Pioneer of the European Leatherscene
Felix Jones was born in 1915 at Birmingham, England and enjoyed a happy childhood at boarding school as most British children did in that time. His interest in uniforms and boots and breeches and hot men and "the English vice" (ﬂagellation) all began during his happy school days. He fell in love with his Prefect, some of his teachers, and discovered gay and leather sex there.
By the mid 1930's Felix was out and about in gay London before World War II, and he later recalled leather parties with men in breeches and boots and a lot of sex and how much fun they were.
When the war broke out in 1939, Felix enlisted in the British army, completed ofﬁcers training, and was sent to South Africa to recruit and train a brigade of African soldiers for service with the Army. In 1942 he served with General Bernard Montgomery in the North African campaign. His war stories were mainly about the North Africa campaign and weekends in Cairo with "dear Noel" his lifetime friend, Noel Coward.
At war’s end, Felix was in Italy, but before being discharged, he returned to South Africa to accompany his brigade of soldiers back to their South African villages and homes.
A butler by trade, in the 1960’s Felix went to work for the Duke of Westminster in his ofﬁces, and also ﬁlled in as a sometime butler for the royals including the Queen, The Queen Mother, and Princess Margaret. Felix's ﬁrst real travel after the war started in the mid 1950’s when he worked as a steward on the liner, H.M.S. Queen Mary sailing round trip from Southampton to New York City.
He met all the "best people" of the day from ﬁlm stars to society people to Kings, Queens, and former Kings. It was during these travels that Felix fell in love with America and all things American. He began to collect a large "Leather Family," and spent time in bars with "club members" in and near New York. Felix became a well-known ﬁgure in the early leather scene on the US East Coast.
Felix Jones had always been turned on by cops and soldiers, ﬁremen and motorcycles, leather and rubber - all these he found in abundance in America and New York of the 1950's. His ability to travel enabled Felix to bring the new leather biker scene he saw in New York, back to London and then on to Europe. This time in the mid 1950's was the very beginning of the Leather Fetish, BDSM and kink community as we know it today. Felix was right there ordering a leather cap based on a chauffeur‘s cap from Muir Cap and Regalia Co. of Canada; Muir had to make it to order, and today, it is sometimes known as a "Master's cap”.
Tom of Finland was ﬁrst published in the US. in Physique Pictorial in 1957. Felix tracked Tom down in Finland in 1958, and they became lifelong friends, and enjoyed a lengthy correspondence which can now be seen at The Tom of Finland Foundation in Los Angeles. Tom, Felix, Dirk Dehner (who heads the T.o.F. Foundation) and Peter Fiske often lunched at the Los Angeles Police Department Training Academy. Upon his return to London where Felix lived, he inﬂuenced the development of the English and European leather scene by bringing U.S. iconography across the Atlantic Ocean.
In the Swinging Sixties, Parliament decriminalized gay sex (1967), and Tom of Finland would travel to London and stay with Felix as the London leather/fetish scene was ﬂourishing. The Coleherne pub opened as a gay bar in the 1930’s, but by 1965 it was a Leather bar and Felix was part of the group of men who were regulars there. Tom of Finland would travel to visit Felix in London, sell his pictures, and enjoy the London scene. Felix inherited many pictures from Tom which Jim Farrant, Felix’s long-time partner, preserves and keeps safe today.
Felix and his friends felt the need to organize themselves during the pre-1967 era where police raids and arrests were frequent. Knowledge of the U.S. bike clubs like the Satyrs, led Felix, Tony Hepworh, and Alan Selby (of Mr. S fame) to start organizing this wild new leatherscene in London. It soon spread to Germany, Holland and the rest of Northern Europe.
In 1965, Felix Jones and Tony Hepworth founded the Sixty Nine Club or SNC which is still active today (originally called the 59 Club but a straight biker club already had that name so it became 69 Club) and will celebrate its 50th anniversary this summer (www.fukc.org.uk/snc). The Sixty Nine Club was and is a motor-cycle and social/support club for gay Leathermen into leather and motorcycles. In 1969, Felix and Alan Selby founded the ﬁrst gay men's rubber club in Europe, the Rubber Man‘s Club or R.M.C. (www.rubbermansclub.org) for gay men into rubber and latex play. RMC is still going strong.
