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My grandmother on my dad’s side of the family often said to me as a child “ I love you”, but five minutes later was back to her penny poker ways.   My step-grandfather would take my brother and I out on a log ride on the farm attached to his tractor to shield us from the unbecoming ways of my grandmother and her penny-poker antics.  It was a hard-habit, for she was a “flapper” from the early 1900’s and my step-grandfather didn’t feel we needed to see these things.  This is probably more than you wanted to know but this leads me to the point about words without meaning.

I often hear the word “brotherhood” used so loosely in our community.  Brotherhood is not a loose “kinship”, nor is it loosely defined like what we do with “friends” on Facebook.  It isn’t something you discard when it is not convenient to you or your group.  It is someone who bonds with you that he becomes family.  The bonds of family is not the bonds of friendship. You cannot use the term ‘family’ like my grandmother used the words ‘I love you’.  These words must have meaning. After all, you took the time to let him into your family, otherwise it is not a “brotherhood”.  But unlike a family, you can choose who is in your group, but don’t take lightly that you can toss out a “brother’ like you can with friends.  He is family.

The term “brotherhood” is thought to have its first use  in the Middle-English as “brotherhede or brotherhod” during the 13th and 14th century.  The suffix “hod” originated as “head of” which became obsolete with modern English.  This word used during this period did not have the same religious meaning as used in biblical references meaning as in “brotherly love”; but rather would be a blood oath to each other that would take precedence over marriage or family.  It was a term, a bonding — belonging to warriors.

So in terms of modern day use, brotherhood has the context as it always has been used in combat even back to its origins, “to lie down and protect your brother as if your life depended on it”.  Unfortunately, since September 11, 2001 we have become a nation of…well shall I just say it, “pussies”.  We have been conditioned and made to be afraid to say to our brothers when they need guidance, help or be put in their place; but with love.  We work our way around the hard things, finding other issues that cloud the problem, we obfuscate that which needs to be said in order to ensure our acceptance by our community.

The young kinksters are looking at the ones they revere in their community, the mentors, the speakers and the leaders to lead by example.  But when leaders fail to say the hard things that need to be said to protect their family, forsaking the protection of the one who is in pain, preserving the family, the brotherhood and kicking the one needing guidance or help to the curb so as not to lose favor in the family order, we all fail as a community.

Recently, a local young man who was accepted into the family of other new leather titleholders, only to be kicked to the curb by his “brothers”, was failed by his community.  This young man has many issues that needed to be addressed, but his family was afraid to tell him the truth, give guidance, resources and point him toward professional help. The leaders failed to lead and should have done so in the name of brotherhood, but did not because of unfounded fear.  He did not experience any brotherhood in its non-religious meaning.  I dare say, none of these young kinksters saw any mentoring of brotherhood. The leaders led with collusion by supporting each other’s belief of the one who needed to be castigated from the community.  The leaders did not lead with core values and beliefs.  Leadership should never be easy; it usually is very hard, done with courage and conviction.

I am by no means casting myself as the all-knowing or an exhalted leader of the community.  I am forever a student in humanity but led with unshakable moral conviction and values.  This is my compass that never points to magnetic North but always true North.  And with the leather contest season in full swing, ‘brotherhood” cannot be bandied about loosely like “friending” someone on Facebook.  It must be lived, it must be exercised and it must be shared among the family.

So ask yourself, would you ever do that to your real family?  Would you not offer honest guidance or tell them the truth even if it hurts just to ensure that you protect them?  Why do we fight, argue or banish those we disagree, dislike or don’t feel they fit in after we have made them part of our family? Brotherhood is not easy.  It is not a Facebook friend, nor a person to hang with or go out to leather night at the movies with.  It is not a person that you dine with, have a beer with or always agreeing with.

The benchmark I have always used and continue to use is The Satyrs Motorcycle Club, the oldest continuously running gay men’s motorcycle club still going strong. The Brotherhood bonds formed by these men came from a tradition long established in military values and the warriors before them. They could fight, argue, disagree and passionately dislike each other at any given time.  But they always came to help and support each other for life, for they are family now and forever.

I have absolute confidence the Satyrs will outlast any gay organization for decades to come.  Because like all families, we should love each other and we will fight again.  In the end we protect our own for life, regardless of whether we fought and hated.  We tell each other the truth even if it hurts, guide each other when it is too hard to see what we don’t want to see, stand by them regardless of their weaknesses, and come together forever whenever called, even when the end calls upon us.

