Wednesday, 19 December 2012

BROADWAY'S NEW QUEEN? PLUM POSTING FOR FORMER PQ LEADER ANDRE BOISCLAIR



Quebec’s newly-appointed delegate-general to New York, Andre Boisclair (wearing black suit, standing next to Pauline Marois), attended the Dec. 14 Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal premiere at NYC’s Joyce Theate (Photo courtesy Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal)


Former Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair, Quebec’s newly-appointed delegate-general to New York, attended the Dec. 14 premiere of Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal at NYC’s Joyce Theater with Quebec's current premier Pauline Marois and Louis Robitaille, BJM artistic director.

The event comes just over a week after Boisclair declined his partisan double-posting as assistant deputy minister for International Relations which would have allowed him to remain in the Quebec civil service on a permanent basis even after his delegate-general to New York job ended, with a guaranteed annual salary of $170,000. Boisclair would have then been able to start taking his full pension at the age of 55.

Boisclair reportedly sought permanent status in the civil service because his New York appointment meant he had to renounce his consultancy work. But on Dec. 6, after a public outcry, Marois held a snap news conference to announce that Boisclair was giving up the civil servant position.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

FACEBOOK YANKS CARTOON OF BATMAN TAKING A PISS

Facebook has a problem with this cartoon drawn by comic book illustrator Alessio Slonimsky

When is a cartoon of a man taking a wiz pornography, and when is it art?

Evidently, according to Facebook, there is no difference: The social-media giant pulled a fun cartoon of Batman taking a pee from atop a Gotham City skyscraper (it was drawn by artist and comic book illustrator Alessio Slonimsky) from my Facebook page on November 27, the same day I posted it.

I actually found the cartoon via my friend, famed Canadian playwright Brad Fraser’s Facebook page. In an accompanying thread, comic-book writer Dale Lazarov posted, “<hype> I would be remiss if I didn't add that I solicited this image from Alessio so I could use it to promote GOOD SPORTS, my gay erotic comic drawn by him and published by Bruno Gmünder Verlag.</hype>”

In another post on the same Facebook thread, Lazarov commented, “The idea is to create one or two Reshare Bait images to promote a new book in a sideways sort of manner so I tell artists to do a STAR WARS, Batman or Superman pin-up for posting on Tumblr.”

Facebook removed the cartoon (pictured above) from my own Facebook page with this warning: “We have removed the following content you posted or were the admin of because it violates Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.”

As Brad commented on his original post, “Fuck off Facebook. This is ART.”

Click here to read Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

Click here to check out Dale Lazarov’s terrific gay comic books on his official website, and here for the official Brad Fraser website.

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Saturday, 24 November 2012

FELIPE ROSE AND VILLAGE PEOPLE STILL MAKING THE WORLD DANCE


Village People publicity still

I was a 12-year-old disco bunny when I saw the Village People perform live at the Montreal Forum back in 1978. The opening act was none other than Gloria Gaynor, who won the only disco Grammy ever awarded, in 1979, for her classic I Will Survive.

Twenty-five years later I interviewed the Village People’s "Indian" character and real-life Lakota Sioux Native-American Felipe Rose – along with Thelma Houston, KC and the Sunshine Band, Martha Wash and others – for an HOUR magazine cover story I wrote on the legacy and importance of disco (you can see HOUR's really fun cover in the “Bio” section of Felipe’s website by clicking here). I was so taken by Felipe, and we got along so well, that we have maintained contact ever since.

But back in 1978, when I was a disco bunny, Rose – who was inducted into the Native American Music Hall of Fame in 2007 – was having the time of his life as the Village People topped pop charts worldwide.

“I used to drink stuff that could peel paint off the wall,” Felipe told me once. “People still think we go out and party all night long, but that’s not the case. We’re all getting older. Things have to take a back seat. You reflect on your life and think, ‘What can I do to make this last longer?’ It’s like a car. You clean it up, put it in the shop and give it a tune up. I go to the gym, do my crunches and sit-ups. I watch what I eat. I always have a beer after a show, but that’s because of thirst. I’m a light social drinker but I love a great red wine with dinner.”

For years the world assumed (go figure) that the Village People – who will headline their first-ever concerts in Quebec City on Dec 7-8-9 – were gay when, in fact, only original cowboy Randy Jones and Felipe Rose are.

