Slipping into An Alien Skin: The Magic of Ego Assassin

“Always be yourself… unless you suck.” ~ Joss Whedon

Great ideas – along with great people – are born of strong personal beliefs and convictions. The quote above isn’t exactly the kind of “corporate rallying cry” one might expect to see printed in 10-foot tall letters on billboards, let alone trumpeted loudly via mass-media marketing vehicles such as radio, television and even the Internet. Yet, there is simplicity in the statement; one that must surely resonate with most of us who have any kind of self-importance.

Be honest: we all have an ego to satisfy. Some of us (quite obviously) need to be vetted and fussed over more than others. For instance, Your Humble Narrator and Only True Friend is quite comfortable and secure in the knowledge that you all love me.

Perhaps it is appropriate, then, that our focus for this episode of “Kardynyl SynysTyr’s Fabulous Fetish Fancies” features an up-and-coming design studio whose very name just so happens to literally refer to the cold, hard death of one’s smug self-assuredness.

You may have heard of them. You may already love them. There is no question, if you’re even the slightest admirer of all things ‘latex’ you’ll be wanting a piece from them at some point. They’re known in latex enthusiast circles as Ego Assassin, and all tongue-in-cheek references to anyone’s sense of “self-importance” aside, what they do is nothing short of astounding.

Their friends know them as James and Slinka. Both of them are the brains, the passion and indeed the very industriousness behind what (I believe) is sure to be a revolution within the latex fashion world. Sure, there are certainly other designers out there who are (for now) far more known, publicized and patronized. Your Humble Narrator says this in all solemnity: I have been around latex fashions and latex wear for a very, very long time. These eyes have never beheld the artistry and the workmanship that is so expertly exhibited in the work of the Ego Assassin duo.

So, what’s in a name, anyway?

“Our name and our concept come out a personal belief that our personalities are not fixed,” James told me during a visit to their studio recently. “We all have the ability to adjust and change, if we want to. Anyone can set their ‘ego’ aside and go completely into a different head space.”

“Basically, when you wear one of our pieces, we want you to feel like you’re literally slipping into another skin. You can be anything you want to be; an entirely different character,” James said. “If you believe you’re a goddess or an alien creature (wearing one of our creations), then you’re a goddess or an alien. The medium and the philosophy can fit together really nicely.”

In essence, then, the combined words “ego assassin” are meant to emulate a personal attitude: to wit, a positive, sensual transformation as opposed to any negative, assumed verbal evisceration usually associated with the haughty and self-indulgent club crowd.

In point of fact, James and Slinka are somewhat “obsessive”, if we’re telling the whole truth. They’re both absolute perfectionists when it comes to their work. Simply put, the hand-crafted, painstaking detail that is put into each one of their creations ensures that each and every customer is going to get a truly, unique and exceptional piece – regardless of whether that particular piece is part of their design inventory or not. It is this industrious dedication to quality (very much like their good friends and symbiotic partners, Elastica Engineering, who supply Ego Assassin with a superior quality of high-tensile sheet latex) that somewhat sets Ego Assassin apart from any other latex garment design studio.

I say “somewhat” for good reason, here. There is another aspect of James and Slinka’s work that puts their craftsmanship on a whole other plateau when compared to their peers in the industry.

While James is very clear in stating that “they really don’t have any trade secrets” that he feels needs protecting, it would be a serious disservice to describe in detail the one area of perfection in which Ego Assassin has definitely developed a loyal and dedicated clientele. Friends and customers who have been fortunate enough to have been offered a “sneak peek” at the line-up being currently constructed for Toronto’s Torture Garden Weekend (May 21 – 24) have been amazed at the quality of the images printed onto the rubber material as a signature feature of their collection for the Fashion Show. One such piece, which has been photographed and posted on a few fetish-related websites already, features a near-flawless, ‘color-favorable’ copy of The Great Wave by legendary Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849) across the front bodice of a latex corset. It is but a small and yet staggering taste of the artistry that is so integral to the reputation of James and Slinka as truly formidable garment designers.

Naturally, there are dozens of other printed patterns and designs that have been produced by Ego Assassin over the past several months (“Through a hell of a lot of trial, error, anger and heartache,” James recounts with a half-smile). Once the process and procedure for creating the designs, images and patterns on the latex had been perfected, naturally the rapid interest in their product lines began to grow. The one thing James and Slinka refuse to compromise on is the commitment to quality through patient design, printing and construction processes. “We don’t hide our process, and while it’s really pretty simple it’s also very labor intensive,” Slinka said. “We have no interest in mass production. We’re in an industry where customers are extremely passionate about their clothes. We want them to know that we’re equally as passionate about making them as they are about wearing them. ”

There are certainly other successful latex garment designers throughout North America – and Europe, for that matter. Some entities (specifically in the New York and Montreal areas) have been in business for years, if not decades. However, the universal truth here is that many of those companies tend to produce product that has become somewhat “standardized”. In short, the variance in artistic style, and even quality, has varied little from company to company. Many of those “more established” design houses rely on repeat business from loyal customers merely due to the simple, convenient fact that competition for “name brand” product isn’t exactly fierce. Very few latex garment enthusiasts are 100% completely loyal to one particular brand, for instance.

It is exactly the very uniqueness of the Ego Assassin product that sets distinguishes them from the competition. While they too will build garments for “everyone from hardcore fetishists to soccer moms”, it is their momentous decision to commit to the superior formula being produced exclusively by Elastica Engineering combined with their own without-peer design and artistic skills that truly will make them (if they aren’t regarded as already) the absolute best in the business. That’s quite an accomplishment in such a relatively short period of time.

Their personal story, about how they came to be as a couple, couldn’t be exactly billed as “typical”. As it happened, they met while doing some modeling work. “My first thought of him was, ‘that boy spends way too much time on his hair.” Slinka said of James with a smile. “I mean, boys don’t wear make-up, right? I wasn’t sure I wanted to date a boy who might spend more time in front of a mirror than I did.” A chance meeting at a fetish event a short time later, some shared beverages and a mutually enjoyable conversation led to the discovery of a mutual interest in fetish wear – and specifically, latex. James, who had for years been employed as a professional artist in some capacity, was given the task of making his new lady-love a “one of a kind rubber dress” in the way of a somewhat playful challenge from Slinka herself. Little at that time did either of them realize that a white latex one-piece dress that featured a large “handcuffs” motif across the chest area would quickly lead them both toward the design adventure of their young lives. “It was really quite crude compared to what we’re doing now,” Slinka laughed. “But I wore that dress until it was eventually no longer recognizable as ‘white’, and it was falling apart.”

The white “Handcuff Dress”, as they called it, garnered a tremendous amount of attention at the huge annual Northbound Leather fetish extravaganza that year. “So many people were asking us ‘wherever did we find that dress,” James said. When fellow revelers were informed that James had, in fact, crafted the dress himself, the requests for product started coming immediately. “We even took a couple of orders while out on the dance floor,” he said. That fateful Northbound Leather event (titled, somewhat appropriately ‘Climax’) was five years ago. Ego Assassin, for all intents and purposes, has therefore been “in business” for a little less than five years.

Both James and Slinka credit the immensely popular and respected “Fetish Diva” Midori and Toronto promoter extraordinaire Craig Galbraith of Subspace and Torture Garden fame with being amongst their first true champions of their work. “In the first few years, there wasn’t a real lot of interest in us, especially in our own back yard,” James said. “But thanks to word of mouth from Midori and Craig especially, we really started to develop a loyal following and customer base.”

The quality of their product line has obviously and dramatically improved. Some of their more popular pieces – printed tops, their in-demand “Reverend” Bondage Skirts and a variety of mind-boggling dresses – have garnered attention in some very high profile camps. Their designs have been featured prominently in the Japanese edition of Vogue (Vogue Homme) magazine, and thanks to the enthusiastic endorsements of an admired and in-demand fashion stylist named Nicola Formichetti and the highly-respected fashion photographer Stephen Klein, orders have been placed for no less a talent than Lady Gaga for product that was to be seen in one of her over-the-top popular music videos (Bad Romance). Some of the Ego Assassin pieces were even targeted for use in some of Lady Gaga’s live stage performances.

Good stories about good, talented people usually end with a typically cliché commentary about the past. It cannot be said, though, that “the rest is history” in this particular instance: Ego Assassin is still revolutionizing the latex fashion industry and have started making history. You’ll be hearing about them for a long, long time to come.

Kardynyl SynysTyr

(All Photographs courtesy of Ego Assassin)

Slipping into An Alien Skin: The Magic of Ego Assassin

“Always be yourself… unless you suck.” ~ Joss Whedon

Great ideas – along with great people – are born of strong personal beliefs and convictions. The quote above isn’t exactly the kind of “corporate rallying cry” one might expect to see printed in 10-foot tall letters on billboards, let alone trumpeted loudly via mass-media marketing vehicles such as radio, television and even the Internet. Yet, there is simplicity in the statement; one that must surely resonate with most of us who have any kind of self-importance.

Be honest: we all have an ego to satisfy. Some of us (quite obviously) need to be vetted and fussed over more than others. For instance, Your Humble Narrator and Only True Friend is quite comfortable and secure in the knowledge that you all love me.

Perhaps it is appropriate, then, that our focus for this episode of “Kardynyl SynysTyr’s Fabulous Fetish Fancies” features an up-and-coming design studio whose very name just so happens to literally refer to the cold, hard death of one’s smug self-assuredness.

You may have heard of them. You may already love them. There is no question, if you’re even the slightest admirer of all things ‘latex’ you’ll be wanting a piece from them at some point. They’re known in latex enthusiast circles as Ego Assassin, and all tongue-in-cheek references to anyone’s sense of “self-importance” aside, what they do is nothing short of astounding.

Their friends know them as James and Slinka. Both of them are the brains, the passion and indeed the very industriousness behind what (I believe) is sure to be a revolution within the latex fashion world. Sure, there are certainly other designers out there who are (for now) far more known, publicized and patronized. Your Humble Narrator says this in all solemnity: I have been around latex fashions and latex wear for a very, very long time. These eyes have never beheld the artistry and the workmanship that is so expertly exhibited in the work of the Ego Assassin duo.

So, what’s in a name, anyway?

“Our name and our concept come out a personal belief that our personalities are not fixed,” James told me during a visit to their studio recently. “We all have the ability to adjust and change, if we want to. Anyone can set their ‘ego’ aside and go completely into a different head space.”

“Basically, when you wear one of our pieces, we want you to feel like you’re literally slipping into another skin. You can be anything you want to be; an entirely different character,” James said. “If you believe you’re a goddess or an alien creature (wearing one of our creations), then you’re a goddess or an alien. The medium and the philosophy can fit together really nicely.”

In essence, then, the combined words “ego assassin” are meant to emulate a personal attitude: to wit, a positive, sensual transformation as opposed to any negative, assumed verbal evisceration usually associated with the haughty and self-indulgent club crowd.

In point of fact, James and Slinka are somewhat “obsessive”, if we’re telling the whole truth. They’re both absolute perfectionists when it comes to their work. Simply put, the hand-crafted, painstaking detail that is put into each one of their creations ensures that each and every customer is going to get a truly, unique and exceptional piece – regardless of whether that particular piece is part of their design inventory or not. It is this industrious dedication to quality (very much like their good friends and symbiotic partners, Elastica Engineering, who supply Ego Assassin with a superior quality of high-tensile sheet latex) that somewhat sets Ego Assassin apart from any other latex garment design studio.

I say “somewhat” for good reason, here. There is another aspect of James and Slinka’s work that puts their craftsmanship on a whole other plateau when compared to their peers in the industry.

