Bonds of Blue, Black & White, Sealed in Love
Photo credit: Sabino Paulicelli Photography

Bonds of Blue, Black & White, Sealed in Love

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By Cory David, Mr. Eagle Wilton Manors 2020/2021

I was invited to judge the Sawmill Leather Sir and Boy competition in January 2021. The pandemic canceled most leather title competitions in 2020. Sawmill Campground decided to hold their competition, with their added advantage, to host outdoor activities for social distancing. The sprawling property features four bars, a pool, lake, nature walk, outdoor pavilion with stage, and a general store. It is an LGBTQ+ community and a melting pot of amazing people from around the country. Our group that attended from Wilton Manors, FL enjoyed ourselves and our great hosts.

Richard Raske and Blake Sie (a married couple, the event producers, and our hosts), asked me to be a judge. This was my first visit to Sawmill and I was excited to be judging. The event was a phenomenally produced weekend of social events, poolside afternoons, and evening competitions.

My title has awarded me a platform for my causes and also the opportunity to meet amazing people along the way. Finding out Rick was a Chicago leatherman and proud Midwest guy like myself was amazing. We found ourselves talking about the Eagle, Gold Coast, Man’s Country, and many more. Rick mentioned my article about leather history and how it raised memories of his coming out in Chicago in 1977, his first leather bar, Gold Coast, and the times that followed.

Nervous with adrenaline, he walked in not knowing what to expect. Gold Coast (owned by Chuck Renslow, Founder of IML) had the reputation of being cruisey, exciting, and filled with hot leathermen. His other place to hang was Redoubt, another venture by the owner of the famous Baton Show Lounge, world famous for its female impersonators since 1969.

Rick’s first big event was in color guard for the Pride Parade 1978, which ended up showing him on the local news. “‘Hi, Mom; hi, Dad.’ That’s my coming out story,” said Rick as he chuckled. I had to tell him, “That was quicker than mine. I had to let it build up for years!”

I was enthralled already then he got to the first International Mr. Leather, this one will be saved for an entire article [wink]. While he told his experiences, I noticed many smiles, eyes sparkling, and yes, tears for one too many lost. I could feel his love and the strong bond he felt for our community.

Shortly into his stories of love and community there was a pandemic. It hit our community like no other. I asked him, “How do you recover that everlasting bond of love and then unspeakable loss?” Rick replied, “With LOVE, right where we started; love.” Rick’s sparkle continues on for Blake and their 18 amazing years together. He’s right. Look at today. What heals, what feels, what do we all need to get through and begin again? Love.

Once again, I’m blessed by the people and places this title awards me to meet. I hear stories from the ones that came before me. And, I am able to share with those that will come after.