Being part of a Brotherhood shouldn’t be that easy…it should be hard.  It is a high standard by which few can know and understand. In our leather community, it should remain true to its 13th century meaning used by warriors. It must be lived like the true Middle English meaning. It is a brotherhood.

salton1  salton2  salton3

Today, we take photos with our cellphones, tablets and digital cameras. We post them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and dozens of other places. And yet, we forget to print them out, store high-resolution versions on our back-up drives and backup the backups. Because of digital, many of our memories are merely moments that will be soon forgotten and lost after posting.   And, no, things do not live on the internet forever, just the immediate future.

Several articles I have written previously, covered our kinky history. But recently I learned of another old club, soon to be folding, handing some of their club memorabilia and historical artifacts to former members. So instead of preserving it for a museum or archives, when that person dies, our kinky history dies also. No one will be left to tell the story for future generations.

So when a former member of a recently defunct motorcycle club recently brought oversized prints of photos with post-it notes for guests at another club’s anniversary party to help identify people in the photos; that made me smile. The club member decided to do what they could to preserve part of their history the best they could.

   salton5   salton4

A recent story buried deep in the news pages, jumped at me regarding some history of the on-going problems with the Imperial Valley’s Salton Sea with the smell, rotting fish, poor image and concerns of what to do with the water resources of the Colorado River and the Valley. The sea was created as a result of poor engineering and management at the turn of the 20th century to divert the Colorado River water to sunny Imperial Valley. But by the 50s, the Valley created a tourist resort town out of a local disaster. It was the hot place to be for hot sun bathing and recreational water sports through the 60s.  But by the 1970’s the stench from the alkaline and evaporation turned the Salton Sea into a wasteland.

Imagine my delight, when I ran across club pictures of my club brothers from the early 60s at the Salton Sea being kinky and horny at member’s shack in the resort town. The current news story about the Salton Sea problems and it being a former resort town that I read online along with old club pictures, now completed my understanding of the hot sexy leather biker men playing at the Salton Sea. A result of having our archives with the names of the men, the location and the date. The only part missing was the relevant story of the location during the 60s.

It is important that these memories and archives exist not for the current generation but for the future generations. All clubs whether new or old should follow this rule of thumb: store your hot pictures of your club’s kinky men in some defined method on your drives, then back them up and back those back-ups somewhere else again or more; and print an analog copy of it as safety. Write on the back of the photo, the people, date, location and any details and file with digital files.

Remember, the clubs and organizations that formed in the 50s to the 80s never thought about their future, their history, archives or about any historical preservation. The best way to celebrate our enjoyment of being kinky in our boots is to leave footprints behind that doesn’t make that mistake with digital capturing devices.

I was recently asked by a young man into leather about a story: he had heard that the “Muir Cap” or the “biker’s cap” was no longer made by the Muir company. This young man claimed that after learning that their limo driver’s cap was being worn by Leatherman, they discontinued the cap.  According to the Muir Hat Company, this is not true and they actually sell this particular cap on their website.

Like all stories passed down through the ages, some stories seem to morph over time, including the story of the Muir Cap.  Many of these stories were regional legends born from men who desired some kind of ritual, ceremonial process or a rite of passage.  There are many terms used for the biker’s cap including, master’s cap, old guard cap, Leatherman’s cover, top’s cap, Dom cap and a few others.

Before we discuss the evolution of the biker cap, let’s dispense with the stories in our community that we have not traced back to its origins.  Let’s begin with the often maligned used term of “old guard.” The term did not exist in the 50’s, 60’s or even for that matter most of the 70’s.  In my discussion with “The Leatherman’s Handbook” author, Larry Townsend, in 2004, I asked him about the use of the term “old guard” in our leather community.  Larry “explained that while his book does cover much about our history and some rituals we have developed over the last few decades.  But the Leatherman in the first few decades post World War II/Korean War hardly saw themselves as “old guards” at a time when the rules of the community were still being written.  First, by the Satyrs Motorcycle Club, then after the age of McCarthyism, other clubs and Leatherman wrote their own rules.

Even in Jack Rinella’s writings about the “Myths of the Old Guard”, despite expressing that it is just his opinion, Jack clearly makes an observational point that these men were living in the here and now of the time and didn’t think of themselves in terms of “old guard” since they were living the moment and the rules were being written with them.  While I don’t always agree with Jack’s writings and conclusions, his observation is in alignment with those I have interviewed that lived in those leather community formative decades.

