Black leather in San Francisco's Hayes Valley? That was a question that drew curious regulars and new customers to Marlena’s popular drag bar to check out the tenth Mr. Hayes Valley Leather Contest on Jan. 22.
A swarm of leathermen, and some women, squeezed into the watering hole that usually is known for a mix of LGBT locals, their friends, and tourists in casual barhopping wear. The high energy of the leather aficionados created a beguiling, sexually-tense atmosphere over Hayes Valley.
Marlena’s has been open for 21 years and its namesake Marlena — who is a philanthropist, a former San Francisco Empress, and a leatherman — has fashioned an environment that welcomes the diversity of the newly rejuvenated neighborhood.
The bar is also known for its glorification of the Imperial Court of San Francisco with its magnificent wall displays of artwork, photographs, and jewelry of one of the leading charities in the United States.
Seven years ago, Ray Tilton and Sandy "Mama" Reinhardt suggested to Marlena that a leather contest would enhance the bar, raise much-needed funds, and bring new thrills to the neighborhood.
This year’s impressive winner was J.B. Kern, who is single and serious about S&M sex. He enjoys the hospitality of Marlena’s exciting bartenders and their stiff, quickly served cocktails.
Jay Harcourt (Mr. Hayes Valley Leather 2005), J.B. Kern (Mr. Hayes Valley Leather 2011), Sean Kline (Mr. Hayes Valley Leather 2006), Rik Lopes (2011 runner-up), and host Marlena
Runner-up Rik Lopes, and the other stimulating contestants Lex King and Kelly Rivera Hart drew guys close to them on the crowded sidewalk after the contest finale. Striking Hart is as aggressive in his leather life as he is in his political activism and he did not hesitate to make a primal invitation to the newly chosen Kern, mentioning his king-size bed.
The panel of demanding judges included former Mr. Hayes Valley Leather Sean Kline, Mr. SF Leather Lance Holman, former Miss SF Leather Queen Cougar, former Mr. SF Leather Ray Tilton (who had two man pups growling at his feet), and Leather Daddy Jason Ladd. Lenny Broberg, a former International Mr. Leather, did another fine job of MC’ing.
High-quality leather hats, belts, and other well-crafted items were available from Paul Johnson of Off Ramp Leathers at the back of Marlena’s doomed smoking lounge. Johnson generously provided the contest with their winner’s leather patch, which is traditionally attached to a leather jacket or vest.
The beneficiary of this year's event was Magnet. Beguiling redheaded stud Jay Harcourt, a board member at Magnet and a former Mr. Hayes Valley Leather, was thankful for the $500 that was raised. Harcourt’s quote from the 2009 contest still rings true: “The title holders are a group of friends that has become a family, and there is a change in their lives for the better because we work together on fundraising. And it comes from the top down from Marlena, who has made a commitment to the community to help out Magnet and improve peoples’ lives.” Magnet is the medical and cultural center of the Castro and serves over 9,000 men a year.