300: Rise of an Empire…Blood, Action and Hot Leather Couture

300-rise-of-an-empire-picture-3

It’s time to get turned on by overly saturated metallic colors and dudes in bare chest-ed fashions flexing in slow motion; 300: Rise of an Empire is marching towards us faster than even we could imagine.

In this more-then-a-fantasy sequel to 2007’s 300 General Themistokles is leading the charge against invading Persian forces led by the mortal-turned-god Xerxes and commander Artemisia. It’s more than just super cool wardrobe that spurn these men on though, as these films are known for their slow motion action style…sure to be evident in this new film as well.

After its victory over Leonidas’ 300 (the first movie) the Persian Army under Xerxes marches towards the major Greek city-states in Rise. Athens lies first on Xerxes’ path so it’s up to Admiral Themistocles fleet, aligned with his enemy Sparta, to do battle against Xerxes. In this film we are also said to witness the Battle of Salamis.

Audiences seem to like historical recreations of insurmountable odds (300 did very well at the box office) as well as leather, sweat and hunky nearly bare dudes (sounds like quite the fetish gathering, huh?) All that stretched leather, metal and even sweat certainly plays well to us here at Von Gutenberg; we wouldn’t be worth anything in the old latex lifestyle fashion field if we couldn’t recognize some thrill with what 300 Rise of an Empire is throwing on the big screen.

The question is, can this second movie make as startling an impression as the first?

Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel writing (the man who some would say resurrected the Batman franchise) and featuring the costuming talents of Alexandra Byrne (and a make-up department I can’t even list here there are too many names) 300: Rise of an Empire is released 3/7.

We will certainly be there.

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So, Who Says What's Kinky?

Yes the weekend you are your play partner are at might be labeled a marquis kinky event. Yes, you might frequent Fetlife or shop in stores known for their adult toys (I have been lucky to hit one’s in London, NYC, L.A. and San Francisco-strictly for research purposes of course); you might even spend time with people who read Von Gutenberg magazine or you have turned-on a few folks to our pages; you might brag about a wardrobe that competes with our couture line, found here.

But rest assured, no matter how much you play, ruminate over or share some time with like-minded folk, nobody but nobody has a clear definition of what kinky really is.

And that’s the way it should be; one’s man meat is another’s poison and all that. If playing airline pilot and stewardess is your thing, then have it, just don’t try and convince me that this is the apogee of kinky then I’m into wearing my Jackboots everywhere and get-off on making my lover smell the sweaty socks I wear with them. I double-dog dare you to convince me that you have the clear objective definition of what kinky is, because I assure you you don’t.

Von Gutenberg is a decidedly lifestyle fetish magazine, more often than not showcasing latex and leather but you will see by our articles or all the kinky events we list on our Fantasy Event List that we include as many interests and happenings as we come in contact with and are always on the look-out for more.

From the mild to the wild it is up to you to determine which, if either works in your life and your specific definition of both.


 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dance of the Afflicted: Five Days of Torture Garden Toronto

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” ~ Seneca

Great undertakings are often brought to completion in one of only two ways: They are either enormously successful, or they result in dismal collapse and failure. More often than not, especially due to outside influence, unforeseen situations and destructive occurrences beyond one’s control, grand visions and ideas can soon become nothing more than ill-fated, poorly-advised, badly executed, and dismally-failed shattered dreams.

What was a triumphant, exciting new entrant into the major fetish event scene in North America a scant nine months ago had all the potential to follow along the train-wreck rails of so many promising, preceding ventures. To wit, this particular event could very well have been of the “one and done” variety, were it not for the solid efforts of its main motivating force, and organizational master.

It is with great pleasure and a huge, satisfactory sigh that Your Humble Narrator and Only True Friend can confidently and righteously say that the second (and most ambitious) iteration of Toronto’s eagerly-anticipated Torture Garden Fetish Event was very much the former, and very little of the latter. It is safe to say, right here and right now, that as of May 2010, the longer-established “lifestyle” conventions, events and weekends have some serious competition for Fetish Festival attendee dollars in North America.

It is doubtful that anyone could have predicted that a single evening’s debauchery a little under a year ago (Torture Garden was initially welcomed to Toronto in August 2009) would have a meteoric evolution into an unbelievable five-night celebration of sinful excess. Anyone, that is, with the notable exception of the event’s organizational workhorse, Craig Galbreath. Even the two founders of the Torture Garden “franchise movement”, David Wood and Allen Pelling, were initially skeptical two full evenings of Toronto back-to-back fetish nights bearing the iconic Torture Garden masthead would be well-attended and wildly popular – let alone stretching the festivities into a five-day affair. “What Craig has done here is unmatched. It’s astounding, really,” a somewhat visibly subdued DJ David Wood remarked during a break between his sets on the Opera House stage. “When he told us he wanted to do a whole holiday weekend of Torture Garden (in Toronto), we weren’t really thinking he was serious at first. We had counted on another, successful one-night show: Craig gave us more. Hat’s are off to him. He’s worked very hard. He’s gained our confidence, for certain.”

Since Torture Garden Toronto said farewell to honoured guests, featured performers and satisfied delegates during a wonderful (if somewhat unseasonably warm) outdoor Wine and Cheese party on Victoria Day (May 24th, a national holiday in Canada), Your Humble Narrator has been inundated with queries – and demands – regarding when a full assessment and commentary regarding the near week-long festival would be produced, and made available for discerning eyes and ears. After taking some time to speak with several involved participants and excited attendees alike, a top to bottom review of the diabolically delicious pageantry that was Torture Garden Toronto 2010 is what follows.

