Summer in the Year of the Tiger, Part One: July Events

In the True North strong and free, Canada Day has triumphantly passed and given way to Our American Cousin’s spectacular Fourth of July preparations and (eventual) celebrations. The honoring of the birthdays of our two great nations always signals the beginnings of the most important events on our collective social calendars. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the Gulf Coast to the Arctic Circle, we proud North Americans look forward to commencing festivities that pay reverent homage to our most beloved of pastimes.

No, I do not speak of the start of the Canadian or American football seasons. Neither do I deign to mention that baseball, that grand old “uniquely American” game (yes, my British cohorts, I am well aware that you used to call the game ‘Rounders’, you know), truly hits its stride after the grand Nationalistic drunk-fest and massive, impressive fireworks displays of July 1st and 4th, respectively.

The numbers of all those who have, to this point, hanged those cheap little nationalistic flags from their automobiles and rooftops, and fervently bellowed at the top of their lungs their patriotic devotions to their “homelands” (most of which have never even set foot in said “homeland”, I might add) have even been drastically reduced. This is due, naturally, to the sobering fact that “their country” being represented in soccer’s World Cup, currently being contested in South Africa, have been eliminated from the world’s greatest tournament. July 11th, 2010, the World Cup Final, is sure to be a spectacle not to be missed, to be sure: but unless your heritage originates from one of the two nations playing in that Final match, your interest level is sure to be marginal at best. So we’re not eagerly anticipating that quadrennial happenstance necessarily, either.

In point of fact, we’re not even enthusiastically discussing any sporting events at all. The onset of summer also ushers in the new round of most-desired Fetish Events. This year, in the appropriately named Year of the Tiger, features some July and August events that simply must be billed as “can’t miss”. For your information and edification, Your Humble Narrator has compiled (in his considered professional opinion) the “Cream of the Crop” of events that you, gentle reader, may wish to think about spending some time at. There is a lot happening this summer – and in a tremendous amount of places. I’ve therefore divided this Event Guide into distinct parts. This week, you’ll be reading about Fetish Bets for July 2010, with dates, pricing and locales noted as necessary:

1). TESFest 

 Piscataway, New Jersey            July 2nd – July 5th

Anyone who has been around the “scene” long enough knows exactly what “TES” stands for. The Eulenspiegal Society seems like they’ve been around forever and a day – and in a certain sense (at least in regards to the collective Fetish Community), they have. TES was started in 1971 by an individual named (appropriately enough) Pat Bond and a number of others in the greater New York City area who were appreciative of “outlandish costumes and strange behaviors” and felt it was high time to create a ‘society’ where everyone could express themselves in comfort and without fear of compromise. TES certainly wasn’t the first Fetish group to organize and start encouraging kinksters to come out and participate: but they most certainly were, by far, the most publicized. The Society, named in somewhat of a tongue-in-cheek reverence and in recognition of an old German folklore character known as Till Eulenspiegal (the fellow in which we are indebted for supplying us with the prototypical “Jester”; or for card playing devotees “Joker” imagery, and also for inspiring the phrase “he marches to the beat of his own drum”), has been conducting large-scale events off and on over the past nearly four decades. Their annual offering is known as TESFest and is held, generally, during the Fourth of July celebrations within the New York/New Jersey area. This year the event is being held at the Radisson Hotel in Piscataway, New Jersey and features a number of pursuits sure to satisfy the tastes of every fetish purist. Whether a visitor would prefer to take part in one of their excellent classes being offered for instruction, or indulge a bit in some nearly scandalous behavior during the Cloud 9 and Cloud 10, Kinky Ladies Afternoon Tea Party or the Latex Pool Party events, there is certain to be the heights of hedonism enjoyed by all who have decided to participate.

Unique Feature:  There is a “Tops and Bottoms” Auction, a Wrestling Club Workshop as well as a Charity Kinky Casino taking place during the weekend-long festivities. Often copied but seldom equaled, TES usually and simply just “does it better” when it comes to unique, quirky and downright fun special events.

