Feature Interview: Bob Leahy talks sex with Todd Klinck
In this candid interview, full of insights in to what makes him tick, Todd shares what it’s like being a young pro dom, making porn, running a pansexual playground with trans legend Mandy Goodhandy and much more.
Todd Klinck is a well known figure in the Toronto alternative club scene, known too for his past work as a young dom in the sex trade, with a nightclub in the burbs featuring shemale strippers, for making porn with a kink twist, for being edgy and out - and outspoken, but he’s much more than that. Here’s the Wikepedia version of Todd Klinck’s life
Todd Klinck (born November 15, 1974 in Windsor, Ontario) is a Canadian writer, nightclub owner and pornography producer. Klinck moved to Toronto at age 18 to study theatre at York University, but dropped out to focus on his career. In 1996, his novel Tacones (High Heels) was the winner of the Three-Day Novel Contest, and was published by Anvil Press to strong reviews in the Toronto Star and Quill and Quire. Klinck also collaborated with John Palmer and Jaie Laplante on the screenplay for the 2004 film Sugar, which garnered a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 25th Genie Awards, and was a columnist for fab until 2005. He wrote an online only column for Xtra! magazine called "Sex Play" in 2009, and a column called "Porndoggy" in the same publication for most of 2010. His writing has been published in the National Post, Saturday Night magazine, and Bil Bo K (Belgium).
Klinck and his business partner Mandy Goodhandy have launched several sex businesses in the Toronto area, including a transgender strip club, "The Lounge", an adult DVD production company, "Mayhem North", and a porn site, "Amateur Canadian Guys". In 2006 they opened a pansexual nightclub "Goodhandy's" located in downtown Toronto. Klinck has also worked as a professional BDSM dominant, and has appeared on the television series KinK.
With Goodhandy, Klinck was chosen to be the Grand Marshall of the Pride Toronto 2010 parade.
Bob Leahy: Todd, thank you for talking to PositiveLite.com. I want to ask you first, you’ve spent most of your life in the sex industry, in one way or another. What does your mom think of all this?
Todd Klinck: My mom was pretty ahead of her time, Bob. She raised us to be feminists, encouraged atheism (or at least agnosticism) and to question conventional thought. Because of that, when I came out to her about my sex work, it only required that I explained a little bit about it, so that she understood the politics and was reassured about typical motherly safety concerns. She was a card carrying member of Mensa, so it's not difficult to explain things to her and gain her acceptance.
BL: OK. I want to talk about how you got in to it. You started in 1996, didn’t you, when you were quite young? What was it like being a beginner escort in those early days.
TK: It was pre-internet. A totally different world. There were fewer opportunities for people to have discreet casual sex, and even fewer for paid sex. I found the clients to be very respectful of my set rules about safer sex, about pricing, and limitations. I found the closeted guys to be easier to deal with than guys who were already out as gay.
I've mentored some young escorts over the past couple years, and can say that much has changed. People have so many more options for free sex encounters, and in some ways, the slight normalization of the sex business has made people more likely to think it's OK to haggle and treat the boys with less respect. That's just my interpretation based on the experiences of several younger boys in recent years. There are also many wonderful clients who hire escorts, and I have heard lots about them also. The main difference, that you may find interesting for readers of this particular site, is that when I started in 1996, I was able to insist on condoms for oral sex with little to no resistance. Boys I have mentored tell me that it is absolutely unheard of with current clients.
BL: Did you go for the dom BDSM niche market right away?
TK: I started as a “boy escort” because I was 21 at the time, and quite thin. I knew little about BDSM, but several years in, I acquired one regular client who was extremely into BDSM. Our relationship evolved, and I learned immensely from him. He eventually became my official slave, has my name tattooed on his ass, and was a regular subject in my former column at fab. He even guest wrote a couple of my columns, from his perspective.
