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Tom’s Bar, Tom Of Finland Foundation 29th Event With Orville Peck, Sunday, June 19th, 2022

Tom Of Finland
Orville Peck at Tom’s Bar, Tom Of Finland Foundation 29th Event

On daddy’s day, it was leather galore at Avalon and Bardot on Hollywood and Vine. The venue was hosting Tom’s Bar, the Tom of Finland Foundation annual event, honoring the Finnish gay artist, and for its 29th edition, the foundation had decided to have Orville Peck as the honored guest, and they even presented him the Tom of Finland Foundation 2022 Cultural Icon Award. I was there for a promised performance by Orville, which turned out to be very short, unfortunately, but I was also there out of curiosity. These events are always very cloisonné and that’s a shame! But this time, because of Orville Peck, the event had very probably attracted a few outsiders who were not necessarily there for the subculture of stud leather and naked asses in the middle of the day.“Gear was encouraged,” and gear there was. I wandered for an entire afternoon in Tom of Finland’s world, walking among men wearing military/motorbike outfits inspired by the renowned artist, whom I honestly didn’t really know anything about. We were far from the LBGTQ rainbow community we are used to, everything around me was black and macho, all around there were bearded men wearing leather boots and whips on the side, shirtless and often but-naked or wearing tight, very tight, leather pants.

The world of Tom of Finland is indeed extremely macho, there is no trace of femininity whatsoever in this gay culture. Tom of Finland’s art (real name Touko Laaksonen) resembles a Marvel collection of superheroes with exaggerated muscles, large shoulders, triangular busts, and often enormous, erected penis, while the outfits bear strong resemblances with those of a fascist army. It’s virile gay fashion with a hyper-sexualization of the male body and a fascination for a fascistic aesthetic, after all, Touko’s inspiration came from Finnish soldiers and the Nazis. The kink community has fully embraced his aesthetic, while Laaksonen has become a pop-culture symbol and one of the most influential creators of explicit gay images, inspiring another generation of gay artists, from Robert Mapplethorpe to Freddie Mercury, John Waters, and Jean-Paul Gaultier.

Little by little, Avalon & Bardot gradually filled up with this same aesthetic, an army of men who brought up Tom’s drawings alive, proudly showing everything they had, dancing their heart out on the dance floor. The theme of the day was “a celebration of the community coming together after a strenuous two years with a global pandemic,” and with booths selling leather gears and a photography exhibition by world-famous photographer Mike Ruiz, Tom’s men danced and sweated on stage most of the day. There also were many contests: a “best ass contest,” a “best tattoo contest,” and of course a “best gear contest.”

But I was first there for the music. Darkwave artist Mareux, the electronic solo project from musician and producer Aryan Ashtiani, played a short set of his moody to somber soundscapes on the keyboard and guitar. He is known for his cover of The Cure’s 1987 “The Perfect Girl,” abundantly featured on TikTok. It was somewhat disappointing that Orville performed for such a short amount of time, whereas he was abundantly advertised on social media. He came on stage wearing black leather pants and a cropped top, and after accepting his award, he only performed one song, “Born this Way” with his legendary baritone: he would have certainly made Lady Gaga proud. He soon disappeared backstage with a large smile behind his braided black mask, and I am certain that everyone in the room would have wanted more. However, he is a very in-demand star now, and the award he received crowned him the new gay icon. I would like to add that Orville Peck’s appeal goes way beyond the LBGTQ community and if his large popularity may help decrease homophobia, it would be a shame to reduce his art to any community. Watch his performance here.

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