Website: TESFest

2). PRIDE Toronto

Toronto, Ontario             July 1st – July 4th

The City of Toronto has been chosen as the host burg for the World Pride Event in 2014 – and rightfully so. With the notable and definite exception of San Francisco, it’s arguable that no other major world city has such visible support – from the Federal, Provincial and Municipal Governments to the “common” event visitor, no less. This year’s Pride events actually swung into full gear with an official opening on June 25th – but the weekend of July 2nd, 3rd and 4this really when the party really gets rocking. In addition to the usual Street Festivals and parades within Toronto’s legendary Rainbow District, there are a quite a few family and adult-only activities planned that are sure to please the discerning party palettes of everyone who ventures into Toronto’s downtown core. The ridiculousness and utter nonsensical violence of the whole G20 fiasco has been left behind: there’s a party in Toronto, and everyone’s invited! This (and the next two years, for that matter) is sure to be an exceptional “dress rehearsal” to the city hosting the LGBT world when 2014 finally rolls around.

Unique Feature:  While there is always a selection of new performances to sample during Pride Week, this year Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times Theatre Company is hosting an interesting ensemble entitled No Apologies. Many of Canada’s best young and rising musicians, actors, poets, dancers – hell, artists from all disciplines – will be performing non-stop from 2:00 pm to 10:00 pm on July 3rd, 2010, within the Theatre space itself and the Alexander St. Parkette located right outside. There is no question some of these performances should be worth a look. Northbound Leather, as is their custom, is hosting a Meet and Greet at their store location on Yonge St. Friday, July 2nd and is also facilitating a Kinky Boat Cruise on the evening of July 3rd (admirably and strategically coinciding with the beginning of a Tall Ships Festival along Toronto’s gloriously beautiful waterfront).

Website: PRIDE Toronto

3). Bondage Ball

 Hollywood, California                July 3rd – July 4th

For whatever reason, Southern California doesn’t get a whole lot of enthusiastic attention within the confines of the Fetish world event scene. Perhaps the organizers of Hollywood’s Bondage Ball during the Fourth of July weekend can rectify that. Greater Los Angeles has always been somewhat of a “well kept secret” amongst Fetish and SM practitioners. Quietly – very quietly – some of the best performance acts, educators and facilitators have made their way out of the City of Angels and are gaining popular notoriety in more traditional Fetish event locales. Internationally-known latex model Masuimi Max is your Hostess for the evening – but there are a number of jaw-dropping acts scheduled to perform. Some of these acts include well-known artists Julie Simoneand RubberNecro, aerial performances by up-and comer Bound Lotus and a veritable pantheon of extremely popular Los Angeles-based DJ’s. By all accounts, it’s taken some time for Bondage Ball in Hollywood to gain some traction, but with the quality of people represented that are responsible in part of its continued success, here’s hoping it will not only continue to entrench in Southern California: it will evolve into one of the truly “Can’t Miss” events on the international social Fetish calendar.

Unique Feature:  It’s Southern California! It’s Hollywood! Sure, their overall formula may appear to be derivative – but it’s Hollywood, for cryin’ out loud! No-one throws a bad party in Hollywood! If that wasn’t enough, take a look at their website and try and grasp the true sense of just how many “name” folk within our realm will be in attendance. The best part of it is … it’s only going to cost those who go $25.00!

Website: Bondage Ball

4). Vancouver Dungeon

Vancouver, B.C.                        July 3rd – July 4th

Okay: all of you who happened to see that incredibly reprehensible first season of Showcase’s Canadian-based ‘reality series’ KINK can relax. Vancouver really isn’t all that freakishly dysfunctional. A much better representation of what Vancouver’s scene is truly like might be found in Metro Vancouver Kink’s simplistically, straightforwardly named Dungeon Party. In a town where the Fetish and SM scene is about as respected as those who “ply their trade” along Vancouver’s embarrassing East Side, it certainly seems like someone got their stuff together. The Vancouver Dungeon Party is somewhat secretive, to be sure – but all the necessary information needed to become a participant is available: as long as you don’t mind directness, and “to the point” information. According to those I have spoken to in Vancouver, the MVK and their Dungeon Party has given rise to some real hope in a town where, beforehand, very little existed when it came to “Community Fetish Events”.

