You might expect the incoming president of the Centaur Motorcycle Club to have a closet full of leather uniforms and accoutrements. Truth is, Glenn Mlaker doesn't have all that much. Beyond his shoes and an occasional vest, Mlaker wears very little leather on any given day, including any day over the Centaur-sponsored Mid-Atlantic Leather (MAL) Weekend, of which Mlaker is a co-chair.
So does the lack of leather seem a bit odd? It shouldn't.
"You don't have to wear leather to take part in Leather Weekend," Mlaker says, sitting in his windowless office at TitanBar, which he owns. "That's the great thing about the leather community -- people don't look down on you if you're not wearing leather, as long as you have an open mind about those who are." Most of the expected 5,000 MAL participants, of course, will dress in their finest leather gear -- or at least in some form of manly uniform -- especially for Saturday night's Leather Cocktails event. On that night, Mlaker will be among them.
"It's one of the few nights of the year that I'll actually wear leather, but probably just my vest over a T-shirt, and a pair of jeans."
Leather Cocktails is the traditional event of the weekend, bringing together leatherfolk and friends old and new. It was some 25 years ago that Centaur MC took over from a ragtag group of New Yorkers, transplanting an annual leather social to Washington. A full weekend has sprung up around that one event, to make MAL Weekend the largest event of its kind in the country after Chicago's International Mr. Leather (IML). It's now anchored by the Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather pageant, which this year will crown its twentieth winner, who will go on to compete in Chicago's event over Memorial Day.
"There are many different aspects of the leather community, like women's groups, S&M groups, motorcycles, clubs, or just being around like-minded men," Mlaker says. "I wear leather because it's part of being a motorcyclist, you use it for protection from the weather and protection of yourself."
Not that he's trying to deny the obvious physical appeal. "There's nothing hotter than a guy in leather," he says.
Mlaker came to identify with the leather community nine years ago, after dabbling in "every scene," from summering in Rehoboth to clubbing every weekend. He soon joined the Centaurs, a traditional leather/Levi gay organization.
"I was in a fraternity back in college," he says. "And this is sort of continuing being with a group of friends in my adult life." The three-decades old Centaur MC is a private social club much like a fraternity -- though there is no official rush, members must be invited to join. You don't have to own a motorcycle to be a member, and only about half of the members do. And yet many still ride, including Mlaker, who owns a Honda Shadow 750.
"There's nothing like the sensation of riding a motorcycle in spring," he says, "when you can smell the rain coming and flowers in bloom."
Leather Weekend is the biggest event the group organizes. "It takes a lot of people to put on the event, and we couldn't do it without them," Mlaker says, who co-chaired this year's event with Larry Barat and Mike Dembski. There are at least 100 volunteers directly associated with the Centaurs, along with assistance from other local organizations, from the Renegades Rugby Team to the D.C. Bears Club and the D.C. Boys of Leather. Centaur MC will make a "large donation" based on proceeds at the end of the weekend to Brother Help Thyself.
"Our main focus of the weekend is to throw a party, a gathering of friends," says Mlaker. About a third of these friends are local, with another third coming from around the Mid-Atlantic region, and the rest arriving from farther afield. And while the three days from Friday to Sunday are packed with activity, Sunday is the most-anticipated day, with the Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather Contest, where between eight and 12 contestants will be judged on their attitude, personality and how they wear their leather by a panel that includes the reigning Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather Alvin York, International Mr. Leather John Pendal, International Ms. Leather Tammie Nelson and Brother Help Thyself's Larry Stansbury.
This year's ceremony will be held at a new, grander venue, Almas Temple, owned by the Almas Shriners, with an Egyptian theme appropriate for the temple's Arabic-style architecture. Even better, the site is in new-boot-walking distance from the weekend's host hotel, the Washington Plaza, as well three of the bars associated with the weekend, the D.C. Eagle, the Green Lantern, and Mlaker's own TitanBar.
Mlaker has volunteered with Leather Weekend for years, though he's never competed at its pageant. He was crowned Mr. D.C. Eagle in 1999, and went on to place fourth out of 62 at IML that year. "My days of parading around on stage are long gone," he says with a laugh. These days when he's not busy with the Centaurs or MAL -- and he always is, of course -- you might find him swimming with the D.C. Aquatics Club, the city's gay swim team. Or at TitanBar and Hamburger Mary's, where he manages both venues. "It's not always easy running a gay business," he says. "Every day's a challenge." Same goes for MAL.
"I just want everyone to come and have a good time over the weekend, and have no problems," Mlaker says. "And no snow! It can be cold, but no snow."
For more information about Centaur MC's Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend, visit www.leatherweekend.com.