tlc: year with
a leather club

a documentary by Randy A. Riddle


Interview Transcripts:
Robert M.

Robert M., TLC Member

Robert M. lives in Virginia and traveled all the way to Greensboro to be involved with the Tarheel Leather Club. He works in AIDS education and has served as TLC's "Member at Large" and unofficial historian. Robert is now with a club in Virginia. 

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

RAR - Tell me a little bit about how you became the unofficial Historian for TLC, and why you feel that's important? 

ROBERT - Well, it started after the first Stars and Stripes in Leather. We had a meeting for the Anniversary Committee to do the weekend for the 1992 event in September of '91, after giving us a little bit of a vacation over the summer, and we ran into the fact that we were trying to compile a lot of things, history wise. We had had a scrap book made by one of our members who had donated pictures that he had from the first year, starting back with the inaugural meeting, and we had some issues of our newsletter out for the event, but we decided that we wanted to do something a little more along the lines of getting a packet together, and I had been given shortly after the run, or it might had been at the run, a bunch of the newsletters starting from issue #1, and that particular summer I had Mononucleosis and was in bed for a month, and so I put together in plastic sheets the Tar and Feather issues for the first year-and-a-half and was collecting them from there. As I got my issues, I put them in the binder and plastic protectors so that they would be in about the best shape that we could keep them, and so I sort of inherited the scrap book and started scrounging up pictures from everybody and soliciting pictures from outside events that people were attending, and I did that through the anniversary weekend of '92, and we had all these scrap books and the books with the Tar and Feathers issues in them available for people to look at and get an idea of our history. 

I think it is very important myself to preserve history because it's too easily lost, and since we are kind of a underground sub-culture in a respect, no one is going to save our history for us if we don't save it, and I think since then I've put out several of the newsletters if people have requested it, either wanting to find out what was happening. I would photo copy some of those and send them on to the archives. I find it to be a very important thing. Fortunately, with being the vice chair of our anniversary weekend this year, and also being on the executive committee and having other duties, it was getting really difficult for me to do all three jobs at one time, and I requested that they make an officer position and someone doing it other than me. And really making it like the same things like the video tapes we made last year, saving Tar and Feather issues and keeping them in a format where people can get a look at them, making sure we do save our pictures because we have some very accomplished photographers in the club. I just use my little 35mm instamatic and do what luck I can. In all, I wonder what will be said about us a hundred years from now? As we look back some 30 years into the civil rights movement with the Afro-American community in the United States, and looking at their history they have more of an opportunity to preserve their history because it's in fashion. The leather community and the gay and lesbian community themselves are both still communities that are in fashion to hate and in fashion to despise, and I think the movement now across the board is we got to save our own history. That no one's going to save it for us. I know that there are several archives out there started both in the gay community and the leather community and at large, being that it does comprise itself of more than just gay and lesbian people. 

RAR - Let me ask you, where you live at and why you come all the way to Greensboro to become involved with TLC? 

ROBERT - My history from TLC, I joined almost 3 years ago. I had been working with the National Leather Association, Virginia Chapter, which is based in Richmond, which is 3 hours from Roanoke, Virginia, where I currently live, and it's an organization and this is a club and the basic difference is you can only belong to one leather club but you can belong to as many organizations in the Leather community as you (can). Basically an arbitrary line because some organizations are as active if not more active than some clubs. But it's a two hour drive almost directly south from Roanoke, and a lot of it has been that Roanoke is a very closed community. There is some leather activity there, from one end of the spectrum to the other, I mean I do know some people who get into some hard core SM, but it's very underground. You have to know somebody who knows somebody to get into the circle. And because of my position in the community as an Aids service's case manager, and one of the ten most out people in the City of Roanoke and the gay community. I've not really wanted to break into that area because it is too much of a complication. Here, when I'm in someone else's community I can be pretty much be free to act on my own. 

I think I was very lucky to have found the Tarheel Leather Club because I joined up without knowing anything about it. A friend of mine, actually an ex-lover, was one of the founding members and he recommended, "Well, they're only two hours south," so I joined this club before I even knew where Greensboro was. I'd never even been here before. So, I think I was very lucky in that respect, that I found a good group of people, and although sometimes we have our disagreements and fight like cats and dogs - what family doesn't fight - and this is to an extent to me, part of my family choice, since I'm not really close to my family at birth, for a number of issues, a gay and lesbian community being one of them. 

RAR - Let me ask you this, what aspect of TLC's work do you think are most important to you do you feel the club should pursue. 

ROBERT - Well, I know we have done some very good work politically, and definitely service-wise, but I think first and foremost our club needs to be a social support system for people like me, that do not have any leather support in their area. You know, when I lived in Los Angeles, I lived five minutes and over the hill from three major leather bars in Silver Lake, California, and I never got involved with any clubs because I had bars. I had friends that went to the bars regularly, I could go out on Friday night and usually see at least two people I knew from the area. In the last three years I've lived in Roanoke Virginia, I've not had that outlet available, and to me if the club is not a social support, not fine, then I lose a lot of my meaning and my needs. If in the course of it we are doing good things politically and good things socially and raising money for Aids service groups, I'm all for it. But my needs specifically are working with the social aspect and being able to get my needs supported and having some contact with people who are like myself.