Tuesday, 24 December 2013


Vienna’s Leopold Museum courted controversy with its Nude Men from 1800 to Today exhibition

Here is the expanded version of my 18th annual column of the past year’s heroes and zeros which originally ran in the January 2014 issue of Fugues magazine.

Zero Lebanese security forces, for using discredited “anal probe” exams to test for proof of men being gay. The doctor checks for traces of sperm, and takes a picture to ‘study’ the shape of the hole – the larger the width the more ‘likely’ the person is gay. Human Rights Watch says the tests amount to humiliation and torture.

Beth Ditto married her longtime partner

Kristin Ogata in April

Zeros The Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who are developing a medical test to “detect” homosexuals. Yousouf Mindkar, director of public health at the Kuwaiti Health Ministry, told the Kuwait newspaper Al Rai in October, “Health centres conduct the routine medical check to assess the health of the expatriates when they come into the Gulf Cooperation Countries. However, we will take stricter measures that will help us detect gays who will be then barred from entering Kuwait or any of the GCC member states.”

Zero Greece, for reinstating laws to arrest anyone suspected of having HIV. The law also allows authorities to publicize the names of HIV-positive people, and have them evicted from their homes.

Zeros The 1,000 people who protested same-sex marriage in Haiti (which currently bans SSM). Days later, across the Caribbean nation, Haitian gangs beat 47 gay men with machetes, sticks and iron bars, then looted and burned down many of their victims’ homes.

Zeros The 1,500 extremists who firebombed police protecting 150 LGBT activists taking part in an Oct 20 Gay Pride march in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro. 

Sunday, 8 December 2013


Mariela Castro received the international Grand Prix award at the Gala Arc-en-Ciel in Montreal (photo by Andre Querry)

Bugs' sit-down one-on-one interview with Mariela Castro originally ran in Daily Xtra

Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro and the niece of former president Fidel Castro, was in Montreal recently to accept an award for her work promoting the civil rights of LGBT people in Cuba.

Mariela Castro (Photo courtesy

Conseil Québécois LGBT)
Castro received a warm standing ovation at Montreal’s sold-out Corona Theatre at the 10th annual Gala Arc-en-Ciel, the awards ceremony honouring LGBT activists and presented by the Conseil Québécois LGBT each October. Previous winners of the gala’s international Grand Prix award include Svend Robinson, Louise Arbour and South African Supreme Court Justice Edwin Cameron.

“I am honoured to receive this award, which I dedicate to my mother, feminist and revolutionary Vilma Espín, who, since the first years of the Cuban Revolution, defended the rights of historically marginalized social groups in colonial and neo-colonial-dominated Cuba,” Castro told Xtra. “I also accept this prize as recognition of the work of those working with me, who have greatly contributed to our work at the Cuban National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX).”

Castro is a sexologist and the director of CENESEX. Since 2004 she has been the driving force lobbying for healthcare for transsexuals in Cuba and in 2008 won approval from the public health ministry to offer free sex-reassignment operations to Cubans. Castro is also president of the Cuban Multidisciplinary Centre for the Study of Sexuality, president of the National Commission for Treatment of Disturbances of Gender Identity, member of the Direct Action Group for Preventing, Confronting and Combating AIDS, and an executive member of the World Association for Sexual Health.

Along the way she has publicly advocated for same-sex unions in Cuba, and her organization CENESEX has given sensitivity training to Cuban police and continues to campaign for effective HIV/AIDS prevention.

“Just because someone is not heterosexual does not make them any less human,” she says.

Saturday, 30 November 2013


Oscar Wilde died on Nov 30, 1900, at the age of 46 (Photo by Napoleon Sarony, circa 1883)

Over a century after the American Revolutionary army made the Château Ramezay in Old Montreal its Canadian headquarters in 1775 – Benjamin Franklin himself would later overnight there in his quest to persuade Canadians to join the American Revolution – the Château’s gardens (then already a fraction of the size they used to be) would be visited by none other than Oscar Wilde during Wilde’s lecture tour of Canada in 1882.
Don Anderson resurrects Wilde

In Wilde’s children’s story The Selfish Giant, originally published in the collection The Happy Prince and Other Tales in 1888, kids play in an orchard very much like the gardens of Château Ramezay, which was built by Claude de Ramezay, the military commander appointed Governor of Montreal in 1704.

