Saturday, 12 August 2017

CANADA PRIDE IDEAL TIME TO APOLOGIZE FOR ANTI-GAY MONTREAL POLICE RAIDS

Montreal police raided Sex Garage in the early morning hours of Sunday, July 15, 1990
All Sex Garage photos © Linda Dawn Hammond / IndyFoto.com


I have been publicly screaming for an official apology for years: Projet Montréal city councillor Richard Ryan this week said he too wants the City of Montreal and the SPVM to apologize for their violent police raids of LGBTQ establishments over the course of decades that resulted in “more than 800 people” being arrested — at Truxx in 1977, at Bud’s bar in 1984, the Sex Garage loft party in 1990 (now widely considered to be Montreal’s Stonewall), and at the Katacombes bar in 1994.

This does not include, among other raids, the 36 people arrested at Montreal’s Sauna Aquarius on Crescent Street in February 1975 (the bathhouse was later firebombed and two unclaimed corpses were buried in "Pauper's Field" in Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery atop Mount Royal); the 13 people charged as found-ins after police raided Montreal’s Club Baths in January 1975 (another 26 were arrested there in May 1975); the 61 men arrested at Sauna David in April 1980; and the October 1975 raids on 7 queer bars, including Baby Face, the legendary lesbian bar.
Violent Montreal police raid on Sex Garage
© Linda Dawn Hammond / IndyFoto.com

Then there is the Neptune Sauna, opened in 1973 by Andre Laflamme and Lorne Holiday. At the time Laflamme and Holiday also owned the Aquarius Sauna when Montreal’s Gay Village was still downtown, before the exodus east after the 1976 Montreal summer Olympic games — an exodus precipitated by the systemic police raids.

The Neptune was raided by Montreal police on May 14, 1976. A friend of mine, Henri Labelle, was working as the cashier at the Neptune that night. Henri told me, “They yanked off people’s towels and threw everybody together and took pictures and charged them all with being in a common bawdy house.”

Henri noted, “There was a former mayor’s son there, a government minister, a secretary to the Catholic Archbishop and a couple of cops, but they were ushered out the back door while everyone else was thrown in paddy wagons.”

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL NARRATES SHORTBUS SCREENING IN MONTREAL



John Cameron Mitchell (screenshot)

When I was a young man I tried to give myself a blowjob when I discovered the trick to fellating yourself is not to put a pillow beneath your head, but beneath your neck.

I did as instructed, lifted my legs up against a wall, threw them over my shoulders, then promptly threw out my back.

I lay cussing in agony for about 20 minutes, later wrote a column about it and made a fortune for every acupuncturist in the city.

So you can imagine my amazement at the flexibility of New York actor Paul Dawson, who gives himself a lip-smacking blowjob in the first 10 minutes of John Cameron Mitchell’s 2006 film Shortbus, which just about every mainstream movie critic in America at the time compared to hard-core porn.

Now, I’ve known a few great pornographers in my life – Wakefield Poole, Toby Ross, Chi Chi LaRue and Flash Conway, to name but a few – and John Cameron Mitchell ain’t no pornographer.

But I will say that Paul Dawson has a pretty nice dick.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

AN AUDIENCE WITH LAVERNE COX

Laverne Cox is part of a new wave of transgender role models

Emmy-nominated actress and Emmy-winning producer Laverne Cox catapulted to fame as Sophia Burset in the critically-hailed Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black.

Laverne then raised eyebrows with her portrayal of the iconic Dr. Frank-N-Furter in the Fox remake of Rocky Horror Picture Show and, when she starred in the short lived CBS legal drama Doubt, she became the first transgender actor to play a regular trans-character on network television.

Her groundbreaking professional work, coupled with her trans activism, landed Cox on the cover of the June 9, 2014, issue of Time magazine for the landmark story “The Transgender Tipping Point” – as historic as Vanity Fair’s August 1993 lesbian-chic cover that pictured Cindy Crawford shaving kd lang in a barber's chair, and Ellen DeGeneres declaring, “Yep, I’m Gay” on the cover of the April 14, 1997, issue of Time.

