Chuck Renslow – recipient of the 2013 Founder’s Award

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Chuck Renslow - recipient of the 2013 Founder’s Award
Chuck Renslow – recipient of the 2013 Founder’s Award

Though he began his business career working then managing lunch counters for Walgreens, Chuck Renslow quickly established himself as a entrepreneur. He would have been considered a gay entrepreneur but for the fact that back then we didn’t use the word “gay”. He was the founder in 1950 and photographer of Kris Studios, one of the earliest and most durable of the physique houses. He published Triumph, Mars and Rawhide Male magazines. He was also a noted photographer of the Ballet. His dance photography is now in the Newberry Library dance collection as the “Chuck Renslow Dance Photographs”. He opened the first leather bar, the Gold Coast, in Chicago, in 1958. He was a founder of Second City Motorcycle Club, the first club not on the West coast, in 1965. He was the founder of many bars and clubs since the 1960s. Among his many clubs were Chicago Eagle, Bistro Too, Stages (now Metro) and the bathhouse, MansCountry, which has survived for more than 40 years.

He was among the earliest members, often among the founders, of many gay liberation organizations and movements. He was the publisher of GayLife Newspaper (having purchased it from Grant Ford.)  He has sat on the Board of fourteen different LBGT organizations. He was the founder of Prairie State Democratic Club in 1980. He was the lover of Dom “Etienne” Orejudos for more than 40 years and, by encouraging him and publishing his work, he is partially responsible for the art of Etienne.

Chuck Renslow was inducted into the City of Chicago’s Lesbian and Gay Hall of Fame in 1991 and has received just about every honor and awards the gay and leather communities can give him, including the Leather Leadership Award from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in 2011. He was on the Board of Directors of the NGLTF twice, first from 1978 to 1985 and later from 2005 to 2007. He has served as a U.S. Representative to I.L.G.A. International Lesbian and Gay Association. He is the founder, in 1979, of International Mr. Leather, which grew out of his Mr. Gold Coast contest and the experience he had managing A.A.U. physique competitions. When Dom “Etienne”died,Chuck combined his Hugh collection of Etienne’s art with his own personal archives from his business and his life. These were the foundation of the Leather Archives & Museum. which Chuck co-created with Tony DeBlase in 1991. Chuck is the president of the Leather Archives and Museum and has been since it’s conception.