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The Leather Journal publishes Issue #1 in May, 1987

By April 30, 1987

Dave Rhodes
There were five Leather/SM clubs in Los Angeles in 1987 plus several motorcycle clubs. The Gay men's Leather/SM clubs were Somandros, Avatar, Disciples of DeSade, the Original Leather Masters Club of Los Angeles, Ledermeisters and Knights of the Second Liberty. The Lesbians had  Leather and Lace. LA Janus was pansexual, but was about 90 percent or more heterosexual. The uniform clubs were the Regiment of the Black and Tans B & B Corps and Corps of Rangers. LA had a Knights of Malta chapter and Illustrated Men, a national club, was based in LA. Among the motorcycle clubs were Oedipus, LOBOCs, San Andreas, Pacific Coast, Blue Max, Satyrs, Warriors, Saddleback...
I had served two years as recording secretary for Somandros and had been elected club president in the early Fall of 1987. Several of the members of Avatar produced a small Leather/SM newsletter, Shackles, that was sold in a few of the local stores for one or two dollars a copy. This publication was basically all text and was photocopied on both side of four or five letter size pages and covered some of the basic club and community information in Southern California with an occasional tidbit from other regions of the country.
It usually sold out within days. To this date I think I saw only one copy.
Louis Jay (not his real name) was vice president of Somandros and lived in Long Beach. Ever since I joined  Somandros in 1984 Louis and I were the closest of friends. Not only were we club brothers we both were employed at Frontiers. I was the advertising director and Louis was the typographer.
In Fall of 1986 Louis and I had discussed the idea of publishing a small publication for clubs that included photographs of events. We talked to several people about the idea, but most of them said that it would never work. After all, a publication, Club Scene, out of Texas tried and did not last a year a couple of men informed us. A couple others were skeptical, but said it could be worth a try.
I was already successful at Frontiers earning $63,000 in 1986, so why should I rock the boat by trying anything that most people figured would fail.
When I took over the advertising department at Frontiers the publisher was ready to close the weekly publication. The man who founded Frontiers, Greg Carmack and I hit it off well the minute we met in 1985. He sold the publication to Bob Craig after the second or third issue, but stayed close to Frontiers because he considered it his "baby." Greg, Louis and I talked Bob into continuing Frontiers during a barbecue at his home on Labor Day, 1985. The magazine was five weeks late and only 28 pages thick including personals.
I talked Bob into setting what seemed to be some astronomical goals at the time. Maybe he agreed to them because they seemed virtually impossible, and if they were met, he'd certainly be in condition to meet his part of the bargain. One of those goals was to reach 100 pages based on 55 percent display advertising and 45 percent editorial copy. We hit 104 pages with the 1986 Gay Pride issue! Bob gladly paid up.
If my life has been about anything, it has been about pulling off the impossible. Like the 1969 Mets. Those who know me have heard a hundred-thousand sports analogies, so I may use them freely here. Whether or not most of the community likes sports, and I know that most hate them, individual and team sports reflect just about every aspect of life.
I had my tongue up just about every nasty butt in LA cleaning up messes that were made. Advertisers were getting bills for ads that promoted events that ended up occurring two weeks before the magazine hit the streets. There was a lot of cleaning up to do, but I got it done. I was determined to make Frontiers a winner and would not quit until it was!
Louis and I had our first meeting at his home on a rainy Sunday afternoon at his place in Long Beach. We drafted ideas out in pencil on several pages of paper. We came up with one scenario that had 24 pages and another with 32. American Foothill Publishing printed Frontiers and we knew that the publication was printed in eight page "signatures." We had not even talked to any potential advertisers yet, so we were clueless as to how we were going to support the magazine. We pondered several names and The Leather Journal was one of two or three that were still on our minds after that first meeting.
After the meeting I was a little bit more excited. I was single, Louis had a lover and had to travel 30 miles each way to work - in LA traffic. The burning to see something to promote the clubs and events was still there. I determined that if we were still interested after the meeting that I would pursue it.
I also owned the stat (photo reproduction) camera that Frontiers was using. I did the halftones for Frontiers and made money doing that as well as sell ads for them. We got permission to use Frontiers typesetting equipment and one of the drafting tables at Frontiers. I, in turn, gave credit to Bob Craig on some of the stats that we made for Frontiers. We were to do the work after hours.
