Baltimore may be known for its picturesque harbors, its crab cakes, Historic Pigtown (Oink!), and for my favorite filmmaker, John Waters! But as any many of our hot-to-trot brothers and fun-loving sisters have learned when they visit that town, there is also a very active LGBT scene… and that includes a vibrant Leather community. Last November, on the first weekend of the month, the Corps Of Men Making a Noticeable Difference (C.O.M.M.A.N.D.) MC of Baltimore held their 23rd Anniversary Weekend. The weekend cumulated with Mr. Maryland Leather 2012 Contest, held that Saturday afternoon at the popular club The Hippo. Joseph Chmielowski-Liu, a native of Baltimore, was selected as the new Mr. Maryland Leather. The articulate and intelligent leatherboy, who tells me that he “jumped feet first into the deep end of the Leather pool in 2010”, became involved largely thanks to his partner Sir Andy Chmielowski-Liu, Mid-Atlantic LeatherSIR 2008. The two were married in New York City in August 2010… and made history as one of the first gay couples to get married in that state. As the Old Line State’s Ambassador to the Leather Nation, boy joe spoke to me about his plans for the upcoming year, which include, in his own words, “being the best boy he can be!!”
JR: Congratulations again on your Title of Mr. Maryland Leather 2011. How has your Title year been treating you so far?
bj: My Title year so far has been an amazing ride! I am very fortunate to have C.O.M.M.A.N.D., M.C. (
http://www.commandmc.org) as my Producers. The response from the Community has been overwhelming. The camaraderie and support from my fellow Leather Folk has truly taken my breath away (boy loves breath control.).
JR: That’s great to hear! So, joe, since winning, do you find that you get hit on more?! Or, are guys intimidated by the Sash?
bj: It is hard for me to judge, as this boy loves to flirt (with permission of course)! I tend to believe every Titleholder gets hit on more as they are taking a more prominent role in the Community. As far as guys being intimidated – what is it that they say about the quiet ones (Laughs)?
JR: (Laughs) It’s all true! What philanthropic causes and/or issues are you dedicated to?
bj: the charity of my choosing for my Title year is AIDS Action Baltimore (www.aidsactionbaltimore.org). They actively work with institutes like the National Institute of Health to make more effective drugs, as well as with the pharmaceutical companies to make them more cost effective. In addition, AIDS Action Baltimore is able to provide relief to afflicted people when unexpected life issues arise.
Maryland ranks nineteenth in terms of population of the 50 States but is ranked ninth in terms of the estimated AIDS diagnosis rate according to cases reported in 2009. AIDS Action Baltimore is literally a life saver, providing essential services for people with HIV/AIDS.
JR: That’s very cool. HIV/AIDS is an issue that persistently affects all of us. Now, in your opinion, who is a true role model for the Leather community?
bj: Wow, there are so many to choose from! With respect to charity and fundraising, it would have to be Mama Sandy Reinhardt. With respect to history and essential reading, I would say Guy Baldwin and Larry Townsend. In terms of Community outreach and being a good Titleholder, I would say Jeffrey Payne – International Mr. Leather 2009 and Lamalani – International Ms. Leather 2009. With respect to having the patience of a Saint, hands down that is my Sir (grinning ear to ear).
JR: It looks like we share many of the same role models! Speaking of role models: As a role model yourself, what can every guy and girl in the Leather community do, on a day to day basis, to keep our community thriving?
bj: Simply speaking, just be true to oneself and respectful to others. Live authentically. Pass our traditions forward. Face every day with Honor, Integrity, and Respect for yourself and one another.
JR: When a Leather brother or sister comes to visit Baltimore, what stops should he include on his or her visit?
bj: Definitely check out the Leather bars within Baltimore City. We have the Eagle (www.thebaltimoreeagle.com) and Leon’s Leather Lounge (www.leonsleatherlounge.com). For gear and accessories we have Chained Desires (www.chaineddesires.com). If you are up for dancing, karaoke, or the occasional drag show then make sure to stop in the Hippo (www.clubhippo.com). Maryland, especially Baltimore, is filled with history and has loads of absolutely fabulous entertainment and eating possibilities! I would have to direct him to http://visitmaryland.org and http://baltimore.org so that he can get his fill of our great state!!
JR: Wow! I’m already planning my next road trip… and I hope I meet John Waters again when I visit! Now: Leathermen are often seen as the epitome of masculinity and sexiness. But to you, what makes a man sexy?
bj: Self-confidence. Definitely self-confidence.
JR: I agree. Boots and harnesses and jockstraps help too, I might add! So, boy joe, where can people meet you this coming year?
bj: Please visit my Facebook page “Mr. Maryland Leather 2012” to see a list of my current travel plans as well as pictures of my past adventures. Be sure to “Like” my page when you visit! Major events I will be attending this year include Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend (www.leatherweekend.com), Mr. SECC Leather 2012 (www.seccclubs.org), C.L.A.P. (www.hookerandboys.org), Baltimore Pride (www.baltimorepride.org), New Orleans Pride (www.gayprideneworleans.com), and of course I will be competing at IML (www.imrl.org).
JR: You‘re gonna be a busy boy this year! So, finally, here‘s a fun question I ask all the cool guys: According to my research, there are a few states with no Leather clubs or organizations, including North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, or… Hawaii! Now, granted, it might be tough-going to be sweating in your best Leatherwear where it’s always 80 degrees… but I was thinking of eventually settling in Hawaii, and bringing a bunch of dedicated Leathermen and leatherboys with me to start the first Leather club in The Aloha State. Are you and Sir Andy up for joining me?!
bj: ALOHA! That’s why they make Leather kilts! Talk about Leather and Lei’s. i am definitely on board! Jed, thank you so much for chatting with me. This has been totally woofy (just like you)!
JR: Awww, thanks joe!!! See you at MAL!