While James is very clear in stating that “they really don’t have any trade secrets” that he feels needs protecting, it would be a serious disservice to describe in detail the one area of perfection in which Ego Assassin has definitely developed a loyal and dedicated clientele. Friends and customers who have been fortunate enough to have been offered a “sneak peek” at the line-up being currently constructed for Toronto’s Torture Garden Weekend (May 21 – 24) have been amazed at the quality of the images printed onto the rubber material as a signature feature of their collection for the Fashion Show. One such piece, which has been photographed and posted on a few fetish-related websites already, features a near-flawless, ‘color-favorable’ copy of The Great Wave by legendary Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849) across the front bodice of a latex corset. It is but a small and yet staggering taste of the artistry that is so integral to the reputation of James and Slinka as truly formidable garment designers.

Naturally, there are dozens of other printed patterns and designs that have been produced by Ego Assassin over the past several months (“Through a hell of a lot of trial, error, anger and heartache,” James recounts with a half-smile). Once the process and procedure for creating the designs, images and patterns on the latex had been perfected, naturally the rapid interest in their product lines began to grow. The one thing James and Slinka refuse to compromise on is the commitment to quality through patient design, printing and construction processes. “We don’t hide our process, and while it’s really pretty simple it’s also very labor intensive,” Slinka said. “We have no interest in mass production. We’re in an industry where customers are extremely passionate about their clothes. We want them to know that we’re equally as passionate about making them as they are about wearing them. ”

There are certainly other successful latex garment designers throughout North America – and Europe, for that matter. Some entities (specifically in the New York and Montreal areas) have been in business for years, if not decades. However, the universal truth here is that many of those companies tend to produce product that has become somewhat “standardized”. In short, the variance in artistic style, and even quality, has varied little from company to company. Many of those “more established” design houses rely on repeat business from loyal customers merely due to the simple, convenient fact that competition for “name brand” product isn’t exactly fierce. Very few latex garment enthusiasts are 100% completely loyal to one particular brand, for instance.

It is exactly the very uniqueness of the Ego Assassin product that sets distinguishes them from the competition. While they too will build garments for “everyone from hardcore fetishists to soccer moms”, it is their momentous decision to commit to the superior formula being produced exclusively by Elastica Engineering combined with their own without-peer design and artistic skills that truly will make them (if they aren’t regarded as already) the absolute best in the business. That’s quite an accomplishment in such a relatively short period of time.

Their personal story, about how they came to be as a couple, couldn’t be exactly billed as “typical”. As it happened, they met while doing some modeling work. “My first thought of him was, ‘that boy spends way too much time on his hair.” Slinka said of James with a smile. “I mean, boys don’t wear make-up, right? I wasn’t sure I wanted to date a boy who might spend more time in front of a mirror than I did.” A chance meeting at a fetish event a short time later, some shared beverages and a mutually enjoyable conversation led to the discovery of a mutual interest in fetish wear – and specifically, latex. James, who had for years been employed as a professional artist in some capacity, was given the task of making his new lady-love a “one of a kind rubber dress” in the way of a somewhat playful challenge from Slinka herself. Little at that time did either of them realize that a white latex one-piece dress that featured a large “handcuffs” motif across the chest area would quickly lead them both toward the design adventure of their young lives. “It was really quite crude compared to what we’re doing now,” Slinka laughed. “But I wore that dress until it was eventually no longer recognizable as ‘white’, and it was falling apart.”

The white “Handcuff Dress”, as they called it, garnered a tremendous amount of attention at the huge annual Northbound Leather fetish extravaganza that year. “So many people were asking us ‘wherever did we find that dress,” James said. When fellow revelers were informed that James had, in fact, crafted the dress himself, the requests for product started coming immediately. “We even took a couple of orders while out on the dance floor,” he said. That fateful Northbound Leather event (titled, somewhat appropriately ‘Climax’) was five years ago. Ego Assassin, for all intents and purposes, has therefore been “in business” for a little less than five years.

Both James and Slinka credit the immensely popular and respected “Fetish Diva” Midori and Toronto promoter extraordinaire Craig Galbraith of Subspace and Torture Garden fame with being amongst their first true champions of their work. “In the first few years, there wasn’t a real lot of interest in us, especially in our own back yard,” James said. “But thanks to word of mouth from Midori and Craig especially, we really started to develop a loyal following and customer base.”

The quality of their product line has obviously and dramatically improved. Some of their more popular pieces – printed tops, their in-demand “Reverend” Bondage Skirts and a variety of mind-boggling dresses – have garnered attention in some very high profile camps. Their designs have been featured prominently in the Japanese edition of Vogue (Vogue Homme) magazine, and thanks to the enthusiastic endorsements of an admired and in-demand fashion stylist named Nicola Formichetti and the highly-respected fashion photographer Stephen Klein, orders have been placed for no less a talent than Lady Gaga for product that was to be seen in one of her over-the-top popular music videos (Bad Romance). Some of the Ego Assassin pieces were even targeted for use in some of Lady Gaga’s live stage performances.

Good stories about good, talented people usually end with a typically cliché commentary about the past. It cannot be said, though, that “the rest is history” in this particular instance: Ego Assassin is still revolutionizing the latex fashion industry and have started making history. You’ll be hearing about them for a long, long time to come.

Kardynyl SynysTyr

(All Photographs courtesy of Ego Assassin)

Torture Garden Redux: Five Days of Flesh and Fantasy in May

Madness!  This love was a part of me, like my own flesh; it had taken the place of my blood and marrow; it possessed me entirely; it was I! ~ Octave Mirbeau, The Torture Garden, 1899

Brace yourselves, rabid and feverish fetish party enthusiasts. The seeds that were planted last summer have taken root, and they are growing. Those roots are strong; as strong as the finest Japanese bondage rope, and they run about as deep as any exploration of individual desire would dare to descend.

The mind-exploding fetish party experience, known universally since 1990 as the exotically-named Torture Garden, makes its return to Toronto – and just in time to help devotees celebrate the May long weekend. In a somewhat appropriate yet potentially risky move, the venerable old franchise started over a decade ago by the British DJ “pair extraordinaire” David Wood and Allen Pelling has been expanded. This year, Torture Garden Toronto has evolved from a single evening’s festivities into an entire, exhilarating long-weekend of flesh, fantasy, revelry, indulgence and ecstasy.

The main motivating force behind bringing the legendary DJ pair and their franchise festival to Toronto, Craig Galbraith, is no stranger himself to organizing a large-scale “good time” for the over-all benefit of North American fetish party enthusiasts. For several years, he has been one of the prime (and most popular) event organizers in Canada’s largest city, and he is the tireless, brilliant mind behind the wildly-popular monthly Subspace Fetish Nights in Toronto. His efforts have become so admired (and so adamantly supported) by a good percentage of the gargantuan Toronto-area fetish scene that he’s generally and simply known as either just “Craig” or, more playfully familiar if not somewhat colloquially as “Craiger”.

“I’m just a regular guy who really just loves to throw parties”, Craig has been quoted as saying on more than one occasion. “I’ve only ever wanted everyone who wanted to come out to simply have a great, great time.”

Craig’s evolution as a major event organizer certainly mirrors that of his Torture Garden “mentors” David and Allen. His events started simply enough, with small gatherings in intimate settings either in private abodes or in much, much smaller nightclubs. It wasn’t long before demand, however, made him realize that he was soon going to have to look for ever-larger digs in which to satiate the rapacious appetites of his patrons. “Each time we held a party, they got more and more popular and even more in demand,” Craig said. “We needed to get larger venues just to accommodate everyone who wanted to come.”

The need for larger space eventually evolved into his well-patronized, exceedingly popular Subspace nights, held once a month at one of Toronto’s largest tri-level nightclubs (the legendary Toronto landmark nightclub, The Big Bop, which sadly closed its doors, forever, earlier this year). And yet, the demand for even greater bacchanalian and hedonistic pursuits still continued to clamor ever louder. Craig wasn’t entirely sure exactly what, let alone where, his ever-burgeoning party plans would allow for the accommodation of all who demanded entrance through his doors. It was sometime during the early months of 2009 that Craig realized the solution: he would organize another gathering, in a different location, and give the alternative crowds exactly the mystical, frenzied and adrenaline-fueled atmosphere they were collectively demanding.

Enter Dave TG and Allen TG – the aforementioned Messieurs Wood and Pelling, of course. Without going into a dissertation on the negotiation process involved that would eventually land the Torture Garden franchise in Toronto, suffice to say the first TG event (held at a venue known as The Opera House) in the summer of 2009 was, by all reviews and reports, nothing short of a runaway, smashing success.

Naturally, Craig’s crowds still demanded more. While other event organizers, in any community in any town in any number of countries, are undoubtedly envious and would give their metaphorical left arm to have the kind of “problem” that Craig has, it truly is a testament to the work ethic, dedication and drive that Craig has to simply give the “people exactly what they want.” What he decided to do wasn’t revolutionary by any means. Other event organizers were putting their names to more than one event on a regular basis: why couldn’t he do the same? The biggest difference, of course, being that for all intents and purposes, other events produced by other organizers tended to be rather viewed as virtually the same party, but slapped with a different name, or “theme”. There were exceptions to that, of course: Northbound Leather’s fetish nights (the longest continuously running fetish event in the world) and Sir Alex Dark’s monthly gatherings have always pushed the envelope in Toronto when it comes to keeping large-scale parties exciting and fresh. But Craig knew he had to do something a little bigger, with a little bit more of a “bang”, in order to once again raise the bar on his own uncompromising level of quality.

Striking a deal with the Torture Garden franchise, one which hadn’t quite been embraced by North American audiences in some large American cities with same degree of enthusiasm as their European counterparts, certainly managed to turn more than a few skeptical heads. Craig himself wasn’t quite sure what to expect as the initial 2009 Torture Garden Toronto event marched inexorably towards its debut date. He needn’t have been too worried: The Opera House was full of locals from every part of the Greater Toronto Area, and had attracted a sizeable crowd of attendees from not only all over North America, but from Europe and other parts of the globe as well. By all accounts, Torture Garden Toronto in 2009 was an unmitigated, unquestionable success. No sooner had Torture Garden Toronto 2009 ended, that the demand (of course!) for more started from the masses.

Thus, Craig being the man he is, he felt compelled to have to raise the bar one more time in 2010 and immediately began laying the groundwork for what very well may prove to become his magnum opus: an entire Torture Garden Toronto weekend. Instead of staging the event during the summer as he and his TG compatriots did a year ago, Craig moved the entire show to May in order to take advantage of a statutory long weekend. The festivities will commence with an Industry Night Martini Party at Toronto’s Club Nocturne on Thursday, May 20th, and wind up an almost-unbelievable four days later on Monday, May 24th with a late-afternoon “wine and cheese wind-down” at a venue known as Café Taste in Toronto’s trendy Queen Street West neighborhood.

It is the Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening scheduled events, however, which are sure to cause the most reverent discussions long after the weekend has come to pass. On Friday, May 21st, in a private location, the official Launch Party will take place as an enticing “warm up” to the rest of the weekend’s festivities. Saturday evening, May 22nd, features the main event at The Opera House (735 Queen Street East). Three of Canada’s most respected and beloved spin doctors – DJ’s Lazarus, Pale and Prospero – will be joined by the aforementioned founding musicologists, David TG and Allen TG, in serving up an enticing and inciting wall of sound: an appropriate enough and perfect companion for the visual, intoxicating “torturous” displays that are sure to assault the eyes, and senses, of every attendee.

