The LL-bar opened its doors on the 10th of September 1970 on the Elandsgracht. Forty years later, the name of the venue still causes confusion: what does ‘LL’ stand for? The answer isn’t Lange Lullen (Engl.:long dicks), Leather Lovers, Leren Laars or Lucky Lady. LL are simply the initials of Leo Lanting, the man who taught Ad van Schaik (owner of the LL) all about running a bar. Ad chose the name deliberately to cause confusion.
Before he opened his business Ad van Schaik used to work behind the bar at the COC on the Leidseplein with – among others – Anne Feenstra. The bar was an initiative by Leo Lanting and his wife Margot. Anne, who also worked as a representative of perfumeries, dreamed of a beauty salon. “I will call it Margot”, she said. To which Ad added:”I’m going to buy a leather bar and I will call it LL, in honour of Leo Lanting.” (Gaykrant, 08/12/1995)
Right from the start, the LL-bar had a different style than other leather venues. The LL offered visitors a ‘chique’ leatherbar including a trendy sixties interior (think of symmetry and rectangles) and a motorbike to touch and sit on.
About a month after the bar opened, a man named Tjalling Terpstra (nicknamed ‘Pappa Coffee’) approached Ad with his wish to start a Motor Sport Club. The Argos had announced they weren’t willing to host any club evenings, so Tjalling turned to the youngest leather entrepreneur in town for help. Ad, eager to get more customers into the bar, agreed and registration lists for the motorclub were soon placed on the counter.
After a while, a meeting was held, a board was chosen and the MSA was a fact in November 1970. From then on, every Friday night saw bikermen (and their admirers) lining up for the club evenings at the LL-bar. A tire was used as a message board on which men could nail small messages and letters. One of the messages was an invitation (we would call it a ‘flyer’) for all the acquaintances and friends of the bikermen to ‘a new bar in town’ at Easter 1971. The message quickly spread and the very first ledertreffen became a huge success filling the Elandsgracht with leather, men and their motorbikes. At Whitsuntide there was a second edition and when the LL-bar celebrated its first birthday a third ledertreffen-party took place.
But Tjalling wanted more parties. His only demand was that access to the parties should only be given to MSA-members and men in leather. Ad strongly objected as he had some customers who loved leather but had too little money to buy the right gear. To him, those customers who visited his bar every week were more important than that fully geared leatherman who only showed up every other six months. Eventually the conflict between the two men ended with the MSA moving its club meetings to the Argos and Tjalling bitterly telling Ad that he wondered whether anyone would still visit his bar…
Luck was on the side of the young entrepreneur when a couple walked into the LL-bar. They had a warehouse nearby on the Lijnbaansgracht and were looking for someone to exploit it as a bar. After Ad found out the venue was on the verge of bankrupcy, he made a deal with the staff and rented the venue from Friday to Sunday evenings. He had had to send people away when the ledertreffens packed his bar, but this venue seemed fit for larger ‘LL-parties’.
Entrance to the first LL-party at the warehouse was 5 guilders which 185 men gladly paid. Had they known that the venue didn’t even have any toilets for its guests? Ad investigated this matter and decided to hang a few urinals on a wall and connected them to the gutter on the roof! Amsterdam leathermen were thrilled to find a whole lot of junk inside the building: old machinery, large wooden barrels and an 8mm-projector showing 20 minute-porn flicks on a wall.
Since there was no bar, beer was sold in bottles. But the major attraction of the party was a motorbike placed under a running water hose. Everybody wanted to sit on the motorbike and take part in a wet and wild scene.
The address of the building wasn’t published on promotional material, adding more mystery to the LL- parties. Nevertheless, the LL-parties were an instant success, drawing a larger crowd at every occasion.
When the instrument factory, which still occupied part of the warehouse, closed, Ad had to decide whether or not to buy the building. After having met a ballet dancer looking for a venue to host dancing lessons, Ad took the plunge and started to rebuild.
