Interview with Marcus Hernandez (8-9-96)
by Jack Rinella
as part of his research on the History of Gay Liberation in Chicago.
Please note that these transcriptions are unedited. As oral history they represent the speakers' remembrance of past events. Please excuse typos and errors. The original tape recording is part of the collection of the Leather Archive and Museum, Chicago, IL.
copyright 1996 Charles Renslow
MH:H E R N A N D E Z.
JR: And where were you born?
MH: Los Angeles, California. West Los Angeles.
MH: 1938. March the 22nd.
JR: ah ... When did you first meet Chuck Renslow?
JR: Do you remember?
MH: I met Chuck Renslow in Chicago in ..... they were having this big event in Chicago called .... ah ... it was a big benefit ... and they ... ah .. crowned the First Emperor and Empress of Chicago. And as the First Emperor of San Francisco, they invited me to come to Chicago with the current reigning Empress of San Francisco to crown the First Emperor and Empress of Chicago. And I think that was in '79 or '80. Oh, the name of the event was Metamorphoses. It was a big, weekend long thing with a carnival and all kinds of stuff going on. And that was when I first met Chuck Renslow in person. I knew who he was. I knew his reputation from his activism in Chicago and the Gold Coast, of course. And that was the first time I had ever been in that bar and I met him that weekend along with ... ah ... Chuck Rodocker [sp.] who was like the chairman of this Metamorphoses thing. And ... ah ... the next week was, I think, the second international ... ah ... Mr. Leather contest and so they asked if I would stay and be a judge. And that's how I met him.
JR: And you did?
MH: And I did. And I have been a judge ever since. [laughs] I don?t know why but ... every year they would keep writing and ask me to come and be a judge and then I just kept going.
JR: So then you were at the first IML contest?
MH: No. That was the first ... that is the only one I have missed. And my best friend won it! And I was really upset that I wasn't there.
JR: Can you tell me about David Kloss?
MH: Yes, I do. I ... ah ... he was just here in town last week. David Kloss was sent to Chicago by the Brigade Bar in San Francisco. That was the name of then. ah ... He is originally from Philadelphia and he worked for a major oil company as an engineer on those .... ah ... what do they call them? .... rigs out in the middle of ocean.
MH: And he had visited San Francisco and met a man here who he feel in love with and eventually moved here. And he wasn?t into leather when he first moved here. But he got into it because he met ... the guy he fell in love with was a good friend of mine who was semi-leather. And originally from Chicago too, I might add.
JR: What was his name?
MH: David Williams! And he started getting into the leather scene and entered that contest at the Brigade and he won. And it was the only bar in San Francisco that sent a participant to it. It was the leather bar of the city in those days. ah ... And he went to Chicago to the first contest. It was at the Radisson Hotel in '79. And twelve contestants. And he won. He was the first one. He is still alive and lives in Austin, Texas now and ... ah ... he is retired.
JR: How do you spell his last name?
MH: K L 0 S S.
JR: Kloss. Okay.
MH: It has been printed in IML programs as K L 0 F F and I don?t know how that happened, but it is K L 0 S S.
JR: Yeah. Is David Williams still alive?
NM: No. He died about ... ah ... seven years ago.
JR: ah ... So you came out for the second IML and they asked you to be a judge. Can you describe what that was like?
MH: Well, it was held down at the Radisson Hotel again for the second year. And ... ah ... that same weekend the National Organization of Women were having their convention in that hotel! And the place was over run by women. They were going to have a march that Saturday afternoon. And there were all these leather guys running around with their butts hanging out from their chaps and their leather. It was quite a scene for those women to see all these guys and everybody there. [laughs] And the contest was in the hotel. And ... ah ... I don?t remember how many contestants there were. There must have been about twenty or twenty two. It was not of the magnitude that it is now because it was still new! And, of course, David had to go back being Shasa?s [sp.] replacement. That was why I was there and I haven?t missed out since. Ah.. I remember all the details but I don't remember who the other judges were that year but .... ah ... it was well attended. It was well done. And the second winner was from Australia. And ... ah... it went on from there.
JR: What was the format of the judging for the first contest ... the second contest when you were judging? Was it ....
