MatthewCaryBio2006webMatthew Cary: Mr. SouthEast LeatherFest 2006

Uncovering the Mine Shaft;

with great thanks to Bob, Part 1.

I wonder if all titleholders see such immediate and substantial results or if, as Gwen Hardy insists, I’m just one lucky son-of-a-bitch. Either way, the last three months have been tremendous for the cause of preserving leather history.

Less than a month after SouthEast LeatherFest, I was at my local leather club meeting. They announced that I won Mr. SouthEast LeatherFest 2006 and I spoke about the importance of preserving our leather history and supporting the Leather Archives & Museum. After the meeting adjourned, the two gentlemen who were hosting the meeting pulled me aside.


“We have a box of stuff that needs to go to someone who knows what to do with it,” one said.

“We’ve had it for years and we don’t know what to do with it, so we’d like you to have it,” the other added.

As soon as I’d finished selling raffle tickets and my SELF title fund-raising pins, I hurried to find the two gentlemen. They handed me two photo albums, which I quickly sat down with and began digging through.

It was immediately clear that the photos were from the Mine Shaft, a notorious leather bar in New York City from October 1976 until November 6th, 1985, and that the photos had been taken sometime during the early 1980’s.

The first album contained black & white pictures of a leather contest (later discovered to be the “Mine Shaft Man for 1983” contest from November of 1982) with photos of all the contestants and included shots of the winner being presented with his “sash,” which was a silver hardhat with “MSM” hand painted in blue on the front.

For me, this photo album alone represented leather history dynamite, as it was a time capsule that placed the viewer in the crowd at the Mine Shaft, watching a contest that took place nearly 24 years ago. That feeling lasted until I opened the second photo album and began flipping through the pages.

Twenty pages into the second photo album, I stopped dead and, much to the considerable amusement of my brothers who had gathered around to look over my shoulder at the photos, I freaked out. I began jumping up and down, pointing at the pages and shouting, “That’s them! That’s them! Holy shit, that’s them!”

“That’s who?” one asked, a hint of fear in his voice, since there was obviously a madman in the room.

“That’s the ghosts from the Leather Archives & Museum!” I nearly screamed. Heads in the other rooms turned to see what the hell was suddenly going on in the dining room.

“Uh huh,” his said, though the look on his face made it clear he thought I’d lost my fucking mind.

“In the lobby of the LA&M,” I explained, “on a shelf over the doors that lead into the auditorium, there are two 'ghosts'.” They are made out of some sort of fabric and are molded into the shapes of hooded figures. When I asked Rick Storer, the Executive Director of the LA&M, what they were, he told me they didn’t know, but they had come out of the basement of the Mine Shaft. That’s them.” I pointed at the pictures.

And sure enough, right there in full color, were the “ghosts.” The photos were of a Christmas play, and four of the “ghosts” were in the pictures, with a sign over them that read: “And the Magi Met an Angel!” They were props, placed on stage to play the part of the Wise Men. The answer to a leather history riddle! These artifacts were created in a leather bar in New York, NY, now resided in a museum in Chicago, IL, and the answer to the question “what are they?” was in my hands in Knoxville, TN.

I turned to the gentleman who had given me this dynamite.

“Did you say there was a box?” I asked, my mind racing. Could there actually be more?

He disappeared upstairs, only to reappear a minute later with a box that had originally held a 13- inch television. Anyone who saw my fantasy at SouthEast LeatherFest can easily imagine the look on my face as I peered into the box. There were posters. There were Mine Shaft calendars. There were slide carousels. There were photo envelopes. There were lots of photo envelopes.

I suddenly had to be home. I needed to be in my living room with a pen, paper and a digital camera (not to mention a slave to do all the writing!). I had to look at all of this, tonight, and it would have to be catalogued as it came out of the box. Thankfully, everyone understood the need for me to immediately immerse myself in this treasure trove of leather history (a few even looked relieved that the madman wanted to depart) and, after leaving what had to be a nearly incoherent message on Rick Storer’s voicemail (“I found them! I found them!”), I rushed home.

To be continued…

Yours in Leather,

Matthew Cary


Mr. SouthEast LeatherFest 2006



Uncovering the Mine Shaft:

Part 2

If I’ve learned anything from my title year, it’s that our leather history is out there, waiting to be discovered and preserved. The question is: how much of it is left? How much is still hiding away in attics, closets, or, I shudder to think, in basements? Worse yet, how much is already buried in landfills, lost to us forever?

