The leather life

New Texas Leather titleholders plan a year of raising visibility, mentoring others and giving back to the community

Mr.-and-Ms.-Leather

Ms. Texas Leather Mera Tucker, left, and Mr. Texas Leather Eddie Sherbert.
(Photo courtesy Texas Leather Productions)


Tammye Nash  |  Managing Editor

Mera Tucker has been an out, proud leather woman for many years. Eddie Sherbert, although an out, proud gay man many years, has only been in the leather community for the last couple of years. Now the two of them are teaming up to represent the Dallas/Fort Worth leather community and spread their message of love and support.

Tucker and Sherbert won the titles of Ms. Texas Leather and Mr. Texas Leather on Saturday, Jan. 30, at Dallas Eagle. It was the fifth annual contest for the women, and the 20th annual content for the men, and both contests are presented by Texas Leather Productions, owned by Jeffrey Payne, and by Dallas Eagle.

This is not the first leather title for either Tucker or Sherbert. Tucker won the Ms. South Plains Leather regional contest in 2004, just before moving from Oklahoma to D-FW. Sherbert earned his first leather sash last fall when he won the title Mr. Hidden Door, the first leather contest he entered.

The Hidden Door win qualified Sherbert to compete in the International Mr. Leather contest slated for Memorial Day Weekend in Chicago this year. By winning the Texas Leather title, Sherbert is qualified to compete in IML in 2017, too.

The Ms. Texas Leather title qualifies Tucker to compete in the 2017 International Ms. Leather Contest held each spring in San Jose and in the American Leatherwoman contest in Chicago in October.

It’s the timing of the Texas Leather contest that means the 2016 winners are qualified to compete for the 2017 international titles, Tucker explained. By the time the Texas Leather contest is held, the slate of contestants for IML and IMsL are already set for that year.

But the Texas Leather titles for both Tucker and Sherbert are about much more than just getting to wear a studded leather sash and travel to other competitions. Both said they want to use their visibility first and foremost to help their communities — the leather community, the larger LGBT community, and the DFW community in general.

Mera Tucker
Tucker and her wife, Jimmie, have long been active in the DFW leather community. Mera Tucker, especially, is famous for her homemade cookies that she donates to just about every fundraising effort in town.

“In the last 12 years, I have donated enough cookies to sink a battleship, and we have raised thousands of dollars with those cookies,” she laughed. Tucker said she started the bake sale held each year during Texas Bear Round-Up, and she and Jimmie host a pool party each year at their home, lovingly dubbed

The Tucker Inn, for all the women attending the annual Leather Sir/Boy contest.

She said she and Jimmie “have both been raising money for this community for a long time. That’s my passion. Ok, actually, cookies are my passion. But I can use the cookies to raise money.”

Tucker, who has been involved in organizing the Ms. Texas Leather contest since it started five years ago, thought her days as a leather contestant were long past. But, she said, “the main thing this contest has always needed is contestants.” So as the deadline to register approached and she realized only one woman had signed up to compete, “I knew it was time to put up or shut up. So I signed up to compete.”

A third woman also registered, giving the fifth annual Ms. Texas Leather the most contestants so far.

While she wasn’t looking for the title, Tucker said that now that she has it, she intends to put it to good use.

“I want to work with the other women in this community to make sure we are visible,” she said. “I want the other women out there, especially the young women, who are looking for the leather community to know that we are here. I want them to know they have someone to go to, someone to help show them the way.”

And she doesn’t plan to just be out and visible in the leather community, or even just in the LGBT community.  “I have been out at work as a lesbian and as a leather lesbian since day one,” she said, noting that she works for Neiman Marcus as office manager in the facilities department.

“I told my boss that if I won, I’d be at work Monday, but if I lost, I’d probably spend the week laying in bed crying,” she said. “I won. And I wore my [black, white and red leather studded] sash to work on Monday.”