Unique Feature:  There really isn’t anything overtly remarkable about the Vancouver Dungeon Party that is readily available online that would distinguish it from any number of other “run of the mill” nightclub gatherings. What does distinguish it, however, is the simple fact that there’s long-term hope for a solid, re-occurring SM/Fetish night amongst good, solid people in Vancouver for the first time in what seems like an eternity – and that in itself just has to be “good news” for kinky inhabitants of the West Coast’s truly most beautiful city.

Website: Vancouver Dungeon Party

5). Vendetta

Long Island, N.Y.                      July 11th – July 12th

Billed as Long Island’s “Premiere Fetish Party”, Vendetta generally is scheduled to take place every second Saturday in Bethpage, Long Island. This iteration, however, is a little bit different: there is going to be an attempt made to break a “World Record” by a gentleman who calls himself The Human Floor and has been featured as a performer on a number of US-based talk shows. What’s the record being broken, you ask? You should certainly be able to figure it out based on the man’s name – but suffice to say there will probably be at least 20 women in high-heeled shoes and boots just … “standing around” … The play areas have all received a “first class thumbs up” from certain close friends who have attended Vendetta in the past, and their DJ of choice (Xris Smack) is regarded as simply one of the best in the business. For July 2010’s itinerary, they are also featuring a unique latex Fashion Show as a part of the evening’s festivities – and there is always “Gourmet Food” included with the price of your entrance ticket. All in all, Vendetta not only covers all the bases desired and demanded by their guests: it covers those bases extremely well and provides just that little “extra” that keeps everyone coming back for more.

Unique Feature:  One of the things that separate Vendetta from other major New York City area Fetish nights is their in-event promotions. For instance, in the past there has been a “competition” designed to award the wearer of “the sexiest shoes” for the evening: this alone was certain to bring every shoe and boot fetishist for miles around through their doors (and let’s face it, who amongst us isn’treally a slathering, salivating shoe or boot fetishist, anyway?). A somewhat interesting twist: Vendetta offers a substantial reduction in ticket prices to those who can prove they traveled from New York City to Bethpage via commuter train. What makes this feature really of value to party attendees, however, is the fact that the proprietor of Vendetta (by all accounts an engaging individual known as Mister Anthony) takes it upon himself to arrange transportation from the Bethpage train station to the event venue (The Long Island Manor). That’s unique – and one of the reasons why Vendetta is a clearly a step above some of the more stolid, stereotypical Fetish nights in the New York City area.

Website: Vendetta

Next Week: We take a look at Kinky Camping in Southern Ontario and Northern Alberta; large-scale Fetish Flea Markets in Massachusetts); one of the best-known large-scale events in Colorado; and “The Fifth Element” and what that means to folks in Texas. 

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)

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)

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.)

Church Street: All's Fair and Some Just a Little Foul

Church Street Fetish Fair Banner, Flag and FlowersFirst and foremost, let’s get one thing quite clear: The LGBT Community in Toronto has no greater friend than I when it comes to efforts in promoting community love, respect, tolerance and just out-and-out “togetherness”. Toronto’s Church Street (The “Rainbow Village”) has been the central gathering place for Toronto’s large LGBT communities for what seems like eons – so naturally, the decision to take the annual Fetish Fair from a park-like setting to the multi-colored, multicultural and tripping-the-light-fantastically iconographic city-center street was a natural decision. Taking the Fair street-side meant that larger crowds could be accommodated in a more safe and secure atmosphere – and more vendors, artisans, craftspeople, patrons and revelers alike could meet and interact on a more personable level with like-minded new friends. The Church Street Fetish Fair has indeed matured since its very humble beginnings in a Toronto city park only six short years ago: it now ranks as one of the best-attended and largest gatherings of fetish folk, in one single location, anywhere in this wonderfully vibrant, brave new world. Church Street truly is the perfect setting, given its long history, in which to stage such a fine collection and amalgamation of fetish finery. Visitors and vendors alike from all over North America (and some from Europe) were treated to some amazing “eye candy” all through the long, over-the-top “hot” day. From that perspective, the Church Street Fetish Fair has indeed matured into one of the most eagerly-anticipated events of the summer for fetish-minded folk – especially in Toronto.

