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Mr Leather Europe - Writing History

by Pieter Claeys in Nightlife & Reports , 03 januari 2010

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

Rome is basking in the sun when I arrive at Central Station on Wednesday the 30th of September; I’m sweating profusely when I run into Mr. Leather Norway. We find out we’re staying at the same hotel, the only problem is that neither of us knows where it’s located. He’s brought a map, but our hotel is not on it so I produce my phone with Google Maps, and half an hour walk later we’re at our destination. The rest of the day I spent walking through the city.

It’s my first time in Rome and I enjoy the sun, the magnificent old buildings and of course an ice cream. I try not to think of the Mr. Leather Contest, the images are on DVD, and the speech has been written and rehearsed.

At night Mr. Leather Norway and I decide to share a meal. He’s very active in the Swedish and Norwegian gay scene, and tells me all about his work in HIV prevention and other “gay health issues.” After dinner we decide to go discover a bit of nocturnal Rome. He takes me to the roman equivalent of the Reguliersdwarsstraat where a drunken Chinese girl tries to match me to her boyfriend, in vain.

On Thursday I practice my speech lying on bed, to the irritation of the maids who insist on cleaning the room. No other option but to go into town. At night I get restless. Would there be any hot men around? I decide to go to a cruise bar called Hangar, which turns to be quite hard to find. The front is completely closed and only the little nameplate at the door is a sign of what’s inside. The doorman makes me a subscription card which you apparently need everywhere in Italy for these kind of bars. Unfortunately the evening was boring with a half-arsed strip act and only a few men. I go home early as tomorrow is going to be a circus. Friday I practice my speech under the shower, I change hotel and visit the Vatican.

Staring at the fabulous paintings of the Sistine Chapel I know that my trip to Rome will be a success, no matter what the result of the competition is going to be. At the end of the day more members of the Motor Club have arrived. Together we go out to dinner and afterwards to a place called Frequency. It’s a sort of mix of our Cuckoo’s Nest and the Web. The bartender seemed to have been hired by the Argos. Massimo, chairman of Leather Club Roma, calls the candidates to the little stage at the back for an introduction round. Nobody knows where Mr. Leather Norway’s gone. Everything is very laid back and done in ten minutes. At 2 a.m. I head home. I’m tired of all the walking and tomorrow is competition day.

The rehearsals on Saturday afternoon are delayed because of a strike of public transport and a demonstration for the freedom of press. In the bus heading for the Risto Theater I can still smile, but after the first rehearsal, that smile is completely gone. Frank from Germany and Henrik from Denmark both have really strong acts. Walter from Norway goes all the way in his dance-act with a dildo and the Italian Roberto also looks like a fish in water. And Pieter from Amsterdam... is so nervous he fucks up his lines, at first, after that he’s fine but the moment of truth is still to come.

That night, after a good meal, the circus finally starts. First we’re judged on looks, something I find rather dubious. After that we’re all interviewed. The candidates’ language skills vary and the answers to the question “what would you do as Mr. Leather Europe?” are not very inspiring. Travel through Europe, party a lot, a lot of sex, meet people... right, who wouldn’t? With the interviews done, it’s time for the acts. Germany gets to kick off and does so with an impressive act combining Rammstein and hot wax. Second in line is Norway, who succeeds in getting the entire audience clapping along and then it’s my turn.

The YouTube edit starts and I walk through the hall to Debussy while delivering my speech. Accidentally the music is interrupted at exactly the right moment, so the last paragraph sounds really strong. But will it be strong enough? After Italy’s act and a smashing performance of Denmark (think cigars and black leather uniforms) we’re paraded once more on stage and then made sit down at the side. The jury is in debate and the audience can vote too by putting their ticket into the boot on their candidate of choice.

Everyone is nervous backstage. Germany and Italy are really quiet, while Norway is chattering and Denmark is smoking his cigar outside. I drink one glass of water after another and tell myself I gave it my all. When we’re called back to the stage I start to doubt however. Denmark is third; Italy comes second. The only thing I can think is that even if the audience prefers erotica I will have had a good weekend.

The announcement of the winner comes as a big surprise, I’m momentarily dazed by the spotlights but when I see the elated faces of my friends I realize it’s really us, we won! The night after is filled with congratulations and invitations. The Scandinavian countries especially seem to be looking forward to a visit of Mr. Leather Europe 2009; Germany insists I come for Easter brunch. And Belgium of course. Because Belgium didn’t have a candidate on stage this time and had to make do with this once-was-Belgian.

After an extensive photo session we run for the bus to the closing party. It’s nice and busy: more congratulations and more invitations. At 3 a.m. my tiredness is winning from the fun and I decide to go to the hotel, together with the chairman.

On the last day there’s a farewell brunch. While the locals go to church, the European leathermen gather right in front of it. Email addresses and telephone numbers are exchanged, beer goes around and people take lots of photos. They ask me why I’m not wearing my sash and are not impressed with my answer that I’m still just Pieter from Amsterdam and that I’m not a sash queen anyway. Still, that didn’t stop the entire Leather Club Roma (Massimo, Francesco, Roberto, Paolo, Fabio – everybody seems to be having a name ending with an o) to manhandle me one by one during the next photo shoot.

Only much later, for a moment alone in my hotel room, it sinks in: Amsterdam has won the Mr. Leather Europe title. We entered for the first time again after a few years of absence, and we won a title we’d never had before, we’re writing history!

Lots of thanks to everyone who made this possible!



In the New Issue of Gay News, 330, februari 2019

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Discover the World, Experience your Pride

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