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MAL was XL!

By February 06, 2024



MAL was XL!

By Rodney Burger

Mr. Virginia Leather 2023 Ken Nelms was sashed Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2024 at the annual MAL Weekend produced by the Centaur MC in Washington, DC during the January 12 – 15 weekend at the Hyatt Regency Hotel at Capitol Hill. After a canceled event in 2021 and a smaller MAL in 2022, everything seemed bigger and better this year with nine contestants

hitting the MAL stage. It is my understanding that over ten contestant applications were received, with the club cutting the field of applicants down to ten. (Unfortunately, the tenth contestant dropped out giving that old cliché, “I’m not ready.”) Mr. MAL 2024 first runner-up was Mr. Mayhem Leather 2023 Keron BoyPup and Mr. Pittsburgh Leather Fetish 2024 Michael A Tikili was awarded second runner-up. Also competing were Mr. Rehoboth Leather 2023 Garrett Taggaet, first runner-up to Mx Maryland Leather 2024 Daddy Scott, from Vancouver, British Columbia Dr. Nicholas Bear, Mr. Connecticut Leather 2024 Jordan Lewis, from Washington, DC Milo Alfarero, and Mr. North Carolina Triangle Leather 2023 Boy Matthew.

The contest moved quickly thanks to seasoned emcee Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 1993 Frank Nowicki and was judged by International Mr. Leather 2023 Marcus Barela, International Ms. Bootblack 1999 / American Leatherwoman 1997 Leslie Anderson, Mr. Gay USA 1999 John Michael Gordon, Miss Gay Maryland USofA 2014/Miss Gay Maryland America 2009 Sue Nami, Mr. Chicago Leather 2020 Butch Romero, author, promoter, educator, and activist Master J. Tebias Perry, and Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2023 Daniel “Danbear” Deluca. Contestants were judged during pre-contest interviews and onstage in physique, formal Leather, and answered a fun question based on their application. Questions ranged from: Describe what a private island owned by the Centaur MC would contain to Keron’s hilarious description of a kinky Italian dinner. Judge Sue Nami also entertained the crowd with a fun rendition of Rihanna’s “S & M” complete with a puppy on a leash. Prior to the selection of the new titleholder, Danbear gave a powerful step-down speech detailing the many struggles in his life that resulted in him being the man he is today. When I spoke to him afterwards, he said it was overwhelming looking out on a standing-room-only ballroom.

Although the contest was held on Sunday afternoon, the weekend kicked off on Friday with a whirlwind of official events and private parties hosted by various Leather clubs or Leather titleholders. Hotel staff informed me that many guest actually arrived on Thursday. All weekend the large Hyatt lobby bar was packed and the Leather vendor mart was filled with what appeared to be every vendor that was there pre-pandemic and more.

Friday night’s cocktail party put on by Potomac MC in a large hotel suite was wall to wall. Although club members staffed the door in an attempt to control the crowd, it was still gridlock. It was so warm in the room that it was the only time I ever drank beer and lost weight! International Ms Leather 2023 Liquid and Mx Maryland Leather 2024 Vanas Pup were tending bar when I arrived and it was the hottest party of the night.

On Saturday morning the 16th annual Puppy Park gathering filled a ballroom. This event gets bigger and more creative every year. I saw everything from puppies to squirrels and unicorns. Next was the IML press conference with the announcement of the 2024 IML judges and the introduction of the many title holders in attendance who will be hitting the stage in Chicago in May. (See imrl.com for details..)

Saturday afternoon brought the Heroes and Villains meetup, SigMa demos, and the popular ONYX’s cocktail party and gear show benefiting Smyal. The afternoon cocktail party hosted by Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2009 Kip Hollar in honor of his 15th Anniversary was very nostalgic. Where does the time go? The big event Saturday night was Leather Cocktails. This formal Leather cocktail party is limited to full MAL package holders and with all the VIP’s, decorations, and open bar, it is the Golden Globes of the Leather community. The year’s theme was Space with a large globe and floral stars and planets dominating the room.