Street View Church Street Fetish Fair“Maturing” does not always equate to “improvement”, however. The Church Street Fetish Fair was indeed a visual delight – as it was expected to be – but it pains me greatly to have to be the voice of objectivity and deliver some stark realities about the Fair. Events that stagnate and start to just automatically assume that the built-in consumer base will undoubtedly continue to support them (without trying diligently to improve year after year in some capacity) may soon find themselves faced with dwindling numbers and diminished support. The trick in planning any large-scale event is always trying to find new ways in which to improve – and introduce something new and exciting to the populace that will give them that “novelty” attitude towards the event (that is to say, rekindle that initial excitement first felt on a first attendance) in order to keep each annual event fresh, and memorable, with each passing iteration.

Sadly, the Church Street Fetish Fair for August 2009 just didn’t measure up to previous annual efforts. Rather than go into a scathing critique of what may have gone horrifically wrong (man, it was hot out there!), it would serve a better purpose to perhaps touch on some points of improvement that would be most welcomed at next year’s event.

ROTC Standard BearersFirst and foremost, allow me to give “props” where they are indeed due.  Lady J and I volunteered our services for several hours to assist with street control at one of the several entrance points to the Fair. The beautiful boys who manned the water brigade were exceptional: they were friendly, engaging and didn’t fail once to deliver much-needed bottles of cold liquid refreshment at least every 30 minutes in the effort to keep all the volunteers adequately hydrated. It must have been a very long day for them and they performed their duties perfectly and always with good humour and even better comportment. If anyone deserves commendation for their efforts throughout the day, it’s these selfless folk. They were a welcome relief from the monotony of crowd control and the ever-present stifling heat. One of the other extremely beautiful and incredibly impressive performances throughout the day was given by a rainbow-flag bearing troupe, ROTC Toronto(Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps), who did not appear to fall out of dance step or out of sync a single time in the many performances they gave on Church Street throughout the day. If any of the Corps made an error, it certainly wasn’t noticed: they are an excellent and well-precisioned dance and flag-waving machine. Of any of the performances given during the long, hot day, it is the opinion of Your Humble Narrator that ROTC Toronto gave the crowd the absolute best in a pretty decent set of performance offerings. Lady J and I can’t wait to see them perform again – yes, they were really that impressive.

ACT Angels TorontoThe dance and flag-bearing corps was the very first performance we saw at the Fair – and after a stellar offering such as that, we certainly were looking forward to the rest of the day’s entertainment. Unfortunately, this brings me to the start of our short list of improvements we’d perhaps like to see implemented for future Fairs.

Our world seems to have become so dependent on digital information that I believe we tend to forget more traditional methods of message delivery. While it is true that the list of events and performances throughout the Fair was certainly available in any number of online varieties, there was virtually nothing in the way of tradition placards, event time boards or immediate visual reminders of what performances and events were being offered and at what times. Surely not everyone in the entire fetish world has yet to purchase a hand-held device (such as a Blackberry or an iPhone) in which they could browse through an electronic event schedule: it would have been nice to have been given an instant reminder on-site of what performances and events (and outside of the several staging areas for that matter) were scheduled and at what time and location. We even asked at the Volunteer Tent where a list of the myriad of special events were and at what times, and the response from one of the Volunteer Coordinators (an extremely nice person, don’t get me wrong) was a somewhat vacant response of, “well, you can go and look it up online.” This proved to be a major failing for the Fair as the day wore on. An example: There was a lovely, discreet demonstration stage set up at about the halfway point of the Fair along Church Street. I say discreet because the stage was not facing the street itself: this was a very smart idea, as some of the SM-type related demonstrations would have been sure to make more than a few more straight-minded Fair attendees perhaps a wee bit squeamish.

