Monday, 24 February 2014


No Oscars for Michael Douglas and Matt Damon in Behind The Candalabra

Bugs' op-ed on the 2014 Academy Awards originally ran in the February 2014 issue of Fugues magazine.

I don’t know how much more I can take of straight film critics and audiences fawning over how brave Jared Leto and Michael Douglas are as straight men for playing, respectively, a transgender woman in the film Dallas Buyers Club and a gay man in the TV movie Behind the Candelabra.

Don’t get me wrong: Both actors played their roles to the hilt onscreen. It’s just the way they’ve acknowledged the accolades offscreen that’s really rubbing me the wrong way. 

Will Leto and McConaughey clean up at the Oscars?
Lets start with Dallas Buyers Club. Leto’s portrayal of transgender woman Rayon was transcendent, and Matthew McConaughey’s outsized performance as the real-life Texan homophobe Ron Woodroof who loves rodeo, drugs, booze and loose women – and whose chance discovery in 1985 that he has HIV and a T-cell count of 9 – is also worthy of an Oscar.

“What is largely missing is the sense that Ron’s efforts are part of a larger movement,” the New York Times review of Dallas Buyers Club pointed out, while Variety swooned over McConaughey as “a redneck bigot who becomes the unlikely savior to a generation of gay men frightened by a disease they don't yet understand.”

Really? That’s not how I remember it. 

Au contraire, it was the LGBT community that saved everybody else’s ass.

But that is also my point: Dallas Buyers Club is a movie that should have been made 25 years ago – and with a gay hero as the main character – but that this film could only be made today with a straight hero tells you everything you need to know about commercial filmmaking in Hollywood.

Like I have long said, Hollywood is a four-letter town.

Steven Soderbergh faced the same hurdles in Tinseltown when he made Behind The Candelabra, the award-winning docudrama about Liberace.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014


Montreal actor Jonathan Silver portrays Ira Slatsky in Oren Safdie’s new play Unseamly (All photos by Jeremy Bobrow, courtesy

“You’re like this beautiful sexy chick that has every guy in your class whacking off to you! ” says the fictional character Ira Slatsky in Oren Safdie’s new play Unseamly, currently playing at Le Bain St. Michel in Montreal.

You are forgiven if Slatsky reminds you of Safdie’s cousin, Dov Charney, the notorious CEO of American Apparel who has been the target of several lawsuits involving employees, most of which have been quietly settled or dismissed. In Unseamly, Slatsky heads a clothing company known for its risqué billboards, and is charged by a former employee of sexual harassment.

Silver portrays Slatsky
Safdie is one of Montréal’s best known playwrights across North America, son of famed architect Moshe Safdie, and he divides his time between his residences in Los Angeles and Westmount where he recently told the Westmount Examiner, “There really is a sense of coming home. Despite having all my plays done in New York, it was somewhat of an obsession to be produced here. In fact, in the early days of my career, I used to bring the actors from my shows up to Montreal and put up the plays in back basement bars – places like Le Bijou in Old Montreal or DeSalvio's Club on St. Laurent Boulevard - just to get the theatre community to see my work.”

I have long thought the way women are portrayed in fashion is the same way men are objectified in gay culture, which embraces sex and also puts a premium on youthful beauty. 

As American rock star Beth Ditto notoriously complained to London’s NME magazine back in 2007, “If there’s anyone to blame for size zero, it’s not women. Blame gay men who work in the fashion industry and want these women as dolls. Men don’t know what it feels like to be a woman and be expected to look a particular way.”

Except gay men do.

“Fashion is one of the few professions where gay men and women hold the reins of power,” Ditto told me. “It’s a shame we can’t be more empowering.”

For openly-gay actor Jonathan Silver – who lives, acts and teaches acting in Montreal – playing the role of Ira Slatsky has been enlightening.

Monday, 10 February 2014


Author RM Vaughan is the "bad boy of Canadian Literature" (Photo courtesy RM Vaughan)
This interview with Canadian author, playwright and poet RM Vaughan originally ran in Three Dollar Bill on August 21, 2008. RM Vaughan will read from his new book Compared To Hitler: Selected Essays at Montreal's Concordia Community Solidarity Co-Op Bookstore (2150 Bishop Street) on February 12 at 7 p.m.

I absolutely adore Dick. Heck, life just wouldn’t be the same without Richards. Fabulous Dicks like Burton, Gere, Branson and the Queen of Rock’n'Roll, Richard Wayne Penniman (a.k.a. Little Richard).

In fact, I love Dick so much I once flew to B.C. just to have a drink at Vancouver’s fabulous live music emporium Richard’s on Richard Street.

"Where did he go?" Dad asked Mom incredulously. (My folks, by the by, named me after that other fabulous homosexual, Richard the Lionheart.)

"Richard went to Richard’s on Richard," Mom replied.

Another night, dressed in drag at Montreal’s Jello Bar (I looked absolutely stunning in my brand new blond Beyoncé ‘fro), three men stood before me arms crossed as I exited the men’s room.

"Ain’t you Richard Simmons?" one himbo snarled.

"No!" I snapped, hands on my hips (thumbs forward, of course). "I’m Richard Burnett!"

Suitably chastened, they stepped aside as I sashayed past.

The best nightclub story of all, though, was told to me this week by yet another fabulous Richard, acclaimed author and Globe and Mail columnist (for now, though, until his bosses read this anecdote) RM Vaughan, who found himself in a, uh, novel position in France a few years ago.

"I went to this bar in Paris – a sex club bar, and I had a few too many and I realized at one point I was on the bar on all fours getting it from both ends," Richard shares. "I thought I came to Paris to have an Edith Piaf experience. Instead, I had a Jean Genet experience."

Apparently I’m not the only one who worships dick.

Monday, 3 February 2014


Brooklyn artist, writer and activist Avram Finkelstein co-founded both the Silence=Death and Gran Fury collectives (Photo courtesy of Avram Finkelstein)
Bugs' interview with Avram originally ran in Daily Xtra

Brooklyn artist, writer and activist Avram Finkelstein is a legend in the AIDS movement, for co-founding both the Silence=Death and Gran Fury collectives that changed the way the world looks at AIDS.

And while the simple catch phrase “Silence=Death” and the accompanying poster have become ubiquitous — a global anthem for AIDS activists — today Finkelstein reveals his Silence=Death collective had no idea its slogan would catch on like it did and come to symbolize a movement.

“Silence=Death was designed by a collective I formed with five other friends a year before ACT UP New York even formed,” Finkelstein says. “Our poster is closely associated with the movement, but we did not know we were surrounded by this community.”

The original catalyst for Finkelstein was the death from AIDS of his boyfriend Don Yowell in late 1984. “I come from a leftist background and politicized family, so I suggested we do a poster, and we ended up with Silence=Death,” he says. “We worked for six months on that poster. It is highly massaged. At the time, William F Buckley was calling for the tattooing of HIV-positive people, and we were outraged by that. By trying to picture what a tattoo would look like [on a poster], we decided we needed an abstract image, and that’s how we ended up with the pink triangle. Once people embraced [the poster], we referred to it — with gallows humour — as ‘the happy face of the ’80s.’”