Life After IML - June 2008

On the 21st May Dave and I flew to Chicago for our 6th International Mr Leather (IML) weekend. This year was also IML's 30th anniversary. My experience of IML has been different to most, as my first year I was a contestant, the second year I was a judge, and subsequent years I've attended as a past IML. So many people have asked why they didn't see me this year I thought I'd put my diary online so that you can see what I did. Plus, my husband is a photographer and he's sure that people only come to this site to see his pictures - so if I don't put up a photo diary from the weekend I'll never hear the end of it!

View of downtown skyscrapers looming over a bright green river

Weds 21st May - woke at 7:30am (UK time) and took an 8 hour flight to Chicago. Arrived at the IML host hotel, the Hyatt Regency, at 4pm (local time) and discovered our room was on the 29th floor giving us spectacular views of the city (above).

Slept from 6:30pm to 9:30pm and then staggered down to the hotel bar half-asleep to meet anyone else who'd arrived early, like IML judge Frank Nowicki from DC.

Five happy men in a tight group, grinning at the camera

Left to right: Jason Hendrix ('04), Lenny Broberg ('92), John Pendal ('03), Jeff Tucker ('94), Mike Gerle ('07)

Thurs 22nd May - in the morning Dave registered for his media pass while I went to the hotel gym. At noon we attended a "meet and greet" where this year's contestants could meet their judges and past IMLs. We didn't know how many IMLs would be present in this anniversary year, but there were five at the "meet & greet" (above).

It was explained to the contestants that they would each be interviewed by the judges during the day on Friday or Saturday, which would form 60% of their preliminary score. The other 40% would be judged at the public "pecs and personality" show on Saturday night. This would determine the top twenty finalists.

Close up of Mr Bavarian Leather holding a microphone and gazing at the crowd

Thurs 22nd May - in the evening Dave went to the IML opening ceremonies. There were 51 contestants in all, including four from Canada, three from Germany (including Bavarian Mr Leather, above), two from the UK, and one each from Denmark and Sweden.

Meanwhile I went to the Chicago Eagle where the Chicago Hellfire Club (CHC) put on an evening of demos. I was MC for the night and also took part in one of the demos, which was a lot of fun.

The line of bootblack stands in the vendor market

Fri 23rd May - Dave and I had breakfast with Steve Lenius from Minneapolis. (Steve writes a leather column in Lavender magazine which is also available on

We went back to the hotel in time for the opening of the vendor market, which was reported to be the biggest IML has ever had. Many of our favourite companies were there and I've tried to include those with websites on our LINKS page.

The vendor market included an area where the five bootblack contestants were polishing boots for their competition (above).

Steve Johnson's leather vest and belt laid out on a chair

Fri 23rd May - at 5pm we went to a private memorial for Steve Johnson, who died on 1st May 2008. Steve had been an IML contestant handler every year since 2001 and a member of the IML security team before that. He always looked out for contestants and winners with encouragement and bear hugs. (There's more about him in last month's column.)

Later on that evening I helped out at the CHC clubhouse before returning to the hotel bar to meet more friends.

Gary wearing a Lonsdale jockstrap and boxing tape on his hands, shadow boxing for the crowd
Gary Iriza, Mr Palm Springs Leather 2008

Sat 24th May - had breakfast at "Beef and Brandy", our favourite diner close to the Palmer House Hilton, and walked back through Millennium Park.

In the afternoon I attended a workshop held by Wrestlers Without Borders and a reception for the Chicago Hellfire Club, both at the hotel.

In the evening Dave went to "Pecs and Personality" to take photos (above) while I had an early night - exhausted.

A group of 11 men holding smiles for a large number of photographers

Left to right: Jason Hendrix ('04), Lenny Broberg ('92), John Pendal ('03), Jeff Tucker ('94), Tony Mills ('98), Larry Everett ('95), Joe Gallagher ('96), David Kloss ('79), Guy Baldwin ('89), Michael Egdes ('05), Mike Gerle ('07)
Photo credit: Steve Lenius

Sun 25th May at 12 noon - was interviewed for 40 minutes by a company making a documentary about the IML weekend.
2.45pm - rehearsed the opening of the main contest followed by one final trip around the leather market.
5:45pm - went down to the main ballroom just before the contest began and met up with ten other IMLs (above).

Chuck stood at a podium reading his speech, sideways on to the camera

Sun 25th May - The contest started at 6pm with a tribute to IML founder Chuck Renslow, who went on to make his annual speech (above).

The master of ceremonies, Brad Balof, then introduced the 51 contestants, 9 judges and 2 tally masters to the crowd.

Top 20 contestants lined up at the front of the stage, being appluaded by the other contestants behind them

Sun 25th May - in the first part of the main contest the top twenty finalists were announced (above). Their scores were all reset to zero. The other 31 contestants left the competition.

The top twenty were then judged on leather image (40%), a 90 second speech (40%) and again on "pecs and personality" (20%). These combined scores determined the winner.

Two muscular men in leather shorts, one stood upright on the stage holding the other horizontal above his head with one arm

Sun 25th May - entertainment during the show included hand-balancing act KeniMattix (above) and singer Andy Bell of Erasure.

Gary wearing his new IML sash and both hands upon his chest with pride

Sun 25th May - at the end of the night GARY IRIZA from Palm Springs was chosen as the 30th International Mr Leather. His email is iml2008 (at) and his blog is at

A group of winning titleholders, including Bootdog, Gary and Chuck Renslow

Sun 25th May - BOOTDOG from Oakland, CA won the title International Mr Bootblack (bottom far left above).

His email is IMrBB08 (at) and website

Congratulations to both of them and best wishes for the year ahead.

Have fun, look after yourselves and the people you play with.

Best wishes,

John Pendal
International Mr Leather 2003

To my home page To the full index To the next column