Torture Garden, the Good:

The Music: Where does one start? There were truly so many superlatives about Torture Garden Toronto that it’s truly impossible to pick out a single, exceptional and definitive moment to call “The Best of Show”. What can be said as an appropriate beginning, however, is the quality exhibited by the event’s founders and chief musicologists, David TG and Allen TG (yes, the very same twosome mentioned above). During the two main event nights at Toronto’s old and oddly appropriate venue known as The Opera House, the rave reviews for the selection and expert transitioning of music by the disc jockeys inhabiting the stage were virtually universal.

In fact, “quality of music” has always been somewhat of a complaint regarding Toronto’s nightclub scene: more often than not, revelers are disappointed that Toronto DJ’s tend to exhaustively spin the recordings that they (the DJ’s) think their public should enjoy dancing to – whether their public likes what they are spinning, or not. Dance junkies don’t usually care if they’re force-fed repeated volumes of the same aural fare, of course. However, the consistent and exceptional quality of music that was offered to the writing masses at Torture Garden Toronto is worth noting. David and Allen know their business, of that there is no question, and it is I believe a significant reason as to why the Torture Garden franchise has been so successful for the past twenty-odd years.

Give the people great music, and professionally presented, and the “eye candy” aspect becomes somewhat incidental. All through Saturday and Sunday evening’s main events at The Opera House, the dance floors – hell, the upper level dungeon/play spaces and media balcony even – were a happy, roiling mass of fervently delirious feet and expressively ecstatic, feverish bodies. People had wondered (last year and this year both) why David and Allen would come all the way to Toronto and “work” their own franchise party. The answer, now, we definitely know. It’s because they’re the best at what they do. They keep the people excited, happy, and most importantly, moving. It is here, without question, that the winning formula has been forged by the founding fathers of TG: Combine great music with exceptional atmosphere and top it all off with the most delicious aforementioned eye candy assembled, and you have the recipe for the perfect party.

The Performances: Almost all of the performances during Saturday and Sunday evening’s main events were quite spectacular. More will be said about RubberDoll a little further on, but her two performances definitely thrilled those who hadn’t been exposed to her act before. Those that had seen her previously, well … suffice to say it would appear from comments in the crowd that her act really hasn’t changed much in the past year (or more). That being said, RubberDoll is a seasoned, professional fetish performer and she certainly didn’t disappoint. She wasn’t appearing to be “simply going through the motions”, as she gave a high-octane, savagely energetic showpiece that titillated and teased the assembled crowd gasping at the contortions and machinations taking place on the stage above.

In addition to the excellent standard set by RubberDoll, the Fire Dance set and the Aerial Performanceswere both awe-inspiring and mind-altering. There is a genuine sense of great enjoyment when one is able to bear witness to the circus-like precision exhibited by those that dance with fire, and those that twist, turn and (sometimes) twirl high above the ground floor with nothing between them and oblivion but a simple, sturdy hoop or a seemingly thin and suspiciously fragile-looking long length of cloth. No-one who saw these performances went away feeling like they’d been somehow denied their money’s worth.

Highly effective and somewhat discomfort-level causing flesh hook suspension artists I Was Cured returned to the Torture Garden stage after a shockingly triumphant “debut” at last year’s event, and once again judging by the amount of gasps, groans and excited whispers in the crowd they were once more enthusiastically embraced and cheered by an adoring, entranced and spellbound viewing public. Sunday evening featured a fun and definitely “Beach Blanket Kinko” campy demonstration performance from Toronto’s own Kink Engineering, who managed to convey to an (at first) somewhat puzzled crowd exactly what it is about “Vac Beds” that is so damned appealing and ultimately desirable. Mad Scientist and Archean, the undeniably brilliant brains and frenetically enthusiastic minds behind Kink Engineering, unveiled their (sure to be) revolutionary Vac Cube and Vac Tower designs to the very enthusiastic onlookers. In essence, the Vac Cube and the Vac Tower are “three-dimensional” Vac Beds: instead of a dual top and bottom only, decidedly flat-surface bondage effect (what those in the ‘know’ have come to regard as ‘traditional vacuum table technology’), these brand-new product offerings actually encase the imbedded subject within six separate, converging latex pieces. While the crowd enthusiastically whooted and whooped as Archean herself became immobilized by her own latex creation (which was beautifully adorned with a blue and white Japanese wave motif – more on that later), Mad Scientist was joined onstage by a gas-masked unidentified female, who promptly climbed inside the Vac Tower and for all intents and purposes, “disappeared”. The reason for the gas mask soon became absolutely apparent: as the Vac Tower was raised above the stage, and the air was removed by a small canister vacuum cleaner on the floor below, the six-sided latex cube quickly revealed the young lady literally suspended in mid-air (or, in this case, mid-rope) within. The gas mask was revealed to be attached to a breathing hose that was connected to the outside world – ensuring that the bound beauty within wasn’t about be locked in a life and death struggle for precious oxygen. When the Vac Tower was finally lowered to the stage, and the masked female was “released” from her rubber bindings, it was (of course) the incomparable rope and suspension artist Lotuslily who was revealed to have been the masked “victim” of the imposing Vac Tower. Sure, it was ‘camp couture’ at its best: but it was also an extremely effective (and fun!) demonstration of the capabilities of the units designed and manufactured by Kink Engineering. In that regard, the performance was a resounding, and much appreciated, success.

Some other established performers were given prime spots in the performance line-up, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. Satomi, The Tokyo Love Doll and Vivid Angel in particular both stunned and thrilled the crowd with displays that certainly broke many of the bonds of convention. There was even a playful bit of intentional controversy (which won’t be discussed here) that was surely designed to send the crowd into whispered frenzies of shock and amazement. Suffice to say that if you do have an opportunity to see Satomi and Vivid Angel in particular, don’t miss it: those two ladies put on one hell of a performance.

