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No porn on TV, sure, but hotel will host ‘Mr. Leather’ show

Updated: July 3, 2012 10:00AM



Marriott boss Bill Marriott cited his Mormon faith last year when he announced plans to drop porn-video rentals from his chain’s hotel rooms, calling the move “the right thing to do.”

That’s porn. As for leather fetishes and fetishists, well, the International Mr. Leather Competition — catering largely to gay men wanting to explore their leather fetish — plans to move its titillating pageant from the Hyatt Towers, just down the street, to the tony Michigan Avenue Marriott next year. And the Chicago hotel’s operators are happy to have them.

“All politics is local, and that hotel wants more business,” says International Mr. Leather Coordinator John Krongaard. “They know exactly who we are, and I think that’s kind of neat.”

The conference isn’t exclusive to gay men nor to people who really like leather. Those with rubber and Lycra fetishes are welcome, too. There’s a leather marketplace at which people will be able to buy leather masks, leather floggers and leather ball gags, among other leather things, as well as DVDs of leather-fetish intrigue.

To understand International Mr. Leather better, consider the way Chicago DJ Ron Geronimo described to Gopride.com the scene at the gatherin’s 2011 Black and Blue Ball: “Hot and sweaty sex . . . meets the best cheesecake in the world . . . meets hairy muscle daddy groove . . . meets rawhide leather.”

Despite the anti-porn edict issued by Marriott, the 80-year old pal of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, before Marriott retired in March, Krongaard doesn’t expect any controversy over moving the convention to the Marriott.

Relocating the convention — this week’s edition is expected to draw more than 16,000 visitors to the Hyatt — made sense both for the leather fetishists group and the hotel chain.

Dan Preston, spokesman for the Marriott on Michigan Avenue, said luring the IMLC away from Hyatt was good business, a “lucrative” deal for the hotel.

“Personally, I don’t see a connection between the IMLC and taking porn videos out of the rooms,” Preston said, adding of the International Mr. Leather group: “We’re happy to have them.”

In March, Bill Marriott told the Associated Press that the Church of Latter-day Saints has had “a real problem” with the hotel chain renting pornographic videos and that’s what led to his decision to remove adult videos from rooms “in the next three or four years.”

“The church is very, very opposed to pornography, as it should be, and we are for families,” Mariott said then. “But the owners of our hotels were making a lot of money. In fact, the only movies that make any money are pornography. It was the right thing to do. The other side of it is if they want that stuff, they can get on the computer. So the demand for them has gone way down. It was a good time to exit.”

Marriott corporate spokeswoman Stephanie Hampton says Bill Marriott wasn’t available to comment about the Chicago Marriott hosting the International Mr. Leather Competition.

“We accept all business unless it could put other guests in danger,” Hampton said. “We’re a public company and provide public accommodations, and we embrace everyone as customers regardless of their sexual orientation, race or ethnicity.”

Hampton added, “But just because we [rent space to an event] does not mean that we support it or don’t support it.”



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