Last of the NYC Leathermen


THOMAS: It’s the gift
booth, right? Or the accessories booth? CHRISTOPHE: The leatherman
booth. THOMAS: It’s a working elevator here inside The Eagle. Oh, wow. Leathermen used to be the
deepest, darkest mystery that the gay subculture had. The sex lives and drug intake of
these tough homos made even the rowdiest, straight Hell’s
Angels look like pussies. They were like a gang of
butt-fucking werewolves. CHRISTOPHE: Splits your balls,
your left and your right. THOMAS: When AIDS came on the
scene, the leathermen were right on the firing line. Today, catching one in full
regalia outside the small handful of leather clubs that
remain is like spotting a leprechaun. Fearing that they may soon be
totally extinct, I decided to dive head first into
their world. The last of the great New York
leather bars is The Eagle, so I started my quest there. Luckily, I soon met the best
guy I could have hoped for. Christophe Andre is a long-time
leatherman. And he was the winner
of last year’s Mr. Eagle beauty pageant. He also sells handcuffs
and dildos in an elevator at the bar. CHRISTOPHE: So that’s $287.74. Do you want a bag for this? Now what happens tonight is
tonight we call Code on Thursdays at The Eagle. THOMAS: OK. I think I saw that sign. CHRISTOPHE: And basically what
we try to encourage here is for men to come in in leather
gear, all leather gear, as much as possible. We encourage no running shoes. We encourage no dress shoes or
suits, ties, dress shirts, polo shirts, and definitely
no cologne. THOMAS: Why? CHRISTOPHE: Gay men do
not like cologne. THOMAS: No? CHRISTOPHE: No, we like the
natural smell of a man. THOMAS: Is that enforced under
punishment of expulsion if you catch somebody with cologne
who sneaks in? They’re out. CHRISTOPHE: So the only thing
that I will do for you is just give you that leatherman
look, a little crease. Just kind of fold you up
here a little bit. THOMAS: Nice and flabby. CHRISTOPHE: Make you look
a little more relaxed. THOMAS: Nice [INAUDIBLE]. CHRISTOPHE: There you go. THOMAS: The leather scene
supposedly started with guys coming home from World War
II who missed all the freewheeling sex and bro-ing
down the army provided. As a result, a big military
vibe runs through the whole scene. That baker hat they all wear was
swiped from the Nazis, as was a lot of other gear, like
jack boots and riding crops. On my first night in The Eagle,
I saw a couple dressed completely like biker cops. CHRISTOPHE: I spoke to you
guys about this before. This is the current Mr. Eagle. This is Rick Weber. So he’s Mr. Eagle,
the year 2007. This is Thomas from
Vice magazine. THOMAS: Pleasure to meet you. RICK: Nice meeting you. CHRISTOPHE: And the
camera man. This is Matthew. This is Rick Weber. [LAUGHTER] THOMAS: Since grooming is so
vital, a lot a leather bars have their own house barbers. This is Jake, The
Eagle’s barber. The second he saw me he said,
I can’t wait to get rid of that little Harry Potter
thing you’ve got going. He was hands down the scariest
fag I’d never met. So I said all right. I have to hold this mic up to my
mouth because it’s loud as shit in here. So we’re over in the
barber’s corner. There’s some pretty heavy guy
on guy on harness with guys around him action going on on
a screen above the bar. I’ve been watching, people
have got wrist and arm bands on. And I’m going to ask Christophe
in a little while if this stuff about left
and right arm is really adhered to. They fetishized the living
shit out of the whole haircut process. They’ve got an actual barber’s
chair in one corner of the room. All the products they use are
these 1950s era old man things, like pomade
and talcum powder. And they keep the chair
facing the dick porn to keep you hard. The whole thing’s
a production. Over the course of my shave,
I was slapped in the head, kissed on the neck, and
gingerly humped. All while Jake assured me that
he was taking it easy on me. I guess this is the leather
equivalent of watching the big game in a La-Z-Boy while being
serviced by Hooters girls. CHRISTOPHE: Look at you! THOMAS: New person. MALE SPEAKER: My god! CHRISTOPHE: Look at you. THOMAS: I’m now getting showered
with adulation for having sat through a haircut. MALE SPEAKER: It’s beautiful! CHRISTOPHE: You’re a new man. MALE SPEAKER: Jake is
a great barber. CHRISTOPHE: Have you
looked in a mirror? This new hair will get you
a lot of attention. THOMAS: Oh, yeah? CHRISTOPHE: Yeah, I think so. THOMAS: Getting back to my
question about the arm bands. CHRISTOPHE: You know, flagging
is not done as much anymore. And it’s something that
you see very little of now in New York. You see, it started out, I
believe, in San Francisco. But you really don’t see
it as much in New York. So anyone that wants
to flag whatever they’re in the mood for. So anything that’s on the left
pocket, or the arm, or the wrist indicates usually
that you’re a top. You’re the dominant
of the two. THOMAS: You’re giving it. CHRISTOPHE: Right. Anyone that has it on the
right means they want to receive it. Some of them are very
common sense. Yellow, you kind of know
