As Erin & I gear up for our own leather scene themed release this week (Room 1024 will be out on Wednesday), we’re happy to host RP Andrews with his new gay lit title, The Czar of Wilton Drive and his thoughts on the current state of the gay men’s leather scene.
Additionally, you can enter to win a chance at a $25 Amazon gift card at the end of this post.
The Czar of Wilton Drive is the story of Jonathan Antonucci, a 21 year old, barely-out-the-closet gay man from suburban New York who overnight finds himself a multi-millionaire, thanks to a bequest by his late gay great uncle. Uncle Charlie has unexpectedly died of a heart attack, leaving him the sole owner of several of the most successful bars in Wilton Manors, Fort Lauderdale’s gay ghetto, making Jonathan the Czar of Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors’ main drag.
Flying down to Lauderdale to claim his bequest, Jon encounters Uncle Charlie’s dubious friends and business associates, and is immediately submerged in Lauderdale’s scene of unbridled sex and heavy drugs. He also discovers his great uncle’s memoirs which reveal truths not only about Jon’s own past but also what may have really happened to his uncle.
RP Andrews spent most of his life in New York City as a public relations executive before relocating to Fort Lauderdale in 2002, where he enjoyed a brief, second career teaching writing at a local university.
Why the American Leather Scene May Be On Life Support by R.P.Andrews
A few Saturday nights ago, I was getting a drink at the Ramrod, the official leather watering hole of Fort Lauderdale where I live, when this hot dark Latin guy tapped me on the shoulder and asked with a smile that could sell dog shit, “Aren’t you our neighbor across the canal?” Brazilian born Gabriel then went on to introduce his equally hot partner and fellow Brazilian Rodolfo, and explained they had just had their closing and we’re moving in. Gabriel was a corporate exec in Miami, Rodolfo a college professor teaching MBA hopefuls, and that they had been living in Chicago before coming here.
After apologizing in advance with a lascivious grin that they might be skinny dipping in their backyard pool that faced the canal, Gabriel made a very telling remark, “Besides the friggen winters, the leather scene in Chicago is dead. It’s all here now.”
It’s a conclusion I came to a while ago.
I know I’m talking in generalities and there are always exceptions. Like the short haired no-tits gal who’s a soccer mom, or the nelly cancer specialist I used to work with back in my hospital executive days who had the wife and five kids. But something’s terribly wrong with the leather scene here in the U.S. (I can’t speak for Europe since I’ve never done the scene there with the exception of London’s Hoist) and that terrible wrong is old age.
The Leather Generation is fast becoming the Denture Cream Generation.
For many younger guys, wearing leather is more a fashion statement than a symbol of who they are as gay men. (Some of these ironing board body boys look like their harness is a trainer bra.) Ditto with the emerging “jock” look: hockey gear, football shoulder pads, high socks. It’s all about looking the butch athlete even if some don’t have the body to match.
When I got into leather over thirty years ago, it was more than just looking tough. It said something about your persona, in and out of the bedroom. No-nonsense, rough and ready, not prone to bullshit, with man-to-man sex that included sweat and spit and pleasure on the edge of pain. Squeeze the right nip of today’s young bois and chances they’ll yep, “ouch!”
Sure we’ve got our high profile leather events. Take International Mister Leather or IML in Chicago which one of my buddies said has nothing to do with the contest and everything to do with fucking the days and nights away at the hotel. But a hot humpy 34 year old who adopted me as his Daddy on a recent visit to Chicago has been going to IML for over a decade and tells me numbers are declining. (I still wanna do IML once in my life before go to Great Leather Hell.) And at a recent Folsom Street in San Francisco, a rough and tough 6’ 4” friend of mine told me the only sex he had was a blow job from the leather shop clerk fitting him for a new harness.
Lauderdale hosts a Leather Weekend, climaxed by the crowning of the Mr. Ramrod who will go to next year’s IML to represent the bar. Though Ramrod where the last contest took place was packed, I saw very few faces under thirty-five. I’m an old fart and know all about gay and leather history, but having some ancient gay historian get up on stage and cry on about how he’s outlived all his “boys” or and that we should be more “inclusive” to the leather women in our aging and dwindling leather “community” does not make for a hot and horny time. The only reasons you had a crowd out on a Sunday night was to gawk at some bare asses and maybe, just maybe, score which, if you wanna talk about gay history, is what bars were once all about.
Yet from what I’ve seen and heard from other guys, the Ramrod, located in Fort LauderBottom, and doing brisk business five nights a week, is probably among the top two or three leather bars left in the U.S. today. (The Fort Lauderdale leather scene plays a pivotal role in my novel, “The Czar of Wilton Drive.”)
So what does that tell you, huh?
For further proof of what I’m saying, just look at the state of many leather bars in this country.
New York City, where I used to play extensively for decades before I headed down to Florida, had at least three or four Leather and Leather-friendly hangouts, now all gone. The Spike, The Eagle, and, of course, who could forget the Anvil where they fucked right on the bar. Then in the nineties along came the Lure, the quintessential leather bar, located in a former slaughterhouse in the Meat Market. I remember in those first months the place still stunk of the carcasses that had hung up there just a short time before. There the bouncer wouldn’t let you in if you were wearing sneakers.
Today, I think that bouncer would have a stroke if he saw how some guys in South Florida stroll into the Ramrod, dressed in a leather vest or harness, Bermuda shorts and floppies. Guys, it’s like some hunk suddenly talking to you about French Provencal furniture instead of car engines. Blows the image. And the hard-on.
Recent revisits to some of the other haunts of my younger days have proven the old cliché true: you can’t go back.
