In the 2013 Italian movie, THE GREAT BEAUTY, the protagonist is taken on a spiritual journey through the nightlife of Rome, meeting artists, exorcists, and old friends. He goes on this journey in the winter of his life, at a point where he has attained local stardom in his small fiefdoms, but struggles for the inspiration he once had as a younger prized author. Towards the end of his journey, he comes upon a ‘living saint’ character modeled after Mother Theresa, who tells him that she only ate roots, because, “Roots are important.”
This movie comes to mind for me because, a close friend of mine died recently…
A close friend who helped me connect to who I am. Not my geographic roots, or my family roots, but my chosen roots. This is my story of Master George.
Let me take a step back.
It’s the late 2000’s, Barack Obama had just become president, Lady Gaga was breaking stereotypes, and America was trying to make sense of a massive economic recession and an endless war on terror; both of which left many of us vulnerable. A generation of millennials felt traumatized, due to socio-political events, and massive crushing student debt, that made us feel absolutely helpless and unrooted.
As far as my own history, I had moved to California to get away from parents that were emotionally abusive, who took every opportunity to demean me and make me feel small. Their affect was so strong that I moved to the other side of the country to get away from them.
I had no friends in Los Angeles; no community to speak of. What I did have was a penchant for consensual BDSM. I sought out that world, and, in doing so, felt like I was living a double-life.
Over a couple of years, I was able to connect and make friends in that BDSM community. Now, you may be thinking of extravagant mansion parties like EYES WIDE SHUT, but the truth is very different. Los Angeles is very fortunate to have a thriving BDSM community, amongst all sexual orientations. The BDSM clubs are mostly in converted industrial office spaces, small warehouses, and the occasional gothic themed nightclub. AND, it is egalitarian, anyone who can pay a cover of $15 would be granted entry.
The best thing about these clubs was the sense of camaraderie, and humor. Some people who practice Dominance and Submission are very serious, and they take themselves very seriously, but in the Los Angeles clubs, people would raucously chase each other around with dildos on sticks.
One of the oldest such clubs in Los Angeles was Threshold.
Located in North Hollywood, it’s become an institution in the local scene, offering classes, parties, and other events.
There were a few people who were very active in the group, all volunteers, who believed that Threshold was necessary for a vibrant community. You see, Threshold was molded from the community of gay leather men, many of whom were rejected by their family, friends, and professional colleagues. So, creating a chosen family was very important, giving emotional support, bonds of friendship, knowledge and connection, intimate relationships, even personal inspiration.
That leather culture, which still exists today in various incarnations, was overtly rooted in important values like trust, honor, integrity, and most importantly, community support.
And these volunteers at Threshold would do anything to help upkeep it, and I mean anything. I would regularly see volunteers gladly go in and snake out a clogged toilet, because somebody through a tampon down there.
Now, I had gone to Threshold a couple of times, and I had seen Master George around, and his slave. I won’t mention her name because I don’t have her consent to, but one of the things I noticed about them both is that they were committed to helping people. They were there to support the club in their volunteer efforts. They were there to support the people through advice and emotional comfort. They were even there to support strangers through the classes that they held.
One day, my buddy Jerry said, “Hey, George is setting up for his collaring ceremony at Threshold tomorrow night. You should go help out, and get to know him.” Because, in Los Angeles, you get to know someone by going to work with/for them for a day, for free.
So, in the leather community, a collaring ceremony is kind of like a wedding, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: a master will collar his slave, often in a public ceremony, and it officiates their bond of love and devotion. Now, I was expecting to see some cool stuff, because collaring ceremonies are often grand and dramatic.
What I didn’t expect, was George.
Master George was a one-of-a-kind person, to say the least. He had rented out ALL of the Threshold club for his collaring ceremony, which was big, even for collaring ceremonies. He had also assembled a team to help him set up lights, and tables, and fondu platters.
To illustrate the distinction, a lot of Dominants and Masters in the scene will order and cajole their partner(s) and close friends into helping them. Master George was not one of these people. He had gathered these people to help him because he was a joy to be around. His excitement and infection was contagious.
When at the collaring ceremony setup, a close friend of George’s had their marine son visiting while on leave, and he was just tagging along, curious about what was going on. But, when George found out that this random guy was in the military, he started talking, and before you knew it, he asked the guy if he would like to be an honor guard at the collaring ceremony, in the dungeon; and the guy was like, “Hell yeah! That sounds like a lot of fun!”