In addition to up-and-coming local Japanese bondage artist Lotuslily performing her jaw-dropping solo Kinbaku sets, the stage will be graced by the likes of world-popular fetish performers Satomi, the Tokyo Love Doll and Florida’s popular latex performance artist Rubber Doll. The much-sought after rubber garment designs of Kaori’s Latex Dreams will command people’s attentions during the fashion show segment of the evening’s performances, and Vivid Angel (described as “Freak Show Royalty” by some publications) brings her 10 years of experience as an exceptional vaudeville-style performer to the Torture Garden stage, and the mind-blowing hooks-and-suspension troupe I Was Cured will be doing their best to make audience members cringe in awed respect (and delight) with their high-flying flesh and metal aerial displays. Back as well for a second year is the amazing body painting artist ARK Angel, who has single-handedly raised the fetishistic practice of tribal and animal-like body art to atmospheric levels of appreciation amongst die-hard party-goers. There certainly should be more than enough eye and ear candy to gorge one’s self on, Saturday night alone.

As if a high-octane Saturday evening wasn’t enough, The Opera House will once more swing open its doors on Sunday, May 23, for an evening of “Medical Mayhem”. The expected dress code and the (scheduled performances) should be fairly self-explanatory. Whether Torture Garden guests are contentedly trying to recover from Saturday night’s debauchery, or merely getting wound up to a fever pitch for more, both Saturday and Sunday feature a series of seminars (to be held at two different locations on respective days) that can offer interested parties a little of the usual kind of instruction one would expect from such educational presentations – and a little of the unusual, as well. One of Sunday’s seminars in particular appears to be geared more towards the “Medical” theme that encompasses the evening’s “mayhem” to come.

It is true that Craig certainly has an enormous amount of planned delights for his guests during Torture Garden Weekend. What might be surprising to those contemplating purchasing tickets to any one night will undoubtedly be somewhat shocked to realize that prices are far from prohibitive. Even three-night passes and all-inclusive VIP entrance badges are exceptionally reasonable, price-wise. “We have never-before seen in Canada performers, over 20 acts, and several excellent locations that will make Torture Garden Toronto a ‘can’t miss’ event”, Craig said. “Toronto’s Fetish Weekend is going to be what it was intended to be: a fantastic party and a hell of a good time for everyone! It was important to keep the cost of tickets and passes reasonable so that everyone who wanted to come out and experience something new could really afford to do so.” The top-level pass, the all-inclusive VIP badge, includes access to all nightclub events, all seminars and even the “after parties” – and at a considerably less price-point than other large-scale events of a similar nature. Those who are wavering as to whether they wish to attend one or more of the scheduled events may wish to spend some time on the website, and allow the excellent selection of images and videos to help weigh their decisions. Truly, only the annual Northbound Leather event every fall in Toronto ranks with Torture Garden when it comes to spectacular stage and fashion shows, outstanding performances, and especially the dizzying range in personal selection of fetish attire by the prodigious and visually-theatrical guests at large.

Out of town attendees can still find rooms available at the host hotel, Toronto’s Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel located at 123 Queen Street West (directly across the street from Toronto’s space-age, landmark City hall complex). A full schedule of events, performers, seminars and information about “after parties” and any other assorted, necessary information can be found by visiting the Torture Garden Toronto website. Tickets for any, or all, of Torture Garden Toronto Fetish Weekend are available for purchase directly through the website or for pick-up in person at Northbound Leather at 586 Yonge Street in Toronto’s downtown central core.

After reaffirming that the entire enterprise truly has been a venture “for the people by one of their own”, Craig was asked just how he expected to be able to metaphorically “raise the bar” for next year’s event (and there is sure to be one). “Oh, I’m more concerned with making sure everyone has a fantastic time this year”, he said.

“But, I’m sure I’ll think of something!”

(All photos courtesy of Torture Garden and Torture Garden Toronto.)

Nothing "Lost" About Northbound Leather's TRIBE

Tribe 2009What a whirlwind few weeks for Your Humble Narrator and only True Friend it has been, my delightful comrades!

The ever-beautiful, always devious and completely depraved Lady J and I took some time off to recharge the metaphorical batteries after a very event-filled summer (and early Autumn). With apologies to Old Bill Shakespeare, I did manage to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune – some rather well aimed arrows, at that – from some of the more vocal populace who chose to disagree with some of the views expressed regarding some of those said events. On the whole, it really was a grand summer and an extremely enjoyable one. There were some high points and a few no-so-high points – and naturally when one reviews large-scale fetish events, it is a given that you’re only going to satisfy 50% of your audience 50% of the time. Not everyone, perhaps, is going to agree with your sentiments. Onwards, then, shall we? What could possibly be next to turn our attentions to after such a wickedly eventful summer? What event could possibly usher in the coming boot-wearing winter season and deliver us a high note on which to look forward to the new year?

X-POSE 2008That’s easy. There is one – and only one – world-wide event that could possibly be considered the biggest, and the best, of any large-scale fetish related gathering of minds and behinds. I have written this before and I steadfastly stand by these words: the annual evolving wonder (that never follows the same single-word naming convention from year to year) that is Toronto’s Northbound Leather Annual Fetish Event continues to be the standard by which all other large-scale events are compared to, and judged. This year’s iteration, given the name TRIBE, has been whispered excitedly about in every darkened hallway of every fetish club since Northbound Leather President George Giaouris unveiled the starkly beautiful theme (and accompanying amazing marketing imagery) many months ago. If there is one universal truth in this big, wide fetish world we choose to inhabit, it’s that Mr. Giaouris and his wife, the incredibly beautiful and tirelessly-dedicated bundle of raw energy that is Anna, sure as hell know how to throw a party.

Year after year, and ongoing for nearly two full decades, Northbound Leather has done it bigger, bolder and simply better than anybody else. As an example of the kind of patronage the iconic Yonge Street leather emporium has enjoyed (and from participants from across the globe): Estimates for total attendance at the largest fetish gatherings from California to Quebec this past year may – may – have topped 1000 people for an entire weekend’s festivities. Last year alone, the Northbound Leather annual event at Toronto’s huge Docks Entertainment Complex (renamed The Sound Academy) actually was two-thirds larger for a single night alone. Here’s the staggering part of that statement: you’d be hard pressed to find any dissenters among attendees. Ever.

That, my friends, is one very large and happy gathering of the fetishly attired. It’s the Wonka Factory of “Eye Candy”.

X-POSE 2008 PiercingGeorge and his staff, lead by the unbelievably creative mind of his head designer Marty Rotman, somehow manage to make each and every subsequent annual event truly unique and a delightfully feverish, brain-popping explosion of visual excellence. Every year, the Northbound Leather team manage to create a stage show and a fashion show that is imitated by many, and inferior to none. This year, TRIBE promises to be categorized as the “best ever”, and is already being touted by the local media as one of the “can’t miss” events in Canada’s largest city.

I cannot reveal in great detail much of the spectacle and pageantry planned for TRIBE – if you cannot attend the event in person this year you will be able to view a good portion of it on YouTube shortly after the event has transpired – but you will have to merely believe me: listening to George explain in detail to me what his guests will be treated to during the stage and fashion show segments is, quite simply, going to blow the boots off the most cynical and jaded of observers. If you’re even close to the Toronto area on the evening of October 24th, 2009, you really should plan on going. For a first-class large scale fetish event, the Northbound Leather events are always and unquestionably the softest on your pocketbook – a very welcome fact during a very harsh economic year.

Some of this region’s most promising young promoters – some of which have been enthusiastically featured within the electronic pages of Marquis America in recent months – have without question learned a great lesson or two from the masters (well, and mistresses) themselves. Lady J and I personally were witness to George, Anna and their staff’s astonishing, seemingly tireless attentions to each and every one of their guests at a well-attended Pride Week event in Toronto’s historic Distillery District this past summer. That passion, that dedication and that appreciation displayed to their customer base is evident in every single event that they organize and host. It’s one of the reasons why their annual event is so well patronized – and why each and every year there are glowing smiles and starry-eyed fetishists raving about how glorious an experience they just had. It’s staggering to even imagine they can deliver than kind of service and just plain fun to an even larger contingent of fetish party goers.

TRIBE FashionTRIBE, as the name undoubtedly suggests, is about Rite and Ritual. Marty Rotman has designed and assembled 36 one-of-a-kind, never before produced leather ensembles meant to produce an undeniable shine to each one of the fetish models and “cast members” involved in the spectacle. In addition to the vast amount of gleaming silver studs and immaculately-polished leather wear, there is an assortment of body art (tattoos, makeup and body painting) scheduled to be on display. While this is unquestionably the most ambitious undertaking for George and Northbound Leather, he’s well prepared for and very much up to the challenge. George took over the business from his father and astutely changed the name of the family empire from Leathercraft to Northbound Leather in the mid 1980’s. “People have been coming to us since the 1960’s, telling us what they want and we’ve made it for them,” George said. “People who shop with us want to stand out and be unique.” What started out as a small custom-wear shop catering to the Flower Power beatnik of the Vietnam War era grew first into an exciting new venture dedicated to outfitting the heavy glam-and-punk rocker enthusiasts, and eventually matured into the sleek, sensual all-encompassing leather and fetish powerhouse of fashion that Northbound Leather is today. Every one of their meticulously planned and perfectly executed events reflects this dedication to quality – and the care given to their customers. It isn’t an exaggeration to make the claim that an event like TRIBE is simply a way for George and Anna to “repay” their customers patronage and loyalty by providing them an exceptional venue in which to showcase their latest custom-designed fetish creations – and all without a premium price-tag.

Marquis America  simply and highly recommends anybody who has the opportunity to attend TRIBE plan to do so on October 24th, 2009. TRIBE is being held at The Sound Academy (formerly known as The Docks Entertainment Complex), in Toronto’s amazing downtown waterfront area. Tickets are available from a number of online and brick and mortar store outlets – and you certainly will not be disappointed. No assemblage of fetish finery simply exists anywhere on the planet on any one given night (and all under a single roof).

Be prepared to be initiated: Prepare to join the unending numbers of your TRIBE – and be prepared to have the most amazing experience of your fetish life.

(Sneak-Peak TRIBE design by Marty Rotman courtesy of FAB Magazine.)

Anastasia Pierce at Fetish Con

Erik von Gutenberg recommends Anastasia Pierce, the super fetish model from Los Angeles! She was stunning again at Fetish Con in Florida and it is always a pleasure to meet her and find out about her latest projects!
The special good news is that we can welcome her at the VON GUTENBERG Fetish Ball presented by Mister S and madame S San Francisco and Marquis America, December 5, supperclub San Francisco at 9pm! show up and see Anastasia!

Visit www.vongutenbergfetishball.com for details what is happening at December 5 in the supperclub in SF!

Anastasia Pierce at Fetish Con

Erik von Gutenberg recommends Anastasia Pierce, the super fetish model from Los Angeles! She was stunning again at Fetish Con in Florida and it is always a pleasure to meet her and find out about her latest projects!
The special good news is that we can welcome her at the VON GUTENBERG Fetish Ball presented by Mister S and madame S San Francisco and Marquis America, December 5, supperclub San Francisco at 9pm! show up and see Anastasia!

Visit www.vongutenbergfetishball.com for details what is happening at December 5 in the supperclub in SF!

The Summer of (Some) Discontent … is Over. Welcome Autumn!!

tn-0124The incomparable Lady J and I are taking the rest of September to recharge the batteries. We are heading out this evening to Toronto’s long-running Fetish Masquerade in celebration, however: It is our dear friend Mistress Katina’s birthday, and we simply could not say “no” to our closest friend Ms. Marina Black for insisting that we help the lovely Katina usher in a new chapter into the wonderful tapestry that is her life. They are both amazing women and we would encourage everyone to pay them proper respects and admirations should you happen to cross their paths.