My evolution into professional dominance started in my mid 20's, and was kind of organic as I moved forward. I discovered what my areas of expertise were, and nurtured them, and collected regular clients who liked what I did. I took several breaks from escorting throughout my 20's, because of other work, and for mental sanity, and when I returned to the business closer to 30 years old, I exclusively specialized in pro domination. Doing “regular” sexual services did not fit where my headspace was at the time. Of course there is often sexual behaviour included in BDSM, but I liked the distance that pro domming gave me, the control of the situation. I slowly started releasing clients in my early 30's, keeping only the ones that I enjoyed a lot. I have not ever officially retired, I still have one spanking client who calls me every couple years and if I'm available I'll give him a good beating, but my lifestyle and work make doing it not that viable. And I don't have that much interest in doing it.
BL: Why did you leave, Todd? Was the thrill of it gone by then?
TK: I didn't do it for the thrill, and I didn't leave it because the thrill was gone. I did it for a lot of other reasons – wanted something that paid well while working on my writing, wanted to exploit my youth for my own benefit, probably some natural exhibitionism and narcissism, and a strong sense of the politics of it. I felt passionately from before I even placed my first ad about the importance of being one of the very few out male escorts. It bothered me that I saw very few examples of males who were in the gay scene, challenging the norms about sex work. I knew I had the strong foundation that my mother gave me, that I could do it, and not be ashamed, and handle it. It was like a personal challenge. I considered it for nearly a year before I started. I hung out with t-girl escorts, met some male street hustlers, other escorts, got my head around the situation before beginning.
BL: After that, you had a strip club out in Mississauga, the Lounge, for a while, right? That seemed like a daring move at the time. Location-wise and concept-wise. I’m guessing it didn’t work out financially?
TK: Mandy Goodhandy is my business partner, and the creative and driving force behind much of what we do. She has a long history in the nightclub business, and yes, she is very, very daring. The Lounge was not ever officially my venture with her. I did not have the balls she had, in terms of a partnership. I had just gone bankrupt, and told her I would help her, be her right hand man, but I didn't want any official responsibilities. From a financial point of view, it was actually fairly low risk. We were renting the basement of a straight strip club. She had to pay for ads in the paper, but had already created an internet presence on her own, with Ladyplus.com (which has now evolved into a Mayhem North owned social networking site with more than 4,000 members, growing daily).
We started with shemale strippers, and it was quite lucrative from the beginning for everyone involved. The girls made very good money doing private dances, the cover charge was high, I worked as a DJ and waiter and got good tips, everything was good. It was very underground, in a remote location, but Mandy had the vision to know that Mississauga is actually the perfect place for a shemale strip event. Because it's straight suburban folks who are connoisseurs of the ladies “with something extra”. The location made it easy for guys to sneak in, have their experience, and leave without causing any suspicion.
We became world famous at that location – I am not being pretentious – Mandy's shemale events were known all over, because of the internet. We had people visit from Japan, all over the States, Europe. All to this, quite honestly, divey little basement party room in a pretty skeezy straight strip club. We actually kept the strippers running from 2002 to 2009, even the first 3 years that Goodhandy's was running. We only ended up eventually closing it because it was too challenging to manage both Goodhandy's the club, and the Lounge. We wanted everything to be under one roof.
BL: I didn’t know that! Anyway, then you went in to making porn, Mayhem North and webcam stuff like Amateur Canadian Guys. Tell me about that.
TK: The Lounge was a money maker for the shemale strippers. But we also ran male events, Mandy despises the word “stripper” and chose to promote them as “nude boys”. Those events had a cult following, but were never profitable. You cannot charge gay men high enough cover to make it worthwhile financially. But we were doing it to gather content for Mayhem North (which is a corporation held equally in equal partnership by me and Mandy). We started shooting scenes after hours at the Lounge, and shooting solo jerk off videos in this little tiny coat check room on a mini-van car seat that someone had left behind. It was all quite ghetto, but that became our aesthetic. We treated the models as people, well, because they are people. We weren't into plot-oriented porn, and just shot “boys being boys”.
BL: You used to write about porn in Xtra too. Tell me what you look for in porn you watch. Who is your favourite studio? Performer? Movie?
TK: My current favourite studio is Alexander Pictures. Porn is a personal thing. I just happen to quite appreciate black and latin men, and Alexander shoots all of his movies in Brazil. He also has a parallel line where he pretends that he's shooting middle eastern men (but really they are Brazilian). I kind of like that line too, I can get into the fantasy, because it's not like I understand the language anyways, and he's not trying to fool anyone. I like the fact that he is one of the mainstream studios who has achieved a great deal of success while still using condoms in their films. If I had to pick a favorite Alexander title, it'd be “Rio Blatinos” (but really, almost all of his movies have scenes I like).