Felipe Rose performing today
(Photo courtesy Felipe Rose)
“I don’t think I’ve made a point of being ‘openly gay’ – I’m just secure,” Felipe explains. “I don’t sit on TV and talk about it. I’ve never done interviews for Out Magazine or The Advocate. When I speak about myself, I speak in the solo sense. I don’t talk about the group’s private life. We’ve always kept that aspect of our lives quiet and private. I have more straight friends than gay friends and just because Jacques [Morali, the producer who created the Village People] discovered me in a [NYC] gay club, well, it could have been a straight club. My private life doesn’t play a role in what I do on stage. People always tell me, ‘You helped me come out.’ I always reply, ‘You did that on your own.’”

Gay life back in the day seems like it was way more freewheeling. Rose knows firsthand, though, that the gay community paid a price for those glory years: Almost every gay friend he had from that era has died of AIDS, including Jacques Morali.

“I’m still at a loss for words – this horrible disease…” says Felipe. “All I know is what we [Village People] can do. We do charity concerts and AIDS benefits, but I’m exhausted. There’s no end in sight. We’ve lost so many artists and writers and directors clear across the board. I’ve lost almost everybody from that era. So to see the rising HIV [infection] rates freaks me out. I’d be terrified to have a child today. I try not to think too much about it because it makes me upset.”

Bugs and Felipe backstage
at Montreal's Bell Centre
Village People have sold over 100 million records, are still performing to sell-out crowds around the world, and will headline three Célébration Disco 2012 concerts in Quebec City on Dec 7-8-9.

Says Felipe, “We’ve had a helluva run. My partner says, ‘You’re at the top of your game.’ But another [35] years? No, no, no! Don’t go that far! The next five years are looking pretty nice. Then I’ll look and see if I’ve had enough.”

Click here for the official Felipe Rose website

Village People headline the Centre des Congrès de Québec in Quebec City on Dec 7-8-9. Click here for more info and tickets.

Click here for more info on the VIA Rail / Hilton Hotel / Village People weekend weekend specials departing from Montreal.

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Tuesday, 13 November 2012

CANADA'S RCMP FILMS NEW "IT GETS BETTER" VIDEO



Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police has filmed a new 10-minute “It Gets Better” video to help queer youth confront homophobia. The video features 20 Mounties who talk about the challenges they faced growing up gay, how they came out to their families and how they dealt with being outsiders.

Constable Cheryl Letkeman, who spearheaded the RCMP’s initiative, tells Xtra that she was inspired to get RCMP members involved in the It Gets Better project after many American police forces posted videos to the It Gets Better campaign’s website. “I just thought to myself, ‘Why haven’t the RCMP done this?’” says Letkeman, who is with the Surrey RCMP Youth Unit. “So instead of just wondering why, we did it.”

Syndicated columnist Dan Savage launched the It Gets Better movement with a YouTube video in September 2010. Today, there are over 50,000 “It Gets Better” videos on the web.

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Friday, 2 November 2012

DRAG QUEENS REVEAL WHY "REAL WOMEN VOTE FOR OBAMA"


With just days to go before the U.S. presidential election, some American drag queens - including RuPaul's Drag Race contestant Willam Belli - tell it like it is in this hilarious new video.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

THE 2012 GREAT BITCH DIVA QUIZ - SO JUST HOW FABULOUS ARE YOU?



Is Canadian Tory Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird a bitch?

Summer has faded and it’s now 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…

Studio 54 logo designed by Gilbert Lesser
If you could travel back in time, you would go to:
a) Nirvana’s Foufounes performance.
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.

Tallulah Bankhead
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) Canada's Tory Minister of Foreign Affairs 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 Minister of State and House Leader John Baird.
b) Queen Latifah.
c) Actor Antonio Fargas in the film Car Wash.

Antonio Fargas as the flaming Lindy in the movie Carwash


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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Sunday, 7 October 2012

MARTHA WASH CELEBRATES 30th ANNIVERSARY OF "IT'S RAINING MEN"

Martha Wash performs It's Raining Men with Paul Shaffer on the October 1, 2012, broadcast of The Late Show with David Letterman, to mark the classic song's 30th anniversary (All photos courtesy Late Show with David Letterman)
 
There are great voices and then there is the voice of legendary dance diva Martha Wash, whose soaring powerhouse vocals propelled such classic hits as Everybody Dance Now, Gonna Make You Sweat and It’s Raining Men to the top of the charts worldwide.


