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Conversations With Leather Featuring Dave Rhodes

By July 16, 2014




Dave Rhodes Accepts Award at Southland Honors 2011 By Jay Lawton Web

1. Please tell us about yourself and what your connection with the world of leather.

I am a man who loves masculine men and masculine scenarios. This reflects in what I read, what movies and television programs I watch and those with whom I connect. To start off, here is my definition of Leather. I see it as a broad range of things, not just actual cowhide. It is an attitude and a feeling, an attraction to certain types as mentioned above.


I could easily have my Gay Card yanked because I do not know even 20 percent of the show tunes' words and cannot identify most of the songs although I may or may not enjoy them. I cannot quote most of the words of Bette Davis and the like, etc. My gayness has to do with sexual attraction to my own kind exclusively. I work well with women and am supportive of them. My sexual and emotional attraction is not there though and I don't compromise that feeling - it is one of the essences of being Dave Rhodes.

I do love sports and have been active in the world of sports, but I am leaving the greater detail of that out of this. Everyone who knows me has heard many sports analogies for just about every life situation that I encounter.

I love the natural scent of men and that is part of my Leather essence. The first attraction I can remember was of Chuck Connors, lead character of The Rifleman television series circa 1960. There was strong masculinity there and lots of sweat. It was a natural attraction. Nothing was contrived or placed in front of me as a suggestion - overt or subliminal. It is still that way now - and it is still as intense a craving as it was then.

2. What or who got you started in the Leather community and for how long?

I had been going to Leather bars from 1976 when I came out as gay. I finally connected with a man named Daddy Bob who lived in North Hollywood, CA. We met at Gauntlet II which is now the Eagle LA. He took me to his playroom, a secret-door type dungeon that his vanilla lover gave him as a birthday present. We played several times and I was invited to his New Year’s Eve party at the end of 1983. He also hosted an early July party to celebrate his birthday. In those days as many as 100 or more attended. I met a man named Chuck at the summer party who invited me to attend a Somandros club meeting. Somandros was one of LA's four or five men's SM clubs at the time. Within two years I was elected club president, was activ in LA's gay and Leather communities, and was the advertising director of LA's main gay publication, Frontiers. I became an associate member of the Chicago Hellfire Club and of The 15 Association of San Francisco. The first Issue of The Leather Journal came out in May 1987, so the growth was rapid.
3. Which club or bar are you affiliated with and tell us more about the history?

I became and associate member of the Chicago Hellfire Club and of The 15 Association of San Francisco. The first Issue of The Leather Journal came out in May 1987, so the growth was rapid. I am a member of Delta International and recently was accepted into Avatar Club Los Angeles. These are all men's BDSM/Fetish clubs.
4. Tell us about your charity involvement and goals.

Undoubtedly my most successful charity effort was when I organized a fundraiser to defeat an anti-gay California State ballot initiative that raised about $12,500 in or around 1987. When I had a positive cash flow I was a big donor to Chabad through their telethons and other fundraising efforts. This is a non-gay, Jewish organization. Some funding was used to get Jews out of the Soviet Union and it was quite successful.

5. Tell us about The Leather Journal.

Issue 1 of The Leather Journal hit newsstands on May 1, 1987. A friend of mine, Louis Jansky, worked with me at Frontiers. In off hours we worked on The Leather Journal with the blessing of Frontiers publisher Bob Craig, himself a Leatherman. The focus was on clubs, a club directory, Leather Community Calendar, opinion and news from a journalistic perspective, instead of one interspersed with fantasy. The feeling was that there was a time for hard core facts. Up until then, much of the news was presented with the intent to tantalize. We wanted to put out something like what the real world had, and eventually become a publication of record, which we did in relatively short order.

I loved Drummer Magazine and was not competing against it and wanted to work alongside Drummer. For the most part, that is what happened. Any time they tried to be a news publication it did not work and when we tried to go porno it was just as big a flop.

The growth of The Leather Journal was amazing. The clubs really loved it because they had a way to get their information out to the world and they could find out about clubs elsewhere.

There is so much to write about The Leather Journal and that will come in a book on which I have been working. Could be out by IML 2016 - hopefully sooner.


6. What about the leather lifestyle do you enjoy most?

There is so much. I like socializing, having dinner with others, discussions, philosophizing and comparing opinions. I like hearing the thoughts of others, even if I may not agree with them. I have a very open mind. I love traveling and seeing other cities.

Of course I like playing. I am into such a wide range of things and many of them are the things that most people are not into. I like having our own events and not-so-secret codes, organizations and families.

