Leather and . . . Leather

A weekend of partying that will make you wish you had a leather fetish.

If you're a leather-fetish novice, here's a whispered tip for the seventh annual Cleveland Leather Awareness Weekend from the festival's Greg Erickson. "There's a CLAW by day and a CLAW by night," he says. "During the daytime, it's very vanilla, with vendors, silent auctions, and field trips. But CLAW by night is the dark side and the hard-core aspect of it."Now that you know the secret handshake, here's the weekend breakdown: It starts today at the Wyndham hotel (1260 Euclid Avenue; 216-615-7500) with an 11 a.m. registration of more than 2,500 leather fetishists from around the U.S. and Canada. The meet-and-greet session then morphs into a daylong series of bondage-and-S&M "skills workshops" on flogging, corporal punishment, piercing, fetish play, and other crowd-pleasers, before a 6 p.m. bondage-art show at the hotel.That's when the fest gets interesting. At 10 p.m., revelers can jump on Lolly the Trolley for shuttles to a gauntlet of gay clubs: the "Boots & Cigars Party" at the Shed (2901 Detroit Avenue; 216-771-7812); the "Bears Out of Hibernation Party" at Cocktails Cleveland (9208 Detroit Avenue; 216-961-3115); the "Sports Gear Party" at Club Argos (2032 West 25th Street; 216-781-9191); and the "Ride the Stallion Leather Cowboy" at the Leather Stallion (2205 St. Clair Avenue; 216-589-8588). The tour hitches to its post for the night at the Flex bathhouse (2600 Hamilton Avenue; 216-812-3304). "The guys get there. It's dark, and they can't see anything," says Erickson. "It's not like San Francisco, where you see people butt-naked on the street. We're not that extreme. It's still Cleveland, Ohio, after all."Saturday's agenda starts at noon with field trips to the Rock Hall, Cleveland Museum of Art, Christmas Story House, and the "leather-jacket tour" of several Cleveland neighborhoods. At 10 p.m., the club-hopping continues with the Leather Stallion's "Report for Duty/Uniform Party," the Shed's "Leather Unity Party," Club Argos' "Jock Strap Party," and Cocktails Cleveland's "Bondage & Discipline Party." Then it's black to Flex for more overnight S&M play. The fest winds down on Sunday with the 2 p.m. "Tits & Tatts Party" for breast-cancer awareness at the Wyndham and the 10 p.m. "Leather Tour of Duty" revue by the Leather & Rouge dance troupe at the Grid. "There's still that issue of 'What are the neighbors going to think?'" says Erickson. "But we're a laid-back group, who are throwing a big party to say, 'Hey! We're here for you.'" Tickets are $10 to $150. For a complete schedule of events, visit www.clawinfo.org.
April 25-27, 2008