2 min

Leather Ball moves

City strike throws wrench into yet another big gay party

CHANGE OF PLANS. The Leather Ball is the second major Toronto gay party to feel the bite of the strike this summer. The Beach Ball, originally scheduled during Toronto Pride Week, was postponed after city officials withdrew the event's permit. Credit: Ajay Bikram Thapa

No garbage pickup. No public daycare. No leather dances in parks. 

Toronto’s tumultuous city worker strike has taken a bite at yet another gay party: the Mr Leatherman Toronto (MLT) Leather Ball.

The Leather Ball, an annual leather party and fundraising event, was originally scheduled for the afternoon of Sat, Aug 15. It was supposed to happen in Allan Gardens, a spacious park near Carlton and Jarvis Sts. That is until MLT organizers realized how tough it is to organize a party in a city park during a city strike. When the strike hit everything organizers needed from the city, such as a permit to use the park and crowd control officers, was thrown into jeopardy.

Putting on their leather thinking caps, organizers decided the best solution is to move the event to The Courthouse, a glamorous dance club on Adelaide St West, south of Toronto’s gay village. 

“There were too many uncertainties,” says Robert Tomas, president of Mr Leatherman Competition Incorporated (MLTC). “It’s quite possible the strike could be solved next week but that doesn’t leave us enough time to comfortably plan an event.”

The Courthouse, though ordinarily a straight club, has hosted MLT’s leather events in the past. “They’re incredibly gay-friendly,” says Tomas.

Toronto’s city strike began Jun 22 when nearly 24,000 Toronto municipal workers walked off the job, putting a halt to city-run services such as daycares, recreation centres, park maintenance and garbage collection.

The Leather Ball is the second major Toronto gay party to feel the bite of the strike this summer. Promoter Joseph Patrick’s Beach Ball was supposed to happen on Jun 27 during Toronto Pride Week. The event, which takes place on Hanlan’s Point on Centre Island, a city-run space, was postponed because city officials withdrew the event’s special event permit.

MLT was mindful of this incident when making its decision to move the event, says Tomas.

And just because they don’t have a park doesn’t mean they can’t make one.

“We hope to have the balcony at the Courthouse filled with plants,” says Tomas.

Still, the original Allan Gardens party had its advantages. The Saturday afternoon party was to complement the Church St Fetish Fair. Sponsors were on board too. Steamwhistle, a Toronto-based brewery, for example, had agreed to sell MLT beer at cost so the organization could make proceeds at the bar. The same brewery was also willing to provide beer tents and service equipment.

The Courthouse would not give MLT a percentage of its liquor sales — it’s not customary to do so. However, the club has “given us a good rate to rent the space,” says Tomas.

MLT is a volunteer-run, not-for-profit, registered corporation that produces some of Canada’s largest leather events including “Resurrection” (on Good Friday), the Leather Ball (mid-August) and the Mr Leatherman Toronto Competition (end of November).

Each year the organization hosts contests for individuals wishing to compete for the titles of Mr Leatherman Toronto, Mr Leather Fellowship and Bootblack Toronto. Title winners are responsible for volunteering their services in the community for one year, from hosting and producing events to fundraising to being “leather ambassador” to the world.

MLT also supports a charity each year, chosen by the titleholders. The decision is based on the charity’s need for funding and the impact it would have on the community, says Tomas.

This year’s charity of choice is the home hospice program at Casey House, which provides care to people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.