Tuesday, 27 September 2011


(September 27)  The uber-private Scottish singer-songwriter has opened her closet - so to speak - for the just-opened The House of Annie Lennox exhibit that runs at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum until February 26, 2012.

This one-room display explores the image and creative vision of Annie Lennox, displaying costumes and accessories worn by Lennox, photographs, personal treasures and awards, ephemera from the political campaigns she has championed, recorded interviews, and music videos.

“You can’t imagine the work involved and the size of Annie’s professional wardrobe alone,” exhibit curator  Victoria Broackes tells the National Post. “She once was able to fit the pieces in a townhouse but her collection has grown so much that Annie needed a warehouse to store everything. We were fortunate that she employs an archivist, who helped us navigate every Annie there ever was. The thing is, we could have gone anywhere with this. Looking at this exhibit, it’s indisputable that she’s a gay, feminist and fashion icon.”

But  Lennox herself is more circumspect.

“By and large, I stay away from fashion. It’s not my scene,” Lennox says. “Versace and Armani asked me to be part of their campaigns, but no, I never wanted that. I didn’t want to be associated with a label — it would be so wrong,” she says. “I feel it would take away from [my] art.”

Intead, today she loves that transgender models such as Italy’s Lea T and New York’s Nomi Ruiz are working the catwalks.

Says Lennox, “Its a healthy thing that someone who is transsexual is being employed as model now. I feel someone who is transgender or a transsexual has always been on the fringes of society for many years. This is a way to break the mould of what gender means. Everything I wanted to be is a collision of conventionality… Something so surreal, dangerous, disruptive but always manages to provoke thought and hopefully shift consciousness a bit.”

The House of Annie Lennox continues at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum until February 26, 2012. Free admission. Click here for more details.

Monday, 26 September 2011


 Author Peter Knegt has written pocket book about the history of Canada's gay civil-rights movement, About Canada: Queer Rights (Photo by Adam Coish)

First-time author Peter Knegt has written a slim pocket book about the history of the queer rights movement in Canada – and it’s pretty good. Part of Halifax-based Fernwood Publishing’s About Canada series, this book is simply titled Queer Rights and briefly but concisely explores how Canada became a gay-civil-rights world leader.

“At first I just kind of did everything I could possibly think of: scouring every single issue of iconic gay liberation magazine The Body Politic at the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Archives in Toronto; reading or rereading everything already written on the topic (most notably the work of Gary Kinsman, Tom Warner, David Rayside, Miriam Smith, Becki L Ross and Brenda Cossman); contacting any kind of authority on the issues I could think of – whether academics, artists, politicians or leaders at queer organizations – and trying to set up interviews,” Knegt tells Canada's Xtra newspaper.

“I ended up interviewing upwards of 70 people from across Canada, some on the phone and some in person. And that was a more important part of the process than I ever could have imagined. Hearing the stories of these men and women who had seen and done so much was intensely inspiring. I remember sitting across the table from Tim McCaskell or Kristyn Wong-Tam or Gerald Hannon and just feeling so floored by what they had to say.”

My one beef with the book is that Montreal’s July 1990 Sex Garage raid is not mentioned once. Without diminishing the importance of the 1977 police raid on Montreal gay leather bar Truxx, Sex Garage is arguably the most important queer event in the history of Montreal and Quebec. That night politicized an entire generation of queer activists who permanently changed the Quebec political landscape and led directly to the creation of the group Lesbians and Gays Against Violence.

"The Truxx raid never changed the attitudes of Montrealers towards gays and lesbians and it certainly didn't inject pride in the gay community," veteran gay activist Michael Hendricks - who has done more for gay civil rights in Canada than probably any judge or politician - told me. "That's why I believe Sex Garage was Montreal's Stonewall. It created community and brought us together in a common front. It also brought English and French together. We founded a group called Lesbians and Gays Against Violence and kept parading around the city for another two months."

LGV was the predecessor of La Table de concertation des gaies et lesbiennes du grand Montreal, the political-action group pivotal in lobbying for the Quebec Human Rights Commission's historic 1993 public hearings on violence against gays and lesbians.

