IML, as it turned out, was the mecca of all things queer and leather: the International Mr. Leather contest/ conference/ festival. The reason for using those three words and all that "/" is mainly that I'm not sure (yet!) exactly what it is/was. Not quite a festival like the Gay Pride marches, not exactly a conference where fancy-shmancy papers get presented (and ignored thereafter), and no, not merely a contest either.
For five whole days, leather afficiandoes (and yes, they were men, no women at all that I could see!) descend from all over the world to Chicago, in all their bovine (o, I'm sure most were faux leather!) adornments and glittery chrome attachments, to strut down Michigan Avenue. An entire five-star hotel is booked by the IML organizers, rooms are offered to attendees at special rates, conference and banquet rooms are booked for special 'sessions' (to put it most delicately) and a Leather-Mart that houses the most out-of-the-world apparatus, and a long-drawn-out pageant to crown International Mr. Leather is held.
My first reaction, when I heard the whole deal: O.M.G.... how frikkin' fantabulous! :)
Yes, so you always knew I'm a bit of a skank, didn't you? *grin*
Unfortunately, I had to balance IML and my hoity-toity conference together, so no, I wasn't exactly hanging for my life onto the slings suspended in the ballrooms, or screaming hoarsely in a sweaty hotel-room (well, not the IML hotel-room, at any rate! *giggle*)... I was trying to be a good nerdy academic at the conference, imbibe the High Arts of fabulous Chicago, and engage in some tiltillating voyeurism at IML - all at the same time. So, I visited the world-famous Leather-Mart with a hunky 'daddy', was suitably awestruck at the scope of the human imagination that could come up with all the wondrous inventions therein, and ogled at the furry/ smooth/ gleaming buttocks in full display at the hotel.
But my favorite intermingling of the three? Most definitely, when I hit the Art Institute of Chicago to check out its new Modern wing with a conference-colleague, and spied the many gorgeous leather-men in their boots and chaps milling around...
You've head of the famous lions at the Art Institute, right?...
Now imagine my roars of approval! :)