiting the less urban areas of that country? Did people react to you a certain way?
PS: They did. I visited a school in a rural part of the country and I had the incredible opportunity to conduct a lengthy Q&A session with an eighth grade class. I was told that for most of the students, it was their first time seeing a white person face-to-face. Later in the village, I did turn a few heads, but it was nothing threatening-- just genuine curiosity. Everyone I spoke with was very pleased that I was visiting. They are very proud of their country, and looking beyond the human rights concerns, it is a beautiful place.
JR: I'm sure the country has a lot of natural beauty.  Did you ever find out if the government knew about your visit? Would that have been unsafe?
PS: I still don't know. They certainly didn't know in advance of my visit; I was very discreet in the lead-up to it. My family actually begged me not to go, and while that wasn't an option for me, I did commit to not publicizing the trip in advance.  The most nerve-wracking part of the trip was going through customs once I landed. I had only one backpack with me, which contained my IML sash, correspondence between me and some of the most prominent gay rights activists in Uganda, and a computer full of research on the status of the gay community in the country. I was terrified I would be selected for a random search. I still don't know what would have happened if they had searched me.
JR: Wow!  That story should put into perspective all these guys who get nervous about bringing their "toys" through airport security on their way to Leather events in this country!  (Laughs)  But seriously: It's well known that a lot of African countries are not safe spaces for openly gay people-- for religious and/or political reasons. But from what you learned on your visit, what were the underlying circumstances that led that particular country to create the infamous so-called "Kill The Gays Bill"?
PS: There is a deep fear and misunderstanding of the LGBT community among many Africans, which is being stoked by irresponsible church leaders and politicians. And in many ways, it's not unlike the prejudices that were being spread in the Western world not so long ago. Anti-gay figureheads in Africa speak about the need to "protect" children from LGBT people, which echoes the messaging used by U.S. anti-gay figures such as Anita Bryant in the 1970s. And it's no coincidence - there is a disturbing amount of cooperation between U.S. anti-gay groups and African politicians to pass the heinous legislation that we're seeing there. That's why it's important we continue to fight these anti-gay groups here at home. Despite our recent domestic victories, people are still in need of our help abroad.
JR: What was the most challenging part of the trip... aside from, I assume, a LONG (15 to 19 hours) and expensive plane ride?!
PS: Yes, very long! (Laughs) It was actually a bit of a challenge contacting and getting meetings with the community leaders there, but for good reason. Everything is so underground. They have to be very, very careful about whom they put their trust into to meet with, to disclose their address to, etc. There is the very real risk of entrapment for them there. So it took many conversations over email, Facebook, and by phone before a level of trust was built allowing me to visit their homes and places of work.
JR: A lot of Americans may wonder why they should care about what happens in foreign countries, when we are still fighting our own struggle for equality on a day-to-day basis. What would you say to them?
PS: I would ask them to think, next time they're sipping champagne at a friend's same-sex wedding, about what life would be like if they had to fear an 18-year prison sentence for having sex with the person they love.  I do understand that there are still battles to be fought at home, but we are light years ahead of where these people are in the international community. And the reason I'm going to these places is to hopefully bring some awareness to this. Should we keep fighting for employment non-discrimination and ending the ban on donating blood? Absolutely. But I think we should start focusing more and more resources on our LGBT brothers and sisters abroad, who are fighting for their lives.
JR: I agree.  During my own research, I learned that a lot of progress in human rights was made when these countries wanted to join the U.N., or when equality-minded countries in North America and Europe vowed not to do business with them anymore.  But as individuals, what can each and every one of us in the U.S. and Canada do to fight for equality worldwide on a daily basis?
PS: There are a few things we can do. First: Money talks. The groups I met with are all able to accept foreign donations, and we must be willing to open our wallets to help them. We also must continue to put political pressure on our leaders to call out LGBT rights violations abroad. In Uganda, it worked. Their most recent anti-gay bill was struck down by the courts and activists, and we are optimistic it will never come back thanks to the international backlash it received in the first go-around. Lastly, there are a disgusting number of US-based anti-gay groups that are funding and lobbying for international anti-gay legislation that would throw LGBT people in jail for life, or worse. We need to work to expose these groups here at home, handicap their fundraising efforts, and get them listed as registered hate groups.
JR: And, hopefully, a lot of that will start by everyone who reads about your mission... so thank you for that!  Now, let's talk about being International Mr. Leather.  Clearly, your  traveling schedule keeps you busy... but what do you like to do in your spare time?
PS: I love to write. It's therapeutic, plus it keeps me busy on the plane. In fact, I'm currently writing a memoir about my experience in the three leather contests that led me to the title. Look for it on Amazon! I plan to have it on shelves in time for IML 2016.
JR: I expect to receive my autographed copy! (Laughs)  When your fellow Leather brothers come to visit L.A., what are some essential things they should do or places they should go? 
PS: Definitely The Eagle. I got my start as Eagle LA Mr. Leather, and it is hands down the best bar in the city. Also explore Silver Lake, which I am in love with and is my home. It has a lot of historical significance for the leather community in Los Angeles and is the home of the Black Cat riots of 1967, which predate even Stonewall. The Black Cat is still in business on Sunset Blvd. Also, check out the Silver Lake Reservoir, which is one of the most beautiful sights in all of Los Angeles.
JR: I'll keep that in mind on my next trip!  So... a  lot of people view Leathermen and Titleholders as the pinnacle of unapologetic sex appeal and-- I know that I'm using a loaded term-- "classic masculinity".  But what do you personally find sexy in a guy?
PS: I think you've got a pretty good description there, though recently we are seeing all types of Leathermen who might not fit into the "classic masculinity" bucket, and that's just fine - we are truly a big tent community. As for what I like personally? I get weak in the knees for a sweaty, bearded muscle guy in a nice harness... with a bit of an attitude, of course. How can you go wrong with that?
JR: You can't! (Laughs)  Lastly, I'm sure you get complimented a lot for your physique. Do you want to spill any of your health and fitness secrets?
PS: I wish I had a secret! If you know of one, please fill me in. Unfortunately it's just been a lot of dieting and time at the gym. I'm getting sick of it! On the plus side, CVS has recently expanded their selection of sugar-free candy, which helps with the cravings. I am a total candy fanatic.
JR: Well, then, at the risk of sounding corny, I wish you "sweet dreams"!  Thanks again!