MH: Well, it has always been the same as far as I can remember. They had .... ah ... so in those days ... in that year, they did not have any elimination process. There weren't that many contestants. So they were all in on the whole thing. Of course, they don't have to do fantasies. They have .... there is .... they have to give a speech. There is physique. And their leather appearance. And that was it. Then we scored.
JR: So did all twenty contestants give speeches?
NM: I think about ten of them did. I can't remember for sure but ... the top ten did.
JR: Now if I remember correctly Dom was the head judge.
JR: Can you tell me how he ran that part of the deal?
MH: You mean the judging interviews?
MH: Well, you know if you knew Dom, he was very gentle and quiet a lot and not crazy or outlandish or boisterous. He was very quiet and calm. And he conducted it in a gentlemanly manner. He made the contestants feel at home and ... ah .. explained to them what the scoring was going to be like and that kind of stuff. In those days, there was no past history like there is now because some of the judges say, 'Can you name at least three former IML?s?' or something like that. Or ... ah ... questions like, 'When did the little neophyte [mumbled] make it's appearance? And how?' And who did it? And what does it mean?' There was nothing of that leather history in those days because this was only the second contest and ... ah ... ... ah ... there was not much there. The questions were mainly on their lifestyle. How long they had been into leather. What was their sexual proclivities. That sort of stuff.
JR: What ... ah ... what leather events went on besides the contest itself. Or were there none other?
FM: Well, a lot of the bars had special bar parties and the contestants would appear there and all of that. But it was not like it is now. The Bear community having their thing. Hell fire having their anniversary that weekend. ah ... In the past years, there was ... ah ... like the Gay Volleyball people were there and sometimes they stayed in the same hotel. In different groups, every year was different. The next hotel, after the Radisson, was the Alerton right off of Michigan Avenue and then they moved to the Executive House for several years. And that is where the most interaction with non gay, non leather people was because there was always other groups having events there. Although the contest was not in the Executive House, all the people that went stayed there and there was a Pakistani wedding one year and a big straight basketball tournament going on and a black debutante ball going on one year which was really outrageous with all those black women and their little girls going to a banquet and seeing all this leather and thrills flashing. It was really a sight! And, of course, at that time of year, the high schools in Chicago had their senior proms so there were lots of people attending those proms that had to deal with a lot of other people. Those little teenagers were just shocked .... scared to death when they saw all that . But it worked out. There has never been to my knowledge any conflict or incidents of any nature that were negative with the two .... the leather community and the other groups with being in the same place.
JR: How is your ... ah ... I take it then over the ... have you ever come to Chicago except for IML?
MH: No. I would love to. I love the city. I mean at certain times .... one year I went a week early and I did the whole sightseeing thing with .... ah ... some people from Detroit who go there frequently and know where everything is. They took me on a tour. I have been to the ... is it the John Hancock Building ....
MH: and the other one.
JR: The Sears Tower.
MH: The Sears Tower and the zoo and the fountain. I have seen all of that. So when I go now it is strictly the contest because there is no time for anything else. There are so many contestants that the pre-judging is a two day affair! From 8 to 4:30 on Friday and from 8:00 to 3, depending on how many contestants, on Saturday ... er ... or Sunday. Saturday and Sunday is when they do the pre-judging. So all that time is spent sitting in there listening to all these people say, 'Well, I don?t want to be IML' or whatever. So I have done all the tourist thing and I have managed to find gay restaurants that I like and places like that.
JR: How has IML changed over the years? Or hasn't it?
