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.)

Dia-TRIBE: An Incredible Twenty Year Odyssey with Northbound Leather

5 - The Six - 1“Deep, unspeakable suffering may well be called a baptism, a regeneration, the initiation into a new state.” ~ Ira Gershwin

The more things change in twenty years, the more they also (sometimes) remain the same. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Bear with me for a bit, Gentle Reader: this “diatribe” (pun intended, as you’ll see) does indeed have a point.

Let’s take a little stroll down memory lane to twenty years ago. The year was 1989. It was a landmark year, full of world-shattering events that brought both tears or anguish and tears of sheer joy to several million across this globe.

The last remaining major world leader from the Second World War era, Japan’s Emperor Hirohito, died in January that year. Solidarity, as a movement and a political entity, became legal in Poland as a result of the tireless efforts of a relatively unknown dock worker named Lech Walesa – a legal move that would have an unbelievable global impact before the end of the year.

1989 was the year that author Salmon Rushdie had a price put on his head for “deeply offending” one of the world’s largest religions. The man who angrily posted that bounty was dead himself within the year, the much-lionized Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. During a particularly warm Asian spring, a man (who may or may not have been known by the name of Wang Wei-Lin) defied the largest armed force on the planet by defiantly standing in front of an imposing row of oncoming tanks in one of the world’s largest public gathering places. The fate of that man is, twenty years on, unknown – but the image of him refusing to give up his ground in front of five very, very large Chinese tanks at Tiananmen Square has been called the single most famous photograph of the entire 20th Century.

7 - The Spike Boys - 1Later that year, of course, the long-despised symbol of world-wide Communist dictatorship – the very concrete tumor that for nearly thirty years had separated and plagued one of Europe’s great ancient capitals into “Western” and “Eastern” Zones – came crashing down. A common, great but twice-vanquished people, separated by artificially-created ideological borders, collectively stood up, and in a singular voice cried, “No more!” Those of us who grew up in the 1970’s never thought we would see West and East Germany reunite in our lifetime – let alone the entire final rotting and disintegration of Eastern Europe’s totalitarian regimes.

If you’ve managed to read this far in our little trip down a two-decade old Memory Lane, you are probably wondering: “What the hell does any of this have to do with the Fetish world, anyhow?” Other than opening up shiploads of delicious German latex to the rest of the world (a given), what’s the message here?

1 - Iron Xena - 1It’s simple, really. The year Nineteen-Hundred-and-Eighty-Nine was a year of great turmoil to be sure – but it was also a year of great hope and unrequited optimism. There was a spirit of change in the air, and people were eager to embrace the coming end-of-millennium decade of the 1990’s with a renewed spirit of ambition and promise. From 1989 to 2009, countless fetish events have come and almost all of them have gone. Even some famous institutions of alternative lifestyle “expressions” that promised to “stand the test of time” in the 1970’s and 1980’s – ultimately disappeared from the fetish map. All, that is, except one.

In the past two weeks, Your Humble Narrator and Only True Friend had been attempting to locate and confirm the existence of a regular monthly fetish event that has been running, continuously or virtually continuously, for at least twenty years. I found one – right in my own backyard and right on the heels of what simply had to be this particular corporation’s best large-scale event, ever. I’m talking about Northbound Leather, of course. Twenty years ago, a young and enthusiastic entrepreneur took the heart of a small family business, started a small-scale series of Fetish Nights in order to partially promote his products but mostly just to have fun, and ran with it. He’s been doing it ever since.

4 - Spikehead - 1Your Humble Narrator has focused a lot of attention in the past few weeks on Northbound Leather and their various efforts – and quite deservedly so. In February 2010, right around the same time Canada is getting set to host the Winter World during the Vancouver 2010 Olympiad, George Giaouris and his staff at Northbound Leather will be celebrating the “official” 20th Anniversary of their monthly fetish event, all this time simply referred to as the “Northbound Fetish Night”, in downtown Toronto. There is no other event (that I could find, at least) that has been routinely scheduled and executed meticulously and faithfully, once a month, for 20 straight years. Sure, the venues for Northbound’s monthly gyrating shindig have changed – but the party remains the same and continues to roll ever stronger as it enters its third decade of existence. This is quite an accomplishment for a company that began as a small little leather shop, in Greece no less, over 40 years ago.