British Bobbie Heel DancerHowever, there was no obvious signage telling visitors exactly what that particular stage was being utilized for. It was a pleasant surprise to see a waxing demonstration being carried out on a lovely bound and blindfolded boy at that time – but there were less than 20 people gathered around to witness it. I asked a lady standing beside us how she happened to come across this particular demonstration and she replied, “Oh, I just wandered by and wanted to see why this stage wasn’t facing the crowd like the other stages were.” I am quite convinced some of the SM-related demonstration on that stage during the Fair may have drawn larger gatherings: but I am equally convinced having some kind of proper visual notification of exactly what was going to be going on in that secluded space would certainly have done nothing but help contribute to viewership. This is a small example – but in reality, every one of the performance areas was sadly lacking in appropriate and proper notification signage.

Most of the vendors were spoke to were extremely engaging and beyond polite and enthusiastic. One vendor did grumble a tad to me that they wished their placement had of been a little bit more reasonable: they were placed right alongside a stage where music performances were being given throughout the afternoon and into the early evening – and they therefore simply couldn’t engage potential clients in any worthwhile discussions. Towards the middle of the afternoon, apparently, they actually packed up their materials and simply moved their entire apparatus towards the end of the Fairgrounds: where they had far less exposure to their potential client base. These folks were extremely understanding about it, though: their attitude was that at least they were getting their name out there in front of thousands of people, and they said they were collectively having a “fantastic time” all the same. Very classy – and I secretly hoped they would get at least a little patronage for their efforts. The only negative thing we heard from this particular contingent was that “it was impossible to stay on their feet in high heeled boots all day long – especially in the heat!”

Bound AngelThe end of the day featured a long series of fire-related performances. This is always entertaining and appropriate, considering displays of fire are always best seen when the sun goes down. This has become a staple of the Church Street Fetish Fair: but perhaps as a suggestion for next year, the organizers may want to “mix it up a bit” with the inclusion of some other elements that involve taking advantage of the dark? Perhaps some violent wand or “Tesla Coil” performances of some kind? We did hear a lady in the crowd, when the fire performances started, click her tongue and say, “Fire again? Isn’t there something else they can do that they don’t do every single year?

The area reserved for the closing fire performance was severely limiting as well. Several people who wanted to witness the spectacle simply couldn’t see anything (it was at ground level) – and they ended up exiting the fair. This is obviously a “can’t be helped” situation: the recipe for disaster on an enclosed stage is simply far too great to risk staging such a performance on higher ground. But surely there are several innovative and inventive minds amongst the organizers who must be able to envision a solution that will make the entire fantastic show visible to everyone who wishes to stay and view it?

Vendors at the FairAll told, though, these are really minor issues. The Church Street Fetish Fair is indeed one of the landmark events of the summer. My personal observations are to caution the organizers simply to not rest on their laurels and continuously “count on” the multitudes coming out. There are always going to be Fair goers who are enthusiastic and excited about participating – the “die hards” – but the real aim in such a gathering is to entice and forever ensnare fresh, “new” acolytes who simply can’t wait for the event’s annual return. It would do the event organizers well to take the lessons from this year and make a concerted effort to improve on some of those areas of opportunity.

Then, perhaps, Toronto’s annual Fetish Fair may even well surpass San Francisco’s Folsom Street Fair as the “kinky fairground of choice” for the world’s leather, latex and PVC aficionados. The organizers have a good product on the streets of Toronto in August as it is: with a little tweaking next year, they can make it absolutely grand.

