Towers of the Lake
The Story of Great Lakes Leather
By Rob Ridinger
for Larry Marks
Additions to this archive Jim De Long,
Use and reproduction by permission of the Leather Archives and
The complex and colorful history of the Midwest Leather
community as often been focused on cities such as Detroit,
Chicago, Minneapolis, and St Louis, creating a skewed picture of
the developments and contributions of the past of the region. A
major center of leather in the eastern Midwest the history of
Cleveland’s ( now well in to its fourth decade) is not widely
known outside of the State of Ohio.
The beginnings of leather organizing in Northeast Ohio came in November 1971,
with the formation of the Unicorns MC, part of a general pattern of the leather
community structuring taking place across the Midwest in the early part of this
decade. In the January 1972 issue of Wheels, the magazine issued by Cycle MC of
New York city ( and the de facto journal of record for many leather clubs prior to
the creation of the Leather Journal ), printed the first public notice of the founding
of the Unicorn and its debut on the national scene, written by the first president
Ralph McGraw .
Their statement of purpose was “ Unicorn MC is a club for gay men in northeast
Ohio who own and ride motorcycles. It welcomes inquiries of membership from like
men who wish to contribute to the well being of both the club and the gay
community in general” The men of Unicorn quickly become active leaders in leather
organization within their region.
They were one of nine clubs that created what would be become the Mid
American Conference of Clubs at a meeting held on April 28 1973. This
meeting was held during the “ 2 becomes 8” run run hosted by Second
City MC in Chicago. The Unicorn MC run, “Rites of the Full Moon”,
conformed to the older of an outdoor bike run as originally done by such
groups as the Satyrs in Los Angeles.
The Unicorn celebrated their 34 annual run in 2005. Among its distinctive
features ate the traditional Great Unicorn Steak roast, with all attendees
being given own steak to grill. Their colors show a circular black field
bearing the head of a unicorn in profile. The newsletter took the name of
the Unicorn Horn.
Unicorns celebrated 50th anniversary this year. Happy 50 years in
• The next group to emerge was the Stallions, formed October 1972 by Bob Hunker
( born March 2, 1927 died March 23, 2009 ) Al Brightman and Doug
Amberman. Taking as their home bar The Leather Stallion on St Clair ave, the
western theme was continued with their October run, which they names Autumn
Stampede. Their insigna was an outline of the state of Ohio edged in black with
a black horse facing right and the word Stallions above it. The horse theme also
echoes in the name of the newsletter, “The Stallion Stall “.
• Their voice was heard on the national stage as well, as witnesses the letter of
support that appeared in the third issue of the then-new Leather Journal in
November 1987 by the Stallions Vice President. Unusual events sponsored by
the Stallions over the years included Pub Crawls throughout northeast Ohio and
an Easter function involving chocolate in unexpected shapes. By 1990, the club
had regained much of its own old energy, as was evident in the article done by
the Leather Journal on the eighteenth Autumn Stampede. This article also notes
the twentieth anniversary of the Leather Stallion bar and the involvement of
clubs from Pittsburgh and Columbus. The Stallions celebrated their own
anniversary of Twenty years as a club at the 1992 Autumn Stampede Oct 9-11.
The 1980s witnessed the coming of three new leather organizations in the
Greater Cleveland area.
First were the men of Excalibur who in November 1980 joined the
Unicorn MC and the Stallions in using the Leather Stallion as their home
Their colors were the most ornate yet designed by a Cleveland Club,
taking the form of 2 black srcs edged in yellow bearing the words
Excalibur and Cleveland in white above and below a square black shield
edged in white whose lower corners were rounded which had a small
point in the center of the bottom edge.
The shield bore a yellow eye with a white circle as a pupil, from which
yellow diagonals descended from left to right of an upright yellow
sword. As of 2000, the colors of Excalibur were still hanging in the front
bar of the Leather Stallion even though most of their members had died
by that time.
In the early 1980s Al Kraudelbach formerly a member of The Conductors of
Nashville, came to Cleveland, He carried his leather life north with him and
gathered a group of friends to form another leather club for his new city in
They drew on Cleveland’s distinctive skyline as inspiration for the name “ Tower
City Corps”. Their white and red colors took the form of a triangle, with the
lettering “Tower City Corps “ split on the left and and upper right fields
“Cleveland Ohio” across the base of the outer triangle. The inner triangle was
filled by a line drawing representing Terminal Tower, the tallest building in
downtown Cleveland at the time and the cities de facto logo for many years.
While as president of Tower City,
Al Kraudelbach served as president of the Mid American Conference of Clubs
from 1984 to 1986. After his death his vest was framed by the Conductors and
hung in their home bar. The Chute for many years.
Another group which flourished briefly in the city during the early 1980a was
the North Coast Knights, whose members attended the second anniversary of
the Crucible MC in Pittsburgh in March 1984.