The only way it’s going to be saved is if we ask about it, talk about it, and actively seek it out.

Consider this:

In 1989, after 23 years in New York as a professional musician, actor, director, and photographer, (and part-time bartender) Bob returned home. His passion for the theatre, as anyone who has ever been considered a “damn theatre type” will tell you, never ebbs; he co-founded a Theatre Guild in his hometown and settled into what could only be considered, by New York City standards, a quiet life in the mountains. He was 52.

Bob hadn’t completely left New York City behind, however; he brought a large portion of it home with him. Between productions of “Sound of Music,” “Guys and Dolls,” and “Carousel,” he was sorting through thousands of photographs he had taken while in Manhattan. These photos, documenting many years of anniversary week festivities at the private club where he bartended, were to become the subject of a book. Pictures were put into “best photos” and “rejects” categories, with names and descriptions noted for those Bob considered candidates for his “M.S. Book.”

Photographs weren’t all that Bob had brought back from New York. He was ill. Sometime around 1991, he boxed up the photographs, posters, newsletters, calendars, and other memorabilia he had collected, along with about 300 “B” movies, each signed by the actors, and entrusted it all to close friends.

In the spring of 1993, Bob directed his final musical: “Fiddler on the Roof.”

In the fall of 1993, Bob succumbed to the disease that ravaged a generation. He was 56.

Later that same year, the boxes were passed on again, this time to fellow members of the local bear club. Everything went into the attic of the new caretakers’ home. The same house, incidentally, where a leather club was spawned from a segment of the bears. Here it would remain for another 13 years—until it was passed on again.

This time, it wasn’t passed on by a dying man who didn’t want his family to come across it. It wasn’t passed on because those entrusted with it didn’t have the room for it. It was passed on simply because I spoke up about preserving our leather history.

This could be a story about any community; it just happens that it was mine. What treasures are hiding in your community?

The only way you’ll find out is to ask—be sure to let me know what you find.

Thanks, Bob, for preserving a large portion of your time in the New York leather community, and for seeing, in a round-a-bout fashion, that it got to someone who will preserve it.

If you want to know what was in the box, I’ll be presenting it all on Sunday afternoon at SELF!

Yours in Leather,

Matthew Cary

Mr. Southeast Leatherfest 2006

First Runner-up Mr. World Leather 2006

June 17, 2006 Cary's first column

Wow, what a fantastic weekend! Congratulations to Solitaire, Ms. SouthEast LeatherFest 2006, and kudos to Wayne and CC for a terrific contest! I always get my leather batteries recharged at events, but I think this charge will last longer than usual. The headspace induced by the SELF weekend and the contest was like nothing I had experienced before-- what a rush!

I want to give special thanks to Sir Colin and Kimmie for the exceptional care that they took with all of the contestants throughout the weekend; I know I wouldn't have survived without their help. I would also like to thank the producers, staff, volunteers, sponsors, vendors and attendees of SELF for a fabulous event and to say that I am honored to be your representative for the next year. I am grateful to our judges for taking the time to listen to each of our platforms, carefully considering all the aspects of each contestant, and judging us on the merits of what was presented to them. And I am forever indebted to the lovely Miss Victoria G. and the debonair Jarrett for helping bring history to life in my fantasy.

What an exciting year this is going to be. I plan to visit with as many groups and organizations throughout the Southeast as possible, spreading the word about SouthEast LeatherFest, the Leather Archives and Museum, and getting people passionate about seeking out and preserving our leather history. I hope to pass on my enthusiasm to others and encourage them to document their local history and to seek out and obtain oral histories from elders within their communities, before these valuable resources disappear.

Ms. and Mr. World Leather 2006 is coming up fast. I am fervently working on fund-raising, both to build travel funds for Mr.SELF and what is required as a contestant for MMWL, and strengthening my platform so that I might reach my goal of bringing the first Mr. World Leather title home to the Southeast.

If there is anything that I can do for any individual, group or organization, please don't hesitate to contact me at .

Yours in Leather,

Matthew Cary

Mr. SouthEast LeatherFest 2006



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