Whereas visitors could initially only buy entrance tickets for the LL-parties at the LL-bar, Ad now placed a little counter at the entrance where he sat to collect the entrance fee: 10 guilders per person. He also sorted out the lavatories by placing six urinals on a wall and some wash-bowls in the same room. Knowing very well what his visitors were up to, he always made sure to throw some soap powder on the floor before the venue opened and hosed it all down after closing time.
Ad did everything himself, cleaning, sorting, the administration, etc. He wanted to know exactly what was happening. Every month he changed the decor of the warehouse. Tables at the bar were made from old tires and empty oil barrels. Lighting was created with old paint cans and red light bulbs. Ad always went his own way, never did he go abroad to see how they did it over there.
A change that caused some commotion among the LL-visitors was the creation of a dancefloor: Ad:”The boys came to me and said:”Dancing? A leatherman doesn’t dance!” Now they’re all dancing! I always say: Those leatherqueers all have french wallpaper at home! To those leatherboys the LL-parties were just like carnival. Weeks before they were already busy with their clothing. (…) I was often called beforehand by nervous types wanting to know what time the party would begin. In a manner of speaking, they were already busy oiling up their jeans.” (Gaykrant, 08/12/1995)
Even though Ad van Schaik may not have been a fully geared leathermen himself, he had a heart for his customers and the visitors to his parties. He always kept a distance between the party-goers hanging around on the first floor of the warehouse – where you could find tables and chairs – more for social reasons than sexual.
Especially New Year’s Eve brought out the soul of the men visiting his venue. With closed bars and nowhere to go, they turned to Ad to organize a New Year’s Eve Leather Party. Ad saw the void and decided the party should be more different than ever.
He rented a fritter[1. Typical Dutch pastry served at New Year’s Eve. Dutch name: ‘oliebol’.] stand which was placed inside the building, complete with a pastry-cook who made fritters throughout the night in a huge pan. After the party had ended, Ad and his staff went to his home on the Elandsgracht to count the tokens. (Visitors had to buy tokens at the entrance and pay with those tokens for food and beverages.) These tokens have now become very valuable collector-items.
The LL-parties were some of the greatest leather parties ever held in Amsterdam, but their fame and success also drew the attention of the municipality and the police. Already after the very first LL-party at the warehouse, the police were alerted about parties where ‘beer was sold at an incredibly high price’ (untrue, beer cost 1,50 guilders at the time) and ‘people were tied up and burned’. Ad quickly took action. He showed the police the building and when they said the system behind the parties was illegal, he promised to make it legal. He founded an organization, applied for a liquor licence and registered the LL-parties at the Chamber of Commerce.
After sorting things out, Ad never heard from the police again. But the municipality, already having drawn up plans for an apartment building at the LL-party location, didn’t hesitate to give him a hard time.
With the help of a lesbian friend who once came to the rescue after Ad had been taken to the police for sleeping with an underaged boy (the boy being 20 while the legal age for homosexual sex was 21), Ad decided to go to court in order to obtain the necessary licences for the parties. He might have known he would lose in the end as he decided to draw out the court procedures as long as possible, thereby securing the existence of the LL-parties as the municipalities weren’t allowed to close them down until the court had made its final decision.
The court procedures, which Ad paid from his own money, ran for seven years. In the end, Ad ended up at the Council of State in The Hague which told him to sort out the safety issues and get a licence from Amsterdam’s fire department. It was then that Amsterdam’s municipality achieved its goal. In order to get the licence from the fire department, Ad had to rebuild the warehouse, and he was absolutely willing to do so. But before he could start rebuilding the warehouse, he needed a building-licence from the municipality. They denied him this final licence which would eventually have secured the continuation of the LL-parties.
Amsterdam’s municipality even sent the police to Ad a few days before the last LL-party, announcing they would evacuate the place if the party took place. The bar owner and party organizer felt he couldn’t let that happen to his customers.
After the warehouse had been forced to close, Ad gradually lost the appetite to run the LL-bar and decided to sell it. By that time there were already seven leather bars in Amsterdam and Ad decided to rebuild the bar into a grand café in order to make it more appealing to possible buyers. Eventually he sold the former LL-bar and the warehouse separately to different owners.
Source: Photos donated by M. Duyves.