During mid-March I sold the first ad for The Leather Journal. It was on a Saturday afternoon that I talked to Jim Ward who owned Gauntlet, Inc. a few blocks down the street on Santa Monica Blvd., He agreed to run a one-sixth page ad. It took very little convincing.
In late March I filed the proper fictitious name statements and opened a checking account with $1,000 on April 1. We got bits of news from several clubs in the area and a few from San Francisco. I announced that we were starting up a publication for clubs at The 15 Association's anniversary banquet in February. Tony DeBlase, who had just purchased Drummer Magazine was one of those we talked to about what we were doing.
I'm not sure what he thought, but we told him that we were not out to compete with Drummer. Our focus was on club and Leather community news. We would run features, but we were not in competition with him. I'm not sure if "yeah, right" was what he was really thinking, but he did not try to squash us.
I have been involved in publishing ever since I was a young child. I have delivered papers, sold subscriptions, been a sports editor of a small town publication and was editor of my college paper in my senior year. I knew damn well that one of the most vicious fields of competition was publishing! I was a play by play sports announcer for seven years and had my own half-hour Friday sports news show for three years. Television is even more vicious. The competitiveness goes from publishers all the way down to the kids delivering papers from their bicycles. I have seen and partaken in some real doozies. I've been on the winning and losing ends in the same. How was I to expect this level of competition not to take place with us and Drummer. They could have nuked us at any time they wanted in the early days. They had the contacts and printed on better paper than we did. It is a real credit to Tony DeBlase for not killing us when he had the opportunity to do so.
Ever since, we have not tried to bury his or any other publication out there. I did have a feud with one columnist for about three years, but that got settled and neither publication threatened the other during that whole little skirmish.
I believe that when one is given a break and that person is presented the opportunity to give someone else a similar break later on that there is a responsibility to do so. I remember when John Birch was starting Metropolitan Slave. He was just like us. "Here are these big guys - how do I fit in" must have been his thinking. I approached him with open arms. His magazine is filling a need quite nicely. We were good friends. The same is true of Andy Mangels and In Uniform Magazine based in Portland, OR.
In the whole time we have been in business we have never done anything to try to diminish Drummer or anyone else. We were not going to try to reach the top of the mountain by digging shovel full by shovel full to bring it to sea level. Instead we climbed it. Those who climb the trees of life are winners - those who chop down the trees of life in an effort to get to the top are losers. This adage is true in every aspect of life and applied to the notorious feud in which I partook. I can say that the only time that The Leather Journal assumed the role of being a loser was when we participated in it. I won't go into it, but almost everyone who reads this will know what I am talking about.
We did not know what to put on the cover of Issue #1, but Mikal Bales, owner of Zeus Studios graciously offered the use of a photo of one of his models. The man was HOT! We were given a handful of black and white photos of J.D. Slater. We selected one with his hands bound in front of him and a rod placed between his elbows and his back. The cover was produced on 50 pound book stock, not thick gloss like everyone else. The reproduction was absolutely horrendous. I'm surprised that neither J.D. nor Zeus sued us.
We printed 1,000 copies at 32 pages of Issue #1. We were tipped off to a few stores nationally and got them to carry it. Many places sold out in a few weeks. Virtually no one knew about us, but a mailing to all the clubs we knew of had them sharing the information with other clubs.
We had almost enough ads to pay for printing the first edition so the remaining costs of shipping and postage were covered by over-the-counter sales. It was small, the cover was a disaster, but in its first time around The Leather Journal was a success!
One of the first contributors to The Leather Journal was Daddy Bob. He had several poems appear in the first few issues and his first The Wearin' O' The Hides column appeared in Issue #2. It has been in ever TLJ since. We were wanting someone to be able to lampoon the idiosyncracies of the Leather community without alienating everyone in the process. Daddy Bob asked me how far he could go. My reply was to "skewer the sacred cows that take themselves too seriously and touch on the every day foibles of every day leather life." One thing we would not do is name names.
To this day The Wearin' O' The Hides is one of the most popular and also hated columns that appear in The Leather Journal. Beyond Daddy Bob's worldwide following of boys, the column is liked. One of the individuals being "skewered replied after a couple of Daddy Bob's jibes responded, "That column is dangerous!" Assistant Editor Luke Owens' reply was, "dangerous to whom?"