The culture is changing, and Cox is part of a new wave of transgender role models. We sat down for a candid Q&A on the eve of her return to Montreal to host The Laverne Cox Gala at the 2017 Just For Laughs Festival International Comedy Festival.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

BRIEF HISTORY OF QUEER MONTRÉAL AND WALKING TOUR

Was Oscar Wilde inspired to write The Selfish Giant by his visit to Montreal in 1882?
Montreal is a top LGBTQ tourism destination, but the city wasn’t always the gay mecca it is today. Back in the 17th century it was just a tiny outpost of the French Empire, surrounded by fields and valleys as far as the eye could see. It was here in 1648 that a gay military drummer with the French garrison stationed to protect the Sulpician Order of priests — the seigneurs of Montreal — was charged by the Order with committing “the worst of crimes” and sentenced to certain death in the galleys.
“The drummer’s life was spared after Jesuits in Québec City intervened on his behalf,” Québec Gay Archives co-founder Ross Higgins said. “He was given a choice by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Québec: die or become the colony’s first executioner.”
The unidentified drummer took the executioner job.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Women ROCK!

Cher: "I recorded Strong Enough for my gay fans."

Expanded version of Bugs' column that ran in the May 2016 issue of Fugues magazine, featuring Greatest Hits quotes from Bugs' many interviews with Cher, Patti LaBelle, Chaka Khan, Luba, kd lang, Donna Summer, Sarah McLachlan, Indigo Girls, Cyndi Lauper, Martha Wash, Idina Menzel, Carole Pope, Thelma Houston, Joan Jett, Melissa Etheridge, Bonnie Raitt, Anne Wilson of Heart and others.


My favourite rock stars are women – Tina Turner, Chaka Khan, Janis Joplin, Joan Jett, Heart and Stevie Nicks – because their narratives speak to me, while few lyrics and life experiences of straight male rockers do.

Besides, I love my divas.

And their names usually end with a vowel: Divas like Judy! Bette! Liza! Etta, Eartha and Beyoncé! Dolly and Madonna! And guess what? I’ve interviewed, met or seen almost all of them perform live, from Celine Dion in Vegas to Lady Gaga in Atlantic City. Once, at the annual Night of a Thousand Stevies drag tribute to Stevie Nicks in New York City, I saw Debbie Harry — dressed à la Stevie — sing a scorching rendition of The Chain with punk-rock outfit Goon Squad.
Carole Pope

I also remember the time a disgruntled Roberta Flack stopped her band in the middle of a song to complain about the poor acoustics in Salle Wilfred-Pelletier and demanded the tech guys fix it immediately. And once, at the old Montreal Forum in 1982, Bette Midler was so raunchy, the older Jewish retirees literally fled for the exits as the gays whooped it up!

Some 25 years later when I saw her at Caesar's Palace in Vegas, Bette walked stage left and told the screaming audience, "Where are my gays? They're always to the left of me! Thank God for the gays!"

I have witnessed Mariah Carey’s “wardrobe malfunction” at the Bell Centre in 2010 — when one of her breasts nearly flopped out — to Tina Turner at Le Spectrum de Montréal in 1984 where she learnt backstage (and it was a tiny dressing room) that What's Love Got to Do With It was going to be Number One on Billboard's Hot 100 chart.

Turner — whom I have since seen perform live some 30 times — then stormed the stage, launching her first of two scheduled concerts that night, with a torrid version of ZZ Top’s Legs

Monday, 24 April 2017

THE KILLING OF ANGLICAN PRIEST WARREN ELING: GAY MURDER OR EROTIC ASPHYXIA?


The murder of Father Warren Eling made the cover of the
December 18, 1997, issue of HOUR magazine

After chasing lawyers for over a year, Bugs landed an exclusive in-prison interview with Danny MacIlwaine, the male hustler who murdered Montreal's Father Warren Eling in November 1993. The interview ran in a December 1997 issue of Hour magazine. A version of the story also ran in Xtra magazine in Toronto as well as in the April 1998 issue of Queers Online.

