Friday, June 20, 2008

Happy Friday: Leather Edition

This upcoming Sunday marks the annual Folsom St. East festival which is one of my favorite days in New York. I often bill it as "Leather Day" and next to Rainbow Day (Pride) it is one of those not-to-be-missed have-fun gay events.

Although it's before my time I am familiar with the once strong and outstandingly popular leather scene and community which once thrived in NYC. In fact, my first NYC gay bar was The Lure which, like everything else seedy/fun, is now closed.

It seems as though from my research and reading into 1970's gay based literature that leather and leather theme used to rock NYC. If you delve into John Rechy's "Rushes" or Kramer's wincing satire "Faggots" you'll get a glimpse of how popular leather and leather scene use to be. (Older readers: I know these might not be the best or most extensive pieces of literature depicting this scene - so if you have more information or leads then please point them out.)

Now leather seems to have gone from Heavy Leather 70's/80's to Leather 90's to Diet Leather 2000's to "Ugh he has his shirt off again at The Eagle" or "OH MY GOD, look! Those two guys over there in the corner are getting off, quick point and laugh! Point and laugh!" in 2008.

If it's not coming across in the above mentioned I detest this type of judgment upon men who enjoy 1) taking their shirts off and celebrating that liberation or just simply enjoy it or 2) have the confidence to be free enough, or are turned on enough, to shrug and get off semi-discreetly right then and there.

Regardless of my tangent above I'm glad that Leather is still recognized enough for this day to be offered to the New York public and it is certainly a wonderful day spent with men, friends, leather and beer.

Go ahead and check out the fascinating blog Jeremiah's Vanashing New York where he does a wonderful then and now expose on New York's leather hangouts and what they have become.


"If you long for the days when the streets of the Village and Meatpacking were filled with men in assless chaps, instead of fratboy assholes, then go to Folsom Street East this weekend. In celebration of those vanished men in leather--many taken by the AIDS epidemic--enjoy my visual retrospective of the city's lost queer fetish clubs, showing them as they were yesterday...and what I discovered in their places today."

For instance:
Then (The Anvil)









Now (The Liberty Inn)










Then (The Badlands)












Now (Badlands Video)









His blog is pretty incredible be sure to check it out! Loving his motto: "Still hunkered down in the East Village, waiting for the wrecking ball of gentrification to find me. Until then, I'll write this ongoing obituary for my dying city."

14 comments:

Serg said...

Folsom Street East is a good day, as is Gay Pride, but I prefer Saville Row West--A celebration of argyle and French cuffs in gay culture. With so much focus on leather and mail, let's not forget the huge impact that argyle and cuffs have had on mainstream gay culture. At least it did when I was in middle school, circa 1986.

Ryan Charisma said...

excellet post. I remember the LURE, the SPIKE & The Eagle (the real one) - good times.

Now the NYC leather sceene is Chelsea boys (and I mean boys, not men) who happen to own leather pants and a black tank top.

ugh!

bstewart23 said...

I'm sorry, but a post about the New York leather scene can't go without a comment recommending William Friedkin's "Cruising". If you haven't seen this much-protested movie, you really must, especially given the nearly 30 years of distance both chronologically and culturally.

A good intro can be found here (http://glq.dukejournals.org/cgi/reprint/11/1/23.pdf -- caution, PDF alert!) and, of course, you should really check out Dennis Hensley's pants-wettingly funny take on the movie in his book "Screening Party".

You really can enjoy the film in an almost schizophrenic fashion, reveling in the insanely bad acting (and dancing!) by Al Pacino and an increasingly unraveled plot by the end of the movie. On the other hand, it does afford a cinematic peek into a certain place and time, and through the backward binoculars of political awareness, there's much to absorb.

It was released on DVD last year and is very much recommended.

Lolita said...

Leather Pride Night is Saturday night 6-10pm at Splash!
http://www.leatherpridenight.org/

RG said...

We'd better see some pics of you in some sort of leather. And don't get cute offering up a leather watch-band as clothing either. :)

Wayne said...

hey bstewart and everyone else:
you can also check out the doll-remake version of Cruising on YouTube. Actual soundtrack, dolls in leather. Fun! Start here. More parts follow on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89t2FeEnf9w

bstewart23 said...

That was awesome, Wayne, thanks. I eagerly await further installments, especially the scenes at the police station which, like all NYC police stations, has a superbuilt African-American cop doll in a jockstrap and cowboy hat on call to slap suspect dolls around.

And then I eagerly await the inevitable backlash of whiners complaining that, like media reports of Gay Doll Pride parades, it only focuses on the seamy side of gay doll life, and that the cameras are inevitably trained on the bare, sweaty torsos of scantily-clad muscledolls.

Why do those shirtless dolls have to make all of us look like we're interested in the joy of liberated physicality and sex? Because we so are not, right? Right?

Hey Girl! Hey! said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Yo. aKa ODQ here on the DL fo sho. Dat Folsom gig was da bomb. Rained so fierce I saw a queen wit a yellow hanky in back right pocket look up at the rain, tasted the water and said "Damn. I wish those showers were golden.". An' what's wit dose queens in rubber suits in gas masks? Dey look look rejects from dat bar in "Star Wars. Sheeeit bois. Get a job. You def got too much time on yo hands. But yo. E to the L looked great in his nazi youth strap. :-) What? Shit. Gotta go. Mom's callin...

David Demchuk said...

Oh, I have a bunch of books on the '70s leather scene somewhere -- I remember that John Rechy's books, especially The Sexual Outlaw, described the scene well. Felice Picano wrote quite a good gay mystery called The Lure. I never read any of John Preston's books but there was one named Mr. Benson that I think dealt with the leather scene. Larry Townsend was also a big name at the time with his big achievement probably being 1972's The Leatherman's Handbook (written with John Preston).

Anonymous said...

If you haven't been and want a see what to see a FRACTION of what it's all about... check out this video on Gayborhood TV:

http://www.gayborhood.tv/watch.cfm?view=thebox&show=0C295CAA-1422-5BFF-CE420571E0676A83

Maria said...

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