Leather contest canceled, fundraising continues

Last weekend was the annual Philadelphia Leather Weekend, sponsored by The Bike Stop. This is traditionally the biggest party of the year and one of the busiest weekends for the bar, as folks come from miles around for the contest and the crowds.

Last Thursday night kicked off with the monthly Get Out Get Laid party hosted by Sir Andy Liu and Steve “boyshark” Mercer, the current MidAtlantic LeatherSir and Leatherboy, respectively. They had a great turnout and raised over $300 for the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago.

Last Friday night, the Kinky Karnival cranked things up another notch. Some patrons enjoyed play stations featuring spanking, waxing, flogging and violet wand electroplay, while others enjoyed the hot go-go dancer and the music of DJ Chip Dish.

On Saturday night, contest producer Rick Van Tassel presented a representative from the Jonathan Lax Treatment Center at Philadelphia Fight with a check for $650, the proceeds from Friday’s Karnival.

Also on Saturday night, Bike Stop owner Jim Madden presented the Matt Hoffman Community Service Award, named for a much-loved former Bike Stop manager known for his big heart and bigger personality.

This year the award went to Terry Versailles, who has worked at The Bike Stop since the day it opened in 1982 and has contributed his energy and creativity countless times over the years by coordinating and hosting events for the bar and the leather community. Congratulations, Terry!

On Sunday, the Philadelphians MC kept the party going and raised $230 at their Victory Social. Those proceeds will also be donated to the Jonathan Lax Treatment Center at Philadelphia Fight.

This brought the grand total raised for the two charities to $1,180, which is a great achievement in today’s economy. Way to go, guys!

Unfortunately, the one thing that didn’t happen over the weekend was the annual Mr. and Ms. Philadelphia Leather contest. There was only one contestant in each category so, for the first time, the producers cancelled the entire contest. People still came out for the ancillary events, but the crowds were noticeably smaller without the main attraction.

DO WE EVEN NEED A CONTEST?

I hear people saying if they can’t find contestants, they should just scrap the contest all together. I couldn’t disagree more.

The contest serves a number of purposes. It gives people in the community a chance to get up on stage, push themselves out of their comfort zones and present themselves as the leathermen or leatherwomen they want to be. It’s an amazing opportunity for personal growth that has to be experienced firsthand to be fully appreciated. Not comfortable in the limelight? Then volunteer to work backstage or to help with promotions. You get all the camaraderie without the stage fright.

The contest also gives people in the community a chance to come together for a great party. The contest started as a one-night affair and has grown into a four-night, three-day shindig that draws people from all over the region. It’s a wonderful chance to make new friends and to point and laugh at old ones.

So yes, we need leather contests. Maybe we don’t need so many of them, but we definitely need them. Because without reasons to come together as a community and without traditions, we drift away from each other and the ties that hold us together get weaker over time.

It’s a real shame that the contest didn’t happen this year, but it can’t happen without contestants. I encourage people to enter all the time because it’s a lot of fun. I know some people worry about the time commitment asked of the winners, but in reality the commitment is very manageable — winners can do as much or as little as they choose.

The Bike Stop asks only the following of the winners: 1) represent Philly and The Bike Stop at a national or international leather contest; 2) ride on the bar float in June’s Pride parade; 3) come back the following year to serve as a judge and give a step-down speech; and 4) hold at least one fundraiser during your title year, which is easy because there are lots of eager volunteers waiting to help.

Oh, and they also ask, if at all possible, that you try to avoid getting arrested during your title year. It only happened once, back in the early ’90s, but that was one time too many.

So come on, people, what are you waiting for? Leather contests are fun, sexy, silly, serious celebrations of our community’s past, present and future — but they can’t happen without a few guys and gals getting up on that stage. It can be a blast and it can even be a life-changing experience. I urge everyone reading this to consider signing up next year. I guarantee you’ll have a great time!

UPCOMING EVENTS — 35th annual Santa Saturday will be held from 1-6 p.m. Nov. 29 at Club Paradise, 101 Asbury Ave., Asbury Park, N.J. Doors open at noon. See www.bucksmc.org for more information. — Get Out Get Laid will be held from 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Dec. 4 at The Bike Stop, 206 S. Quince St. Strap on your best leather, rubber, sport or other fetish gear and come hang with MidAtlantic LeatherSir Andy and Leatherboy Steve “boyshark” Mercer. — HOLIDAY will be held from noon-4 p.m. Dec. 14 at The Bike Stop. Join us at noon to help decorate the bar, then hang out afterward for holiday cheer and to collect toys, personal-care items, canned goods and other donations for local charities. See bar bulletin boards for more information.

Questions? Comments? Contact Jim at [email protected].