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Friday, March 17, 2017

The Pennsmen Celebrate 40 Years

Written by  Rodney Burger
Steven James, Proud Pennsman Steven James, Proud Pennsman

In January 1977, 13 men got together in a small apartment on 2nd Street in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to talk about forming a leather social club for folks in the area. Some in the group were familiar with other leather clubs that had been formed in the Mid-Atlantic region, such as Washington’s Centaur MC (founded in 1970), the Philadelphians MC (founded in 1974), and the ShipMates Club of Baltimore (also founded in 1974).

One of the founding members was Dave Moser who was already a member of the Spartan Motorcycle Club in the D.C. area. Not only did he contribute information about how to form a leather club, but he also designed the Pennsmen’s club logo or “colors,” which include the keystone shield, the Pennsylvania capitol dome, and two crossed spears to identify the nearby cities of York and Lancaster. The newly formed club started hosting spaghetti dinners to raise money to purchase the first set of club colors. As the Pennsmen continued to grow, the guys decided to join the Atlantic Motorcycle Coordinating Council (AMCC). This was a fairly new umbrella organization that had been formed to bring the various leather clubs together to share ideas and to coordinate the calendar so that clubs were not scheduling leather weekends (“runs”) or major events on the same dates as some other leather club in the area. At that time the AMCC required that a leather club be in existence for two years before it could be allowed into the organization. At the AMCC meeting in New York City in 1978 the Spartan MC nominated the Pennsmen for membership. The Centaurs seconded the nomination and the Pennsmen proudly became part of the AMCC before their two year anniversary.

This past March 3rd, the Pennsmen once again found themselves on 2nd Street in Harrisburg. No longer were they meeting in a small apartment. They had gathered on the 10th floor of the beautiful Crowne Plaza Harrisburg-Hershey Hotel to toast 40 years of brotherhood and to host a meeting of the AMCC. While the Pennsmen were hosting the weekend’s opening cocktail party, my ShipMate club brother Mike Reisig, who had traveled from his home in Fort Lauderdale to celebrate with the Pennsmen, and I ventured downstairs to the hotel’s bar for dinner. There we encountered popular bartender from The Brownstone Lounge and now assistant restaurant manager for the hotel Robert Parker who along with the rest of the Crowne Plaza staff did an outstanding job making everyone feel welcome.

Saturday, March 4th was a busy, but very enjoyable day. Although it was only 17 degrees in Harrisburg, I was warmly welcomed but many old friends from the leather community who had traveled from all up and down the East Coast to celebrate the Pennsmen’s anniversary. Although I enjoy leather contests, it was a nice change of pace to attend a leather weekend that was just about relaxing and socializing. After a buffet breakfast that was included in the low cost of the weekend, the Capital City Bears hosted the first of Saturday’s cocktail parties. (You know I’ve often written about the great value provided by leather events that include meals and beverages. They really are an inexpensive way to spend a weekend. Plus lots of fun!)

The next cocktail party was hosted by the ShipMates with a below-the-Mason-Dixon Line theme and of course the cocktail was the Black-Eyed Susan. Next up was the Three Rivers Leather Club who showed up in force including club member Martel Brown, Jr., who in January was selected Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2017. (Champagne and strawberries – yum!) Pre-dinner cocktails were provided by longtime leather community member Paul Rose.

Saturday evening brought a formal leather banquet featuring lots of Italian dishes in the hotel’s main ballroom. It was great to see the Reading Railmen, a club that was somewhat derailed when Reading’s last gay bar closed, also turned out in great numbers. In fact Reading Railmen member Bill Eck provided the music for all the parties during the weekend. The 40th anniversary of the Pennsmen really did bring out many of the older leather folks. (In fact the only chicken I saw was on the buffet.) I loved that even the hotel’s wait staff were in black jeans and leather vest. During the dinner there was a slideshow featuring many past Pennsmen gatherings and events and a parade of club colors of the many leather clubs in attendance.

After dinner, the Centaur MC hosted the after dinner cocktail partty which included wonderful coffee drinks. The Centaurs looked lovely in their June Cleaver outfits. Centaur MC President Todd White looked more like Betty White. It was quite a coffee klatsch.

On Saturday night the Pennsmen hosted their monthly leather night at the Brownstone Lounge. There was a 50-50 raffle, an anniversary cake, and their famous liquor-filled gummy rings.

The weekend ended on Sunday with a continental breakfast. I was so glad that I was able to make it up to Harrisburg for the Pennsmen’s 40th anniversary. Harrisburg is always a fun place to visit. On April 14th starting a 9 p.m. “Leather & Lace” is happening at Stallions (706 North 3rd Street) with Bearlesque and some of Harrisburg’s best drag queens. Proceeds will go towards the Mr. Mayhem Fund. Tickets are just $5 at the door. You can often find the Capital City Bears and The Pennsmen at The Brownstone Lounge (412 Forster Street – see Facebook page for events). You will be warmly welcomed. After 40 years the leather community is alive and well in Harrisburg.

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