Tonight also marks the Grand Opening of Fetish Masquerade’s new location in Toronto, and by all “sneak peeks” provided to Your Humble Narrator and Only True Friend, the venue, atmosphere and ambience is truly just that: “Grand”. Lady J and I, while exhausted beyond any measure of quantifiable belief, are really looking forward to just spending a relaxing evening with those that we truly love, admire, respect and cherish this evening. We are both hoping that we’ll have the chance to see Mistress Patricia Marsh this evening as well – we both miss her company and her sage guidance, and short of a fleeting moment spent in joyous watchfulness in Montréal a couple of weekends ago, we’ve not had much of a chance to share time with her, either. Mistress Patricia, you’ve been an inspiration and a good friend to us both: we’d really love to see you tonight if you happen to be venturing out …

This Fall, Lady J and I are both looking forward to a new slate of exceptional events. First and foremost on that list is, of course, Northbound Leather’s Tribe – the latest iteration of the largest Fetish/SM single-evening venue event in the world. George and Anna, the owners of Northbound Leather, have yet to fail to deliver a first class and top-tier event to the fetish affectionistas across this lovely globe – and we expect October 24th, 2009, to be no exception. There are several events in Canada and the United States to choose from, naturally, when considering traveling to and spending hard-earned cash at any number of fair-to-great events: but Northbound Leather’s annual shindig continues to be the standard by which every other large-scale gathering of fetish folk is duly judged.

Here is a Report Card of the major events that Lady J and I attended in person, Marquis America was instrumental in bringing you or at least had sponsorship concerns in, or even just ones where we got more than just a “tad” bit of feedback about:

marquisfetishballforwebMarquis America Fetish BallSan Francisco, California – July

Grade: A-

By all accounts, the inaugural Fetish Ball was a huge success. Our own Erik Von Gutenberg and the lovely Lady Suzanne Forbes did an amazing job organizing and pulling together an amazing event. This is quite hard to do in a town that has been literally saturated in years past with exceptional Fetish and SM-related events, but the Home Office Marquis American twosome pulled it off. The only reason this is an “A-” rather than an “A” is there were some folks that pointed out that the venue (The Supper Club) in San Francisco turned out to be a smidgen too small to accommodate the amount of people that wished to attend. This, as they say, is a “good problem” to have and bodes well for the future of the Fetish Ball going into a promising future. Well done, Erik and Suzanne: Lady J and I promise to try as hard as we can to join you both next year for Fetish Ball 2010 in the city that I love so very, very much!

Fetish Con 2009Fetish ConTampa Bay, Florida – August

Grade: A-

We have heard nothing but good things about the annual “Sizzlin’ Hot” Fetish gathering in central Florida this year. A few of our friends managed to make the trek to Tampa Bay in August (despite the heat), and came back with glowing reports. Everything from the parties to the iconic model participation was, from all accounts, first class and exceptional. The ever-present threat of dangerous weather in Florida did not manage to interrupt the party atmosphere of those in attendance – and Erik Von Gutenberg himself seemed to report back that it was an “incredible time” (if you haven’t had a chance to see his interview with Fetish Supermodel Jean Bardot on YouTube yet, it’s worth a look!). The only downside reported back to Yours Truly was the inordinate amount of “street clothed” participants wandering around and snapping unauthorized photos of some of the revelry – a common problem that faces each and every large-scale Fetish event. Apart from the lack of provided transportation (another common “problem theme”) and the gawkiness of hotel staff at the host hotel, though, everyone I spoke with that attended Fetish Con 2009 all had the same enthusiastic response: “We can’t wait for next year!”

Church Street FairChurch Street Fetish FairToronto, Ontario – August

Grade: B+

The day was long and the day was super-hot – even for August in Canada’s largest city. It made for an uncomfortable time for some of the street performers, vendors and volunteers. Apart from the heat, however, the Fetish Fair on Church Street this year was a very good event and, considering it was one of (if not the only) large scale event that didn’t charge an admission price, it was certainly well worth the visit to Toronto’s Rainbow Village. It was somewhat disappointing that the organizers somehow didn’t have the foresight to provide printed literature in the way of performance and show schedules, and some of the vendors did complain that the decibel level around where they were stationed (in an attempt to market their wares) sometimes reached eardrum breaking proportions. But the crowds were enthusiastic and the participants, from volunteers on down the line to performers and vendors alike all reported that they had an enjoyable day. What started as a small “craft fair” idea held in a small park-like setting has grown into one of the summer’s most eagerly anticipated events in Canada – and this year’s edition certainly didn’t disappoint. Perhaps for the 2010 event, the organizers may wish to pay a little more attention to having proper schedules for the myriad of events happening all day long. On the whole, however, the Church Street Fetish Fair is a fantastic and fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon in Toronto – and you certainly should have no complaints about the price.

Torture Garden Toronto PosterTorture Garden – Toronto, Ontario – August

Grade: A

Simply superb! There was no better event in Toronto – and I daresay on the East Coast – than Torture Garden Toronto. The event organizer, Random Craig, is an up-and coming-star promoter – and not only in Toronto. More established, large-scale Fetish event promoters (outside of Northbound Leather, who make an art of event organizing, in my opinion) should pay heed and perhaps learn a thing or two about catering to the desires and demands of their audience: and simply no-one does it better than Random Craig. Torture Garden was an ambitious gamble: the Montréal Fetish Weekend was to take place the following week, and Craig certainly had valid concerns about whether or not the event would be well attended. He needn’t have worried: scores of people showed up in some of the classiest, clever and exceptional Fetish wardrobes this writer has ever laid eyes on – and not a single soul Lady J and I spoke to had a negative thing to say about the event. Yes, it was really that good. The thing that separates Random Craig’s events – and especially Torture Garden – is that he actually listens to the wants and needs of those that attend his parties rather than plan everything around the glorification of his own ego. Simply put, people love attending his events because he works so very hard to try and make an enjoyable atmosphere for everyone that will be attending.

Case in point: One of the few complaints that Craig had heard about his massively-popular Subspace events in Toronto was that the “play area” was hard to access and far too small to be of any real use for the amount of people that wished to utilize it. He listened: the Dungeon area for Torture Garden Toronto was out of the way from the rest of the revellers, easily accessible – and just fun. In order to accommodate those that wished to use the large pieces of equipment, Craig and his staff took on the laborious task of hauling crosses, benches and posts up not one, but two sets of ridiculously old stairs and into an appropriately large enough room to house each and every piece. It goes without saying that not every event organizer would be caught dead struggling with large Dungeon equipment pieces (and working for hours on end getting his own hands dirty) – just in an effort to make sure his paying audience was happy. His efforts paid off, and clearly showed: Torture Garden Toronto is assuredly going to be a “can’t miss” event on every one’s calenders on the East Coast for years to come. It truly was just that good.

Montreal Fetish WeekendMontréal Fetish Weekend - Montréal, Quebec – September

Grade: D-

I hate to end this missive on a somewhat down note – but it really can’t be avoided. I have few very nice things to say about the Montréal Fetish Weekend. Drawing from the chorus of complaints I have heard since our return from the event in early September, it actually sounds like Lady J and I had a better time than a good portion of those who also made the journey to that beautiful, amazing French Canadian bastion that is the fantastic city of  Montréal. That is about where the superlatives end, however.

After five years of “maturing”, the event organizers, all two of them, should be ashamed of themselves.

One of the biggest complaints about the Montréal Fetish Weekend in years past has been that it’s really been a very expensive sojourn to a very wonderful city – for the abject benefit of a very select few people with egos that continuously need to be assuaged and massaged. While the posturing that has been reported in years past was somewhat less in evidence this year, overall the event was really nothing more than three packed-to-the rafters nightclub events that had but one purpose: turning a profit. Some of the usual Fetish icons were there, of course (we saw Jean Bardot in attendance on Friday evening, for instance). The first evening was held at a club location that was so inept and inadequately prepared to host such a large contingent of people – and the “event staff” seemed to have no issues with allowing a large throng of “street clothed” folk in without much of a second glance. This was to become a major source of contention for “veteran” Fetish Weekend party goers throughout the weekend. The lack of proper and adequately provided transportation (or available information about transportation) was also seen to be a major failing, and some of the “stage shows” presented were laughable at best and purely and simply obnoxious and objectionable at worst.

Yes, the Fetish Weekend – as expected – had a huge number of amazing costumes, fetish assemblages and uniforms to feast your eyes upon. This, however, simply isn’t enough of a reason to make the investment in attending all of the weekend’s events. There was very little that was “new” and “exciting” about this year’s efforts and a tremendous number of things that just seemed to be a poor rehash of previously-attempted activities. The amount of politics and hostility that seems to surround the event itself from the local professional community (!) was alarming, and certainly would tend to indicate why there is a competing “Fetish Weekend” event in Montréal being held in October that features almost all of the businesses and personalities within Le Belle Ville that noticeably stayed away from September’s annual, more “established” event. Of any event this summer, the Montréal Fetish Weekend was the one gathering I was personally looking so very forward to attending the most – and it was the one gathering that clearly disappointed. I wouldn’t accept another press junket to attend this event – nor would I certainly pay for an over-priced VIP Pass to attend this event  – anytime in the near future. If there is a next time, we’ll pay for the nights and events we want to see – and undoubtedly save a lot of money in the process.

As good as the previous events listed above honestly and truly were, the Montréal Fetish Weekend was clearly and just as truly that bad. I duly hope the organizing committee, both of them, learn from this year’s shortcomings – or at least take a lesson or two in “good event management” and “catering to your public rather than your own ego” from both Random Craig and Northbound Leather.

May the falling leaves bring us an amazing Autumn season of good friends, good times and greater prosperity!

Kardynyl SynysTyr

The Summer of (Some) Discontent … is Over. Welcome Autumn!!

tn-0124The incomparable Lady J and I are taking the rest of September to recharge the batteries. We are heading out this evening to Toronto’s long-running Fetish Masquerade in celebration, however: It is our dear friend Mistress Katina’s birthday, and we simply could not say “no” to our closest friend Ms. Marina Black for insisting that we help the lovely Katina usher in a new chapter into the wonderful tapestry that is her life. They are both amazing women and we would encourage everyone to pay them proper respects and admirations should you happen to cross their paths.

Tonight also marks the Grand Opening of Fetish Masquerade’s new location in Toronto, and by all “sneak peeks” provided to Your Humble Narrator and Only True Friend, the venue, atmosphere and ambience is truly just that: “Grand”. Lady J and I, while exhausted beyond any measure of quantifiable belief, are really looking forward to just spending a relaxing evening with those that we truly love, admire, respect and cherish this evening. We are both hoping that we’ll have the chance to see Mistress Patricia Marsh this evening as well – we both miss her company and her sage guidance, and short of a fleeting moment spent in joyous watchfulness in Montréal a couple of weekends ago, we’ve not had much of a chance to share time with her, either. Mistress Patricia, you’ve been an inspiration and a good friend to us both: we’d really love to see you tonight if you happen to be venturing out …

This Fall, Lady J and I are both looking forward to a new slate of exceptional events. First and foremost on that list is, of course, Northbound Leather’s Tribe – the latest iteration of the largest Fetish/SM single-evening venue event in the world. George and Anna, the owners of Northbound Leather, have yet to fail to deliver a first class and top-tier event to the fetish affectionistas across this lovely globe – and we expect October 24th, 2009, to be no exception. There are several events in Canada and the United States to choose from, naturally, when considering traveling to and spending hard-earned cash at any number of fair-to-great events: but Northbound Leather’s annual shindig continues to be the standard by which every other large-scale gathering of fetish folk is duly judged.

