Founder of International Mr. Leather, Chuck Renslow, dies

Chuck Renslow, the founder of the iconic International Mr. Leather, passed away over the weekend. Renslow died of heart failure on June 29. He was 87.

Renslow was born in Chicago. He developed a reputation as a pioneering homoerotic photographer in the 1950s, and often photographed beefy models that appeared in mail-order publications including TriumphMars and Rawhide Male. It was through his photography work that he met his partner, Dom Orejudos. (And one point, he and Orejudos faced obscenity charges for their work but they were eventually dropped.)

In addition to photography, Renslow was also an accomplished businessman. His ventures included the Triumph Gymnasium and Health Studio, Man’s Country Baths, Chicago’s August White Party, and, of course, International Mr. Leather.

International Mr. Leather originally started as the Mr. Gold Coast contest, offering leathermen a place to come together. Throughout the 1970s, contest grew in popularity and by 1979, it became International Mr. Leather.

Today, IML is an internationally recognized conference for the leather, kink, and BDSM community, with panel discussions, entertainment, parties, contests, and more. It’s estimated that nearly 10,000 people attended the 2017 IML conference back in May.

Renslow was also a vocal advocate for LGBTQ rights. He helped organize Chicago’s first Gay Pride Parade, and took over Gay Life, a struggling LGBTQ newspaper, until it closed down in 1986.

“He really was an incredible forebear of our movement, starting in the 1950s as an openly gay man and entrepreneur,” Tracy Baim, author of Leatherman: The Legend of Chuck Renslow, told The Chicago Tribune. “He was one of five or six people from the pre-Stonewall gay movement who were the bedrock of the Chicago gay movement.”

Renslow is survived by his partner Ron Ehemann, and two sons, Robert Wilke and Patrick Corcoran.

Related: PHOTOS: Leather Daddies, Rubbermen And Kinksters Take Over Chicago For International Mr. Leather