Much has already been written and said about Northbound Leather’s events over the years, some of it good, some of it … well, not quite so good. It’s all a matter of perspective and personal taste, after all – but by and large the words “Northbound Leather” have been synonymous with “quality”, if you’ll pardon a terribly over-used marketing euphemism – and that doesn’t just apply to their wide array of merchandise. You just can’t please everybody one-hundred percent of the time: but George and his staff have managed to come “oh-so-close.”

2 - Ballerina - Corset - 1Thirteen years ago, Northbound Leather made a decision to organize and host a Fetish party on a grand and unprecedented scale (at least for North America). Deciding from the outset to give each annual event a unique and somewhat unusual theme and name (“Thrust”, “Decadence”, Bento”, “X-Pose”, etc.), the annual event has become by far, and as previously reported, the single largest gathering of fetish folk under a single roof anywhere in the world. This year’s massive event, given the moniker and theme of TRIBE, simply had to be the ultimate, spectacular culmination of twenty years of unprecedented excellence provided to North America’s fetish populace in the way of both actual “product”, and “atmosphere”.

Allow me to describe the latter first: The atmosphere was, from start to finish, nothing short of scintillating and euphoric. Hosted in a two-level, gargantuan entertainment complex known as The Sound Academy (but previously and more well-known as “The Docks”), the large crowd had plenty of room to walk, talk, prance and dance to their twisted little heart’s content well into the dawn-breaking early hours of morning. My beloved Lady J, her devoted Handmaiden Angelically Depraved, and Your Humble Narrator were, in fact, three of the last half-dozen non-staff members to exit the premises around 5:30 am. The fashion show/stage performance was something this writer had never expected, let alone ever witnessed before (and in over 30 years as an ardent SM practitioner in several American and Canadian cities over the years, I’ve seen a lot), and there are simply no words to describe it. The only negative thing that can be said about the fashion show is that there were whisperings that the choreographer was being somewhat of a “slave-driver” and over-the-top “diva” – how apropos can you get though? – towards the performers, models and especially with the usually cool and accommodating DJ for the event, Toronto’s popular Jimi LaMort. This resulted in a few unpleasant grumbles from some patrons who apparently were curtly denied when trying to approach the DJ booth and attempt to request a tune or two. Jimi and all the performers obviously had had a very long day – but when it came time for the TRIBE stage show, everyone’s professionalism and showmanship clearly shone through. Our dear beloved friend Ms. Marina Black did an jaw-dropping “catwalk” down the stage in an eye-popping custom designed leather-and-chain ensemble that simply has to be seen in person to be believed. If that wasn’t enough, she topped off her moment under the stage lamps by doing a piercing demonstration – completely in character – with an array of bright, large feathers.

3 - Marina Black TRIBE 2009 - 1I say “in character”, because although the choreographer (whom I’ll spare naming) may have acted a little too much like a diva from some reports, this particular stage show had simply … everything. Astounding, one of a kind leather costumes and pieces, all made from Northbound Leather’s industrious facility (located onsite, by the way, in case you’re curious) and all from the minds of head designer Marty Rotman and the enthusiastic staff at Northbound, paraded in a mind-bending array of music, sight and sound; intricately woven into a storyline that followed a young man’s “Initiation Ritual” into the “Chosen TRIBE”. Lady Victoria Windsor, another one of the exceptional Dominas who calls Toronto home, held court as only she could do – and the overall effect was intoxicating. Videos from the stage show at TRIBE that are sure to pop up on various video server websites are sure to be destined as “classics” for, perhaps, another twenty years to come. There’s more than enough “product” examples from the videos and photos – if you take the time to look, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

6 - Priestess - 1There was a huge Dungeon playspace set up on the second floor of the establishment, and another directly below it on the main floor. Lady Viktoria (not to be confused with the aforementioned Lady Victoria Windsor), another well-known Toronto Domina, and her staff – especially Master Jack and Sir Thomas from Toronto – are to be commended, admired and appreciated for keeping a huge amount of eager SM participants enthralled, satiated and indeed, respectful for several hours.

There simply wasn’t a single thing to grouse about during the entire evening’s myriad of activities. Perhaps other event organizers in other cities may wish to learn a thing or two about how to effectively run a large-scale event that features an amazing stage show, a scintillating dance party, and not one but two large, exceptionally equipped and managed play spaces.

8 - Head Gear - 1Thus marks the “end” of Northbound Leather’s twenty-year odyssey in staging and hosting what truly is the biggest, the baddest, and without a doubt the best massive fetish lifestyle event on the planet. TRIBE was a triumph and an emotionally crippling, satisfying and truly magical experience. It was the perfect epilogue to the story of Northbound Leather’s first twenty years of excellence in event hosting – and a titillating prologue to the next twenty years.

