Where it all began… IML 23
photo credit: fetishmensandiego.org
In 2000 Michael Syrjanen and Eric Kugelman traveled to Sydney, Australia, in hopes to promote Chicago as a potential candidate to host a Gay Games in the future. While there they met Ray and Barry, the owners of Mephisto Leathers Sydney. Located on famous Oxford Street. Over the week long meetings with FGG, the men from Chicago formed a friendship and bond with the owners from Sydney. At the time, being ambassadors from Chicago, Eric and Michael encouraged Ray and Barry to become vendors at International Mr. Leather in 2001. Due to the extreme cost involved Eric and Michael offered to open their home to Ray and Barry, as well as providing them with transportation to the vendor mart at International Mr. Leather 2001, and Michael’s famous home cooked meals. Late one morning, Eric received a phone call from the Aussies stating that they would love to come and would Eric and Michael be able to receive their merchandise if they shipped it direct from Australia. In addition, they had contemplated bringing a contestant as well. They later decided that the cost and time involved in selecting a contestant was too extreme and it was suggested that Eric represent them and their store in the contest.
After some debate as to the response from the local leather community, Eric agreed. He saw this as an opportunity to expose the beautiful product from Australia to the world at large during International Mr. Leather.
Eric didn’t expect the IML experience to effect his life in such a personal and professional way. He soon learned that many involved in the contest have had similar life changing experiences. His great hope in having the MR.LEATHER64TEN Contest is affording another person the experience of a lifetime at IML where he hopes that they meet people who will impact their lives in a positive way and to build life-long friendships.