In 1997 Patrick Grady was working as the Director of Catering at the Washington Plaza Hotel on Logan Circle in Washington, DC when he learned that a leather club called the Centaur MC had booked the hotel for their Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend. Although born in the small town of Peru, Indiana, Patrick was from a military family whose father was stationed in England and brought him to Europe as a small child on the RMS Queen Elizabeth, so he had seen a thing or two in his life. Plus, he always loved seeing men in boots and uniforms dating back to his years growing up in England. While living in Germany, he discovered that the German soldiers, unlike Americans, were far from prudish and had no problem stripping down and going for a swim. In those pre-internet years, he learned about the world by sneaking into adult bookstores. He moved around a lot and learned a lot too.
Patrick’s work in the hospitality industry brought him to Washington, DC where he worked at George Washington University, the World Park Hyatt, and the historic Morrison-Clark Inn & Restaurant prior to the Washington Plaza. Unfamiliar with the drinking habits of leather men, he thought the hotel would need to stock lots of cordials and liquor. Beer and vodka turned out to be the popular items. Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend proved to be a huge success and was very profitable for the hotel. The event was booked there again for the following year and the smell of all that leather had him hooked. He soon found himself becoming a “groupie” for the Centaur, MC.
Each year during MAL, he could be found at the Washington Plaza and although he got to meet and become friends with many MAL attendees, he was never in leather because he was working. Being the man in the perfectly pressed business suit earned him the nickname “the suit guy.” He would sometimes change into black jeans. Mr. S. Leather finally gave him a pair of black leather jeans and told him, “We want to see you in leather!” He was eventually asked to become a member of the Centaur MC. He started as an associate member because he did not think he would have the time to devote to the club. Later he became a full member.
Patrick often vacationed in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware with friends who lived at Eagles Landing. He friends introduced him to the owners of the Double L bar, a leather bar in Rehoboth. He attended the Mr. Double L Leather Contest in 2002 and in 2003 was asked by Centaur member Al Santora, one of the founders of the Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather Contest, and popular leather contest emcee Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 1993 Frank Nowicki, if he would be interested in being a contestant. Although Patrick says he was really nervous on stage, he took home the title of Mr. Double L Leather 2003. Patrick loved the Double L bar and enjoyed hosting events there so much that he would often stay after the bar closed to help clean up. One of his favorite memories of his title year is riding in the DC Pride Parade. It was a tradition at the bar that the outgoing titleholder would produce the Mr. Double L Leather Contest the following year. He ended up producing it for several years with the Centaur MC hosting a victory party afterwards at a nearby home. He even designed the backpatch for the new titleholder using the bar’s logo. A few years ago, Patrick had the great honor of being selected to judge the largest leather contest of them all, International Mr. Leather in Chicago. Patrick said he was really shocked to have been asked. He took his job seriously and made sure that he familiarized himself with all the IML contestants by googling them and reading their press releases in the Leather Journal. It is a serious job and he noted that judges are even escorted to the bathroom during the interviews to make sure they don’t fraternize or share information with contestants.
Patrick’s skills in running and organizing events has been used for many years as the chairman for Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend. This is a position selected by the president of the Centaur MC. MAL eventually outgrew the Washington Plaza Hotel and is now held at the much larger Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill. (which still sold out in under 15 minutes for 2022.) He is currently the MAL 2020 – 2022 Chairman. After an enormously successful MAL in January 2020, he had the unfortunate task of breaking the bad news to the Hyatt that the 2021 event would have to be cancelled. He says he hand-carried the Centaur’s cancellation letter along with a bouquet of flowers to the Hyatt. DC still has a 25% capacity requirement for bars and restaurants and has limited gatherings to ten people, so hosting an event that attracts thousands was out of the question.
I asked Patrick what he thought it was that makes MAL so popular. He said that when you walk into the Hyatt during MAL weekend, you are entering a safe, relaxing, welcoming space. For many it is like coming home as they get to catch up with old friends and make new ones. He has seen the leather community grow with the leather boy movement, the pups, furries, rubber enthusiast, superhero fans, and more. Every fetish is welcome at MAL. The Centaur MC have a long tradition of hospitality, but Patrick was quick to add: “They are not a show club!”
With all the changes in the world due to COVID-19, I had to asked what he thought MAL would look like in January 2022. He said that currently it is hard to tell. In June he will be meeting with the nearby overflow hotels, some of which have recently changed hands. In the past, buses were provided to shuttle attendees to the DC Eagle. Now that the bar is gone, it may be time to create some other fun activity like a street party in the blocks between the surrounding hotels. There is also talk of moving MAL to an even bigger hotel, but the Centaurs currently have a contract with the Hyatt for another two years and the current hotel staff have been wonderful.
It may be a year away, but I know I am already looking forward to Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend 2022. So is that charming guy in the suit, who has now blossomed into a prominent leather man.
- Rodney is originally from Hagerstown, Maryland and for many years has lived in Baltimore. In April 2017, Rodney was sworn in for his 10th year as the President of the ShipMates Club of Baltimore. He has been involved in the leather community for many years, but often denies that he sold Jell-O shots at The Last Supper. He has been writing THE LEATHER LINE for the BALTIMORE OUTLOUD newspaper (Baltimoreoutloud.com.) for over fourteen years. He has produced the Mr. & Ms. Baltimore Eagle Contest and the Maryland LeatherSIR/Leatherboy Contest. In 2001 he was proud to serve as Maryland Mr. Drummer 2001. Rodney also does stand-up comedy and in 2013 was thrilled to perform at Philadelphia Leather Pride Night. He has been nominated multiple times for a Pantheon of Leather Award, was selected Leather Man of the Year in 2013 by COMMAND M.C. and by the Baltimore Leather Association of the Deaf in 2006. The 11th annual 12 Days of Christmas benefit show was dedicated to Rodney and his partner Sir Steve. He has been twice selected as ShipMate of the Year. He has judged Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2015, Atlantic States LeatherSIR / Leatherboy and recently judged Mr. Eagle NYC 2018. He is delighted to be able to bring news of his beloved leather community to his readers every issue.