Later, La Table was also key in lobbying for the 1999 passage of Quebec's historic Omnibus Bill 32, which extended benefits, pensions and social services to same-sex couples. That also led to Hendricks' 2004 Quebec Superior Court victory legalizing same-sex marriage in Quebec, a landmark ruling that also forced Ottawa's hand in the 2005 national debate over same-sex marriage.

Montreal publicist Puelo Deir produced the outdoor-stage show at Montreal's Parc Lafontaine following LGV's 1990 march from Montreal City Hall that, in tandem with other Sex Garage fundraisers, helped raise $5,000 to cover lawyer's fees.

That Sex Garage march also directly laid the groundwork for Montreal's Divers/Cite Queer Pride march that Deir co-founded with Suzanne Girard in 1993, a march that in 2007 morphed into the city's famed eight-day Divers/Cite queer arts and culture festival.

Sex Garage also inspired Bad Boy Club Montreal head honcho Robert Vézina to organize the BBCM's first Black & Blue circuit party in 1991. "We thought everybody needed a breath of fresh air," Robert told me years later.

Over the next decade Divers/Cite and Black & Blue would, ironically, transform Montreal into a choice gay tourism destination, pushing Tourisme Montréal to create a gay-tourism template since adopted by tourism authorities worldwide.

So a book on gay rights in Canada that doesn’t even mention Sex Garage can’t help but  fall short.

On the other hand, I was pleased to see The Montreal Manifesto – as it was read by activists who took over the opening of the 1989 International AIDS Conference in Montreal – made it into the book. As ACT UP founder Larry Kramer told me himself, “We made a difference at the AIDS conference in Montreal.”

Knegt admits it is impossible to include everything in a book as slim as Queer Rights.   

“My main goal – and honestly the greatest challenge – was to make this book as inclusive as possible,” he says. “Sure, I also wanted to make it as accessible as possible. This is really just an introduction that intends to lead readers into other educational directions. But it was important to make it as comprehensive as 150 pages could possibly allow. And that’s a significant challenge."

Sunday, 18 September 2011


Award-winning playwright Gaetan Charlebois – who founded The Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia, the MECCAs (Montreal English Critics Circle Awards) and The Charlebois Post – is living proof you can’t keep a good bitch down.

(September 18) Alas, it’s true, my asshole is not the centre of the universe. It’s also true that lines like that will occasionally get me into trouble.

Just ask Gaetan L. Charlebois, publisher of Canada’s two new hugely successful theatre websites The Charlebois Post – Canada and The Charlebois Post – Montreal.

Charlebois – who used to write for both The Montreal Gazette and The Montreal Mirror – knows controversy.

His glory years at Montreal’s much-lamented Hour magazine were marked by two citywide uproars: The first happened in 1997 when Gaetan called out, "C’est d’la merde!" following the premiere performance of Koltès’ Quai Ouest at Espace Go.

Then in 1998 he was denied ticket privileges by that city’s Centaur Theatre when Charlebois panned then-artistic director Gordon McCall‘s Gone With the Wind Twelfth Night.

What a turbulent era that was.

But over the past year the openly-gay Charlebois launched the incredibly successful websites The Charlebois Post – Canada (CPC) and The Charlebois Post – Montreal (CPM or CHarPo, as I like to call it).

CharPo was set up to cover Montreal English-language theatre. “It seemed that during my six years as a pop culture columnist at The Montreal Gazette that theatre coverage had fallen off,” Charlebois explains.

[Disclosure: I worked with Gaetan at HOUR mag, I write the POP TART blog for The Montreal Gazette and I am a CPC columnist and CPC Editor-at-Large. My CPC column – called “The Abominable Showman” – tackles theatre, art and culture. Click here to read today’s column about hot actors stripping buck naked on the stage!)

Gaetan continues, “People like [CHarPO Editor-in-Chief] Estelle Rosen and [Mirror theatre critic] Neil Boyce – via the MECCAs, for instance – had worked hard to keep theatre front and centre but were being insulted (sometimes quite publicly) for the effort. I was recovering from an illness, had the time and joined the fray. And I lucked into a working relationship with Estelle that is one of the great ones of my career.”