More importantly is the historical context in which the term “old guard” actually refers to.  The actual first use of the term “old guard” refers from the early use of muskets in military combat from that of using the sword to do battle.  In the 1600’s the flintlock rifle used a 10 pound musket that was cumbersome to load with powder.  The accuracy of the shot varied as much as 18 inches within even 50 feet of the intended target.  The smoke produced in the battlefield obscured the targets and often required the use of the bayonet removed during shooting, or required hand to hand combat using the sword.  Hence the term “old guard” style used in battle using a sword versus a musket. 1

In the United States, the military created in 1784 the First American Regiment, The Old Guard was established after the Paris Peace Treaty of 1783, which stipulated that the United States maintain a military presence to protect land west of the Appalachian Mountains.  After the First American Regiment participated in the War of 1812, COL. John Miller designates the unit as the 3rd U.S. Infantry, in keeping with his status.  Miller was ranked the third most-senior officer in the Army at the time.

In the War of 1812, Napoleon used the term “old guard” as a system of ranking and standing within his military cavalry that he revered because of their skills, ability and knowledge in combat.

Napoleon’s Imperial Guard Grenadiers were his bodyguard, veterans of his best campaigns and kept in reserve; committed to battle only when things military skirmishes seemed their darkest.  Originally established in November 1799 as the Consular Guard the name was changed May 18, 1804. The Imperial Guard Grenadiers were physically larger in stature and their Bearskin fur hats added to that image. They were required to be proficient in reading and writing, ten years of service and good conduct records, a rule that was seldom broken. A line soldier could also join the guard if he had proven himself with bravery and recommendation from his commander

The Imperial Guard often missed out on Napoleon’s greater victories in battle because they were reserves and used as propaganda, but they also became Napoleon’s cherished sons. They were commonly referred to the nickname of Les Grognards, or the Grumblers, because they missed out on some great battles and were the only men known to complain in the presence of the Emperor himself. Regardless, they received better pay, rations and equipment then regular soldiers. Their ranks were also graded one slot higher than all non-Imperial Guard soldiers.

The Old Guard was decimated in the Russian campaign and Napoleon was exiled. But his regard for his Imperial Guard Grenadiers remained steadfast.  And when Napoleon returned, the ranks of the Imperial Guard swelled but the requirements to join were loosened due to the losses in previous campaigns.

At Waterloo, the Old Guard played their role, holding back in reserve as they always done previously. When Napoleon’s Middle Guard, a unit that comprised of veterans not quite the age and experience of the Old Guard, launched the final attack, the 1st and 2nd Battalions of Grenadiers formed a reserve line and when the Middle Guard broke upon the British line, they eventually fell back.  It was the “Old Guard” that held to their form as the final reserves and when it was called upon them to surrender, the resounding retort was “La Garde meurt, elle ne se rend pas.” or “The Guard dies, but does not surrender.” The Old Guard played a pivotal role in the battle.  When Napoleon was exiled for the second time, the Guard was considered a hotbed of Imperialists and was promptly disbanded by the new government.  The term was often used in military battle between those who fought with a sword and those who fought with a musket.

So those are the facts about “old guard” as a use of terminology in history.  One can argue that over time it developed in the leather community as a euphemism much like “elders”, “forefathers” and “pioneers” as a term of endearment.  However, this is rarely how the leather community use the term. It has taken on connotations of inflexibility and an unwillingness to change.

Regardless of how one uses the term “old guard’, without the historical context by which the term was historically used, the perpetuation of such stories proliferate in our community without regard to the fact that most of the ritualistic aspects borne out of the gay leather sub-culture is regional, personal and community-based.  Most of these developed ritual processes are of recent and mostly a public procession seen mostly through the leather-immersed community at leather contests that allow for transient rituals to be passed from one community to another.

A great example of this is the recent procession of the “fallen Leatherman” ritual observed at many contests with boots, the leather biker cap and gloves.  It is a ritual that is either accompanied by observance in silence, an anthem or a poetic reading.  This procession did not exist prior to 1999 and was not performed at leather contests or ceremonies.  This is an example of how the leather community creates or adopts a ritual. New Leathermen, unaware of the origins of the newly adopted ritual often assume this ritual has been going on for decades.