You can follow Patrick Smith at www.PatrickJonSmith.com.  To learn more about IML, visit www.IMRL.com. 

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN...THE LATE GRACE JONES!



Grace Jones-- a "deluxe triple threat" (singer, model, actress)-- dedicates an entire chapter of her expansive new biography, "I'll Never Write My Memoirs", to her infamous reputation for being late.  It's Chapter 11, named "Delay". Although the star goes into great detail about her tardiness (as she does with other aspects of her life throughout the book), she admits that it's simply become part of her larger-than-life persona: "It became part of my reputation.  Part of my image.  I would not spoil the mystery concerning my lateness. And I do help the mystery along.  If people expect me to be late, I arrive late. How boring, she has not arrived.  She's two hours late.  What on earth is she doing?  The audience would boo and jeer-- Burn the witch!  Burn the witch! -- and then I would go out there and say, 'Okay, bring it on!'. Or I would sing one line of a song, and they would forget how long they had waited.  It was worth the wait-- that was the point.  Keep the audience waiting, and then make sure it was worth it."  Incidentally, the reader gets many more priceless stories of Ms. Jones' trademark lateness long before Page 281: She dedicates an entire chapter, "Andy", to her friend and inspiration Andy Warhol.  Grace was Warhol's date for Arnold Schwarzenegger's and Maria Shriver's wedding in 1986, and despite Andy's plea of "We can't be late, Grace, we can't be late", the eye-popping odd couple did arrive (all together now...) late!   To restate the obvious, she writes about being late a lot-- although to her audience's titillation, she writes about being naked a lot more. But more about Grace Jones and her lateness, uhm... "later"!

