International Mr. Leather | Scene report
Around 2am in the morning, just outside the ballroom where Gear Blast (a party for lycra, latex, uniform, e.t.c. fetishists) was being held, we found a lost pup. Yes, I'm referring to a human on all fours and dressed like a dog. It seemed he had lost his owner. We checked. No dog tags, could he be a stray? He looked like a mutt to me, maybe a Lakeview/Uptown mix. And he was a friendly guy. He would answer yes to our questions by giving us paw. It turns out, my friends recognized him from a tattoo on his neck. He was from New York. He had traveled a long way to indulge his fetish, but that happens at International Mr. Leather weekend which kicked off last night at the Hyatt Regency on Wacker Drive.
He was hardly the only curiosity. Several minutes later we met two guys dressed head to toe in latex. One of them wanted my friend to pee on him, but my friend had been drinking coffee and the man in latex was not having it (that is not a good taste, he pointed out). Elsewhere we met an enthusiastic and anxious contestant, one of 49 participating in this year's pageant. He was representing a West Coast nudist group called CMEN (California Men Enjoying Naturism). We wished him luck.
The atmosphere at the host hotel on Friday night is always ecstatic. Thousands of men from all over the world come to Chicago to partake in a weekend full of parties and events and many are dressed to impress in their favorite fetish wear. We a saw sixty-year-old couple holding hands and strolling through the lobby in nothing but leather harnesses and jock straps, a plain-dressed man who would've otherwise blended in were it not for the piggy tail popping out of the back of his jeans, lots of young studs in sports gear and every other kind of fetish your imagination will permit. Nothing is shocking and everyone is in a good mood–including the hotel staff. I was told that for a host hotel, this is the most lucrative weekend of their year and the bar staff was happy to serve a $10 for a vodka soda in a dixie cup with a smile to a 70-year old man wearing nothing but a singlet pulled down to his waist.
The Gear Blast party was a bust. It seems like all the energy was focused on the San Francisco party, an annual event. But the parties are just a backdrop to mixing and mingling with old friends and new ones from both Chicago and around the world. This is IML weekend and it's only just getting started.