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Friday, February 17, 2017

Philadelphia Freedom!

Written by  Rodney Burger
Beyond brotherly love– Heather Raquel and Nicholas Hollup donning their sashes Beyond brotherly love– Heather Raquel and Nicholas Hollup donning their sashes

Nicholas Hollup was named Mr. Philadelphia Leather 2017 and Heather Raquel was sashed Ms. Philadelphia Leather 2017 on Saturday, February 11th in front of a packed house at the Bike Stop in downtown Philadelphia. Bull, a member of the Atlanta Panther Leather / Levi Club and a recent Philadelphia transplant, was first runner-up for Mr. Philadelphia Leather 2017, and Kitten, executive producer of Philadelphia Leather Pride night, was first runner-up for Ms. Philadelphia Leather 2017. Also competing for Mr. Philadelphia Leather 2017 were Christopher Stratton, who was first runner-up to Mr. Mayhem Leather 2016, and Erich a proud military veteran. The Mr. Philadelphia Leather Contest started in 1983 and the Ms. Philadelphia Leather title was added in 1993. The contest stopped in 2009, but was resurrected in 2015. Produced by the Philadelphians MC this contest has become one of the best-produced events in the area. I am also so happy to say that many of the Philadelphia Leather titleholders have become my dear friends. In fact my ShipMate club brother Alex Lemaire and I arrived in the area on Friday and stayed at the beautiful home of Mr. Philadelphia Leather 2007 John Loesch who was such an amazing host that after an evening of bar-hopping, he cooked pancakes, eggs, and bacon at 2:30 in the morning. (I also want to thank Mr. Philadelphia Leather 2005-06 Bill Hawk who made sure that I had a seat at the contest when many folks were standing in the back.)

How appropriate that, in a time of so much unhappiness with America’s current political climate, the Philadelphians selected the theme of a World War II era USO show. The room was plastered with reproductions of vintage World War II posters and after the contest when I walked from the third floor of the Bike Stop to the second floor I entered into a jam-packed room of hot guys in uniform and the Andrew Sisters were playing on the sound system. It was truly magical – and so hot! Also after the contest the Philadelphians hosted a gear party dance with music by DJ Dave Huge on the bar’s top floor.

In another moment of perfection, the contest opened with a performance by Ms. Philadelphia Leather 2015 Lascivious Jane who recreated her onstage fantasy that helped her bring home the International Ms. Leather 2016 title. This extremely sexy fantasy involved Rosie the Riveter putting Uncle Sam in bondage until he ejaculated dollar bills. Jane is amazing and in a speech given later in the contest she noted that many people have commented to her that the next International Ms. Leather is going to have some tough boots to fill. Jane stated, “The only boots you have to fill are your own.”

The contest was skillfully emceed by American Leatherboy 2013 Tank Teachworth and Carlota Ttendant, a popular Philadelphia-area performer for over 30 years who was also the 2000 Gay Pride Marshal. The judges were Mr. Philadelphia Leather 2016 Rudy Flesher, Ms. Philadelphia Leather 2016 Alaina Hummel, and State Representative for Center City Philadelphia and the first openly gay member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly Brian Sims. In a unique twist, audience members were also allowed to vote for their favorites by going online during the contest. Audience members were only allowed to vote once with the popular vote making up 10 % of the final scores. (It is my understanding that it was a very close contest with only one point separating the winner and first runner-up for Mr. Philadelphia Leather 2017.)

In another unusual change from most leather contest, there was no pre-judging. Contestants did not have an interview with the judges prior to the contest so audience members saw 100% of the contest onstage. Contestants were judged in barware, hot wear, answered the same onstage question about cultivating leather relationships in the community, appeared in formal leather, selected a funny question from a hat (in keeping with the theme, it was an army combat helmet), and gave a short speech. All contestants did a great job and many in the audience had trouble guessing the winners. In fact afterwards many expressed that they were surprised when 26-year-old Nicholas who is fairly new to the leather community was selected.

There seems to be a trend this year with young, creative, energetic kinksters being selected for leather titles over contestants with more years of experience and longer résumés. Personally I think it is wonderful that the next generation, who are often criticized for hiding behind their electronic devices, are stepping up and running for leather titles. As someone who has been in the leather community for a long time – although I often deny that I sold Jell-O shots at the Last Supper – I am excited that the next generation is providing a renewed energy and helping to write the next chapter as the leather community evolves. The spirit of freedom is alive and well in Philadelphia. The Bike Stop which has been Philadelphia’s leather bar since 1982 was packed all weekend. I couldn’t be more proud.

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