February 2008 - at the opening of Master U's store in Vauxhall, London.
Back in September I attended my 6th Inferno (the annual run of the Chicago Hellfire Club). The weather was perfect and it was as much fun as ever. This year I also presented my first workshop there, which was daunting to say the least.
One of our close friends is Unkut Kurt, who has been involved with the Hoist London since it opened in 1996. Over the years he's been the DJ, MC of the many Mr Hoist contests and now runs the club. I had the chance to interview him on October 31st this year, and here's what he had to say:
About a year later I saw motorbikes going past, this was Germany in the mid 1970s, and the bikers had very tight leather trousers. I always loved the way the shiny leather stretched over their muscular thighs when they were on their motorbikes. I really got turned on by that. I haven't looked back since!
What was the leather scene like when you were growing up in Germany?
I lived in a town called Bremen, which is in the north about an hour train ride from Hamburg. At the time in 1976 Hamburg had a good leather scene that was growing. It had two bars: Tom's Bar, which is still going, and Lorelei in the red light district, which I never went to.
I first went to Tom's Bar in the summer of 1977. A friend of mine took me there and it was like Christmas and birthday at the same time. There were all these horny men dressed in leather, a crowd of macho guys, the sort I always fantasised about.
Before then I went on Monday nights to the local park in Bremen called the Bürgerpark. The boys are still meeting there on Monday nights. There was a rule that the worse the weather the hornier the night, because if it was rainy and cold more guys would dress up in leather or rubber.
In the park I met a gentleman who sold me my first pair of leather jeans. They cost 80 deutsche marks which was a lot of money for a 16 year old. I had to save up for them, and because I couldn't bring them home I had to hide them in the park in a carrier bag under a bush. Whenever I went to the park I went to the bush first and put the jeans I was wearing into the bag and wore the leather jeans while cruising the park.
And they never got stolen?
No, they never got stolen. And they still fit!
October 31st 2009 - Halloween at the Hoist. Watch out for scary figures in the dark.
What's the legal age for drinking in Germany?
It's 16, so I was fine. But to be honest nobody ever questioned it. I just wanted to get in there and for some reason I always managed, so it never occurred to me that this might be a problem with the law.
Did you run a venue before you came to London?
No. I worked in the 1980s in a gay bar in Bremen as a DJ. It was a bar called Down Town. You had to ring a doorbell and a little flap would open in the front door, and if you looked suitable they would let you in. I was DJ'ing there for a couple of years. I was a little bit of a pioneer in Bremen. You would see guys from Bremen wearing their leather trousers or jackets in Hamburg - but never at home. Whereas I wore my leather jeans in the DJ booth so hopefully a few guys would follow in my footsteps.
What brought you to London?
I was working as a journalist and first came to London in 1979 and I liked the city, so I said to my editor I'd like to spend a year abroad. He agreed and said I could report from London. The first year was quite hard finding accommodation and settling in, but then it started to be fun so I kept asking for another year and 23 years later I'm still here.
How does the leather scene compare between London and Germany?
In my opinion London has the best fetish club scene in Europe. There's more variety here. There's also more potential for things to go wrong in terms of people getting into drugs, for example. But in London some fetish clubs have managed to combine dancing with fetish, whereas in Germany you either go dancing or you go to a fetish bar. There are exceptions like Folsom Europe in Berlin, but on the whole the London fetish scene is more progressive and diverse.
My limited experience of German leather bars is that people wear full leathers, they shut the doors and windows and then turn the heating on! After half an hour my boots are full of sweat. Is that true or have I been given a false impression?
No that's not true. You're a typical Brit who gets confused when you leave your little island.
So they don't put heaters on in German leather bars? I was imagining it?
They do put heaters on if it's cold outside, but I have to say if you go to German leather bars it helps if you like to suffer.
There's a stereotype that British men are into spanking and caning because of our public school system, whereas German men are into rubber and piss play. Do you think there's a grain of truth in that somewhere?
No I think that's complete rubbish.
So it's a coincidence that you're German and you've just opened a wet area in the second arch of the Hoist?
No it's not a co-incidence. It's something I've wanted to do for a long time. The space was there to be developed and the one thing we were lacking was a really functional wet area with drains and running water.
You entered the International Mr Leather contest (IML), didn't you?
That's right. I made the final cut in 1995 and placed 8 out of 51 contestants. It was an amazing experience. America is very different with their contest culture and political activism. A lot of guys in America seem to get into political activism through leather contests. We don't have this system here and so contests are a bit harder to run because the concept is a bit alien to Europeans. Having said that the annual Mr Hoist Contest is held on the last weekend in January and it's one of our biggest nights of the year and a lot of fun.
The Hoist has sent quite a few contestants to IML. Was that always part of the plan when you opened?
Yes because I realised when I entered IML how important it was to have Europeans on stage to build a bridge between the fetish scenes on both sides of the Atlantic. It's a good thing to send contestants because IML deserves support and it's a good opportunity for a bar which relies on international tourists to showcase their product. Plus it's always been a great fun weekend for us.
December 2002 - more innocent times. Before any of the madness happened!
You had no idea I was going to win, did you?
No, we were delighted and shocked.
No-one was more shocked than me!
We did not think that a non-American would win IML that year. We were absolutely ecstatic. I received a text message with three words: "John Pendal won". That came in the middle of the night. I told my partner and he said "won what?" We were overjoyed.
Well I wouldn't have won were it not for the seven years I'd spent here, so thank you very much. If someone came in tonight for the very first time what would be the most important thing you could say to them?
If you come in here and you fancy a guy test him out while you are on the premises. We have members of staff walking through the venue all night and if something goes wrong chances are someone will help you. Don't go home with a stranger on the first night. And whenever you do go home with a stranger make sure someone sees you leaving or check them out first with a barman to see if they are known here. If no-ones knows them be extra careful and trust your instincts.
Finally, what do you think is the ethos of the Hoist?
I feel very protective of this bar because this is a fantasy place where people can come and live out their desires in a safe and sexy and horny way. That's why I won't have any gimmicks behind the bar or toys or postcards that people have brought back from their holidays. We all lead very busy lives and there's enough reality in the world already. It's a hard cruisy place that's got a soul. Here you can dress up or dress down, and get into roles and live out your fantasies provided it's in a safe and sane and risk aware manner.
Long many it continue. Thank you!
Have fun, look after yourselves and the people you play with.
International Mr Leather 2003