Entire political systems came and went within the last twenty years. Gigantic walls came down, the world stumbled and shook a bit, lost a little of collective ‘smugness’ and conceit, and in short, we live in a very different environment today than we did twenty years ago.

It’s a comfort to know that we can rely on some things remaining the same, though. Lady J and I are really looking forward to Northbound Leather’s next twenty years. They did the first two decades just fine – and TRIBE was the best stop on that journey. Thanks, and our love and best wishes for Decade Three to George, Anna, Enza, Marty  and all of the people that make Northbound Leather … undeniably … the absolute epitome of the word “perfection”.

(All Photos courtesy of Kevin LeClair and Northbound Leather. May not use without permission.)

Dia-TRIBE: An Incredible Twenty Year Odyssey with Northbound Leather

5 - The Six - 1“Deep, unspeakable suffering may well be called a baptism, a regeneration, the initiation into a new state.” ~ Ira Gershwin

The more things change in twenty years, the more they also (sometimes) remain the same. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Bear with me for a bit, Gentle Reader: this “diatribe” (pun intended, as you’ll see) does indeed have a point.

Let’s take a little stroll down memory lane to twenty years ago. The year was 1989. It was a landmark year, full of world-shattering events that brought both tears or anguish and tears of sheer joy to several million across this globe.

The last remaining major world leader from the Second World War era, Japan’s Emperor Hirohito, died in January that year. Solidarity, as a movement and a political entity, became legal in Poland as a result of the tireless efforts of a relatively unknown dock worker named Lech Walesa – a legal move that would have an unbelievable global impact before the end of the year.

1989 was the year that author Salmon Rushdie had a price put on his head for “deeply offending” one of the world’s largest religions. The man who angrily posted that bounty was dead himself within the year, the much-lionized Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. During a particularly warm Asian spring, a man (who may or may not have been known by the name of Wang Wei-Lin) defied the largest armed force on the planet by defiantly standing in front of an imposing row of oncoming tanks in one of the world’s largest public gathering places. The fate of that man is, twenty years on, unknown – but the image of him refusing to give up his ground in front of five very, very large Chinese tanks at Tiananmen Square has been called the single most famous photograph of the entire 20th Century.

7 - The Spike Boys - 1Later that year, of course, the long-despised symbol of world-wide Communist dictatorship – the very concrete tumor that for nearly thirty years had separated and plagued one of Europe’s great ancient capitals into “Western” and “Eastern” Zones – came crashing down. A common, great but twice-vanquished people, separated by artificially-created ideological borders, collectively stood up, and in a singular voice cried, “No more!” Those of us who grew up in the 1970’s never thought we would see West and East Germany reunite in our lifetime – let alone the entire final rotting and disintegration of Eastern Europe’s totalitarian regimes.

If you’ve managed to read this far in our little trip down a two-decade old Memory Lane, you are probably wondering: “What the hell does any of this have to do with the Fetish world, anyhow?” Other than opening up shiploads of delicious German latex to the rest of the world (a given), what’s the message here?

1 - Iron Xena - 1It’s simple, really. The year Nineteen-Hundred-and-Eighty-Nine was a year of great turmoil to be sure – but it was also a year of great hope and unrequited optimism. There was a spirit of change in the air, and people were eager to embrace the coming end-of-millennium decade of the 1990’s with a renewed spirit of ambition and promise. From 1989 to 2009, countless fetish events have come and almost all of them have gone. Even some famous institutions of alternative lifestyle “expressions” that promised to “stand the test of time” in the 1970’s and 1980’s – ultimately disappeared from the fetish map. All, that is, except one.

In the past two weeks, Your Humble Narrator and Only True Friend had been attempting to locate and confirm the existence of a regular monthly fetish event that has been running, continuously or virtually continuously, for at least twenty years. I found one – right in my own backyard and right on the heels of what simply had to be this particular corporation’s best large-scale event, ever. I’m talking about Northbound Leather, of course. Twenty years ago, a young and enthusiastic entrepreneur took the heart of a small family business, started a small-scale series of Fetish Nights in order to partially promote his products but mostly just to have fun, and ran with it. He’s been doing it ever since.