Eddie Sherbert
Although he has only gotten involved in the leather community over the past two years or so, Sherbert said he has been fascinated by leather since he was young. But it wasn’t until he went to the International Mr. Leather contest last year in May that he decided he want to compete for a leather title.

“When that curtain went up and I saw those 52 men standing on that stage, waving — goosebumps just washed over my whole body. I knew right then I wanted to do that. I wanted to be on that stage.”

So far, Sherbert is two for two, having won both contests he has entered. He said he wants to use the platform those titles give him to, like Tucker, be a mentor and an example to others in his community, and for those just finding their way into the world of leather.

“I would really like to be able to establish a mentoring program. We have people who are coming out now in their teens, and we still have people in their 30s and 40s and 50s and beyond who are just coming out,” Sherbert said. “Sometimes they need some with some real-life experiences to be there for them, to basically hold their hand and talk them through whatever they are dealing with.

“The mission of the Texas Leather contest is sharing, educating about and honoring the leather community and its history,” he added. “I plan to spend the next year promoting that mission. We need to work to move forward, always, but I want people to remember that we also need to respect where we’ve been.”

Sherbert is a flight attendant for American Airlines, working on international flights. While he isn’t likely to get to wear his Texas Leather sash to work the way Tucker did, his job does give him the chance to travel, around the states and abroad. And as he travels, Sherbert said, he gets the chance to learn about the leather communities in other cities and countries, and to tell them about the DFW community.

He and Tucker agreed that, at the core of things, their job as Texas Leather titleholders is to just “be as visible as possible.”

Tucker added, “We’ll just keep trying whatever works to be visible, to help our community. For both of us, mentoring others and giving back to our community is everything. If you aren’t doing something to give back, then you’re just taking up space.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 5, 2016.

—  Tammye Nash

And the new Mr. Texas Leather is …

… Gabe Sims! It was a busy few days for the leather community as Texas Leather Weekend got under way, with the naming of Sims as the new Mr. Texas Leather. The Shreveport, La., native, who now resides in Irving, came into the competition with the title Mr. Hidden Door, and bested six other entrants from around the state to take the title. This automatically qualifies Sims to compete in International Mr. Leather in Chicago over the Memorial Day weekend this spring.

Sims has some big jackboots to fill. Two of the past three Mr. Texas Leather winners — Jeffrey Payne and Jack Duke (who served as head judge this weekend) — have done well at IML, with Duke coming in third in 2010 and Payne winning the who schmere in 2009.

Check out our slideshow from the event here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Mr. Texas Leather 2012

Photos by Eric Dickson/Arcus Media

 

—  John Wright

Lady of leather

Dallas chef Synn Evans took off her chef’s coat and put on a cowhide vest on her way to being crowned Ms. Texas Leather

LEATHER MAMA | Synn Evans is a long-standing member of the leather community, but won the first event she ever entered last week: Ms. Texas Leather. (Photo courtesy Oblivion Images)

JENNY BLOCK  | Contributing Writer
lifestyle@dallasvoice.com

I want this.”

That’s how Synn Evans felt about the Ms. Texas Leather title from the minute she decided to compete. As of Saturday night, that desire became a reality.

She’s in full regalia for our interview, including black leather vest, chaps and her medal. She sports a jet black Mohawk, devilish grin and blue eyes with a gaze as intent as it is kind. Ms. Texas Leather is not a beauty contest, but it’s hard to imagine her looks didn’t help her case.

Evans has been a member of the leather community since 1996, when her best friend introduced her to the scene at a party.

“I was introduced to good people and taken by the hand because of connections. It’s a huge networking system,” she says. “No matter where you travel, you have a place to walk into and fit in, and whatever turns you on is all right. I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s like you just know something you just belong with.”

Still, her entry last week marked her first leather competition — surprising, considering how she lights up when she talks about leather:

“I love the way it looks. I love the way it smells. I love the way people dress in it. It’s not for everyone and I get that. But I think that if people were introduced to it in a proper way, it would be hard to walk away from. It’s exciting.”