Recently I was in the gay villages of both Montreal and Toronto and neither town’s leather haunts were worth the price of a beer – or the cost of going there. For what I spent on these trips, I could have had the best rentboys in Lauderdale – in my bedroom.
Certainly St. Catherine’s, the main drag in Montreal’s Gay Village, looked festive on my last visit in May of 2012. A vast stretch of the street had been transformed into a pedestrian promenade which I found out later they did every spring. All the bars and restaurants had decks jutting out onto the carless street, which was already brimming with people though I couldn’t help but be bothered by the fact that Montreal’s legendary leather bar, Eagle Noir, was populated not with rough and tough levied leather boys but tired old middle aged men there for happy hour.
After a so-so stint at GI Joe’s, the Village’s butch bath house, I returned to Black Eagle at about 10, ready to strip my shirt off in the still comfortable high sixties temperature and found the crowd non-descript and young, not leather at all. Had things changed here, too, as they had in almost every guy and leather haunt in the U.S.? I decided to keep my shirt on.
Two French Canadian twinks were standing by the pool table blocking the way to the upstairs bar. “Excuse me,” I murmured. The taller of the duo stared at me menacingly. “Excuse mois,” he repeated sharply several times. OK, first the bar sucks, then I come up almost empty at the bath house, and now I got a Frenchie scolding me in a bi-lingual country and a tourist section that lives off Americans and other Canadians. Somehow, this trip wasn’t working out.
Even on Friday and Saturday night, the guy bars, crowded with older men in the afternoon, were now populated mostly by the young, and the streets were spilling over with str8 twenty somethings either visiting the str8 clubs that had popped up in this once very gay neighborhood, or just milling around, in a menacing gang-like fashion, that put me a bit on edge.
As for Canada’s other gay hot spot, Toronto, unlike in Lauderdale where you find a mix of ages in most of our bars, T-Town’s scene was classic Generational Divide. All the young, mostly girly guys with their girlfriends, hung out in Woody’s, hands-down T’s most popular bar, which served as the Pittsburg hotspot in “Queer As Folk,” while the over 40 crowd huddled like refugees in Black Eagle, T’s leather bar.
In fact, while Woody’s was hopping almost every night I was in town, Black Eagle was – shall I use the politically correct term? – “quiet” Thursday and even Friday night. Saturday night, however, was the exception. The bar had just re-opened its lower renovated level and I was enveloped in the kind of masculine crowd I craved for. A few guys I had chatted with on line or had seen my profile on one of the hook-up sites came up to me and made me feel welcomed. One even bought me a beer – NSA. And this shirtless, rapidly aging exhibitionist still turned a few heads while I strolled around, so no complaints.
One thing Black Eagle has over our Ramrod here in Lauderdale is a rather large lightless backroom, which was sweaty wall-to-wall Saturday night. Sorry, but I need the visual to get my motor running.
Sunday afternoon I returned to the Eagle for its fabled afternoon barbeque in its huge upstairs sun-bathed outdoor patio. Ah, it was like that scene in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” when Bette Davis slowly comes out of the shadows into the light. They were old, all so old, you know at that stage where old guys are using their harnesses as brasseries.
Ah, but to have been around for the real heyday of Leather, back in the fifties and early sixties in those alley hideaways of New York or Chicago or San Francisco when S and M sent a guy’s cock into a St. Vitas Dance of twitches.
The next best thing is to visit a sleaze hole like London’s fabled warehousey Hoist which I had a chance to check out for the first time the winter of 2008. It was like taking a time machine back 20, 30 years, one living HD, 3D porn flick. Naked butch men with bodies by God and Sir Steroids dancing on a stage across from the bar, their nine inch poles hard enough to hang clothes on; dark corners crowded with groping men, and upstairs, some guy in the shadows getting perpetually fist fucked like an automaton on a ride in Disney World. Hell, a few butch boys worked my tits over so bad I had to put them up in casts for a week. Rough bunch. I visited Paris on that same trip but wasn’t able to get to Le Glove, a fist fucker’s paradise (I opted for Sun City, a local sauna with a Turkish bath motif and got my euros’ worth). But friends tell me Five Finger Harry, as Le Glove is known by the in-crowd, is still alive and well.
So why aren’t the young guys turning to leather in greater numbers to replenish the race here in the good old U.S. of A.? Maybe because they’re over all the hang-ups about being gay that we, the first few generations who followed on the heels of Gay Liberation, were still saddled with, and who turned to leather and all its masculine smell and feel and image, perhaps, to convince ourselves and the world that we were men first. After all, when gay marriage is being discussed in Congress and the Supreme Court, what’s left to prove?
My prediction is that in a decade or less, that as its traditional aging clientele drop off their chaps at the local thrift shop to be made into Prada purses in Vietnam, and trade their cock rings for a TV remote, leather bars and stand-up guy bars, if they exist at all, will go mainstream gay – read young and swishy with lots of girl girls – or even str8. The bottom line is that to stay in business, to sell those six dollar drinks with fifteen cents of liquor in them, to survive, bars that were once exclusive retreats for a mysterious “men only” leather scene will have to capitulate – and some have already – to whatever and whoever walks through the door.
In my book, “The Czar of Wilton Drive,” two rival bar owners argue about the long-term viability of the leather scene. Finally, the one who’s convinced it’s time has come and gone, ends the argument on a very practical note, “If dogs could drink, we’d run free dog biscuit nights.”
Once, I ran out on a trick that wanted me to perform asphyxiation sex on him. In my panic, I left behind my favorite leather vest. In all the years since, I’ve never been able to find a vest that fit me as well as that one did.
And now I realize I never will.
Enter the RaffleCopter giveaway with this book tour: https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/555033ec3/