Tuesday 28th February - another first for me at Fort Worth Stockyards, Texas
In February I had a lot of fun getting tied up at a bondage event called Just Rope in London. Dave and I also flew to Texas to attend Southplains Leatherfest together. We stayed on for two extra days sightseeing, which included firing live rounds at a Dallas gun range, eating a huge lunch at Big Al's Smoke House BBQ and visiting the Fort Worth Stockyards. Our thanks to Sebastian from sport whip-cracking group Whip Enthusiasts for being such a good host. (He's out of retirement so please get in touch if you want him to teach whips at an event.)
At the end of January I was the MC for the 2006 Mr Chicago Leather contest at Touché, and one of the judges of that contest was Dennis McMahon. Dennis is the president and co-founder (along with Robert Miller) of the Cleveland Leather Awareness Weekend (CLAW), a large leather convention held in Cleveland, Ohio, over the last weekend in April each year. He was full of enthusiasm for this year's event and agreed to be interviewed for this column:
What made you start running CLAW?
Bob and I wanted to make a difference. We were inspired by the likes of Thom Dombkowski, Joe Gallagher, and Guy Baldwin from IML. We wanted to go back to our community and make it a better place to live. The gay service organisations in Cleveland were in need of funds with which to operate. There was an opportunity to do some education and raise awareness. CLAW was created to fill this need. We are 100% volunteer based, with all the proceeds going to our charities. We get to meet the best people in the world and show off our great city.
I came to CLAW in 2004 and had a great time. Has the event changed since then?
We have grown substantially since then. So much in fact, we have outgrown the hotel we were at. We're now at the Wyndham Playhouse Square and we'll have the entire hotel's 200 rooms. And instead of an elaborate stage show, we have added fourteen more bar parties to the weekend along with a fleet of busses rotating from the hotel to the eight different fetish parties being held each night.
How many people turned up to CLAW in 2005 and is it a mainly straight or gay event?
Almost 4,000 people attended CLAW last year. We seem to double if not triple every year in our attendance. It's also pansexual - all the CLAW events are open to any adult, gay or straight, male or female. As it turns out, CLAW attracts about 95% gay men, go figure.
Last year you raised over $20,000 for charity. What charities did the money go to?
The money raised went to the LGBT Community Center Of Cleveland, the AIDS Task Force of Cleveland, the Leather Archives and Museum and the Avon Breast Cancer Fund. All worthwhile charities that give back tremendously to our community.
Sunday 12th February - at Just Rope in London. It took me 40 minutes to escape from this and return the rope unknotted, but I managed it!
Is CLAW a non-profit organisation?
Yes, it's 100% non-profit and 100% volunteer. It's also a 501(c)(3) public charity meaning that every donation to CLAW is fully tax deductible.
If someone can't come and still wants to make a donation to CLAW how can they do so?
We accept all donations of cash, used leather goods, any type of auction item, boots, old magazines. Someone even gave us a signed photograph of Elizabeth Taylor and we made good money on that! People donate nude and erotic art to us as well. All donations can be sent to CLAW Corp., PO Box 111282, Cleveland, OH 44111, USA. If you need a regular address for UPS shipping, email me at CLAWPresident@aol.com. To make the donation tax deductible include a signed statement with the donation telling us your name, address, and the value and brief description of the items donated. After CLAW we will send you a donation letter that you can use for your taxes.
Are there still hotel rooms and weekend packages for people wanting to attend CLAW this year?
Yes, there are still rooms available. But not for long, go to our website and reserve one now. (If you book before April 10th you can ask for the special discount rate of $80/ night.) We have plenty of weekend packages available as well, which are $110 up to March 15th and $125 afterwards - so don't wait till the last minute.
What else can people do to help CLAW?
E-mail all your friends and tell them you'll meet them in Cleveland at CLAW. Email me at CLAWPresident@aol.com and I can send you posters to put up in your local gay establishment. Donate items for our silent auction. And if you know any artist that may be interested in competing in our juried BDSM art show, please spread the word.
I know you run educational workshops at CLAW. Can I come along this year and give a talk about the Spanner Trust?
We would be glad to have you back in Cleveland to bring us up to date on what is happening in the UK with Spanner. And when you're finished I can punch you hard on the chest right?
Hmmmm.... I'll have to think about that! See you there.
Thank you, John.
Have fun, look after yourselves and the people you play with.
International Mr Leather 2003