The Fashion Shows:  With the addition of Northbound Leather, the fetish fashion ensembles were extremely fresh and generated a huge amount of over-the-top excitement. Northbound Leather’s designs, when the models took to the stage, were described immediately by one American visitor (from Michigan) as “completely sick” and definitely in the “I must have that” categories. Northbound was joined onstage in short order by exceptional, delicious ensembles from design houses Futurstate, Plastik Wrap and Artifice – each one with their own unique signature and style, and each one enthusiastically endorsed by an adoring public in the gathered audience below.

However, as good as Northbound Leather, Futurstate, Plastik Wrap and Artifice was, it was Toronto’s Ego Assassin that literally brought the house down. In what was the best choreographed and well-performed set of the entire Torture Garden experience, James and Slinka of Ego Assassin managed to combine an aquatic theme with an industrial edge, and gave their viewers truly a visually explosive treat. The audience was treated to another instance of the blue and white Japanese wave – this time as a smaller scale artistic treatment featured on the front of a corset adorning the bodice of a slender, lithe latex-blue female “shark”. The motifs are a trademark of Ego Assassin’s work: and there simply isn’t anything in the known fetish world that compares. Their process is unique and revolutionary (and no, I won’t give it away here, although even James and Slinka say it’s surprisingly straight-forward), and the final product is truly amazing. It is one thing to see these intricate latex designs and motifs static and unmoving on a production table, or within staged photographs. It is quite another to see those designs literally come to life, on stage, when worn by exotically-moving models and dancers. By the end of their fashion segment, the crowd below the stage was screaming in unrequited approval and amazement when two black latex “sea insectoids,” each with misshapen glowing eyes, entered and accosted one of the aquatically finned lithe females. The entire segment, truly, had to be seen to be believed. As Ego Assassin continues to develop and evolve their product lines, their designs are sure to be regarded as highly in demand by latex enthusiasts world-wide.

The Seminars: In somewhat of a risky move, Torture Garden Toronto sponsored a series of seminars that were simply expertly organized and executed by Toronto’s own Lord Morpheous. I venture to say, with extreme confidence, that there are few (if any) more engaging, knowledgeable and exceptional rope work educators within our realm. Three of the seminars were held at the host hotel (Sheraton Centre) on the Saturday afternoon, and two others were held at another, less central location on the Sunday.

One of those seminars – one which Your Humble Narrator had witnessed before, in Montreal during the Fetish Weekend – was conducted by a man named Dunter and focused on the finer aspects of controlling someone using Pressure Points on the human body. Due to a scheduling conflict, our little entourage (which included the lovely Mistress Lyn, her devoted, talented husband and “personal photographer” SJoe from New York, and a fresh young female acolyte new to our Community known as Severne) arrived at the very end of Dunter’s allotted time – but judging by the rave reviews expressed by all present, there was no question that, once again, this impressive and extremely talented educator from Montreal had held his audience (you’ll pardon the phrase, of course) “captive”. He made a new cabal of devotees in Toronto with his effectual and effusive, genial and extremely effective teaching style.

A rising star on the “Kinky Lecture Circuit” appeared in the form of a young gentleman who goes by the simple moniker of Cub Dan, and his engaging and delightful seminar on how to use regular household items (and some eyebrow raising “irregular” household items) as sensation implements for SM play was both incredibly insightful – and extremely entertaining at the same time. Watch for this man: he’s truly something special as an educator. Just don’t let him anywhere near you with a ring of steel wool, electrode attachments, a vibrating wood sander or a bottle of Hot Sauce if you can help it. He’s impressively adept at perverting (pretty much) anything – and safely – he can get his hands on.

Lord Morpheous himself ended a near-perfect and enjoyable afternoon with a fantastic talk, demonstration and audience participation lecture on Sex Bondage. He was joined, with perfect fluidity, by a beautiful and completely engaging young lady by the name of elle who served as the subject for the various ties Lord Morpheous was teaching. She wasn’t just a model: during the seminar she gave some extremely valuable and much-appreciated insight, from a bottom’s perspective, about what she was experiencing as she was being restrained. There is a reason why Lord Morpheous, in my opinion, is one of the most sought-after facilitators in North America: not only is he an experienced and truly fantastic rope artist, but he’s enjoyable and engaging to watch and listen to.

What was most impressive, about all three of these presenters, was how well their audience retained the knowledge they had just obtained. Being able to walk out of a room and be able to perform, safely and with complete confidence, a pressure point takedown; a ‘shocking’ Karaoke performance (sorry, you’ll just have to take one of Cub Dan’s classes to truly want to know what I’m talking about – but it involves electrodes, a microphone and steel wool if you must know); or a chicken-wing tie, is assuredly the mark of a true professional. All three men could be thusly, and accurately, described. Unfortunately, time and distance did not allow our little group to review the other two seminars scheduled that weekend – but if the three we were exposed to are any indication, I’m sure they were every bit as informative, fun and superb.

The Atmosphere: Choose an adjective, and chances are it applies to the over-all mood, feel and attitude of Torture Garden party-goers. Electric? Mysterious? Adrenaline-laced? Frenetic? Vibrant? All of the above? If there was one single word to be used as a definitive summary of the Torture Garden Toronto experience, it would without question have to be: “Alive” There can be little doubt; those who bid adieu to the ceremonies in 2010 have already started making plans to be in attendance at the 2011 event.

Torture Garden, the Bad:

Torture Garden Toronto officially got underway with a welcoming event on Friday evening. There isn’t much to say about the venue, unfortunately: our entourage spent almost the entirety of the evening outdoors, on the sidewalk near the front door. So did many, many others who ventured out that night. At one point, it truly was a toss-up as to which had the greater numbers: the party going on inside the venue, or the party happening outside.

