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Biker Bar

Author/artist Thom Magister, who got into the gay leather scene in 1951 and remained an active leatherman well into the new century, is best known for his essay on the 1950s, "One Among Many," in the great LEATHERFOLK anthology edited by Mark Thompson. In BIKER BAR he shares his memories of how the post-WWII biker bar morphed into the modern leather bar, profusely illustrated with full-color photos of 12-inch action figures outfitted as bar patrons. Thom was only 19 when he joined his first group of bikers, back in 1951 in Los Angeles. Most of the guys were ex-GIs, and the bars they hung out in were grungy watering holes for thirsty men on bikes, no questions asked. When Thom moved back to New York a couple of years later, he found dozens of biker bars around Manhattan. As in L.A., these were for men only, and it was impossible to tell at a glance if a given bar was gay or straight. In the 1950s bikers mostly wore denim mixed with Army fatigues and brown leather bomber jackets. The now-standard black leather motorcycle jacket was a luxury. Times changed, and by 1980 the traditional biker bar had morphed into the modern gay leather bar with only an occasional motorcycle parked outside. And the patrons' favored style had changed from the old casual, scruffy mix to gleaming, polished cap-to-toe leather. The biker bar had been a refuge for loners and outcasts, but the leather bar became a venue for parties, event nights, and contests. What had once been hidden was now proudly proclaimed. Today, in the 2010s, the classic leather look is giving way to newer styles, and in many cities the leather bar, too, is fading away -- pushed out by high real-estate prices and seemingly made redundant by the ease of Internet hook-ups. The leather/rubber/fetish tribe will no doubt create new ways for kinky guys to hang out together. And for the biker, there is always the open road.
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