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Latex trumps leather at gay-guy garbfest.

For years, Ric Scardino swore by leather jackets and chaps to define his he-man image on Cleveland's gay club circuit. But the latest trends in London and Berlin showed him otherwise: Latex is now coming out of American closets for this weekend's first-ever Mr. Rubber Cleveland pageant. "Rubber is just getting going in the States," says Scardino, who co-founded the competition with his partner, James Foster. "We decided to start the contest now so that, by the time it hits Cleveland in popularity, we're ready for it." Three days of rubbermania start tonight with a contestant meet-and-greet. Tomorrow night, a panel of judges will crown the winning competitor in a leather-free showdown emceed by Mr. Ohio Leather, Gregg Lakota. A congratulatory party closes down the weekend on Sunday afternoon. There will also be an auction of both rubber and leather attire to benefit Northern Ohio Coalition Inc., which funnels donations to nonprofit agencies catering to Cleveland's gay community. "We're asking anyone who's throwing out their old gear or giving it to a friend to donate it," says Scardino. "If you have a harness and you've outgrown it, or if you're lucky enough to have lost weight and it doesn't fit you anymore, someone will have a need for it."For leather fetishists who are reluctant to make the switch to rubber, Scardino argues that latex-based clothing is more comfortable to wear, even though a pair of rubber chaps can set you back $400, while its leather counterpart only costs $150. "I love it because it sucks everything in, and you look thinner. I never would have thought as much until I started picking up a few pieces of rubber and thought, 'This is nice,'" says Scardino. "It's like a second skin." The competition is at 10 tonight, 11 p.m. tomorrow, and 4 p.m. Sunday at Cocktails Cleveland, 9208 Detroit Avenue. Entry fee for contestants is $15, and admission for spectators is $5. Call 216-235-6375 or visit www.rnjleatherproductions.com.
Sat., March 1, 11 p.m.; Sun., March 2, 4 p.m., 2008

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