Thursday, 26 February 2015

HOW GAY MEN DEFINED 20th CENTURY INTERIOR DESIGN


Montreal author John Potvin’s new book explores the homes of Oscar Wilde, Noël Coward and Cecil Beaton

This story was originally published in Daily Xtra

Montreal author John Potvin was researching his new book about the homes of famous gay men around the same time he married his husband in December 2010, in the home of a close gay friend. It was here and then that Potvin’s vision for his book Bachelors of a Different Sort: Queer Aesthetics, Material Culture and the Modern Interior in Britain crystallized.

“I’d been thinking about this for half a decade, and what fascinated me about these gay male couples were their lives together,” Potvin says. “Much of what is written about gay life and queer identity is geared at the public sphere. I wanted people to understand how these men created lives within their homes.”


Bachelors of a Different Sort gives readers an inside look at turn-of-the century bachelorhood by offering case studies of the private lives and homes of several prominent gay bachelors living in Britain. All the bachelors chosen were in the creative arts — writers, actors, painters, designers and photographers — and the book includes the domestic interiors of Oscar Wilde, Noël Coward and Cecil Beaton.
Potvin, an art history professor at Montreal’s Concordia University, explores a largely unseen side of queer sexuality by showing how these bachelors used interior design to set themselves apart from the constraints of the hetero-patriarchy that surrounded them.

“Although [gay men] have been written out of the histories of design and the home, a profound sense of community was forged as a result of [them] living in these homes,” Potvin says.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

2014 HEROES AND ZEROES OF THE YEAR



My column on past year’s heroes and zeros originally ran in the January 2015 issue of Fugues magazine.


Here is my 19th annual column of the past year’s heroes and zeros. 


Hero Pope Francis, for encouraging a Synod draft to state “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community.” 

Zero The Vatican and Pope Francis, for backtracking on the Synod’s “Homosexuals has gifts” statement after coming under furious assault from conservative Catholics. 

Zero Luca Magnotta. Enough said. 

Zero The organizers of Ottawa’s Capital Pride, who ran that city’s Pride festival into the ground with an $106,000 deficit in 2014. 

Hero Toronto, for hosting the world at their kick-ass World Pride 2014 festival. 

Heroes Brewers Guinness, Heinekin and the Boston Beer Co. (maker of Sam Adams beer), for pulling out of the New York and Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parades because both parades refuse to allow LGBT marchers. 

Zero Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps, who finally died. Good riddance.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

JOAN JETT AMONG 2015 ROCK HALL INDUCTEES

Jett's white Melody Maker guitar has been covered with various stickers over the years, including "Gender Fucker" and the black and blue Leather Pride flag


She may sing otherwise, but the truth is Joan Jett does give a damn about her reputation. That’s why we know so little about her, and so much.

She cemented her legend status with her 2006 comeback studio album Sinner on the Vans Warped tour when fans and critics alike re-evaluated Jett’s hugely important place in rock’n'roll.

"It’s very humbling that anybody will accept you at all," Jett told me at the time. "It’s overwhelming. I tend to deflect it because I don’t know how to deal with it."

This week Jett was among those announced in the 2015 class of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "I'm flabbergasted," Jett told Rolling Stone. "It can be really hard sometimes to assess myself. I'm living it and it's hard to step back and see the larger picture in terms of what the music industry thinks of me."

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

HOW JANIS JOPLIN (ACCIDENTALLY) LAUNCHED CAREER OF IMPRESARIO DONALD K. DONALD

Janis Joplin (Wikipedia)
With news this week that the long-awaited Janis Joplin biopic Get It While You Can will begin shooting in Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2015 starring Amy Adams as Joplin and with Dallas Buyers Club director and Montreal native Jean-Marc Vallée at the helm, I thought this was a good time to remember Joplin by some of those who knew her best, from many entertaining all-star interviews I've done over the years.

Donald K. Donald

For instance, legendary Montreal impresario Donald K Donald – a.k.a Donald Tarlton – got into the rock promotion business by accident backstage at the old Montreal Forum one night in 1968 when rock legend Joplin puked all over the shoes of Tarlton’s mentor, renowned local promoter Sam Gesser.

“It was the beginning of the rock’n’roll era and Sam had a hard time relating with the culture,” Tarlton, then 25, told me some years ago. “He hired me as the stage manager. Janis was drunk and threw up all over his shoes. Sam was horrified, looked at me and said, ‘Donald, you can take over all the rock stuff.’ And that was it. I became the rock promoter of Montreal.”

