I first met Larry Minutella back in November on a Sunday at the Eagle LA. He was there to have his photos taken for the poster for the bar’s upcoming holiday party and toy drive. The quintessential sexy Santa, with his white beard, sturdy frame and friendly demeanor, it was no surprise to me that he’d been selected to play St. Nick. When the party came, you can bet I waited in line to get a picture with him. It was no surprise it blew up my Instagram when I shared it.
Fast forward a month and I learn Larry has been named Eagle LA Mr. Leather 2024. “How cool,” I thought. He seemed to me like a natural fit. So I was very happy to get to sit down with him afterwards, at a little restaurant in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, to learn more about who he was, his experiences, and what he wants from his title year.
This is that conversation:
BEAR WORLD MAGAZINE: How did you come to get into the contest to begin with?
LARRY MINUTELLA: Good question. So, it’s always been on the back burner. I actually competed many years ago in San Diego, in 2002. Did not win. The person who won was well-deserving of it, and I always wanted to go and compete again.
I was very lucky, I had some very fortunate events occur, one of them, for Ben Orson Leather, I did some advertising. They had me do an ad and then it went to print and Charlie [owner of Eagle LA] wanted to know—
BWM: So you’re a fashion model.
LM: [laughs] Yes, I am Tyra Banks! … So Charlie had seen the ad at the Eagle, and he wanted to know who that was. I don’t think he remembered my name off hand, and my friend Mike said “That’s Larry Minutella” and Charlie was like “Oh, OK, I know him.” And I got a text from Charlie saying, “I got a question for you, I was wondering if you could help me out,” and he wanted me to play Santa. So I went from doing the ad to being Santa and just like, you know, I was so happy to get involved in the whole leather community again. It took the thought of competing off of the back burner and I started to think about it.
And after playing Santa I was like, “I know there’s a contest here at the Eagle. When is it? I’d like to participate,” ‘cause I know it could probably get me to IML. And Charlie was like, “Oh, it’s in the beginning of January,” and I was like, “Oh, shit! I don’t have that much time to get ready!” … So there was a mad dash and scramble to get the leather together, so I thank Adrian [at Rough Trade Gear] very much for helping me out with that. Preparing, mentally getting myself together, thinking about the speech, starting to research some history and other things that I needed to brush up on.
So I can’t say it was spur of the moment, but, fortuitously well timed by events.
BWM: That’s cool. You say you came back to the leather community. It sounds like you were once involved with it and then took a hiatus and are back now, am I hearing that correctly?
LM: Yeah, so the whole evolution… because getting into the leather community was just not, for me at least, something like, “Oh! That seems of interest.” It was an earnest calling. And someone noticed it in me and brought it to my attention. So when I first came out to LA, new to the scene, I didn’t even have a clue about the leather community and BDSM and stuff like that. I had a friend who took me to A Different Light [book store] and said, “Come here,” and I’m like “OK!” So he handed me the Tom of Finland book, and really at that point I had limited access to magazines and things of that nature, and I’m like “Come on, this is just gonna be… whatever.”
And honest to God, I opened it up, and, I just stopped. And I broke out into a sweat. I got goose pimples all over me. And it was just like, you know, the heavens opened up and the light shined down. It was really weird, but it was a very strong physical reaction that I wasn’t expecting at all, and my friend says, “I thought this would do that to you!” [laughs]
BWM: So that was a long time ago?
LM: That was 1992 at A Different Light in West Hollywood. That’s how I started to get involved. And when I was a young kid I used to always be physically entertained, even as a little kid, by seeing guys in leather. And there was a differentiation between the guys in leather you would see in Rolling Stone magazine, the glam rock stuff, versus traditional dudes in motorcycle boots and motorcycle jackets and stuff like that. That used to get my attention, and my mom even noticed it, she goes, “What is it with you and these motorcycle jackets?” I was like, “I don’t know,” but I would be very, very focused on them. And, with all that, I started to slowly follow my instinct and intuition. I think I probably would have jumped into it head first, but my same friend who introduced me to it… the first time there was Gay Pride and I went, I wanted to go to the booth and join. And he grabbed me and he pulled me back, he goes, “You are too young to understand what you’re getting yourself involved in, you need to wait.” Which was actually a very wise thing.
BWM: So you heeded that advice?
LM: I heeded that advice. So we would just go to the leather bars. It was a very intimidating thing because walking in there it was just not a gay bar but it was… it was an experience. It’s like if you’re someone very religious to walk into a church or whatever—it was very intimidating. And I couldn’t go alone because I’d get overwhelmed, so he would just go with me and I’d stand there and I’d look and just be totally captivated and be like, “I have all these buttons being pushed right now, I don’t understand why, and it just is kind of overwhelming.” But, you know, I got a little bit more involved and evolved, and then, something happened—my life changed, and I had to take a step away from that.
BWM: You took a step away from it and then is your step back just recently this year, or a couple years ago?
LM: So it was probably 16 years ago I wanted to be a parent, and I started down the road of parenthood. So when you have a child… [laughs]
BWM: You don’t get to go to bars and such.
