We're often told to judge not, lest we be judged by others. Perhaps it's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it. In this case, it's the impressive lineup of judges who will choose Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2012. Notably, that lineup – for the first time – includes the current International Mr. Leather (IML), Eric Guttierez; IML first runner-up, Doug Pamplin; and IML second runner-up, Anthony Rollar, who is also Mr. San Diego Leather 2010.
And what criteria will they use to judge the contestants as they interview, model bar wear and jockstraps, and field questions in front of the full audience in full leather?
Rollar says he'll primarily use the interview portion of the judging simply to look for a contestant who stands out from the rest. Guttierez, emailing from his native France, says, ''What I'm looking for is somebody with a personality, some humor, and who is ready to work for the leather community. Somebody who knows that he is a real leatherman, that he is 'one from a hundred others' who can proudly be a friendly ambassador of the Mid-Atlantic Leather world's diversity.''
Guttierez adds that it's important to find someone with a personality strong enough to follow Pamplin. That's because Pamplin, while Guttierez's first runner-up, is also Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2011.
Pamplin is looking for the same thing. ''I am going to be looking for someone who is going to take the title further than what I've done,'' he says. ''I will be looking for someone to etch their mark into 2012, raising that bar a little more.''
Joining these three in judging the contestants are kinky icons from near and far. From D.C., there is Ted Clements, co-owner of the DC Eagle. Rounding out the East Coast representation is International Ms. Leather 2011, Sara Vibes of New York City.
''I am looking for an honest, loyal, smart, sexy and approachable – but humble – leatherman,'' says Vibes via email. ''Confidence is key, but so is humility and integrity. … Being a titleholder is not just about the sash. It's about being a representative, a role model, a mirror, and service to your community.''
Leather luminary and American Leatherman 2000 Dean Ogren hails from Chicago. And Jay Harcourt, Mr. Hayes Valley Leather 2005, will bring some San Francisco flavor to the affair.
Hayes will also be flipping, in a manner. Although he has plenty of judging history under his belt, his prior MAL service is as tally master for the judges' panel.
''This will be my eighth year at MAL – it's always on my to-do list,'' says Hayes, whose two tally master years at MAL are complemented by two in the same role at IML. But this weekend marks his first as judge for a major leather title.
''This is my first high-profile event,'' he says. ''But I'm not anxious. I'm excited. The judging panel is a great panel.''
As part of that panel, Hayes says he brings a sense of humor, but an even greater sense of respect for the community at MAL.
''When you boil it down, it's a contest. From the outside, it's a beauty contest in different drag, right?'' Hayes asks. ''But I'm looking for somebody who's not necessarily another pretty face in a nice harness. … The Centaurs put on a great weekend. It's a fun event with good people, and I'm proud to be a part of that. It's much more intimate than IML or Folsom. It brings together people who've been in the scene for a long time. It's a family reunion for me, really.''