Tarlton’s memory of Janis backstage is one of many Joplin anecdotes I’ve collected over the years. So, 44 years after Joplin’s death (from an accidental heroin overdose, on October 4, 1970), I’ve dug up a few.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

MONTREAL'S McCORD MUSEUM ACQUIRES KENT MONKMAN MASTERPIECE


The 24-foot long painting Welcome to the Studio: An Allegory for Artistic Reflection and Transformation by Kent Monkman


Montreal’s McCord Museum this week acquired Welcome to the Studio: An Allegory for Artistic Reflection and Transformation by Kent Monkman, an internationally renowned out-and-proud Canadian artist of Cree ancestry.

The work was created in 2013 as part of the Museum’s Artist-in-Residence program and was exhibited from January 30 to June 1, 2014.

Monkman’s massive 24-foot-long painting focuses on the relationship between photography and painting and was inspired by the work of William Notman, one of Montreal’s premier 19th-century photographers, and French painter Gustave Courbet, leader of the realist movement.

Welcome to the Studio also comprises more than 30 portraits by Notman, chosen from the McCord Museum’s Notman Photographic Archives of some 600,000 photos.

“The project started [in 2013] when we started looking at photographs, which I began to study six months later,” Monkman told me earlier this year. “It took about two months to do the painting.”

Saturday, 4 October 2014

JOHN GIORNO REMEMBERS WARHOL, GINSBERG, BURROUGHS AND KEROUAC



Bugs (pictured here with John Giorno) interviewed John Giorno for the January 24, 2008, cover story of Montreal's HOUR magazine

John Giorno remembers the moment he met Allen Ginsberg like it was yesterday. It was 1958, and they were both attending a reception at Columbia University where Giorno was a student and editor of The Columbia Review.

Giorno idolized Ginsberg, a Columbia grad whose landmark 1956 poem Howl is one of the principal works of the Beat Generation, along with Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch.

"When I first read Howl I was a 19-year-old gay man in 1950s America and Allen was the first writer to reflect my mind," Giorno recalls today. "I didn’t see Allen standing with his back to me, but his elbow was sticking in my rib. My girlfriend said, ‘There’s that poet you like.’ Well, he liked young boys and I was a poet and we started blabbing. He liked me. Then there was this [other] guy who put his chin on my left shoulder and it was Jack Kerouac! He’s tanned and three inches from my face."

Giorno laughs.

"I was just awestruck – On the Road had come out a year earlier. I was speechless. He looked like a tanned Marlon Brando! He leaned forward and spoke in my ear and I’m thinking, ‘Jack Kerouac’s lips have just touched my ear!’ I still don’t understand what he said!"

Giorno, now 72, would become lifelong friends with Ginsberg, Kerouac and later Burroughs, so much so that the internationally acclaimed poet has become known as one of the last living sons of the Beat Generation. "I’m a bit younger than all of them, that’s why I’m a son. But it’s one of those meaningless titles."

Saturday, 23 August 2014

NOTORIOUS UK ACTIVIST PETER TATCHELL ON A LIFE IN THE LGBT TRENCHES


Peter Tatchell getting arrested by Russian police at the 2007 Moscow Gay Pride march (All photos courtesy Peter Tatchell)

Bugs’ interview with Peter Tatchell originally ran in The Montreal Gazette.

Legendary British activist Peter Tatchell has been a thorn in the side of countless homophobes over the decades, everybody from the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, to the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin.

But arguably some of the biggest-name homophobes who despise him most are notorious anti-gay Jamaican reggae dancehall superstars such as Sizzla, who wrote the 2005 hit song Nah Apologize about LGBT activists – and in particular, about Tatchell and myself.

Peter Tatchell
Tatchell’s international Stop Murder Music campaign successfully targeted Sizzla who then told me in an explosive 2004 Hour magazine cover story that went global, “Once we stoop to sodomites and homosexuals, it is wrong! Wherever I go it is the same thing – burn sodomite, burn battyman … We must get rid of Sodom and Gomorrah right now.”

That sensational interview made international news, including on the pages of Jamaica’s national newspaper The Jamaica Gleaner where I was also trashed in an op-ed. Then in his song Nah Apologize, Sizzla repeats in the chorus, “Rastaman nah apologize to no batty bwoy!”

Tatchell clearly remembers that turbulent era when many dancehall stars were targeted by the Stop Murder Music campaign.

“It took a huge amount of effort and I personally faced many death threats, even had police protection at certain times when they informed me a hit man had been sent from Jamaica to kill me,” Tatchell says. “The upshot is today the prevalence of murder music is much less than it was. We hit them where it hurts them most – in their wallets, when all those concerts got cancelled around the world.”

You might not know it from his in-your-face political tactics, but Tatchell’s political inspirations are Mahatma Gandhi, Sylvia Pankhurst and Martin Luther King. But there is no question that Tatchell – who staged the first-ever LGBT rights protest in a communist country, East Germany, in 1973 – is also inspired by the likes of Malcolm X.