This past weekend, after an over three-year-long hiatus due to COVID-19, Dragonslair Productions brought back the highly anticipated New Jersey Leather Weekend to Paradise and the Empress Hotel in Asbury Park, which hosts the Mr. and Ms NJ Leather Contest. Boy, did it not disappoint! This year’s master of ceremonies, as before, was the amazingly, awe-inspiring Jeff Tucker, International Mr. Leather 1996.
The weekend was dedicated to “Daddy” Dion Daly-Susino, one of the founding producers, who lost a battle to cancer this past year. I know he was there in spirit loving every single minute of it, and I for one, was very emotional witnessing the outpouring of love, family, and let’s not forget; debauchery!
We started the weekend with Friday’s opening ceremony hosted by Jessica Em and “We Are Better Together,” which holds several fundraisers online throughout the year for those in the community in need. It was followed by the customary gear and uniform “meat”-and-greet, where the contestants got a chance to meet the judges and guests. They had an opportunity to sell raffle tickets to supplement the winner’s travel fund for the year.
On Saturday, Jersey Kollege of Kink (“JKOK”) was in session, with Head Mistress Morgaine Raymond, Ms New Jersey Leather 2010. Mistress Morgaine held a number of educational workshops, including “Gear Care 101” with SteeleToe Scrivener, Mr. Northeast Leather Bootblack 2020. There was a session on microbranding with Bumper MidAtlantic Leatherwoman Bootblack 2018. Lynx Onyx, Mr. New Jersey Leather 2019, discussed wax play. Mr. New Jersey leather and American Leatherman 2018, yours truly, held a rainy cigar social poolside before the contest proving that leatherfolx will smoke their cigars whenever they please!
This year’s contest experienced a bit of an evolution as the criteria to enter was broadened to include any person that identifies with a Mr. or Ms title. In the past only gay men and lesbians were allowed to enter. “Daddy” Sal Susino, founding member of Dragonslair Productions and Patriarch to the NJ Leather Family told me, “I feel that it is time to evolve with the times and give our other siblings an opportunity to compete if they identify with either title.” Now, this does not mean that it is an “MX” title; there are other contests in the community that welcome our nonbinary family.
There were three amazing contestants contending for the coveted title of Mr. NJ Leather. Sir Shots Stone, who was first runner-up for the contest in 2019 and recipient of this year’s Spirit Award; Steven “Pup Yellow,” who entered the contest for the very first time and took the first runner-up spot; and Dr. Michael Zito-Govert, a 30-year veteran leather boy in the community, who took the coveted title of Mr. New Jersey Leather 2023. There was one contestant for Ms New Jersey Leather this year: Sandi Smith exceeded the necessary points to snatch that sash and is the first openly bisexual contestant to hold the title.
Mr. New Jersey Leather 2020 Bobby Lowry and Ms New Jersey Leather 2020, Gretchen Bennett finally had a chance to step aside after a long, long, long title run and delivered super emotional speeches. They will continue doing the work in the community as they have before and during the title.
We cannot wait to see the exciting new things our current titleholders will bring this upcoming year.
Dragonslair would like to thank its sponsors: Asbury Park Leather, Paradise and the Empress Hotel, We are Better Together, FM Leather, Wolfstryker Leather, MADIF, Butch Gear NYC, Folsom Street East, Passional Boutique, and Women of Drummer.