MH: Well, from what I can tell from the people who read my column and from the people that I meet, it was perceived as a beauty contest. ah ... If you look at the photos of the first three winners, they are all strikingly handsome, good-looking, and ... ah ... not what I would call hard-core leather as perceived by certain people such as John Preston and ... ah ... Joseph Bean and other writers and other people who have been involved with the leather press .... quote unquote ... such as it is. But ... ah .... As the years progressed ... for instance, I will say this ... I was interviewed ... I interviewed John Preston in this very hotel .... ah ... about a year before he died .... as an assignment for Drummer and although he lived in Portland, Maine as an activist .... he told me that he doesn't wear his leather anymore. He doesn?t claim to be part of the leather community because if all of these leather people who are involved today were straight, they would be members of the Rotary Club or the Elks or the Kiwanas. And that leather has definitely come out of the closet and it will never be like it was in the old days in the mid 50's to the mid 60's and 70's. They came out. They are here. We are here still trying to be full fledged members of the gay community but still not accepted. Because just recently last year, the chairman of the Log Cabin Republican Club said that leather queens and drag queens were ... should be exterminated! Hardy any response to repute that statement was made. Although I tried to get the current International Mr. Leather, Mr. Drummer, and International Ms. Leather to make a statement ... ah ... against that statement that guy made. He is still alive and is in the Human Rights Campaign Fund, I think. So leather is out and whereas in the old days, at least in San Francisco, all the leather bars were in a deserted section of town where house districts were busy during the day but deserted at night. And in San Francisco, parking is a major thing. So for them to have all the leather bars in any other place would be like, you know, .... there would be no place to park so at night all those areas were where all the leather bars were at which there were thirteen. Thirteen leather bars.
JR: When did you move here?
MH: I moved here from Los Angeles in August of '68. And there were three leather bars then but by five years later there were ten or twelve different ones. And, you know, it was a night time thing. It was way down south of Market street with plenty of parking and lots of alleys and cruising going on all night long. You know, it was sort of a clandestine thing. Not hidden from the public. It was out in the public but it wasn?t right downtown San Francisco! Most leather bars in different cities that I know are usually in that kind of a neighborhood. Not the safest but people don?t bother .... Pleasant used to be a two way street and there would be people cruising up and down it all night long. Wearing leather boots. Cars stopping and all of that. What's different? The bike clubs were. There were thirteen bike clubs here then. Ah ... When I first started writing my column in the BMI in '71, they were just aghast that I would write the name of their clubs in there.
MH: I mean, they couldn't get over it. In Los Angles, if I wrote about them, I had to use pseudonyms that they used for their clubs because they didn't want any press. It was all very hush hush. All very closed fraternity. It is not like that anymore. I would get a deluge of press releases from bike clubs about events that they were having. So many that there was a reason for this and a reason for that. AIDS. Children with AIDS. ah ... you name it. Everything. Guide dogs for the blind. They all are doing something, you know. They all want the publicity after people have degraded these events. It is not only here but I get these things from all over the country. Boise, Idaho. Indianapolis. Columbus, Ohio. Places where you wouldm?t think there was a leather community. But they are all over the place and they all want ... they are out there and they want the press.
JR: And it wasn?t that way when you first started?
MH: No. No. It was all ... it was just .... like I said, you know, a lot of them ... upon reflection, after I played that tape a few weeks ago and he said if the leather community was straight, they would all be members of the Rotary Club, it is true. They all in there trying to help each other with fundraising events and can you top this type of thing. You know, it works OK because it raises lots of money. All these beer busts sell out. And these events and even the title thing, you know. San Francisco has ... there is Mr. San Francisco Leather. Ms. San Francisco Leather. Leather Daddy. Leather Daddy's Boy. Mr. Cheeks and Chaps. Mr. Top of the Market. Mr. and Ms. Leather Pride. And the lists keeps going on and on. They all are ... ah ... when they sign up ... when they sign up to be in these contests, they have to sign a statement that if they win, they have to do at least one or two ... two fund-raisers in the year that they have that title. So here it is more of a work horse thing. You take on lots of responsibility. You are expected to be at this and that, this and that.
JR: How does San Francisco determine who to send at IML? Or don't they?
MH: Well, as you know, anybody can enter IML. If you say that you want to be in it and you pay the $100 fee then you are in. But most people think it is more ... ah ... prestigious to go with a title. ah .. Since San Francisco has won that title more then any other city .... four times now...., everybody who goes for it is aware of that and contestants from around the country are just dying to know who is coming from San Francisco because of that. ah ...
JR: Does San Francisco send more then one person a year? Yes or no.
MH: Well, the official Mr. San Francisco leather title is the official contestant from this city but people who may have been in competition many feel that they might do better so they go. Some of the other bars have titles like Mr. Daddy's Leather, Mr. Eagle's Leather, Mr. ... whatever bar. And as long as they have that, they don't have to go the $100 fee and they can enter it. But the official contestant is the one that is ...