Not that it mattered. This must be stressed: there were very, very few complaints regarding the unfortunate lack of space this particular venue provided indoors. People who showed up, dressed in all their fabulousness in respective latex, leather, satin, PVC and even canvas, to a person had a most enjoyable time meeting with old friends, and perhaps making new ones. However, there were certainly issues with this particular venue (regarding the understanding of rules at the outset of the evening) that did put quite a damper on the hopes of those whom had hoped to spend Opening Night comfortably dancing and cavorting indoors.

In simple terms, the venue was just too small – and the House Rules of this particular club simply too incompatible – to completely, comfortably accommodate the mass of Torture Garden attendees that did manage to make it down for the night. Undoubtedly, there had to be certain numbers of patrons who had purchased a VIP or a weekend pass that may have felt disappointment regarding Friday night and the fact that they (most likely) spent most of the evening outdoors instead of within the venue. But here’s the caveat, and the wondrous thing: the majority of people (including our own entourage) really didn’t seem to mind. It wasn’t the venue that made the party on Friday night: it was the people. Everyone was ecstatic to be there, amongst their peers – and it showed.

Torture Garden, the Ugly:

Last year, it was somewhat jokingly suggested that the only glaring thing wrong with Torture Garden’s main event … was the condition of the stairs on the upper levels. The owners of The Opera House should have heeded those somewhat tongue in cheek comments, because this year, those stairs actually continued to be a problem. Thankfully, the extent of the issue with the upper level stairs at The Opera House (and the grumbles were constrained, it must be said, to the upper levels only) really could only be considered minor in scope. Every organizer, though, that is contemplating mounting a major fetish event should consider that their guests will be adorned in very high-priced fetish haute couture that includes very expensive outerwear and footwear. It would be in their best interests if the interiors of the venue they were providing (for said finery) actually didn’t contribute in any way to the destruction of these delicious ensembles. In complete fairness to Craig Galbraith, the main mover and shaker of Torture Garden Toronto, there simply wasn’t anything he could have done better to guarantee the safety and security of his guests – the entire event, from the three nights of parties, to the seminars and to the farewell dinner afterwards, were meticulously organized and exceptionally managed. This writer can attest to the fact that Mr. Galbraith did absolutely everything within his limited power to try and address the (relatively simply) issue of those damned stairs – but obviously was ultimately thwarted. Maybe next year, Craig?

Speaking of next year: Torture Garden 2011 should be very interesting. It will certainly be hard for Craig (and David and Allen, for that matter) to top the five days of twisted and feverish consensual torment that was this year’s fantastic fetish festival. Torture Garden continues to evolve and evoke wondrous new beginnings. People will come – because Torture Garden simply gives the masses want they want: a fabulous time, a memorable experience, and a chance to express themselves without repercussion amongst their peers.

Really, to quote the immortal George and Ira Gershwin: ‘Who could ask for anything more?’

(All Photographs by SJoe, Lady Morganna and Kardynyl SynysTyr – Courtesy of Torture Garden Toronto 2010) (Images may not be reproduced without express written permission)

(Note: Photographs do not necessarily correspond with accompanying text)

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.)

Northbound Leather: Twenty Years of Fetish Night Finery

Quick: Who amongst you can tell me which is the longest-running continuous Fetish Night in North America?

Hint: The operative term here is “continuous”. Other organizations (Society of Janus, The Eulenspiegal Society, Black Rose, Leather Rose, etc.) certainly could lay claim to being “long-running” in the planning and execution of various events and fetish parties. Here’s another hint: The answer … isn’t located within the United States. Unless you aren’t the type to take notice of headlines, the answer should be fairly obvious. There has been no other regularly scheduled and (regularly and punctually-produced) fetish event in North America other than those scheduled by Toronto’s Northbound Leather. Over the past twenty years, host locations certainly have changed, but one thing has remained constant: a great time has generally been had by all, without fail and without interruption. In the event that you’re a “numbers person”, that’s 240 straight months without interruption.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The iconographic and legendary emporium of leather fashion and fetish finery has long been one of the most visible suppliers to any number of fetish and SM enthusiasts, worldwide. The tireless “First Family of Leather”, George and Anna Giaouris, have spent a near-lifetime not only outfitting tens of thousands of satisfied customers (including some very “big names” in the entertainment industry, as an example), but have been enthusiastic supporters and sponsors of dozens of fetish-related events across the continent.

 The very first Northbound Leather Fetish Night, twenty-some years ago, attracted approximately 60 total admirers and enthusiasts. The 20th Anniversary Party that was held at Toronto’s newly-renovated Club Revival on February 20th had advance ticket sales in the high-hundreds alone. My beloved – the extraordinary and alluring beauty known across the continent as the incomparable Lady J – and I were amongst the first ten or so people to have arrived. We were greeted immediately by a gaggle of close friends, and we secured our spots close to the performance stage along a far wall.

It wasn’t long before the crowd started pouring in – dressed in some of the most amazing, colorful and extraordinary fetish wear this town hadn’t seen since the triumphant debut of Torture Garden in Toronto last summer. There is something about a “special event” (be it a debut or a celebratory anniversary) that brings out the absolute passion that lovers of all things “fetish” so feverishly love to exhibit. The atmosphere was hectic, eclectic and definitely electric: the growing, pulsating crowd was further whipped into the heights of fetishistic frenzy with some unbelievable performances by self-bondage artist (and sure to be, if not already, the next great sensation within our collective SM-related realm) Lotuslily and a stirring musical treat from Baron Marcus of the popular genre group The Vampire Beach Babes. Baron Marcus was “accompanied” by a bevy of leather and latex beauties, each wearing modified miner’s masks outfitted with stark white lights, whose gyrations and salutations were an absolute delight to the assembled throng. George Giaouris, the rightly-designated “Godfather” of the Toronto Fetish and SM Community, has long been an advocate of showcasing and helping to develop new talent.