4 - Spikehead - 1Your Humble Narrator has focused a lot of attention in the past few weeks on Northbound Leather and their various efforts – and quite deservedly so. In February 2010, right around the same time Canada is getting set to host the Winter World during the Vancouver 2010 Olympiad, George Giaouris and his staff at Northbound Leather will be celebrating the “official” 20th Anniversary of their monthly fetish event, all this time simply referred to as the “Northbound Fetish Night”, in downtown Toronto. There is no other event (that I could find, at least) that has been routinely scheduled and executed meticulously and faithfully, once a month, for 20 straight years. Sure, the venues for Northbound’s monthly gyrating shindig have changed – but the party remains the same and continues to roll ever stronger as it enters its third decade of existence. This is quite an accomplishment for a company that began as a small little leather shop, in Greece no less, over 40 years ago.

Much has already been written and said about Northbound Leather’s events over the years, some of it good, some of it … well, not quite so good. It’s all a matter of perspective and personal taste, after all – but by and large the words “Northbound Leather” have been synonymous with “quality”, if you’ll pardon a terribly over-used marketing euphemism – and that doesn’t just apply to their wide array of merchandise. You just can’t please everybody one-hundred percent of the time: but George and his staff have managed to come “oh-so-close.”

2 - Ballerina - Corset - 1Thirteen years ago, Northbound Leather made a decision to organize and host a Fetish party on a grand and unprecedented scale (at least for North America). Deciding from the outset to give each annual event a unique and somewhat unusual theme and name (“Thrust”, “Decadence”, Bento”, “X-Pose”, etc.), the annual event has become by far, and as previously reported, the single largest gathering of fetish folk under a single roof anywhere in the world. This year’s massive event, given the moniker and theme of TRIBE, simply had to be the ultimate, spectacular culmination of twenty years of unprecedented excellence provided to North America’s fetish populace in the way of both actual “product”, and “atmosphere”.

Allow me to describe the latter first: The atmosphere was, from start to finish, nothing short of scintillating and euphoric. Hosted in a two-level, gargantuan entertainment complex known as The Sound Academy (but previously and more well-known as “The Docks”), the large crowd had plenty of room to walk, talk, prance and dance to their twisted little heart’s content well into the dawn-breaking early hours of morning. My beloved Lady J, her devoted Handmaiden Angelically Depraved, and Your Humble Narrator were, in fact, three of the last half-dozen non-staff members to exit the premises around 5:30 am. The fashion show/stage performance was something this writer had never expected, let alone ever witnessed before (and in over 30 years as an ardent SM practitioner in several American and Canadian cities over the years, I’ve seen a lot), and there are simply no words to describe it. The only negative thing that can be said about the fashion show is that there were whisperings that the choreographer was being somewhat of a “slave-driver” and over-the-top “diva” – how apropos can you get though? – towards the performers, models and especially with the usually cool and accommodating DJ for the event, Toronto’s popular Jimi LaMort. This resulted in a few unpleasant grumbles from some patrons who apparently were curtly denied when trying to approach the DJ booth and attempt to request a tune or two. Jimi and all the performers obviously had had a very long day – but when it came time for the TRIBE stage show, everyone’s professionalism and showmanship clearly shone through. Our dear beloved friend Ms. Marina Black did an jaw-dropping “catwalk” down the stage in an eye-popping custom designed leather-and-chain ensemble that simply has to be seen in person to be believed. If that wasn’t enough, she topped off her moment under the stage lamps by doing a piercing demonstration – completely in character – with an array of bright, large feathers.

3 - Marina Black TRIBE 2009 - 1I say “in character”, because although the choreographer (whom I’ll spare naming) may have acted a little too much like a diva from some reports, this particular stage show had simply … everything. Astounding, one of a kind leather costumes and pieces, all made from Northbound Leather’s industrious facility (located onsite, by the way, in case you’re curious) and all from the minds of head designer Marty Rotman and the enthusiastic staff at Northbound, paraded in a mind-bending array of music, sight and sound; intricately woven into a storyline that followed a young man’s “Initiation Ritual” into the “Chosen TRIBE”. Lady Victoria Windsor, another one of the exceptional Dominas who calls Toronto home, held court as only she could do – and the overall effect was intoxicating. Videos from the stage show at TRIBE that are sure to pop up on various video server websites are sure to be destined as “classics” for, perhaps, another twenty years to come. There’s more than enough “product” examples from the videos and photos – if you take the time to look, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

6 - Priestess - 1There was a huge Dungeon playspace set up on the second floor of the establishment, and another directly below it on the main floor. Lady Viktoria (not to be confused with the aforementioned Lady Victoria Windsor), another well-known Toronto Domina, and her staff – especially Master Jack and Sir Thomas from Toronto – are to be commended, admired and appreciated for keeping a huge amount of eager SM participants enthralled, satiated and indeed, respectful for several hours.