For those who wanted to venture outside the hotel, there were packed dances each night produced by Kinectic at various locations around town. A bus was provided to shuttle guest to Sunday night’s “discoVERS” dance at SAX’s. With red velvet curtains and huge crystal chandeliers I felt like I stepped into Moulin Rouge. Deejays Dan Slater and Alexis Tucci kept the dance floor packed. There were also go-go boys, fire eaters, and acrobats. It was a fitting ending to a Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend that was truly bigger and better than ever. MAL was XL!





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For Mr. MAL 2023, the Journey is far from over

By Rodney Burger

I usually interview Leather titleholders shortly after their contest, when they are all full of dreams and big plans for the future. Although it is already December, I recently sat down with Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2023 Dan Bear to talk about the year that has just passed. With just a little over a month until Dan Bear would help select Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2024, I was happy to hear that after a very busy year, he has no plans to slow down.

A lifetime resident of Pittsburgh, Dan was visiting my city of Baltimore to attend several Leather events, including my ShipMates Club’s bar night at the Baltimore Eagle where Dan displayed his go-go skills to a packed house. The next day I was thrilled to have this charming man sitting with me on my living room sofa talking about his big year. Thousands attend MAL each year, but few get the pleasure of having Mr. MAL visit them. With his boy-next-door good looks and quiet demeanor, Dan makes everyone feel right at home.

Raised in a very religious home, as early as age five, Dan began to feel that he was “different.” He now describes himself as a “conversion therapy survivor.” Not wanting to dig too deeply into a time of his life that I cannot begin to imagine, I asked about the recent Hollywood movie on the subject: Boy Erased (currently on Netflix). Dan said that watching the movie was like watching his life.

Dan discovered the Leather community when a friend took him to Chicago for International Mr. Leather in 2013. It was overwhelming and he spent a lot of time in his hotel room. Little did he dream that ten years later he would be on the stage and making the top 10! His journey into the Leather community actually started with the bear community in Pittsburgh. His love of the body-positive atmosphere of the bear community inspired him to run for Mr. Pittsburgh Leather Bear 2023, taking the title. He considers himself the first bear to take the Mr. MAL title. In this world of social media, he learned quickly that a titleholder cannot please everyone and he had to deal with someone who said that he was “not really a bear” or “not bear-like enough.” Those comments just pushed him more to set a positive example. The idea of our community attacking each other, especially in these divided times, inspired his IML speech.

His year as Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2023 has been filled with fundraising and events. He was the first Mr. MAL to playfully use the sash on TikToc to raise awareness of the title. When I asked about some of his favorite moments of his year, he first thought of DC’s annual Scarlett’s Bake Sale event held each February where he continued the tradition of Mr. MAL auctioning off each item of his clothing for charity. He was also very proud to march in the pride parades in New York. DC, and Pittsburgh and in a big change from the pandemic years, get to see all the thousands of cheering spectators.

Married in 2019, Dan was well aware of the problems that can arise in a relationship when one becomes a Leather titleholder. He stressed that communication is the key. One should sit down with one’s partner to discuss finances and scheduling. With a few ups and downs, he was able to make it work. With the selection of Mr. MAL 2024 coming soon, I wondered what qualities Dan will be looking for as he sits at the judging table. Dan listed, “tenacity, level-headedness, confidence, fearlessness, and being a good fit for the community.”

With the end of his title year coming soon, I had to ask what his plans were for the future. His number one plan is to “be a good sash dad for the new Mr. MAL” and to be just as involved in his community as he was in 2023. He plans to continue to raise money for charities, continue to be visible, and continue to work for inclusion in the community. As he said at IML, " Don't clip my wings!" I'm happy to report that for Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2023, the work continues and the journey is far from over.

Mid-Atlantic Leather Gallery

By Rodney Burger