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Swimming pool and speed dating enhance CLAW 14
Cleveland--Three and a half hotels later, CLAW 14 is over, another success in a long line of them for one of the leather community’s most prominent gatherings.
The Cleveland Leather Annual Weekend moved to the Sheraton Cleveland Airport for the April 24-27 event, which gave them more space for events in the hotel than they’ve ever had before.
“It was our first year outside of downtown,” said chairman Robert Miller. “It’s a beautiful hotel, a really great staff, so it worked out great.”
They held registration and gatherings in the main lobby for the first time, and had space in the hotel, underneath the lobby, for a dungeon party and other events, including one of the four speed-dating parties.
“People loved it. Anybody could sign up, it wasn’t just the ‘hot’ guys,” Miller noted. “You had odd-looking combinations talking to each other; they had three minutes each, but there was lots of talking, people got to know each other at the event.”
The presence of a large swimming pool at the hotel meant that CLAW could also hold its first pool party.
“The pool there is very nice, it’s right off the lobby,” Miller said. “I couldn’t believe when I walked in there on Friday night. I thought, oh, I wonder if anybody came.”
“There were six beach balls up in the air at once,” he continued. “The pool was filled with big, hairy guys, the pool area was full. It was beautiful, really.”
In addition to almost three dozen educational programs and a monumental vendor mart, there were parties of every stripe. There was a comedy performance by John Pendal on Saturday and the Final Approach show on Sunday. There were also honors for the Leather Hall of Fame inductees at brunch on Sunday.
This year’s Hall of Fame inductees were John Embry, the founder of Drummer magazine, lesbian leather activist Cynthia Slater, and the Chicago Hellfire Club. It was the sixth annual induction at CLAW, which supports the Leather Archives and Museum.
Miller stressed how groundbreaking Slater was. In a time when the leather community in San Francisco was visible and had spaces, it was almost exclusively male. She organized women to invade male space so that they could also share in the bounties of San Francisco as the promised land. She also cofounded the Society of Janus, a BDSM education and support organization.
“The Leather Archives and Museum room had a nice exhibit of the Chicago Hellfire Club in particular, including some stuff they have that has never been shown,” he noted. “We also started a leather community memorial, like a circle of life kind of thing, an opportunity for people to say the name of someone who passed on. It was nice. We had a big bolt of leather, light colored brown leather, that people were able to write their memorials on.”
Tim Starkey, Barry Ort and Twist owner John Katsaros were noted specifically in the program booklet.
In addition to the Sheraton Cleveland Airport, the entire Howard Johnson’s was booked up, along with a big block of the Crown Plaza in Middleburg Heights and the nearby Radisson.
“Next year will be much easier in that respect, since the Holiday Inn has 110 more rooms than we had this year,” Miller said, announcing that next year’s CLAW will be held at the Holiday Inn in Independence. He said that they will have an overflow hotel announced this summer.
“Attendance was up, but not a huge amount,” he said. “We had 16 sustaining sponsors for CLAW, that is sponsors donating at least $1,000 in cash or more, up from 12 last year.”
Those included Recon, which sponsored the Recon Reflex parties at Flex, Mr. S Leather, Leatherwerks, Le Chateau Exotique, Leatherman NYC, Flex itself, Stompers Boots, Chaps Inn, Square Peg Toys, International Mr. Leather, Miller, Torso and others. Leatherwerks has sponsored the event throughout its history, but this was the first time they had a booth in the vendor mart, which excited Miller.
While the event was billed as CLAW 14, it was the 13th annual festivity. They had a party in December which they dubbed CLAW 13 so that they could make the number of CLAW match the number of the year.
Regardless of the numerical legerdemain, Miller noted, “It was all good, all successful, so we’re pretty proud of it. I’m a proud chairman.”
The funds raised over the weekend will be disbursed to local and national charities over the summer, although a donation of $2,500 from the December party is being made next week to Cleveland Pride.