JR: Does San Francisco like have a run off for IML then?
MH: Well, all of these bar people are in the contest for Mr. San Francisco Leather and that is the one they want.
JR: That's what I thought.
MH: And ... ah .. some of the runner ups and some of the other contestants may enter on their own if they want, which is permissible. I mean, ah .. there has been many as many ... the most there has been is fifty two contestants. And I remember in '87 San Francisco had seven contestants that did not win the Mr. San Francisco leather title but they went any way. So I think our city has had the most participation than any body because it's leather community is huge. ah ... It not only is San Francisco but the entire bay area there. San Jose, Oakland, Tehnay [sp.] County is over there. The Russian River. Sacramento. And all those people may have ... what... quasi leather bars in their cities but they all come here. This is where the action is and that is where they come. And so consequently ... ah ... the community here is not just San Francisco, it is the entire bay area and that is a lot of people [laughs].
JR: How did you get involved in leather in the first place?
MH: Well, ah, that is kind of a long story. I didn't come out until ... I had been
married and I have four sons .. and I didn't come out until six years after my divorce. I
went to Europe and that is where I came out. I met ... well, actually I didn?t meet ... I
was in Vietnam at the American Embassy and as you know the French controlled Vietnam and
the whole of Indochina: Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Ah ... I was assigned to the American
Embassy and there was this liason officer, a sergeant from France, in our office. And the
sergeant ... I was a sergeant too ... the sergeant was married, my age and very
good-looking. And we became friends. And I wanted to learn French so I hung around with
him a lot. And I didn?t know he was gay. Although he was married and had two kids ... I
had two at that time .... he was gay and we became very close but I had no inclinations in
that area at all. I just never even ... being from southern California I knew about Gay
life and how many Gays there were ... it just wasn?t my thing. I had been married and all
of that, which is no big thing. You know, a lot of Gay people are married. Anyway, after I
got out of the service ... he was from Paris ... after I got out of service, got married
and went to school and all of that ... I went to Europe for a year with a buddy of mine.
We bought a car and drove all around Europe. When we got to France, I looked this guy up.
He was still married and still as beautiful as ever. And his wife was from Spain. And the
day that I got to his house, his wife was getting ready to leave for Madrid with the kids
to visit her family. He invited me to stay. I was alone at this point because the guy I
was traveling with stayed in Germany for a couple of more weeks. And ... ah ... I stayed
with him and they had twin beds and I had his wife's bed. To make a long story short, he
took me out. He said, 'I am going to show you the Paris that tourists don?t ever see.' He
got me very fucked up. The next thing I knew we were in bed making love. Of course, I
stayed in the closet for a year because after I got back to Los Angeles, the ... ah ...
police and the vice squad in Los Angeles and all the different areas were very anti-gay
and started raiding the bars. You never knew when you would get attracted and clubbed by
them. Plus they had a lot of vice officers ... hot young guys who would go in bars and
trap people and then arrest them on ... ah ... a section of the California penal code
which 647A. That's the law that they can get you for almost anything if they want too.
JR: As a bartender?
MH: Uh huh. Well, at first then when the Boot Camp bar opened, the guy that I worked with was one of the guys who found it and he asked me if I would be the manager. I was also working for city in the mayor's office as his appointment secretary. [laughs] So I vowed Bob that I would get it anyway. Well, the ads salesman from the Advocate came in one day to talk to me about putting an ad in the Advocate and I said ... this was when it was in the newspaper format in Los Angeles .... I said, 'There's no way I am going to put an advertisement in that. They never cover leather. ll this bullshit about drag and other stuff. Leather people don't read that thing anyway.' And he said, Well, we are looking for somebody.' And they offered me the job of writing it. Wll, I undertook it, of course, because I got to write it at the bar while I was managing all the time. Well, it got to be such a chore because by that time, you know, all of these people from all over the country were sending stuff for the column. It cost me more in postage then what they were paying me. Can you imagine every two weeks I write a column and get paid fifteen dollars? [laughs] I spent a lot in postage and phone calls with these people from all the country. So by that .... that was in 1971 and BAR started up in April of 71. I was already writing for the Advocate. And they wanted a big community newspaper to encompass everything. Leather, the bike clubs, drag queens, political stuff, everything. Of course, there was no AIDS then so there wasn't all that medical coverage like there is now. So it was easier for me to write for a local paper than for the Advocate. So I quit in October of '71 which is when my first column appeared in the BAR. And later they went to weekly and they offered us ... one could either write every two weeks or every week but they wanted me to write weekly if I could. And I said, 'I will try it.' So that's it. In all of those years ... this October it will be twenty six years.