what that means. It’s piss. Red is fisting. The light blue here is
cocksucker or cock-suckee. THOMAS: Can I ask what
the other colors are? CHRISTOPHE: OK, sure. THOMAS: [INAUDIBLE]. What’s after light blue,
if it’s cocksucker? CHRISTOPHE: So we did these. So that’s fisting,
piss, cocksucker. There is the navy blue, which
is just basic fucking. Black is S&M. Pink– what do you think
pink might be? THOMAS: Dresses? I don’t know, transvestites? CHRISTOPHE: No, toys. THOMAS: Toys! OK, that makes sense. CHRISTOPHE: Toys. Brown– I don’t even think I want
to even discuss brown. THOMAS: That’s fine. CHRISTOPHE: Oh, we
got a cab, yes! And a big one. Just the ones I like. THOMAS: We went home and got
a couple hours of sleep. Then I had to go help Christophe
move his bike for the street sweeper. So we’re back in Christophe’s
apartment. So far the leather community
doesn’t seem too bad. Due to fair warning, I didn’t
venture into the upstairs bathrooms, where supposedly
a lot of the action is. The one thing everybody bought
and, like, one after the other sliding in was the amyl
nitrate poppers. I think it’s just, like, kind
of a concentrated stimulant, or something. I thought it was supposed
to relax your ass. But he was saying that most
commonly use it just right before getting in the sack. Or I don’t know if
they have a sack. I’m really not sure what
it does, actually. We’ll give that a shot when
the mood is right. Eager to see what that
scene’s all about. We’re back at Code
night again. I’m actually dressed
to code tonight. The shirt’s a little blousie. Now that we’ve been introduced
to the scene, I think we’ll just cut back and enjoy the– I don’t know what it would be
called, the fringe benefits? It’s not even that. CHRISTOPHE: [LAUGHS]. Enjoy some things. Well, this is a collar. You know, basically
what a collar can stand for, many things. Someone gets collared, they’re
a boy, they’re a slave. It really identifies with
being more submissive, a bottom, maybe [INAUDIBLE]
a submissive boy. These are what we call
a ball stretcher. Your balls come through. THOMAS: They go through that? How much are those? CHRISTOPHE: It’s a range
from $12 and up. THOMAS: Can I try that one on? I guess I’d have to figure
out my size, wouldn’t I? CHRISTOPHE: Well, we
start at one inch. THOMAS: Oh, OK. CHRISTOPHE: And they’re
not easy to get on. Some guys can get them
on really quickly. Some guys you need to
really struggle. So it’s a matter of just
taking this like this. And just kind of– THOMAS: Dropping them in. CHRISTOPHE: –popping them in. As soon as you’ve got them in,
you’re able just to pull out and push this up that way. I may have to help you. [INTERPOSING VOICES] THOMAS: Oh, and now I’ll
drop in like that? OK, and then you let go? Wow! Oh, that’s funny. CHRISTOPHE: It can hurt. THOMAS: It’s not bad, though. Do you want a shot of my
disgusting looking balls in this thing? MATTHEW: [INAUDIBLE] new frontiers here. THOMAS: I don’t know if you
can show that or not. And so you just wear
this around? CHRISTOPHE: You can wear this
around the entire day. So let’s say you’re
going to be– you choose your pocket. THOMAS: All right. Christophe helped me get
fully geared up. And finally, I was ready to
experience the leather world as a leatherman. First stop, the fabled
upstairs bathroom. I’ll see how it turns out. How do I get there? CHRISTOPHE: That way. THOMAS: [WHISTLES]. So it’s an intense scene
in that bathroom. Jake had previously told me
[INAUDIBLE] urinals, kind of with a wall in between them. And then once the wall stopped
around here, like chest level, it was chain-linked fence. And you were standing across
from people kind of pissing at the same time. What they didn’t tell me is that
pissing here usually may mean having some guy go down
on you while another guy’s getting butt-fucked
right next to you. But it’s pretty Roman. And it smelled genuinely
unique. I couldn’t begin to describe
the elements I assume are going into that aroma. Shit, piss, and tile cleaner
being only three of many. I decided to go up to the roof
to cool off and get a little fresh air. We just came up to the
roof, which is kind of the cigar lounge. And there’s some dudes, like,
maybe 10 yards that way. When we got up here and walked
down, one of them was going down on the other. And now they’re just fucking. [CHUCKLES]. It’s kind of empty otherwise. It’s like a nice little smoker’s
lounge, or whatever, cigar area. And they’re just totally
going at it. You know, I really had a lot
of fun with the leathermen. All the weird rules, the fancy
clothes, the butt grabbing and close contact and camaraderie. It was like being in a secret
club for tough guys. At the same time, though, it
never got me hard or made me want to fuck any of the guys
I was hanging out with. So I guess there’s this sort of
disconnect there between me and the folks who are really
into it and get off on being tied up, whipped. In any case, dudes know
how to party. Ah! [LAUGHS]. Oh, no, no. [INAUDIBLE]. CHRISTOPHE: He’s a wimp! THOMAS: I’ve got
sensitive nips. There we go.

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