But Charlebois says the establishment media’s lack of theatre coverage isn’t unique to Montreal. “The same problem that exists here exists all over the country. I was being told [that] when CharPo took off, so Estelle and I studied the possibilities [of launching CPC] for over six months before diving in.”

So just how desperate are Canadians for comprehensive theatre coverage?

“CharPo Montreal has been amazing – [after nine months] we have about 6000 regular unique readers each week,” Charlebois says. “CPC is growing steadily,  slightly slower than Montreal but that is also because we launched during the [slower] pre-Labour Day period to give us a chance to get the kinks out before the season rolled in. CharPo Montreal was launched right smack in the middle of the theatre season and so exploded right away, warts and all.”

Adds Charlebois, “I think our success means theatergoers in this country are starved for theatre discussion. We used to get that in magazines and radio and TV but many of the specialized magazines and specialized mass media shows have gone under.”

As for CharPo’s print competition – the weeklies and dailies – Charlebois notes ruefully, “The British national daily The Guardian is truly brilliant in all respects – columns, bloggers, commentary, discussion with readers – and their site is lively! The closest thing we have [in Canada] is The Globe and Mail's Kelly Nestruck who, no coincidence, is also a Guardian blogger. And now Kelly also writes for us.

“Kelly really blogs, really FBs and really tweets. Most of the rest of the papers and their people are sad. They don't get the immediacy of blogging, many are not on FB and the ones who are on Twitter often Tweet the dullest and most useless information. Simply: they don't engage.”

In addition to knowledgeable media contributors who have been covering theatre in Canada for years,  some of CharPo’s recent name contributors include Brad Fraser, Jacoba Knaapen (executive director of The Toronto Alliance For The Performing Arts), Arden Ryshpan (Actors Equity boss), Rick Miller (who is doing a run of three of his solos at the Factory) and Kelly Nestruck.

“Now that those are up, some terrific alternative theatre artists are stepping up for the next weeks,” Charlebois says. “But the trend all began at CharPo Montreal where virtually every artist we approached loved the idea of discussing their work: Gabrielle Soskin, Andrew Cuk, David Sklar, Johanna Nutter (who wrote a gorgeous blog for us) - the list goes on and on.”

Of course this being Three Dollar Bill, I ask Gaetan how gay is the theatre world. (Yeah, yeah…)

“It is the gayest art and yet, too, the straightest,” Gaetan replies without missing a beat. “Where else will you find a football player with six kids and a mortgage sitting in an audience bawling his eyes out when he hears Bess, You Is My Woman Now!”

Friday, 16 September 2011


Michael Musto launches his new anthology of columns and essays Fork on the Left, Knife in the Back (Vantage Point Books) on September 19 in New York City

(September 16) Ab-fab Village Voice gossip columnist Michael Musto launches his new just-published anthology of timeless star-studded anecdotes and essays Fork on the Left, Knife in the Back (Vantage Point Books) at NYC's Copacabana on Sept 19.

I chatted with the famed columnist this week for my POP TART blog in The Montreal Gazette, about everything from outing celebrities to having sex with groupies.

“Believe it or not, years ago, when Rosie O’Donnell wasn’t out, I was writing week after week that she needed to more than announce herself as Lebanese,” Michael recalls. “She needed to say the real L word.  And it obviously got to her. She hosted the Tonys one year and during the commercial break, just for the live audience, she made a remark about how she was allowed to costume Raquel Welch for Victor/Victoria. That was a saphically-tinged remark and later at the after-party Rosie came up to me sand said, ‘Well, that remark was for you. Maybe now you’ll stop writing about my private life.’ Obviously I’d gotten her goat and it was a step in her explosion like a cannonball out of the closet. We’re all friends now. Today she’s even gayer than I am!"

Gayer than Musto? Uh, I don't think so. Congrats on the new book, Michael!

Read more Michael Musto in POP TART.