Peter Fiske: "In 1971 I met Felix Jones for the ﬁrst time during his trip to America with the SNC and other bikers from across Europe making their ﬁrst organized trip together to the U.S. I remember Felix well, as a man not much over 5 feet tall, a military bearing, and a voice that carried across the whole bar. The new manager of the Bootcamp, Mr. Marcus Hernandez, (yes, THAT Mr. Marcus) made the event a real state occasion. Anthems of each country were played, and a parade of colors and ﬂags followed. And, of course, there were lots of parties and plenty of sex and merriment. I was introduced to Felix and was most impressed. That trip and the ease of travel in the jet age brought the scene in Europe and the UK and America into being as the ﬁrst worldwide Leather scene; it was going strong by the early 1970's."
Felix wasn't ﬁnished founding clubs. In 1974 he and other UK and European club leaders called a meeting to organize the ECMC (www.ECMC.nu), which was formed to be a clearing house and schedule coordinator for all the clubs, and to strengthen the bonds of the members in the many countries of Europe. It, too, is still going very strong with 35 clubs all over Europe, and is the organizer of many successful events and runs.
The ECMC has worked with various governmental agencies to bring legal equality to European countries that are very diverse. All in all, a pretty good record for Felix and his friends: all of his clubs are still going strong, SNC now in its 50th year, RMC now in its 46th year, and ECMC now in its 41st year.
In 1979 I stayed with Felix in London, and our close friendship began. By then Felix was active with AUA and after I stayed with him in London that summer in London, we met up the next year in New York for the 1980 AUA Fall Review with Tom of Finland, and spent a glorious week in New York at parties, and at the Mineshaft, and Wally Wallace's infamous after-parties at his loft.
Felix was active with AUA and later was made an Honorary Life member of AUA. Two years later, in 1982, Felix sent his new partner Jim Farrant out to visit me in San Francisco and to learn whip- making, and l was very happy to introduce Jim to my San Francisco before the plague, an indescribable place of sex, leather, drugs and freedom.
In 1984 I introduced Jim and Felix to the Chicago Hellﬁre Club at Inferno XIII. We attended several Infernos together and then we began to travel together widely in the 80’s and 90’s. Then in 1986, Jim and Felix moved to San Francisco and became active as members of the 15 Association. Felix had been made an Honorary Life member and Jim had joined in 1985. Felix was also an Honorary Life member of MSC Amsterdam. Jim and Felix returned to London in 1990."
Jim Farrant recalls, "Felix started to slow down by the 1990’s. SNC had a wonderful 25th anniversary weekend in 1990 attended by several hundred men from all over Europe, The U.K. and the U.S. it was magical for all who were there and included a 75th birthday party for Felix and a fabulous run show. Felix was by this time a man of many friends and widely known all over the world. Once in Durban, South Africa I met one of Felix's friends and an SNC member in the local bear/leather bar."
Jim Farrant tells the story of walking on a beach in Dubai with Felix and they see another man in the distance and when he gets up to them they see he is an SNC member and friend. Felix used to joke that there are only four Leathermen in the world and it is all done with mirrors!
For Felix's 80th birthday in September 1995 his friends threw him a grand party in a remodeled 18th-century prison which had been turned into a private club and restaurant. The Mayor of San Francisco, Frank Jordan sent along a Certiﬁcate of Merit and Felix's big birthday cake was cut with a sword. By this time of his 80th, Felix was well into his annual "farewell tours" and then his "ﬁnal farewell tours." Felix kept up with his clubs and events until his death and his wit and humor never left him. He was the life of any party. His wit was legendary and very funny. He could imitate friends and the famous (both male and female) alike. His last final farewell tour was in 1999 but he kept up with friends and community and always adored a good party.
Why does Felix deserve to be in the Leather Hall of Fame? Answer: He was a real Pioneer of the Leatherscene in the U.K. and Europe and in the development ofthe Leather Bike club scene world wide. His work with Tom of Finland and other artists and his long life as an active and playing Leatherman add to his luster. He was a man of many friends who was loved and respected and admired by all he met. He was a major force in creating and shaping the Leather Community in the United Kingdom and Europe.
Peter Fiske: "Felix lived a full life and even after leaving London for the suburbs with Jim, he kept active and they were very happy together. Felix Jones died in August 2003 at 87. Even today he is remembered by many who knew him. Last year I was at the 60th anniversary of the Satyrs MC in Los Angeles and Felix was a shared memory with four other men there!"
If Felix had lived to see the 50th anniversary of the SNC, and the 45th of RMC, and was able to observe the scene he helped create, he would certainly be proud of his clubs and his friends and of the joyful work they all did to create the Leather world we enjoy today.
[The Leather Hall of Fame thanks Peter Fiske & Jim Farrant for their help in the preparation of these biographical comments. ]