WSLO - HISTORY
Washington State has been a leader in the national leather community, as the history of the community contributions and the people's activism has shown.
In 1983 five men gathered and competed in the first Washington State Leatherman contest. That competition was sponsored and held at the J & L Saloon (or as it was fondly called "Judy's Lounge"). At that time the contest was called the Washington State Leatherman and the winner went on to compete in the Pacific Northwest Mr. Leather Contest along with titleholders from Oregon and British Columbia, who would then go onto the International Mr. Leather Competition in Chicago. That night Mark Sauer was named the first Washington State Leatherman.
The next year, again at the J & L Saloon, several men competed for the title and Doug Connell was crowned champion. Doug, an active member of the Knights of Malta organization, then went on to represent the Washington State Leatherman title at the Pacific Northwest Leather Competition, where he won. Doug became the first Washington State Leatherman to compete at the International Mr. Leather Competition in Chicago. Doug went everywhere and managed to bring a larger recognition of the Seattle Leather community.
In 1985, the title name was changed to Washington State Mr. Leather. That year, Richard Heinigh was named Washington State Mr. Leather. Richard continued his winning ways at the International level by being named 1st runner-up at the 1985 International Mr. Leather Contest. Richard's continued hard work for both the local and International leather communities was saluted by the International Mr. Leather organization, when the International Mr. Leather Travel fund was named for him.
The following year Steve Maidof was named Washington State Mr. Leather and competed at the International Mr. Leather contest. Following the International competition, Steve gathered a small group of local leather folk in his living room with the idea of staging a "Living in Leather" Conference that San Francisco and New York leather communities said couldn't be done. Thus, the National Leather Association was born here in Seattle with Steve as the founding "Daddy" and President.
In 1998, the first non-Seattleite won the competition. Tom Coker, of Tacoma was named Washington State Mr. Leather that year.
In 1989 Vik Stump, a local women's leather leader began the first Washington State Ms. Leather competition. The competition was held at Club S. That year Lauren Burch became the first Washington State Ms. Leather.
In 1990 Howard Martin was named Washington State Mr. Leather and that year went on to win the national title of "Mr. NLA".
In 1991, Wes Randall was named Washington State Mr. Leather and was featured in a photo spread in Drummer Magazine, including the cover.
1992-93 was a pivotal year for the Washington State Mr. Leather organization, when Washington State Mr. Leather 1991, Wes Randall and 1992 Washington State Mr. Leather, Ron Clouse, approached local community leader's Scott Rodriguez and TIm F. to reform the organization. Under Scott's leadership, and Presidency, WSMLO became a federally recognized non-profit organization (it had been a for profit group). The newly formed organization expanded it's activities within the Seattle community beyond just producing the leather contest by organizing and producing the annual Seattle Pride Festival and a non-profit Softball tournament called the Emerald Cup for several years. Additional, Scott believed that the goal of the organization should be to recognize both people and organizations in the Seattle Community, so WSMLO founded the National Leather Emerald Award, the Leather Emerald Awards and the Community Service Award.
Also that year with the hard work of both Wes Randall, Ron Clouse and then Northwest Drummer, Todd Airhart, the first Washington State Leather Pride Week was born, which WSMLO eventually took over the oversight of the weeklong activities celebrating the Leather Community in the State of Washington.
In 1994, Generic Leather Production took over the Washington State Ms. Leather Competition from Vic. That year a local attorney, Sir Spencer Bergstedt won that title. Spencer went on to compete at International Ms. Leather competition, and won.
In 1997, Vince Edd was named Washington State Mr. Leather and would later compete and win the national title of Mr. Ebony Leather.
In 1998, a change of leadership developed following the Washington State Mr. Leather Contest in March of that year, when Scott Rodriguez, decided to step down as President of the organization. At that time Tim F., took over the Presidents position, (since serving as Vice President, under Scott since 1992.)
The year 2000 was both a happy time and a sad time for the Organization. In the beginning of the year 2000, Generic Leather Productions sold The Washington State Ms. Washington Title to the Washington State Mr. Leather Organization, finally bring both titles under the same parent organization. But on a sad note, in late November, WSMLO past President, Scott Rodriguez, passed away after a strong battle against PML and AIDS.
In 2001, The Scott Rodriguez Memorial Scholarship fund was founded to honor his commitment to Community and hard work. It was administered by the Pride Foundation, and was one of it's largest applied for scholarship fund that the Pride foundation had, with six scholarships given out yearly (This scholarship fund ran for the 15 years it was intended for and has since ended). Additionally, the administration office at the Leather Archives and Museum, in Chicago, was donated in his honor.
Also in the year 2001, Michael Chappell, a resident of Spokane, became the first East side person in the state, to hold the title of Washington State Mr. Leather.
In 2006, both Washington State Mr. Leather 2005, Rusty Jones and Washington State Ms. Leather 2005, Shelley Denton went on to compete at the American Brotherhood Weekend, and brought home the national titles of American Leatherman and American Leatherwoman.
In 2007, Rob Grant, Washington State Mr. Leather 2006, went on to compete at the International Mr. Leather competition, where he placed 1st runner-up.
In 2008, Hobbit Smith, Washington State Ms. Leather 1995, returned to the community and vied for International Ms. Leather 2008, and brought back that title to Seattle.
