Courtesy of Washington State -
Mr. & Ms. Leather Organization
The Washington State Mr. & Ms. Leather Organization (WSMLO) will observe the 19th annual Washington State Leather Pride Week March 18-27, and hold the Washington State Mr. & Ms. Leather Contest on March 26. (Schedule at www.wsmlo.org.)
Washington state has long been a leader in the national leather community, as the history of the community contributions and the people's activism has shown.
Twenty-five years ago in 1983, five men gathered and challenged each other for the first competition. That competition was sponsored and held at the J & L Saloon (or, as it was fondly called, 'Judy's Lounge'). At that time, the contest was for the title of Washington State Leatherman, and the winner went on to compete in the Pacific Northwest Mr. Leather Contest along with titleholders from Oregon and British Columbia, who would then go onto the International Mr. Leather Competition in Chicago. That night, Mark Sauer was named the first Washington State Leatherman.
The next year, again at the J & L Saloon, several men competed for the title, and Doug Connell was crowned champion. Doug, an active member of the Knights of Malta organization, then went on to represent the Washington State Leatherman title at the Pacific Northwest Leather Competition, where he won. Doug became the first Washington State Leatherman to compete at the International Mr. Leather Competition in Chicago. Doug went everywhere and managed to bring more recognition to the Seattle leather community.
In 1985, the title name was changed to Washington State Mr. Leather. That year, Richard Heinigh received the title. Richard continued his winning ways at the international level by being named first runner-up at the 1985 International Mr. Leather Contest. Richard's continued hard work for both the local and international leather communities was saluted by the International Mr. Leather organization, which named their International Mr. Leather Travel Fund after him.
The following year, Steve Maidof was named Washington State Mr. Leather and competed at the International Mr. Leather contest. Following the international competition, Steve gathered a small group of local leather folk in his living room with the idea of staging a 'Living in Leather' conference that San Francisco and New York leather communities said couldn't be done. Thus, the National Leather Association was born here in Seattle, with Steve as the founding 'daddy' and president.
In 1988, the first non-Seattleite won the competition as Tacoma's Tom Coker was named Washington State Mr. Leather.
In 1989, Vik Stump, a local women's leather leader, sponsored the first Washington State Ms. Leather. The competition was held at Club S. Lauren Burch became the first Washington State Ms. Leather that year.
In 1990 Howard Martin was named Washington State Mr. Leather and that year went on to win the national title of 'Mr. NLA'.
In 1991, Wes Randall was named Washington State Mr. Leather and was featured in a photo spread in Drummer Magazine, including the cover.
1992-'93 was a pivotal year for the Washington State Mr. Leather organization, when Washington State Mr. Leather 1991, Wes Randall and 1992 Washington State Mr. Leather, Ron Clouse, approached local community leader Scott Rodriguez to reform the organization. Under Scott's leadership and presidency, WSMLO became a federally recognized non-profit organization. The newly formed organization expanded its activities within the Seattle community beyond just producing the leather contest by organizing and producing the annual Seattle Pride Festival and a non-profit softball tournament called the Emerald Cup. Additionally, Scott believed that the goal of the organization should be to recognize both people and organizations in the Seattle Community, so under Scott's tutelage, WSMLO founded the National Leather Emerald Award, the Leather Emerald Awards, and the Community Service Award.
Also that year, thanks to the hard work of Wes Randall, Ron Clouse, and Northwest Drummer Todd Airhart, the first Washington State Leather Pride Week was born. WSMLO eventually oversaw the weeklong activities, which celebrate the leather community in the state of Washington.
The year 2000 was both a happy time and a sad time for the organization. In the beginning of the year 2000, Generic Leather Productions sold the Washington State Ms. Washington Title to the Washington State Mr. Leather Organization, finally bringingf both titles under the same parent organization. But on a sad note, in late November, WSMLO President Scott Rodriguez died suddenly of a late-diagnosed cancer of the brain.
In 2001, the Scott Rodriguez Memorial Scholarship Fund was founded to honor his commitment to the community and his hard work. Administered by the Pride Foundation, today it is the largest applied-for scholarship fund that the Pride Foundation has, with six scholarships given out yearly. Additionally, the administration office at the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago, was donated in his honor.
Also in the year 2001, Michael Chappell, a resident of Spokane, became the first east-side person in the state to hold the title of Washington State Mr. Leather.
In 2006, both Washington State Mr. Leather 2005 Rusty Jones and Washington State Ms. Leather 2005 Shelley Denton went on to compete at the American Brotherhood Weekend, and brought home the national titles of American Leatherman and American Leatherwoman.
In 2008, Hobbit Smith, Washington State Ms. Leather 1995, returned to the community and vied for International Ms. Leather 2008, and brought back that title to Seattle.
Many of the other past titleholders, board members, and hard-working volunteers of WSMLO have all, in their own way, contributed to the success that is WSMLO today.
The Washington State Mr. & Ms. Leather Organization continues to produce the annual contest, and remains committed to its nonprofit roots, raising thousand of dollars each year to support a variety of other nonprofit organizations and their worthy causes.
The 2011 Washington State Mr. & Ms. Leather Contest will be held March 26 at the Cuff Complex (1533 13th Ave.) - doors at 6 p.m., contest at 7 p.m.
For a complete schedule of events, to include Leather Pride Week and the 2011 contest, visit WSMLO online at www.wsmlo.org.
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