“I think only of tomorrow, and I don’t think about what has been. I think that is unhealthy.’ That was Rob Meijer’s (1933-1990) answer at the beginning of his last camera interview (1989) to the question whether he wanted to say something about the “Golden Times” of the leather scene.
In this interview, we do not see Rob at all. In a dimly lit room, the camera focuses on an ashtray containing his smouldering cigarette. After ten minutes, we see his leather gloves in the background, and later on, his sunglasses and a bottle of Heineken appear on the table. Rob quickly realizes that he is being filmed. When he gets up to get an artwork by Bastille from the wall, he taps the camera several times. But he does not mention the fact for over an hour.
Unintentionally, the way the interview is conducted adds an extra dimension to the conversation with the interviewers from the United States. As he feels more at ease and tells more openly about his life and work, we see more of him. First his hands and vest, then a part of his face, which becomes clearer when the light in the room is lit. Towards the end of the interview, the camera captures him in full, even while looking straight into the camera. By then, it is an hour and a half later, and he is smiling and making jokes with bright eyes. He perhaps realizes that this could be his last interview on camera, maybe his last interview ever, as he no longer talks to journalists.
No matter how much he likes to tell people the reactions to that one television appearance were so positive, he is on his guard and avoids it. It has to do with his health and the illness that is taking more and more out of him. He has “it” and finds it hard to talk about it. “But with you I can talk freely,” he assures his guests. That is all he says about it. The camera records the state he is in; he has lost weight, sometimes forgets the question, stops talking or wanders off, and looks tired at times.
He does not understand some questions, but is also enjoying it. His eyes are betraying that. And he is making jokes about slaves and about a female employee who, much to his annoyance, interrupts him during the interview to ask if there is someone in the store: “Women, we should kill them all!”
His answers to questions about erotic art, making leather, the leather scene and his experiences in the scene are special. He thrives when he tells anecdotes about BDSM. Not just about whips and ropes, but also about the “mind trips” he truly enjoys. “I like to play mind games with people, to be smart and make remarks that shock them. Some time ago, a group of people dropped by, with a hot boy who wanted to be a slave.
So I was talking to these people, and suddenly asked him: ‘So you think you are handsome?’ And because the boy wanted to be a slave, he was afraid to say that he was handsome. The conversation went on, and I then asked him: ‘Do you think you’re ugly?’ Well, at least he was certain he was not ugly! [He smiles widely with bright eyes] It shows people! It is leather; you do not need any ropes and such.”
The impression left after the interview is the personality of the special man Rob Meijer was. And that perhaps I learned more about leather history from listening to Rob for an hour and a half then in six years of doing research into leather history. It’s not just in what he says, but in how he tells it. Next year, the Foundation LeatherHistory.eu wants to publish a written portrait about Rob. It would be nice if we could also show some fragments of Rob’s last camera interview to the next generation leather and fetish men for which he paved the road.