The 20th Anniversary Night was certainly no different. While Baron Marcus has been somewhat of a staple and known presence within the Goth community for several years, it was refreshing to have his hypnotic, exceptional and mesmerizing vocal talents showcased before an appreciative “new” audience. It goes without saying that Lotuslily’s performance resulted in the usual jaw-dropping appreciation for her speed and her skills – but several folk in the crowd (who beforehand had no idea who she was) were heard to be whispering their respect for her, amongst their peers, long after her performance had ended. In an original “twist” to her performance, one of her suspended moments was captured for all time: not on film, but on paper. Northbound Leather had hired the services of a pencil artist to produce an exceptional and original piece of art, live on stage, while Lotuslily continued to weave her suspended webs. It was an exquisite, elegant and thoroughly classy touch.

Northbound Leather’s fetish nights have long succeeded where other events have either failed, or have never dared to venture. The invisible line that seems to divide the Gay and Lesbian leather events (from coast to coast, for that matter) has never been a metaphorical ‘line in the sand’ at a Northbound Leather event. In a word, the Northbound Leather Fetish Nights have (for years, if not for over a decade) could best be described as pansexual: different sexualities, different preferences and expressions and indeed, entirely different identifiable communities have been able to come together and meet on Northbound’s common ground, and feel truly united (and comfortable) under a common umbrella. The Northbound Leather Fetish Nights, over the years, have not been dominated by one identifiable social group: fetish folk from all walks of life (gay, lesbian, transsexual, heterosexual, queer, etc.) have been able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, and openly express themselves without derision, contempt or hostility.

That’s rare: and it’s the one single reason as to why the Northbound Leather Fetish Nights have been so successful, and have exhibited such uninterrupted longevity, for the past two-plus decades. It simply doesn’t matter if you’re gay or Goth, there is always a welcome spot for everyone at a Northbound Leather Fetish event. While there has been some grumblings heard within (predominantly) Toronto’s large gay leather community regarding the “melting pot” atmosphere of the parties, the vast majority of Northbound loyalists seem genuinely thrilled to participate in such an open, and accommodating, environment.

The other factor that separated this particular Northbound Leather Fetish Night from any other is the patronage of some of the more prominent Community leaders, and seasoned SM professionals, that came to enjoy the carnival-like transpirings on a cold Saturday evening. Many of Toronto’s best-known and most respected SM professionals were in attendance, and all seemed to have an incredible time. One memorable moment (captured in the photo at left) showcased four of Canada’s best-known and respected Dominas: Lady J, Mistress Katina, Ms. Marina Black, and Baroness V. While this photo was being taken, an adoring and appreciative crowd of acolytes – male, female and transgendered alike – gathered around and gaped open-mouth in appreciation of the moment. “Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be on the floor and in front of those eight beautiful legs”, one reveller was heard to whisper. Just off to the right, while this photo was being taken, the brilliant organizer behind Torture Garden Toronto, the extremely affable, approachable and popular Subspace Craig, could be seen on the dance floor with more than just a few “fans” vying for his attentions. Just across from him, and on the other side of the four Dominas linked arm-in-arm, another popular event organizer, Sir Alex Dark, was seen smiling appreciatively while holding his girl (a thoroughly engaging and beautiful woman simply known as Dollface) tightly to his side. All of this was happening on the main floor of the nightclub, while on stage yet another well-known event organizer (Lady Viktoria) was just finishing up a scheduled performance of her own. Without question, it is rare that such a collection of influential and admired SM Community figures are seen enjoying each other’s company within the same sphere and space.

The point simply is this: For the past twenty years, Northbound Leather has provided a sanctuary for everyone who professes either a deep love or an idle curiosity for our lovely, self-expressive lifestyle. It’s the “secret formula”, the very “glue” that binds us all together. Northbound Leather, the store, is the common link and their 20th Anniversary Fetish Night (especially) was certainly the common ground in which all fetish people, from all walks of life, could joyously express themselves in a truly unique setting and atmosphere. The night, celebrating the past twenty years, was perfect: here’s hoping the 20th Anniversary Fetish Night was also a fitting way to usher in Northbound Leather’s next twenty years.

(All photos courtesy of Northbound Leather)

Believe: A Somewhat Kinky Twist to the XXIst Winter Olympiad

There are some moments that are destined to be forever frozen in time – and enshrined in a special place of remembrance within our own minds. How apropos then, that a few of those frozen moments came courtesy of the Opening Ceremonies for the Games of the XXI-st Winter Olympiad, currently (and finally some would say) underway in the glimmering, emerald city that is, without question, the jewel in the Canadian crown.

There were the usual protests that dogged both a torch relay, coast to coast and throughout a vast country. The protestors continued their demonstrations, outside B.C. Place Stadium and relatively peacefully, during the opening of the Games themselves. The death in October of the man who spearheaded the city of Vancouver’s bid to host these Winter Games and was destined to never see his dream come to fruition with his own eyes (Jack Poole) was a crisis that, perhaps, lesser Organizing Committees may not have fully recovered from. The already somewhat subdued atmosphere surrounding these games was further driven into a very nearly funereal state when word came of the sudden death (training accident) of a Georgian slider named Nodar Kumaritashvili literally hours before he was to march with his team in the Parade of Nations during the Opening Ceremonies. The omens for Vancouver looked exceedingly grim, indeed.

