Tuesday, 26 June 2012

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Gad Beck, Last Known Gay Jewish Holocaust Survivor, Dead at 88

World War II queer underground resistance superhero Gad Beck - the last known gay Jewish survivor of the Holocaust - passed away on June 24, 2012, in Berlin

I scoured Israel and Germany in 1998 to find World War II queer underground resistance superhero Gad Beck. When I found him, Gad gave me one of the most memorable interviews I’ve ever done. The last known gay Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, Gad passed away on June 24, 2012, in a retirement home in Berlin, just six days short of his 89th birthday. Here is my December 1998 interview with Gad Beck. RIP.


Gad Beck remembers falling in love with Manfred Lewin , another Jewish gay teenager who lived in a poor Berlin neighbourhood in Nazi Germany.

Hitler had been crowned chancellor nine years earlier, in 1933, when Gad was just 10-years-old. By the time Gad realized he was attracted to men, though, Germany’s burgeoning gay movement embraced by the pre-Nazi Weimar Republic had been all but crushed. Over 100 gay bars and political organizations had been wiped out in Berlin and Himmler himself later boasted the Nazis had killed a million gay men between 1938 and 1944.

“When I was 17 or 18 there weren’t a lot of gay bars for Jewish gays.” Gad said. “This was the problem – I had no place [to go]. So I was a bit lonely.”

Until he met Manfred. But it was October 1942 and the Nazis were transporting Jews east. When Manfred’s family was rounded up by the Gestapo, Gad borrowed a neighbour’s Hitler Youth uniform and marched into the transit camp in a bid to free his first love.

Beck, classified as a half-Jew or “half-breed” by the authorities (his father was Jewish, but his mother had converted to Judaism), convinced an officer to put Manfred into his custody temporarily. Once outside the camp, though, Manfred stopped dead in his tracks.

“I was going out with him from the ‘locker’ and I sad, ‘Manfred, now you are free – come!’ And he said no,” Gad explained. “And it’s important to understand this:  Manfred said, ‘I will never be free if I am not near my family. They are old and they are ill and I have to help them.’ And he went back to the locker without saying good-bye to me. I never saw him again. His entire family died in Auschwitz.

“It was then I decided to help my friends before they [too] were put on the list,” Gad told me.

Within a year he was the leader of Chug Chaluzi – the Pioneer Group – which helped feed, shelter and transport over 100 Jews as part of the Europe-wide Zionist resistance movement Hechalutz, the Pioneers.


Gad’s Pioneer group included his twin sister Miriam (a.k.a. Margot). “We had very good help from The Pioneers in Switzerland,” Gad said. “I got from their Swiss attaché money and information – I learned what was happening and what would happen.”

While Gad stated unequivocally that his sexuality didn’t motivate him to fight the Nazis – “For them I was Jewish” – it did influence the way he fought back. 

“If you are a member of a minority there is a place where you can find yourself. Every night I thought, ‘Tomorrow I will be sent to the camps.’ But every night I was not alone. Love was the only thing that gave me strength to fight Hitler and his politics. I had the love and loyalty of my friends. Love gave us the force to fight.”

Gad, whose translated memoir Gad has Gone to David was published in America in 1999 as An Underground Life: Memoirs of a Gay Jew in Nazi Berlin, felt a similar solidarity within the gay civil rights movement. “I feel I have to fight for more liberty for gays. Even today we are not liberated. We are just beginning.”

Gad was a keynote speaker when the USHolocaust Museum dedicated its gay and lesbian fund in 1996 and the following year rode in New York City’s Gay Pride parade. “It was the first time and it was the last. It was very nice and they made me feel like a hero – ‘You are our hero!’” Gad explained, but then told me, “Dah-ling, it is not serious! I am not a hero.”

He scolded me when I insisted he was. “Look, if I am a hero, I am a little one. Everyone has to fight sometime on their life.”