Her love of leather is in no way hampered by the fact that many see the scene as the domain of gay men. “The leather scene is dominated by men,” she acknowledges. “It was started by men. Women were there, but it was a separate entity. Throughout the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, it started to take off and the feminist movement was really intertwined in it.”

Despite its male roots, Evans says she doesn’t feel any disrespect from her brothers in leather. “I don’t think there’s a problem for women in the community. Men appreciate having their own space just like I appreciate having the women’s space. I’ve never had any trouble. I get along very well with the gay male community. I’ve never had anyone be negative in any way, which is one of the reasons I love the leather community so much. It’s really just a matter of visibility.”

It’s that very issue that helped Evans to win the title. “Visibility is part of my platform, for women in the community to be seen and heard,” she says. Evans also hopes to improve access to the community for those who are hearing impaired, an issue close to her own heart as her last partner was hearing impaired and her current partner, Lillith Grey, is a sign language interpreter and instructor, as well as Gulf Coast Leather Woman of the Year.

“When I announced I was running for this title, [Former IML champ] Jeffrey Payne said to me, ‘It’s going to be a title family now.’ Next I’m going for International Ms. Leather.”

Evans says prepping for the competition was no easy task, between writing a speech, preparing for the interview, researching the judges and preparing a fantasy scene (a four-minute-long performance). Of these, it was the interview, Evans says, that really had her nervous.

“What was so stressful was that they could ask anything — personal, professional, family, anything — like, ‘What does leather mean to you,’ or ‘How do you plan on raising money for the title [for travel]’ or ‘How will your students feel about this?’” She stops and smiles. “They would think it was cool.”

In her vanilla life, Evans is a chef instructor at a community college and a private chef for various events (including for Glory Hole, her partner’s fetish production company; see sidebar). When Evans goes off to her professional gigs, her Mohawk gets collapsed and her jewelry comes off  as her chef’s coat goes on. “In my professional life, I try to be neutral,” she says, although some things, like her tattoos, she keeps on display “because they’re me.”

“Transitioning back and forth between the worlds really isn’t that hard. Like everyone else, you have a time and place for everything in your life. You always find a time and place for things that are important to you and I would never give up the leather community for anything in the world. It’s incredibly liberating to be with people who don’t care if you want to be pierced or don’t want to wear clothes or whatever.”

She laughs. “It’s all about pleasing yourself, realizing what you like and what you want and doing it … as long as it’s safe.”

It’s clear that the win means far more to Evans than just bragging rights.

“This title is a huge opportunity for women in the leather community here in Dallas and across the state. Part of my job as titleholder is to get people to come out. This title has the opportunity to really give the issues and the community the visibility it needs.”

Then she leans back, takes in the moment with a slow breath, and smiles. “It’s pretty cool.”

Indeed.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Get your kink on

This weekend, it’s time to get kinky and retro.

Glory Hole is a not-for-profit fetish event production company (which also has a kink/fetish performance troupe, called the Gloryhole Girls), with beneficiaries like the John Thomas Gay and Lesbian Community Center and other LGBT and kink charities. It was founded in part by Lillith Grey, an artist, activist, burlesque dancer and college instructor in the sex-positive community (she’s also partner to reigning Ms. Texas Leather Synn Evans).

Friday is Glory Hole’s ’70s Porno Party. “It’s going to be phenomenal,” Grey says. “We have live music, The Foxxy Love Show, community vendors, a private portrait photographer, a voyeur room, a full dungeon, hot DJs, and a catered fondue bar, as well as a no-cash raffle.” (One donated non-perishable food item gets you one raffle ticket.)

The location is sent to members the day of the party, and the parties are BYOB with a very strict no-photos policy. Security and safety are paramount at these events. Costumes are highly encouraged. “RIsque is A-OK,” is Grey’s motto.