Here is a Report Card of the major events that Lady J and I attended in person, Marquis America was instrumental in bringing you or at least had sponsorship concerns in, or even just ones where we got more than just a “tad” bit of feedback about:

marquisfetishballforwebMarquis America Fetish BallSan Francisco, California – July

Grade: A-

By all accounts, the inaugural Fetish Ball was a huge success. Our own Erik Von Gutenberg and the lovely Lady Suzanne Forbes did an amazing job organizing and pulling together an amazing event. This is quite hard to do in a town that has been literally saturated in years past with exceptional Fetish and SM-related events, but the Home Office Marquis American twosome pulled it off. The only reason this is an “A-” rather than an “A” is there were some folks that pointed out that the venue (The Supper Club) in San Francisco turned out to be a smidgen too small to accommodate the amount of people that wished to attend. This, as they say, is a “good problem” to have and bodes well for the future of the Fetish Ball going into a promising future. Well done, Erik and Suzanne: Lady J and I promise to try as hard as we can to join you both next year for Fetish Ball 2010 in the city that I love so very, very much!

Fetish Con 2009Fetish ConTampa Bay, Florida – August

Grade: A-

We have heard nothing but good things about the annual “Sizzlin’ Hot” Fetish gathering in central Florida this year. A few of our friends managed to make the trek to Tampa Bay in August (despite the heat), and came back with glowing reports. Everything from the parties to the iconic model participation was, from all accounts, first class and exceptional. The ever-present threat of dangerous weather in Florida did not manage to interrupt the party atmosphere of those in attendance – and Erik Von Gutenberg himself seemed to report back that it was an “incredible time” (if you haven’t had a chance to see his interview with Fetish Supermodel Jean Bardot on YouTube yet, it’s worth a look!). The only downside reported back to Yours Truly was the inordinate amount of “street clothed” participants wandering around and snapping unauthorized photos of some of the revelry – a common problem that faces each and every large-scale Fetish event. Apart from the lack of provided transportation (another common “problem theme”) and the gawkiness of hotel staff at the host hotel, though, everyone I spoke with that attended Fetish Con 2009 all had the same enthusiastic response: “We can’t wait for next year!”

Church Street FairChurch Street Fetish FairToronto, Ontario – August

Grade: B+

The day was long and the day was super-hot – even for August in Canada’s largest city. It made for an uncomfortable time for some of the street performers, vendors and volunteers. Apart from the heat, however, the Fetish Fair on Church Street this year was a very good event and, considering it was one of (if not the only) large scale event that didn’t charge an admission price, it was certainly well worth the visit to Toronto’s Rainbow Village. It was somewhat disappointing that the organizers somehow didn’t have the foresight to provide printed literature in the way of performance and show schedules, and some of the vendors did complain that the decibel level around where they were stationed (in an attempt to market their wares) sometimes reached eardrum breaking proportions. But the crowds were enthusiastic and the participants, from volunteers on down the line to performers and vendors alike all reported that they had an enjoyable day. What started as a small “craft fair” idea held in a small park-like setting has grown into one of the summer’s most eagerly anticipated events in Canada – and this year’s edition certainly didn’t disappoint. Perhaps for the 2010 event, the organizers may wish to pay a little more attention to having proper schedules for the myriad of events happening all day long. On the whole, however, the Church Street Fetish Fair is a fantastic and fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon in Toronto – and you certainly should have no complaints about the price.

Torture Garden Toronto PosterTorture Garden – Toronto, Ontario – August

Grade: A

Simply superb! There was no better event in Toronto – and I daresay on the East Coast – than Torture Garden Toronto. The event organizer, Random Craig, is an up-and coming-star promoter – and not only in Toronto. More established, large-scale Fetish event promoters (outside of Northbound Leather, who make an art of event organizing, in my opinion) should pay heed and perhaps learn a thing or two about catering to the desires and demands of their audience: and simply no-one does it better than Random Craig. Torture Garden was an ambitious gamble: the Montréal Fetish Weekend was to take place the following week, and Craig certainly had valid concerns about whether or not the event would be well attended. He needn’t have worried: scores of people showed up in some of the classiest, clever and exceptional Fetish wardrobes this writer has ever laid eyes on – and not a single soul Lady J and I spoke to had a negative thing to say about the event. Yes, it was really that good. The thing that separates Random Craig’s events – and especially Torture Garden – is that he actually listens to the wants and needs of those that attend his parties rather than plan everything around the glorification of his own ego. Simply put, people love attending his events because he works so very hard to try and make an enjoyable atmosphere for everyone that will be attending.

Case in point: One of the few complaints that Craig had heard about his massively-popular Subspace events in Toronto was that the “play area” was hard to access and far too small to be of any real use for the amount of people that wished to utilize it. He listened: the Dungeon area for Torture Garden Toronto was out of the way from the rest of the revellers, easily accessible – and just fun. In order to accommodate those that wished to use the large pieces of equipment, Craig and his staff took on the laborious task of hauling crosses, benches and posts up not one, but two sets of ridiculously old stairs and into an appropriately large enough room to house each and every piece. It goes without saying that not every event organizer would be caught dead struggling with large Dungeon equipment pieces (and working for hours on end getting his own hands dirty) – just in an effort to make sure his paying audience was happy. His efforts paid off, and clearly showed: Torture Garden Toronto is assuredly going to be a “can’t miss” event on every one’s calenders on the East Coast for years to come. It truly was just that good.

Montreal Fetish WeekendMontréal Fetish Weekend - Montréal, Quebec – September

Grade: D-

I hate to end this missive on a somewhat down note – but it really can’t be avoided. I have few very nice things to say about the Montréal Fetish Weekend. Drawing from the chorus of complaints I have heard since our return from the event in early September, it actually sounds like Lady J and I had a better time than a good portion of those who also made the journey to that beautiful, amazing French Canadian bastion that is the fantastic city of  Montréal. That is about where the superlatives end, however.

After five years of “maturing”, the event organizers, all two of them, should be ashamed of themselves.

One of the biggest complaints about the Montréal Fetish Weekend in years past has been that it’s really been a very expensive sojourn to a very wonderful city – for the abject benefit of a very select few people with egos that continuously need to be assuaged and massaged. While the posturing that has been reported in years past was somewhat less in evidence this year, overall the event was really nothing more than three packed-to-the rafters nightclub events that had but one purpose: turning a profit. Some of the usual Fetish icons were there, of course (we saw Jean Bardot in attendance on Friday evening, for instance). The first evening was held at a club location that was so inept and inadequately prepared to host such a large contingent of people – and the “event staff” seemed to have no issues with allowing a large throng of “street clothed” folk in without much of a second glance. This was to become a major source of contention for “veteran” Fetish Weekend party goers throughout the weekend. The lack of proper and adequately provided transportation (or available information about transportation) was also seen to be a major failing, and some of the “stage shows” presented were laughable at best and purely and simply obnoxious and objectionable at worst.

Yes, the Fetish Weekend – as expected – had a huge number of amazing costumes, fetish assemblages and uniforms to feast your eyes upon. This, however, simply isn’t enough of a reason to make the investment in attending all of the weekend’s events. There was very little that was “new” and “exciting” about this year’s efforts and a tremendous number of things that just seemed to be a poor rehash of previously-attempted activities. The amount of politics and hostility that seems to surround the event itself from the local professional community (!) was alarming, and certainly would tend to indicate why there is a competing “Fetish Weekend” event in Montréal being held in October that features almost all of the businesses and personalities within Le Belle Ville that noticeably stayed away from September’s annual, more “established” event. Of any event this summer, the Montréal Fetish Weekend was the one gathering I was personally looking so very forward to attending the most – and it was the one gathering that clearly disappointed. I wouldn’t accept another press junket to attend this event – nor would I certainly pay for an over-priced VIP Pass to attend this event  – anytime in the near future. If there is a next time, we’ll pay for the nights and events we want to see – and undoubtedly save a lot of money in the process.

As good as the previous events listed above honestly and truly were, the Montréal Fetish Weekend was clearly and just as truly that bad. I duly hope the organizing committee, both of them, learn from this year’s shortcomings – or at least take a lesson or two in “good event management” and “catering to your public rather than your own ego” from both Random Craig and Northbound Leather.

May the falling leaves bring us an amazing Autumn season of good friends, good times and greater prosperity!

Kardynyl SynysTyr

Montréal Fetish Weekend 2009: Lots of Show, Little Substance

“Me stand and have to wait in a lineup? Moi? In all my fabulousness, and with this amazing smile? Fuck that!” ~ Fetish Model TheRichard, vocalizing his displeasure with having to wait in a line at an undisclosed event.

Montreal Fetish Weekend - Lady J and Kardynyl SynysTyrSo another Montréal Fetish Weekend has come and gone. In a nutshell, there are two very distinct and strikingly different points of view to consider when attempting to author a summation of the long weekend’s festivities:

  • If you identify, agree with or endorse the above quotation uttered from the lips of the “fabulous” TheRichard, then there’s a good chance that you had a fantastic time and were completely oblivious to some of the more disconcerting aspects of the Weekend that transpired, or;
  • If you completely find the statement self-serving, arrogant, pretentious, and more than just a little assumptive and obnoxious, there’s a great chance that you’re all too aware of some of the disconcerting aspects of the Weekend that transpired – but you still probably had at least a pretty decent time during at least one of the weekend’s “main events”.

The truth, very simply put, is that there were some wonderful things about the Montréal Fetish Weekend. There were some memorable moments and some eye-boggling displays of Fetish Finery that would put any large-scale fetish event, anywhere in the world, to complete shame. The main functions for the weekend (two at Le Medley, a large and extremely accommodating and appropriate venue for such a large festival event; and one at Le Club Cleopatra, a smaller and purely inadequate space entirely too cramped and decrepit to host large crowds of finely attired Fetish folk) could all be described as “above average club nights”, for certain. The elaborate costumes and the extensive rubber, leather and PVC ensembles alone virtually guaranteed at least some memorable moments in each event attendee’s long-term memory.

Montreal Fetish Weekend - Pressure Point SeminarEqually true, though, and in total objectivity and fairness, there were some aspects of the Montréal Fetish Weekend – after having five years of experience to rely upon – should have been better planned and executed. There were also several questionable incidents and “performances” that (to both an experienced purist and a relative newcomer alike) could best be described as “avoidable” and “inappropriate” at best – and downright offensive at worst.

What I noticed above all, however, was a clear division in opinions regarding the overall quality of the Montréal weekend. I spoke with several people during several different points in time and over all three main days of the event, and gathered a number of valuable opinions. Lady J, as ever always, was an extremely popular personality at the Weekend’s events and respects were given and paid to her by a large contingent of adoring acolytes. When casually asking any of these fine folks their thoughts about the weekend, there just didn’t seem to be lot of room for vague interpretation, or any “middle ground”. Some of the lovely event goers we spoke to were clearly having a fantastic time and raved that they couldn’t believe how much damned fun they were having. To a person, the opinions expressed by that group of people were all first-time event attendees: meaning none of them had ever attended a Montréal Fetish Weekend before. Conversely, those who had been celebrating the grandeur of the Fetish Weekend at least once before during the event’s five-year existence all had loud complaints.

In essence, those that had never experienced the event before understandably were having a grand time and were probably more than just a little over-excited and overwhelmed by the sheer delightful explosion of fetish livery on display in the downtown streets of Montréal (and especially Rue de Saint Catherine). At the same time, those who could be considered event “veterans”, when asked, were quite vociferous in their opinions – and some even red-faced outraged – over what appeared to nothing more than a recycled version of the exact same event that began five years ago with very little true change.

While there is definitely something to be said for the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, it is also true that at least an infusion of some fresh new (but appropriate) ideas would undoubtedly been more than welcomed by some of these fetish folks who have made the trek to downtown Montréal every Labour Day Weekend for the past five years.