This is not an indictment against the development of such rituals in the leather community.  It is merely a statement that some events are taken as a matter of fact without regard to its origins.  The use of the term “old guard” very much evolved in the same manner.  No one in the peak of the leather sub-culture boom of the 1970’s or prior would have used the term “Old Guard”:  it is not how these men saw themselves.  This is not to say that some masculine identified men did not take on a ‘leather-community authoritarian’ role as the person who indoctrinates new leather boys or subs into a ritual of his own creation.  The self-anointing role as Master, Dom or Top or the mentor who bestows the “rite of passage” to his student who has earned his leathers is mostly a self-empowered process.  There are no elders or community leaders who grant such recognition, but rather it is self-declared through an evolutionary public process through dress and behavior. The leather biker cap may have evolved to this level today in some communities, but it is not how the leather cap came into our leather community historically.

Kate Kraft, a Yale journalist, writing her master thesis “Los Angeles Motorcycle Club, 1954-1980: Creating a Masculine Identity and Community.” wrote, “Leather apparel became an important part of motorcycle culture during World War II”.

The evolution of the “Master Cap” as it is commonly referred to today, allowed some gay men to form their hyper-masculinity through leather identity.  But it is often mistakenly identified as a rite of passage or historical ritual passed down. The truth is actually somewhere in the middle.  Kraft continues, “Prior to helmets, many officers in the Nazi army wore motorcycle caps made of leather as well or simply pulled the straps on top of their officer caps down for use as chin straps. The Gestapo wore black leather, perhaps setting the trend for the transition from brown leather to black leather in motorcycle gear during WWII.”

Tom of Finland drawings evolved to reflect the hyper-masculine look that black leather seemed to embody over brown leather.  Gay men copied that look in their public wearing of black leather.  According to Durk Dehner, Tom of Finland’s business partner, Tom’s experience of being in a position of power and loving another man made him want to “give homosexuals an identity that was fully man.”

The men, home after WWII and the Korean War, continued to reflect in their leather wear, the ever- evolving looks as drawn by Tom and conversely, his drawings reflected the evolving looks adopted by the masculine men identity. This symbiotic relationship helped feed the sub-culture and the fill the gap that masculine-identified men needed to counter flamboyant, effeminate gay male images they didn’t identify with.

After the death of disgraced, Senator, Joe McCarthy, the floodgates for the early social-clubs of the era, motorcycle clubs, continued to perpetuate this look.  Not only was it practical as safety gear, but it also worked well to differentiate these men from other gay males.

As men became more comfortable in publicly socializing in social club/groups, men were able to connect and self-select with those of like sexual kinks.  BDSM (bondage, domination and sadomasochism) exploration became more open.  BDSM practices are thousands of years old, but not until the adoption of leather and leather roles, did gay men make a tangible association to Gestapo-like role playing during sex.  Mind you, these men were fully aware of the horrific acts against humanity during WWII, but that was not the point during sexual role-playing.  It could perhaps be compared to the young boys role-playing superheroes.

As the leather community evolved, roles became defined and leather became an extension of this hyper-masculine role.  The “Master Cap”, and all that was associated with it, was part of the traditions of particular pockets of leathermen. Regardless, the traditions were developed as a personal journey, in-community and with regional influence. There is no single, unified leather culture. Rather, a huge number of different communities developed rituals to satisfy their physical, emotional needs and desires, creating part of the diversity of leather cultures we see today.

1.       Why Did They Do That? 18th Century Military Tactics by Donald N. Moran 1997
2.      Iron Men and Boundless Land Napoleon’s Old Guard Grenadiers by Lost Soldier , August 2011
3.      Kate Kraft’s, Los Angeles Gay Motorcycle Clubs, 1954-1980: Creating a Masculine Identity and Community.  Silliman College, Senior Essay Advisor: George Chauncey, History Department, Yale University April 5, 20102.
4.      Interview of John Laird, in the documentary film “Original Pride” 2004.
5.       Durk Dehner, interview. Tom of Finland, a gay Finnish artist, saw Marlon Brando’s film The Wild
One in the early 1950s and switched from drawing brown leather to drawing black leather, causing many of his European fans to buy black leather outfits to match his drawings.
6.      Allan Berube, Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two
(New York: The Free Press A Division of Macmillan, Inc., 1990).
 

sam browne1
The Satyrs Motorcycle Club will begin unveiling their year-long rollout of the 60th Anniversary celebration this summer. Included with that is the history of not just the club, but of how gay men lived in California from 1850 to the founding of the Satyrs during the heighth of McCarthyism.