There simply wasn’t a single thing to grouse about during the entire evening’s myriad of activities. Perhaps other event organizers in other cities may wish to learn a thing or two about how to effectively run a large-scale event that features an amazing stage show, a scintillating dance party, and not one but two large, exceptionally equipped and managed play spaces.

8 - Head Gear - 1Thus marks the “end” of Northbound Leather’s twenty-year odyssey in staging and hosting what truly is the biggest, the baddest, and without a doubt the best massive fetish lifestyle event on the planet. TRIBE was a triumph and an emotionally crippling, satisfying and truly magical experience. It was the perfect epilogue to the story of Northbound Leather’s first twenty years of excellence in event hosting – and a titillating prologue to the next twenty years.

Entire political systems came and went within the last twenty years. Gigantic walls came down, the world stumbled and shook a bit, lost a little of collective ‘smugness’ and conceit, and in short, we live in a very different environment today than we did twenty years ago.

It’s a comfort to know that we can rely on some things remaining the same, though. Lady J and I are really looking forward to Northbound Leather’s next twenty years. They did the first two decades just fine – and TRIBE was the best stop on that journey. Thanks, and our love and best wishes for Decade Three to George, Anna, Enza, Marty  and all of the people that make Northbound Leather … undeniably … the absolute epitome of the word “perfection”.

(All Photos courtesy of Kevin LeClair and Northbound Leather. May not use without permission.)

Northbound Leather Kinky Pride: Let Us Not Forget Our Roots …

Kardynyl SynysTyr and Lady J Two (Marquis)There are times we, as a community, tend to forget our established proprietors (who supply us with our trappings and equipment) are also integral parts of our respective Communities. In Toronto, Northbound Leather has been in, around and an integral part of the fetish and SM communities in Southern Ontario for what seems like eons. Other companies hoping to gain a foothold and a following will forever be benchmarked beside the iconic Yonge Street landmark leather emporium.

Your Humble Narrator and True Friend would like to take but a moment to thank the event organizers, George and Anna, for a really lovely evening in the Distillery last Friday night at the Kinky Pride gathering. The night was truly perfect, weather wise – one could not have asked for better cooperation from Mistress Nature. The skies did open up for a period of time during the day – this is summer in Southern Ontario, after all – but by the time things got into full swing, the evening had turned perfect for a mostly-outdoor affair amongst the pyramidal flame pots and ancient cobblestones of the historic District. The ambience and the atmosphere created by the impeccably-kept old Gooderham and Worts whiskey factory (you can still catch a whiff of long-ago brewed spirits in the rain-tinted air) was truly … Magic.

I do believe that the absolute most fun for everyone in attendance … had to be the astonishment at some of the passers-by, each in turn suffering some severe form of whiplash, from taking in all the delicious, classy and elegant eye candy having a grand time with their peers on the cobbestone patio. Lady J, my beloved partner in this life, and I both were quite pleased and honoured to renew acquaintances with some old friends (some rather surprised she had moved to Toronto) and start new friendships with great people.

Marina Black and Lady J One (Marquis)Our most special of “Thank Yous” to Ms. Marina Black in particular. The Lady was amazing last Friday night and Lady J and I both very grateful and honoured beyond compare for her hospitality, and her friendship. Legends are born from the minds and actions of great people: and this Lady is already well on her way to that elusive “legendary” status. From the bottom of our hearts, we send our love and our appreciations.

These days, I think that most of the general, world-wide SM Community take Northbound Leather completely for granted: They’ve been such an integral part of the Community for so long, that we just tend to assume that they’ll always “be there” to organize events, build our coveted apparel ensembles, and supply us some of our accoutrement’s. With the myriad of other options available for kinksters to prance about and ply their proclivities, I think it is sometimes easy to forget the contribution Northbound Leather has made to the success of our collective in the Gay and Lesbian and Heterosexual communities both. I think it’s easy to feel intimidated and therefore discount Northbound as a viable option: not just for attire and some equipment but as a venue host and event organizer as well. I know that last night, watching George and Anna (owners of Northbound Leather) tirelessly working to make sure each guest was having a good time (along with Ms. Black), I gained a new-found respect and admiration for all of them. Each year in the crisp autumn air, Northbound Leather hosts the largest annual gathering of fetish folk in the world at the immense Docks facility along Toronto’s storied waterfront. The quality of their smaller events does not suffer in comparison: George and Anna work very hard to try and provide a fantastic experience to each attendee who ventures out to any of their events – and the Kinky Pride Event was certainly no exception.