JR: Twenty five.
ME: Twenty five. In all of that time, I have missed two deadlines so ... ah ...
JR: When did you go full-time for BAR?
MH: Oh, about four years ago! ah ... when was it?
JR: So where you writing for BAR all the time you were working for the city then?
MH: Mm. Mm. Oh, I was out. There was no way. And then in 1972 they started this ... they had this royalty thing here anyway. A drag queen would be elected Empress of San Francisco because of... ah ... in the 1800's there was a character in San Francisco's society named Josiah Norton who lost his butt in the grain market and he called himself the Emperor of San Francisco and Protector of Mexico and issued his own money and was paraded around town. They would take his money for food, drink, hotels and all of that. And then it just became a thing. They even made a movie out of it but I haven't been able to find a print of it. Hollywood did make a movie of it called Norton. So after seven years of the Empress thing then the men said, 'Why do we have to have a drag queen? Why can't we have a male counterpart to that?' So a committee of people formed the council ... a committee to elect an emperor. And there were seven people running including a dyke because there were a lot of people opposed to it. They were ... ah ... you know ... tramping on somebody's territory. Ah ... I was for it and I wrote about it. But I didn't enter it until about a month before ...
JR: What year was that?
MH: 1997 .... well, it started in September of... wait a minute ... in May of 197 .... '72 when they started it all. The guy I was supporting of it and was going to vote for .... he was a former Ice Capades [sp.] star ... skater ... who was very good looking and, you know, ... I went to his campaign party and he said, 'If I win, I will raise money to buy portal VD clinics for the gay neighborhood so that people can just go there and get tested. And all these other things. But the last thing he said, 'And I will go to Congress and ... ah.. try to get taxes for single people lowered.' And I thought, 'This is beyond camp. I mean, this guy is goofy. He is not going to .... I am The Emperor of San Francisco and plead before Congress to lower taxes for gay people!' That is when I got in it. I was the last one to get in it. They had ... ah ... like a primary with seven people running, including the dyke, and the top four would be the final for the voting. I was one of the ... it was between this ice skating guy and me then the dyke and a bike club member. The bike clubs were still kind of... ah ... they didn't want any of their people involved in that and they said no. So they knew me. It was very close.
JR: Was this a popular election? I mean, people got ballets and ...
MH: They voted ... they voted on a Saturday from eight in the morning to eight at night.
JR: Where did you go to vote?
MH: They had a voting place.
JR: Just one.
MH: Mm. And eighteen year olds could vote because there are discos here that allow eighteen year gay people in and my campaign manager owned one so he forced the committee to allow eighteen year olds. And I won! They had ten secret judges. We didn't know who they were. They had observed to see how freely outgoing we were. Blah, blah, blah. And then they had four community leaders who interview us. Of the ten secret judges, seven went for this ice skating guy. And of the four community leaders ... someone from MCC church, a leader from San Jose, one from Oakland and one from here ... of the four community leaders who interviewed us and voted, two went for the ice skater. So ... when all of those were added together, I ... ah ... it was a landslide in the popular vote that overshadowed all of that and I won. And I was wrecked! Of course, it was the first thing in San Francisco being an eccentric city that it is, including the straight press, covered. I was on all the TV channels. I was on the front page of the San Francisco Examiner that Saturday ... that Sunday. And there I am in the mayor's office, right? So the follow-up was the mayor. So Monday morning I go to my office and I am at my desk and he walks in and says, 'Well, I see I am not the only celebrity in this office!' And I said, 'No, your Honor, I guess you are not.' But that ... that even added more to my .... what?
