tlc: year with
a leather club

a documentary by Randy A. Riddle



Franc S. and Gil F. perform at the Palms - photo (c) by Michael CoxFranc S., active in the Leather community of New York and a costume designer for Broadway, films, and television before he moved to Greensboro and joined TLC; summed it up best – "We have everything from white, white-collar workers to blue, red-neck, collar workers, every type of profession you can think of, from hairdressers to people that pave roads for a living."  The Tarheel Leather Club is an unusual model of diversity including people from a variety of professions and socio-economic backgrounds. 

Member Gil F. is a musician and composer; Stuart Norman was trained as a composer and now owns his own electronic repair business and is a free-lance writer.  College professors, school teachers, artists, and arts administrators have all been members of the club.  Still others make their living as cooks or waiters or social workers; members Kevin Drewery and Steve W. worked in a bookstore.  Member Bill Costomiris is a construction worker and truck driver; " ... what's really neat is that not only at the company do they know that I'm Gay, they also know I'm into leather and they also know I'm into the Tarheel Leather Club, and they are very supportive of it," Bill told me in an interview for the documentary. 

Portrait of Janet B. - photo (c) by Michael CoxBecause of the relative isolation of the Gay community in North Carolina, TLC had to be diverse to survive.  "We decided to be a rather inclusive organization," David Wr. said, "we are a trans-gender organization to say it politically correct, we have all ages of people, we have Black and white, men and women, young and old, experienced and inexperienced, all put together in one Leather club."  TLC was the first North Carolina club to allow female members in its ranks.  During the shooting of the documentary, Janet B., a woman who was introduced to SM through her experiences in a more traditional biker club, was TLC’s president.  "It's mostly gay people in it right now, but we have had bisexual people and, of course, if straight people want to join, they're welcome to. It's mostly male; we've had up to as many as five women. The rest being guys, but a great bunch of guys," Janet noted. 

The membership of the Tarheel Leather Club has varied greatly over the years; generally the group includes around twenty to thirty active members and, at one time, was at a high of over seventy.   Much like a biker club and like most other Leather clubs, prospective members to through a "pledge period" to get acquainted with the people of the club and goals of the group.  During that period, which usually lasts three months, the prospective member completes a pledge project, assisting with a fundraiser, educational effort or another part of the club’s work, attends a required number of meetings, and states in a letter their personal reasons for joining TLC.  Hazing or sexual harassment of prospective members is not allowed – TLC is not a "sex club".