The Two Leather Boys One (Marquis)The previous evening, Northbound hosted a much smaller “Meet and Greet” at the Yonge Street store location, which was well attended by some of the more recognizable names that practice our lovely little pastime. It was wonderful to talk to some well known authors of important SM-related literature – and it was nice to see Midori, the Fetish Diva from the West Coast, out and enjoying the festivities amongst Toronto friends and admirers. The Lady is always so cordial, friendly – and the very personification of the word class – it is impossible not to instantly fall prey completely to her charms. On a personal note, the Friday Meet and Greet at the retail location was somewhat of a “Coming Out Party” for Lady J and most everyone in attendance made sure she was warmly welcomed. It is this kind of mutual respect and admiration for some of our iconographic figures that gives me great hope for the continued future of SM folk as a true, if not gigantic, extended family.

While the focus of Pride Week events on the Northbound calender have, in the past, tended to focus nearly exclusively on the Gay and Lesbian contingent, this year George and Anna decided to invite and include the general SM populace to join in the celebrations. While it is true that this decision may have ruffled some hard-core feathers amongst the Gay and Lesbian crowd, in general the gesture was received enthusiastically and was most welcomed by the majority of the party-goers in attendance. Lady J and I renewed acquaintances with new friends (pictured to the left) – who treated us with the utmost respect and welcomed us with open arms as one of their “own”. We loved their playfulness – and were deeply touched by the affections they both displayed for not only each other, but for all of their leather and latex comrades in arms that braved the early rain to take in the evening’s fun.

Northbound Anna (Marquis)

SM types are going to be hard pressed to match the enthusiasm and the boundless energy that is wrapped up in a little latex package known to all in the Toronto community as simply Anna. Amazingly, the lady took great care (as one of the hosts, naturally) to make sure all of their guests were taken care of. She did all of this, mind you, from the early morning until well into the wee hours of the next day, without complaint and an ever-present smile and enthusiasm that was unmatched – and all the while in skyscraper heels. Lady J and I were astonished at just how much energy and sheer joy she exhibited that evening. George, the other half of the Northbound team, was equally unmatched in energy and enthusiasm – and together they provided all party-goers a stark reminder of how grateful we as a Community should truly be for the efforts they both continually make to bring a little taste of leather and latex into the large and varied Toronto scene.

We are certainly looking forward to the rest of the summer’s events! Wherever you may call home in this world, we urge you to go out during your own Pride Week festivities (if they haven’t already passed, of course – but there’s always next year!) and support all aspects of our alternative communities. We also urge you to support the vendors and organizers, like Northbound Leather, who take the time to plan and organize such fabulous events that give all of us a chance to gather in the spirit of friendship … and be a part of a true family.

Northbound Leather Kinky Pride: Let Us Not Forget Our Roots …

Kardynyl SynysTyr and Lady J Two (Marquis)There are times we, as a community, tend to forget our established proprietors (who supply us with our trappings and equipment) are also integral parts of our respective Communities. In Toronto, Northbound Leather has been in, around and an integral part of the fetish and SM communities in Southern Ontario for what seems like eons. Other companies hoping to gain a foothold and a following will forever be benchmarked beside the iconic Yonge Street landmark leather emporium.

Your Humble Narrator and True Friend would like to take but a moment to thank the event organizers, George and Anna, for a really lovely evening in the Distillery last Friday night at the Kinky Pride gathering. The night was truly perfect, weather wise – one could not have asked for better cooperation from Mistress Nature. The skies did open up for a period of time during the day – this is summer in Southern Ontario, after all – but by the time things got into full swing, the evening had turned perfect for a mostly-outdoor affair amongst the pyramidal flame pots and ancient cobblestones of the historic District. The ambience and the atmosphere created by the impeccably-kept old Gooderham and Worts whiskey factory (you can still catch a whiff of long-ago brewed spirits in the rain-tinted air) was truly … Magic.

I do believe that the absolute most fun for everyone in attendance … had to be the astonishment at some of the passers-by, each in turn suffering some severe form of whiplash, from taking in all the delicious, classy and elegant eye candy having a grand time with their peers on the cobbestone patio. Lady J, my beloved partner in this life, and I both were quite pleased and honoured to renew acquaintances with some old friends (some rather surprised she had moved to Toronto) and start new friendships with great people.

