I hate to admit it, but I am really not a big fan of the holiday season. It’s stressful, melancholy, and often a recipe for disappointment. We are often reminded of younger days, miss those who are no longer with us, and discover that our holiday reality is not perfect like those seen in movies or TV shows. We may miss those family traditions that have fallen by the wayside due to changes in family situations or simply the passing of time. At this time of year I am thankful that three of my favorite Baltimore holiday traditions live on and even after all these years still bring me joy.

For over 30 years the ShipMates Club of Baltimore has hosted their annual Daddy Christmas fundraiser on the first weekend of December. Traditionally held of the first Saturday of the month, only once in 2015 was it held on the first Friday of December in conjunction with leather night at the Loft at Grand Central. The event’s location has moved around as bars change or close. It has been held at the Gallery, where the ShipMates were founded in 1974 back when the Gallery was a leather bar, at the Baltimore Eagle, at the Quest, and at Grand Central. On Saturday, December 2nd the tradition of the ShipMates kicking off the holiday season in Baltimore continued as ShipMates’ Daddy Christmas 2017 was held in the dance club area of Grand Central. This year’s event was a fundraiser for the Baltimore Transgender Alliance and as usual there was a silent auction and someone won a raffle for a wagon full of booze for just a one dollar ticket purchase. Also in keeping with tradition, a current local leather titleholder filled in for Santa, who is pretty busy this time of year. Atlantic States Leatherboy 2018 Justin Charles made for one hot Santa! Not having the Loft open above Grand Central made for a big change this year and it was a little awkward having the silent auction spread out on a rather dimly lit stage during the club’s goth night- but there were big crowds all evening, the music provided by DJ’s Neska, Dark Angel, and Nicholai was great, everyone had lots of fun, I met lots of new people, and money was raised for a good cause. Big thanks to Don Davis and the staff of Grand Central for another successful Daddy Christmas. I have been a member of the ShipMates for over 20 years and started helping out with Daddy Christmas even before I joined the club. Mark your calendar for the first Saturday of December 2018 for next year’s Daddy Christmas. Come out and join in the fun.

On the first Thursday of December thousands gather in Mount Vernon Place for the annual lighting of Baltimore’s biggest “Christmas tree,” the 178-foot Washington Monument. This was the 46th year for the “monumental occasion” and the festivities just get bigger every year. With food tents, a beer garden, cocktail bars, and all kinds of music, it is a wonderful way to celebrate the holidays in Baltimore. Parking can be difficult, so I started the evening early with a few beers at Leon’s. Hey, I like to be lit before the monument. The bar was very festive and everyone was in the holiday spirit. Entertainment at the monument this year included the Baltimore Rock Opera Society who performed a mini opera that looked like a campy sci-fi adventure from the 1960s. I loved it. The Morgan State University Choir was fantastic as was the Peabody Community Chorus. As a big surprise the crowd was treated to Baltimore’s own award-winning R&B group, Dru Hill, which sang an original holiday song from their just released Christmas album. There was so much entertainment that the lighting of the monument with fireworks didn’t happen until 8:30 instead of the scheduled 8 pm. (Yes, people bitched about the delay on Facebook. I hope those folks get a life for Christmas.) I enjoyed the event thoroughly and it was another spirited seasonal celebration in Baltimore.

The last part of my holiday trilogy also did not disappoint. In keeping with tradition it is always held on the second Saturday of December. For 19 years the 12 Days of Christmas variety show has brought the drag community and the leather community together for a fun afternoon of fundraising, entertainment, and brotherhood. For 16 years the show was held at the Club Hippo in Mount Vernon. The Hippo was always beautifully decorated for the holidays and the dancefloor area of the Hippo provided the perfect sitting for this annual extravaganza. When the Hippo closed three years ago show producers Rik Newton-Treadway and Hooker & boys looked all over town for a new venue. It had to be large enough to seat the large audience, serve alcohol, and be affordable so that the event would still be able to raise money for the charities. With the help of Mid-Atlantic LeatherSIR 2010 / 2011 Sir John Krikorian, they discovered the Maritime Conference Center in Linthicum Heights near BWI Airport. It was affordable, served food and alcohol, had lots of free parking, and could even provide reasonably priced rooms for the many out of town guests. The one thing you cannot plan is the weather. The 19th annual 12 Days of Christmas show on December 9th was themed: “Naughty, Nice, and Nasty.” Unfortunately the weather was nasty. This not only resulted in some no shows but also lots of people left at intermission as the snow continued to fall. But in the great tradition of show business the show went on – and what a great show it was! I will not attempt to list all the performers involved in this spectacle. (You should see the phenomenal program. It looks like a coffee table book!) Emceed by Mr. Maryland Leather 1999 David Allen – Producer of Alaska’s only BDSM / leather conference (Northern Exposure), Sarha Shaubach, and Baltimore’s own Queen of Comedy Shawnna Alexander this production had something for everybody. From a sassy opening number presented by COMMAND MC, who turned the song “Santa Baby” into “Santa Daddy” to an outstanding burlesque performance by International Ms. Leather 2016 Lascivious Jane, the 12 Days of Christmas Show kept everyone entertained. There was also a large silent auction and pictures with Mr. and Ms. Santa Claus played by FIST member “Butch” Lee Norward and American Leathergirl 2006 Dawn Marie. Last year the stage was set up in the middle of the room in a theatre-in-the-round style with the emcees at the far end of the large space. This year as a throwback to the Hippo days, it was a more traditional stage complete with a t-shaped lighted runway. There was even a reproduction of the famous Hippo logo as a backdrop. (It looked so good I thought it was the actual Hippo sign.) As I had the pleasure of doing many times at the Hippo, I also took the stage as a performer this year. (I came out right after a very hot male stripper. I’m sure many thought it was an encore.) For years I had wanted to sing the Stephen Sondheim song “I’m Still Here” from the Broadway show Follies. It is about someone who has been around for a long time, has had ups and downs, seen it all – but is still going strong. I rewrote the words so that it would related to my experiences in the leather community. It was really fun to perform. I had a blast. The show ended with the traditional final performance by Rik Newton-Treadway as Cher. What a great afternoon. Once again the 12 Days of Christmas was a big success and this year benefited AIDS Action Baltimore, Hagerstown Hopes, Project Real, and Leather Heart Foundation. It looks like thanks to my leather family and favorite three holiday events, I’ll make it through another December. I hope you find some joy this holiday season as well. As for me, I’m still here!