Kardynyl SynysTyr

Church Street: All's Fair and Some Just a Little Foul

Church Street Fetish Fair Banner, Flag and FlowersFirst and foremost, let’s get one thing quite clear: The LGBT Community in Toronto has no greater friend than I when it comes to efforts in promoting community love, respect, tolerance and just out-and-out “togetherness”. Toronto’s Church Street (The “Rainbow Village”) has been the central gathering place for Toronto’s large LGBT communities for what seems like eons – so naturally, the decision to take the annual Fetish Fair from a park-like setting to the multi-colored, multicultural and tripping-the-light-fantastically iconographic city-center street was a natural decision. Taking the Fair street-side meant that larger crowds could be accommodated in a more safe and secure atmosphere – and more vendors, artisans, craftspeople, patrons and revelers alike could meet and interact on a more personable level with like-minded new friends. The Church Street Fetish Fair has indeed matured since its very humble beginnings in a Toronto city park only six short years ago: it now ranks as one of the best-attended and largest gatherings of fetish folk, in one single location, anywhere in this wonderfully vibrant, brave new world. Church Street truly is the perfect setting, given its long history, in which to stage such a fine collection and amalgamation of fetish finery. Visitors and vendors alike from all over North America (and some from Europe) were treated to some amazing “eye candy” all through the long, over-the-top “hot” day. From that perspective, the Church Street Fetish Fair has indeed matured into one of the most eagerly-anticipated events of the summer for fetish-minded folk – especially in Toronto.

Street View Church Street Fetish Fair“Maturing” does not always equate to “improvement”, however. The Church Street Fetish Fair was indeed a visual delight – as it was expected to be – but it pains me greatly to have to be the voice of objectivity and deliver some stark realities about the Fair. Events that stagnate and start to just automatically assume that the built-in consumer base will undoubtedly continue to support them (without trying diligently to improve year after year in some capacity) may soon find themselves faced with dwindling numbers and diminished support. The trick in planning any large-scale event is always trying to find new ways in which to improve – and introduce something new and exciting to the populace that will give them that “novelty” attitude towards the event (that is to say, rekindle that initial excitement first felt on a first attendance) in order to keep each annual event fresh, and memorable, with each passing iteration.

Sadly, the Church Street Fetish Fair for August 2009 just didn’t measure up to previous annual efforts. Rather than go into a scathing critique of what may have gone horrifically wrong (man, it was hot out there!), it would serve a better purpose to perhaps touch on some points of improvement that would be most welcomed at next year’s event.

ROTC Standard BearersFirst and foremost, allow me to give “props” where they are indeed due.  Lady J and I volunteered our services for several hours to assist with street control at one of the several entrance points to the Fair. The beautiful boys who manned the water brigade were exceptional: they were friendly, engaging and didn’t fail once to deliver much-needed bottles of cold liquid refreshment at least every 30 minutes in the effort to keep all the volunteers adequately hydrated. It must have been a very long day for them and they performed their duties perfectly and always with good humour and even better comportment. If anyone deserves commendation for their efforts throughout the day, it’s these selfless folk. They were a welcome relief from the monotony of crowd control and the ever-present stifling heat. One of the other extremely beautiful and incredibly impressive performances throughout the day was given by a rainbow-flag bearing troupe, ROTC Toronto(Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps), who did not appear to fall out of dance step or out of sync a single time in the many performances they gave on Church Street throughout the day. If any of the Corps made an error, it certainly wasn’t noticed: they are an excellent and well-precisioned dance and flag-waving machine. Of any of the performances given during the long, hot day, it is the opinion of Your Humble Narrator that ROTC Toronto gave the crowd the absolute best in a pretty decent set of performance offerings. Lady J and I can’t wait to see them perform again – yes, they were really that impressive.

ACT Angels TorontoThe dance and flag-bearing corps was the very first performance we saw at the Fair – and after a stellar offering such as that, we certainly were looking forward to the rest of the day’s entertainment. Unfortunately, this brings me to the start of our short list of improvements we’d perhaps like to see implemented for future Fairs.

Our world seems to have become so dependent on digital information that I believe we tend to forget more traditional methods of message delivery. While it is true that the list of events and performances throughout the Fair was certainly available in any number of online varieties, there was virtually nothing in the way of tradition placards, event time boards or immediate visual reminders of what performances and events were being offered and at what times. Surely not everyone in the entire fetish world has yet to purchase a hand-held device (such as a Blackberry or an iPhone) in which they could browse through an electronic event schedule: it would have been nice to have been given an instant reminder on-site of what performances and events (and outside of the several staging areas for that matter) were scheduled and at what time and location. We even asked at the Volunteer Tent where a list of the myriad of special events were and at what times, and the response from one of the Volunteer Coordinators (an extremely nice person, don’t get me wrong) was a somewhat vacant response of, “well, you can go and look it up online.” This proved to be a major failing for the Fair as the day wore on. An example: There was a lovely, discreet demonstration stage set up at about the halfway point of the Fair along Church Street. I say discreet because the stage was not facing the street itself: this was a very smart idea, as some of the SM-type related demonstrations would have been sure to make more than a few more straight-minded Fair attendees perhaps a wee bit squeamish.