The 1980s closed with the birth of a new group focused on leather and
uniforms that would quickly become well known across the Midwest and
affiliated with the American Uniform Association.
The Rangers were incorporated on January 6th 1989 with the purpose to
promote leather/uniform spirit, to support needs of the larger community ..
And to strengthen the leather/uniform community of Northeast Ohio. They
held their first Bar Night January 28th raising money for the local AIDS hospice
group in Northeast Ohio Coalition. The first issue of their newsletter, The The
Ranger’s Report, appeared in June 1989. Several founders crafted a heraldry
unlike any that had been seen in the city before. Using a bright combination of
green, red, tan and silver and a rectangular panel. Their colors bore five red
stars in the upper right panel representing the five founding members, while
the large red star in the silver outline of the state of Ohio stood for the home
city of Cleveland. One of their members, Gregg Lakotta, competed in the 1989
Drummer contest in San Francisco holding the titles of Mr. Leather Stallion and
Mr. Gay Cleveland and Mr. Ohio Leather 2008. This appearance took the club to
visibility on the national scene within the first year of its existence. An example
of the innovative themes used by the Rangers can be seen in the Court Marshall
at Fort Adams event. This club night was held on November 17th 1991 at Adams
Street in Akron. Participants were required to attend in uniform “or be confined
to the brig.” The club was later nominated by the Akron gay community as one
of its favorite non-profit organizations.
During the tenure of the American Uniform Association, the Rangers also served
as hosts to the 19th Annual Review, held on October 11-14, 1996 in Cleveland.
Mirroring the public image supported by their tan club uniforms, their first run
was named Esprit de Corps I, held from June 19th to 21st 1992. This event
commemorated the club’s third anniversary. The Rangers second run, Esprit de
Corps II in 1993, featured a cow theme.
Although active elsewhere in the state of Ohio, with chapters in Columbus
and Toledo, the black and red symbol of the Trident International was not
seen in Cleveland until 1991, when a member of Trident Toledo moved to
the area and obtained a charter from the organization’s clearinghouse.
The chapter was active in the city for a few years before dissolving.
Titles and Events
Mr. Leather Akron
2011-James V. Jones
2012-Rocky Joseph McCombs
Cleveland was one of the first two eastern Great Lakes cities to send a
contestant to the International Mr. Leather contest. Marty Donley, sponsored
by the Leather Stallion, walked the boards at the third IML competition in
Tom Kosinski was sent by The Vaults to IML 1982.
In 1983, Will Cheeks – Mr. Ohio Leather, backed by A Man’s World,
qualified as a semifinalist, while his successor to the Mr. Ohio Leather
title, Steve Boger, represented the city in 1984.
There was no candidate from Cleveland at IML in 1985, reflecting an
almost total absence of Ohio titleholders that year.
The new millennium brought many more to the IML arena:
2001: Mr. Cleveland Leather 2001 Dennis McMahon
2002: Mr. Cleveland Leather 2002 J.D. Hart
2003: Mr. Cleveland Leather 2003 Ranger Scott
2004:Mr Cleveland Leather 2004 Mike Craig
2005:Mr Cleveland Leather 2005 Clay Angus
2006: Mr. Cleveland Leather 2006 Robert Bess
Produced by Laws Leather
2008: Mr. Cleveland Leather 2009 Lekc Zhadanov
Mr. Ohio Leather was reborn in 2008 by our 2005 International Mr.
Leather Bootblack Boo Boo and club owner Brian Lyons.
Mr. Ohio Leather titleholders
2008: Greg Lakota
2009:: Lekc Zhadanov
2010 Jim De Long
2011 Den Daddy Mike Greisinger
2012 Julian Basak
2013Rocky Joseph McCombs
2014 Steve Bianchi
2015 Kelvin Davis
2016 Joe Dubrovich
2017 Formerly known as Knotty Rob
2020 Carlton Nash
2022 Don Schilds
2023 James M Dixon
Ohio Titles competitions
The lone exception was Michael Maier, Mr. Spurs Leather, sent by the bar of the
same name in Cincinnati, who reached the semifinals at IML 1985.
In 1986 the state went totally unrepresented.
This was resolved in 1987 when former contestant Tom Kosinski returned under
the aegis of the Leather Stallion and
Hide Park Leather. The Stallions and Hide Park sent Dan Davis to Chicago in 1988
as Mr. Full-Leather ’88 , where he reached the semifinals.
In 1989, one of the founding fathers of the Rangers, George D. Roscoe, who had
earlier qualified as the second runner-up for Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather, was sent
by his club to Chicago, where he too qualified as a member of the semifinalist
pool at IML.