Marina Black and Lady J One (Marquis)Our most special of “Thank Yous” to Ms. Marina Black in particular. The Lady was amazing last Friday night and Lady J and I both very grateful and honoured beyond compare for her hospitality, and her friendship. Legends are born from the minds and actions of great people: and this Lady is already well on her way to that elusive “legendary” status. From the bottom of our hearts, we send our love and our appreciations.

These days, I think that most of the general, world-wide SM Community take Northbound Leather completely for granted: They’ve been such an integral part of the Community for so long, that we just tend to assume that they’ll always “be there” to organize events, build our coveted apparel ensembles, and supply us some of our accoutrement’s. With the myriad of other options available for kinksters to prance about and ply their proclivities, I think it is sometimes easy to forget the contribution Northbound Leather has made to the success of our collective in the Gay and Lesbian and Heterosexual communities both. I think it’s easy to feel intimidated and therefore discount Northbound as a viable option: not just for attire and some equipment but as a venue host and event organizer as well. I know that last night, watching George and Anna (owners of Northbound Leather) tirelessly working to make sure each guest was having a good time (along with Ms. Black), I gained a new-found respect and admiration for all of them. Each year in the crisp autumn air, Northbound Leather hosts the largest annual gathering of fetish folk in the world at the immense Docks facility along Toronto’s storied waterfront. The quality of their smaller events does not suffer in comparison: George and Anna work very hard to try and provide a fantastic experience to each attendee who ventures out to any of their events – and the Kinky Pride Event was certainly no exception.

The Two Leather Boys One (Marquis)The previous evening, Northbound hosted a much smaller “Meet and Greet” at the Yonge Street store location, which was well attended by some of the more recognizable names that practice our lovely little pastime. It was wonderful to talk to some well known authors of important SM-related literature – and it was nice to see Midori, the Fetish Diva from the West Coast, out and enjoying the festivities amongst Toronto friends and admirers. The Lady is always so cordial, friendly – and the very personification of the word class – it is impossible not to instantly fall prey completely to her charms. On a personal note, the Friday Meet and Greet at the retail location was somewhat of a “Coming Out Party” for Lady J and most everyone in attendance made sure she was warmly welcomed. It is this kind of mutual respect and admiration for some of our iconographic figures that gives me great hope for the continued future of SM folk as a true, if not gigantic, extended family.

While the focus of Pride Week events on the Northbound calender have, in the past, tended to focus nearly exclusively on the Gay and Lesbian contingent, this year George and Anna decided to invite and include the general SM populace to join in the celebrations. While it is true that this decision may have ruffled some hard-core feathers amongst the Gay and Lesbian crowd, in general the gesture was received enthusiastically and was most welcomed by the majority of the party-goers in attendance. Lady J and I renewed acquaintances with new friends (pictured to the left) – who treated us with the utmost respect and welcomed us with open arms as one of their “own”. We loved their playfulness – and were deeply touched by the affections they both displayed for not only each other, but for all of their leather and latex comrades in arms that braved the early rain to take in the evening’s fun.

Northbound Anna (Marquis)

SM types are going to be hard pressed to match the enthusiasm and the boundless energy that is wrapped up in a little latex package known to all in the Toronto community as simply Anna. Amazingly, the lady took great care (as one of the hosts, naturally) to make sure all of their guests were taken care of. She did all of this, mind you, from the early morning until well into the wee hours of the next day, without complaint and an ever-present smile and enthusiasm that was unmatched – and all the while in skyscraper heels. Lady J and I were astonished at just how much energy and sheer joy she exhibited that evening. George, the other half of the Northbound team, was equally unmatched in energy and enthusiasm – and together they provided all party-goers a stark reminder of how grateful we as a Community should truly be for the efforts they both continually make to bring a little taste of leather and latex into the large and varied Toronto scene.

We are certainly looking forward to the rest of the summer’s events! Wherever you may call home in this world, we urge you to go out during your own Pride Week festivities (if they haven’t already passed, of course – but there’s always next year!) and support all aspects of our alternative communities. We also urge you to support the vendors and organizers, like Northbound Leather, who take the time to plan and organize such fabulous events that give all of us a chance to gather in the spirit of friendship … and be a part of a true family.

The Partnership of Grand Illusion and Stark Reality

tn-01242SM used to be considered the crème de la crème of sensual expression. When, and why, did SM turn into just another internet peepshow?