BL: And your opinion of (bareback porn studio) Treasure Island Media?
TK: Not fond of Treasure Island on the surface, but I have not delved deeply into it to see how much they contexualize their sensibilities. I have issues with bareback porn, and mainly it's with the lack of contexualization. I'm pretty sure I would dislike Treasure Island, from what I've seen in this one documentary film made by the brother of one of it's stars. (It's called “Ryan Sullivan's Island” and it's interesting, as it makes no comment on the studio, it just shows a lot of behind the scene stuff, some of it disturbing).
BL: OK. I want to ask you a few questions about HIV. What responsibilities do sex on premises venues have towards HIV, do you think, or is it a matter strictly up to participants?
TK: I think that sex venues have a responsibility to provide complimentary condoms AND lube, to have adequate lighting, to do anything that they can do reasonably to assist in the dissemination of safer sex literature and supplies. I am involved in a couple sex positive events at my venue (though calling Goodhandy's “a sex club” as it is commonly called, is no longer accurate, in my opinion, because it is only something that is part of certain events, not all events). I do not, however, think that it is the responsibility of the venue to walk around and aim flashlights at peoples’ orifices and demand to know the context of the choice that has been made between two (hopefully) consenting adults.
BL: Let’s explore that a little but more, Todd. With bareback porn, the verdict is still out on how much watching it actually influences sexual behaviour. But what do you think of BB porn being shown in bath-houses for instance? Any issues there?
TK: That is a tricky one. I think it would be more responsible of a bathhouse to not show bareback porn. People could argue that people deserve choice, and I guess they could win that choice, but I would respect a bathhouse owner who made a point of not showing bareback porn. Again, it's context. I'm not against people taking educated risks in life. I'm not against people barebacking. I just find that the porn industry has embraced barebacking with little regard to what it might be doing to society. It's the way they promote it, it's the prevalence of it with no context. So yeah, I have issues with it, and with playing it in bathhouses.
BL: Do you think young gay men in particular think much about the prospect of getting HIV?
TK: No, I don't. I was speaking to some very young gay boys within the past couple years, and they had ludicrous notions of safer sex. And it made me realize that they had fallen through the cracks in terms of education. They thought that after a couple weeks with a guy, if you said you were “boyfriends”, then you couldn't catch HIV. I asked them about porn, and dug deeper, and it seemed they had been affected by bareback porn to the point where barebacking seemed normal to them. Again, it's about the context – if there was more context to bareback porn, it could even be educational. But it's presented as just something that people do I learned about safer sex in high school, in the early 1990's. It was a mandatory part of gym class. These kids I was talking to obviously had missed that class.
But I think probably the number one reason young people don't think about becoming positive is because there are so few examples of openly POZ people. I went for a few years without getting tested, and thought a lot about how I would react if I tested positive. I knew the challenge of the stigmas. When I tested negative, a very small, irrational part of me even wished that it had been the opposite, because I thought I could help. The thing is this: I run a nightclub, I was involved in the media, I am active in the anonymous sex world and have been for years (parks, bathhouses, online hookups), so I would say I'm not just your average queer guy. I come in contact with A LOT of people, thousands. And I can say that only recently I “know” more than 10 people who are openly POZ. It's not for me to say that people need to be public about their status. Absolutely not. But emotionally and intellectually, it is still something that I question, when I read the stats that show young people are still becoming POZ in fairly steady numbers. I question if things would be different if there were more POZ people out. I want to emphasize – I am very aware it's easy for me to say, and can't even guarantee I'd have the strength to overcome the stigma if I ever did test positive. I am on shaky political ground by even discussing this. But you asked me a question, and I have to answer it honestly.
BL: Well, thanks, Todd for that. Now moving on a bit, last year you and Mandy were very much in the spotlight for accepting the role of grand marshals for the (Toronto) Pride Parade after Alan Li stepped down on the free speech/QuAIA issue. You got mixed press for that. But I liked how you turned it into a chance to spotlight sex-positivity - sex workers leading the parade and all that. Is all that over with, or do you think some people still are mad at you?
