tlc: year with
a leather club

a documentary by Randy A. Riddle


Interview Transcripts:
Franc S.


Franc S. -- photo (c) by Michael Cox  Franc moved to North Carolina from New York where he was a costumer for Broadway shows and network television programs. He has served as Treasurer of the Tarheel Leather Club and has been active with the club's fundraising efforts for local AIDS charities. 

All material (c) 1995, CCD. All rights reserved. 

RAR - You've been involved in the Leather subculture for some time. Could you tell me about your coming out and how the community has changed? 

FS - That's going to be a difficult one for me. I always kind of knew that I liked Leather/SM. When I was a child, we always played war games, and I always wound up being the evil Nazi torturer or the evil Japanese torturer; the only thing I really got upset about was the fact that in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, they can't grow bamboo shoots, so I could never use them, I had to use little twigs instead, but that's another story. It was always in the back of my mind. And then, when I got older, when I was eighteen or so, you could never go into a bar, and I was such a good little boy then - I was a first born and I was a good little boy because I didn't know any better - you could not go into a bar in Pittsburgh until you were twenty-one. However, you could go into the porno stores when you were eighteen. I kind of look older than I am - not much, but a little bit (laughs), and so I could get into the porno stores when I was sixteen, seventeen, but I didn't really attempt the bars until I was nineteen or twenty. So, at that point and time in the late sixties, early seventies, the porno magazines and the films at that point in time - basically had SM themes attached to them. They had the little boy being abducted and taken to God-knows-where and had God-knows-what done to him, and even the films had little SM themes running through them. I really enjoyed them - when it got to the point where they were both naked and sucking and fucking and doing their thing, that didn't impress me at all (laughs). I was more impressed with the fantasy and the mystique of the Top man and his bottom going through the ropes, as it were, and going through the lessons. So, I think I've always had that in the back of my mind. When I moved to New York, it took me a while. I didn't really meet a Leatherman, someone who I could trust and someone who I cared enough about to actually do the wild thing until I was twenty-three. You know, a lot of these kids nowadays are starting at thirteen and fourteen, I didn't. I started late, I started at twenty-three. But, I made up for it. Sure did. 

RAR - Is TLC the first Leather club you've been involved with? 

FS - I have been associated with other Leather clubs, but I had not exactly paid dues and that kind of thing except for GMSMA, which is not exactly a Leather club, it's more of a Leather organization. This was back in the early eighties when they first opened their membership to the public. 

RAR - How do you think Leatherpeople have changed since you first became involved in the subculture? 

FS - I have seen a change in the younger people, at least in the communities that I have experienced, not willing to participate, and want to just go straight from being a twinkie in a bar to being this Leatherman from Hell with all of this full leather that he bought at JC Penny. And believe it or not, JC Penny sells chaps - motorcycle chaps. They're not the best in the world, but they do sell them. I got their catalog the other day and I almost had a heart attack (laughs). What has happened is that because a leather jacket has become a fashion accessory, you see Sally Jesse Raphael running around in a leather skirt; I don't think she's a dominatrix, but I could be wrong - I have this feeling that those red glasses tell me that she's not. It has become such a fashion statement and because, unfortunately, a lot of our community, the Gay community as a whole, has died off, the older people have died off and people my age have died off, they have no one to look up to, no one to teach them and they just would prefer to have that "Leather Look", but they don't want to play with that Leather shit, they just want to look pretty, they want to go to the bar and still disco dance and do all of that stuff (laughs). I don't have any prejudice against young people, don't get me wrong, and I think the one's who are truly interested will come to you and talk to you about it. 

RAR - How do you feel about the way popular culture has recently taken on some of the accoutrements of the Leather/SM subculture? 

FS - I don't hate it. What I hate is the fact that people are looking at it as something horrible, that we are social deviants, that's what I hate about it. Madonna's doing it for sensationalism, I don't know if she does it in her bedroom or not - I don't know the woman that well. But, she's doing it for sensationalism to sell books and records - well, they don't have records anymore - cd's (laughs). But, I think, that's giving us a bad rap. 

RAR - Do you think that it takes away some of the meaning from it? 

FS - Not for the people who remember. Not for the people who try to continue the traditions. It takes away from... Well, down here, people in the bars... I don't want to say they're afraid of you, but they don't give you the respect that should be due you because their boyfriend just bought a whole outfit at JC Penny's, and they play at home with it and so they just, "Oh, honey, where'd you get your outfit?" and they start grabbing at you, which just makes me crazy (laughs). 

FS - TLC is extremely diverse. We have everything from white, white-collar workers to blue, red-neck, collar workers, every type of profession you can think of, from hairdressers to people that pave roads for a living. I was a costumer at one time and now I'm working in a tux shop, and I consider myself a rather good tailor. But, we've gone from that gambit to someone who is a waiter in a restaurant or a manager of a store. 

RAR - Since the club was formed, have you seen a change in people's reactions to you in public places? 

FS - Well, yes. I can only speak from personal experience, when I first came down here, when I would go to the bar, people would be rather wary of me. They wouldn't speak to me when I was dressed in full leather. It was a great advantage when you were going to the toilet, however, because, if there was a long line, it would part like the Red Sea, so you could go in there and piss because no one wanted to go into the toilet with you. That has since changed. They have gotten to know that we are real people, we are human beings and we don't force our lifestyle on anybody else. If someone is interested and wants to talk about it and wants to experience it, far be it from me. But, I don't go up to people and force, I mean, if they're talking to me and they see the way I'm dressed, they normally can put two and two together - not everybody - but most people.