Dust Off Your Leather, Daddy!
By Chuck Sudo on May 26, 2007 5:49PM
Memorial Day Weekend is under way, so pull out the grill, set up the yard games, and put on your leather. For 29 years now this Chicago weekend has been synonymous with International Mr. Leather—a leather beauty pageant, leather and fetish conference, adult superstore, and cocktail party rolled up into one giant event that attracted some 15,000 leather daddies, leather boys, leather mamas, and leather girls last year. (Folks, that’s an entire town of fetish fans!)
The precursor to IML (the conference’s shorthand reference) was the Mr. Gold Coast competition held in the mid-1970s at Chicago’s Gold Coast leather bar. The competition became the bar’s most popular promotion, and IML expanded to a larger venue in 1979 when 400 men gathered to compete for the title of International Mr. Leather. Once a “hardcore” leathermen weekend, IML has grown to attract everyone from the experienced serious to the curious, both men and women.
The Palmer House Hilton hosts most of the events, which started on Thursday and run through Sunday. While events take place throughout the weekend, the culmination is the International Mr. Leather Competition taking place Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Chicago Theatre. Hal Sparks, comedian/actor who played the character of “Michael” on “Queer as Folk” will be the Master of Ceremonies (just call him “Daddy”). Over 50 contestants from across the United States and around the world will compete for the title of International Mr. Leather, and will be judged on community involvement, speech, presentation, and overall presence.
A Leather Market is open at the Palmer House each day of the festival, a county fair, of sorts, of the world’s best collection of leather and fetish vendors. You can get autographed photos of your favorite adult superstars, a new bullwhip, and chain male if you’d like, or just simply peek into the world of fetish.
Of course, to participate in IML, the most challenging aspect is figuring out what to wear. That is, if you don’t own leather.