"I'll Never Write My Memoirs" features almost 400 pages of really good stuff: Celebrity anecdotes.  Personal revelations.  The sentimental (and not-so-sentimental!) reminiscences of Jamaica, Paris, and New York, complete with sounds and smells... and, there’s Miss Jones' keen analysis of pop culture history all along the way.  It packs a real wallop.  Many celebrity autobiographies are criticized for being, shall we say, "skin deep", but this book gets right into the heart and soul of both the 67-year old performer as well as the many different worlds she's passed through and left her mark on.  Jones starts off with telling us about her very difficult childhood in her native Jamaica.  She was raised by relatives in a strict Pentecostal home, where her caregivers' devotion to religion often manifested itself through very strict adherence to rules... and frequent beatings when these rules were broken.  Many readers may be tempted to skip ahead to when the little girl from Spanish Town became the woman known worldwide as Grace Jones. (She writes about heading for the US for the first time: "I crossed the water, feeling no emotion about leaving Jamaica behind.  It had never felt like home, and there was little to look back on but confusion and penitence".  Later on in the book, she devotes a whole chapter to how she has since rediscovered and learned to love her homeland again.) Pop culture addicts, after all, want to read about the sex, the drugs, and the famous people (Believe me, there are PLENTY of all three and then some...)--but you'll find it hard to skip a single word along the way.  It's clear that Jones' rough childhood and restless quest to find her niche has made her the one-of-a-kind icon that she is today.  Whether she vividly reminisces about her first orgasm (Really!), the streets of Paris, or partying in New York, she gives great background info on the cultural and even the political climate at the time-- and those vintage scenarios really come back to life. Fast forward to 2015, and Jones gives us her own undiluted opinions about today's reigning female pop singers-- with special attention to one star, whom she cryptically calls "Doris".   A sneak preview of the book last month inspired a lively social media debate about just who “Doris” is. (Beyonce? Lady Gaga? Britney?)


The release party for "I'll Never Write My Memoirs " took place at the Martin Lawrence Gallery in New York City's Soho on Thursday, October 1st.  The door opened at 9PM, but our Grace didn't arrive until after 1AM.   (The word "diva" may come to mind, but don't ever let Grace hear you say it.  She makes it quite clear in her book: "I hate that word diva.  It's been so abused!  Every singer given a makeover a few weeks on a talent show seems to be called a diva these days!")  Granted, it was a fabulous atmosphere to be waiting in.  In addition to the champagne and the artwork surrounding us (including works by Picasso and Grace's friend Mr. Warhol), there were such notable New York City personalities such as Amanda Lepore, Michael Musto, and Fred Schneider of the B-52's in attendance.  True, by midnight the crowd had thinned significantly... but those who waited eventually got a grand entrance by our Guest of Honor, and were visibly delighted.    Miss Jones indeed seemed to be enjoying herself as well, indulging in a libation (or two) and flirting with the many scruffy and artsy boys who braved the four hour wait on a so-called "school night".   Which again brings me back to that quote from her book: "Keep the audience waiting, and then make sure it was worth it."  Well, Miss Grace Jones, it WAS!





Grace Jones' "I'll Never Write My Memoirs" is now available.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

MR. EAGLE NYC 2016 LOOKS BACK... AND FORWARD! An Interview with boy Laney Ballard

The legendary New York City bar known as The Eagle has been a landmark of the worldwide Leather community for decades.  Throughout those decades, both the Leather community and New York City as a whole have seen MANY transitions.  The bar itself saw many changes as well, not the least of which were its name (It was formerly known as The Eagle's Nest.) and  location (It was formerly located on The West Side Highway.)  It's a testament to both the bar's staff and to its loyal patrons that The Eagle continues to thrive as we approach 2016.  It's also a testament to the bar's legacy, which is a pretty mighty legacy to carry.

Mr. Eagle 2015, boy Laney Ballard, discovered just how big the legacy of The Eagle is when he took his Title almost a year ago.  Within 24 hours of winning the Contest, he was being contacted by new admirers from as far away as Berlin.  As The Eagle's ambassador to the worldwide Leather community, he reveals, "It's been a learning experience: to have everyone's eyes on you.  Even when I'm not wearing my Title vest, people recognize me.  I learned just how prestigious it is to wear the Title of Mr. Eagle NYC, and how it is to be so respected in the Leather community." It made him more visible, but also very BUSY.  Six months into his Title year, he had already racked up countless frequent flyer miles and countless hours in hotels across the country.  Many more events would come in the next six months, including his appearing at, hosting parties at, and/or speaking at events in Fire Island, Provincetown (Bear Week), Cleveland (Cleveland Leather Awareness Weekend), and of course, International Mr. Leather.



Boy Laney has lived in New York since 1992, but grew up in western Texas, on a cotton and peanut farm. (He still has the traces of a southern accent to prove it!)  There were 17 people in his graduating class.  At age 52, he's become one of the most visible representatives for the New York City Leather community.    He's also very involved in the Leather community in Florida, where he has a house with his husband of 23 years Bruce.  As he approaches the night where he'll pass the  torch to the lucky guy who will be named Mr. Eagle NYC 2016 next month, he took the time to speak to me about many topics: including his own history in the Leather world, representing New York City, PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), and much more:



JR:
Thanks for meeting with me!  So, since you were named Mr. Eagle 2015, what has been the most thrilling thing so far?
LB: I've always been involved in community service, and one thing that this Title has done is that it's opened doors that probably never would have been opened before.  It's probably put me about ten years ahead of what my mission has been, both as someone in the Leather community, and personally as well.