TK: I got a lot of support when we stood our ground, and when I communicated directly to people via several Facebook notes. People who had de-friended me on Facebook came up to me and apologized and told me they were just reacting in anger. I am sure some people still hold a grudge but it's not something that I see or think about much.
BL: Good. Now let’s talk about Goodhandys. It’s very much identified with you and Mandy. How did you meet Mandy first of all?
TK: I met her in an interesting situation. She had a photo-only website, one of the very first shemale porn sites in the world. She needed a male model to wear a mask, and be on a leash. I was that male model. I then became friends with her, and became her resident photographer.
BL: You describe Goodhandy’s as a pansexual playground. Tell me what that means? Tell me what to expect if I arrived there for the first time, say, and it was a LadyPlus party night?
TK: We use the term pansexual playground because pansexual encompasses the whole spectrum of sexuality. We are proud that we've worked with lesbian promoters, queer promoters of all types, nudists, fetishists, and even most recently, we now are working with a straight promoter for an electronic music night.
The Ladyplus parties are nights that provide a discreet place for people (mainly men and couples, but also some ladies) who are sexually attracted to t-girls. And a social space for t-girls and their admirers and supporters also. The sex at Ladyplus parties happens only behind closed doors, in private booths. The energy is sexually charged, because cruising and hooking up are a big part of the environment and atmosphere, but it's also very relaxed and chill. The most common comment I get from our clientele is how mellow the place is, how comfortable the atmosphere is. The guys who like t-girls are often very conflicted about their desires. You know, “What does it mean that I like girls with dicks? Am I gay? Am I bi? Who am I?” I totally sympathize with these dudes and have really gotten to bond with them and appreciate the uniqueness of their sexual orientation. So yeah, a Ladyplus party is a pretty unpretentious and comfortable environment, and of course as the night progresses it can also get pretty wild and interesting – t-girls are quite flamboyant and exciting and entertaining, and the girls like to dance and show off (we have 2 stripper poles).
BL: Have to admit I’ve never been there, but I’m from out of town. Is it all ages? I mean I’m getting on a bit. Would I feel out of place there?
We are primarily a promoter venue. Let me explain what that means. A “gay bar”, for example, a place like Woody's in Toronto, is a gay bar, 7 days a week. The theme is predictable, customers know what they are getting when they go there, 7 days a week. Maybe there will be a different show or something subtle, but you know it's primarily a gay bar for gay guys, a pub setting, and that's what made it an institution. We are a venue that makes itself available for promoters of all walks of life. So I always tell people “Make sure you check our website before you come by, or you may walk into an all naked men-only party, or a fetish party”. Some people like the surprise, of course, and we have cross-over from event to event, people who have just grown to love the atmosphere. Many of our clientele are “getting on a bit”. Even the younger gay dance parties have older customers, I think it's comfortable for all.
BL: Good to hear. Now, I like your tattoos. Who did them? You have six sets of horizontal bands around your arms, all black except one that‘s red. What does that mean?
TK: All of my tattoos except for one were done by Matthew Ellis, of Seven Crowns Tattoo. We went to school together and I like how he works. The bands mean absolutely nothing, they are just decorative. One is red, because when he did the outline for one of the black ones, he used a red sharpie, and I thought “hey, one of them would look kind of cool in red”.
BL: You’ve written one book already (Tacones) and of course it did very well. Ever thought of writing your life story?
TK: I am interested in writing, but less so in the traditional forms. I’m a big fan of the internet and self publishing and consider even doing interviews like this part of telling my life story. Maybe one day I will write memoirs, after the fact, when I won't get in trouble for telling the whole truth.
BL: Looking back on your life, Todd, what are you most proud of?
TK: I'm most proud of being able to live a creative, evolutionary, organic life, and not having to work for other people. I love running a nightclub and still being involved in the media in my own way and having the autonomy that that sort of lifestyle brings.
BL: Great job! Thanks for talking with us Todd. We really appreciate it, and how candid you’ve been. And good luck with all you’re doing.
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