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Harbor Masters of Maine

It all started when the then owners of the soon-to-be gay bar Cycles, a noted gay author and photographer, and two local men with leather backgrounds got together at a bar named the Spring Street Gym to discuss whether a men’s leather organization (club) would be or could be supported in the Southern Maine area.

We met in June of 1982 to discuss whether there was now a need for a men’s leather club in the greater Portland area. There were several members of the community who were into leather and would attend functions at the only bars available in full or partial leather. So, there was a need. Of course, Cycles would be our “home” bar, and the name Harbor Masters was chosen. John Preston is credited with the name, Harbor for the geographical location, and Masters for the leather note. Other names such as “Sons of Neptune” and “The Maine Men’s Drinking Club” were left on the cutting room floor. Though the artwork for the patch design for “Sons of Neptune” was donated to the Leather Archives in Chicago as a part of the Harbor Masters history in 2010.

Our first official meeting was the first Sunday, November 7, 1982, in John’s apartment. At that point, we were organized enough to have sought out other members and circulated membership applications. Our first member intake was large. It included full members and associate members. Full members would live within a 50-mile radius and participate in the group as much as they could. The associate members lived outside of the 50-mile radius and were expected to participate when they could. We chose November 7th as our anniversary date. The name of the anniversary celebration is Sail Away.

We incorporated in February 1983 as “The Harbor Masters of Portland, Maine”. This came with some resistance from the Board of Harbor Commissioners, as they felt that our name impinged on their job title, Harbormaster. We won that battle, a huge step for any gay organization, let alone a “Gay Leather Fraternity”. Funny note: a short time after that, the Board of Harbor Commissioners tried to form an organization (corporation) named “The Maine Harbor Master Association”. The state denied them the name because of its impingement on our name. We were generous and allowed them the name.

Cycles was the home bar until 1986. Harbor Masters then moved its home bar to The Underground until 1989. From 1989 until the present day, the Harbor Masters home bar has been Blackstones.

Founded: John Preston was an author and photographer known for his work with Alison Publishing, Drummer Magazine, and other “men’s” pulp publications. His most notable work was Mr. Benson, which was first published in Drummer Magazine. Butch Fenton had a leather-club background from the upper Midwest. Thomas St. John, leather background from Atlanta, and one of the current guest house owners is named Tall Chimneys in Ogunquit. Tom Corbet the second owner of cycles and the guest house, and partner to Thomas St. John, with a San Francisco leather background Ralph Cusack, with his background in leather clubs, came from St. Louis and soon became the bartender at the aforementioned Cycles Bar. (partner to Butch)

Harbor Masters of Maine



Portland, Maine USA





Panel History:

Added in-person at SouthEast Leather Fest, June 14, 2024 in Atlanta, Georgia.


Other Details:


Have details about this panel that are not listed? We need you! Email the Historian.

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