Did Danny McIlwaine murder Father Eling or was it a case of accidental death? McIlwain talks for the first time about that fateful night in 1993. An exclusive interview with Richard Burnett.


Danny McIlwaine was sucking on a crack pipe and drinking rum punch the night Anglican priest Warren Eling asked him for a blowjob. When concerned parishioners from St. James the Apostle Church called on Father Eling the next dayNov. 9, 1993they found the naked cleric dead in his Montreal home, his wrists tied by his underwear to his brass bedstead and a yellow bathrobe belt wrapped around his neck five times.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

PUSHING BOUNDARIES WITH SKY GILBERT: THE SKY'S THE LIMIT

Sky Gilbert (Photos courtesy Never Apart)
Before my pioneering LGBTQ column Three Dollar Bill went national across Canada in 1998, I approached all the syndicates and not one would touch me with a 10-foot pole (this was back in the print-journalism Jurassic era).

So I then approached every single alternative and indie publication in Canada myself, one by one, and by 2005 I was in half the alt-weeklies in the country.

One alt-weekly I pitched was Eye Weekly in Toronto, who instead went with trailblazing locals, first hiring playwright Sky Gilbert, then filmmaker Bruce LaBruce, as their queer columnists. I love it that I can (jokingly) brag I blazed a trail for both Sky and Bruce!

Soon after TDB went national, I profiled Sky—who co-founded Buddies In Bad Times Theatre in 1979—and one line from our interview has stayed with me: ‘’I am probably the most despised person in Toronto’s gay community,’’ Sky told me.

Friday, 14 April 2017

MARIO CANTONE TELLS BULLIED LGBTQ KIDS TO "TOUGHEN THE FUCK UP!"


Bugs' interview with Mario Cantone originally ran in the July 23, 2012, edition of the Montreal Gazette


It should come as no surprise that fierce Sex and the City star Mario Cantone has always been pretty much out.
“I remember in the seventh, eighth and ninth grades I got a lot of shitt (for being gay),” Cantone says.
“I grew up in the 1970s when bullying was really bad. I never got beaten up, but I got a lot of threats and verbal abuse and would leave class early to make my escape. I mean, everybody’s got their fucking bullying stories. But honestly, I’m sick of it: Toughen up and let’s go!”

Friday, 24 March 2017

THEATRE LEGEND LOUIS NEGIN: MUCH ADO ABOUT DICK


Bugs' interview with Louis Negin originally ran in the April 2013 edition of Fugues magazine.

There’s nothing quite like making a grand entrance. Just ask Montreal theatre legend Louis Negin, the first actor to ever appear nude on a legitimate British stage, in John Herbert’s Fortune and Men’s Eyes in London’s West End back in 1967.

But if London audiences gasped when Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe appeared nude in the West End revival of Equus in 2007, imagine the reaction to Negin 40 years earlier!

“In London at that time if you went to see a play with nudity in it, you had to join a (theatre) club which couldn’t be closed down (by the police),” Negin explains. “When Lord Chamberlain dissolved that law, Herbert’s Fortune and Men’s Eyes – with its explicit scenes of gay rape in prison – was a huge success with audiences in Canada and the West End.”

Ironically, it wasn’t Negin being buck naked on stage that made him the toast of the theatre world, but rather an incident on opening night that made sensational newspaper headlines worldwide.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

MALE PHYSIQUE PHOTOGRAPHER HERB KLEIN TURNS HIS LENS ON LOST GAY SOUTH AFRICA

Photographer Herb Klein’s new book Lost Gay South Africa

The irrepressible Herb Klein is a pioneering male physique photographer from Zimbabwe who, after moving to South Africa in the 1970s, shot the first full-colour nude gay magazine on the continent.

I discovered Klein’s work alongside his contemporaries Herb Ritts and Bruce Weber in David Leddick’s great 1998 compendium The Male Nude, then later on DVD when screening his gay adult films Here Comes Santa and Tango City, which he directed under his porn-director name, Flash Conway.

