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Los Angeles' leather community gears up for this weekend's Mr. Los Angeles Leather Contest

This Saturday, the lucky members and friends of the Los Angeles leather community who snapped up the limited tickets quickly enough will be at the Henry David Hwang Theatre in downtown Los Angeles to see who will become this year’s Mr. Los Angeles Leather, a title that was first awarded in 1979. The contest is the premiere event of the twelfth annual Los Angeles Leather Week, organized by The Los Angeles Leather Coalition.

Saturday’s contest puts a leathery twist on a traditional beauty pageant format; the ten contestants model three separate looks: bar wear, formal leather, leather jock and boots, and have the opportunity to make the case for why they should win. (You can bet your leather-whipped bottom there won’t be a Carrie Prejean-esque moment up on that stage!)

The local leather community has been anticipating Saturday’s competition for quite some time, as ten feeder contests have been held throughout Los Angeles County in the preceding months to determine who the final contestants would be.

We had a chance to ask a few of the “L.A. Ten” a few questions, and have some of their insight into their own personal leather experiences below. And should you be hoping to get a glimpse of the guys in person and find yourself ticket-less on the big day, there are plenty of events on Sunday like the Victory Brunch, Victory Party and BBQ, and Victory Bar Crawl, that will give you the chance for an encounter. A full schedule of events, and pictures of the “L.A. Ten” can be found on the Los Angeles Leather website.

Manuel Ramirez - Mr. LA Leather Bear, from the Bears LA
Why did you try out?
Leather is gay history. Social archetypes like Dom and Sub, Master and Slave, Handler and Pup turn me on. It is how men responded to their sexuality in a masculine vein and I tried out to further a cause greater than oneself.

How do you prepare?
Do your homework and realize that our mentors did a lot to prepare us for manhood directly and indirectly, and with that comes respect for the 'Institution” itself.

What's running through your mind when up on stage? Are you nervous?
Does this leather jock look tight? Grin and bare it like a good lil’ soldier.

When did you first enter the leather scene?
Well, twenty years ago, I went to Club F*ck at Le Barcito (Ed note: Ramirez reminded us that Le Barcito has actually had a variety of different names including Black Cat Tavern, Tabasco’s, Basgo’s, and Bushwacker over the years and is the site of massive police beatings and subsequent gay demonstrations two years before New York’s Stonewall Riots.) It's been a long train a comin' and I always gravitated towards the “leather bars,” but [more] seriously, in the last several years.

What's your favorite leather accessory?
My leather gloves.

Marcus Hopkins – Mr. Pistons Leather, from the Pistons Bar in Long Beach
Why did you try out?
I just moved to Long Beach on January 1st, and went out to dinner with my friend, Jeff Wacha (Mr. L.A. Leather 2000), who was emceeing the Mr. Pistons Leather contest. He asked me if I would consider running as a way for me to get to know my newly adopted leather community in Los Angeles.

How do you prepare?
Honestly, for me, preparing for the LA Leather contest is really about making sure that I am going into the contest with the right frame of mind: this is about entertainment and having fun - if I'm not having a good time, I'm doing something wrong.

What's running through your mind when up on stage? Are you nervous?
I think we're all nervous when we get up on stage. I have done a bit of acting in the past, and a great amount of performing, so I'm pretty good at calming my nerves when I get up there. When I'm on the microphone, I just think about how I would react if I heard the words that are coming out of my mouth.

When did you first enter the leather scene?
I was very lucky to have a fantastic mother and childhood growing up in New York City with our roommates, two of whom were in a Dom/Sub relationship. They were really involved in the NY leather scene, and I spent a lot of time volunteering, participating in ACT UP die-ins, and parties with them. But, I became an active participant in the leather community twelve years ago.

What's your favorite leather accessory?
My favorite piece of leather is my leather uniform shirt that Adrian (from Rough Trade) made for me, last year. It fits me just the way that I like, and I really like the way that I look in it.

Tom Pardoe – Mr. Eagle LA Leather, from the Eagle LA
Why did you try out?

I was ready and willing to be of service to the community.

How do you prepare?

Ask a lot of questions to those with experience. Let them share their experience. Read. Know yourself. And, hit the gym.

What's running through your mind when up on stage? Are you nervous?

I try to stay present and authentic and have fun...it's not brain surgery.

When did you first enter the leather scene?
Age 19.

What's your favorite leather accessory?
The boots my man gave me.

Pup Don Mike – Mr. Sister Leather, from by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, LA House
Why did you try out?
Mr. Sister Leather serves as a representative of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to the leather community. I've known the Sisters for many years and thought this would be a nice way to give back to an organization that does so much for so many. And the Mr. Sister contest is a feeder to the LA Leather contest and I really want to make the sisters proud of me.

How do you prepare?
Some guys brush up on leather history, some go to every event of Leather Week to meet and talk with lots of people. I'm lucky, I've been in the community for a while so I already know a lot of people and have some experience. My biggest concern is making sure I have all my leathers in order and that I don't show up missing my boots or a shirt I wanted to wear.

What's running through your mind when up on stage? Are you nervous?
I'm a big ham and totally at home on a stage, so I'm not too worried about preparing my speech or being ready to answer the questions. I just get up there and speak from the heart and that's what I'm going to do at LA Leather. Being on stage is my favorite part.

When did you first enter the leather scene?
I met a Master online in 2000 and fell into an abusive relationship. Luckily I got out of it and turned to the LA Leather community to help me find myself. Nobody should ever try to do this alone when there are so many people out there who are more than happy to mentor you. But you have to be able to get out there and ask for help or else people won't know you're serious about it.

What's your favorite leather accessory?
My bar vests from The LA boys of Leather, Avatar club LA and Mr. Sister Leather because each one represents a huge part of who I am as a leatherman.

Louie Pacheco – Mr. Christopher Street West Leather, from Christopher Street West
Why did you try out?
Well...that can be a very long story but the short version is that I wanted to get out of my confront zone and give back to the community I love by doing it in a different spirit as a title holder.

How do you prepare?
There is little you can do to prepare when you first run for a title.... sure you can get help from other people in the community but it really comes down to you , and as someone that had never had anything to do with the title system before, it was hard to prepare emotionally to do the contest. But I had help form other people in the leather community to prepare.

What's running through your mind when up on stage? Are you nervous?
When I’m on stage I’m always nervous—I can’t help it. I do better when I’m in a crowd and talking to people and individuals face to face…something about the light on my face that just throws me off every time ;)

When did you first enter the leather scene?
I entered the leather scene at a very young age. My first taste of it was when I was 17 years old and it continued to grow from there.

What’s your favorite leather accessory?
My leather chaps ;)

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