Please join the Satyrs mailing list at http://www.satyrsmc.org to learn about gay leather motorcycle history and how it all began.
In 1914, then acting Long Beach police chief, Samuel L Browne, in a period of 3 transitioning police chiefs wanted to clean up the “undesirables” in the city. This included the ‘social vagrants’ as gay men were referred as. The Mayor hired actors Warren and Brown to go undercover who then arrested 31 men in the two gentlemen’s club, the 909 and the 96.

These arrests changed the course of gay history in the United States for the next 40+ years. It was also the first time the term “homosexual” became a household word as the lascivious details of the testimony in the trial was published in the Sacramento Bee. For up until then, life in the former frontier city of Los Angeles was pretty much okay with gay people. Albeit, gay people were seen as those who hung around socialites, were performers, artists, vaudevillian actors, eccentric and “others”. We had names such as pansies, nancies, queer and other simplistic terms mostly not with a sexual connotation.

Society hadn’t put the idea of “sex” and married it fully with the concept of “homophiles”. But in the medical and mental health societies, the sexologist studies of Magnus Hirshfeld, based on other German Psychologists published studies was beginning to makes its round in the United States in 1892 and the beginning of the 20th century. The term “homosexuality” a Greco-Latin term, was not coined until 1868 by a Hungarian doctor. By the 20th century, American doctors began to separate the concept of “inversion” and “homosexuality”.

The zipper in men’s pants were not sewn into every man’s pants until 1911. So gay people were seen as sodomites as a social category in annals of the American Psychiatric world. The laws on the books only referred to sodomy, not to any acts of fellatio. Remember, pants were not so easily removed and put back on for those cruising the parks of Central Park later renamed to Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles; or in any other parts of Los Angeles for that matter.

The 31 men were arrested based on acts of fellatio. Each person arrested by Warren and Brown, had a bounty of $15 a piece, equivalent to a total paycheck worth today of $10,850.00. Not a bad day’s pay for two actors in 1914. So as the stories unfolded in the newspaper, the lives of these men were forever destroyed. Your name, age, occupation, address, relationships and details of the arrest were published in the papers. You would lose everything, including family and house because of the shame. And as Americans learned what gay men were doing sexually, the pairing of the act of sex with the sexual orientation of man became forever cemented in the minds of the United States as people began associating the word “homosexual” in a negative context rather than a neologism.

John Lamb was one of the more well respected members of the Long Beach community who was arrested in 1914. He was on the Board of Directors for the Long Beach Savings and Trust located in downtown Long Beach on 1st Street. John Lamb, 41, shamed by what would be published in the newspapers as sensationalistic details; ran, fought police and ended up with torn clothes to avoid arrest. As soon as he was released on bail, he swallowed cyanide on the rocky beach of San Pedro. Because of the shame, a moratorium on poisons sold in drug stores was passed by Long Beach city council because of the terrified men who sought to purchase an easy suicide method.

By the trials of 1915 of these arrests, Americans from coast to coast, now understood the term “homosexual” and it’s now negative connotation. Because there were no laws on the books for fellatio, the charges were ultimately dropped and most were acquitted. But the damage had been done and laws were eventually created against fellatio in 1915.

Meanwhile, acting police chief, not a resident of Long Beach, cemented his reputation as a tough man with having “mid-western type” sensibilities, though he originated from Washington D.C. How he became acting police chief was just as interesting in a time where Long Beach was becoming known as “Iowa by the Sea” as a resort town. So while the pant zipper may have altered the state of gay men being able to have clandestine sex in parks without much fear, the incident and scandal in Long Beach, California, forever changed how Americans increasingly saw homosexuals as social vagrants for the next 40 years.

But things do come full circle eventually…for Samuel James Browne, Sr invented the leather accessory “the sam browne” worn as part of the leather fetish by gay men even today.

The story of Long Beach police chief, Samuel Lindsay Browne to be continued.

Back to the future

Posted: January 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

Bikers club members in Los Angeles

The iconic image of the Leatherman and biker was viewed and imbued by much of society as caricature of hyper masculine homosexual or the opposite of caricature effeminate man.  Yet, for the first part of the twentieth century, society did not know of the term “homosexual’ or what was an accepted homosexual displayed characteristic.