Also, that night, Master George and I got to talking, and we bonded over a lot we had in common. We talked about our love for great movies, particularly Italian cinema. We bonded over our shared Italian roots. He invited me to be a guest, even though he barely knew me, saying, “We got an extra chicken. You like chicken?”
And that was the kind of person Master George was, he welcomed everyone with respect, and he was a big, boisterous teddy bear.
I got to know Master George over the next year and a half that I was in the scene, especially after he was elected coordinator of Threshold, and I was very proud and very lucky to have known him.
He would regularly encourage me on my crazy ideas. When I said I wanted to have a public roundtable/panel of all the BDSM club owners/leaders in the scene, he jumped at the chance to be on it. He even encouraged me to organize a second panel at Threshold months later.
Later, I actually started organizing a group of my own, with the name, Fetish Noir, based on another group a friend of mine ran years earlier. Rather than just another party group, it was intended as a young leadership group. Master George thought this was a great idea, because one of his passions was making the BDSM community in Los Angeles, and even nationwide, as strong as possible. In order to support us, he even gave us free reign of the club, at no up front charge.
This kind of selflessness was huge. He was financially responsible for Threshold at that point, and he chose to give us that massive economic advantage, just because he believed we were good people.
He knew there were kinky people like us all around the country, who felt repressed, isolated, and alone. He knew that being part of a community was important for someone’s mental health.
He would always take somebody’s idea of community, and encourage them to pursue it, and even think bigger. He even shared with me privately that one of his dreams would be to have a huge BDSM block party event in Los Angeles, very similar to Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco. He even hoped to do it on Cherokee Ave., where you had Hollywood Blvd. at one end, and the First Baptist Church of Hollywood at the other. Needless to say, his big ideas always had a mischievous side to them.
But all of these cool stories pale in comparison to who he was as a person.
Whenever he met someone new at a club, he would invite them out to dinner, even if it was just Denny’s.
He was always friendly and willing to give advice. He counseled me on many close relationships that I had, and how to address tough emotional issues.
He encouraged me to have my group, Fetish noir, join the Los Angeles Leather Coalition, which I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing otherwise, because of my low self-esteem. But when I did join, not only were we welcomed, we were made an official member by a unanimous vote.
Then, in 2010, when I was quitting the scene, he took me aside, and tried to talk me out of it. I had been through a rough breakup at that point, and had just overextended myself. Master George though pulled me aside, and said, “I know you’re good at this, and I would urge you to not give up, because you can do a lot of good here.”
Nobody had ever said that to me, ever.
Looking back, I realize that Master George’s kind heart, gave me something I hadn’t experienced before. He filled in as a kind of surrogate father figure, who encouraged me, believed in me, and had faith in me, which I hadn’t received before.
I did decide to quit the scene, due to a number of personal factors. Unfortunately, I cut ties with a lot of that community. Master George and I remained Facebook friends, but we lost touch, as is known to happen.
A few weeks ago, Master George passed away, and this morning, I attended the virtual service over Zoom. The outpouring of stories about how he had supported the people around him, from his slave, to his leather family, to people he barely knew; it was truly heart warming.
He never hid his involvement in the BDSM communities. In fact, he would go out of his way to organize barbecues and events that would bring those parts of his life together.
I do want to share one story from the service that I think encapsulates Master George.
On the funeral service, one gentleman got up to speak, and he prefaced it that when he first met Master George over a decade ago, the speaker was an, “arrogant ass.” I knew this speaker at the time, and I would agree with that statement, but as he got to know Master George, and as Master George had an affect on him, he convinced the speaker to put aside his own ego, and live for others. Master George convinced the speaker that he should devote himself to his community, and to the people around him, and that’s what he did.
Master George had a profound affect on the people around him, by encouraging people to remember their chosen communities, and their chosen roots.
I haven’t spoken with Master George in some time, and when I found out about his death, I was filled with a sense of regret, about all the late-night conversations I missed out on, and the moments of friendship I didn’t realize I needed.
We’ve all been through a lot the last year with Covid, political violence, and personal traumas, and it’s important that we all remember our roots. Because we don’t know what we really have, until it’s gone.
Master George was one of my roots.
Thank you Master George. Rest in Power.
MasMaster No One, is an author, educator, and BDSM performance artist. He has been a guest speaker on various BDSM educational panels for CSUN, CalArts, and other universities, and former leader of the Los Angeles group, Fetish Noir. Check out other Master No One articles on G&G, or purchase his writings and follow him on his Amazon Authors page.