We’re coming to the home stretch of my overbooked-weekends start to 2011. I still have a weekend at Disneyland and a one day trip to Denver, after which I have a few uncommitted weekends. But first, there is this weekend’s trip to San Francisco. San Francisco is the site of two “15 minutes of fame” moments in my life and this weekend there are follow ups to both.
Way back in 1993, shortly after we helped organize the Front Range Bears, I asked the club if they would allow me to represent them in San Francisco at the second International Mr. Bear contest. It was to be a whirlwind weekend anyway (I was in the middle of a monthlong business trip to Texas with only one weekend “home” and I chose to go to San Francisco), so adding the contestant required appearances wouldn’t be that big a deal. It turned out to be an extremely fun weekend and I met several now-long-term friends then. I was not the crowd favorite in the contest, yet surprisingly they called my name for the “International Mr. Bear” title. Yes, I jumped like a girl. Unfortunately there is video; fortunately there wasn’t youtube back then.
Following in the steps of the leather world, the presence of a titleholder at the bear events was a promotional opportunity at the time. I was traveling quite a bit for my work at the time, so I was able to visit events in several cities. While the first Mr. Bear focused on fundraising activities, I found my niche in networking – connecting nascent bear clubs with each other to share ideas, build “brother club” relationships, and create organizational structure. In the Front Range Bears, we joked that I was the Johnny Appleseed of bear clubs, spreading copies of our bylaws around the country.
After my title year, we continued to go the San Francisco bear event annually for several years. Sometimes I would help out behind the scenes and sometimes I would just sit in the audience, but always had a good time. I haven’t been to the event in a few years, so I was considering it for 2011 anyway. When the local club announced that this would be last year they would be doing the event, I decided that I had to go and be a part of it one more time.
The other moment occurred in 2006, when we were living in San Francisco. Anyone who followed my blog about our move to the city in 2004 knows that it was not an easy adjustment for us. Among my efforts at getting more involved in the local culture was a run at the South of Market Bare Chest calendar (www.barechest.org). One of our friends was on the calendar and he said it was both rewarding and a lot of fun. To make a long story short, I was selected for the 2007 calendar (which is of course produced and sold in 2006) and followed our friend Barry in being the September calendar man. It turned out he was right, in spades. I had participated in raising money for the AIDS Marathon program through donations from family and friends the year before, but this was different. Raising money for the AIDS Emergency Fund through the calendar was much more immediate, more personal. It was a matter of explaining the mission to individuals and raising $100,000 twenty dollars at a time. It was also about hearing people who had been directly helped by the Fund tell their stories. And of course, it was about being invited to events I would not have done on my own and having special access at events I would have gone to anyway.
One of the guys from the current calendar (another September man) is organizing a Bare Chest Calendar Alumni group as part of the 25th anniversary of the calendar. One of their first events is a beer bust in the Castro (at the Edge) on Sunday. I am looking forward to seeing some of the guys again and meeting the organizer Darren, with whom I’ve been chatting online for the better part of a year.
Unrelated to San Francisco, but still in the “15 minutes of fame” category, the last few weeks my profile has been in the ‘top 10 most popular’ list on one of the bear social networking sites. I’m still not sure what caused that, as I hadn’t logged on for a week or so prior to that appearance. It’s certainly a timely ego boost, as every time I log on there are dozens of messages from guys I’ve never met. The design of the site requires that you access the messages sequentially, so the minor downside is that I have to view all the messages to see if any of my current friends are sending me any news. That means I can’t hop on and off quickly to chat before I go to something like a dance. Still, I want to thank all the guys who have voted me up there.
So now I’m off to catch my flight and enjoy my 16th minutes.