Are there really women out there who just can’t get enough of men sending them a shot of their genitals? Are there really men out there who can’t get enough of women sending them a shot of their breasts? Are these people so incredibly facially deformed that they feel they need to make up for it by sending total strangers (in most cases) incredibly detailed photographs of their gonads and bust lines? How utterly pedantic, and how diametrically opposed to everything SM was supposed to be about. Nudity is a privilege earned by both the Dominant and the submissive. It appears, judging by the amount of mostly-naked “professional SM” adverts out there on the world wide web, that blatant exposing of one’s self is considered somehow “normal” and “appropriate”. Whatever happened to the old adage that it’s more sensual, and sexy, to “leave something to the imagination?

In the years prior to the advent of mass communication via desktop computers, truly trained and experienced Dominas would be dressed from neck to toe in something that made them feel powerful: showing any bare flesh was a right their boy or girl had to earn. It isn’t the nudity of the male or female body that instantly appeals to us, per se, and it is absolutely true that there are some dedicated naturists in our world who prefer to be clad in nothing but the very air they breathe, even when engaging in a sadomasochistic activity.

But for the vast majority of people involved in our peculiar little institution, and as has always been the case, fetishism is an integral part of the illusion of consensual slavery. It is an absolute truth that unless both the dominant and submissive invest and believe in the illusion of ownership they are mutually creating, the reality can and will quickly crumble. Fetish wear, gloves, shoes, boots, lingerie, etc. are all a standard part of the illusion that is a consensual power exchange to be sure – but it’s the actions and attitudes of both the Dominant and submissive partners who sustain the reality.

lady-j-latex-catsuit-two1It is said, and with some factual basis, that it must have been a man who invented the high heeled shoes and boots that even the most basic businesswoman will don as a part of her day to day uniform. Leather attire has always been viewed as a symbol of sensual confidence, for men and women both. There are man-made materials today, some resembling even the shiniest latex or the supplest of leathers that are affordable for even the most casual of SM practitioners.

Through observation and through experience, I can confidently declare that the Domina who advertises herself through an online profile or in a contact magazine and who dresses the part (and thereby creates the aura of initial illusion) will win the majority of responses from men and women who seek them out, whether they’re “professional” or not. At least, that was certainly true in the days before instant accessibility. The era of the internet has succeeded in destroying forever the art of approach, and has reduced the usual rules of courtship into something rapid, vapid and vulgar.

Today, anyone with a fairly reliable camera, a computer, a nice pair of boots and a cheap dime-store whip, dressed only in a bra and panties or (in some men’s cases), tight fitting briefs and bare-chested for all the world to see, somehow assumes it is “acceptable” and “tasteful” to demand to be referred to as ‘Mistress’ or ‘Master’ and taken seriously as some kind of experienced SM practitioner.

The advertisements that do catch the eye of the most dedicated submissive though still tend to be those which show a well dressed, elegant and sensual Dominant. Leather, latex and PVC garments can be elegant as well as sensual. At the very least, being fully dressed on a contact advertisement shows infinitely more class than one that leaves little to the imagination – or nothing to imagine at all.

lady-j-latex-catsuit-onePublications such as Marquis America, at least, are dedicated to (and bringing back) the esteemed “look” and feel of the dedicated Domina and SM practitioner of old. There is an elegance, for instance, in seeing the visage of someone such as Marquis Adult Toy Reviewer and writer Mistress Darkniis finely attired in her chosen latex wear – and covered completely from head to toe. Mistress Darkniis is a Domina who truly understands the allure – and power – of the completely-clad female form. She uses that powerful imagery to maximum effect: She is developing quite a following “Down East” amongst latex fetishists especially. Lady J (formerly of Halifax, Nova Scotia, but is as of this writing en route to a new life in Toronto, Ontario), pictured in a gorgeous full-length latex catsuit, full mask, red latex belt and red boots to the right, can be at times somewhat more liberal with the amount of skin she will show to a play partner – but it’s usually reliant on how much that particular partner has earned that privilege. It isn’t a “right” to see her bare shoulders if they haven’t earned the honor of such a reward during a Dominance encounter. Other contributors to this site, and to Marquis America itself, assuredly have similar, “old school” attitudes and sophistocated tastes in what they wear and how they choose to wear it. All of them have one thing in common, however:

It’s all about the “class”. It’s all about the “elegance”. It’s all about bringing back the illusion of absolute power in feminine form by dressing the part in a haunting, sensual and yet suggestive, realistic fashion. There’s a reason why such things are referred to as a Fetish, after all.

(Photos courtesy of Lady J and Big D of Halifax, Nova Scotia)