Up through the turn of the century, the effeminate man was often seen as an intellect, wistful, or enlightened in art and culture.  The homosexual man was a cosmopolitan man and accepted in society without regard to sexuality.  Society up through about 1914 did not know of the term “homosexual” and up until that time only considered same-sex sexuality as sexual inversion, more to do with cross-gender identification as opposed to the association of same-sex sexuality.

When leather arrived as a gay sub-culture in post-war United States, it was again an extension of the military all-males society developed under hyperbolic conditions of war.  Men in World War II wore leather bomber jackets in their fighter planes and bombers.  The men who flew these fighter missions were between the ages of 18 and 22, because of their lack of fear, feeling of invincibility and virility.  The military considered men beginning at age 23 were too old to fly fighter missions.  This in turn only strengthens the imagery of the strong, virile man who wore leather.

Satyrs Anniversary Photo

Because the United States was a massive war machine during World War II, little focus was given to the effeminate man either in entertainment, culture, arts, fashion and the aristocratic society.  After all, even women worked in factories churning out the tanks, guns and planes used during the war. The strength of the nation was the solidarity of men and women to fight the Nazis and Hitler.  But post-war that all changed.

The hyper masculinity associated with leather, captured in the art work Touko Laaksonen (Tom of Finland) showed Tom’s view of beautiful naked man, made even more sexy and beautiful by dressing him in leather.

Tom grew up in Europe, served in military during World War II and impressed with images of masculinity.  His previous views of homosexuality were that men were well dressed in fancy clothes and effeminate, reinforced by his meeting of such men in Helsinki.  This was to change later in his artwork though the well dressed man would then become ‘targets” of sexual derision than that of the provocateur.

In the late 40’s Berlin’s leather underground scene was burgeoning after years of repression by Hitler.  Dresden and Munich were still extremely repressive, whereas Berlin and Hamburg’s lax stance on the homosexual movement, social gatherings and sexual display in direct violation of penal codes in place were a result of agreements with the police and various gay organizations.  Leather was associated with the working blue collar class, military or a tradesman.

The leather clad muscular biker men of the 1950 have emerged as the personification of freedom, rebellion and masculinity in Western Pop Culture.  The sub-culture world of the gay motorcycle community was complete with its own code of honor, hazing and rituals much of which was developed from the communal enclosed societies that military service often provided.

Since Marlon Brando’s portrayal of a rebellious youth in the movie, The Wild One, the biker became one of American most powerful iconic image of twentieth century.  Though the fashion varied slightly over the decades from Brando’s character, the essence of masculinity remained much the same.  Even such portrayals in modern movies including, Easy Rider and The Terminator, the decades provided an imagery of independence, unattached and unhindered by social stigma.

A group of gay men in Los Angeles, young, handsome men, most of who previously served in the military often gathered for the usually youthful night of hanging at a local beer hall or someone’s home.  Sometimes the night of camaraderie and drunkenness lead to an evening of sexual group activities.  In November of 1954, after a night of drinking, the men sat around the pool the next morning nursing their hangovers and discussing their common link.  Motorcycles it was said was their common link.  The brotherhood of men began the formation of the Satyrs Motorcycle Club that day.

But understand why these men formed the group; we have to go back in time to see what life was like in those days.  So let’s go back in time to early Los Angeles history to see how we got to the formation of the brotherhood…

Iconic Gay Male Biker

By Garry Bowie

Writing a blog is a matter of consistency and discipline…oh, and time.  Back in 2000 when then Satyrs’ member Scott Bloom and I began videotape interviewing of all of our members to create an archival document of our elder members before time took them away along with their memories, we never envisioned the significance of that early effort.  Surprising to many, the original project never started off as a documentary film project. This was the second time “the day the universe changed”…at least for the Satyrs.

Joe Gallagher, Mr. International Leather 1996, approached the Satyrs in 2000 about submitting for historical deposit of our meeting minutes, photos and video interviews into the Leather Archives and Museum.  Scott Bloom was involved in the film industry doing editing and I had a small production company and sister video production rental company.  It then donned on the both of us that a documentary film was right in front of us, but how would we make this film?

After much discussion and with subsequent discussions with Joe Gallagher, our plans were to tell the story about the Satyrs Motorcycle Club of Los Angeles, the oldest continuously running gay organization, and the men behind the stories.  Our backdrop would be painted with the current events of times by each decade as we told the story from the beginning to the end.