HM: Notoriety or ... ah ... out there. Just out there. You know. Of course, they had this royal court system with places in Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Long Beach, and all of that. But I was the first one. The very next night after I won they were having their coronation thing over in Oakland. And then Monday they were having their first Emperor and Empress day in Los Angeles. So right off I was running. And I haven't stopped since. [laughs] So, you know, I am very much in the public eye. Lot of things that I do and .... is an object of whatever. ah ... I won ... they have these cable car rewards for, you know, outstanding achievements by members of the community. I won the columnist of year six years in a row to the point that nobody had a chance. So they created a Hall of Fame, put me in it and took me out of the running.
JR: Is that how you became ... ah ... judge emeritus? Is that the same thing that happened there?
MH: Oh, no. what happened there is ... ah ... there is a .... I have enemies, right, and one of them is in Chicago. His name is Roy. He used to write for .... one of the gay papers in Chicago.
JR: I know who you mean.
MH: And he ... for some reason he didn?t like me and I will admit that .... I win be open and non-judging as I am now .... that I have never slept with any of the contestants except once and I got caught. And it was the subject of much in the Chicago Gay papers that I should not be .... he was the leader of this group to remove me. I don?t know why but he was. And then Drummer magazine at that time got involved. Their ... ah ... their feeling was that as a member of San Francisco's leather community I should be more favorable towards Drummer magazine and Mr. Drummer then I am now than Chicago. They editorialized that I seem to think that the leather capital of the world is Chicago when it isn?t because of my involvement in blah, blah, blah. And I slammed them right back. So there is a lawsuit involved. Drummer was going to sue me for three million dollars. Can you believe that? Of course, it never happened. They didn't have the money to pay an attorney to do it. It just sort of fizzled out. As it turned out, I became friends again with ... ah.. John Ambry [sp.] No matter what, I really like him. The meritorious thing was when Dom died. He was ... like I had been with him throughout ... I wouldn?t be the chief judge but, you know, I really didn't want him to be dead anyway. And this ... what's his name? ...
NM: No. ah ... the guy .... what's his name? ... the columnist.
MH: Yeah! He made the biggest stink and wrote all this bullshit that I was a drunk and ... ah ... with the contestants. And that I shouldn?t be .... . They really put the pressure on Chuck somehow so that what they said was that they were going to make Tom Dombkowski [sp. ] because I had always been coordinator for the judges. You know, make sure the boys were in bed, blah, blah, blah. So they were going to make him the chief judge and I could be judge emeritus. I could ask questions but not score. But they wanted be there. They also wanted me to name the twenty semifinalists every year. That was the compromise I guess. No big deal! I mean, if I wasn't in the press or a judge, I would still be there. It is a major event that I ... would naturally cover even in a weekly newspaper. ah ... A lot of people would say, 'Well, what about the one in San Francisco? 'But this is the oldest one. It is the biggest one. We just celebrated our twenty fifth anniversary. ah ... Our subscriptions are all over the world. There are at least fifty bars and bookstores at least in the U.S. who get a whole box of papers every week. And they have to pay for the shipping. They ... Re ... some .. like in Seattle, there are three or four places that get it. They give it a way just for the convenience of their customers. Portland, Los Angeles, Long Beach. You name it. Salt Lake City! ah.. So I know it is very widely read and ... anyway, I guess the publicity value at the beginning for Chuck was ... it went to the West Coast because the paper goes from the Russian River all the way to San Jose and San Diego. So naturally ... I guess ... I don?t know. I have my doubts about that. I don't know. I have served him well and done well, you know. Chuck has always been really nice to me, you know. But lots of people ... I don?t know if you remember Pat Bat who used to be a manager at ...
JR: I have interviewed Pat but I have never met him.
