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Friday, June 09, 2017

Leatherman Rodney Burger

Written by  Sarah Humble

Do you remember the Deer Park Lodge? The Renegade in Rehoboth? The NoMad bar between OC and Rehoboth? The fried chicken at the Gallery? Mr. Marcus? Rodney Burger does! I recently had the pleasure of talking with Rodney under the guise of using the interview to teach someone how to do a short oral history. And now I am going to tell you a bit about the amazing leatherman who keeps the entire Mid-Atlantic region up to date about the goings on in our community.

Rodney was born in Hagerstown and those western Maryland values have stayed with him. He’s committed to his family, his friends, the ShipMates, Sir Steve, his career (recently retired), Baltimore OUTloud and the leather community. Rodney believes in working hard, treating everyone fairly and that it’s important to regularly have a good time.

Rodney’s mother took him to his first drag show. They were in Wildwood, New Jersey, and he and his mom went to the Hurricane Club to see the “floor show.” His mom loved the entertainment but was perplexed when reading the program - she wondered why there were “so many typos.” A few years later he took his high school girlfriend to the Deer Park Lodge for New Year’s Eve because they had the “best dance music.” Of course, they started the night at a different club so they could tell their friends and families something about their evening – it wasn’t easy being gay or even gay friendly outside of the big city back in those days.

Rodney moved to Baltimore in 1984 after receiving a degree in English and a short stint as a security guard at a high rise building in Ocean City. Initially

Rodney expected to go to New York, make it on Broadway and see his name in lights. Though he passed all the hiring tests for Macy’s (his planned ‘day job’ while he was making it big in show business) he was told that he wouldn’t be able to have the life he wanted in the Big Apple by working at Macy’s.

So, Baltimore it was, even though Rodney’s passion for the theater has never waned. And he still loves Baltimore with its accessibility to DC and Philadelphia, the low cost of living, the world class art and theatre scene and the world champion sports teams.

Rodney didn’t join a leather club until 1997. While he had been around the ShipMates since the mid 1980’s, had volunteered many times for their Daddy Christmas fundraisers and had gotten drunk with them a ‘time or two’, he “hadn’t been asked.” Since joining the ShipMates Rodney has been President ten times.

He’s organized fundraisers, built stages and sets, hosted cocktail parties at the best gay leather events and unfortunately buried more than a few brothers.

Professionally, Rodney worked for the Maryland Prison System. His career started as a guard and I imagine that his uniform made getting into the Gallery easier back in the days when it was a “dress code bar.” He said he was growing tired of being a guard when an opening in the HR department opened up. He put on his best suit and tie and landed that job, where he spent the rest of his career. Rodney’s theatre background helped during employee hearings as he always performed well in front of judges. He was Mr. Maryland Drummer in 2001 but that’s for another column.

In retirement Rodney wants to travel more. He said that though he’s been to California many times he’s never been to Los Angeles. He wants to see Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in particular.

I haven’t lived in Charm City for ten years (I miss it immensely) and I wanted Rodney’s opinion on the changes since I’ve been gone, both positive and negative. I was most interested in how the closing of the Hippo and the extended closure of the Baltimore Eagle has impacted the gay community as a whole and specifically the leather community. “The leather community isn’t a bar” he stressed. And Rodney knows more about the leather community than most people!

Rodney believes the LGBT press is still very relevant. Baltimore OUTloud, like other good LGBT newspapers cover more than “gay news.” He said “gay media during the Trump era is especially important” as issues can be presented fully and “not PC’d up.”

The last two questions I ask everyone I interview are “What are you most proud of” and “How do you want to be remembered”? Rodney said he is most proud “for stepping up and covering the events in the leather community every other week for 13 years” and that his column “promotes my community in a positive light.”

If you’ve ever heard Rodney speak I think you’ll know how he wants to be remembered … for his sense of humor.

Thank you, Rodney. For making sure Baltimore OUTloud has had a leather column for 13 years. Or 335-plus columns. I know you make Mr Marcus proud!

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