Wash and her late friend Izora Armstead shot to international fame as Two Tons of Fun singing backup on great gay disco superstar Sylvester’s disco classics You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) and Dance (Disco Heat) which both peaked at number one for six consecutive weeks in 1978. 

By 1982, Wash and Armstead renamed themselves The Weathergirls, went solo and recorded one of the most difficult-ever songs to sing, It’s Raining Men – and they did it in 90 minutes flat.

Then Paul Jabara, who co-wrote the song with Canadian Paul Shaffer of David Letterman fame, started pounding the pavement: "He took acetates to all the DJs at all the clubs where it became a big hit before radio picked it up," Martha told me.

Filming the song’s memorable video – it featured hunky bodybuilders falling from the sky – was difficult.

"God, that was a cheesy video!" Martha laughs. "We filmed it in an abandoned building [in NYC] in the dead of winter. There was no heat and everybody was wearing [winter] coats. That part in the video where we fall out of the sky, well, we landed on these mattresses and found out [the next day] they were infested with bugs. For days afterwards Izora and I were scratching [ourselves]! It was awful!"

It's Raining Men turned 30 years old this past week (Tweeted Martha, "Over 7 Mill sold and 30 yrs later Columbia Rec awards me with a plat plaque for It's Raining Men") and to mark the occasion she sang it live with Paul Shaffer on The Late Show with David Letterman (watch the original video as well as the Letterman 30th anniversary clip below).

"People used to say ‘disco sucks’ and ‘disco died’ but they still keep playing it," Martha says happily. "Today they call it dance music, but it’s still the same. It’s happy music. And as long as people want to keep on dancing, I’ll keep on singing too!"

Click here for the official Martha Wash website, and here for her official Facebook fan page




Tuesday, 28 August 2012

REMEMBERING GUILDA: TRAILBLAZING MONTREAL DRAG QUEEN DIES AT 88


Jean Guida – a.k.a. legendary Montreal drag queen Guilda (or "transformist" as Jean Guida insisted he be called) – died on June 27, 2012. He was 88.

There is a chapter in Guilda: Il était une fois, the 2009 autobiography of Jean Guida – a.k.a. legendary Montreal drag queen Guilda – about the time he and two Jewish friends were rounded up by the Gestapo in Nice, France, during World War II and sent packing on a “death train” to the Buchenwald concentration camp.

“For the first time since the beginning of the War I was genuinely afraid,” Guida wrote. “At the time we did not know what we know today. We did not even know that death camps existed. We knew nothing.”

But Guida knew enough to be wary of the Nazis and escaped from the train by climbing down through his wagon’s manure-filled toilet reservoir to the tracks below when the train pulled into a station. Guida escaped when the train chugged away, but wrote, “My two comrades never had this chance – years later I learnt they had died at Buchenwald, like their parents.”

Guida was born in France on June 21, 1924 and, in his first autobiography, 1979’s Elle et Moi, wrote that his father was French and his mother was a Sicilian countess by the name of de Mortellaro. But Montreal journalist Alan Hustak – who interviewed Guida in 2004 – reports the Mortellaro name is nowhere to be found in the Libro d’Oro della Nobilta Italiano, the official registry of Italian aristocracy.

Whether Guida’s Italian aristocratic roots are true or not, by the time he died on June 27, Jean Guida – his stage name “Guilda” was named after Rita Hayworth in the 1946 movie Gilda – was Canada’s oldest female impersonator and indisputably a star in Montreal’s nightlife scene for over 50 years.

Jean Guida got his showbiz start as a make-up artist with the Ballets de Monte Carlo when he was just 17, later scoring a small role as a transvestite in director Yvan Noé’s 1946 film La Femme qui est coupe en morceaux which was filmed at Studios La Victorine (today called Studios Riviera) in Nice. But Guida – who moonlighted as a female impersonator – would really hone his chops working for legendary cabaret artist Mistinguett, who herself used to work at the Moulin Rouge.