Because it’s a members-only event, you need to join in time for the party (no applications are accepted at the door — if you can even find the door). To register by 6: p.m. Friday, visit GirlsGoneGloryhole.com.

— J.B.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 31, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

PHOTOS: John Grissom captures AWOL title

John Grissom, shown above, took home the title of AWOL Leatherman 2012 on Saturday night during AWOL III, Third Strike (A Weekend of Leather) at the Crowne Plaza Dallas.

The AWOL competition feeds Mr. Texas Leather.

The Leather Knights, who put on AWOL, also announced the dates for next year’s event, “AWOL IV – FLEET WEEK,” which will run Oct. 12 through 14, 2012.

This year’s AWOL benefited the SSC Fund, a nonprofit that raises funds to provide hearing aids and sign interpreters for hearing-impaired and/or deaf individuals.

For a slideshow of photos from Saturday’s AWOL Leatherman contest, go here.

—  John Wright

Bellying up to the bar: Leatherman Payne and partner dive into club ownership with Eagle

MEN OF DENIM | Ostmeyer, Payne, Johnson, Frazier and Roy now all own the Dallas Eagle.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Until about a month ago, everything Jeffrey Payne knew about a bar was how to order a Sprite in one (Payne doesn’t drink). Maybe how to cruise a guy during happy hour. That was it.

That’s changing. Fast.

At the end of January, Payne and his partner David Roy became shareholders in the Dallas Eagle.

“David and I have been speaking about it for a few years. We toyed with starting our own bar, had looked at other bars that had come up for sale in the meantime but never found what we were looking for,” Payne says.

Then last year Mark Frazier, one of the owners of the Eagle, approached them. “He heard we were looking,” Payne says, and asked if they would be interested in investing. Things progressed fairly quickly from there.

“I really didn’t know what to expect,” Payne says. ”Working with Mark and Cully Johnson and Jerry Ostmeyer, who are the other owners, we all bring something different to the table. We’re all active. There’s no silent partner, no one standing on the sidelines. Lot of changes have either happened or are about to happen. The DJ booth is now against the side; new countertops are being put in; and we have an updated draft [beer] system.”

Payne’s history with the Eagle is notable. He was named Mr. Dallas Eagle in 2008 — the first step on his way to Mr. Texas Leather and finally International Mr. Leather, a title he held from May 2009 to 2010 and for which he received widespread acclaim throughout the community for his leadership.

“Having been around the world like I have been, getting to know the hugely supportive gay community — not just the leather community — I wanted to be more involved,” he says. “The Eagle was just the right thing we were looking for. It’s a Levi/leather bar, but it doesn’t stop there: The bears, the court, the drag queens, softball teams, the bowling league — it’s not limited to just one sector of the community. It’s a wide array of people. Even straight people who are involved in the gay community hold activities there.”

“Bar owner” joins Payne’s other job titles of late, which also include running a court reporting service and serving on his non-profit Sharon St. Cyr Foundation, which raises money for hearing aids and sign interpretation for the deaf community. Payne is going deaf, although it has not progressed as fast as his doctors had predicted.

“It has gradually gotten worse but I’ll hang on to every day I can,” he says. ”Understanding is escaping more and more. David said something to me this morning and what I heard and what he said were on two different planes. Mine was much funnier.”

His hearing impairment also figures into his work at the Eagle — in some not-to-predictable ways.

“Sunday was the first time I worked behind the bar,” he says. “When I’m at the Eagle I don’t wear my hearing aids so people were placing orders and I didn’t hear them.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

And Mr. Texas Leather … NOT from Dallas

Roger Triche (via Facebook)

This week, we have a story about how Dallas leatherman and current Mr. Dallas Eagle Scott Moore hoped to threepeat as Mr. Texas Leather, which has been a gateway to IML glory in recent years. Well, Saturday night at the Rose Room came the results and the winner was … not Scott. Roger Triche, Mr. Houston Leather, took the top prize. Still, we’re hoping Roger represents the Lone Star State proudly in Chicago this May.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Threepeat?