What follows is a detailed account of what was good, bad and just downright ugly about the 2009 Montréal Fetish Weekend:

The Good:

Montreal Fetish Weekend - Lady J and Angelically Depraved PonyThe air at the host hotel, the Hotel Gouverneur, was electric from the moment Lady J and I first pulled up to the front door. Coincidentally, we were greeted by the fabulous and alluring Mistress Katina (one of Toronto’s best-known professional Dominas and a truly enticing and engaging spirit) before we even exited the car (affectionately named “Betty”, as in “Good Old Reliable Betty Boop”). In her usual effusive, engaging and completely affectionate way, Mistress Katina gave us both a warm reception – greatly appreciated after the five-hour drive to Montréal – and positively informed us that she “expected, as usual, to have a great time.” While Lady J excused herself and went inside to attend to the matters of checking in, I was introduced to some other members of Mistress Katina’s immediate circle of friends – some incredible people who would play an enormous role in helping me laugh and relax with their amazing humour, wit and charm well into the wee hours of the Saturday night to come. After saying our “a bientots” to Mistress Katina and her gaggle of gorgeous friends, I joined Lady J in a fairly lengthy line-up of fetish folks checking into the hotel – and all in good spirits and excitedly looking forward to the weekend ahead. As mentioned, it was an electric start to the event and we were both looking forward to seeing more at Friday Night’s opening party at Le Club Cleopatra. The evening got even better as Lady J’s incredible Handmaiden, the incomparable Angelically Depraved and her adoring husband, the over-the-top handsome Skull Bill (both making an exhausting 13 hour drive from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to be with us for the weekend) arrived to share the room (and the next several days) in anticipated revelry. After a quick bite to eat, our foursome got dressed: Lady J chose to wear a collection of leather goodness consisting of a long, butter-soft leather skirt, an absolutely perfect over-the-bust leather corset procured earlier in the year from Northbound Leather, shoulder length leather gloves paired with very tall platform gothic buckle boots, and topped off with a custom-made chain and leather neck piece. Angelically Depraved was adorned in a custom-designed chain and leather halter and skirt that to describe as “just a little revealing” would be one of the classic understatements of the entire weekend. Skull Bill and I … well, we’re men. Our choice of attire was considerably more toned down and far less interesting, but I must say of the two of us, Skull Bill truly looked far, far better than I in his trappings throughout the weekend. Friday evening was truly no exception. After taking a few photos, we headed down the street and into the night … and unfortunately, that’s all I can report that was “good” about Friday night.

Montreal Fetish Weekend - Mistress MiraSaturday Night, though … was exceptional. The Latextacy Ball was, in absolute fairness, worth the drive to Montréal and the price of the ticket, alone, for all those who dove deep into their pockets. The fashion show – a continuous display of latex excellence from some incredibly talented designers. The performers were rock solid. One performance in particular stands tall in my collective memory: a man dressed in one of the most amazing “circus like” costumes I’ve ever had the pleasure to see picked up a seven foot tall metal pyramid – and promptly started spinning it about his body. When the pyramid lit up in a neon buffet of delicious color, the crowd exploded. It was one of the highlights of the entire weekend for me, that performance. Directly after the pyramid spinning came a trio of spinners who held their own for the appreciative crowd, spinning batons, umbrellas and “Neon Poi” to the delight of the gathered throng. The outfits, of course, were mostly exemplary. Our entourage had an amazing time on Saturday Night, and the host, Eric Paradis, is to be commended and lauded to the highest degree for putting on one of the best Fetish displays and parties I believe this hemisphere has seen in a long, long time.

The Victorian Ball on Sunday evening was billed as a “play party”: but sadly there was just too much going on in Le Medley for anyone to really take advantage of the outstanding stations assembled by Porte Rouge (a dungeon equipment manufacturer from Toronto). I will discuss the travesty that was the “stage show” at the “Ugly” phase of this review and exactly why I felt this particular party simply destroyed all the good feeling built up from such an exceptional Saturday night. What I can say about the Sunday event, though, is that if it was possible to out-do the fetish wear in assemblage that night, Sunday certainly was second in quality to the overall weekend’s events. We had a good time, essentially – despite what you are going to read later on in this review under the “Ugly” section – and it was a fitting send-off for the long drive home the following day.

The Bad:

Montreal Fetish Weekend - Latex GeishasWe were told Le Club Cleopatra, on Friday night, was only “two blocks” and “a five minute walk, tops” away from the hotel. Wrong! It was actually at least five blocks away and a good 20 minute hike away from the corner of St. Hubert and St. Catherine Streets where the hotel is located (and with the ladies in skyscraper heels, this was no mean feat). I had a moment of trepidation when the event staff at first couldn’t locate the pass that had been left for me at the front door – and one of the girls twittered excitedly in French about how terrible I personally looked in Lycra pants (yes honey, I do speak and understand French to a fairly comprehensive degree). The girls managed to find my pass, however, and we entered the venue and prepared for a night’s worth of extreme fetish fun. It wasn’t. The venue was ridiculously over-crowded to the point where our foursome ended up near the washrooms against a far back wall just in order to get a place to stand with a bit of breathing room – but in fairness we did get to see the remains of what appeared to be a pretty decent stage performance (described in an earlier “Live Blog from Montréal”). I must admit, gentle reader, I was not comfortable in that crushing crowd of people – a good portion of which did not show up in any kind of “fetish” attire at all. There was a dismaying number of blue jeans and T-Shirts in the assemblage – a fact we were further loudly informed about (back at the hotel later in the evening) by a very upset attendee from Pennsylvania who questioned the reasoning and validity for shelling out (up to) $175.00 for an event VIP pass to attend a fetish event that advertised itself with a “strict dress code enforcement policy” when that quite obviously wasn’t the case. In fact, all through the weekend, I was astonished (and more than just a little perturbed myself) at the amount of people walking into the events dressed in obvious “street clothes” – yes, even at a Victorian Ball a modern business suit is still a modern business suit even though you might be wearing a cheap dime store plastic mask, people – who had Montréal Fetish Weekend VIP passes draped around their necks. To my way of thinking, if you purchase a VIP ticket for a large fetish event that would tend to indicate you are expected to participate accordingly: the very least some of these people could have done was purchased a pair of leather pants and a fishnet or sheer top. Regardless of whether they had purchased a pass or not, the people who came to this event and made absolutely no effort to “dress appropriately” should have been refused entrance by the event staff at the front door.

Montreal Fetish Weekend - Lady Evyl and Rubber DandyThere are event attendees who spend thousands of dollars – not to mention those who pour hundreds of work hours into custom-hand crafted creations of their own – into looking their best for an event of this nature and to allow the “jeans and T-Shirt” contingent as much access within the sanctuary of the party itself is, pure and simple, an infuriating insult. This should be a lesson to all event organizers: if you charge premium prices for VIP passes to a fetish event, you should stick hard and fast to the “enforced dress code policy”. It’s the masses that do take the time to dress and look amazing that have their photos taken and promote your events, time after time, on websites and in printed magazines. It’s they that you need to cater to and listen when they express concerns of this nature. If you need to refund the full price for five or six people that were refused entrance to your party even though they didn’t obey the very conditions outlined (i.e., strict fetish wear enforcement) when purchasing the VIP pass, then so be it. It doesn’t make sense to alienate 100 people who paid full price and followed the “dress code” enthusiastically for the sake of pocketing a few hundred extra bucks from those who have no intention of dressing appropriately – let alone who have any clue about what the word “community” happens to mean.

We attended a number of the seminars given on Saturday afternoon. The first one, as described in an earlier “live blog” post, was outstanding. I would take any number of classes from Dunter, the presenter, anytime. He was an excellent teacher and the class he gave was first class. The beautiful, articulate and truly amazing Contessa Alura followed and gamely tried to present a breath play workshop – but she admittedly had some troubles with a “no show” from her intended demonstration partner (kudos to the girl known as Cat for stepping in to help at the absolute last minute), the constant interference from two of the gallery members who thought they knew more than she did (they didn’t), and the simple fact she didn’t have enough time to present a topic of such gravity in the window of opportunity afforded her. I thought she was an excellent presenter, though – and has great potential to be one of the top educators and facilitators in Canada. I hope this experience doesn’t deter her from wanting to do more instructional workshops: the Lady handled the adversity with amazing class, elegance and true professionalism. The last seminar I (somewhat) attended was given by a man whom I thought was a little too into himself to pay appropriate attention to the safety of his volunteer subject – and his “scene” ended up going somewhat horribly wrong at the start. By all accounts, he spoke about himself too much; didn’t really care to show the entire room what exactly it was he was doing; and delivered in the end a somewhat “satisfactory” demonstration on rope bondage. Lady J, in fairness however, did say that she learned a couple of new things from him – which is saying something – so perhaps with some practise and a little more attention to proper teaching techniques and the safety of his volunteer, this man could be, as well, an exceptional presenter.

Montreal Fetish Weekend - Shining StationThe only eye-rolling event of Saturday night was a “rock star show” on stage, while an extremely intriguing suspended hoop aerial performer was giving the performance of her life twenty feet above the crowd. I wonder if the guitar players were even aware that hardly anyone in  that crowd was paying any attention to them – and devoting all their attentions on the aerial display? There was barely a ripple when they finished their performance and quietly left the stage – but there was thunderous applause a few moments later when the performer was finished her acrobatics. The guitar players were, of course, known to the crowd – and I will spare them any embarrasment from mentioning who they were. I heard a number of people mumbling something to the effect that “it’s the same schlock and schtick every single year – when are they going to realize no-one wants it?”

These were the only “bad” things I can say about Saturday, though. All in all it was really a good day – and night.

The Ugly:

Montreal Fetish Weekend Latex ApronI had scheduled an interview with Eric Paradis, one of the two (!) event organizers of the Montréal Fetish Weekend (Note: there is a mountain of politics involved in the Montréal community and our foursome got earful after earful about it as we ventured from store to store on buying missions across the downtown core of the city. It is too lengthy to get into a dissertation about here: but suffice to say the notable absence of several past professional models and related businesses could hardly have come as a surprise considering the amount of contempt I personally bore witness to, at several retail locations, for the event itself) for Friday evening. Unfortunately, he choose not to have that discussion with me at that time – and he was far too busy the rest of the weekend to speak with me. I do not fault him for this – but there are some questions that I would dearly love to have answered in regards to the events that transpired at the Victorian Ball on Sunday evening.

Without pulling any punches, there was one “performance” that bordered on the obscene – and one that was outright disgusting, inappropriate, questionable and sent completely the wrong message to newcomers and established fetish and SM folk alike.

There was some kind of weird SM-related demonstration going on-stage, in which I believe was supposed to entice the crowd to start engaging in various bondage and SM-related play at the stations – but the crowd was far too interested in continuing to dance than they were in actually utilizing the equipment. Most of it went unused, by my observations, until quite, quite late into the evening when the crowds had thinned considerably. I will refrain from commenting on the “demonstrations” themselves – except to say they were absolutely pathetic. The central demonstration, given by someone whom should have known better, was just simply laughable in its presentation.