After the war Gad helped transport Jews to Palestine, fought in Israel’s war for independence and worked as a psychologist in Tel Aviv for 12 years. But in 1978 he returned to Berlin to become director of the Jewish Adult Education Centre. His sister Miriam (Margot) remained in Israel with her five children. “She is very happy and very fat!”

It was only after returning to Europe, though, that Gad met his second ‘husband,’ Julius Laufer (15 years his junior), in Vienna.

“I met this beautiful young man in a coffeehouse and he could only speak Czech,” Gad recounted. “It turns out his father was my comrade in the underground, fighting for me and my group in Prague [during the war]. One day, the Gestapo took his father to prison and he ended up in a concentration camp in Austria. And now here was his son.” Gad’s voice swelled with emotion. “I will never leave this man. He is my great love.”

[Note: Gad is survived by Julius, his partner of 35 years.]

Gad met his first husband, Zwi Abrahamssohn, decades earlier when he was captured during the last days of the war. They were betrayed by a Jewish girl. “More than six SS officers took me and Zwi and put us into a basement cell [in the Jewish Hospital] in Berlin from February 1945 to April 1945.”

It was here that Gad, feverish and wounded when the Allies bombed the city, convinced the Gestapo chief not to kill 1,000 Jews to celebrate Hitler’s birthday on April 20. Meanwhile, the battle of Berlin raged on in the streets above. “I told the Gestapo chief, ‘The Russians are one kilometre away – I will be the winner, not you,’” Gad recalled, pointing out Russian mercy could be negotiated if the Gestapo spared the 1,000 lives.

It worked.

“I was liberated by a Jewish soldier of the Russian Army and he asked me in Yiddish, ‘Are you Gad Beck?’ I said I was. He was so beautiful I could have fallen in love with him. ‘Brother,’ he told me, ‘now you are free.’ And he kissed me.”


When I first went to Israel’s Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, in 2007, I thought Gad Beck should be properly honoured there and so began correspondence with the museum. Before I revisited Yad Vashem in 2011 during Gay Pride in Tel Aviv, they contacted me and acknowledged Gad’s incredible work. Hopefully one day they too will honour Gad Beck.

Back in Berlin, Gad was an active member of the local gay community, organizing gay singles meetings at the Jewish Adult Education Center where he worked, and every year he partook in Berlin’s Gay Pride parade, in the very city where Hitler wiped out the Weimar Republic’s burgeoning gay movement decades earlier.

Gad passed away this past Sunday, on June 24, 2012, in a retirement home in Berlin, just six days short of his 89th birthday. He is survived by Julius Laufer, his partner of 35 years.


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Thursday, 7 June 2012


Richie Bitch and Mado La Motte at the 2011 Montreal Fringe Festival Drag Race

Some pretty amazing stand-up comics have come out of Montreal over the years and one of the best is legendary drag queen (and Fugues magazine columnist) Mado La Motte, so-called because patrons at Poodles’ nightclub on The Main in Montreal way back in 1987 thought she was so ugly they dubbed her “The Mutt.”

 Thus, Mado ‘La Motte’ was born.

“She looks like a clown!” my six-year-old brother Skye told me as he pointed to Mado at his first Gay Pride parade in Montreal over a decade ago.

When I told Mado about it afterwards, she replied, “He’s right, I am a clown!”

Mado – a.k.a. former UQÀM theatre student Luc Provost, who quit university two credits shy of a bachelor’s degree – got her start as a shooter bitch and cigarette girl at Poodles and Club Lézard. The rest, as they say, is history (or in Mado’s case, Herstory).

“When young children walk past Cabaret Mado they always point to Mado’s statue,” Luc told me once. “One time a child said, ‘Look at the clown!’ And his mother explained, ‘No, that’s a drag queen.’ But children are the first to recognize what drag queens really are. We are clowns.”

And none of them is funnier than Mado. 

The French-speaking Mado is lightning-quick on her feet and absolutely slayed the mostly anglophone audience with her deliberately butchered English at her 11th annual Drag Race at the Montreal Fringe Festival last summer. I was a judge at the drag races that year and Mado – bless her heart, the tramp – redubbed me “Richie Bitch.”