If you will perhaps allow Your Humble Narrator, namely me, a momentary indulgence or two, Dear Reader, before we continue on to the main point of this missive … There are moments when one cannot help but feel a surge of nationalistic pride. In my own past, I’ve had two moments that stand out as signature memories that I associate with immediate and undeniable emotion that relates directly to how I feel about our people – Canadians – as a Nation. The first involved the groundswell of support, from coast to coast, for the Toronto Blue Jays baseball club when they won the World Series, back to back, in 1992 and 1993. Every city and town in the Great White North turned shades of blue for two straight Octobers – and the unifying aspect the Blue Jays brought to our nation cannot be understated. The second involved a single, seemingly unimportant ice hockey game in Calgary (I was there), between the New York Rangers and the Calgary Flames. It was known that the Rangers, featuring Number 99 himself, the immortal Wayne Gretzky, were not scheduled to play in Calgary the following year (1999), and the speculation was running rampant that The Great One was going to call it a career following this current season (1998) or the next. This is important to note: it was not lost on a single soul that what the Calgary crowd was witnessing could (and did, in fact turn out to be) Wayne Gretzky’s last hockey game in Calgary.

I will never, ever forget this … In a building that for nearly two decades was by far the most brutal and unpleasant place, fan-wise, for Mr. Gretzky to have to play in (he was a member of the hated rival Edmonton Oilers, remember, for years), when he made his final appearance on the ice with less than a minute to go in the game … nearly 20,000 people stood up, en mass, and roared their thanks. For ten straight minutes the man the city of Calgary loved to hate … was at last, a true hero, a national hero, and they saluted and cheered him loudly and endlessly. They cheered him mainly for what he had accomplished as a Canadian – not as just an ice hockey player. I have never felt more pride at being born Canadian than in those moments.

That was, until last night. We’ll talk a tiny bit more about Mr. Gretzky a little later.

Last night, however, topped both of those cherished memories. What unfolded before our eyes was a story of what it is to be Canadian. The myriad of exceptional performers somehow, miraculously, managed to make those in attendance (and the massive television viewing audience) overcome the moroseness that permeated the start of this special night. By the end of the performances, it didn’t even really matter that a major mechanical malfunction during the ceremony’s final moments brought proceedings to an awkward and somewhat uncomfortable standstill for about five minutes. The tragedy of the immediate past had given way to a euphoric feeling … of accomplishment. We believe these Winter Games are going to be the most memorable – the best – in history.

Yes, even the “wilder” side of Canadians got into the mix a little. During a coast-to-coast tribute to Canada’s various and culturally varied regions, a contingent of mohawked, kilted, leather corseted and combat booted and high  energy fiddlers invaded the stage for an unbelievably uplifting, raucous musical tribute to Canada’s Maritime provinces. Most of the women who joined the “wildmen” were adorned in some fashion of extremely well detailed leather gauntlets that marched their rakish leather corset-tops. This, following an amazing performance by a single artist suspended above the Stadium floor in a glowing blue canoe; covered in furs, head to toe and with a hairstyle that would put the best Viking horns to shame. The “Viking” in the blue canoe proceeded to have a fiddling contest – with his shadow being cast against an enormous Harvest Moon. At first, the audience is led to believe the shadow on the moon is indeed just that – until the shadow starts going off and playing, dancing in it’s own direction (but all in perfect syncopation and harmony with his “live” counterpart in the blue canoe).

But shadow play contests and Maritime punk-rock fiddlers (some that would put the infamous Ashley MacIsaac to shame) aside, there is something even more remarkable about these Opening Ceremonies; something that could be considered quite kinky and twisted, in its own way.

The people chosen to light the Olympic flame within the Stadium couldn’t have been chosen any better. Rick Hanson (the Man in Motion), Canadian skating legend Catriona Le May Doan, Canadian skiing legend Nancy Greene, Vancouver-born and raised NBA basketball superstar Steve Nash and, (in the supreme choice of all who believe what is “right” within the Canadian world) Wayne Gretzkycollectively did the honor of lighting the flame – despite the fact that a serious hydraulic malfunction prevented one of the four gigantic “ice crystals” from rising beneath, and tower above, the Stadium floor. It was left to Mr. Gretzky to venture out – completely unannounced – into the streets of Vancouver and carry the Olympic torch some 20 blocks from the stadium to the waterfront, where the “permanent” Olympic Cauldron had mysteriously appeared. Mr. Gretzky was taken to the outdoor Cauldron on the back of a Police Ford Tahoe pickup truck, and as word spread of the voyage, throngs of jubilant people ran alongside, each completely unaware they had just made a small entry for themselves into the history books with the “escorting” of the flame. There is no bigger symbol of our country than that embodied in the voice and stern countenance that belongs to Wayne Gretzky. The man has never failed to answer his country’s calling. He answered, in spades, this time as well. His lighting of the outdoor Cauldron was the perfect ending to a near-perfect – and Canadian – evening.

Bob Costas, the absolute best sportscaster in the world, in his NBC Broadcast last evening, seemed at first bemused – and then in awe – of a not-so-subtle change in attitude emanating from the Canadian hosts. He carefully and patiently, perfectly, informed the American viewing audience that the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games were designed to be Canada’s “debutante” party as a world power in the world of winter sports competition. Mr. Costas at times seemed to marvel at the “Hollywood feel” of the pageantry taking place before him: he certainly made a point of mentioning this kind of overt, “in your face” presentation was very unexpected from his cousins to the North. In the way that only the vocally perfect Mr. Costas could do, as the Cultural Pageant was winding down, he quipped: “”Some say the Canadian initiative of Own the Podium and winning the overall medal count represents a shift in Canadian attitude, to be so openly assertive and ambitious. Canadians as a group are among the most friendliest and most welcoming people on the earth. But I don’t see anything incompatible with saying hello, welcome, we’re very friendly, we’re glad that you’re here, we want you to enjoy yourselves …  and now we would also like to kick your butt!” 

That is the kinkiest, most twisted thing about the start of these Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver: We might be Canadian and we might still be the friendliest people on earth, but this time we have a swagger in our step and we have a true sense of National Identity that heretofore had only been recognized amongst the Americans. The Opening Ceremonies went from being a potential tragedy-filled “Grief-Fest” to the best “coming out party” our Nation could have asked for. It’s up to the athletes, now, to carry that new-found sense of national accomplishment forward, and make their countrymen and countrywomen proud.