JR: In your speech during the Contest almost a year ago, you spoke about how as Leathermen, we will probably have to fight to keep our culture alive.  That really hit home to a lot of people in the audience, because we've all noticed that Leather bars, and gay bars in general, have been closing.  What can all of us do to make a difference?
LB: I think that because of technology, and where we are in society, we can get too wrapped up in the everyday thing and just kind of "go with the flow".  We have to be cognizant of how things are changing in our community, and keep the focus of who we are and what we need to do to keep that identity of the Leather community.  I think that just by doing that, we may choose to go out on a Thursday night instead of just sitting home, for example.   Just by showing up for an hour or an hour and a half, you don't know what kind of change that may suddenly make in another person's life.  If you just happen to talk to another person who is visiting the Eagle for the first time, and they happen to be there on Code night, and they are thinking, "Oh my goodness.  You know, I kind of like this, but is this the community for me?", then just by talking with someone, I think a lot of times they may learn that we're a very warm community.  When people know you as a Leatherman and they are not part of the Leather community themselves, they may think, "Oh, you're a big rough group!" (Laughs) And that's not what the Leather community is at all!


JR: How true!  Since you came to New York in the early 90's, what has been the biggest change that you've seen in the Leather world-- aside from the fact that, sadly, we don't have as many bars as we used to?
LB: Yes, we have lost a lot of bars, and a lot of that is sadly due to the AIDS crisis.  We lost most of our community.  (Pauses)  That's been very tough.  So, it's almost like most of our community was wiped out... and the guys that we didn't lose, because they lost many loved ones, probably became disheartened and left the community.  I think we've almost kind of had to start the Leather brotherhood over again.  And that's been a hard struggle. 
JR: I agree.  I really feel that we lost an entire generation.
LB: Yes, we did...
JR: We've also lost a lot of our history in other ways, even before we had the chance to discover it.  Before the advent of the internet, most of our communication was done with printed media in underground magazines and newspapers: articles, personal ads, photos, etc.  There was really stories behind those... stories of people's LIVES.  Once those archives were gone, so was much of our history.  AIDS left a scar on our community, and even with all the wonderful advancements in AIDS/HIV, there's still that scar which will unfortunately never go away.
LB: I agree.  That's why a lot of times, it's hard for me to talk about the Leather community of the past.  I sometimes cry when I talk about it.


JR: While we are on the subject, when did you first start to identify yourself as a Leatherman?
LB: It's been a long, drawn out journey.  I started going to the Ripcord in Dallas in 1985.  There was no Dallas Eagle at that time.  I was hanging out between there and the country bar.  That's probably when I really started being curious about it, and started finding my way in the Leather community.  After I moved to New York, I went out a few times... but I think I became more stale in the journey.  I really started picking up again about 12 years ago or so.  It was around the time The Lure closed.  That was an incredible place! (Laughs)
JR: Yep!
LB:  From 1989 to 2000, I was an IV nurse, and I only worked with AIDS patients.  I was very consumed in that whole crisis at that time.  I have a couple of mentors who were dear to my heart who took me under their wing, and showed me me the way.  I realized that I identify as a boy at heart-- so that's been a very important part of the journey as well.  I still hold my mentors very close in my heart today.  But at the same time, I wanted to give something back as far as the mentorship.  Identifying as a boy, and as a Mr. Eagle, has given me that chance.  I think that the community had a hard time wrapping their arms around my being a boy and also being Mr. Eagle! And being a 52-year old boy is hard for some people to wrap their arms around too!(Laughs)
JR: (Laughs)  People need to learn about what being a "boy" means, for starts.  And  people NEED to be challenged!  And if it challenges people's ideas about what it means to be a boy, and what a boy "should" be, and what Mr. Eagle "should" be, then that's a great thing!
LB: Exactly!  So, I've kind of pushed those boundaries out.  I can't tell you how many people have contacted me and said, "I identify as a boy.  I know I am one.  But I don't know how to get involved."  That's been huge for me, not just in New York but all up and down the East Coast.  I even hooked up with a boy group in Chicago.  That has been one thing... and then I have four guys who I actively mentor.  That has definitely opened the door for me to do more mentoring... and to educate people on what a boy's role is: being committed to service.