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Sunday, 11 September 2011


 The October 2011 Vanity Fair interview with Conrad Black does not talk about the day Black visited the Montreal gay leather bar Truxx (Photo courtesy Vanity Fair)

(September 11)  Montreal-born businessman Conrad Black says cleaning toilets, getting body-cavity searches and forming alliances with Mafia figures in prison has made him humbler — but he also tells Vanity Fair in their just-published October 2011 issue that he's innocent of fraud and blames his former media rival Rupert Murdoch for some of his legal troubles.

But the Vanity Fair feature does NOT include a story Conrad Black — whom I  like to call "Connie" — apparently wishes would remain buried: The day Black visited the infamous Montreal gay leather bar Truxx.

In Vanity Fair, Black says that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp "has been for decades a rigorously micro-managed company and Rupert Murdoch has created and flaunted an attitude of unlimited right to intrude on, harass, and, to the limit that may be legally feasible, defame people whom he or his editors target. The News Corp. company ethos is one of lawlessness and unrestrained liberty self-righteously to do what it wants, inflated by notions of decisive political influence. I doubt if he personally ordered telephone or Internet intercepts on individuals, but he must have known that some of his employees did them routinely, going back, at the latest, to some of the famous cell-phone conversations of the Prince of Wales."

Black continues, "Murdoch deserves all the credit for building so powerful a company that most of its institutional self-confidence was justified, and most of the discredit for the sleazy way he operated it. I would add that I was more offended by the cowardice and hypocrisy of those in the British establishment who licked his boots—not to mention other places—for decades, and now swaddle themselves in shock sanctimony, than I was by the offensive activities.”

Bugs smooches Nick Auf der Maur
Which may sound hypocritical coming from the Montreal-born media tycoon who on Sept. 6 surrendered at a U.S. federal prison in Miami to serve out the remainder of his sentence on an obstruction of justice conviction. His final stretch in the slammer could last anywhere from six to 13 months.

In Vanity Fair, Black says he "developed alliances" with mafia figures and Cubans while in prison, and ruefully notes, "I’m not embarrassed in the least bit I was in prison — not the slightest. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. You can’t talk to Martha Stewart about it, or Alfred Taubman. They didn’t see it as I did, as a nightmarish change in careers. I see it as a temporary vocation.

"What I’ve been trying to do the last eight years [while fighting the charges against him] is to deduce, at a very fundamental level, what is the message of all this? I don’t doubt that I am a humbler, more sensitive person now that I have experienced conditions with which I’d had little experience. I’ve worked hard to find something meaningful."

Upon his release, Black says he doesn't fear retirement since he still has some chump change. "I can live on $80 million. At least I think I can.”

What Black apparently cannot suffer is the following story which I found out back in September 1996, after his wife Barbara Amiel wrote in her Southam newspaper column, "The reason homosexual activists want same-sex marriages is to achieve the legal obliteration of any distinction between the normative sexual behaviour of society and the neuropathology of homosexuality."

Evidently Barbara Amiel is a homo-hating bitch.

I was so incensed that my first mentor, the late Nick Auf der Maur — famed Montreal boulvardier, former Montreal city councillor, columnist for the Montreal Gazette and the father of Melissa Auf der Maur (rock star with Hole and Smashing Pumpkins) — gleefully recounted to me for my Three Dollar Bill column the time he bumped into Black in downtown Montreal one day in 1978.

"Let’s go for a drink," Black suggested.

"I know just the place," Nick replied and mischievously led his old friend to the Truxx leather cruising bar above the Stanley Tavern when Montreal’s gay district was still downtown.

"Are you taking me to Sodom and Gomorrah?" Black snapped as they climbed the stairwell. "Let’s go to the Ritz!"

Just then a bouncer slid open the peephole and eyed Black in his pinstriped suit. "You can’t come in here," he spat.

"Then Conrad slipped into civil libertarian mode and said, ‘What do you mean I can’t come in here!’ So I pulled out my city councillor’s card and got us in," Nick told me. "After a drink I offered to go to the Ritz, but Conrad said, ‘No! Let’s have another drink here!’