7. Who is the most influential person in your life and why?

This is a slam dunk. Dr. Lawrence Burden. No one has taken care of me in my life the way that Dr. Larry has. Those who know him well understand just what a wonderful person this man is. It would take several thousand words to describe all that this man has done. I've not had many lasting friends in my life. From birth to the time I left for college we lived in 39 different places and when we moved, it was sometimes with one day's notice.

We could not keep friends because we never knew what day they would be gone and we'd have to start all over again. It was a complete detachment from being close to anyone. Perhaps one reason I have an open mind is because I was always being exposed to things that were new.

8. In your mind, what’s the biggest misconception of the Leather community?

We only hear about other people's misconceptions about the Leather community. I think that often the Leather community has misconceptions about itself. We need to focus on what we do and think about ourselves and to worry less about what others think.

The Leather community is a loosely-organized group, sometimes not even that. We do have our own mores and debates. We cover the whole political, religious, racial, gender and sexual orientation spectrum well. There is no Pied Piper whom everyone follows blindly. We are not a cult - far from it.

Much of the history of the gay men's Leather community is based on rebellion against authority. There was a time that many of the things that we did were felonies that would garner long prison sentences. Through our visibility and activism, we have been accepted by some of the mainstream - enough so that we live in less fear of being swatted away like a fly.

Many of us are kinky BDSM players who are into everything, and almost everyone, and there are some whose sole fetish is the Leather that they wear. It runs the gamut from everywhere in between.

We are not an organized group that marches in locked step. With us, that simply ain't gonna happen. Those who think it will and those who strive to make it that way always stop eventually in frustration.

Henry David Thoreau's marching "to the beat of a different drummer" comes to mind. I'm not going to tell people to allow us to march to our own drummer, I and others are going to do it anyway, with or without the blessing of the Politically Correct, or as I define PC, Pseudo Concerned.

9. What would you say are the most important strengths to have as a Leatherman?

Or Leather person - Knowing one's self - assets and liabilities. We hear this Trust, Honor, Respect parroted on stage and in writing. Do we really have to train ourselves to be trustworthy, honest, responsible and respectful? To me, that is something that I would expect of those with whom I am going to have any kind of close relationship. I often warn new titleholders about those who dwell on this too much. In my thoughts, possibly some are dealing with issues - in the same manner as the fundamentalist televangelist who can never get off the topic of homosexuality. They doth protest too much.

I think one needs to understand human nature. What is a human being capable of? What are our limitations? Are those limitations changeable, or are they fixed? The Serenity Prayer comes to mind. "May God grant us the ability to change the things we can and to leave alone that which we cannot - and the wisdom to know the difference." - paraphrased.

A second thing is, and if you have a discussion with me for even one hour it is going to come up, I believe human nature, for better or worse, is no different than it was on day one. It does not matter what we wear or not wear - it is what is inside that makes and defines us. This will be dealt with in my book. Suffice it to say, a lot of whom I label Leather Fundamentalists are not going to be amused - No Council of Elders here. Martin Luther King's, "judge by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin." Skin could be reference to gender, economic class, education level, size and what they wear, etc.

10. What does Leather mean to you?

On one level it means community and friends that I chose related to the Leather  lifestyle, or what and whom I chose to socialize with and the environment I prefer to be in.

Secondly, and most importantly, it is what is one of the essences of my being. I've seen this one asked at Leather contests for years. To me, it is an attitude. If I never saw a piece of cowhide in my life, my attitude would still be the same. I have an attraction to kink and those who are into it. I am clearly on the submissive side as I can barely even fathom myself as a dominant.

Dominant/submission; pain and bondage for pleasure and fulfillment. I believe that this is a natural order of things for some people and I am one of those people.

Thirdly, and partially related to answer number two, I could be completely nude and still be Leather. I can service and submit to a man in the most expensive and prestigious Leather one could purchase from the world's most famous Leather artisan or nude and humbly servile in his presence. To be honest, I'd prefer the latter.

Fourthly, as one who believes in God and a Divine plan, I believe that we Leatherfolk are part of it. How we fit in, that will ebb and flow as history slowly marches on, but God made us the way we are, and to quote Butchmanns founder Steve Sampson, "That's a good thing."

11. What do you see for the future of Leather in your community and internationally?

I see the emergence of the het and pansexual Leather community as the next frontier. In some aspects, it already is. Much of the debate today involves them and their presence in the greater Leather community. My definition of Leather community is of a broad base, from the person who's only fetish is wearing Leather all the way to the person who is into everything and who may not even own any Leather, and everywhere in between. Acceptance of one another, as vast as our differences and orientations may be is vital - not for the sake of political correctness, but because there is strength in numbers.