Guida was brought to New York by renowned impresario Lou Walters (father of Barbra Walters) who booked “Guilda” in his clubs in NYC and Miami. When his U.S. work visa expired, Guida moved to Montreal where his act was an instant smash at Chez Paree in 1954. He sold out Montreal’s Salle Wilfred-Pelletier at Place des Arts in 1965, then during Expo 67 opened his own cabaret, Chez Guilda, in the old El Morroco nightclub across the street from the Montreal Forum.

“Guilda” would also headline Montreal’s notorious Casa Loma in the red-light district as well as the posh Caf Conc in the Chateau Champlain Hotel and, for 33 years until 2000, regularly performed at Montreal’s Théâtre des Variétés (today La Tulipe live rock venue on Rue Papineau).

Guilda sang live, often staged elaborate productions, with grand costumes and with as many as 40 performers, including dancers and a live band. Guilda did uncanny impersonations of Marlene Dietrich, Edith Piaf, Mistinguett, Barbra Streisand, Marilyn Monroe and Rita Hayworth. Guilda also met many other stars while headlining cabaret halls and nightclubs the world over, including Edith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier and Josephine Baker.

But in Montreal Guilda broke down social barriers and taboos as her gay and straight audiences mixed as far back as the 1950s. When news of Guilda’s death broke in Montreal, grandparents throughout the city all had stories about the time they saw Guilda.

“At first it was the women who wanted to see me,” Guida once said. “And at the time it wasn’t the gays who grabbed my ass, but the upstanding, heterosexual family men.”

A public funeral for Jean Guida was held July 6 at Outremont’s Saint-Viateur Church, where veteran Montreal gossip columnist Michael Girouard told reporters, “For me Guilda was not a transvestite, but a real artist. He forged ahead because he was a determined person, and had he stayed in Las Vegas, he would have become a huge star.”

The bisexual Jean Guida claimed to have been married three times and said he had fathered four children.

La Presse newspaper reports Guida is survived by his daughter Gaye, grandchildren Pierre and Leia, his great grandchildren Christina and Sara, as well as his sisters Hélène, Mireille, Christiane and Simone, and his sisters-in-law Josiane and Pauline. The cause of death has not been released. Jean Guida was 88.


Friday, 20 July 2012

"SUGAR BEAR" - ROD AND ELTON REMEMBER MENTOR, GAY BLUES ICON LONG JOHN BALDRY



Rod Stewart, Elton John, Paul Myers and Long John Baldry's life partner Felix "Oz" Rexach pay tribute to Baldry (pictured above), who died  in Vancouver in 2005
Bugs' original version of this column ran in Hour magazine on November 8, 2007

Long John Baldry and Rod Stewart
glammed up (Photo from It Ain't Easy
by Greystone Books)

British blues legend Long John Baldry passed away in Vancouver on July 21, 2005, and since I had never interviewed him, I did the next best thing: I interviewed the very gracious Felix "Oz" Rexach, Baldry’s life partner, days later.

"John was not well accepted as a gay man by the blues community – it’s a very macho industry," Oz told me. "But he was more than well-accepted as a performer in his field."

So when I blabbed on the phone some years ago with Paul Myers, Berkeley-based brother of comic actor Mike Myers and author of the bestselling bio It Ain’t Easy: Long John Baldry and the Birth of the British Blues, Paul told me, "Yeah, I used your column in my book. I’m so pleased we’re doing this interview."

Friday, 6 July 2012

THE DEVIL'S MUSIC HONOURS DYKE AND POP ICON BESSIE SMITH AT MONTREAL JAZZ FEST

Bessie Smith, February 7, 1936


When I first met rock singer Sass Jordan some years ago, it was at the opening bash of the gorgeous Nelligan Hotel in Old Montreal after way too many glasses of Moët & Chandon champagne. I kept yakking away while Sass took off her shoes and told me, “My feet are fucking killing me.”
That’s all I remember.
When I interviewed Sass a couple years later, she actually remembered me. “You were awesome!” Sass laughed.
Bugs and Sass
OK, awesome might be a tad overstating it. But once again Sass and I got along like a house on fire and we ended up blabbing about her portraying one of my idols, the original woman rock star, Janis Joplin, in the critically-hailed  off-Broadway musical Love, Janis. 
“It was the hardest goddamn thing I ever did,” Sass told me. “It was four nights a week for three months. It was exhausting. I was never a fan of Janis until I did [the play]. Singing [like] Janis isn’t an easy thing to do but I did really, really well.”
These days it takes someone like Sass Jordan to generate new interest in an old singer like Joplin, who died in October 1970. In my case, it took Janis Joplin to interest me in another female blues singer, Bessie Smith, who died back in September 1937.