No question, the man has an eye an eye for talent and readers will enjoy his photos of beautiful men in his newly-published photo-filled book Lost Gay South Africa. I recently sat down with Klein for a candid Q&A.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO KEEP ON TROCKIN'

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo was founded in 1974
(Photo courtesy Ballets Trockadero)

It was one of the greatest entrances of all time: Montreal drag queens Mado Lamotte and Madame Simone waited until the last possible moment to step into their private loge at Place des Arts to see Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo some years ago, just before the red curtain went up.
Then the 3,000 people in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier turned their heads to watch Mado and Madame Simone – who resembled Marie Antoinette, Queen of France during the French Revolution – and let out a collective gasp.
It was like a command performance.
But when it comes to entrances, no one beats Les Ballets Trockadero, or "Les Trocks" as they are more affectionately known. Back in the 1980s, during a performance at UCLA, the curtain actually fell onto the stage!

Sunday, 12 February 2017

REMEMBERING MONTREAL THEATRE LEGEND ROGER PEACE

Chris Barillaro recording the Curtains Up theme with Roger Peace
(Photo courtesy Curtains Up)

Following a lengthy battle with cancer, legendary Canadian theatre director Roger Peace died peacefully in the palliative care unit at the Montreal Jewish General Hospital on February 10.

Peace brought his love for live musical theatre to North America when he sailed from London to Montreal in 1957 aboard the ocean liner SS Columbia at the age of 21 and experienced the tail-end of Montreal’s famed and infamous golden Sin-City era.

Roger Peace
The Montreal theatre scene wasn’t quite London’s West End, where Peace had landed a bit part in the musical Call Me Madam at the London Coliseum in 1952 at the age of 16. But he spent much of his professional life as a director and producer casting larger-than-life divas in his productions, notably his longtime muse, Montreal jazz legend Ranee Lee, and another of his favourites, soul singer Michelle Sweeney.

When another glorious diva, Juno Award-winning soul singer Kim Richardson, starred in his 2013 revival of Ain’t Misbehavin’ at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts, theatre critic Pat Donnelly wrote in the Montreal Gazette that Peace “directed Montreal’s first Ain’t Misbehavin’ at Le Stage dinner theatre at La Diligence restaurant in 1986. That one ran for more than a year and did a Canadian tour. There were only four singers, Michelle Sweeney, Ranee Lee, Dorian Joe Clark and Anthony Sherwood, with musical director Ari Snyder alone on piano.”

“We couldn’t afford a fifth performer,” Peace said.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

HEROES AND ZEROS OF THE YEAR 2016

Out pop superstar George Michael passed away on Christmas Day 2016

This is an expanded version of my column that ran in the January 2016 issue of Fugues magazine.
Here is my 21st annual column of the past year’s heroes and zeros.
Hero United States VP Joe Biden, for officiating the Aug. 1 wedding of Brian Mosteller and Joe Mahshie, both longtime White House aides. Tweeted Biden, “Proud to marry Brian and Joe at my house.”
Heroes Sydney’s Mardi Gras organizers, for uninviting Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull, who refused to hold a vote in parliament to legalize same-sex marriage (Turnbull prefers to pass the buck via a divisive national referendum).
Heroes The Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation in Saskatchewan for hosting the first Two-Spirit and Pride Parade in Canada on June 9, and the Eskasoni First Nation, whose Nov. 5 Pride Day was the first celebrated by a First Nation community in Atlantic Canada.
Pride Day at the Eskasoni First Nation
Heroes AGUDA, the Israeli National LGBT Task Force, who – after Israeli LGBTQ activists unsuccessfully demanded Tel Aviv Pride be cancelled over government funding of LGBTQ tourism – seemed to say they will no longer be complicit in “pinkwashing.”
Hero British pop superstar George Michael, who should not only be remembered as one of the finest songwriters and most soulful singers of his generation, but also for his generosity and quiet philanthropy.