MH: ah ... When he moved here from Chicago, the Eagle was about to open. The owner was Bob Damron. You know, the guide book queen and his partner. They offered me the job of manager. And after I had owned the Arena Bar here, I thought, 'Never in that business again!' I said, 'No!' And he said, 'Who can we get?' They didn't want to offer it to just people. Pat had just moved here from Chicago so I asked him how he felt about it. Boy, he loved it. So I recommended him to Bob Damron. I said, 'Here's a guy from Chicago. He has a different outlook, perspective. The Gold Coast is a world famous bar,' you know. I mean, why not. So they hired him. He lasted about a year because he was .... mind was still in Chicago. I mean, right away, instead of having bottled beer, he had cans for space and all of that because that is the way they did it at the Gold Coast. And all of that, which in this town is death! I mean, all this gay liberation and coming out and everything. They would be out there picketing so fast! So anyway ... ah .... they got somebody else and let him go. But that was ... he is still around. He has his mail order business and the editor of Drummer will tell you he is involved in a lot of things.
JR: How did the ... were you ... ah ... were you part of any of the Drummer contests?
MH: Yeah! I have judged Drummer before. I even won it one year. I think it was '81 or '82. I don?t know. I have the pictures. There have been so many contests. I am not kidding. Ohio. Texas. Florida. New England.
JR: ah ... Can you comment on the idea that ... ah .. the Gold Coast held the first leather contest and that is where the idea came from?
MH: No, because it isn't the first one.
JR: How did you ... what was the first one from your California perspective?
MH: In 1970 or 71, the most famous leather bar in San Francisco after the Gold Coast was Phoebe's.
JR: After the Gold Coast? Do you mean .... there wasn't a Gold Coast in San Francisco, was there?
MH: No. But I mean ...
JR: Oh! That the..
MH: That the Gold Coast was it. To me, the Eagle was .... the Eagle's Nest in New York, the Eagle, the Gold Coast, and Phoebe's were it in the country. That is where they would go
MH: when they came. So on their tenth anniversary they had a contest and named a Mr. Phoebe's. And they had one again the next year. The same guy won it both times because he looked like that statue. that was long before IIML. That wasn't the first leather title. It was just a bar title but I have the records of it. The guy got a ... ah ... have you seen the figure statute ... that big white thing?
JR: No, I haven't.
MH: You never have?
JR: No. Well, I was too innocent, too young!
MH: Well, it is like this statue of David, only he is in Leather. And, of course, the face is different and everything. He has got a leather jacket, hat, pants, boots. And they made these Plaster of Paris statues. Later they had some ceramic color and ....
JR: What year was that?
MH: Well, when I moved here in '68, the statue was there already.
JR: Now what year was the Mr. Phoebe contest?
MH: ah ..... .71 or '72. I can't remember what year. The guy who was the lover of the guy who won these both could tell me. I can?t remember right off hand. ah ... And they made a bronze statute of him ... this high ... and I have one. In fact, in our twenty fifth anniversary issue, I have a picture of it in it. It really wasn't the first leather title ever given out. It was just a bar title. There were none anywhere. Mr. Gold Coast. I don't even know when that started.
JR: October of '72, John Long [sp]. became Mr. Gold Coast.
MH: Anyway, they did it for two years then ... Phoebe's .... they just never done it again. Until this IML thing started. And even then they weren't even open. They had sold it and everything.
JR: Are we leaving anything out?
MH: [laughs] I don?t know what you need?
JR: I am just looking for some Chicago connections that is all really.
MH: Well, okay, in Chicago, the people who that I knew decided that Chuck is... Chuck Rodocker [sp.] that is .... he .... every year when I get to Chicago ... I stay at hotel ... when I get to my room, there is a big bouquet of flowers, a bottle of champagne, free drink passes and 'Welcome home' it used to say. He was just like a one man Chamber of Commerce because he did that to me and a couple of other people on a couple of different occasions. And, of course, Tom Dombkowski [sp.] who, the activist that he was, was another person that I really remember.
JR: How is it that no one from Chicago has won Mr. IML?
MH: I don't know. I have often thought about that. ah .... The closest they came [side
one ends] .... was the second contest and they had a contestant there from Chicago named
Joe LePrese [sp.] who was first runner up. He entered last year ... not this year ... but
last year.. on his fortieth or his forty second birthday again. But he is the only one who
has come close to winning. And, I don't know, it seems like in Chicago attire doesn't mean
very much. It is like New York. In New York, they could care less about that. They want
... all they want is where do you live and where do you work and how much do you make.