Interestingly enough, both Scott and I no longer had an interest in creating an archival document for the Leather Archives and Museum.  Scott and I continued working the project over the months with the plans to eventually completed it for the club’s 50th Anniversary in 2004.  Neither of us had decided our roles in the filmmaking process other than the task at hand, including videotaping, researching, scanning, editing and other production work.  Joe Gallagher moved on to other interests and Scott continued honing the raw footage into a rough timeline.

Eventually Scott came out with a rough cut and we were discussing a title for the documentary.  I favored a film title with a secondary title. Scott favored a simple title.  This was the result of each of our experiences, Scott working in television and I having been a filmmaker and documentary filmmaker.  It was the year of the widely viewed documentary film “SuperSize Me” which had been nominated for an Academy Award.  I felt strongly about a main title and secondary title; and challenged Scott to see how Academy members will vote.  Having formerly been a member of the International Documentary Association and met past Academy Award documentary filmmakers, I knew that the Academy members often never watched a documentary film (not as popular in those days until Michael Moore and Rob Epstein changed that) and often voted simply by the sound of the title.

We were both on our phones to each other watching the Academy Awards live on television.  Scott was rooting for SuperSize Me and I had no favorites other than something with an elaborate title.  Then the nominees were announced; the winner: Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids.  Scott moaned loudly over the phone…I yelped, “Yes!”.  To punctuate my point, the previous year’s Academy Award winner was, The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara.  We then decided over the phone, Original Pride: The Satyrs Motorcycle Club.

One of my favorite old shows was a show presented by science historian, James Burke entitled, The Day the Universe Changed (subtitled “A Personal View by James Burke”) originally broadcast in 1985 by the BBC.  In the United States the 10-week hour-long series was broadcast October 13–December 15, 1986, on PBS and was rebroadcast on The Learning Channel in 1993.  I point this out for one reason, in doing the research about our Satyrs Motorcycle Club, the internal history led me to the external history of the Los Angeles and the world.  In order to get to the beginning, I had to go back in time to find what caused the shift in local and world views on gay men by the early 50’s.  In fact, the research for Los Angeles took me back to over 150 years.  History that created forever the changes that affected the world, some of it by societal views of the time and some forever forged in time, unknowingly, by these men.  I assure you, not one of these fine men of the Satyrs Motorcycle Club are aware how they changed the universe.  I was aware of our modern historical significance of the gay community but not to the extent that I am so wildly excited in completing the next chapter in the storytelling of the Satyrs.

The new documentary is a five-part series, an anthology of the complete record of the club, the men, the culture, the community of Los Angeles and of the world.  I only have a main title at this point, titled: The Long Road Forward.  The secondary title will eventually come later. It will be a fascinating ride for all of us, especially if you follow this blog/journal as I discover fantastic historical significance to our modern daily lives.  The film’s first episode is entitled, “The Brotherhood“, a term that’s been around since about the 1200’s. The film should make it’s world premiere in September 2011 at Badger Flat.  That’s not much time to get the thousands of photos, slides and documents scanned. Nor to transfer old 8mm films, record new interviews of the remaining surviving elder members and stitch the rich Los Angeles history into the fabric that formed the Satyrs.

This will be a long fast ride into the past.  My challenge will be the discipline needed to post here an entry of discovery, story telling and documentation of findings.  Just the little bit that I have uncovered in researching this more in-depth follow-up documentary to Original Pride is exciting. It is sort of what I imagine as an archaeological dig would feel like, finding those treasures.  I hope you will follow this journal and invite other friends to subscribe to the blog-journal as well, as I post new discoveries or insights.  The future posts won’t be as long as my first entry, but they will be exciting, educational, inspiring and have historic photos and videos attached.  If you’re a history buff, you’re in for a treat!  If you’re a member of the gay community,I know you will learn about modern history that 99.9% of our community doesn’t even know.  The first pushback from oppression started several decades before the Stonewall Riots. It was called the Los Angeles donutshop riots.  But you’ll have to follow along to see how all this connects to the Satyrs Motorcycle Club.

Nice thing about time…we didn’t have this capability to blog/journal to the world in 2000 as we created the first documentary film.  Scott became the director of Original Pride. Now, you have the opportunity to participate in the making of a documentary in a way I don’t think has ever been done before.  Your comments and input will even shape each documentary episode.

Technology can be great, but the downside of it all can be that is could all be lost forever in the digital 1’s and 0’s of the universe never to be seen again.  This is my attempt to ensure that this history is never lost, digitally, analog or otherwise.  Now let’s go change the universe….