Saturday 26th May - With Chuck Renslow at the President's Reception for the Leather Archives & Museum
Dave and I flew to Chicago in May for our 5th IML weekend. As usual we spent a lot of the time meeting friends, enjoying the sights in the packed lobby of the Palmer House Hilton and shopping in the leather market. Other highlights included being invited to address the contestants backstage on Thursday, attending the LA&M President's reception on Saturday morning, and the puppy party at the hotel on Saturday evening.
Mikel Gerle, Mr Los Angeles Leather 2007, won the 29th International Mr Leather Contest, but that isn't the only competition running during the weekend. This year was also the 15th annual International Mr Bootblack Competition, which was won by Spot from Michigan. I've met Spot a few times in my travels, including CLAW in Cleveland and during his vacation to London, so I contacted him to find out what his plans were for his title year:
What do you get out of polishing boots?
It's great service to the guys that get on my stand, and in a way to the community. It's also a great way to meet interesting guys. After all, that's how we met. I like to hear the story of people's boots: where they got them, why, how long they've had them. Some of the stories of boots being passed down from mentors are particularly inspiring.
Do you have a favourite pair or brand?
I'm not really brand oriented. I like military style boots the best. They were the first type I bought for myself to go to the DC Eagle. Second would be harness style square-toed boots.
Saturday 26th May - Spot gets close to a boot he's just polished during the bootblack contest
How did you prepare for the contest?
I bootblacked everywhere that would let me. Different contests, runs, events, bars - wherever I could. I've been in Nashville for the Conductor's run, Pittsburgh for a fundraiser so foster kids could have toys for Christmas, contests in Greenbay, bar nights for Michigan clubs like the Grand Rapids Rivermen and Nimbus - both of whom have been great support for me. Anywhere I could go for exposure and practice I was there.
I've also learned from other bootblacks like Cristo and Booboo, and a local shoe repair guy that's shown me great products for really bringing back a pair of used and abused boots.
How much international travel have you done?
Just once to London and Amsterdam this past December and January. Had a GREAT time, and I'm looking forward to more. It's not easy to get over there with the time and the money, but it's worth it.
Do you have any plans for your title year?
I want to continue to travel and help groups and clubs with fundraising. I think that is the best way we can help our community. I'm hoping to be able to teach what I've learned about bootblacking to others. There are as many ways to bootblack as there are people who do it, but there are little tricks and things that can make life easier.
What services do you offer at events?
In terms of what I do for boots: cleaning, conditioning, and some repair work. But I also work on all leather. I can teach classes about bootblacking and leather care. I also teach about puppy play with my boy. Things you need, how to spot a puppyboy in the wild, and what to do once you catch one. Plus I'm fun to have around.
What do you want to do for countries other than America?
Help there just like I would for any group here with fundraising and teaching. Maybe convince a bootblack from another country to come and compete. I would really like to see how someone from a different country works and what products are available over there that aren't here. I'd also like to see what boots are over there!
Many bootblack contests are judged on how many tickets a bootblack can gather for polishing boots during an event. What's your preferred judging system for bootblack contests?
Are you trying to get me in trouble?! (grin) Great Lakes Bootblack is one half ballots and one half judged. Some of the judges are other bootblacks, some are just other leather folk. One judge got on my stand wearing silver lamé Converse All Stars. "What can you do for these?" Sit here and be stunned wasn't an appropriate answer.
Ballots are good because a bootblack earns the respect of the people whose boots he's worked on. I can't imagine someone voting for a bootblack that didn't do a good job.
Bootblacking is a skill, and a bootblack titleholder should be able to represent the craft with knowledge and make us all proud. So I prefer half ballots and half judged.
Sunday 27th May - Congratulating Spot after his win
A couple of things that irritate me are when bootblacks don't undo laces or check the leather first for bits of grit before they start polishing. Is there anything that you see bootblacks do that makes you want to step in?
Putting polish on oil tan leather is the biggest one. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference, and I'm sure I've made that mistake. Also not washing off the soap they use when they clean the boots. And I have a reason for that. When I was a submissive I cleaned my Sir's boots prior to play. He had me start licking His boots and I ran across some soap I hadn't gotten all off. I mentioned this and He said "get it off there boy." He stopped me from standing up with "Did I tell you to go anywhere?" Nasty saddle soap does not make for a good bootlicking session. So I make sure all that soap is rinsed off so some other boy doesn't have to go through what I went through.
What do you think is the role of bootblacks in our community?
I think bootblacks are an important part of our community. Leather is expensive to buy, but properly maintained will last you forever. Bootblacks have the knowledge to keep your leathers looking and feeling great to both you and the hot guy you're looking to play with. We offer service without necessarily being submissive.
Most guys have a story about their leather and their boots - someone special that gifted that leather to them when they were first starting their journey into leather. That item is special to the wearer. Bootblacks are there to preserve that memory and keep it alive for the person wearing it.
If someone wants to contact you or invite you to an event this year, how should they get in touch?
The best via is by sending an email to imbb07 (at) otsbb.com - or check my website www.otbbb.com
Thanks, Spot. Good luck with your year!
Have fun, look after yourselves and the people you play with.
International Mr Leather 2003