Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, 1920–1991) lived and worked in a house in a quiet Los Angeles neighborhood for the last ten years of his life. This amazing house is now devoted to the preservation of Tom’s homoerotic art, his life and his legacy. Moving from room to room, the images of TOM House and works by the man that lived and worked here, is the feature a stunning new coffee table book TOM House: Tom of Finland in Los Angeles, by Michael Reynolds, photographed by Martyn Thompson and published by Rizzoli.
GED sat down with Marc Ransdell-Bellenger, our cover model and a curator of the Tom of Finland Foundation’s collection, to speak about the book, an upcoming movie, and the life of a Leatherman.
Sometimes it seems like it. I describe the place as a train which doesn’t stop. But most of the time it’s more like – holy shit, how did this become my life? How lucky am I to live and work here. I recall the very first time I saw one of Tom’s drawings in my early teens living in small town Kentucky and suddenly I knew I wasn’t the only one. That original hangs in the room next to mine. I live a life some Leather men in some square, landlocked state would kill to experience for ten minutes. I don’t have sexual fantasies, I have sexual realities. The Leather gods I jacked off to on the Internet 20 years ago, as well as several former International Mr. Leathers, are among my friends and leather family. I am only a small cog in a machine where we are all dedicated to the Foundation and its mission. Durk Dehner, president and cofounder, has devoted his life to it and literally given up his home to the Foundation. Sharp, the vice president and curator, seems to work from 10am to 3am pretty much seven days a week. We also have a large volunteer corps, without which we could never get things done.
“Mainstream” to TOM’s Foundation means that everyone has the opportunity to say thank-you to this great liberator. “Mainstream” means we all have a hero. “Mainstream” means TOM is permanently embedded in culture. Hey, it’s our job.
Not sure if it was all the various vivid descriptions I had heard over the years about how amazing this house was or my independent sense that all that was in this house truly chronicled the sexual evolution of decades and decades of works from the artist best known for capturing the entire essence of the Gay male. Whatever it was, I was determined to one day have the opportunity to be invited to tour TOM House. Could I have ever imagined that it would finally happen by way of being permitted to shoot the charismatic reigning 2015 International Mr. Leather Patrick Smith for the cover of GED Magazine’s annual Leather Issue dedicated to leather and fetish, which was the embodiment of Tom’s life’s work? Never. But it happened and I couldn’t feel more privileged to have had the opportunity.
The House was everything I imagined and more. Marc Ransdell-Bellenger (2013 Mr. Long Beach Leather) newly appointed Curator and Head of Community Development to the Tom of Finland Foundation extended the tour for me. Whilst some parts of the House were off limits (the basement for one, darn it!) due to the upcoming release of the book titled simply TOM House that will illustrate much of the House never seen to the general public, I was still able to view much of the House. This included the attic where a fully functioning Foundation was hard at work on computers managing several of Tom’s works being showcased at art exhibits around the world. And the attic is where Tom’s bedroom was for the last decade of Tom’s life. Marc tells me many of the items in the room, including some final sketches, are still there as Tom left them. It gave me goose bumps. As I went back downstairs I encountered Patrick with Luis Skobar, Leather photographer to GED Magazine along with Steven Garcia, an amazing artist in his own right, who happens to also be one of GED Magazine’s Art Directors, hard at work capturing images of Patrick in some of the House’s most recognizable spots. Yeah, this is really happening. As Marc and I sit at the kitchen table waiting for the shoot to complete, he tells me how excited the staff is with the completion of the book, having just been proofed and ready for print. Also, having just launched a complete line of TOM sexual toys called Tom’s Pleasure Tools (www.toftools.com) over IML Weekend, which is in line with everything that is Tom of Finland; these are good times for TOM House.
As we prepared to leave and were saying our good byes and thank yous, Durk has come home and I get the opportunity to meet him as well. He is as gracious and humble as I presumed him to be and thanked me sincerely for including ToFF and TOM House in further chronicling the rich history of our community by shooting our cover at the house. My only final wish is to be able to share ALL the amazing photos taken at this historical house, but you can see much more of the TOM House in the new book (shameless plug for everyone to buy the book.) I encourage our readers and everyone in our community to support ToFF whenever and wherever possible.
UPCOMING EVENT: The annual Tom of Finland Art & Culture Festival will be held at TOM House (1421 Laveta Terrace, Los Angeles) Friday-Sunday October 2nd – 4th. Presumably everyone will have recovered from Folsom by then, so come out and attend…In Leather.
By: Christopher Jackson
PICK UP OR READ THE LEATHER ISSUE
“International Mr. Leather 2015”
“A Year in the Life of a Leather Man”