"He hates it when I tell that story," Nick added.

I bet Barbara Amiel hates it too. Which is why it is worth repeating again and again.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011


 Notorious bon vivant Tallulah Bankhead - who died in 1968 at the age of 66 - once said, "My father warned me about men and booze, but he never mentioned a word about women and cocaine."

Summer is fading and it’s time to show off your new wardrobe during Montreal’s über-hot autumn cocktail season. But do you possess the requisite glamour quotient to book a room at the Betty Ford Clinic? To find out, answer the following quiz…

If you could travel back in time, you would go to:
a) Nirvana’s performance at Montreal punk rock club Foufounes Electriques
b) Woodstock.
c) Studio 54.

Your name is not on the guest list at a nightclub. What do you say to the doorman?
a) Sorry for the trouble.
b) Do you know who I am?
c) I could have you shot, bitch.

You feel sexually attracted to your best friend (of the same sex). Do you tell him/her?
a) Never!
b) Only if he/she is gay.
c) Only is he/she is hot!

Are you seeing someone right now?
a) I’m single, but there’s someone I want to sleep, uh, be with.
b) I’m in a long-term quasi-monogamous relationship.
c) Honey, I’m seeing everyone right now…

Your best friend gets dumped by their long-time partner or lover, so you:
a) Tell your friend, "Snap out of it! You’re giving depression a bad name!"
b) Tell them, "If all else fails, lower your standards. I did, and look at me!"
c) Go over to their place with Tahitian French vanilla ice cream you bought at Laura Secord, talk them into incinerating their ex and blast Tina Turner’s Better Be Good to Me on the stereo.

Who said "Cocaine isn’t habit forming. I should know – I’ve been using it for years"?
a) Actress Tallulah Bankhead.
b) Your dealer.
c) The trick you tried to pick up in a toilet stall last night.

Which line most appropriately describes your worldview?
a) I used to snort coke but the bottle kept getting stuck up my nose.
b) I used to jog but the ice cubes kept falling out of my drink.
c) I used to have a drug problem but now I make enough money.

Who was it that said, "It is better to be hated for what one is than to be loved for what one isn’t"?
a) Conservative Minister of State and House Leader John Baird.
b) Ricky Martin.
c) Writer André Gide.

Who was it that said, "Honey, I’m more man than you’ll ever be and more woman than you’ll ever get"?
a) Conservative MP John Baird.
b) Queen Latifah.
c) Actor Antonio Fargas in the film Car Wash.

Bitch Number One walks past and slaps Bitch Number Two in the face. You…
a) Keep walking.
b) Were the one who started it.
c) Toss them weapons and appoint yourself referee.

Which character do you most resemble from the classic TV sitcom Will & Grace?
a) Will or Grace.
b) Jack.
c) Karen.

How important is your appearance?
a) Well, as long as you can’t smell me.
b) Pass me the Preparation H.
c) I paid too much for this nose for it to be not important!

You tell your lover, "Watersports sounds like fun but…"
a) I don’t feel like driving to the waterpark in St-Sauveur.
b) We’ve never been able to afford Club Med.
c) Wait a few minutes whilst I down a few lagers.

Which was the biggest orgy in history?
a) Michael Jackson’s last sleepover.
b) Rome’s Bacchanalian parties during the second century BC.
c) Your pre-Pride parade "underwear" cocktail party at home.

Love is:
a) The sweetest thing, darling, the one and only thing.
b) Fine for a couple of years, but after that it’s a bit like flogging a dead horse, isn’t it?
c) Just another four-letter word.

So just how fabulous are you?

Score one point for every letter A you answered, two points for every letter B and three points for every letter C. If you scored 15-24 points: You’re either a has-been or a never-was. You should get out more often. If you scored 25-38 points: Not bad. But remember, if you’ve never spat in the face of a maître d’, then you just haven’t lived, baby. If you scored 39-45 points: Roll out the red carpet, the paparazzi are at the ready and you’re a star, baby! You’re selfish, arrogant and morally corrupt. Well done!

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