There is a time and a place for separate play spaces for example, but there is also a time and a place where we are, as IML 1994 Jef Tucker put it, "better together." Focus is so much on the next generation and for good reason. What about taking care of the older generation? As baby boomers grow older, they should not just be hit up for education and then cast aside as soon as possible for everything else. We are not a limitless ATM. We have emotions and needs, too - and one of those needs is friendship and companionship which is something that disappears as folks age.

One of my biggest heroes in the 30 years that I have been involved in the Leather community is Julian Marshburn of San Francisco, CA. He took care, and I mean really took care, of Mister Marcus, the famed-writer from the Bay Area Reporter. Seeing that was amazing. I do not know what was in it for Julian and I don't care. Hopefully there will be a bunch of Julian Marshburns out there for those of us growing older and who have lived lives in Leather 100 percent of the time. Not to snub her, but I know that Queen Cougar was there for Mister Marcus, too. Part of puitting that "Trust, Honor, Respect" into action is respecting eldrs and taking care of them well.

12. What advice can you give a future title holder?

Same that I give anyone else. Be true to yourself. If you don't take care of yourself, who else can you expect to do it? Be yourself instead of trying to be someone that you idolize. If you are visible and are being yourself, some day, and soon, there will be people idolizing you and the same advice would be there for them. Titleholders hear this gem of wisdom often - then when they win their title they are given a set of rules to obey. No - be yourself. That, hopefully if the judging panel was a good one, is what helped get them to where thy are in the first place. As Ronald Reagan once said, "stay the course."

Act on your dreams. Your dreams come out of your own brain and being. As strange as they may seem, they are your mind and soul processing things. Be open to as many people as possible; you might not agree, but just listening to others makes them feel good and important. People remember those who lend them an ear - and they also never forget those who have snubbed them.

And for titleholders, club officers and the like - know that there are two ways to the top of a tree. One is to climb it and the other is to chop it down. The tall buildings get the sunlight and the best views. They also get the lightening. Do the best you can to let the rain run off your back, it happens in every community - no leader is immune to it.

We are no different from the way we were on day one at the beginning of humanity. Toys are bigger, faster, more sophisticated and increased in numbers - we still behave the same. Human nature does not change. Learn to understand your nature and that of others and you will have one of the keys of life. In every century we've witnessed some of the most appalling evil, and we've also lived through some of the most good. Learn to live with that understanding and you will be more at peace.

13. Tell us what your favorite piece of Leather is and why?

A hood. I can go inside, or preferably be placed inside. This is giving a lot of control and is at the same time, something unbelievably peaceful. 
14. What is the one question, you won’t want to be asked in this interview?

I'm not afraid of questions as long as the asker is not afraid of my answers. Not sure of any right now, but one could arise and I'd know at the time.

15. What are your favorite S&M activities?

I've already been verbose here. Do you really want me to fully answer that? I like tactile play, some electric - weeelllll - a lot of electric - play; as much bondage as possible and I mean not even able to move a finger or toe, unless the Sir wants them to move; single tail, straps, claws; very aggressive and forced deep kissing from Sir for extended periods of time, Sirs hand playing around inside my mouth - I wish oral fisting was safe, but it's not; ears being played with and used as firm handles. I could go on.

We have five senses and I like to use all of them - seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting. I want the natural taste and scent of my Man as it helps draw me closer to Him and keeps me in a deeper submission mode.

16. In all the time writing about Leather men and women, and the leather lifestyle, is there one story that sticks out and had the biggest impact on you?
The passing of Mister Marcus. At one time, he and I were bitter enemies. We got it cleaned up and were becoming friends bit by bit. When he passed we did a four-page special section on Mister Marcus. We got photos from all over the world. I felt proud of doing that. It was from my heart and not done out of any guilt from our feud or to gain favor from anyone.

17. Tell us your favorite book at this moment.

Books by political comedian Bill Maher. I love political humor.

18. If you can be anyone alive or dead, who would you be?

Perhaps Bill Gates. Look at the contribution he has made to society. He has been properly rewarded for it. And from that reward he has been a benefactor for so many things and causes. It is a positive cycle. He lives in a beautiful city, can go anywhere and do almost anything he wants.

19. In conclusion, anything you would like to add to this interview for the Leather community of South Africa?

Yes. Be thankful that you have Jaco Lourens. He is a real Leatherman who wants to see your country be an active part of the world's Leather community. He is revered here in the United States and I suspect in other countries, too?

From my discussions with Jaco, I believe that he wants many of you to take the lead on things, not just do it himself. His dreams are that South Africa will have a large, active and thriving Leather community. Do you share those dreams, or have similar dreams? If so, act on them because no one else will. Here in the USA we were not given a Leather community and our place at the table - we took it. Do the same. And if they won't let you sit at the table, if you really want it, take the table away from them.


Dave Rhodes and Jaco Lourens