This past Saturday night I was getting a drink at the Ramrod, Lauderale’s leather watering hole, when this hot dark Latin guy tapped me on the shoulder and asked with a smile that could sell dog shit, “Aren’t you our neighbor across the canal?” Brazilian born Gabriel then went on to introduce his equally hot partner and fellow Brazilian Rodolfo, and explained they had just had their closing and we’re moving in. Gabriel was a corporate exec in Miami, Rodolfo a college professor teaching MBA hopefuls, and that they had been living in Chicago before coming here.
After apologizing in advance with a lascivious grin that they might be skinny dipping in their backyard pool that faced the canal, Gabriel made a very telling remark, “Besides the friggen winters, the leather scene in Chicago is dead. It’s all here now.”
It’s a conclusion I came to a while ago.
I know I’m talking in generalities and there are always exceptions. Like the short haired titless gal who’s a soccer mom, or the nelly cancer specialist I used to work with back in my hospital days who had the wife and five kids. But something’s terribly wrong with the leather scene here in the U.S. (I can’t speak for Europe since I’ve never done the scene there with the exception of London’s Hoist) and that terrible wrong is old age. The Leather Generation is fast becoming the Denture Cream Generation.
For many younger guys, wearing leather is more a fashion statement than a symbol of who they are as gay men. (Some of these ironing board body boys look like their harness is a trainer bra.) Ditto with the emerging “jock” look, hockey gear, football shoulder pads, high socks. It’s all about looking the butch athlete even if some don’t have the body to match. (P.S.: A Tampa buddy of mine is designing a hybrid jock/leather line and asked me to pose for his online site.)
When I got into leather, it was more than just looking tough. It said something about your persona, in and out of the bedroom. No-nonsense, rough and ready, not prone to bullshit, with man-to-man sex that included sweat and spit and pleasure on the edge of pain. Squeeze the right tit of today’s young boys and chances they’ll yell, “ouch!”
Sure we’ve got those high profile leather events. Take International Mister Leather or IML in Chicago which one of my methhead buddies said has nothing to do with the contest and everything to do with fucking the days and nights away at the hotel. But a hot humpy 34 year old who adopted me as his Daddy on a recent visit to Chicago has been going to IML for 16 years and tells me numbers are declining. It used to be you had to book a year in advance for a room in the host hotel; now you can wait as late as March for the Memorial Day gig. And at a recent Folsom Street in San Francisco, a rough and tough 6’ 4” friend of mine told me the only sex he had was a blow job from the leather shop clerk fitting him for a new harness.
Lauderdale hosts a Leather Weekend, climaxed by the crowning of Mr. Ramrod who will go to next year’s IML to represent the bar. Though Ramrod where the last contest took place was packed, I saw very few faces under 35. And I’m an old fart and know all about gay and leather history, but having some ancient gay historian get up on stage and cry on about all the how he’s outlived all his “boys” or and that we should be more “inclusive” to the leather women in our aging and dwindling leather “community” does not make for a hot and horny time. The only reasons you had a crowd out on a Sunday night was to gawk at some bare asses and maybe, just maybe, score which, if you wanna talk about gay history, is what bars were once all about.
Yet from what I’ve seen and heard from other guys, the Ramrod, located in Fort LauderBottom, and doing brisk business 5 nights a week, is probably among the top two or three leather bars left in the U.S. today. So what does that tell you, huh?
For further proof of what I’m saying, just look at the state of many leather bars in this country.
New York City, where I used to play extensively for decades before I headed down to Florida, had at least three or four Leather and Leather-friendly hangouts. The Spike, The Eagle, and, of course, who could forget the Anvil where they fucked right on the bar. Then in the nineties along came the Lure, the quintessential leather bar, located in a former slaughterhouse in the Meat Market. I remember in those first months the place still stunk of the carcasses that had hung up there just a short time before. There the bouncer wouldn’t let you in if you were wearing sneakers. Today, I think the guy would have a stroke if he saw how some guys in South Florida stroll into the Ramrod, dressed in a leather vest or harness, Bermuda shorts and floppies. Guys, it’s like some hunk suddenly talking to you about French Provencal furniture instead of car engines. Blows the image. And the hard-on.
Recent revisits to some of the other haunts of my younger days have proven the old cliché true: you can’t go back.
More next time ..