Feb. 17th, 2010


Feb. 17th, 2010 10:50 am
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In the great pantheon of bear runs, there have always been three - San Francisco's IBR along with the events in Chicago and Orlando.  Years past have seen me as a regular at IBR although I have been a slacker over the past half decade or so and have not attended.  'How much have things changed?' I wondered.  As I had been planning one of my regular jaunts to Sodom-on-the-Bay anyway, being part of IBR this year seemed to make lots of sense.  Or did it?

IBR moved to a new hotel this year and if there was a high point, it was the hotel.  A short stagger from public transit, the hotel was modern and minimalist.  Staff seemed efficient, courteous, and organized.  I'd decided to splurge on the higher priced upper floor room and scored a lovely space on the 31st floor looking north towards the high rises of downtown with glimpses of the Bay in the background.  My 'Club Level' room came with obsessive/compulsive service including early evening checks to ensure that my room was perfect and to offer turn down service including wrapped chocolates (dark chocolate, it's good for you, don't burst my bubble) on the pillow.  When I called down one evening for a couple of extra towels, I returned to my room to find the bed freshly made and the bathroom spotlessly cleaned.  It may not be a luxury property but they did deliver quality.  Score - 10/10

As to IBR, I'd expected that the economy would take its toll and it did.  Registrations were down to about half of that in past years.  Non-registrants, who had in past years shown up in droves, also seemed to be staying away.  As a result, events were sparsely attended, seeming all the more so in the hotels large function rooms.  Saddest of all, there was no casual gathering spot (the old Ramada's lobby was perfect in this regard).  This year's "Barbary Coast" theme captured no one's imagination.  Score - 3/10

I'll admit that I didn't rush to attend the various in-hotel organized events.  The first night's meet and greet was dismal.  Sister's Bingo wasn't as bawdy as in the past.  Totally by chance, I found my way into the filmmaker Kevin Smith 'lecture' scheduled, I gather, at the last minute and thought it passable fun.  IBR always seems to have drama of some sort.  This year's was Smith's ejection from his Southwest return flight (a quick web search will find you all sorts of details on this including Smith's own blog on the subject).  I was told by a couple of the Vendor Maul exhibitors that sales were way down, perhaps not even break even for some.  The overall vibe felt tired and desperate.  Score - 5/10

I didn't attend any of the dance/play outside venue events as I'm not a lover of deafening music nor into casual encounters.  I did minimally stop in at the Death Star and the Egret.  The former appeared full but not sardine as in past years.  The latter (which I gather will be closing at some point in the next few years) didn't appear lively by any means.  Score - N/A

As I had to return to work on Monday morning, I missed the contest itself but did have plenty of time on the way back to SFO to ruminate on the weekend.  While the economic downturn cast dark shadows over IBR as it has nearly everywhere, I found myself agreeing with those that claim that bear runs are past their prime.  'Bear' is less a subculture and much more mainstream as evidenced by Kevin Smith's upcoming Bear Nation documentary.  Is it still necessary to scream "we're special and we're here!"?  No, I'd say not.  BOSF and other such organizations are not to blame.  Time's change.  Not much to see here, folks, move on.

Will I attend another IBR?  Unlikely.  But then I never was much of a joiner.  Well, except for square dancing.  But that's another sordid tale for another time...


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