That is the way it is. I don't care if it is leather, drag, or political in New York. It
is what kind of job do you have. How much do you make? And where do you live? Chicago is
something like that but there is not the interest. ah ... The reason why San Francisco's
leather community is so big and ... ah ... united is because of the geographical nature of
the city. San Francisco is forty nine square miles. You can?t go any further then seven
miles in any one direction. So ... the transportation system ... the buses here are
perfect. Not ... it is ... ah ... it is not perfect but it is almost perfect.
JR: Did you ... ah.. know Sam Steward?
MH: Sam Steward?
JR: The author. Phil Andros. Who lived in Oakland.
NM: Oh, no. I had seen him but I didn't know him.
JR: Ah ... were you ... ah ... were you ever in Chicago in the Black Castle?
ME: ah ... No. I have never heard of that.
JR: Chuck's apartment house for a while. It was called the Black Castle.
MH: I thought it was the White House. All those white parties.
JR: He had the white parties at Dewes Mansion. That is a different place.
JR: That was later. That was later. Have you ever been to a white party?
MH: No. But I get an invitation every year though. Like clock work. I understand that it is a big, big deal. But I don't know if he still has that statue or not. I mean I would love to go to one but ... I forget when it is ... October?
MH: August. Well, I get an invitation every year. But I have never been to one.
JR: ah ... Are you a member or have you been a member of any motorcycle clubs?
MH: No, and I will tell you why. I could join any bike club in this city that I wanted
to. I am an honorary member of several around the country but ... ah ... in my role as a
columnist, I don?t ... I just declined to become a member, even an honorary one, Because
there is so much rivalry between them. Right away, it would be like, 'Wow!' I give them
all equal coverage. Every press release I get from a bike club that tells me something, it
is in print. And I think ... I know I could be fairer if I did belong to one of them but
it is just the idea of that I am so busy with all this other stuff that I don?t have time
for all those meetings and all that stuff. I have been to a lot of bike runs as their
guest or even paid to go but ... no, I learned that in LA.. I have my reasons for that but
... ah ... but no. You know, the way I look at it is that all these really neat guys in
these clubs ... and some of them are real beautiful ... I am not a follower. ah ... I am
not a joiner. I am not a joiner. If I feel like I want to expend and spend my time in a
project, it has got to benefit somebody else. And most of those things that they do are
for that. ah ... But there are so many here. There must be ... I might be exaggerating
here ... but there must be over a hundred and fifty AIDS related agencies in this town!
And there are eleven bike clubs or fraternal organizations including San Jose and other
parts of Northern California. Club Med and all that sort of stuff. I don?t have time
because they have their meetings, you know, or they have their weekend bike runs. It is
like you go and work your ass off because you a hundred or two hundred guests and you have
to feed them and keep them entertained and all of that. Not that I am adverse to working.
I work my ass off on this other stuff. It is just that I don't time for it.
JR: Sure. This is good! This is good! Thank you very much. Anything else you want to add? Anything you want to tell leather folk a hundred years from?
MH: Well, this is what I really want to say. After I first came out and into leather, I
of course involved in a lot of other things in this community and I had to deal with the A
Gays and the Political Gays and the Drag and the freaky and the kinky, you know. And no
matter how hard I tried to put the leather community in a good light year after year with
awards and this and that and the thousands ... no ... almost millions of dollars that the
leather here has raised ... not just for AIDS but other things. Guard dogs for the Blind.
JR: Well, I look forward to reading your book, Marcus.
MH: Well, ah ... I used to write about different neighborhoods. Gay Street. Folsom. Castro. Polk. Those are the main gay neighborhoods. In my column I used to refer to Polk Street as the Valley of the Queens, Castro as the Valley of the Dolls, Folsom as the Valley of the Kings, and Gay Street as the Valley of the Fleece. Right? Do you know Gail Woodbrun? Do you know her? Well, she is writing her doctorate and she asked permission ... if she could use that as the title, The Valley of the Kings. So that is out for a book. But I am working on it slowly. Everyone is screaming, 'You got all the pictures. You got all the facts. You got to put in writing. It is going to die when you go.' I am not getting any younger. so we will see.
JR: Well, thank you very much.