Canadians? Calm, assertive, brash and expectant? Impossible, you say! That, my friends, is truly the kinkiest twist imaginable to the start of what appears to be a most amazing Olympiad. No more sadness, just let the real Games being!

The Truth behind this February 14th "Love Business"

For some reason, this time of year (St. Valentine’s Day), for one reason or another, almost always seems to be less of a love-fest and more of a “massacre.” Misfortune does seem to happen – and with a vengeance – to couples, and right around this time of year. Personally speaking and also speaking from personal past experience, February 14th is usually the day pinpointed as the exact date in which couples realize they are never going to be able to  “grow old” with the person sitting right across from them. Men and woman seem to go through a staged piece of “performance art” in an empty show of affections towards their partners – because it’s the “expected” thing to do. The truth is, this vacuous and near-meaningless day, except to those who believe the day is simply for an exchange of bright red cards and candies (namely children), unfortunately for a lot of couples is more a realization that “this isn’t going to work” than an affirmation of “forever in love.” 

Think about it: how many couples have you known whose relationships have fallen apart either on, or shortly before, St. Valentine’s Day? Isn’t it somewhat of a sick, twisted bit of irony that the patron saint (and his patron calendar day) devoted entirely to the notion of “love everlasting” is, statistically at least, merely a stale and staged, obligatory and nearly-catatonic, expressionless and passionless reciting of poetry, flowery speech and near-robotic like handing over of the aforementioned cards and chocolate hearts? Isn’t it true this is how we’ve collectively all been “programmed” since we first exchanged crude, paper hearts in our Grade School classes with the cute little red-haired boy or girl that sat right next to you?

Where’s the truth behind this “Love Business”? And indeed, it is a “business” – a booming one. Valentine’s Day festivities are the second highest average of disposable income expenditures, per person, of any secular Holiday (Christmas is the first, naturally). That’s a lot of diamond rings, pendants, necklaces and bracelets. Is that what “love” is all about? Is this what St. Valentine had in mind? Who the hell was St. Valentine in the first place?

Oh, wait: “Valentine” was the name of several martyrs who died vicious, horrific deaths; none of which are associated with “love” in any fashion. While that unto itself might be somewhat considered “Cosmic Righteous Karma” (when taking into account our earlier discussion), what’s the real deal with this whole “love” thing then, huh? What’s the real story behind the red hearts and those that are so essential to February 14th?

You’d best be prepared for a bit of a shock, gentle readers: St. Valentine’s Day actually has its genesis in the one thing that is very near and dear to our little candy-red hearts: Fetishes. Specifically leathers, feathers, furs, whips and yes – even blood.

See, there is one thing that evolving religions (most notably Christianity) always have done very well: they “borrow”, adapt or outright just steal festivals that are popular to the mass population of the particular time period, give it a “wash” in the waters of acceptable recent doctrine, and mold and shape it (sometimes with force) into what amounts to the exact same festival but with a new spiritual focus. It’s a really good way to keep control of your population, after all: give the people their gods and goddesses, keep their flagons filled at the festivals with wine and ale and encourage a little “letting loose” every so often, and they’ll be quite content and happy. In Roman times, that usually meant if you were a Senator, Governor or Consul and responsible for any segment of the population’s collective happiness, the best way to keep your head on your shoulders, and not have it severed by any number of opportunistic political assassins, was to give the populace what they wanted.

The populace wanted Festivals. Specifically, they wanted festivals that involved wine, food, open-air spectacles, games, – and, of course, sex. The February Festival of Lupercalia was regarded as “beginning of the fertility period” of both the Earth, and (of course) women. The Lupercal (“Wolf’s Den”) is the cave within the Second of Rome’s legendary Seven Hills in which the babies Romulus and Remus (the mythical founders of Rome) were suckled by a “Capitoline She Wolf” – and therefore the inference is that the Romans are celebrating not only the very reproductive re-birth and nurturing of the Earth (the beginning of another harvest season cycle), but they were celebrating the very genesis of Rome itself.

Without going into long, long detail about the carnage and carnality that this particular Festival ultimately became infamous for (no less an exceptional ancient chronicler than Pliny the Elder has graphically described many Lupercalia rites and rituals), it must be said that Lupercalia was all about excess. Some of the festivities included the sacrificing of livestock (usually goats) and engaging in head-to-toe “body painting” in the blood; extreme indulgence in wine and strawberries (more about them a little later); and an insatiable appetite for sexual release and pleasure. Lupercalia was, after all, the start of the fertility cycle in Roman eyes, and stimulation was absolutely essential to the long-term success of the crops in the field and the (leather) crops in the hands of noble farmers seeking approval from the gods and goddesses for good health, good fortune and especially great “fertility.”

What seems to be the most revered Ritual of Lupercalia, (certainly the most written about) featured scores of women lining the streets of Rome, backsides turned street side, in the hopes that one of the Luperci (the acting “High Priests”, a mostly ceremonial but much-desired role amongst the noble farmers), dressed in ritual goatskin leather garments and covered in blood, would bless them with a hard strike from one of these leather “crops” (which actually are long whips with double-tailed extensions, but sporting a very long, riding crop-like handle). These leather “crops” were called februa – and each woman who was selected by the passing throng of noble farmer-priests, all day long and throughout the Seven Hills of that ancient capital, to receive whip strokes felt that they had been purified by the pain, and their future ability to reproduce was assured (if not immediately realized) for another year at least. In case you’re wondering, the month of February actually does derive its name from these ritualistic leather crops/whips. The Romans had a deep, deep seeded belief that being whipped was purifying (kind of like pushing a yearly “Sexual Reset button”), and the women who lined the streets and offered their bodies up to be whipped would, at times, injure themselves in the fight for the Luperci’s attentions. The februa, the idea that pain is purifying and the idea of atonement for past behavior (“sins”) are some of the more popular “borrowings” from Lupercalia that found their way into aspects of the Christian church. The februa has been replaced by the scourge; purifying and painful atonement has evolved into “confession”, etc. You get the picture, I am quite certain.

