Up Your Alley and Toronto's severe case of kink envy By DREW Rowsome
MyGayToronto's publisher sent me a link to a story about San Francisco's Up Your Alley event, lamenting that Toronto no longer has an equivalent, or even inferior, event for us to cover. A quick google was a bitter reminder that the Church Street Fetish Fair was extinguished in 2010, rebranded as "Leather to Lace" (complete with inexplicable kiddie rides to entice a more family-oriented or "inclusive" crowd) and then just mercifully put out of its sanitized misery.
One of the saddest memories of my life is of a handful of determined kinksters scurrying up Church Street, dodging baby strollers and gawking breeders, in protest of 2011's new format. While Church Street still struggles to retain its gayness, its kinks have been condoized by the mainstream. Even the Black Eagle, once a monument to the most marvellously depraved delights, is now more known for its dance nights. Of course, as I reported way back in 2005, The Black Eagle was, and still is, Church Street's only legal dance floor, so the progression is sadly logical.
Logical and more lucrative. Toronto's leather/BDSM community still exists but it is far outnumbered by those who dabble, see leather as fashion instead of a lifestyle or sexual kink, or are mildly interested voyeurs. Northbound Leather, Toronto's purveyor of the best in leatherwear and accessories, no longer has a Yonge Street display window or entrance, and their signature annual fashion show has shrunk in size and influence. The Toolbox closed in August 2004 and The Barracks in August 2005, both former buildings are now torn down and slated to be condos. (If the main plot point of Poltergeist has any basis in reality, those soon-to-be built condos, on that sacred ground fertile with spilled seed, will rock.)
I assured our esteemed publisher that I could come up with a few words to defend Toronto's kinky honour and promote the next leather event. For a few years after the snuffing of the Fetish Fair, there were replacement, formerly complementary, events and surely there was one slated for 2017. Why had we not received a press release? And then there was the bleak thought that I couldn't remember the last time I received a press release for a leather event.
Google was no help (of course I should have realized if MyGayToronto.com does not have the listing, then the event just may not exist). Heart of the Flag Federation's website, only has information about their Toronto Bound weekend (which was in February) though they still pride themselves on hosting Toronto Leather Pride week, just no date or teasers. Spearhead has no upcoming events listed and the LeatherSir/leatherboy organization's website has not been updated since 2014. Three travel sites still recommend Toronto Leather Pride week as a prime destination, but have no specific dates attached, and all three boasted maps of the gaybourhood that were at least a few years out of date, highlighting bars that no longer exist.
There is hope: Central Canada Drummer Weekend was in April, a fact I learned thanks to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and their Kinky Jesus Competition, and Pack Weekend was at the end of July and, by all accounts, was a barking success.
It is a shame. The Fetish Fair was a lot of fun. Born of the wreckage of Folsom Fair North (disclaimer: my band Crackpuppy entertained at many editions of Folsom Fair North and The Fetish Fair and had a great time), the Fetish Fair was more titillating fun than hardcore kink. Yes there was public spankings and bondage, lots of nudity and revealing leather outfits, and multitudes of sex toys and fashion for sale at booths, but any demonstrations were all conducted discreetly in curtained off booths, and actual sexual contact was conducted tactfully in adjoining alleys or the occasional port-a-potty.
Perhaps that was the problem, our inherent Canadian politeness fearing frightening the horses (though there were horses available for use and I doubt they are easily frightened), so we toned it down, played it safe, bowdlerized the kinks just too courteously, so that the fabulous technicolour - emphasizing black and blue - fetishes became 50 shades of grey. For all the flaws of our US cousins, their brashness and flagrant self-promotion is admirable. I have kink envy. The splashy website for Up Your Alley proclaims:
Up Your Alley® is only for real players – and not for the faint of heart – where leather daddies rule the streets of San Francisco's South of Market district. Of course, if rubber, sportswear, biker gear, skinheads, punks, or any variety of built, hairy men turns you on, then we've got it. You won't find a filthier event in the States. If you're into it, there's a scene for you. So, don't get left out.
Located in front of the legendary Powerhouse bar, nearly 15,000 fellow leather men and fetish enthusiasts engage in BDSM play at over 50 adult vendor spaces! Spanking, punching, whips and floggers, bondage, domination and submission, creative watersports, toys and so much more are in full effect.
And 15,000 kinksters, furries, puppies, leathermen, porn stars and regular horny folk attended. Road trip?