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.

OOO

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.

THE REAL THING

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.”

HERO AND SURVIVOR

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.”

OOO

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.

RIP.



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Thursday, 7 June 2012

FRINGING WITH "RICHIE BITCH" AND MADO LAMOTTE - 2012 MONTREAL FRINGE PICKS


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.”

Salerno
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.

Delamont
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.
Hipplytos

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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KILLER COCK! PICS FROM LUKA MAGNOTTA'S GAY PORN SHOOT FOR BADPUPPY

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

HAS QUEEN ELIZABETH II "TURNED HER BACK" ON THE GAY COMMUNITY?




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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Tuesday, 22 May 2012

QUEEN LATIFAH PERFORMS AT GAY PRIDE FESTIVAL - BUT DID SHE ACTUALLY COME OUT?

Queen Latifah headlined the Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride Festival in Californiaon May 19

“I've been waiting to do this for a long time,” Oscar-nominated actress and recording star Queen Latifah told 100,000 people in attendance at her May 19 concert at this year's 29th annual Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride Festival in Southern California

Gay activists are now asking whether or not Queen Latifah actually publicly came out when she told the crowd that she was happy to be in the presence of “her people.”

But as former MTV executive Terrance Dean told me following the publication of his terrific 2008 bestselling book Hiding in Hip Hop (Atria/Simon & Schuster), "I think if Queen Latifah came out, it would create a whole new precedent. She’s on the verge."

During her May 19 Gay Pride,  the 42-year-old Queen latifah - who will host a new syndicated daytime talk show that is slated to debut in the fall of 2013 - encouraged the audience to “to conquer hate with love.”



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Thursday, 17 May 2012

THE MUPPETS SING HOTSTUFF BY DONNA SUMMER


Donna Summer - the Queen of Disco - died the morning of May 17 following a battle with lung and breast cancer. Summer believed she contracted it by inhaling toxic particles after the 9/11 attack in New York City.

The 5-time Grammy winner who shot to superstardom in the 1970s with such iconic hits like as Last Dance, Hot Stuff and Bad Girls.

"People continue to love disco because it’s joyful music," Summer told me in her final sit-down interview with Three Dollar Bill a couple years ago.You can read that entire interview by clicking here.

At the time of her death, Summer was reportedly finishing work on her new album.

Summer was 63. RIP.


  
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Tuesday, 24 April 2012

MONTREAL'S FAMED DIVERS/CITÉ FEST MOVES FROM GAY VILLAGE TO OLD PORT IN 2012


Montreal drag icon Mado La Motte greets her public at Mascara which will hold its 15th edition at Jacques-Cartier Pier in the Old Port, where Divers/Cité has moved their festival site for 2012  (Photo courtesy Divers/Cité)
The times they-are-a-changing.

The single most important and influential gay event in the history of Montreal was the police raid of the Sex Garage loft party on the night of July 14, 1990, in Old Montreal, which directly inspired Bad Boy Club Montreal to organize the BBCM’s first Black & Blue circuit party in 1991, as well as laid the groundwork for Montreal’s Divers/Cité Queer Pride March that Puelo Deir co-founded with Suzanne Girard in 1993.

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

In 2007 Fierté Montréal (Montreal Pride) took over the parade and community day previously organized by Divers/Cité, while Divers/Cité continued on as Montreal's internationally-renowned Divers/Cité queer arts and culture festival, which in 2012 runs from August 2 - 5.

But 20 years after Divers/Cité and Black and Blue put Montreal on the international gay map, this year Divers/Cité is moving their festival site from the Gay Village to the Jacques-Cartier Pier in the Old Port.

"Motivated by a desire for growth and by the increasing constraints of its previous site, the organization has made the decision to move its outdoor stages to a space better suiting its needs and the expectations of festival-goers," Divers/Cité explains in a prepared statement. "The recent move of Terminus Voyageur to Berri Street, the reduction of available space in Émilie-Gamelin Park and the sector’s recent vocational changes have made further development perspectives for the Festival in the area near impossible"

Up until last year the City of Montreal was actually pressuring Divers/Cité to move to the city’s new Quartier des Spectacles. The hope was Divers/Cité would move some of its mega-events there, like Mascara, 1 Boulevarde des Rêves and Le Grand Bal.