The new decade of the 1990s began with Tom Kosinski once more
representing the Cleveland leather community at IML, this time sent by
Excalibur MC. In 1991, Josh Williams appeared under the sponsorship of
The Fraternity. Between 1992 and the end of the century, no one from the
northeast Ohio leather community appeared onstage at IML. During these
nine years, the center of leather activity in Ohio shifted away from the
northeast, with clubs and bars in Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati
continuing the titles of Mr. Ohio Leather and Mr. Ohio Drummer and
adding such new titles as Mr. Ohio Valley Leather.
Iron Eagles Canton Ohio
After a charter group of sixteen men began in October 1998 to form the first
Leather/Levi club in Canton, The Iron Eagles, Inc. is now a non-profit corporation
located in Canton, Ohio. The first officers were elected in November 1998.
Presentation of colors were held in March 1999 at their Home Bar, The 540 Eagle.
The 540 Eagle was destroyed by a fire on June 27, 2005, and after over 19 months
of being homeless, The Iron Eagles have landed, as the Club Membership voted to
make Daddy’s – Akron their new home bar beginning February 3rd, 2007.
The purpose of the club is to maintain an organization to further the ideals of
leather brotherhood and friendship, and to promote social and charitable
The club accepts full members from a sixty mile radius, which includes the
Northern Ohio areas of Cleveland, Akron, Canton and Youngstown.
Mr. Cleveland Leather
This dry spell for the leather world of Cleveland ended with the coming of the new
millennium. On February 24, 2001, during a competition at the Tool Shed/Crossover
club, Dennis McMahon, holder of the Mr. Northeast Ohio and Ohio Drummer 1999
titles and former member of the board of directors of the LGBT Community Center of
Cleveland, became the first Mr. Cleveland Leather. Coverage of the event in the local
newspaper the Gay People’s Chronicle noted that the creation of the title “puts
Cleveland back on the map as a leather community” and was intended to continue the
revitalization of local leather life and leather/levi/uniforms clubs “for the benefit of
the entire leather community”. The event was founded by David Laws of Laws Leather,
his life partner Greg Ammell (who would die in July 2003), and a group of their friends.
Mr. Cleveland Leather continued through 2006 and last run in 2009
Mr. Cleveland Leather Title holders:
2001 Dennis McMahon
2002 J D Hart
2003 Ranger Scott
2004 Mike Craig
2005 Clay Angus
2006 Robert Bess
Reborn Mr. Cleveland leather Title
R.& J Leather Productions
2009 Lekc Zhadanov
Rebirth or Mr Cleveland
Produced by Mr Gregg Lakota
2013 James Orosz
2014 Ben Feathers
9-16-2016 thru current
Ownership of Title to Rock n Roll City Sisters Inc.
Produced by Gregg Lakota
2015 Warren Stauffer
2016 Knotty Rob
2017 Josh Cleveland
2018 David Reed
2020 James Orosz
2022 Martin Basch
2023 Matt Fuerst
During the run of Mr. Cleveland Leather Gregg and David 2001-2006,
produced and sponsored another Northeast Ohio title holder.
After a few runs Boo Boo brought home:
Great Lakes Bootblack 2004 Boo Bo
International Bootbblack 2005 Boo Boo
McMahon stated that his personal project was setting up a program for hepatitis
B testing and prevention due to its highly infectious nature. The contest program
bridged a knowledge gap for many attendees, stating that twenty years before
“The leather community …was making an impact for the benefit of the entire gay
community. The onslaught of AIDS impeded the clubs’ activities and forced them
to re-focus themselves.” The program also cites three reasons for the creation of
the competition. Two of the goals were to sponsor the winner in the international
competition and to bring together various organizations and businesses in
Cleveland’s gay community.
Later that spring , McMahon served as co-founder and president of the
Cleveland Leather Annual Weekend (C.L.A.W.), a 501c(3) public charity that
rose quickly to national prominence through its sponsoring of what he and his
colleagues termed a “no contest” event. The contents of the weekend range
from educational programming to parties and tours of the region, emphasizing
that leather sexual activity should be safe, sane and consensual. C.L.A.W.
swiftly grew into one of the major leather events of the eastern Great Lakes
region. CLAW has outgrown 3 hotels and it’s new home is the Cleveland
Hilton Inn Garden, approaching its’ 10 anniversary April 2011, and has
donated funds now exceeding a quarter of a million dollars. CLAW has been a
phenomenal success and has also spun off an additional National Leather
Charity CLAW NATION with parties across the US.
As of Today CLAW has donated 969,500.00
The first decade brought additional leather contest and winners. R n J
Leather productions produced
Mr. Flex Leather
2008 Winner Jonnie Boy Birdsall
Mr. Cleveland Leather Bear
2009 Matt Stearn Dog Tag
Jonnie boy went on in 2009 to win American Leatherboy ABW.
Matt Dog Tag went on to Ohio Valley Regionals in 2009 to win OVR Leather
Bear and competed at IBR San Francisco Ca 2010
The new millennium also brought 2 additional and new leather clubs
2000: NAIL New Age in Leather
Ohio Boys Of Leather