Montreal Fetish Weekend - Tall Dark AngelThe “obscene” scene, in my opinion (and I am sure there are several who actually thought the performance was inventive and outstanding) involved one of the male models, an over-sized phallus, and about seventy-two gallons of spurting liquid. You can use your imagination, I am sure. The best part of that performance, to be sure, was the end of it – when the event organizer himself somehow had the responsibility of having to clean and mop that stage of that mess. I felt badly for him: it had to be somewhat humiliating having to be seen with a mop cleaning up the remains of a “gargantuan simulated body fluid bath”. The start of that particular performance showed great promise: the same male model used a modified electric violin to give his two female model counterparts a hot shower of glowing sparks (obviously some kind of hidden grinder in the violin interacting with the metal bow he was using). Aside from my wonderment at whether the latex clothing they were all wearing survived the flying spark show intact, it was a fantastic start to the performance set. If they had of ended the performance right there, it would have been viewed as a triumph. Unfortunately, the giant dong and “fluids” came next and … well … it just cheapened and destroyed the overall effect of their entire efforts.

The “performance” that I personally felt was offensive and completely unnecessary involved two male models (I will not mention their names, it isn’t fair to them as they were only doing as probably instructed) wandering into the crowd to “abduct” two girls in school girl uniforms, and carry them back, kicking and thrashing, over their shoulders and back onto the stage – where a simulated “rape scene” took place. Of course, the “school girls” somehow got the upper hand and their “revenge” by “overpowering” the male models, pseudo-taping them back to back – and proceeding to kick, stomp, punch, face-slap, bite and generally heap utter abuse on their former “tormentors”. Now I am not a prude by any means and we all have “dark places” in the recesses of our minds in which such deviant thoughts do inhabit – but a fetish event is not the place to be showcasing a message that “rape” and “retribution”, no matter how staged, is remotely appropriate. A man in Toronto was recently crucified and completely ostracized from the general community in a very, very public way for compromising someone in a seemingly non-consensual way: does such a scene, then, displayed in front of hundreds of people, qualify as “okay” and “appropriate” simply because it was done under the auspices of a large sanctioned event? Not only, in my opinion, does this kind of performance send exactly the wrong message about what sadomasochism is supposed to be all about (safe, sane and consensual), but it only serves to further reinforce the stereotype that SM … is violence. It isn’t: it’s another way to love amongst those that practice the art with those they respect, adore and cherish. The performance was in extreme poor taste and, quite frankly, showed exactly just how little regard and understanding there still exists towards SM – the very root of those that love their varied and valued fetishes and SM-related adornments. The event organizer really should be ashamed for allowing such garbage to infest and putrefy what otherwise would have been described as a “pretty decent affair.” After five years of party planning experience, he should have known better.

Montreal Fetish Weekend Street Club SceneI had my own issues and challenges to deal with during my stay in Montréal: I freely admit Lady J, Angelically Depraved and Skull Bill deserve a gold medal each for having to put up with my building frustration and indignation about what I felt was a substandard over-all event. The highlight was so very high – Saturday night’s party was exceptional and worth the price of the ticket alone. But the low points, as described above, certainly made me feel quite glad to be home. I also completely realize I am not going to win a lot of new friends with this review – but I also cannot in good conscience give a glowing and false opinion about an event I felt was completely inferior to any of the events that preceeded it this summer. Northbound Leather’s Pride event was enormous fun … Subspace and Torture Garden were both absolutely perfect and far, far superior to the Montréal Fetish Weekend each on its own … and the Church Street Fetish Fair was a great day with fantastic people under very trying, hot conditions.

I just wish the Montréal Fetish Weekend had of lived up to its advance promise and not been only a single evening of exceptional fun. I truly hope the organizers learn from the mistakes of the past years, collectively (and I am told there have been several), and present a far more “Community minded effort” for the global fetish community as a whole, rather than massage the egos of a select few who seem to believe anything and everything they touch will instantly turn into fetish gold.

Yes, dozens of people had a great time, to be sure. It must be said that my three companions, I believe, certainly have their own opinions about what was fabulous and what wasn’t in Montréal this past weekend. Dozens more – and I spoke personally with several of them and on the record – did not and probably won’t be coming back, mainly commenting on all of the issues I have touched on above. I think that alone is a shame – and I can only hope the organizers learn not to rest on past laurels, and learn that “pushing the envelope” does not always equate into “instant acceptance and success”. Au revoir, Montréal, et écoutez-bien.

(Photos: The images displayed are in no way related to the accompanying text – they are presented in somewhat chronological order only. No attempt has been made to associate any of the models or attendees with any inference related to the express opinions of the author. Any assumption of such association would be incorrect.)

Montréal Fetish Weekend 2009: Lots of Show, Little Substance

“Me stand and have to wait in a lineup? Moi? In all my fabulousness, and with this amazing smile? Fuck that!” ~ Fetish Model TheRichard, vocalizing his displeasure with having to wait in a line at an undisclosed event.

Montreal Fetish Weekend - Lady J and Kardynyl SynysTyrSo another Montréal Fetish Weekend has come and gone. In a nutshell, there are two very distinct and strikingly different points of view to consider when attempting to author a summation of the long weekend’s festivities:

  • If you identify, agree with or endorse the above quotation uttered from the lips of the “fabulous” TheRichard, then there’s a good chance that you had a fantastic time and were completely oblivious to some of the more disconcerting aspects of the Weekend that transpired, or;
  • If you completely find the statement self-serving, arrogant, pretentious, and more than just a little assumptive and obnoxious, there’s a great chance that you’re all too aware of some of the disconcerting aspects of the Weekend that transpired – but you still probably had at least a pretty decent time during at least one of the weekend’s “main events”.

The truth, very simply put, is that there were some wonderful things about the Montréal Fetish Weekend. There were some memorable moments and some eye-boggling displays of Fetish Finery that would put any large-scale fetish event, anywhere in the world, to complete shame. The main functions for the weekend (two at Le Medley, a large and extremely accommodating and appropriate venue for such a large festival event; and one at Le Club Cleopatra, a smaller and purely inadequate space entirely too cramped and decrepit to host large crowds of finely attired Fetish folk) could all be described as “above average club nights”, for certain. The elaborate costumes and the extensive rubber, leather and PVC ensembles alone virtually guaranteed at least some memorable moments in each event attendee’s long-term memory.

Montreal Fetish Weekend - Pressure Point SeminarEqually true, though, and in total objectivity and fairness, there were some aspects of the Montréal Fetish Weekend – after having five years of experience to rely upon – should have been better planned and executed. There were also several questionable incidents and “performances” that (to both an experienced purist and a relative newcomer alike) could best be described as “avoidable” and “inappropriate” at best – and downright offensive at worst.

What I noticed above all, however, was a clear division in opinions regarding the overall quality of the Montréal weekend. I spoke with several people during several different points in time and over all three main days of the event, and gathered a number of valuable opinions. Lady J, as ever always, was an extremely popular personality at the Weekend’s events and respects were given and paid to her by a large contingent of adoring acolytes. When casually asking any of these fine folks their thoughts about the weekend, there just didn’t seem to be lot of room for vague interpretation, or any “middle ground”. Some of the lovely event goers we spoke to were clearly having a fantastic time and raved that they couldn’t believe how much damned fun they were having. To a person, the opinions expressed by that group of people were all first-time event attendees: meaning none of them had ever attended a Montréal Fetish Weekend before. Conversely, those who had been celebrating the grandeur of the Fetish Weekend at least once before during the event’s five-year existence all had loud complaints.

In essence, those that had never experienced the event before understandably were having a grand time and were probably more than just a little over-excited and overwhelmed by the sheer delightful explosion of fetish livery on display in the downtown streets of Montréal (and especially Rue de Saint Catherine). At the same time, those who could be considered event “veterans”, when asked, were quite vociferous in their opinions – and some even red-faced outraged – over what appeared to nothing more than a recycled version of the exact same event that began five years ago with very little true change.

While there is definitely something to be said for the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, it is also true that at least an infusion of some fresh new (but appropriate) ideas would undoubtedly been more than welcomed by some of these fetish folks who have made the trek to downtown Montréal every Labour Day Weekend for the past five years.

What follows is a detailed account of what was good, bad and just downright ugly about the 2009 Montréal Fetish Weekend:

The Good:

Montreal Fetish Weekend - Lady J and Angelically Depraved PonyThe air at the host hotel, the Hotel Gouverneur, was electric from the moment Lady J and I first pulled up to the front door. Coincidentally, we were greeted by the fabulous and alluring Mistress Katina (one of Toronto’s best-known professional Dominas and a truly enticing and engaging spirit) before we even exited the car (affectionately named “Betty”, as in “Good Old Reliable Betty Boop”). In her usual effusive, engaging and completely affectionate way, Mistress Katina gave us both a warm reception – greatly appreciated after the five-hour drive to Montréal – and positively informed us that she “expected, as usual, to have a great time.” While Lady J excused herself and went inside to attend to the matters of checking in, I was introduced to some other members of Mistress Katina’s immediate circle of friends – some incredible people who would play an enormous role in helping me laugh and relax with their amazing humour, wit and charm well into the wee hours of the Saturday night to come. After saying our “a bientots” to Mistress Katina and her gaggle of gorgeous friends, I joined Lady J in a fairly lengthy line-up of fetish folks checking into the hotel – and all in good spirits and excitedly looking forward to the weekend ahead. As mentioned, it was an electric start to the event and we were both looking forward to seeing more at Friday Night’s opening party at Le Club Cleopatra. The evening got even better as Lady J’s incredible Handmaiden, the incomparable Angelically Depraved and her adoring husband, the over-the-top handsome Skull Bill (both making an exhausting 13 hour drive from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to be with us for the weekend) arrived to share the room (and the next several days) in anticipated revelry. After a quick bite to eat, our foursome got dressed: Lady J chose to wear a collection of leather goodness consisting of a long, butter-soft leather skirt, an absolutely perfect over-the-bust leather corset procured earlier in the year from Northbound Leather, shoulder length leather gloves paired with very tall platform gothic buckle boots, and topped off with a custom-made chain and leather neck piece. Angelically Depraved was adorned in a custom-designed chain and leather halter and skirt that to describe as “just a little revealing” would be one of the classic understatements of the entire weekend. Skull Bill and I … well, we’re men. Our choice of attire was considerably more toned down and far less interesting, but I must say of the two of us, Skull Bill truly looked far, far better than I in his trappings throughout the weekend. Friday evening was truly no exception. After taking a few photos, we headed down the street and into the night … and unfortunately, that’s all I can report that was “good” about Friday night.

Montreal Fetish Weekend - Mistress MiraSaturday Night, though … was exceptional. The Latextacy Ball was, in absolute fairness, worth the drive to Montréal and the price of the ticket, alone, for all those who dove deep into their pockets. The fashion show – a continuous display of latex excellence from some incredibly talented designers. The performers were rock solid. One performance in particular stands tall in my collective memory: a man dressed in one of the most amazing “circus like” costumes I’ve ever had the pleasure to see picked up a seven foot tall metal pyramid – and promptly started spinning it about his body. When the pyramid lit up in a neon buffet of delicious color, the crowd exploded. It was one of the highlights of the entire weekend for me, that performance. Directly after the pyramid spinning came a trio of spinners who held their own for the appreciative crowd, spinning batons, umbrellas and “Neon Poi” to the delight of the gathered throng. The outfits, of course, were mostly exemplary. Our entourage had an amazing time on Saturday Night, and the host, Eric Paradis, is to be commended and lauded to the highest degree for putting on one of the best Fetish displays and parties I believe this hemisphere has seen in a long, long time.

The Victorian Ball on Sunday evening was billed as a “play party”: but sadly there was just too much going on in Le Medley for anyone to really take advantage of the outstanding stations assembled by Porte Rouge (a dungeon equipment manufacturer from Toronto). I will discuss the travesty that was the “stage show” at the “Ugly” phase of this review and exactly why I felt this particular party simply destroyed all the good feeling built up from such an exceptional Saturday night. What I can say about the Sunday event, though, is that if it was possible to out-do the fetish wear in assemblage that night, Sunday certainly was second in quality to the overall weekend’s events. We had a good time, essentially – despite what you are going to read later on in this review under the “Ugly” section – and it was a fitting send-off for the long drive home the following day.

