tlc: year with
a leather club

a documentary by Randy A. Riddle


The Run

A "Run" is a term which originated among biker clubs.  "They all got on their bikes and they took off and went somewhere and had a big party," in the words of TLC member Stuart Norman.  "Runs" among Leather clubs are annual events, sometimes nothing more than a big party, that can include a banquet and awards.  "Some are much more involved," Stuart continued, "that really are mini-conferences, which have workshops for educational purposes and, of course, most of them offer some kind of entertainment." 

David Wr. and Bill Costomiris - photo (c) by Michael Cox

The Tarheel Leather Club refers to its "Run" as an "Anniversary Celebration" and it is an event which sums up the overall work of the group each year and provides an opportunity to invite members of other clubs some from as far away as California or even Europe to join with them each July 4th weekend.  TLCs Anniversary Celebration is a social event, but also might include workshops and demonstrations by national figures in the Leather/SM community.  The documentary combines footage from two different TLC "Runs", one featuring a workshop on constructing SM toys by member Stuart Norman and another that included a demonstration of safe flogging by International Leatherman magazine editor Joseph Bean and professional whip-maker Ruth Marks.  Also seen are excerpts from a demonstration on electricity play by former Drummer magazine editor Tony DeBlase. 

Discussion groups may also be a part of the TLC weekend; the documentary takes a brief look at one discussion on "SM and the Disenfranchised" that explored issues of race in the Leather/SM community and the lack of outlets for women in the community, particularly in the South.  Other discussion groups at TLC Anniversary Celebrations have examined issues of role-playing in relationships or directions of political activism within the Leather/SM community. 

For entertainment, the TLC Run features a staged "fantasy show" with awards given to the participants.  These staged fantasy scenes provide the audience and documentary viewer with personal statements, giving a glimpse of the different many ways that individuals approach Leather/SM.  Janet B. staged a "fire purification" ceremony that has roots in her pursuit of Native American spirituality.  Others might involve imagery of cowboys, the military, or a number of other scenes or give someone a chance to show off an SM toy (a Saint Andrews Cross or whip, for example) that they constructed themselves.  Member Kevin D. referred to the fantasies as "pieces of seven minute performance art" and Stuart Norman noted that SM has elements of theatrical performance, even when the performance is "just for two people".  TLCs fantasy show is typically the way that other clubs can get involved with TLCs run, sharing their vision of Leather/SM with their brothers and sisters. 

The Run ends with a banquet and awards ceremony.  Plaques are given to individuals in the community who have contributed to the work of the club or to Leatherfolk in a more general way.  Each year, TLC holds elections for its Executive Committee president, vice-president, treasurer, scribe, and pledgemaster a few weeks before the Run.  At the banquet, the reins are handed from one generation to the next, as the new Executive Committee is introduced and officially recognized. 

With the annual Run, the Tarheel Leather Club completes another circle one year ended, another beginning in a cycle that is not unlike the many Leather/SM clubs that have come before it and coexist with it today.