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.
material (c) 1995, CCD. All rights reserved.
- 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?
- 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.
- Is TLC the first Leather club you've been involved with?
- 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.
- How do you think Leatherpeople have changed since you first became involved
in the subculture?
- 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.
- How do you feel about the way popular culture has recently taken on
some of the accoutrements of the Leather/SM subculture?
- 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
- Do you think that it takes away some of the meaning from it?
- 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).
- 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.
- Since the club was formed, have you seen a change in people's reactions
to you in public places?
- 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.