The Bad:

Montreal Fetish Weekend - Latex GeishasWe were told Le Club Cleopatra, on Friday night, was only “two blocks” and “a five minute walk, tops” away from the hotel. Wrong! It was actually at least five blocks away and a good 20 minute hike away from the corner of St. Hubert and St. Catherine Streets where the hotel is located (and with the ladies in skyscraper heels, this was no mean feat). I had a moment of trepidation when the event staff at first couldn’t locate the pass that had been left for me at the front door – and one of the girls twittered excitedly in French about how terrible I personally looked in Lycra pants (yes honey, I do speak and understand French to a fairly comprehensive degree). The girls managed to find my pass, however, and we entered the venue and prepared for a night’s worth of extreme fetish fun. It wasn’t. The venue was ridiculously over-crowded to the point where our foursome ended up near the washrooms against a far back wall just in order to get a place to stand with a bit of breathing room – but in fairness we did get to see the remains of what appeared to be a pretty decent stage performance (described in an earlier “Live Blog from Montréal”). I must admit, gentle reader, I was not comfortable in that crushing crowd of people – a good portion of which did not show up in any kind of “fetish” attire at all. There was a dismaying number of blue jeans and T-Shirts in the assemblage – a fact we were further loudly informed about (back at the hotel later in the evening) by a very upset attendee from Pennsylvania who questioned the reasoning and validity for shelling out (up to) $175.00 for an event VIP pass to attend a fetish event that advertised itself with a “strict dress code enforcement policy” when that quite obviously wasn’t the case. In fact, all through the weekend, I was astonished (and more than just a little perturbed myself) at the amount of people walking into the events dressed in obvious “street clothes” – yes, even at a Victorian Ball a modern business suit is still a modern business suit even though you might be wearing a cheap dime store plastic mask, people – who had Montréal Fetish Weekend VIP passes draped around their necks. To my way of thinking, if you purchase a VIP ticket for a large fetish event that would tend to indicate you are expected to participate accordingly: the very least some of these people could have done was purchased a pair of leather pants and a fishnet or sheer top. Regardless of whether they had purchased a pass or not, the people who came to this event and made absolutely no effort to “dress appropriately” should have been refused entrance by the event staff at the front door.

Montreal Fetish Weekend - Lady Evyl and Rubber DandyThere are event attendees who spend thousands of dollars – not to mention those who pour hundreds of work hours into custom-hand crafted creations of their own – into looking their best for an event of this nature and to allow the “jeans and T-Shirt” contingent as much access within the sanctuary of the party itself is, pure and simple, an infuriating insult. This should be a lesson to all event organizers: if you charge premium prices for VIP passes to a fetish event, you should stick hard and fast to the “enforced dress code policy”. It’s the masses that do take the time to dress and look amazing that have their photos taken and promote your events, time after time, on websites and in printed magazines. It’s they that you need to cater to and listen when they express concerns of this nature. If you need to refund the full price for five or six people that were refused entrance to your party even though they didn’t obey the very conditions outlined (i.e., strict fetish wear enforcement) when purchasing the VIP pass, then so be it. It doesn’t make sense to alienate 100 people who paid full price and followed the “dress code” enthusiastically for the sake of pocketing a few hundred extra bucks from those who have no intention of dressing appropriately – let alone who have any clue about what the word “community” happens to mean.

We attended a number of the seminars given on Saturday afternoon. The first one, as described in an earlier “live blog” post, was outstanding. I would take any number of classes from Dunter, the presenter, anytime. He was an excellent teacher and the class he gave was first class. The beautiful, articulate and truly amazing Contessa Alura followed and gamely tried to present a breath play workshop – but she admittedly had some troubles with a “no show” from her intended demonstration partner (kudos to the girl known as Cat for stepping in to help at the absolute last minute), the constant interference from two of the gallery members who thought they knew more than she did (they didn’t), and the simple fact she didn’t have enough time to present a topic of such gravity in the window of opportunity afforded her. I thought she was an excellent presenter, though – and has great potential to be one of the top educators and facilitators in Canada. I hope this experience doesn’t deter her from wanting to do more instructional workshops: the Lady handled the adversity with amazing class, elegance and true professionalism. The last seminar I (somewhat) attended was given by a man whom I thought was a little too into himself to pay appropriate attention to the safety of his volunteer subject – and his “scene” ended up going somewhat horribly wrong at the start. By all accounts, he spoke about himself too much; didn’t really care to show the entire room what exactly it was he was doing; and delivered in the end a somewhat “satisfactory” demonstration on rope bondage. Lady J, in fairness however, did say that she learned a couple of new things from him – which is saying something – so perhaps with some practise and a little more attention to proper teaching techniques and the safety of his volunteer, this man could be, as well, an exceptional presenter.

Montreal Fetish Weekend - Shining StationThe only eye-rolling event of Saturday night was a “rock star show” on stage, while an extremely intriguing suspended hoop aerial performer was giving the performance of her life twenty feet above the crowd. I wonder if the guitar players were even aware that hardly anyone in  that crowd was paying any attention to them – and devoting all their attentions on the aerial display? There was barely a ripple when they finished their performance and quietly left the stage – but there was thunderous applause a few moments later when the performer was finished her acrobatics. The guitar players were, of course, known to the crowd – and I will spare them any embarrasment from mentioning who they were. I heard a number of people mumbling something to the effect that “it’s the same schlock and schtick every single year – when are they going to realize no-one wants it?”

These were the only “bad” things I can say about Saturday, though. All in all it was really a good day – and night.

The Ugly:

Montreal Fetish Weekend Latex ApronI had scheduled an interview with Eric Paradis, one of the two (!) event organizers of the Montréal Fetish Weekend (Note: there is a mountain of politics involved in the Montréal community and our foursome got earful after earful about it as we ventured from store to store on buying missions across the downtown core of the city. It is too lengthy to get into a dissertation about here: but suffice to say the notable absence of several past professional models and related businesses could hardly have come as a surprise considering the amount of contempt I personally bore witness to, at several retail locations, for the event itself) for Friday evening. Unfortunately, he choose not to have that discussion with me at that time – and he was far too busy the rest of the weekend to speak with me. I do not fault him for this – but there are some questions that I would dearly love to have answered in regards to the events that transpired at the Victorian Ball on Sunday evening.

Without pulling any punches, there was one “performance” that bordered on the obscene – and one that was outright disgusting, inappropriate, questionable and sent completely the wrong message to newcomers and established fetish and SM folk alike.

There was some kind of weird SM-related demonstration going on-stage, in which I believe was supposed to entice the crowd to start engaging in various bondage and SM-related play at the stations – but the crowd was far too interested in continuing to dance than they were in actually utilizing the equipment. Most of it went unused, by my observations, until quite, quite late into the evening when the crowds had thinned considerably. I will refrain from commenting on the “demonstrations” themselves – except to say they were absolutely pathetic. The central demonstration, given by someone whom should have known better, was just simply laughable in its presentation.

Montreal Fetish Weekend - Tall Dark AngelThe “obscene” scene, in my opinion (and I am sure there are several who actually thought the performance was inventive and outstanding) involved one of the male models, an over-sized phallus, and about seventy-two gallons of spurting liquid. You can use your imagination, I am sure. The best part of that performance, to be sure, was the end of it – when the event organizer himself somehow had the responsibility of having to clean and mop that stage of that mess. I felt badly for him: it had to be somewhat humiliating having to be seen with a mop cleaning up the remains of a “gargantuan simulated body fluid bath”. The start of that particular performance showed great promise: the same male model used a modified electric violin to give his two female model counterparts a hot shower of glowing sparks (obviously some kind of hidden grinder in the violin interacting with the metal bow he was using). Aside from my wonderment at whether the latex clothing they were all wearing survived the flying spark show intact, it was a fantastic start to the performance set. If they had of ended the performance right there, it would have been viewed as a triumph. Unfortunately, the giant dong and “fluids” came next and … well … it just cheapened and destroyed the overall effect of their entire efforts.

The “performance” that I personally felt was offensive and completely unnecessary involved two male models (I will not mention their names, it isn’t fair to them as they were only doing as probably instructed) wandering into the crowd to “abduct” two girls in school girl uniforms, and carry them back, kicking and thrashing, over their shoulders and back onto the stage – where a simulated “rape scene” took place. Of course, the “school girls” somehow got the upper hand and their “revenge” by “overpowering” the male models, pseudo-taping them back to back – and proceeding to kick, stomp, punch, face-slap, bite and generally heap utter abuse on their former “tormentors”. Now I am not a prude by any means and we all have “dark places” in the recesses of our minds in which such deviant thoughts do inhabit – but a fetish event is not the place to be showcasing a message that “rape” and “retribution”, no matter how staged, is remotely appropriate. A man in Toronto was recently crucified and completely ostracized from the general community in a very, very public way for compromising someone in a seemingly non-consensual way: does such a scene, then, displayed in front of hundreds of people, qualify as “okay” and “appropriate” simply because it was done under the auspices of a large sanctioned event? Not only, in my opinion, does this kind of performance send exactly the wrong message about what sadomasochism is supposed to be all about (safe, sane and consensual), but it only serves to further reinforce the stereotype that SM … is violence. It isn’t: it’s another way to love amongst those that practice the art with those they respect, adore and cherish. The performance was in extreme poor taste and, quite frankly, showed exactly just how little regard and understanding there still exists towards SM – the very root of those that love their varied and valued fetishes and SM-related adornments. The event organizer really should be ashamed for allowing such garbage to infest and putrefy what otherwise would have been described as a “pretty decent affair.” After five years of party planning experience, he should have known better.

Montreal Fetish Weekend Street Club SceneI had my own issues and challenges to deal with during my stay in Montréal: I freely admit Lady J, Angelically Depraved and Skull Bill deserve a gold medal each for having to put up with my building frustration and indignation about what I felt was a substandard over-all event. The highlight was so very high – Saturday night’s party was exceptional and worth the price of the ticket alone. But the low points, as described above, certainly made me feel quite glad to be home. I also completely realize I am not going to win a lot of new friends with this review – but I also cannot in good conscience give a glowing and false opinion about an event I felt was completely inferior to any of the events that preceeded it this summer. Northbound Leather’s Pride event was enormous fun … Subspace and Torture Garden were both absolutely perfect and far, far superior to the Montréal Fetish Weekend each on its own … and the Church Street Fetish Fair was a great day with fantastic people under very trying, hot conditions.

I just wish the Montréal Fetish Weekend had of lived up to its advance promise and not been only a single evening of exceptional fun. I truly hope the organizers learn from the mistakes of the past years, collectively (and I am told there have been several), and present a far more “Community minded effort” for the global fetish community as a whole, rather than massage the egos of a select few who seem to believe anything and everything they touch will instantly turn into fetish gold.

Yes, dozens of people had a great time, to be sure. It must be said that my three companions, I believe, certainly have their own opinions about what was fabulous and what wasn’t in Montréal this past weekend. Dozens more – and I spoke personally with several of them and on the record – did not and probably won’t be coming back, mainly commenting on all of the issues I have touched on above. I think that alone is a shame – and I can only hope the organizers learn not to rest on past laurels, and learn that “pushing the envelope” does not always equate into “instant acceptance and success”. Au revoir, Montréal, et écoutez-bien.

(Photos: The images displayed are in no way related to the accompanying text – they are presented in somewhat chronological order only. No attempt has been made to associate any of the models or attendees with any inference related to the express opinions of the author. Any assumption of such association would be incorrect.)