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Theatre, Music, etc.
EVENINGS OUT

 


May 7 , 2010

A weekend of fun at CLAW

Cleveland--For the ninth year in a row, the Cleveland Leather Awareness Weekend packed the Wyndham and other downtown hotels from April 22 to 25, creating a weekend of fun benefiting LGBT, AIDS and breast cancer charities.

The event saw an increase in attendance of around 250 people from last year, which president Dennis McMahon found impressive, “especially with the economy the way it is.”

“We had guys coming in from England this year, a lot of Canadians,” he noted. “It’s cost-effective. You get a lot more bang for your buck than you do in a lot of other major cities.”

Even aside from the financial aspects, there is one factor that McMahon believes makes Cleveland and CLAW a great weekend.

“Cleveland is people. The personality of Clevelanders, they’re accommodating, they’re fun, they’re just good-hearted people,” he said.

In addition to the workshops, vendor mart, instructional forums and play parties, McMahon especially had fun hosting a new event, the Leather Burlesque Bingo on Sunday, which was a fundraiser for breast cancer awareness.

“Mary Elizabeth Boyd from Washington, D.C.--the First Lady of Leather--and I got to call bingo. Lady Justice from Canton was slated to call it but she had medical issues,” he said. “Spanky, Mr. NJ Leather 2008, is a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence, and wore a dress with fake breasts all over it--it was an udder dress.”

The event raised $1,600 and featured leather titleholders stripping between cards, their G-strings and jockstraps being filled with money by attendees.

Later on Sunday was the annual vaudeville show, held for the second year at the Cleveland Agora.

“Tina had her Love Potion Number 9 show, and once again she outdid herself,” McMahon noted. “The performers were just phenomenal. Sir Marc, Mr. Eastern Canada Leather Sir, sang ‘Phantom of the Opera,’ and sang the Canadian national anthem at the opening night dinner.”

Leather Hall of Fame

Sunday also saw the 2010 Leather Hall of Fame induction ceremony, in which the Satyrs Motorcycle Club, Tony DeBlase, Frank Olson and Don Morrison were honored.

The Satyrs were founded in 1954, and are the longest continually-running gay organization in the nation. The group’s members were instrumental in leading resistance to the police raids on gay bars in Los Angeles in the 1970s, eventually leading to the end of the harassment.

Olson and Morrison were leather community pioneers in New York City, organizing parties and opening bars as police pressure forced the closures of existing venues. The couple are still together a half-century later, living in Pennsylvania.

DeBlase is a co-founder of the Leather Archives and Museum, wrote leather fiction, designed the Leather Pride Flag, developed the Chicago Hellfire Club’s Inferno schedule and published Drummer magazine during its heyday from 1986 to 1992. He passed away in 2000.

While CLAW always honors the past, its own and that of the leather community at large, with the tenth anniversary being held next year, McMahon and the other organizers have their eyes firmly fixed on the future.

Moving to a bigger hotel

While the planning process has barely begun, and the organizers seldom have concrete information about the following year to share this early in the game, McMahon did drop a bombshell--after five years at the Wyndham, CLAW will be moving.

“We’ve outgrown the hotel,” he said. “They’ve been wonderful to us, but we’re moving to the Hilton Garden Inn on Carnegie Avenue, cater-corner from Progressive Field.”

The attraction of the new venue? More space--a lot of it.

“It has around 50 more rooms and nearly double the meeting space, so our vendor area and our workshops are will be double,” he explained. “This year we doubled attendance at our workshops. We brought in national experts in different fields. It was really well received.”

“We’ll have workshops on Friday and Saturday, as opposed to just Saturday, because we have the space now,” he continued. “We’ll accommodate 400 for dinner. This year we had 286, which was our biggest ever.”

Bareback videos not banned

One issue that came up in the planning of this year’s event was the question of whether or not to bar video companies that make bareback videos, films in which safe sex is not practiced. International Mr. Leather found itself at the center of controversy in the last year with their decision to ban companies like Treasure Island Media and USA Jock from their events.

“IML has a policy of no barebacking, and in doing so they’ve eliminated any vendor who sells bareback, and Treasure Island is a barebacking company, as is USAJock,” McMahon noted. “The CLAW board decided not to censor. We’re not endorsing, but people are adults, they know what’s going on, and watching a video isn’t going to make you go out and do it.”

“We’re all about safe sex, but we’re not into censoring, and adults can make their own decisions. We’re a sex-positive convention,” he concluded.

IML was the target of a great deal of criticism for its decision, as was the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco. A number of bloggers and activists argue that IML and Folsom should bring these other viewpoints into the discussion instead of banning them.

Regardless of what video companies show up, however, CLAW X will be held from April 28 to May 1, 2011 at the Hilton Garden Inn. More information is available at www.clawinfo.org.

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