“We got an order from our board to move [last year]," Divers/Cité's director general Suzanne Girard told me on the eve of last summer's festival. "But we couldn’t because the First Peoples’ Festival – usually held during the summer solstice [in June] – have Place des Festivals [at the same time]. They were forced to do their festival then because Spectra moved their FrancoFolies festival from August to June.”

Thus the move this year to the Jacques-Cartier Pier in the Old Port.

The move will also likely help bolster Divers/Cité's finances. Canadian PM Stephen Harper and his ruling Conservative Party government began cutting funding to gay events across Canada in 2009, when Divers/Cité saw its federal tourism grant slashed by $155,000.

This year's 20th edition of Divers/Cité runs from August 2 - 5. Meanwhile, Fierté Montréal runs from August 9 - 14 in the Gay Village.

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Saturday, 31 March 2012

BELGIAN GAY TEEN COMING-OF-AGE FILM RAISES MORE THAN, UM, EYEBROWS

 Bavo Defurne (L) directs actor Jelle Florizoone on the set of North Sea Texas (Photo courtesy Indeed Films)

If Toronto’s film festival has become an indispensable tool in the Hollywood publicity machine, then the Montreal World Film Festival is still an event that is principally about discoveries. And this past year no film was more anticipated than director Bavo Defurne’s debut feature film North Sea Texas, about two teenage boys who fall in love.

The Flemish-Belgian production was released in Belgium 2011, had its international premiere at the Montreal World Film Festival last August where it won the Silver Zenith Award in the First Films World Competition, as well as the International Federation of Film Critics’ FIPRESCI Prize, again for debut works. And it is the closing film at the BFI’s 26th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, screening twice on April 1, before is goes into wide release across the UK on April 6.

“This film explores many of the same themes as my short films – the discovery that you are not the same as everybody else, that you are different,” says Defurne, the widely-acclaimed (and openly gay) director often described as Belgium’s best kept secret – until now, that is. “But my short films didn’t go far enough, they didn’t explore what happened afterwards.”

Jelle Florizoone and Mathias Vergels
star in North Sea Texas
(Photo courtesy Indeed Films)
So Defurne decided to film North Sea Texas, adapted from a novel called This Is Everlasting by André Sollie, a heartwarming coming of age story that follows a teenage boy called Pim (wonderfully played by Jelle Florizoone) who falls in love with Gino, the rugged, motorcycling boy next door (Mathias Vergels).

“Coming of age films usually end with the discovery of one’s identity, but in this film identity is not the issue, it is about love,” Defurne says. “The film is about what’s next. It is a film about finding happiness. So many [gay films] do little to uplift gay people. I saw Brokeback Mountain and it is a touching and heartbreaking film that makes us all cry, but not in a good way. I wanted to make a film about the life they could have had, a happy film.”

The press kit for North Sea Texas emphasizes that this coming of age tale is universal. And it is. But many straight people will insist that any film that focuses on two gay teens is not “universal.”

So it’s no surprise that Defurne and producer Yves Verbraeken (who also co-wrote the script) had trouble securing financing for their film. “Belgium is a country of beer drinkers and there is one Belgian beer company who sponsors all films and they told us, ‘Your film is not the target audience of beer drinkers.’ As if we only make films for gays and gays don’t drink beer.”




But Defurne was delighted with the raves North Sea Texas garnered following its international premiere at the Montreal World Film Festival.  Even Variety swooned in their review, “The [film] benefits from an artful combination of naturalistic performances and attractively stylized visuals, aided by judicious use of an evocative score. The isolated seaside location (unspecified in the film but shot in Ostende) practically becomes a character itself, with gorgeous shots of crashing waves, blowing reeds and empty sand dunes employed lyrically throughout.”

Defurne is currently screening his film on the gay-and-lesbian film festival circuit. “In an ideal world it wouldn’t make a difference,” he admits. “I wish heterosexuals would be just as charmed by my film as gay people were charmed by Titanic. But that’s not reality.”

North Sea Texas is the closing film at the BFI’s26th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, screening twice on April 1, before is goes into wide release across the UK on April 6.

Click here for the official North Sea Texas website 

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