Tony DeBlase (1942-2000) was a leather community pioneer and was one of the most transformational figures in its history.
DeBlase developed the contest and demonstration schedule at the Chicago Hellfire Club‘s Inferno, and he helped export those lessons to other, less experienced SM clubs. In 1982, under the name “Fledermaus,” DeBlase wrote a collection of stories titled The Fledermaus Anthology, many of which have become classics of the genre. As the founding publisher of DungeonMaster magazine, DeBlase pioneered the field of SM technique publishing. In 1986 DeBlase purchased the Drummer family of magazines, which reached their peak in power and influence by the time they were sold in 1992. DeBlase cofounded The Leather Archives & Museum (LA&M) with Chuck Renslow and served as Vice President of its Board of Directors from 1992 until 2000.
Among the many honors and awards given to DeBlase were NLA’s Man of the Year award in 1987, Pantheon of Leather’s Business Person of the Year Award in 1990, its Lifetime Achievement award in 1994 and the Forebear Award in 1997. He was also posthumously inducted into the Leather Hall of Fame in 2010. The honor DeBlase said he treasured most was the coveted Caligula Award from Chicago Hellfire Club for his service to the club in the development of Inferno.
DeBlase’s most widely celebrated achievement is the Leather Pride Flag which he presented to the world as a “proposed design idea” in 1989. Deconstructions and recompositions of the flag’s familiar black, blue and white stripes with a red accent — originally a heart — are common, but the design itself was accepted worldwide as introduced.
DeBlase died in 2000. A memorial celebration of DeBlase’s life was held during International Mr. Leather 2001. DeBlase was survived by his partner Dr. Andrew Charles.
The papers of DeBlase are held at the Leather Archives & Museum.
In 2017, the art installation known as the San Francisco South of Market Leather History Alley was installed; in it DeBlase (among others) is honored with a bronze bootprint displaying his name and a short statement about him.