JR: That's great! So, at IML you represented New York City.  What makes a New York Leatherman unique, in distinction, let's say, to someone from the Midwest, or the West Coast?
LB: New York is a place where people live on the edge... much more than other parts of the United States where it's more conservative.  New Yorkers will always be seen as edgy people.  I think that's one thing that will make us different.  Plus, there's that tradition.  For me, tradition is everything!  People talk about Old Guard and New Guard, but I think it's about remembering who we are, and what our traditions are.  I'm very traditional when it comes to the Daddy and boy roles, and collaring, and all of that.  We have to remember those traditions and keep them going... but at the same time, we can't be afraid to look at alternative ways to accept other people and to make them feel more comfortable and accepted in the community.  Keep tradition going, but don't be afraid to "push the limits"!  Part of the Leather community is to push the limits, and to be different.  That's what we're about.


JR:  No doubt!  Earlier, you spoke about your work with AIDS patients.  Is HIV/AIDS your most passionate cause?
LB: Yes.  I lost all of my friends from the '80's.  Because I worked in the field of nursing for so many years, that's just something I totally dedicated my life to.  Prior to winning the Title, my mission was educating and promoting PrEP.  That has opened a tremendous amount of doors for me.  I'm working with the Department of Health now as a spokesperson for PrEP, and I did a  presentation at CLAW about PrEP.  There's not a day that goes by where I'm not contacted on Facebook or some type of social media asking, "What is PrEP?  How can I get hooked up? Can you help me?"  So, people are really finding out about it, and are for it.  As you know, our Governor here in the State of New York wants everybody on PrEP-- whether you can afford it or not-- if you are negative and sexually active.  Still, there's a lot of stigma attached to it, and it's not for everybody.  You have to ask yourself, "Is it right for me?"  Some people don't want to deal with taking a pill every day, or with the possible side effects.  I personally have never had any side effects.  If anything, it makes me get tested every two to three months-- not just for HIV, but for everything else... whereas before I'd maybe get tested, say, every eight or nine months.  It's very unusual in the Leather community, I think, to find a 52-year old boy who is HIV negative (Laughs), and that's just because I was always very strict about playing safe.  This medication is kind of liberating in that you can now maybe take it "one more step".
JR:  I really believe that there's another problem, at least for men who identify as tops: After men reach a certain age, we do start to lose some sensitivity down there.  Now, I know that there are a lot of guys even in their 70's-- I can give you names!-- who are still shooting their load every day... but still, physical changes happen and it just doesn't feel as good to wear condoms.  I really believe that that's why a lot of guys just don't want to wear them anymore... in addition to "condom burnout".
LB: A lot of people may say that they always use condoms, but I can guarantee you that most of the guys my age DON'T.  I've got two friends right now who are boys and who are new to the community.  They are looking for Sirs, and I tell them, "The chances of you finding a Sir who is going to use a condom is probably about .01 percent."  I've told both of them that they really need to lay it all down... because it's hard enough to find the right person to be of service to anyway, but to find someone who's going to use a condom every time probably just isn't going to happen.
JR: How do they react when you tell them that?
LB: I think they realize that they do need to look at PrEP.  Even if you do use condoms, you probably still need to be on PrEP...  because condoms can break, and if that happened then you'd probably have to go on PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) anyway.  So... there's just a lot of education, and even though a lot of information has been put out there, people still don't know it's available.  Reserach does show that PreP is 99% effective if you're compliant with taking it every day.


JR: So, what do you like to do in your spare time?  I suspect that you probably haven't had much lately...
LB: Being Mr. Eagle IS a full-time job!  I try to do the community service aspect of it, and to represent The Eagle and New York all over the U.S.  I don't think you can ever please everybody 100%.  Some people want you to do more community service, others want you do this or that... I try to keep a nice level of equilibrium.  You have to balance your professional job too.  Every weekend  I'm on the road!  And... I try to go to the Eagle at least twice a week, even if it's only for 30 or 45 minutes.  So, it's been crazy!  It's hard trying to get it all in sometimes.  But one thing I really do enjoy when I'm home are my Bonzai trees.  I love growing them, I love developing them, and that's kind of my little getaway that I do.  I have trees both in New York and Florida.


JR: Nice!  Now, I have to ask my favorite question: What makes a guy sexy for you?
LB: A guy in full Leathers. The Sam Brown definitely.  You can have just jeans and a Sam Brown on and it will put me over the edge!
JR: Your fans will be grateful for that information!  Thanks for speaking with me!