In 2009, Lamalani, Washington State Ms. Leather 2008, went on to compete at the International Ms. Leather competition, and continued the title of International Ms. Leather 2009, here in Seattle.
In 2012, after many years of training a large and diverse WSMLO board of directors, Tim F., stepped aside, and Jeff Henness served as Board President. Presently, Toby Noon has taken over the leadership role as Board President.
In 2019, The Board of Directors decided to change the organizations name to Washington State Leather Organization, in order to better encompass the entire leather community. The federal legal name remains the same, but now we operate under the dba name of Washington State Leather Organization.
Many of the other past titleholders, board members and hard working volunteers of WSLO, all have all in there own way contributed to the success that is WSLO Today. A complete listing of past Washington State titleholders are listed on this web site.
Washington State Leather Organization continues to produce the annual contest, and remains committed to it's non-profit roots, raising thousand of dollars each year to support a variety of other non-profit organizations and their worthy causes.
Some of the organizations that have received financial donations/grants, over the years, from WSMLO/WSLO:
Scott Rodriguez Scholarship Fund (Pride Foundation); Strength Over Speed (SOS); Home Alive; P-Flag Skagit County; Brother to Brother; SpokAnimal Care; Leather Archives and Museum; Lambert House; Gay City Health Project; Verbena; Project Neon; Deaf-Blind Services; Dandelion Dog Rescue; Spokane AIDS Network; Helpers of People with AIDS; Pride Foundation; Rosehedge; Rise and Shine; Odyssey Youth Center; AVER Puget Sound, Lifelong AIDS Alliance, ISIS House, Pierce County AIDS Foundation, King County Youth Development Fund, Cocoon House (Everett), Oasis Youth Center (Tacoma) – to name a few!
Activities that WSMLO/WSLO has/have produced/provide:
The Washington State Leather Pride Week:
Is a week of educational, social and fund raising events held in March each year.
The Washington State Mr./Ms. Leather Contest:
Seattle’s oldest Leather title contest.
Founded in 1983, the Washington State Mr. & Ms. Leather Contest is the states oldest, continues running, premier leather titles. The contest is held each year during the Washington State Leather Pride Week (in March). This event is held to select Washington State Mr. & Ms. Leather and used as a fundraiser for other non-profit organizations and educational forums.
Leather Emerald Awards:
An awards brunch used to both recognize local community leaders and as an educational forum for guest speakers.
The Board of Directors recognized that there were many individuals and groups doing great deeds in the Seattle Leather Community, but they were receiving little or no recognition for their positive work. The Board decided to change that by developing the Leather Emerald Awards. The Awards were broken out into varying categories and are awarded at a special brunch in honor of the recipients. The Community Service Award: Is awarded to a person or group, who has given both heart and soul to the greater Washington State Leather Community or the general Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, etc., community. The Leather Emerald Award: Is awarded to a person or group, who has had a positive impact on behalf of the Washington State Leather Community. This award is Leather community specific. The National Leather Emerald Award: This award goes to a person outside the State of Washington, who has either assisted the Seattle leather community in the past or has provided positive leadership to the leather community in general. In addition, WSMLO invites guest speakers to present important educational information to those attending the brunch. Additionally, other Washington State leather groups/organizations present their annual awards at this event.
Administer, The Leather Memorial Plaque:
This memorial is dedicated to the Seattle Leather Community, in memory of those fallen Leathermen and Leatherwomen. It stands on display at The Cuff Complex.
Past Events Produced/Presented:
The Seattle Pride Festival / Pride Festival:
A community celebration, educational forum, and fundraiser.
The Seattle Pride Festival began in the early 1980’s as a way to provide businesses, community organizations, and non-profits a way to present information to the community at-large on the services they provide in a fun, positive manner. In addition, live entertainment and speakers provide impetus for people to attend. WSMLO purchased the rights to produce this yearly event in 1993 and presented it through 1999 and continues to hold the trade names of Seattle Pride Festival and Pride Festival as registered with the State of Washington, Department of Licensing, since 1993.
Black and Blue Leather Boat Cruise:
A three-hour cruise on Lake Washington.
A social, three-hour, fundraising cruise on Lake Washington, especially designed for the Northwest leather community. Profits from the event are given to other non-profit organizations.
The Emerald Cup Softball Tournament:
A softball tournament for non-profits.
In searching for a way to provide other non-profit organizations ways in which to both receive funds for there respective group, and make it fun for the volunteers, WSMLO began a non-profit organization softball tournament (the Emerald Cup) where varying non-profit organizations could enter and play for fun, with the winning organizations receiving thousands of dollars from donating businesses.
The Pride Day Street Party - Main Stage:
A celebration of pride (live entertainment stage).WSMLO presented the Pride Day Entertainment Main Stage for many years. Bringing in such named performers as Jennifer Holliday, Jody Watley, Ultra Nate', Lonnie Gordon, Abigail, Jocelyn Enriquez, Viola Wills, Loleatta Halloway, Bonnie Pointer, CeCe Peniston, and Taylor Dayne (to name a few).
(l to r) Scott Rodriguez, Past WSMLO President; with Performing Artists: Jocelyn Enriquez,
CeCe Peniston and Loleatta Holloway