HELLBENT FOR LEATHER | Scott Moore has planned for a year to try and repeat the achievements of Dallas leathermen Jeffrey Payne and Jack Duke. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Dallas has become a player in the international leather scene, and Scott Moore hopes to keep streak alive

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Scott Moore has some big boots to fill — and we don’t just mean size 13 triple Ds.

In 2008, Dallas’ Jeffrey Payne parlayed his Mr. Dallas Eagle leatherman title into Mr. Texas Leather 2009, then went on to score the top international prize: International Mr. Leather. His service was seen as a benchmark for the entire community, and an award was even named after him.

The next year, Dallas’ Jack Duke pulled off almost the same feat, going from Mr. Dallas Eagle to Mr. Texas Leather and coming in an impressive third overall at IML.

The Texas leather scene — and more impressively, Dallas’ — was on the map for its depth and seriousness.

And that’s where Moore has to follow.

He’ll slide on his jackboots and strap on his harness this weekend to compete in the 16th annual Texas Leather Weekend, as leatherman from across the state gather in Dallas to celebrate their brotherhood and crown the new Mr. Texas Leather.

Whoever wins will go on to Chicago and IML in the spring, but Moore would like for North Texas to represent for a third year in a row … and, of course, work its way onto the winners’ podium.

“It hit home for me after I won Mr. Dallas Eagle and [the Voice] started listing [in Instant Tea] the history of the event, which I knew, but seeing it in print … well, as you say, I have big boots to fill. Jeffrey was phenomenal and Jack has also done a lot. But for now my goal is not to trip when coming up the stairs or fall off the edge of the stage. The rest will work itself out.”

Moore is being modest — this isn’t his first time on the runway. A few years ago, he was entered by a friend in the Bear of the Month contest at the Eagle, and eventually went on to be named Mr. TBRU 2007. Still, Mr. Dallas Eagle was the first leather contest he’d ever entered.

It was the culmination of a long journey for him. Moore, 43, started in the leather community 14 years ago when he still lived in San Antonio. That’s when his lover gave him a gift: His first piece of leather.

“It was a harness — I still wear it,” he says. “I have been increasingly active ever since.”

In fact, it was watching Payne and Duke win — as well as attending IML and other events — that gave him the impetus to seek out the title for himself.

“I really wanted to get more involved and be part of this brotherhood. It was on my mind for a year. So I read extensively, and have gone to a lot of events. There’s quite a bit of preparation. And it’s not a cheap hobby,” he says.
When it comes down to it, though, he knows the competition will really just be an opportunity to enjoy the camaraderie of the leather community.

“I have met all of my competitors and have a really good group of people but there is no history or drama. Everyone’s advice is to be yourself and have fun. As a contestant, the have fun part is harder. I tend to be a little uptight — it’s in my nature. Paranoia helps as an attorney.”

Might not be had for a leatherman, either.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 28, 2011. 

—  John Wright

Scott Moore named Mr. Dallas Eagle 2011

The Mr. Dallas Eagle title has been a stepping stone for greater things recently. In 2009, Jeffrey Payne went from Mr. Dallas Eagle on to Mr. Texas Leather and finally International Mr. Leather, the top leatherman title in the world. In 2010, Mr. Dallas Eagle Jack Duke also became Mr. Texas Leather, ultimately finishing third at IML. So pressure is on Scott Moore, who on Saturday night was named Mr. Dallas Eagle 2011. Moore will compete for Mr. Texas Leather at the end of January; IML, if he goes on to it, is in late May.

I spoke with Jack Duke Friday, his last full day as Mr. Dallas Eagle. He told me he was a little sad to lose the title, but he only had it a few weeks before becoming Mr. Texas — that one, he says, will be hard to lose.

Congrats to Scott!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones