Monday, 30 May 2011


  Montreal icon Mado La Motte hosts her 11th annual ab-fab Drag Race at the Montreal Fringe Festival on June 18
(Photo courtesy Mado la Motte)


(May 30) Few know more than Montreal playwright Steve Galluccio how incredible a launching pad the Fringe Festival is. The openly-gay Galluccio launched his career at the Fringe two decades ago with She's The Queen in 1991, and has since gone on to fame and glory on stages around the world. His 2003 play Mambo Italiano – a poignant comedy about two closeted gay Italian lovers – was translated into French by none other than Michel Tremblay, has been restaged worldwide in several different languages, been adapted into a successful movie co-starring Ginette Reno and Paul Sorvino, and will soon become a Broadway musical. 

But it all started at the Montreal Fringe. So Galluccio agreed to be their festival spokesperson this year.

“I was a part of the first four Fringes,” Galluccio notes in this year’s festival program. “I could tell you how the festival launched my career, but that would be boring. As I was thinking of all those years ago, one magical memory came to mind: it was the third year I think, and the beer tent was somewhere in a parking lot on St. Laurent, south of Prince-Arthur. It was a brutally/beautiful hot night, and the power went out in the tent. As we were sitting there in the dark, I asked one of the actresses in my play (Yayou) to belt out the song Respect. She did, and before you knew it everyone was singing along and harmonizing and clapping their hands. The song ended, the lights came back on, and there you had it: the spirit of the Fringe Festival. There is nothing quite like it.”

Galluccio’s work was always fabulously gay, and here are my choice gay (and gay-friendly) picks for this year’s festival:

The Last Straight Man In Theatre Canadian Fringe veteran and New York based actor/comedian Kurt Fitzpatrick’s solo show is a multimedia, multi-character comedy that involves a live Fitzpatrick portraying a cast of characters on stage, while interacting with filmed versions of himself as even more characters. Characters include Guardino, a male prostitute, Will, a rebellious teenage boy, and Mary, a preaching black waitress. The result is a strange, wild, and hilarious ride through one weird night in a neighborhood of Kurt’s imagination. OK, maybe not very gay, but we love our male prostitutes. At Venue 7 (Portuguese Association, 4170 St. Urbain), $12 admission. June 10-11-13-17-18-19.

How to Become Jayee
How to Become Jayee Plateau Theatre’s press release reads, “The one and only original director of the FBI is back, in drag, and in charge.  But will he be able to strong-arm the masses this time, or will his past haunt his uncertain future? Journey over to the set of a Hollywood blockbuster with 20th century America’s most flamboyant cop, a supermodel starlet and, of course, the ubiquitous equestrian mediatrix.” Doesn’t get much gayer than this, folks. Stars Zack Amzallag, Caroline Gautier, Jennifer May Walker. At Venue 8 (Club D’Espagnol,  4388 St Laurent). $10 admission. June 10-11-13-15-18-19.

Being Earnest
The Importance of Being Earnest If it’s written by Oscar Wilde – as this is – it qualifies as gay theatre. Being Earnest is one of the most performed shows in theatre (reportedly with an expected 27 different performances around the world just this season) and it's easily Oscar Wilde's most famous play. Brave New Productions asks, “So what makes ours different and a must-see at this summer's Fringe Festival? We have taken the English classic and updated it for today's audience. Changes include moving the time period from the past to the present, the setting from England to Louisiana, updating and condensing the original text as well as altering the genders of a few key characters resulting in a great commentary on sexuality today.” This play will be performed OFF-FRINGE at the Galeriie Avenue Art (10 King Street). $10 admission. $7 students. June 13-15-16-17.

Body Slam
Body Slam If you love looking at hot male and female bodies in  motion, do not miss Gregory ‘Krypto’ Selinger directing Montreal artists seen on the stages of Cirque Eloize, SYTYCD Canada, KalmUnity and The Jazz Festival in unique, structured improvisations, fusing breakdance, circus, contemporary dance, music, and slam poetry. At La Tangente (840 Cherrier). $10 admission. June 10-11-12-15-17-18.

The Sods
The Sods This may not be uber-gay, but damn their press release sounds good: “After decades of moral outrage, legal disputes and controversy, porn emporiums have become a relic of our naughty past. Big cities always had a nondescript doorway or two where trenchcoat-clad men would enter to view peep shows, porn film loops, or classic strip tease acts. Montreal Fringe audiences will hear from denizens of the last porn emporium on earth, in The Sods.” This one-man show is Written and performed by Jason Thompson. At Venue 4 (Centre des arts contemporain, 4247 St-Dominique). Admission $12. June 10-11-12-16-17-18. 

Crossroads An original translation of a traditional oriental theatre style known as Beijing Opera. This comedy of errors revolves around a great general who has been disgraced and exiled from the Song dynasty. He is almost killed pre-emptively by his guards, but for a loyal innkeeper, his wife and a mysterious stranger. Two of these would-be rescuers grow suspicious of each other and end up fighting eone another blind, in a hilarious and acrobatic ‘Fight in the Dark’ full of martial arts. At Venue 9 (The MAI Theatre, 3680 Jeanne-Mance). $10 admission. June 10-11-13-15-17-19.

Hedwig and The Angry Inch
Hedwig and The Angry Inch Few haven’t heard about New Yorker John Cameron Mitchell’s cult-classic punk glam rock musical. This version stars Antonio Bavaro (a.k.a Montreal drag queen Connie Lingua) as the iconic Hedwig and Peggy Hogan as sidekick Yitzahk alongside a live four-piece band. Adding to the vibe and authenticity, Hedwig is being performed OFF-FRINGE at Montreal’s indie punk venue Katacombes (1635 St-Laurent). $12 admission. June 9-12-13-14-15-16-19.

Smut Slam Montreal’s first-ever Smut slam will be a fast-paced night of storytelling based on real life, real lust, real sex, on June 8 at Café Souffle (100 Marie-Anne West). Smut Slammers sign up to tell a 5-minute piece of smut/sex/erotica based on their real lives and somehow relating to the Fringe. Showtime is 9:30 p.m. One night only. $7 admission.

Mado La Motte’s Drag Race! The most popular event in Fringe history is back for its eleventh fabulous year with ringleader Mado La Motte – Montreal’s iconic and famed drag queen who celebrates 25 years in showbiz in 2012 – pitting Montreal’s best-known professional drag queens against a bevy of fringe beautifies in a aseries of skill-testing obstacles! And this bitch  – i.e. me! –  will be one of this year’s judges! June 18 at 4 p.m at the Fringe Park (Parc des Ameriques on The Main). Free admission (pay what you can).


Doing Good Fab Montreal dyke stand-up comic Jess Solomon – who is also a former UN war crimes lawyer – jokes about her attempts at doing good. I think Solomon rocks – she is very funny. OFF A at the Montreal Improv (3713 St Laurent # 202). $12 admission. June 9-10-11-12-13-15-17-18-19 
Robby Hoffman
Robby Hoffman: Autobiography Hilarious Montreal stand-up comic Robby Hoffman (this city is an amazing breeding ground of dyke comics of late) “sees life through a more neurotic, hilariously charming point of view. Ever feel trapped in the wrong body? Robby catches herself saying ‘young people these days, Jesus’. Then she realizes, oops, she’s one of them. Guess it’s symptomatic of being born 7th to a single hearing-impaired Jewish mother!” At Venue 2 at Petit Campus (57 Prince Arthur East). $12 admission. June 11-12-14-17-18-19.

Sunday, 29 May 2011


Michelle Sweeney headlines two Montreal concerts at House of Jazz, on June 3 and 4 
(All photos courtesy Michelle Sweeney)

(May 29) I’ll never forget the night I got dolled up in my one-inch eyelashes, body-hugging black dress and Austin Powers-era Beyoncé afro-wig to go see my old friend, Montreal soul queen Michelle Sweeney, and her band headline Montreal’s Jello Bar nightclub. I looked nothing less than stunning. I mean, this bitch was ferocious! "I’m a whole lotta woman!" I told this cute guy at the bar, batting my eyelashes.

I don’t think he realized I was in drag until I sashayed past to the men’s room. Then I overheard him tell his friends, "I thought she was a woman!" 

Michelle & Bugs at Jello
Clearly, this dumb-ass was blind. When I stepped out of the men’s can, he and his two friends blocked my way with their muscle-boy arms folded across their chests, and he snarled, "Ain’t you Richard Simmons!"  To which I replied like a snap-queen, "NO! I’m Richard Burnett!"

I then parted those bruthas like Moses parted the Red Sea and when I sashayed past my man, he grabbed my ass.

True story.

So, you see, I absolutely adore drag, can never get enough glamour and worship a worthy diva. And in Montreal no diva – and I mean NONE – come close to that city’s Queen of Soul Michelle Sweeney whom (I also love to point out) owns more wigs than every drag queen in Montreal combined!

The Oxford dictionary says divas are prima donnas. But in the gay lexicon divas have historically mirrored the gay experience – the quest for acceptance, the need to belong and a larger-than-life persona that demands – no, commands – respect no matter how naughty they are. 

Michelle touring Eurasia
“It’s the charisma, it’s the fabulousness and taking pride in what you do," explains Cleveland-born Michelle, who commands respect as a big woman. "I love what I do. My nails and my hair might come off [onstage], but I give it my best. That’s why [gays] love their divas. And I have survived so many things in my life – raising kids as a single mom and all – and [gay audiences] they love a person that’s real. They want you to keep it real [despite] the false hair and eyelashes. My heart and soul is real."

Michelle – who says almost all the great soul singers have come from the church – adds, “I believe God made all of us. I say this all the time when people criticize gay people. Every time I’ve had a gay audience they have always been full of love. It raises you to your feet, the love they give me.”

Michelle cut her teeth playing the stages of Montreal, from co-starring in the Tony Award-winning musical Ain’t Misbehavin’ with local jazz great Ranee Lee (and stealing every scene she was in!!) at Montreal’s much-lamented La Diligence dinner theatre, to co-starring in the 1990 NFB award-winning feature film Strangers in Good Company, to bringing down the sweaty house at gay Montreal discos like KOX and Unity for 15 years! In fact, I rank her 1996 performance at Bad Boy Club Montreal’s internationally-famed Black and Blue circuit party – then drawing 20,000 revelers each year onto the Montreal Expos outfield at Olympic Stadium back when they hired such pop and dance legends like The Human League, Jimmy Somerville, Martha Wash, Ultra Naté and Loleatta Holloway – as that festival’s most breathtaking performance ever.

On this night Sweeney descended from the Olympic Stadium roof like an angel to join the Chorale Ganymède choir singing Reach Out by Sounds Of Blackness. "I had to walk along this narrow [catwalk] high above the stage," Sweeney recalls. "Now I’m not a small woman and here I was – oh my God – looking down at all those people dancing below!"

BBCM media relations director Carolyn Rousse remembers that moment like it happened yesterday. "That was back in 1996, the same year Girlina flew over the crowd in a spaceship and landed on the stage!" Rousse says excitedly. "That was my favourite B&B edition! There are things we did back then that just can’t be done anymore, like [Michelle Sweeney] on that stage coming down from the ceiling. Oh boy, that would not be accepted by the authorities now!" 

Another night, at Montreal’s famed Divers/Cité Festival, when told that her 30-minute set at an outdoor Divers/Cité concert in front of 15,000 screaming fans was being cut at the very last minute because that day’s performers had gone long, and mostly because the headliner, Québécois pop icon Diane Dufresne would not go onstage one second later than 9 p.m., Michelle came to me at a table of journalists backstage. Whereupon, suddenly, Michelle’s band was granted one song at five-to-nine. Beautifully, Michelle did the longest version of I Will Survive in the history of pop music. When she walked off that stage 10 minutes later, the crowd was going nuts. And Dufresne? She still took the stage – 20 minutes later.

Michelle boarding a plane
But after headlining at Montreal’s House of jazz nightclub for several years (check out Sweeney performing Georgia at a Montreal blues festival in the video clip above), in January 2009 Michelle left Montreal to front a touring jazz orchestra across Eurasia. Fittingly, after a concert one night last winter in the Kazak city of Almaty – the centre of Eurasia – Michelle and the band’s entourage accidentally discovered that city’s only gay bar. "When I walked in I was like their Big Mamma!" Michelle says proudly. "Oh my God, they all loved my clothes, my big hair, the drama! It was fabulous! And the woman who owns the bar had me sing I Will Survive."

Which goes to prove there IS such a thing as global gay culture.

That brings me to my final Michelle anecdote, when my partner-in-crime Bicente and I dropped by Montreal’s House of Jazz nightclub in 2006 to see Michelle belt out a few numbers. Now, I have long said of Michelle that she owns more wigs than every drag queen in this city combined – and there are hundreds of drag queens in Montreal!

So when we left the nightclub in the middle of one of her songs to go check out Montreal’s annual Miss Cleopatra Drag Queen Beauty Pageant at Cleo’s on The Main, Michelle stopped her band in the middle of her song and demanded, "Where you goin?" 

Bicente, Michelle & Bugs!
"We’re going to a drag queen beauty pageant!" I replied.

Knives and forks dropped, every tourist in the joint turned their head as Bicente made a beeline for the front door and Michelle – quick on her feet and without missing a beat – cracked, "Now you tell those drag queens I want all my wigs back!"


 Living legend Edward Albee at The Lammys 
(Photo by Jacques Cornell, courtesy Lambda Literary Foundation)

(May 29) Three-time Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Edward Albee and Gold Dagger Award-winning crime fiction writer Val McDermid were honoured at the 23rd Annual Lambda Literary Awards in New York City this week, at a ceremony that brought together over 400 attendees, sponsors, and celebrities to celebrate excellence in LGBT literature, including several Canadian nominees like playwright Bryden MacDonald and author Daniel Allen Cox.

Stefanie Powers at The Lammys
(Photo by Donna Aceto, courtesy
Lambda Literary Foundation

The "Lammys" ceremony was hosted by comedienne Lea DeLaria ("rhymes with malaria") who kept the evening flowing with her bawdy humor, at one point cracking, “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing here - you’re all smarter than me!”

Also in attendance were presenters Jim McGreevey, Stefanie Powers and award-winning author Emma Donoghue. Entertainment Weekly reports one of the highlights of the evening was when Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally presented the Pioneer Award to Albee. “Edward has avoided gay subject matter to such a degree that people have wondered if he is indeed gay,” McNally said. “Well, I’m here to tell you, in no uncertain terms, that he is. I picked Edward up in 1959 at a party … I thought he was gorgeous and sexy.”

Zoe Whittal
(Photo from Facebook)
In accepting his award, Albee said, “I’m not a gay writer. I’m a writer who happens to be gay … I’ve written a number of plays with gay characters in them, but I have never written a play that could be considered a ‘gay play’ because I consider that a lessening of the creative act, to limit oneself to one’s own sexual practices as subject matter for one’s work.”

Stefanie Powers told EW, “The gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities are in a position where they’re expected to fill a niche, to make a point of themselves. We all long for the time when nobody has to do that.”

Daniel Allen Cox
(Photo from Facebook)
Among the winners were Montreal author Zoe Whittall in the Best Transgender Fiction category for her terrific book Holding Still For as Long as Possible. Other Canadian nominees were Bryden MacDonald for With Bated Breath (his excellent play that premiered at Montreal's Centaur Theatre in 2009) in the Best LGBT Drama category, and Daniel Allen Cox (for Krakow Melt in the Bisexual Fiction category).

Cox was previously shortlisted for a Lammy back in 2009 for his semi-autobiographical debut novel Shuck about a NYC hustler. "My nomination was really unexpected," Daniel told me at the time. "It was just so fantastic to be in that room with so many great writers. It was neat to see all these authors [whose books are] on your bookshelf just a few feet away you! It was a great honour."

Bryden MacDonald
(Photo from Facebook)
Just before this year's Lammys, Cox posted on Facebook, "Going to Lammy ceremony in NYC tonight in my rhinestone tie with Jack Daniel’s and Harley-Davidson silver inlay. Best three dollars I’ve ever spent."

After the ceremony,  Bryden MacDonald posted on Facebook, "As expected - no Lammy. But let me tell you, my true reason for making this trip was beautifully realized: meeting and chatting with Edward Albee. What a night! My head is still spinning. And Terrance McNally too. And Stephanie Powers taught me how to use my camera."

Saturday, 28 May 2011


Judas Priest on American Idol

(May 28) I have long believed the real reason Judas Priest have yet to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is because Priest frontman Rob Halford -- known to his legions of fans as The Metal God -- is still one of the rare openly gay superstars in all of showbiz.

Metal God Rob Halford 
(Photo by Ron Anaheim)
I mean, Black Sabbath were inducted in 2006 and Metallica in 2009. But Judas Priest, hailed as the Godfathers of Heavy Metal? And Halford, who introduced heavy metal’s de rigueur leather-man look?

Not even a thank you. And, frankly, it pisses me off.

So last summer I told Halford I think the Rock Hall snub has everything to do with his being openly gay.

"I don’t know, let’s have a think: Who in there is gay?" Halford asks rhetorically. "It’s a good question. I consider myself a lower-case gay, not screaming like my good friend [porn director and drag queen] Chi Chi LaRue. I love all my friends in the community and if the moment came [for being inducted into the Rock Hall], it would be a tremendous moment not just for the band and our fans, but for the whole LGBT community."

Judas Priest probably boosted their chances of being inducted with their roof-raising American Idol TV performance this week (the May 25 finale on FOX drew 29.3 million viewers!) with American Idol finalist James Durbin (they sang Living After Midnight and Breaking The Law, which you can watch above). Judas Priest begin their global Epitaph farewell tour in Holland on June 4.

Friday, 27 May 2011


Montreal rock star Jonas IS the massive attraction!
(May 27)  My mind is completely in the gutter when I ask handsome Montreal rock star Jonas how on earth he and his band came up with their name, Jonas & The Massive Attraction. "We were fucking around with names, doing that old high school thing where everybody goes home and thinks up a name for the band," Jonas says. "We were trying to be subtle but there’s nothing subtle about us! Why try some poor emo name? This is everything we are – rock’n'roll and shameless."

Well, if there’s one thing I know, it’s shameless. So I tell Jonas with his package he could’ve posed for the cover of the classic Rolling Stones album Sticky Fingers. "That’s a Jonas cover!" I tell him.

"I’m totally down with that!" Jonas laughs over the phone from his hotel room in Berlin on his band’s recent mini-tour of Europe. "[After] we played the Embassy Club London in Soho [we went] out with a couple of friends – I met a girl who used to be the stylist for The Who. She was also a stylist for the Stones when she was 18 and had all sorts of stories. Then she made a couple comments that way, comparing me with Jagger. You got to take that stuff with a grain of salt, but it was still flattering!"

Montrealers knew Jonas was going places when they first saw him back in 1999 when his band Rubberman (yes, Rubberman!) won the CHOM L’Esprit rock band contest. The young and wiry Jonas had a tight midriff and a "package" you couldn’t miss at 500 paces.

When his first album was released in 2004, the then-24-year-old Jonas told me, laughing, "You work with what you have and sometimes other people can work what you have for you. And that feels really nice. Especially after a bottle of wine."

That was also the year his band opened up for Van Halen’s North American tour. "Their people didn’t want Eddie and Sammy socializing and partying with us. They thought we were going to be a bad influence! But they [Van Halen] were in full party mode. Michael Anthony and I had shots [at the bar] under the stage – that’s like a sign saying ‘Welcome aboard.’ We had a blast the whole tour."

Jonas smooches Bugs at 2006 Juno Awards!
  If Jonas has a knack for band names, he also has a Diamond Dave-style knack for meaty quotes. For instance, at the 2006 Juno Awards in Halifax, attending a CTV VIP party with folks like Pam Anderson, Jonas – as we both proclaimed our love for a fabulous rack – cracked, "It doesn’t matter what you got going on in the fireplace as long as you got a mantelpiece!"

It was also at that party that Jonas first told me about the first time he met Anderson – in an L.A. hotel elevator. "It was Oscar night and I was at this party and Hilary Swank walked in with her Oscar. I walk over to the bar and Tracy Morgan comes over many sheets to the wind and I become his new best friend and we end up in a hotel penthouse afterparty. I’d been drinking red wine and made some pharmaceutically bad decisions and wasn’t feeling very well, so I left. I got in the elevator and two floors down who walks in but Pam Anderson! So in my state, I [actually] said, ‘Hey Pam, what up?’ Then she gets off the elevator and I watch her walk down the hall until the elevator doors began ringing. She turned to look at me and I froze in my tracks! And that was that."

Always the gentleman: Jonas poses on red
carpet with my mom Liliane at Old
Montreal Europa fashion show
This weekend an older and wiser Jonas – he’s now 32 – and The Massive Attraction (featuring long-time guitarist/band leader Corey Diabo, J.S. Baciu on bass, Francis Fillion on drums and Henri "H" Fortier on keys) open for Kid Rock, at Montreal's Bell Centre on May 30.

Kid Rock better watch out too, because Jonas and the boys could easily steal that show, especially on the heels of their hugely successful latest album, Big Slice ("We’re definitely experimenting with our poppier side"). The title track is ZZ Top-style fun and the mid-tempo closing ballad The Deep End also deserves to top the charts. And this time they did it all themselves on their own Big Slice Records label.

"I came out of two years of record label hassles [with Deja Music]," Jonas tells me. "It was great at the beginning but then it was time to get out of Dodge. They sold our contract to DEP and we bought it out from them."

It’s a brand-new start for the Juno-nominated Jonas, who broke nationally in 2005 with his terrific cover of Stevie Nicks’ Edge of Seventeen and still looks hot after all these years on the road.

Straight guys like him because Jonas really is a nice guy. Girls love him because, well, he has a nice package. And gay audiences love him too, as evidenced by the long and loud reception he got headlining the outdoor Divers/Cité stage a couple summers ago. Let's face it: Jonas is hot.

"I love my gay fans because they know out of adversity comes love," says Jonas. "When you’re isolated for being different – I can relate to that on a huge level. I was always different too."

Jonas and I have another thing in common even though he’s straight and I’m not: We are unabashed boobiesexuals. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I admit it. I love a fabulous rack. Tits, bazoombas, bodacious tatas, my world, welcome to it.

"But," Jonas adds, slipping back into rock star mode, "I’m also a bootiesexual!"

Jonas & The Massive Attraction open for Kid Rock, May 30 at Montreal's Bell Centre


Transgender pioneer Candy Darling with Andy Warhol (Photo still from Beautiful Darling)

(May 27) In 1958 fourteen-year-old Jimmy Slattery wrote in his dairy, “Someday I'll be a movie star, that's it, and I'll be rich and famous and have all the friends I want.”

Then one day he did, as pioneering male-to-female transsexual Candy Darling, who escaped Long Island to become become part of Andy Warhol’s circle at the Factory in New York before dying in 1974 at age 29 of lymphoma.

Now the documentary film Beautiful Darling chronicles the short life and times of the popular 1960s actress and notorious transvestite. Candy's career took her through the raucous and revolutionary Off-off-Broadway theater scene and into Andy Warhol's legendary Factory where she became close to Warhol and starred in two Factory movies, Flesh and Women in Revolt. Candy then used her Warhol fame to land other film roles, and even Tennessee Williams cast her in his play Small Craft Warnings.

Darling was the muse of the protopunk band The Velvet Underground (she was the subject of their song Candy Says) and was one of several Warhol associates mentioned in Lou Reed's Walk on the Wild Side. Darling is also mentioned in the The Rolling stones 1967 songs Citadel.

Darling dreamed of becoming a Hollywood star but, as film critic Barbara Vancheri of  the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette accurately notes in her review of the film, which is winning raves right across the board, “The documentary dances around the suggestion that Candy was forced to be a hustler to survive. But since it counts devoted friend Jeremiah Newton as a producer, Beautiful Darling teeters on the brink of darkness but never dives in, preferring to only delicately dent the cocoon Candy had spun for herself.”

Many of the celebrities interviewed in this film include Fran Lebowitz, Paul Morrissey, Julie Newmar, Jeremiah Newton, John Waters and Holly Woodlawn, and there are clips with the late Tennessee Williams and Andy Warhol. 

One celebrity not interviewed, however, is poet and literary legend John Giorno, first superstar of the Factory. That’s Giorno sleeping in Warhol’s 1963 eight-hour-long film Sleep, and that’s Giorno you see in Warhol’s unreleased Handjob, which focuses on Giorno’s face while he masturbates.

John Giorno (Photo by Rolline 
Laporte, courtesy John Giorno)
I befriended Giorno when he came to Montreal in 2008 for the Festival Voix d’Amériques. I took John out for steak and smoked meat at Schwartz’s, and plenty of beer and tequila at The Copa on The Main, and he shared many stories, like why  he and Warhol really split in 1964. 

“It was complicated – I was [the Factory's] first superstar and he was getting rid of me,” John told me. “It was the beginning of a pattern [for Warhol]. William Burroughs came to New York in 1964 and [artist] Brion [Gysin, pictured on the cover of Burroughs's book Junk] became [my] lover and these two were staying at the Chelsea Hotel. It was two different worlds. And Burroughs was my door to political activism. So I went into a whole other world. [Then with Andy] it’s like, you know, they don’t answer your phone calls. Or they say, ‘I told so-and-so to invite you.’ That’s what happened. It wasn’t just one moment. There was never any fight. But that whole art world was an enormous influence on my work.”

As for Candy Darling, she died of lymphoma in New York in 1974. But in her deathbed letter addressed to Warhol, she wrote, ""Unfortunately before my death I had no desire left for life . . . I am just so bored by everything. You might say bored to death. Did you know I couldn't last. I always knew it. I wish I could meet you all again."

Darling was 29. Her funeral was attended by huge crowds and Gloria Swanson was remembered for saluting Darling's coffin.

Beautiful Darling opens at Montreal’s Cinema du Parc for one week only, May 27 to June 2. For a list of other cinemas, surf to the official Beautiful Darling website.

Thursday, 26 May 2011


Pipi Douleur and Gigi L’Amour – a.k.a. transdisciplinary artists Aaron Pollard and Stephen Lawson (All photos courtesy

Montreal audiences have long adored local drag queens Gigi L’Amour and Pipi Douleur – a.k.a. transdisciplinary artists Stephen Lawson and Aaron Pollard – like opera lovers worshipping international divas at Vienna’s Staatsoper. Gigi and Pipi are royalty in this town. But during their three-week run as theatrical sensation at Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in January 2009, something extra wonderful happened.

 "We were on the cover of NOW Magazine, which apparently is very rare for people in performance," Gigi (Stephen Lawson.) told me afterwards. "So we were very excited! Then we had to move house during the second week [of our run] and we took all our bags out to the taxi. The driver opened up his trunk and," here Lawson’s eyes twinkle, "the bottom of his trunk was lined with our picture from the cover of NOW Magazine!"

Lawson howls with laughter: "That keeps it all in perspective – here today, gone tomorrow!"

Fresh from runs in Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, San Francisco, Glasgow, Iceland and other points afar, Lawson and Pollard premiere their new production of Tightrope at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre on May 27 - "a high drag spectacle in memory of our forgotten."

"The theme of people who have disappeared kept arising in different communities,” Lawson told Xtra this week. “Whether it was political dissidents in Argentina, drug cartel victims in Columbia or aboriginal women in Canada, the idea kept presenting itself.

“We started to ask ourselves about our relationship to the disappeared in our own lives," he adds. "We were 11 and 14 respectively when the AIDS crisis began and feel quite strongly the absence of that disappeared generation of gay men.”
Developed over a three-year period, Tightrope incorporates a live musical element by Montreal performers Alexis O’Hara and Radwan Ghazi Moumneh. Backed by a virtual choir of singers, musicians and drag queens, summon the shadows, apparitions and voices of the past - "phantoms of a liberationist gay culture that vanished with the onset of the AIDS crisis and a generational amnesia surrounding this loss."'s Quebec roots make their approach to stage very different. "There is a stagnation in general within theatre in North America, with the exception of Quebec and that’s because Quebec is an aspiring nation-state," Aaron Pollard told me for an HOUR mag cover story a couple years ago. "It’s also about language, because artists [in Quebec] have to find a way to tour their work. So, yes, we tailor our work, reduce language in script-based work in order to make it more accessible [outside Quebec]."

"Hence the incredible tradition of contemporary mime, the circus, marionette theatre," Lawson adds. "These are all extremely healthy in Montreal but you don’t see this diversification in the rest of North America."

So what about New York City?

Pollard didn't miss a beat: "Who wants to play in New York? They think they’re so important you have to pay to play." 

At Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times Theatre May 26 to June 5
Previews May 26, Opens May 27, Runs to June 5

Monday, 23 May 2011


Which pro athlete will be the gay Jackie Robinson?

Just six gay male athletes from North America’s four major pro leagues – the NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB – have publicly come out and I’ve interviewed four of them:  NFL offensive lineman Roy Simmons, former Green Bay Packer and Atlanta Falcon Esera Tuaolo, Major League Baseball utility player Billy Bean and former NFL running back David Kopay, whom I’ve interviewed several times over the years.

The fifth, onetime L.A. Dodger outfielder Glenn Burke, the man credited with inventing the high-five, died of AIDS in 1995, the year before I started writing this column. And the sixth, former NBA journeyman John Amaechi, came out in 2007. But quite frankly I didn’t particularly want to interview Amaechi then because I’d heard it all before.

It all began with former NFL running back David Kopay – who was first offered a position with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes before he signed with the NFL – when he came out in 1975 during what can only be called pro sports’ Jurassic era.

Kopay was the first. So I understand him only coming out after his player days. As for the rest of them – well, let me just say that Montrealers adored Jackie Robinson when Jackie broke pro baseball’s colour barrier with the Montreal Royals in 1946 (before breaking Major League Baseball’s colour barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947), and none of these Johnny-come-lately gay guys is a Jackie Robinson.

In fact, if anything, they’re all a bunch of sissies.

I had to hound 1980s and 1990s MLB utility player Billy Bean for three years before he agreed to an interview – on the eve of the publication of his 2003 memoir Going the Other Way, no less. Bean told me, “Jackie Robinson had the support of his organization and the fans in Montreal, though maybe not all of his teammates. Fortunately Jackie was a great baseball palyer because he was subjected to a different standard as a gay player would be.”

More recently, it’s straight athletes who seem to be doing all the gay-civil-rights heavy lifting. NHL New York Rangers forward Sean Avery was the first pro athlete to publicly support New Yorkers for Marriage Equality and when his 30-second Human Rights campaign video (which you can see below) was released in May 2011, the anti-gay criticisms of Avery by father-and-son sports-agent team of Don and Todd Reynolds opened the floodgates. Rick Welts, president and CEO of The Phoenix Suns, came out to The New York Times on May 15 (two years after Laura Ricketts made history as the first ever openly-gay Major League Baseball owner, of the Chicago Cubs), and then former Villanova Wildcats basketball player Will Sheridan (who was out to his teammates) publicly came out to ESPN on May 16.

“It annoys me that they try to act like all us [straight] jocks are going to be homophobic,” former NBA champ Charles Barkley said on a podcast with ESPN's Bill Simmons. “It does a disservice to team sports to say we would not like a gay guy. And that guys wouldn't want to play with him. It doesn't work like that in sports.”

“Dude, we just want guys on our team who can play,” Barkley added. “On team sports, we don't care what colour or religion a guy is, as long as he can play.... You know who I don't want to play with? Guys who suck at their sport.”

As Major League Baseball legend Felipe Alou once told me when he was skipper of the Montreal Expos, “There are too many other things out there to worry about: too many killings, too many robberies, too many lies. I don’t see why a gay player should be a problem in the locker room, and I don’t see why a player’s sexuality should affect his evaluation.”

But the incontrovertible fact remains that just six gay male athletes from North America’s four major pro leagues – the NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB – have publicly come out. 

 The truth has more to do with fan reaction and endorsements. For instance, while it is true tennis legend Martina Navratilova won a ton of prize money in her pro career, coming out in 1981 also cost her millions in endorsement opportunities. “I didn’t gain anything [monetarily] but I never compromised myself,” Martina told me on the eve of the 2006 inaugural World Outgames in Montreal. “Staying in the closet would have cost me my personal dignity. You can’t put a dollar value on dignity.”

And that’s what this all boils down too. It’s all about the money. As Cuba Gooding Jr. screams to his sports agent (played by Tom Cruise) in the Hollywood film Jerry Maguire, “Show me the money!”

 Which brings me back to David Kopay, whose coming out dropped a bomb on the NFL when his autobiography The David Kopay Story topped The New York Times bestseller list for weeks in 1977.

“I do feel special,” Kopay told me. “I went up to Billie Jean [King] once and said, ‘I wished so badly when you were struggling with [your] coming out that I could have helped you.’ And she told me, ‘But if it wasn’t for your book I don’t know if I would have gotten there!’

“That’s still unbelievable to me,” Kopay sighs.

Kopay’s autobiography also literally saved the life of former Green Bay Packer and Atlanta Falcon Esera Tuaolo, who, when he came out on ESPN’s Real Sports in 2002, became just the third player in league history to do so (after Kopay and Roy Simmons). “When David and I met for the first time [afterwards] I bawled like a baby,” Tuaolo explained to me following the 2006 Super Bowl game. “It was like, ‘You saved my life,’ and for David it was, ‘You are my confirmation.’”

This is why gay athletes need to publicly come out, damn the torpedoes. As NFL offensive lineman Roy Simmons rhetorically asked me when his memoir Out of Bounds was published, “You know what I heard? That there’s a secret organization of gay NFL players. Is it true? I’ve been out of the NFL for a long time, but I think it’s too risky for these guys. Why would someone making a big salary, who could be married, why put all that in jeopardy?”

So while closeted pro gay athletes continue to play in silence, the rest of us continue to endure loudmouth idiots like Joakim Noah, centre for the Chicago Bulls, who on May 22 was caught on camera saying “Fuck you, faggot!” to a fan during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat. Noah barely apologized after the game, actually saying, “I apologize [but] the fan said something to me that I thought was disrespectful, and I got caught up in the moment, and I said some things that I shouldn't have said. I was frustrated and I don't mean no disrespect to anybody. I just got caught up.”

Jackie Robinson is rolling over in his grave.

Which is why all gay pro-athletes are duty-bound to publicly come out now.

You know, I only got an interview with former closeted MLB umpire David Pallone after he published his memoir Behind the Mask. Same thing with Roy Simmons (Out of Bounds) , Esera Tuaolo (Alone in the Trenches) and Billy Bean (Going the Other Way).  John Amaechi only publicly came out when his memoir Man in the Middle: My Life In and Out of Bounds was published in March 2007. Sure they all did some good coming out in the end, but they also made a buck from it only when they had nothing else to lose – when their playing days were over.

Personally, I’m with NBA Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban who thinks that, in this climate, an openly gay NBA player would actually clean up. “From a marketing perspective, if you’re a player who happens to be gay and you want to be incredibly rich, then you should come out, because it would be the best thing that ever happened to you from a marketing and an endorsement perspective,” Cuban told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram after Amaechi came out. “You would be an absolute hero to more Americans than you can ever possibly be as an athlete, and that’ll put money in your pocket.”

Cuban continued, “On the flip side, if you’re the idiot who condemns somebody because they’re gay, then you’re going to be ostracized, you’re going to be picketed and you’re going to ruin whatever marketing endorsements you have.”

In fact, Rogers Sportsnet anchor Damian Goddard was fired on May 11 after tweeting in support of the anti-gay marriage stance taken by hockey agent Todd Reynolds. “I completely and wholeheartedly support Todd Reynolds and his support for the traditional and TRUE meaning of marriage,” Goddard tweeted on May 10.

(Xtra reports that while the tweet came from Goddard’s personal account, his profile identified him as a Sportsnet broadcaster and his thumbnail picture showed him at the Sportsnet news desk.)

So my advice to athletes is, if you’re gay, do us all and yourself a favour and come out when it really means something, when you’re still at the top of your game.  

That’ll make you the biggest winner of all.

Saturday, 21 May 2011


Comic trailblazer Kate Clinton headlines The Crown & Anchor in Provincetown May 28 through Sept. 4 (Photo by David Rodgers/Courtesy Kate Clinton)

(May 21) "I think Charlie Sheen is representative of all straight men right now!" legendary stand-up comic Kate Clinton told me just days before Ashton Kutcher announced he is replacing Sheen on the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men

"I love to generalize!" The great Kate Clinton is laughing her head off. 

"But seriously, straight men need to reel him in!" she says. "It’s not making you look good! I think straight men are in trouble and Charlie Sheen is doing them no service at all. They need to do an intervention! ‘Charlie, you’re making us look bad!’" 

This year Clinton celebrates her trailblazing three-decade stand-up career – which specializes in political commentary – with her year-long Glee Party Tour! She also releases Lady HAHA, her tenth DVD collection, next month, and she happily agreed to sit down for my ninth annual Kate Clinton column. 

"For those of you who speak in Roman numerals, it’s XXX, baby!" says Kate, who turns 64 on Nov. 9. "How long have we known each other, Richard?" 

"Almost 15 years," I reply, recalling the Q&A with Clinton I hosted at Montreal’s downtown Chapters bookstore during her summer 1998 book tour for her first collection of essays titled Don’t Get Me Started. I was young and nervous and Kate – a personal hero of mine – put me at my ease and made me feel like a million bucks. 

The former elementary school English teacher – with her always-reassuring voice – did stand-up for the first time in 1981 on a dare, and she has since headlined nightclubs and festivals around the world, and always proudly as an out woman. 

Without Kate Clinton, there is no Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, no Rosie O’Donnell (whom Clinton also used to write for on her old TV show), no out Lily Tomlin. As Kate herself once said, "Lesbian humour isn’t trying to sell anything, it doesn’t have to sell out. Coming out as a lesbian on stage is still a very political act – if it weren’t, more women would do it." 

Kate’s also had several off-Broadway runs and was a regular at Montreal’s Just For Laughs Festival until JFL pulled the plug on their Queer Comics showcase in 2005, a move that hasn’t hurt all those closeted gay comics JFL loves to hire. 

Moreover, in her 30-year career Clinton has helped raise millions of dollars for such organizations as the New York City LGBT Community Center, the Gill Foundation and the U.S. National Center for Lesbian Rights. In fact, working the stage at community events year-round, Clinton has inspired yet another new generation of supposedly "post-gay" activists who have finally forced Obama’s hand over gays in the military and same-sex marriage. 

"They walk the walk about coalition building, they’re very gender fluid, they work in the social media but they also know you still have to go door-to-door with flyers," Kate says proudly. "Every time I go it recommits me." 

While a Sarah Palin 2012 presidential ticket could very well seal a second Obama term, Clinton (not related to Bill or Hillary), says, "I don’t want to get lazy again like I did with George W. Bush. Actually, I was quite bored: ‘Yup, he’s evil!’ 

"Palin would be a comedy gift for me, but bad for ‘us.’ I think she’s a tool, has no clue what’s involved and that’s probably what they [the backroom Tea Party boys] want, another little puppet. I think she’s very dangerous. I [also] think the old-school Republicans are terrified." 

As for anti-gay Republicans Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump making noises about running for president in 2012, Clinton says, "I think the grandiosity of Trump was why he said he was running. And Newt sees himself as an idea man and represents the old guard. I think they’re both a direct reaction to the Tea-baggers. Obama could be going, ‘Yeah, destroy each other!’ but he’s [too busy] running the country." 

Kate also does not believe Hillary Clinton will run for office again. "I saw her [recently] and [my partner, author and activist] Urvashi [Vaid] was talking to her about immigration and international things and I said to [Hillary], "And I’m worried about your jet lag!’ And she replied, ‘Tell me about it!’ I said, ‘I don’t know how you do it. When I get off a plane I’m barely coherent. You get off a plane you have to do a press conference!’ Hillary said, ‘I know!’ I think she’s really tired." 

Kate’s favourite joke these days is, "Sarah Palin found her Jihad spot." 

"I actually take a bow when I do it because I enjoy it so much!" Kate laughs. "When I first wrote it I looked heavenward and said, ‘Thank you!’" 

Does our Kate have trouble living up to being a living legend? "Do you feel obliged to do something legendary every time you step outside?" I ask her. 

Kate laughs, then tells me, "It’s a burden, yes! I need to be able to do that pose in yoga for the people! Actually, I don’t really. I feel like I’m a spokesperson and I know where I come from. I come from the women’s movement, the [black] civil rights movement, the sexual liberation movement, the gay movement. While I never pulled off being straight very well – I felt like a fraud – I do this job very well." 


Essential buttplugs Check out Kate Clinton’s daily jokes, weekly video blogs and Glee Party Tour! updates at Kate also headlines The Crown & Anchor in Provincetown all summer, May 28 through Sept. 4. Surf to

Friday, 20 May 2011


 The Hello Sailor: Gay Life on the Ocean Wave exhibition 

I love a man in uniform, especially sailors in the Navy. It’s the stuff of vintage gay porn. Now many of those stories come to life in the exhibition Hello Sailor: Gay Life on the Ocean Wave that opens at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax this week.

The original exhibition at the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool (part of National Museums Liverpool) focuses on the life of British gay sailors aboard ocean liners and merchant ships beginning in the 1950s up to the 1980s. The Canadian component compares that experience to the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex mariners in Canada up to the present day.

“One of the great things about sea life is that it’s very (accepting) – you can be all kinds of unusual,” U.K. researcher Jo Stanley, who traveled to Halifax for the exhibit's launch, told the Canadian Press. “There is kind of no such thing as 'normal' at sea, so there was that sense of freedom.”

RMS Carinthia
Stanley co-wrote the 2003 book Hello Sailor! The Hidden History of Gay Life at Sea with Paul Baker after hearing stories from female stewards of men who “preferred shopping over brawling.”

Stanley's work became the focus of a 2006 exhibition at the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool, where it remains on permanent display. “(Seafaring) was their university, in a way,” says Stanley, who comes from Halifax, England. “But I think most of them were attracted to the fact that it was a fun job. It involved travel, it involved partying around, there was lots of solidarity. It was the ideal job to do if you were a gay man.”

RMS Scythia
Halifax Maritime Museum of the Atlantic curator Dan Conlin points out since passenger service for Canadians wasn’t as prominent at that time, there wasn’t the same “gay oasis.”

Conlin told Global News that “many of the (Canadian) gay and lesbian mariners who shared stories with the museum said there was a ‘sailor first’ identity.” 

It was illegal for gay men and women to serve openly in Canada’s armed forces until 1992. Conlin notes, “The worst homophobic treatment tended to come from shore side institutions, especially in the Canadian Navy prior to 1992, when they had witch hunts seeking to entrap gay men (and women).” 

Sailors dressed as showgirls
on board the Queen Mary
However, on British ocean liners (both my parents, for example, sailed to Canada from Liverpool during the great ocean-liner era, my father on Cunard's RMS Scythia and my mom on the luxury liner RMS Carinthia, which later became a floating casino in Hong Kong harbour), Stanley says the vast majority of stewards were gay men who were open about their sexuality.

There were drag shows and nighttime performances of musical theatre on board ships, and it wasn't unusual to spot men cavorting in brightly-coloured feather boas and stilettos. Gay sailors even had their own secret language they could use to communicate with each other around straight men.

The exhibition also shows how gay pubs were popular in ports and their nearby red-light districts. Some pub patrons joined the British merchant navy so that they could liver freer live gay lives, after hearing seafarers’ tales in local pubs. Foreign ports, especially Hong Kong, New York and Montreal, also offered opportunities to see shows with big-name stars.

UPDATE: Hello Sailor: Gay Life on the Ocean Wave ran at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax until November 27, 2011. The exhibition has been on permanent display at the Merseyside Maritime Museum in the Albert Dock, Liverpool, UK, since December 2011.


 Buck and Babs - Toronto's fab Two Gay Guys cooking team - enjoy breakfast in bed!

(May 19) Joan Rivers once spent 15 minutes giving me plastic surgery advice for my mother. "You know, Richard," Ms. Rivers told me afterwards, "Why don't I just talk to your mother instead? Why don't you guys come backstage to see me when I'm in Montreal!" In the end Mom decided not to get an eye tuck, after Ms. Rivers told her, "My God, you look too young to be Richard's mother!"

Then some days ago, Rivers made headlines around the world (it was a slow news day, granted) when she "revealed" an old showbiz trick: Spraying on homemade deodorant made with vodka, which kills smelly bacteria. “I always spray my costumes with vodka and water," Ms. Rivers said. "It’s an old Broadway trick — two-thirds water and one-third vodka, spray your armpits and you’ll never smell again.”

Buck, Bugs and Babs riding
vodka-fuelled T-O subway!
So I told my old friend and vodka boozing partner Louis-Michel "Babs" Taillefer — half of the delicious Two Gay Guys video-chef cooking team — that we'd have to try this out the next time I visit his Queen City home with a gallon of vodka. Replied Babs, "Well lets not be foolish now, honey. Just a little dab will take care of those unGodly odors, but the rest has GOT to go down our gullets for good measure!"

Anyway, Louis-Michel and his life partner, award-winning restaurateur and all-around hot chef Derooy Buck — also known as “Chef Buck” and “Sidedish Louis-Michel” — are the instigators behind the very entertaining and often hilarious The Two Gay Guys YouTube cooking channel (think Two Fat Broads, but with hot — and much slimmer — Leather Daddies instead). The cooking segments showcase Chef Buck’s culinary talents and Louis-Michel’s fierce appetite, promising easy recipes and cooking techniques while using a dash of humour (and a great cha-cha-cha soundtrack) to help heat things up in the kitchen. Their latest episode was posted this week and is called Two Gay Guys and a Fabulous Salmon!, which you can watch below.

“If you want to be successful in your own kitchen, you must always be curious and willing to explore new flavours,” says Buck. On the other hand, Louis-Michel is far from being a Julia Child-in-the-making. He admits he can’t cook to save his life: “I’ve actually burnt eggs while trying to hard-boil them!”

But damn, Babs can sure drink vodka! Cheers, darling!

Thursday, 19 May 2011


 Our Maggie works the red carpet! (Photo by Andrew McNaughton)

 (May 19) If I were a dyke I’d go down on Canadian comic Maggie Cassella! She’s funny, sexy and I love her trailblazing all-gay comedy festival, We’re Funny That Way, which turns a whopping 15-years-old next year! But as if being a stand-up pioneer isn't enough, this year my buddy Maggie (and her business partner Heather Mackenzie) launched one of the hottest new venues in Toronto called - wait for it - The Flying Beaver Pubaret!

The joint serves food and drink on the pub side, and serves up live shows on the cabaret side. "Our wait staff brings you food and drink and does everything for you except go to the loo!" Maggie says. "And we’d do that for you too if we could because we’re aiming to give some great customer service!"

Recent headliners include another showbiz legend, the always very funny stand-up comic and jazz singer Lea DeLaria, as well as comedienne Karen Williams, Tabby Johnson, Sharron Matthews, Billy Newton Davis, Vickie Shaw and Jessica Kirson. And this week award-winning comedian, actress and television host Carla Collins headlines from May 19-21.

But what I want to know is the funniest/craziest/scariest story that's happened to Maggie or one of her performers at the Beaver since it opened?

"You don't have enough room in this column for the reality show that has been our first eight weeks!" Maggie tells me. "Let's just say having the Hazmat unit there before we even opened was both scary and funny. Oh, and I now have 15 minutes of new material."

As for We're Funny That Way, Maggie says, "I'm massively busy but I am looking forward to the 15th WFTW next year. Hoping to do a doc update with David Adkin, and [this year] we're doing our first WFTW Foundation Golf tournament on July 27!"

Maggie will also headline The Post Office Cabaret in Provincetown during Women's Week in October.
Carla Collins

As for Canadian PM Stephen Harper's Conservative Party majority win on May 2, how does Maggie feel? "Afraid," she sighs. "Very afraid."

Carla Collins headlines The Flying Beaver Pubaret (488 Parliament Street) in Toronto, May 19-21. Showtime: 8 p.m.  $20 advance/$25 door. Dinner available before, during, and after the show. Reservations recommended. 647.347.6567. Also, there's a Post-Bunch Tea Dance 4-7 p.m.this Sunday, May 22 (no cover).