Conversations with Leather
Featuring: Nicolas Mann
An interview reprinted from the South African Leathermen – Cape Town Chapter Facebook page
By Jaco Lourens – Chairman, South African Leathermen – Cape Town Chapter
Photos and text courtesy of Nicolas Mann
For those who don’t already know, please tell us about yourself and your history with the leather community.
I am an artist, writer, photographer, and most importantly: a dreamer. I’m the author and Illustrator of Night Duty and other stories, published through Bear Bones Books, an imprint of Lethe Press. Unfortunately, my history with the leather community is limited. Sometimes I’m like the kid looking through the candy store window in that I can see all the delights but unable to go in and taste anything. So I do go to leather bars, but I’m more of an observer. I’ve always loved seeing men in their black leather. When I turned 30, my partner at the time gave me a beautiful pair of chaps, handmade by Frank Gohey of Male Hide Leather in Chicago. I was bartending at The Manhandler Saloon at the time and they went over really big. My ass never looked as good as when I wore them.
What or who got you started in the leather and fetish community and for how long?
What got me started in Leather was Tom of Finland, and the influence of his wonderful artwork. Those perfect, hung men in shiny black leather opened my eyes to the world of leather. As a teen, I’d see ads of his artwork in the back of Screw Magazine. I knew I was gay as a kid and those drawings excited me. When I came to Chicago in 1974, my first partner was a neighbor of Chuck Renslow and his then partner, Dom Orejudos, who was an artist who was better known as Etienne. (Another male erotic art luminary.) Etienne gave me a lot of great advice which I feel lucky to have gotten. Then I met Stan Black, who was a member of the Chicago Hell Fire Club. He was a great guy and really quite sweet. He was always teasing me about how great I’d look hog tied or being in his sling.
Well, that always scared me but I really liked him and he eventually talked me into it. He was able to get permission to let me visit their clubhouse and he got me into the sling and blindfolded me. I was shackled and he’d use different textures over my exposed skin. It was really something and I totally enjoyed it.
Which club or bar are you affiliated with?
I’m not affiliated with any club or bar. When I lived in Chicago, I’d go to the Gold Coast, which was on Clark Street. Also the original Touchés and the Readout. Now it’s the Eagle and Cell block.
Tell us about your charity involvement and goals.
The only charity organization I’m involved in is one called Save the Children, www.savethechildren.org/usa. They work to break the cycle of poverty and improve the lives of children by ensuring they have the resources they need. Save the Children’s early childhood education, literacy, physical activity and nutrition, and emergency response programs reached more than 140,000 children and families in the U.S. last year.
Who is the most influential person in your life and why?
I have to say that my partner, Matthew, is my muse. He is a big influence in my life. In my drawing style, I was influenced by Tom of Finland, Etienne, Rex, and believe it or not, Aubrey Beardsley. Writing style, there are too many to mention. A little bit here and a little bit there.
How long have you been writing and can you tell us which is your favorite book so far?
I was writing as a kid. In high school, I had a poem in the school yearbook. I have been seriously writing since 1994, when I had my first story published by Handjobs Magazine. I have many favorite books but Dracula, by Bram Stoker, has to be my all-time favorite. Right now I’m reading a lot of LGBT fiction.
What would you say are the most important strengths to have as a kinky author?
Imagination, of course, good word selection, and a good sense of humor. You must have an open mind. Be confident with yourself and try and think outside the glory hole. You’ll never know who or what’s beyond, if you don’t take a peek.
What do you see for the future of books with the arrival of the Internet?
There will always be paper in one form or another but hardcover books will become like treasured relics. Even now first editions of classic literature can cost a fortune. More and more people are buying eBooks, which doesn’t rely on paper.
What advice can you give a writer who wants to pursue that career?
Write, write and write. After that re-write and re-write. To be a writer, you have to write. Write about anything and every day. As with anything, practice makes perfect.
Tell us what your favorite piece of leather is and why?
Chaps have to be my favorite piece of leather gear. They accentuate the crotch and ass and who doesn’t like looking at a man’s crotch or ass? And of course, the classic leather jacket. I still have my Schott’s Leather jacket I got from Male Hide Leathers in Chicago, centuries ago.
You have been doing a lot of book readings. Can you tell us about your favorite reading and explain why?
The last one I did has to be my favorite. I had the pleasure of doing a reading for the Front Range Bear’s book club in Denver. There were a small bunch of handsome bears there and they were very attentive. Let’s just say two of the bears made me feel very welcomed.
In your own words, can you tell us the difference between BDSM and Leather?
Both are a fetish. BDSM is about control. There is a lot of roleplaying: master/slave, dom/sub. Leather is a way of life and a certain form of dress or drag.
What are your favorite S&M activities?
The only one I can think of is: I like the feel of a man’s hand cupped at the back of my head as I suck his cock. Like he was forcing me to suck his big cock, holding me there — there’s something spiritual about that.
What’s your favorite drink? And if you could invent a cocktail for the leather community, what would you call it?
When I’m out drinking, I usually will have an Absolut and tonic. If I’m feeling festive, a Cosmo. When I’m home or out to dinner, I drink either Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.
How about this: Armored Cow or a Dead Donkey? Both are military slang, one for canned milk, the other for canned ham. Leather to me is a form of armor and it is dead cow skin, right? And the donkey part can refer to a man that’s hung. I’d drink that for sure.
Tell us about your latest book, Night Duty and Other Stories.
Night Duty is a compilation of some of my favorite stories and illustrations I did for Handjobs Magazine over the course of 20 years. Some of the stories were rewritten and there are a few that were never published. Some of the tales are autobiographical — embellished, of course — and others are just fantasy.
If I visited Rudolph, Wisconsin, what 5 things would you show me, without either of us getting arrested, and why?
I’d start by showing you my office, that wouldn’t get us into much trouble. It’s where I think, draw, and write. Don’t mind the stains on the carpet. <g> The barn, I love barns in general and The Hayloft, now here we might run into trouble for sure. A hayloft is probably where I lost my virginity. <g>. The Grotto Shrine and Wonder Cave; it’s a man-made holy place that draws in some tourists. It’s really quite cool. The Rudolph Cheese Factory: you can’t come to Rudolph without seeing the Cheese factory. It probably brings in more tourists then the Grotto. Finally, I’d take you out to our Woods. It’s a magical, secret place where I go to dream. I go out there at least once a week.
Can you tell us a fantasy that you still want to live out?
I have so many and my desires change from day to day. I have been sexual since I was a kid and have done a lot, but here is still so much I would like to try sexually.
One fantasy that comes to mind is: being in some place where no one knows me and I’m free to be as much of a pig as I want to. There’s no one there to tell me that I’m too fat or too ugly, too young or too old. Of course being at the center of a group of 3-H men would work too: Hot, Hunky, and Hung.
In conclusion, anything you would like to add to this interview for the leather community of South Africa?
I wish I could thank the South African Leather community in person. I hope to visit South Africa someday soon.