Over this past Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, Gary Iriza of Palm Springs, California was chosen as International Mister Leather 2008. A native of Venezuela who moved to America in 1999, Gary ran for the title of Mr. Palm Springs Leather this past November and won, which he went on to compete at the International Mister Leather XXX contest with fifty other contestants.
He works as a personal fitness trainer and has volunteered for local community organizations such as Well in the Desert, an organization serving the homeless, as well as hosting Palm Springs’ “Fetish Ball” fundraiser for the Gay Associate Youth organization. He is a member of the Palm Springs Leather Order of the Desert and the Desert Pride Community Center. He also spins as a DJ when he has the time.
Gary is making two appearances in Philadelphia this month. Back on the July 4th weekend he was a judge at the Mid-Atlantic Leather Sir/boy contest, which was his first time judging a leather contest. He will be returning to our city this weekend to judge the International Deaf Leather 2008 contest as well. Shortly after Mid-Atlantic Gary was gracious to let me interview him for PhillyGayCalendar.com.
I start off the interview by asking him would he describe his recent trip to Philadelphia to judge the Mid-Atlantic Leather Sir/boy contest. I also ask him what did he think was the best part of that visit, and if that was his first time in Philly?
“No, it wasn’t my first trip to Philly, and more time I realize why it’s called the City of the Brotherly Love. Judging Mid-Atlantic Leather Sir/boy was quite an experience; it was my first time judging a leather contest, and it made me realize that it is more nerve racking to judge than be judged, because the responsibility of to choose the best candidates to represent our community is in your hands, so you can imagine how difficult it can be… especially with all the great contestants that were competing; what can I say without sounding cliché? They all deserve the title; after all it was a very rewarding experience.”
How did you get into leather? Was there a certain event that triggered it, or was it a more gradual process?
“It was two years ago I had tickets to go and see Madonna in concert, that Sunday I received a phone call: “What are you doing boy?” It was a deep masculine voice of a man (Daddy) I had met three weeks before, at the Barracks bar in Palm Springs, and the only thing I could think of was ‘Gee this hot man is calling me.’ His beard and striking looks made me forget about my (at the moment–well still is) idol. He kept talking meanwhile I was mute, and I remember he said he wanted to show me a piece of furniture…Once at his place the piece of furniture was a torture table which I immediately jumped on, and next thing I knew I was tight up being milked, tortured and touched by leather. I kept playing with this Daddy for a while he eventually became my partner and I will always be grateful of what she showed me and the way he mentored me.”
Since Gary lives in Palm Springs, California, I ask him to give a description of the leather/S&M community there.
“Palm springs is HOT, beautiful, and a fun place to live in, and the best part of all is that you can show your ass all the time at the bars, because it is so hot there,” he laughs. “We have a very well organized leather community, that work non-stop for the whole entire Coachella Valley in general; we are respected, recognized, and above all loving people. We celebrate each year our leather pride weekend in November; we have the Mr. Palm Springs Leather contest and this year we are growing with it was a one day trial project last year “the street fair” now it will be a two day long celebration, it was such a hit last year, and the best part I will be there,” which trails off into more laughter.
With your winning the title of IML, do you feel that you have a lot to prove now?
“Not at all, the only thing I need to do is to follow my heart and contribute to this wonderful community of ours in every way possible.”
What do you feel is the biggest issue facing the leather community today?
“There is not such an issue and with the same token the issues that we have are not only leather; they are global as well–drugs, STD’s and Republicans, are projects that we never should stop working to eliminate. We all need to stand together for what is right for this world of ours.”
How do feel about the dialogue between the gay leather community and the larger mainstream gay community?
Once again I see the big picture here, and if us, as leather people play the part we either build either a gap or a bridge, let me explain; If we consider ourselves different type of gay people, what is going to happen is that the rest of the gay people will see us as different; however if we act and include ourselves and keep doing our job and contribute to this society, who would care what we do close doors or what we wear??? This isn’t difficult, just do your job, do it right and all will come back to you, like the Kabbalah principle…and if however there are people feeling funny about us, just keep doing good and make sure you do, to let them know we are as normal as the rest of the human species, we are not ashamed of who we are, we don’t need to be perfect, we need to be good and do good! That’s it. It is our duty vanilla and leather to make it work. None of us is more or less we are all equals so the rule applies to both, and we have to respect each other.”
Any advice for someone who’s starting to get into leather?
“Gear up, have fun and support, play safe and learn the history. It is very interesting, and beautiful.”
You’ve mentioned your love of music in your bio. What kind of music do you spin when you DJ? And what is your favorite song that came out this year so far?
“I play house, tribal, and progressive house, I DJ everywhere I can, I have too many favorites’ songs though…”
You will be back in Philadelphia to judge the International Deaf Leather Contest. Do you have any words for the people in Philly?
“Philadelphia Weather Report: Hurricane Gary it’s hitting again get ready here it comes!” Gary says with a laugh.
Any final comments?
“I just can’t wait to go there [IDL 2008] and support them. The deaf community goes every hearing event there is; so it is only fair for them for us to be there in their events. They have all my support; I love them.”
You can find out more about Gary Iriza at his MySpace page, and he also keeps a blog about his travels as Mr. International Leather 2008. You can also find out more about International Deaf Leather 2008 through their website.
COVID-19 has put a lot of events on hold, and this included Philly Pride 2020. We were all saddened that we couldn’t get together to