From Papa Tony: I arrived at the Live Oak Springs Resort for the ROMP Community Weekend Run with a bad attitude. I didn't like the idea of mixing the male and female contests together. I hated the idea of moving the crowd waaaay out east during the summertime. I was feeling pretty pissy about the whole thing.
I have never owned a motorcycle, so I've never experienced an Old Guard-style motorcycle run before. I gotta tell ya, there's a reason why they have stayed a tradition for over sixty years in our community. It was wonderful to be in that environment for sociable relaxing, catching up with old friends, creating new friendships, looking forward to the next event, or just snoozing out in the countryside. It was amazingly congenial, and we need to do it every year.
San Diego's Tribe is different from any other city's, and this kind of event really shows what makes us so special. The weekend was what I now refer to as a Level Three event - Most cities haven't reached this level yet. By this I mean that there was an over-arching theme that guided everyone's efforts, but in order to succeed, every participant pulls together with everyone else to contribute their best efforts to make something new and unexpected happen. The late-night fire-play on Friday night was one such unexpected part of the weekend that nobody expected.
I find myself greatly refreshed and optimistic about the future of this annual Family Reunion event, with one caveat. I still think that the contest itself needs to be in the central San Diego area, so that the many, MANY folks who want to show love for the contestants have a chance to yell encouragement, applaud excellence and leer at the jockstrap parade. Out-of-towners need a Host Hotel so that they can come down to San Diego and act VERY single when they aren't otherwise occupied. That's something that we can all negotiate soon, once everybody has had a chance to rest.
The blending of the Mr. and Ms. San Diego Leather contest was a smash success. It was as perfect an example of a titleholder contest, done right, as I have ever seen… and I've seen hundreds. Yes, there were teensy glitches here and there, but that's not important - the pure authenticity and affection was what everybody in the audience was there to witness and give back. No politics whatsoever, no artifice, no trying too hard. The whole team came together with their very best efforts to support these fine young people in being the best that they could be, so that they could stand proudly with the rest of us and make San Diego a better place to live.
I DO wish that our two visiting emcees Karen Ultra and Loren Bertholdsen could have laid off on the cynical banter, though - it was the only sour note. Out-of-towners don't yet understand what the new phase is like, so they tend to do their usual hard-ass, world-weary schtick, which tends to land with a thud in a crowd of affectionate idealists with supportive natures. San Diegans love to be sweet, open-hearted and kind, and every event shows up that way. Particularly this whole weekend.
I thought that mixing up the contest so that each new time that a contestant stepped onstage was a surprise that really worked well. Rather than everybody predictably doing the same thing, one after the other, there was a random and highly entertaining arrangement of fantasy/jockstrap/basket auction/90-second speeches, as you can see from the pictures below, and see the full set here:
The contest's producers: Bryan, Adam and Annie.
Aaron brings out the auction-basket goodies, and presents them as the emcees read from the list.
Scotty's skin-show/silly question segment.
The crowd of adoring fans.
Wish's 90-Second Speech, in which she lays out her declarations of intentions for the future.
Aaron's skin-show. Most of the pictures were blurred, because he was on the MOVE.
Waiting in the wings...
Scotty's Fantasy with Eli. You could tell that they really like each other.
Kane's 90-second speech. The crowd's hearts melted, because he is so darned endearing.
Wish's Basket Auction. She's a pistol!
Aaron's Fantasy - The crowd stood up and SCREAMED when the scene hit its climax!
Scotty's 90-Second Speech.
Kane's Basket Auction
Wish's Skin Show
Aaron's 90-Second Speech. Many in the crowd cried during his speech.
Scotty's Basket Auction.
Kane really wowed the crowd with his Tarzan Buttflap during the Skin Show portion.
Wish's Fantasy was amazing - It was clear that everyone onstage with her loved her very much.
Daddy Don saluted the many members of San Diego Boys of Leather who have died recently, and invited the crowd to share a moment of silent remembrance.
The contestants came onstage for one more visit with the crowd.
Mr. San Diego Leather 1984 Mark Holmes spoke about recent developments in HIV research.
The support-team behind the scenes. They put everything they had into keeping our contestants sane, safe and comfortable.
Then it was time for the banquet!
Producer Bryan Teague, outgoing Mr. San Diego Leather 2011 Kurt, outgoing Ms. San Diego Leather 2011 Beanstalk, and Judge Ms. San Diego Leather 2002 Naria. This was her tenth-year anniversary of her title, just like Head Judge Mr. San Diego Leather 2002 Tom Dickerson. Mr. San Diego Leather 1984 Mark Holmes was there to hang the sash, and Producers Adam Latham and Annie Romano were there with very light hearts at this point, because everything had come off so well.
Our four contestants, awaiting announcement of the winners. Wish had to earn the title like anybody else, needing to win at least 70 percent to claim the title. Honestly, I was relieved that she wasn't running against the men, because she would have won! What a firecracker.
Wish is presented with the crystal trophy, the title patch (to be installed onto a vest made just for her), and her title sash.
When Aaron's name was announced as the new Mr. San Diego Leather for 2012, his and Wish's first response was to hug their brothers who didn't win.
Aaron got sash-ified by Mark Holmes.
Outgoing Mr. San Diego Leather Kurt asked for a special photo.
The traditional "Mama's Family" photo, showing the folks who have been actively connected with Mama Sandy Reinhardt.
To me, this picture summarizes the whole weekend. I mean, just look at this picture - this is the face of the future of our community. Sheer joy, love, acceptance. Totally relaxed comfort-level between the generations. These folks are united in standing shoulder-to-shoulder so that generations after them can stand on THEIR shoulders. Our future is assured!
If you're even slightly considering stepping up and declaring your intention to work to make our community a better place, look closely at your support-system - the picture only shows the tiniest part of a massive Tribe that cares for our newest leaders and volunteers. You'll never be left dangling, or scorned. We need good people just like you.
This is how we are, when we are at our best.