|The Social Pillar of GMSMA|
In 1980 Brian O. placed an ad searching for men who were interested in exploring s/m in a non-competitive, non-bar setting. His idea was that stereotypical s/m physical appearance, and whether or not one played publicly, should not be a prerequisite for belonging to an s/m organization. His first interests, according to the ad, were to have social events and parties. He goes on to discuss other aspects of his s/m concerns on education and politics. We have come a long way since then.
In the early days, when the membership was under one hundred people (in fact in 1985 there were only 70 members although we did get 200 people at programs), membership required attendance at three out of four consecutive meetings. The membership secretary knew almost everyone. It was a different atmosphere from today when we have over 450 members scattered throughout the country. It was easier to have events and socials on an almost informal level. Back then there was no formal Education Committee, although there were workshops and seminars. Many of these had a social flavor to them. Our social endeavors depended on many other committees and their input.
In 1985 we started LeatherFest which remains our only major public event, Leather Pride Night having become a community-wide project. LeatherFest was at the Spike for two years, at Tracks in 1988, and then at the Eagle until 1994 when we used the LURE. The event is educational as well as social, with a number of committees contributing to the success (Education, Membership, and Special Events). Our vice-presidents have been in charge of coordinating it for the last two years. This year we will put together our 10th Leatherfest. The event has taken on a life of its own, and each year is better than the previous year. In 1986-88 GMSMA held picnics, which were a lot of fun, complete with contests and games. When the site became unavailable, it became very difficult to do these anymore; however, it may be something we should revisit with a new approach. In 1984 and 1985 we co-hosted the Mr. NY Leather Contest; then the name was copyrighted by one of the winners, and new organizers were found (we were not asked to participate).
We decided to try play parties in January and March of 1989. They were attended by an average of 65 people and held at Paddles. However, they were only marginally successful financially. Voyeurism seems to have been the order of the day, as few people wanted to start playing first. Considering the small profit and amount of work involved in organizing this type of event, the Board decided that since people wanted to watch rather than play, a dungeon demo was a more efficient expenditure of time and resources. The idea of trying them again has come up from time to time. While it may be worthwhile, no one has come up with a workable solution to the inherent problems of play parties. I'm sure the discussions will continue.
The Special Events Committee was formed in 1983 to plan and produce events that served a number of purposes. A revenue source; an educational outlet (e.g. Demos); and a social function (e.g. Anniversaries). Dungeon Demos served as social functions as much as education ones. There's no way you can get that many people in a room full of hot s/m action without inspiring folks to fraternize with one another. To prevent things from getting out of hand, we developed monitoring to make sure people didn't get too familiar right there on the dungeon floor. Years ago, if a member wanted to get involved in a demo, all he had to do was speak to the dungeon master, who would see what could be done.
The Mineshaft played a major role in the social life of GMSMA in the early days. Many events were held there, as well as weekly Friday night workshops which gave participants the opportunity to have a hands-on experience of some technique taught at the Wednesday program. In 1982 we held a Bizarre Bazaar there. That was GMSMA's first community event. It was similar to our Saturday LeatherFest event at the Community Center. There was a marketplace where many vendors and organizations had tables. There were also fun and games including a whip-cracking Santa with a grab bag. In the years 1983-85, we held the School for Lower Education at the Mineshaft, which was essentially a demo.
In June of 1984 we organized the first Leather Pride Night. Until 1992 it was our annual gift to the community, raising thousands of dollars for Heritage of Pride as well as for numerous other worthy charities. One of our past chairmen, the late David Weinbaum, was extremely involved in Leather Pride Night when it was a GMSMA function. He also led the move to make LPN a community event and to develop it into what we know today. LPN is now organized by a committee of which GMSMA is a member, in addition to LSM, The Eulenspiegel Society, NLA-Metro New York, Defenders MC and Excelsior MC.
Our 10th Anniversary, a major event, was held in 1991. It was a great success. The program booklet, put together by a number of people, is must reading for anyone who wants to know about GMSMA's past.
1987, 1993, and 1994 saw our priorities shift to our political side with our involvement with the Marches on Washington and our work with the international SM/Leather/Fetish Celebration. With these big events behind us, we can start to reexamine our organizational goals, one of which is sharing a strong social base both with our membership and our friends in the s/m and mainstream gay community. Let's explore our social purpose and try to develop some new and innovative ways to help our members get to know each other and know us.
-- Philip D.
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