Mado is back this summer with her 12th annual Drag Race and it is bar-none the most popular, best-attended event at the Montreal Fringe Festival, which this year runs from June 4-24. Over 60,000 theatre-lovers are expected to attend over 700 performances (French and English) by more than 500 theatre, comedy, dance, music and visual artists.
Here are my choice picks for this year’s edition:

Drag Races / La course en drag A dozen drag queens to celebrate a dozen years! Mado Lamotte hosts this knock down, drag-out battle royale pitting Montreal’s best known professional drag queens against a bevy of FRINGE Beauties in a series of skill-testing obstacles at the Fringe Parck at Parc des Amériques (Central Box Office, Outdoor Stage, Beer Tent) on The Main. June 16 at 4 pm. 120 minutes. Free admission.

FUCKING STEPHEN HARPER : How I Sexually Assaulted the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada and Saved Democracy Written by Rob Salerno, who is also a news journalist for Xtra. Promo for this play – which got raves in Winnipeg and Victoria – reads, “We’ve all heard journalist Rob Salerno ‘sexually assaulted’ Stephen Harper. Now hear Salerno’s side of the story at this signing of his tell-all memoir, which Maclean’s calls ‘an hilarious tale of Canadian politics and what Stephen Harper’s balls feel like.’” At Petit Campus (57 Prince Arthur E), June 18-24. Runs 60 minutes. $10.

God Is A Scottish Drag Queen Written and directed by Mike Delamont, CanWestNews says of this Victoria Fringe Best Solo Show winner, “A Cross Between Dame Edna and Billy Connolly with a dollop of Eddie Izzard.” What’s it about? God, Dressed in a floral power suit, skewers everything from Bieber to the Pope. This show has sold out all of its Canadian performances to date. At Cabaret du Mile-End (5240 Parc Ave.), June 16-24. Runs 75 minutes. $10.

If Looks Can Kill...They Will!  I love the “kids” of Montreal’s terrific Glam Gam Productions crew who’ve long been putting on funny, sassy, racy shows – often with eye-popping nudity –  at Montreal’s Café Cléopâtre. Well, they’re back with a new comedy/ musical theatre/cabret show. Their promo reasds, “Ever since polyamorous lovers Sarah, Michael and Julie invited members of their Glamily over for a burlesque dinner party cabaret, tensions have been rising on set… as has the body count! Help sexy Sherlock Homo and Dr. Hotson solve this mysterious case!” Written, choreographed and directed by Glam Gam Productions, June 8-16 at Café Cléopâtre (1230 St-Laurent). Runs 105 minutes. $10.

Glam Glam
Hippolytos Euripides’ play about desire starring the hugely-talented Antonio Bavaro in drag (you may know Antonio’s drag alter-ego Connie Lingua performing at queer nights like POMPe Thursdays at the Katakombes co-op on The Main, or for his widely-acclaimed performance in Hedwig & The Angry Inch at last summer’s Fringe fest). Written by Euripides, translated by Carina de Klerk, Lynn Kozak and McGill Classics, and directed by Carina de Klerk and Lynn Kozak, the promo reads, “Hippolytos doesn’t like sex, or the sex-goddess Aphrodite. But he’s about to learn you don’t mess with that goddess. Come see this all-new English version of Euripides’ play about desire, set in a club with original techno music. If you go out clubbing with Aphrodite, who will you fall for?” At Le Gymnase (410 Rachel E.) from June 15-23. Runs 110 minutes. $10.

Montreal Roller Derby If you’ve never attended this rock ‘em sock ‘em league of kickass chicks battling it out for real on a flat track, then do NOT miss this special Fringe battle royale, featuring two match-ups: New Skids On The Block vs Suburban (Steel City Derby Demons) at 6 pm, followed by the Fringe Half-Time Show, and then Les Contrabanitas vs Derby Debutantes (GTA Rollergirls) at 8 pm. With hosts Plastik Patrik, Single Malt Scott, FLQ and Private Stacks. June 9 at Arena St-Louis (5633 St-Dominique) beginning at 6 p.m. Runs 180 minutes. $10-15.