The Feast of Valentine was (and still is) a direct adaptation from the Roman Lupercalia. In other words, a far more sanitized and Christian-friendly version of the wine, whips and love fest – you get the idea – that the Roman mass populace (Christian or not) still so loved. How did we get from a Roman Pagan Wine, Whips and Sex Fest to shy lovers exchanging simple cards, flowers and if they’re lucky, something sweet and chocolate to suckle on?

During the early Christian Rome era, the first so-called “Christian Emperor” – Constantine, who actually was a devotee of the god Apollo his entire life and was only converted to Christianity on his deathbed – knew that this strange, secular new faith was sweeping through Roman streets and towns with no sign of waning in influence, or popularity. Constantine was a smart enough man to know that in order to consolidate Rome’s power, the entire Empire needed to be united under a single faith. Contrary to what many modern Christians believe, a previous Emperor named Galerius was the first to actually decriminalize and issue an Edict of Tolerance in regards to Christianity. The edict allowed the public the right to practice the Christian faith openly if they so chose to. What it did not allow was Christians to own land – let alone have churches built.

What Constantine did, in regards to the Edict of Tolerance, was extraordinary: He simply issued an edict of his own (The Edict of Milan) that afforded the early Christians the exact same rights and privileges as every other citizen of the Empire. He also actively encouraged the early church to build – and is solely responsible for donating the land in which Vatican City now occupies. Simply put, Constantine was a very smart man: he saw that the followers of Christ were dramatically on the rise, and the followers of the old gods and goddesses were dramatically in decline. His decision to unite the Empire under the Christian banner was not fashioned from any shard of faith in the “new religion” in the slightest. It was a political necessity in order to satiate and mollify the growing masses of Romans being converted, and therefore avert any future Civil Wars. To quote author Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code): “He simply backed the winning horse.”

More to the point of our story, Constantine brilliantly managed to solve a major, dividing dilemma: How to merge the old Pagan gods and goddess traditions with the newly sanctioned, official “state” religion of Christianity? His plan was surprisingly simple: He “created” a heroic and martyred figure and named him Valentinius (no doubt, the Romans being meticulous record keepers, pulled from the pages of at least one Roman Annual), and acclaimed this new figure a true, devout follower of Jesus Christ who had perished in the act of spreading the testaments. Conveniently, Valentinius (the name means “Valiant Man”) was given the title “Sanctus Situ” – “Elected of Saints”, the very first Christian Saint thus recognized (St. Peter’s sainthood came much, much later), and was made the patron saint of “the acts needed to insure the successful harvest.”

It was a bold and absolutely brilliant – but transparent – move. The Romans of the day, it is quite certain, were bemused by this decreed new “sacred figure” who wasn’t quite a god, but was still more miraculous (in death, at least) than the common man. “Valentinius” was tolerated as the central figure of the new Lupercalia for a generation or two, simply because the people had been allowed to carry on their beloved “sex festival; and all legally and with the very approval of the new Christian lawmakers. As what was expected to happen, Valentinius “himself” eventually started to drew “admirers”, and within a few short decades this convenient, invented and expedient new champion of Christianity went from being an amalgamation of several martyred figures (who carried the Valentinius name) into being proclaimed the only “Saint Valentine” at the Council of Nicaea (the very Council that, in essence, “elected” Jesus Christ as “The Divine Manifestation of God in Human Form”). St. Valentine was “awarded” a Feast in his honor (February 14thin our modern Gregorian calendars), and it wasn’t until the start of the Dark Ages that “The Feast of St. Valentine” had its sensuality and excess turned down, just a tad. Naturally, everything related to sex and pleasure at the start of the Dark Ages more or less ceased to exist – insofar as mass public displays were concerned. Upon penalty of imprisonment, or worse, the goatskins, wine and whips were all quietly phased out of the celebration … But not the strawberries. The bright red fruit, the clergy allowed the masses to have.

It was believed that strawberries were a powerful aphrodisiac (aren’t they still?), and strawberries were consumed in mass quantities during Lupercalia (remember that whole “fertility” schpiel?). The strawberry was considered so potent and divine a magic, Romans cut the strawberries in half and shared it with their partners. Take a look at a sliced piece of strawberry one day: what do you notice? It kind of looks like a Valentine’s Day “heart”, doesn’t it? There are other stories, no doubt somewhat based in fact, that “red hearts” were actually a simple graphic representation of a woman’s bottom, as seen from the back and if she happens to be bending over at nearly a 90 degree angle. Both explanations have an air of truth about them, and now you know where that particular piece of beloved graphic Valentines imagery stems from.

Why am I sputtering all this nonsense about Valentines, Pagan lust festivals and mutli-seeded red fruit, I can hear you asking?

Easy! My beloved Lady J has been away and is coming home from the East Coast this week. For me, the Feast of St. Valentine, the Lupercalia, St. Valentine’s Day, whatever you choose to call it, is an opportunity to express my deepest affections, highest respects, worshipful esteem and … True Love … to the woman who has given me her hand. In my eyes, the whole world may know just how honored and grateful I am to even be allowed to hold said hand – and in the spirit of those who “Love”, it seemed appropriate to give a brief rundown of Fetish and Kink’s rightful mention as the true genesis of this “Day of Love”.

I do need to go, now though. I need to run down to the local grocery store and pick up about seventeen pounds of strawberries.

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.)

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.)