IML Diary: May 2004

May 13th to 18th - "Valhall", Oslo, Norway

John standing in front of the Royal Palace in Oslo

The city of Oslo

Thursday May 13th - Flew to a very high-tech airport in Oslo for the "Valhall" leather weekend organised by SLM Oslo. [Note: alcohol is very expensive in Norway so it's a good idea to bring some for your host.] Spent first evening at the London pub meeting members of the SLM Oslo committee.

Friday May 14th - Interviewed over lunch for a local gay paper. Gym in the afternoon and then a sauna party in the evening at My Friend Club, which was booked exclusively for people on the leather weekend.

John with four members of the Revise F65 Project
In front of the Royal Palace
Photo credit: Øivind Aamodt

Saturday May 15th - Sightseeing during the day. Visited the University's botanical gardens, the Edward Munch museum and the Royal Palace. Late afternoon spent a couple of hours with Svein Skeid and Reidar Kjær from the Revise F65 project discussing the different attitudes to SM around the world.

In the evening watched the 49th annual Eurovision Song Contest with my host for the week, Øivind; then on to the SLM clubhouse for the main "Valhall" party until 3:30am.

John giving a speech at the SLM Oslo clubhouse
With four members of the Revise F65 project
Photo credit: Øivind Aamodt

Sunday May 16th - A pleasant afternoon drinking coffee in the sunshine with the rest of the Revise F65 project members. In the evening returned to the clubhouse for another party. Gave a speech and we held a raffle to raise money for Revise F65.

Monday May 17th - Norwegian Constitution Day. I'd been looking forward to these celebrations all week. Unfortunately I slept from 2am to 5pm (yes, 15 hours) and missed the day completely! In the evening I joined Øivind and some of his friends for a boat ride along a fjord. This has to be the most beautiful place I've visited all year.

May 25th to 31st - "IML 2004", Chicago, IL

View of Chicago from the Hyatt hotel
The view from our hotel room window
Photo credit: Dave Harris

Tuesday May 25th - Arrived in Chicago two days early so that I could get over my jet lag before I had to start judging. Our hotel room is on the 22nd floor with amazing views of downtown Chicago. First night spent at the hotel bar with a handful of other people wearing leather. By the weekend the whole hotel will be dedicated to IML, but right now we're a tiny minority in a sea of chinos and business shirts.
John being lifted up at the Eagle bar in Chicago
Being lifted up at the Chicago Eagle bar
Photo credit: Dave Harris

Wednesday May 26th - Dave flew in from the UK to join me. He'd only had 2 hours sleep in the last 36 hours, so he went to bed during the day while I went shopping for food and other supplies. Dinner with three friends from the Chicago Hellfire Club and then on to the Chicago Eagle bar until midnight.
Contestant orientation on Thursday afternoon
A future IML concentrates during contestant orientation
Photo credit: Dave Harris

Thursday May 27th - Visited the hotel gym in the morning, but as soon as I arrived all the IML contestants cleared out! 1pm - Dave and I joined the contestant orientation, where 57 nervous men gazed in awe at the mighty judging panel. 3pm - Attended the judges orientation, where 9 jet lagged judges begged for coffee and tried to get our heads around the scoring system.

John being introduced onstage at opening ceremonies, Thursday evening
Being introduced onstage during the opening ceremonies (outfit by RoB)
Photo credit: Dave Harris

Thursday May 27th @ 5:30pm - Spent my 3 free hours getting Dave registered, meeting friends at the bar, having dinner with Kurt from the Hoist and changing into my evening clothes. 8:30pm - Everyone to the main ballroom for "Opening Ceremonies". The judges were invited up onstage to be introduced and then each contestant picked their number in turn. I was still exhausted from my flight and went to bed straight afterwards.
A group photo of the judges during two days of interviews

The IML 2004 judging panel
Photo credit: Mr Marcus

Friday May 28th and Saturday May 29th - Woken at 7am because we were interviewing 30 contestants on Friday and 27 contestants on Saturday from 8am until 5:30pm. No matter how hard you try to be businesslike it's an emotionally draining experience interviewing that many people in one day. The second day I wore a bright orange prison uniform to make a point about what it was like to be IML!

On Saturday we finished half an hour early so I was able to make it to the last hour of the Chicago Hellfire Club cocktail party.

Joe Gallagher giving an appeal for the Leather Archives and Museum on Saturday evening
LA&M appeal by Joe Gallagher (IML '96)
Photo credit: Dave Harris

Saturday May 29th @ 8:30pm - Back to the main ballroom for three more hours of judging "Pecs and Personality". Towards the end of the contest Joe Gallagher (IML 1996) made an appeal for the Leather Archives and Museum (LA&M). The final mortgage payment is due in August 2004 and if we could pay the full amount then any future fundraising would go towards running costs rather than interest payments. (4th August - it's been paid!)

The Harley Davidson motorbike that I gave away at IML 2004
The Harley Davidson bike I gave away
Photo credit: Dave Harris

Sunday May 30th - This was the last time that I saw the 100th anniversary, special edition, Harley Davidson motorbike that I won at IML last year. I didn't even get to ride it once. Instead I invited everyone to donate $20 USD online all year round, and for each donation they'd be entered into a free draw for the bike. Volunteers also sold paper tickets all weekend and we raised almost $22,000 altogether - split equally between the LA&M and the Spanner Trust.

The prize ticket was drawn on Sunday evening during the contest at the Congress Theatre and David Kloss (IML 1979) was the winner.

John and Tammie Nelson backstage at the end of the IML 2004 contest
Backstage with Tammie Nelson
Photo credit: Tammie Nelson's partner, Dave

Sunday May 30th - The contest ran from 6:45pm to 11pm. I gave a 32 minute step down speech and you can see three of Dave's photos here: 57 contestants, 20 finalists and 3 winners. Jason Hendrix from Washington DC was the winner, followed by Remi Collette from Toronto and Thomas Schoch from Zurich, Switzerland. By the end of the evening I was completely exhausted and had nothing left to give. Tammie Nelson (IMsL 2003) boosted me a big hug backstage before going out to meet her new sash husband.
Jason Hendrix signs his name 'IML 2004' for the first time, Monday afternoon
Jason Hendrix signs his name 'IML 2004' - for the first time!
Photo credit: Dave Harris

Monday May 31st - This was meant to be my first day off! I don't think you get one of those if you're an IML. Spent the morning agreeing to attend Minneapolis Leather Pride week in June, then sat in on the IML press conference from 1pm. Did an interview with a gay paper at 2pm, met Judy Guerin from the Woodhull Freedom Foundation at 3:30pm, then chatted with Jason Hendrix for an hour after that. At 6pm Dave and I looked at each other and wondered "where did the day go?". We fitted in a quick trip to the bar and a private party until 8:30pm, dinner at 9pm and came back to the hotel room to pack at 10pm. Thankfully we fly to Hawaii tomorrow to unwind...

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