HIT: International Mr. Leather in Chicago
It's IML — International Mr. Leather—in Chicago. Even if you're not into the super sexy world of leather, Levis, rubber and other fun fetishes, this is one of the largest and most fun gay events of the year. From amazing parties to packed bars in Chi-town, an incredible vendor market to the actual compeition itself, IML is the kind of event every guy should hit once in his life.
Here's your quick guide from Gay.com writer Andrew Inman on what's what, with some great photos from last year.
If you're planning on attending most of the contest events you should consider purchasing a package. It's sure to be a good time. First timers may consider attending the Friday night Opening Ceremonies or the Saturday Pecs and Personality contest just to get their feet wet, and tickets are available Al La Carte.
The leather market is a cornucopia of kink and other fetish gear and just strolling around can be a trip. Vendors sell things from the outrageous to the even more outrageous, and demos often occur spontaneously. It's 21 and older only, and non-pass holders can get in by making a $5 donation to the Leather Archives and Museum.
The Vendor market also features the bootblack contestants, plus, it's your chance to stop down and get those boot shined. If you are a package holder then you have a ticket to vote for the winner, so stop down and give your vote to most eager bootblack (even if you're not in need of a shine).
IML is party time and there are many official events to attend. In the hotel there's a long listing of them but you can also find some in the Visitor's Guide.
The Chicago rubbermen get all tight and shined in the hotel with the opening meet and greet before the Opening Ceremonies. Gear Blast follows later and is always a interesting time (still can't get over previous encounters with furries in football gear). The Uniform Party and the San Francisco party also both in the hotel round out the evening and hopefully leave you enough energy for Sat.
By now the vendor market will be going full swing.
Afternoon leather and kink clubs hosts cocktails in the hotel including the Chicago Hellfire Club and the Windy City Boys Troop. The Pecs and Personality Contest continues showing off the contestants' GUNS and Package. Later on there are men in uniform (HOT!) at the BLUF party, which continently runs
parallel to the Bootblack reception where you can get your boots shined.
Woof Camp is on Saturday this year and is something you MUST check out if you've never been before. Just remember ask the handlers permission before petting the puppy, no matter how eager they may appear. The Recon party is off-site at the Jackhammer but is guaranteed to be jammed, and the whole
downstairs is squirming room only. Those into gay dance music with soul should find the Onyx dance party in the hotel to be a high-energy bonanza.
Sunday morning is hopefully recovery time so that you can eventually get into the spring of things for the contest finale, which is off-site at the Harris Theatre on Randolph.
The excitement builds as we get to see who the new Mr. International Leather 2011 is. It's followed by the IML Victory Party at the House of Blues on Dearborn, featuring DJ Gary Izira and DJ Neil MacLeod.
And if dancing isn't your scene, the hotel lobby is sure to be hopping to a different beat.
Monday is the day when everyone thinks they can move, but really just drag themselves out of bed for gay brunch and to hug leather hunks good bye. If you're still around Monday evening the Black and Blue ball at Excalibur Nightclub is beyond amazing. The club is in the castle like building (formerly the
Chicago Historical Society) and with DJ Ron Geronimo and DJ Ted Eiel it's invaded by hordes of leather men bumping and grinding.
What? Leather men get hungry, too!
If you're staying at the Hyatt and want AMAZING coffee the Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea Shop at 53 E. Randolph (a 10 minute walk from the hotel) can't be beat. The Garrett Popcorn Shop is just a bit farther away (4 East Madison) street is also amazing, but be prepared for a line.
The "Out in Chicago" exhibit is showing at the Chicago History Museum and gives the history of the leather community. Much of it started in Chicago, so stop by and check it out.
Don't miss the Leather Archives and Museum. Even if you're not majorly into leather, it's offers incredible insight into part of the gay community and its history.