One thing's for sure: The next Mr. Eagle NYC will have BIG boots to fill!  The Mr. Eagle NYC 2016 Contest will be the weekend of October 2-4.  Interested?  Visit www.EagleNYC.com for more info! 

(Photos of boy Laney by Flash Onyx.  You can see the unedited,never-before seen photos of Laney and his IML brothers in the new 2016 calendar "Underneath the Sash", benefitting The Leather Archives and Museum.  Buy yours at www.UnderneathTheSash.com.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

THEATER REVIEW: Teresa Fischer's "Comedy Roulette"

THEATER REVIEW: Teresa Fischer's "Comedy Roulette"

Any show that kicks off with a number entitled "What Can You Get a Nudist for Her Birthday?", includes a deliciously dirty song from "Avenue Q", and even throws in an animal puppet show to the timeless classic "Swinging on a Star" is guaranteed to be... well, shall we say, one wild night!  Indeed, there's more than just one "wild card" in Teresa Fischer's new one-woman endeavor "Comedy Roulette".  In the show, currently playing at Manhattan's landmark cabaret hotspot Don't Tell Mama, the singer plays croupier to an audience of New York City theater-going highrollers.  Like the game that inspired "Comedy Roulette", you never know what you're gonna get, and there are indeed a few high stakes (such as the risk of busting a gut...)  But one thing is guaranteed in Fischer's collection of mirthful melodies: Everyone who sees this self-described "No Ballad Zone" leaves a winner-- except maybe those poor "Pigeons in the Park".  More about that later...


As an accomplished cabaret star who has repeatedly proven her ability to carry a solo show, we believe that Fischer has the vocal chops to succeed in ANY musical genre she'd choose.  On her 2012 debut CD "Let It Go", she brought her listeners a widely eclectic mix of songs-- from power ballads to some truly quirky, decades-spanning musical gems pulled from the vaults.  Yet, comedy seems to be Fischer's calling card.  Striking as she is to look at, there's a distinct absence of vanity in her performances-- which is always essential for comedy.  She evokes the spirit of funny lady Carol Burnett for songs like "Screw Loose" (from the unsung hero musical "Cry Baby"), in which her deadpan delivery really drives the number over the edge.   In "Comedy Roulette", the audience is also treated to such feel-gooders as the ageless Jack Yellin/Sammy Falin "Are You Havin' Any Fun?".  For this one, she teams up with the show's Host/Director Frank Calo, who seems all too happy to play her "second banana"-- as evidenced, perhaps, by Calo's banana yellow-colored tie.   The two teamed up again later in the show for the dearly demented "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" by Tom Lehrer.  (It's EXACTLY what you think it is!) Fischer moves right on to "Das Chicago Town", which was originally made famous by another woman of comedy, Madeline Kahn.  Loaded with double entendres, Fischer gives the song all the campy glory it deserves.   Next up is the oft-revived (most famously by Bette Midler...) "In These Shoes", another comic gem.  In honor of the song's Latin flavor,  Fischer and Calo handed out maracas(!) for some audience participation.  If her previous selections of songs were humorous, her next one was definantly absurd:  "The Frying Pan", a song about the crazy experience of buying the titular cookware item in Macy's basement. Yep!  If you can't imagine a song about a frying pan, then just wait untl you hear this one.  For the record, Fischer's playlist also includes tracks named "Painting My Kitchen" (complete with some naughty lyrics!) and "Air Conditioner", a delightfully deranged ditty.  Hmmm... Who knew that domestic issues could be the source of such comedy gold?

But hands down, nothing can top the climax of "Comedy Roulette": In a "sneak preview of the upcoming 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: The Musical'" (Place tongue in cheek now...), Fischer emerges in old-school nurse uniform, complete with blindingly white hat and shoes, for "Ratched's Lament".  The combination of Fischer's costume, the lyrics, and her over-the-top operatic delivery (As one observer noted, the song evoked something from "Sweeney Todd" before heading into "Les Mis" territory...) may be more than some audience members can handle!

"Comedy Roulette" packs a lot of muscial talent, creativity, and laughs-- as well as a healthy dose of insanity-- into its running time.  Of course, every artist wants to be thought of as "serious".  So here's my final praise of Teresa Fischer's new show: This is SERIOUSly funny!

"Comedy Roulette" plays at Don't Tell Mama (343 West 46th St. btwn 8th and 9th Aves, NYC) for one more performance: Monday, June 15th at 7PM.  For reservations, call (212)757-0788 or visit www.DontTellMamaNYC.com.