It’s important to remember that the Montreal Fringe Festival is an awesome launching pad for theatre, comedy, dance, music and visual artists – over 500 just this year alone.

Montreal writer Steve Galluccio – who wrote the hugely successful play Mambo Italiano before adapting it for the screen – famously got his start at the Montreal Fringe in 1991 (his several Fringe plays in the early-‘90s included spoofs of The Brady Bunch and Batman and Robin). 

Montreal Roller Derby
“I’m proud to be a Montreal Fringe alumni,” Steve told me when he was named official spokesperson for last year’s festival. “It’s a great place to start your career, an amazing platform to learn how to do it all. I was there the first four years, from 1991 to ‘94. I learned how to put on a play with no money; I learnt that sets aren’t important – it’s what you put onstage that counts. I grew up in front of an audience. Sometimes they’d like something, sometimes they didn't, and I’d make changes. I learned to sell myself – which is so important – and get people into the theatre.”

This year’s edition of the Montreal Fringe Festival runs from June 4-24 at various venues. Advance tickets are recommended. For all shows, times and venues, surf to www.montrealfringe.ca

Happy Fringing!

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Luka Rocco Magnotta stripped for Badpuppy.com
I don't think I need to explain who Luka Magnotta —dubbed the "Butcher of Montreal" by the European media— is. But if you think the media frenzy over this story is crazy now, just wait until the world sees these pictures of Magnotta stripping naked for the gay-porn site Badpuppy. Click here for the pics. (Sept 19, 2014 update: You now have to pay to see the photos).

Meanwhile, the National Post reports the Internet Adult Film Database shows Magnotta performed in eight adult movies, including Street Bait 996: Luka, distributed by StreetBait.com. Click here for a gay porn clip featuring Magnotta.

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Sunday, 3 June 2012


As Britain celebrates the Jubilee anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's reign, British LGBT activist and OutRage! founder Peter Tatchell takes the queen to task for her silence on gay issues, in an op-ed in The Guardian:

Queen Elizabeth II (Wikipedia)
While I doubt that Elizabeth II is a raging homophobe, she certainly doesn’t appear to gay-friendly. Not once in her 60-year reign has she publicly acknowledged the existence of the LGBT community—or gay members of her own royal family. The Queen has turned her back on queens.

"While she has spoken approvingly of the UK’s many races and faiths, for six decades she has ignored LGBT Britons. Judging from her silence, it seems that we are the unspeakable ones – the people she cannot bare to acknowledge or mention in public. Why the double standards?

"Regardless of whether these omissions are a reflection of the Queen’s personal views or the result of advice from her courtiers, as monarch she bears ultimate responsibility. Her silence sends a signal of exclusion and disrespect.

"Astonishingly, since she became Queen in 1952, the words “gay” and “lesbian” have never publicly passed her lips. There is no record of her ever speaking them. Even when she announced government plans for gay law reform in her Queen’s speeches, she did not use the words lesbian or gay. Apparently, mentioning LGBT people is beneath the dignity of the monarch.

"The Queen visits many charities and welfare organisations. But never in 60 years has she visited a gay charity or welfare agency. She has, for example, ignored deserving gay charities like the Albert Kennedy Trust and Stonewall Housing, which support homeless LGBT youth. Although she is a patron of many good causes, none of them are gay or serve the gay community…

Peter Tatchell (Wikipedia)
"When there are major tragedies involving the loss of life, the Queen often visits the site and the victims in hospital. This did not happen when neo-Nazi David Copeland bombed the Admiral Duncan gay pub in Soho, London, in 1999, killing three people and wounding 70 others. At the time, it was the worst terrorist outrage in mainland Britain for many years. To most people’s surprise, the Queen did not visit the bombed-out pub or the hospitalised victims….

"As head of state, the Queen is supposed to represent and embrace all British people, not just some. How much longer will the LGBT community have to wait for royal recognition and acceptance?"

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