October 18 and 19 were red “leather” days in Asbury Park, New Jersey, home of NJ’s close-knit Leather and Kink communities. It was the annual contest and celebration at Paradise nightclub, in the Empress Hotel, that would culminate in the selection of Mr. and Ms. NJ Leather for 2014 and kicking it off hot was the Meet and Greet hosted by the Jersey Amazons. The Amazons, led by Mid-Atlantic Leatherwoman 2011 and Ms. NJ Leather 2010 Morgaine Leather, held a reception with food and happy hour cocktails that included vending of delectable-wear and a custom-made cake made especially for the Amazons by a friend in Baltimore. After all, this year marked the 10th anniversary of the Ms. NJ Leather portion of the competition.
Daddy Sal Susino, one of the patriarchs of the NJ Leather community, honored me in March by asking me to be on the panel of judges for this annual event, on the third weekend in October. I couldn’t say “Yes” fast enough! The Leather community has always been responsive whenever Jersey Pride, Inc. or Gay Activist Alliance in Morris County (GAAMC) asks for something and it was wonderful to be able to return the favor. I joined a distinguished panel of leathermen and women from as far away as Milwaukee and New York City, as well as Paul and Babygirl, the then-reigning Mr. and Ms. NJ Leather 2013. We were on briefed Friday night during the Meet and Greet, which was part of the competition, and then we met the candidates.
This year, there were four candidates, three male and one female, but that doesn’t mean the female is automatically the winner–she must still compete and earn 75% or greater of the available points in order to win. After all, the candidates selected are becoming part of the NJ family, and selection is really important. Nikki, Steve, Keith and Christopher made the rounds among the judges and the community and we got our first ideas of what might come to pass during the next 24 hours.
Saturday morning dawned with scudding clouds alternating with sun. Workshops were planned and the very first one was a panel open to all that featured several of the Ms. NJ Leather title holders, past and present, which was moderated by Mr. NJ Leather 2012 Danny Tamez and anchored by Morgaine Leather. Each of the titleholders, including Ms. NJ Leather 2005 Amanda Farrell, 2009 Simone “sweet p” Pancer, 2010 Morgaine, 2011 Lisa Clark, 2012 Fidget, and 2013 Babygirl and each shared a bit of the glory and service of her title year. The story that reached in and grabbed my heart was the story of an 82-year-old woman who joined the sex-positive workshops at SisterSpace—which the NJ Leatherwomen made happen!—because, other than her doctor, no one had touched her. Nothing kills the soul more quickly, in my opinion, than lack of touch, love and affection. We need these to grow and, again, the NJ Leather Community made this happen!
Next the panel interviewed the candidates. Each of the judges could ask any question. You can imagine that a candidate could find it difficult to prepare. We judges could ask our own question, or riff off a previous question. We had learned a lot about the candidates during the Meet and Greet and now we learned even more. The decision was going to be very difficult.
The afternoon included vending by sponsors and a Cigar Party, at the hotel pool, hosted by the Jersey Boys of Leather that included donations to local food banks in honor of Mark “Spanky” Bialous, Mr. NJ Leather 2008, who died far too soon in 2011. His memory is still very present for all of us who knew him and the party was a huge success. People began to go back to their rooms as they changed into their formals for the Contest, with the doors opening at 6 p.m. and the Contest itself beginning at 6:30 p.m. with the Parade of Colors.
Parades are thrilling under any circumstance, but seeing the clubs represented from far and near, and considering the levels of commitment to their respective communities, I thought of all the people that are served by the Leather Community around the country and around the world. Duty, honor and commitment are natural extensions of a community where so many men and women are ex-military members and all achievement and growth is due to the high levels of quality in all three areas.
Christy Girlington was the dazzling entertainer and Morgaine Leather and Danny Tamez worked with her to keep the audience engaged and the contest moving forward with humor and grace. There were the candidates statements about themselves, some V-E-R-Y hot fantasies—ALL of them—and if you want to know more about THOSE, buy me a dirty martini!—and then the Formal section. Sir Andy and Slave Barb tallied their hearts out and when they were done, we had our winners.
The panel consisted of eight judges, but there were seven votes altogether, as Paul could only judge the female candidate and Babygirl, the males, as they were the 2013 titleholders, which was eminently fair, and ties could more easily be broken, should they occur. Ultimately there were two who prevailed, though all were winners in my book.
Introducing Mr. and Ms. NJ Leather 2014–Keith and Nikki! They are dedicated to the NJ Leather community and make sure you sign up for Dragonslair Productions’ mailing list to support their work in the community. You can be of Leather and enjoy the events without plunging in to make a commitment and, if you want a taste of what might be, be sure to attend Jersey Kollege of Kink (J-KOK) events and take a walk on the wild side. You may end up surprising yourself!
Many thanks to Daddy Sal, Daddy Dion, and Tank, and especially to Morgaine Leather and the Jersey Amazons and Danny Tamez, for welcoming me with open arms—literally! I was greeted with hugs from the moment I set foot into Paradise and Christian kept the party hopping from the booth. I’m making my plans to join them for next year and you should too!