British Bobbie Heel DancerHowever, there was no obvious signage telling visitors exactly what that particular stage was being utilized for. It was a pleasant surprise to see a waxing demonstration being carried out on a lovely bound and blindfolded boy at that time – but there were less than 20 people gathered around to witness it. I asked a lady standing beside us how she happened to come across this particular demonstration and she replied, “Oh, I just wandered by and wanted to see why this stage wasn’t facing the crowd like the other stages were.” I am quite convinced some of the SM-related demonstration on that stage during the Fair may have drawn larger gatherings: but I am equally convinced having some kind of proper visual notification of exactly what was going to be going on in that secluded space would certainly have done nothing but help contribute to viewership. This is a small example – but in reality, every one of the performance areas was sadly lacking in appropriate and proper notification signage.

Most of the vendors were spoke to were extremely engaging and beyond polite and enthusiastic. One vendor did grumble a tad to me that they wished their placement had of been a little bit more reasonable: they were placed right alongside a stage where music performances were being given throughout the afternoon and into the early evening – and they therefore simply couldn’t engage potential clients in any worthwhile discussions. Towards the middle of the afternoon, apparently, they actually packed up their materials and simply moved their entire apparatus towards the end of the Fairgrounds: where they had far less exposure to their potential client base. These folks were extremely understanding about it, though: their attitude was that at least they were getting their name out there in front of thousands of people, and they said they were collectively having a “fantastic time” all the same. Very classy – and I secretly hoped they would get at least a little patronage for their efforts. The only negative thing we heard from this particular contingent was that “it was impossible to stay on their feet in high heeled boots all day long – especially in the heat!”

Bound AngelThe end of the day featured a long series of fire-related performances. This is always entertaining and appropriate, considering displays of fire are always best seen when the sun goes down. This has become a staple of the Church Street Fetish Fair: but perhaps as a suggestion for next year, the organizers may want to “mix it up a bit” with the inclusion of some other elements that involve taking advantage of the dark? Perhaps some violent wand or “Tesla Coil” performances of some kind? We did hear a lady in the crowd, when the fire performances started, click her tongue and say, “Fire again? Isn’t there something else they can do that they don’t do every single year?

The area reserved for the closing fire performance was severely limiting as well. Several people who wanted to witness the spectacle simply couldn’t see anything (it was at ground level) – and they ended up exiting the fair. This is obviously a “can’t be helped” situation: the recipe for disaster on an enclosed stage is simply far too great to risk staging such a performance on higher ground. But surely there are several innovative and inventive minds amongst the organizers who must be able to envision a solution that will make the entire fantastic show visible to everyone who wishes to stay and view it?

Vendors at the FairAll told, though, these are really minor issues. The Church Street Fetish Fair is indeed one of the landmark events of the summer. My personal observations are to caution the organizers simply to not rest on their laurels and continuously “count on” the multitudes coming out. There are always going to be Fair goers who are enthusiastic and excited about participating – the “die hards” – but the real aim in such a gathering is to entice and forever ensnare fresh, “new” acolytes who simply can’t wait for the event’s annual return. It would do the event organizers well to take the lessons from this year and make a concerted effort to improve on some of those areas of opportunity.

Then, perhaps, Toronto’s annual Fetish Fair may even well surpass San Francisco’s Folsom Street Fair as the “kinky fairground of choice” for the world’s leather, latex and PVC aficionados. The organizers have a good product on the streets of Toronto in August as it is: with a little tweaking next year, they can make it absolutely grand.

Kardynyl SynysTyr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northbound Anna (Marquis)

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

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