LM: Yeah. You know you’re very focused on their very formative years and being there. Even though I wanted to, it was very hard to find anyone who was interested in splitting their interests, so it was either one or the other. Which was very difficult. I would’ve loved to manage both some way, and have something of each in my life, but I couldn’t find that one person to do the same.
BWM: Well it’s awesome that you did that. Can you tell us what the contest itself was like from your perspective? How were you feeling before, during and after?
LM: I was very nervous before because, you know, you’re presenting yourself, you’re being very authentic, and when you’re very authentic you’re also very vulnerable, and no matter who you are and what experience you have, there’s a certain level of acceptance and that’s life. And maybe some people will accept it, and some people won’t, and there’s a certain validation that you receive within that varying degree of acceptance, and it means a lot. So that was part of the nerve-wracking thing, ’cause you’re baring yourself to the audience and the judges.
BWM: And you’re being judged.
LM: And you’re being judged. But it doesn’t make you good or bad, it’s just, you know for that group of judges, are you fitting what they’re looking for? You know it could have been a totally different outcome with a whole bunch of different judges. But that’s just the way it works.
Aside from being nervous before and during, the hormones were crazy. [laughs] ’Cause I was very excited and I was sweating from the excitement. I could not—figuratively and literally—cool myself down.
BWM: Was there any part of it that was hard for you, or stood out as more difficult than the rest of the contest?
LM: I think the hardest part was me wanting to memorize my speech. So I assumed I had two or three options: One, reading something from a piece of paper (probably not a good idea). Number two was kinda ad-libbing what I wanted to say, and somehow being cognizant of 90 seconds. And the third was to carefully think out what I want to say, memorize it, and make sure it was within 90 seconds. So I chose the latter, and… yeah, 90 seconds is a lot to memorize. [laughs]
BWM: Yeah, it sure is. Can you give us sort of the essence of your speech?
LM: The essence of my speech was to pay respect, and to honor that one person who showed me that Tom of Finland book way, way, way back. Because not only did he introduce me to that, but he was also like my guardian angel, who was unselfish 100% towards me, and guided me through the whole process of coming out. I mean, there was no one else, and I would just spend hours with him on the phone just asking him questions—about gay life, leather life—and just, you know, trying to understand me. He helped me work through a lot of hard times and pain, and we also had a lot of good times. He was never a lover, never a boyfriend. He was a brother, a father, a mentor, a daddy, and I owe him a lot. And the speech was about that.
BWM: That’s really sweet. So now that you have the title, what comes along with having it?
LM: Oh, quite a bit. I’d say two things in terms of duties: The ones that are clearly stated—you know, the representation, presenting yourself, being involved with the community. But the other set of duties that are not explicitly stated but implicitly, is that you’re a representative of the community. I represent the leather community. I represent the Eagle. I represent the gay community. And my actions and my words mean a lot because it’s gonna impact people that come in contact with me, or become aware of who I am and what I do. And I think that’s the most important—that influence that I have—and like I mentioned in my speech: through interaction and example, that’s, I think, the biggest duty to uphold. And very core values of integrity, and empathy, and consistency. To uphold those and present myself as a decent human being, a decent leather man in the leather community.
BWM: Cool. Are you going to IML?
LM: You will find out!
BWM: Oh, stay tuned!… Do you have any sort of platform or key issues for your year?
LM: Well I don’t have any like, platform per se, but to be a good example through interaction and what I do. And like I had mentioned in the speech, and I guess in a way it is a platform, is to be a good example of a guiding light.
BWM: Like you had set for you.
LM: Like what was set for me. So, you know, there was no platform that person was preaching or telling about; he was setting himself as someone who was a guiding light and able to lead others through whatever process that they needed to grow.
BWM: Can we name your guiding light, or would you rather keep him anonymous?
LM: Oh yeah, that’s fine. No one’s ever asked me. His name was Florenzo James Blackwell. He passed away many years ago. He used to live here in Silver Lake.
BWM: You stayed friends with him until he passed away?
LM: Yeah, yeah. He was 20 years older than me, so he was in his forties, and I was in my early twenties, and, not to be corny, he was like an angel sent by God. There was no reason for him to befriend me or anything like that, but he made it his point without any ulterior motive or anything like that just to be there for me. Which, when you think about it, is amazing because when you come out, a lot of people’s parents aren’t even just there for them. But he was. God bless him.
BWM: What do you think you’re looking forward to most about being a title holder?
LM: You know, I really want to make a difference. And I think what I want to do is be as involved as possible, and be introduced to as many people as possible, because everyone that I’ve sat and talked with casually and met at a bar or some group meeting has always had a story to tell. And I think everyone’s story, no matter how big or small it is, is just like diamonds that you get handed. They’re very, very precious. And not only does it make them feel good to share, it makes me a better person. What I mean by that is I become more aware and understanding of what life is for a typical gay guy, leather guy… and that will just make me a better person with everyone.
BWM: Is it safe to say you’re looking forward to connecting with as many people in the community on an individual level as you can?
LM: Yeah, there’s something very valuable with that.
BWM: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
LM: The only other thing else I’d like to say is that I’m very appreciative of the guys that I competed with. They took the whole contest very seriously, they were very genuine and authentic about what they’re doing and their feelings, and it just made it feel like more of a cohesive group.