When reading the synopsis of each edition of The Leather Journal take note of the first appearances of these Leather community leaders. No one outside their local area would have had a clue who 95 percent of these people were in 1986. Only a few of these were active in 1987. Some were still in high school or college back then. This is only a small fraction of the people who have become nationally visible in the Leather community during the past ten years. Names like Brian Dawson, Durk Dehner, Susie Shepherd, Bill Costomiris, Jan Lyon, Mark Frazier (both of them), Joseph Bean, Cindy Bookout, Lenny Broberg, Amy Marie Meek, Sky Renfro, Lee Willis, Frank Nowicki, Johnny Grey, Woody Bebout, Scott Rodriguez, jay wagner, Kay Hallanger, Jeanette Heartwood, Race Bannon, Barry Douglas, Jack and Tom Stice, Michael Horowitz, John Siracusa, K.T. Chase, David WW Walker, Cirby, pat baillie, Guy Baldwin, Sarah Humble, Irwin Kane, lance britain, Lolita, Jill Carter, Philip Rubin, Dave Rhodes, Jeff Henness, Cara Hanes, Gary Chichester, Dean Walradt, Dustin Logan and Bob Ewing, Roger Axline, Jim Richards, Steve Wearden, Joe Potter, Justin Charbonneau, Susan Wright, John Thatcher, Joi Parker, Daddy Bob, Leon Marfel, Hawk Brooks, Rico Ware, Shan Carr, "D" Cannon, Bob Donaldson, Philip Turner, Jim McGlade, Clive Platman, Trevor Jacques, Joe Ricci, Jose Ucles, Graylin Thornton, Bob Reite, Tammerlayn von Hohenzollern and Kit, Audrey Joseph, Todd Nelson, Viola Johnson, Dino Rosie, Dragon, Janet Blevins, Luke Owens, Robert and Mary Dante, Chuck Higgins, Daddy Flo, J.D. Buchert, Glenda Rider, George Nelson, Ryan Johnson, Emerson Briney, Jan Hall, Queen Cougar, Les Robinson, Wayne Griffin, George Cameron, Jo Arnone, Thom Dombkowski, Jeff Rose, Leslie Anderson, Dan Noel, Peter Fiske, Jeff Tucker, Ed Tobin, Andy Mangels, Donna Shrout, Henri ten Have, John R. Owen, David Lessner, Greg Lowe, Sallee Huber, Rick Gonyo, Gil Kessler, Ruth Marks, Michael Geinzer, Boots Adams, Don Bastian, Daniel Sonnenfeld, Pat Sanchez, Aubrey Hart Sparks.... The list could go on.
Pick three or four of your favorites from this list, notice where they first appear, then follow the path of their star as it crosses the Leather  community's horizon. Then think of how these people impacted your life. This will help you visualize the picture I saw when I founded The Leather Journal - and it will help tell what it's all been about.
I'm sure that several people will be surprised how little mention they received in this 10th Anniversary edition. It is not because we wanted to cut anyone off, it is because the Leather community's base of contributors is so large that it is impossible to give each of them the space they deserve in this kind of publication. It's like looking at the tallest Sequoia tree from a few feet away then realizing how small it is compared to the rest of the world when looking out the window of a plane while flying over it at 37,000 feet. Not only does the tree look like a small dot, but there are thousands of others the same size.
There are two books that I plan to write. Both relate to this in a different way.

The Leather Journal began with its first Issue in May.
A photo of one of, if not the, the hottest and sleaziest porn stars to ever live, J.D. Slater supplied by Zeus Studios, graced the front cover of The Leather Journal, Issue #1. The first Rope Rap column that taught basic lessons in rope bondage and knot tying by Papa Bear appeared. An interview with Tony DeBlase appeared. A feature on Los Angeles' Leather life named clubs, bars, and places of interest. Dave Rhodes' editorial stated the purpose of The Leather Journal. Photo coverage of LA Gay Rodeo was tantalizing.
The first display ad sold in The Leather Journal was a 1/6 page to Gauntlet, Inc. on page 9. The S&M Time Machine series by Gary Taylor first appeared with art by Cavello supplied by Zeus Studios. Chris Andrews' Total Impalement was the Feature Story with art by Mark Frazier. Daddy Bob Allen's poem, Bambi and The Wearin' O' The Hides appeared in Issue #2. Dave Rhodes wrote a short story Ice Fantasy: A Cold-Hot Night in New York City. TLJ's first Club Directory included about 175 clubs.