Château Ramezay was dubbed "the most beautiful house in Canada," and its gardens and orchard – only 750 square metres remain today – sloped down to the St-Lawrence River.

When I first visited the garden a few year ago I could not help but think of Oscar and The Selfish Giant, a story that can still bring me to tears today.

The Selfish Giant is the story I listened to most when I was a child and when I read it today I can hear my father’s voice,” says Montreal actor Don Anderson, who memorably portrayed Oscar in the Montreal New Classical Theatre Festival production of critically-hailed American playwright Moises Kaufman’s Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, back in November 2006.

“It’s a powerful story," Anderson continues. "Like so many of Oscar’s stories, there is a moral underpinning. All of what he wrote had a moral underpinning.”

Wilde, of course, really was the world’s first gay icon, and later a gay martyr when he was tried and convicted of sodomy in 1895, even though Oscar would never know what he would become, much less recognize the word “gay.”

Thursday, 7 November 2013


The cast of Sal Capone: The Lamentable Tragedy Of (Photo courtesy Black Theatre Workshop)

The debut play by Montreal-born playwright Omari Newton, Sal Capone: The Lamentable Tragedy Of,  is wowing audiences at Montreal’s Black Theatre Workshop. The play tells the tale of gangster hip-hop trio Sal Capone who have a shot at the big time when their gifted DJ, Sammy, is shot nine times by local police on the eve of Sal Capone’s big musical launch. Sammy falls into a coma, leaving his bandmates, rappers Freddy (Tristan D. Lalla) and Jewel (Kim Villagante) and their business manager, Chase (Jordan Waunch), bickering and angry at the police.  

Newton was inspired by the death of Fredy Villanueva, an 18-year-old shot and killed by an officer in an altercation in Montreal North in 2008. In the play, the police shooting of Sammy gives Newton the opportunity to explore the machismo and homophobia of the hip hop world, especially when (SPOILER WARNING) sammy’s friends discover via a First Nations transvestite and hooker (Billy Merasty) that Sammy was gay.
The video design by Candelario Andrade is  beautifully staged, the cast is excellent, and actors Tristan D. Lalla and Kim Villagante can rap with the best of them.

When the script focuses on Sammy’s sexual orientation and homophobia in the hip hop community, the play is absolutely riveting.

Saturday, 2 November 2013


Award-winning author Shyam Selvadurai (Photo by Richard Burnett)

Bugs' interview with Shyma Selvaduria originally ran in the November 2013 issue of Fugues magazine
The last time I interviewed author Shyam Selvadurai was way back in 1998 when his sophomore book Cinnamon Gardens shot up the bestseller charts. He was a young sensation then, still riding the triumphant success of his 1994 debut novel Funny Boy.

“I experienced a lot of pressure when I wrote my second novel, Cinnamon Gardens,” Shyam told me recently. “It’s not just an external pressure, it’s also internal. You want to achieve a higher goal. Each book has its own problems and challenges. I remember I met [2013 Nobel Prize-winning author] Alice Munro soon after Funny Boy came out and she asked me how I was dealing with all the pressure. I told her I was having second-novel syndrome and Alice replied, ‘I’m having ninth-book syndrome! It never gets easier.’”

Shyam Selvadurai was born in 1965 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, then came to Canada with his family at age 19 and grew up in Toronto’s sprawling suburbs.

“Toronto has and hasn`t changed – some of the suburbs are just grim, but they are more ethnic than when I came and people have learnt to make lives for themselves,” says Shyam, who today divides his time between Toronto and Colombo where he is the founder and Project Director of Write to Reconcile, a creative writing project in English undertaken by The National Peace Council of Sri Lanka. Selvaduria spends up to five months each year in Colombo.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013


Cyndi Lauper, circa 2013 (Photo courtesy Equipe Spectra)

Bugs' brand-new uber-queer interview with Cyndi originally ran in Daily Xtra. (A second, more mainstream interview ran in The Montreal Gazette.)

Queer audiences know Cyndi Lauper’s anthem, “True Colors,” is the theme song of the many star-studded True Colors tours she created to empower LGBT youth and benefit LGBT organizations and support groups across America.

But few people know that New York City’s True Colors Residence for homeless LGBT youth — which Lauper’s non-profit True Colors Fund built in partnership with New York’s West End Intergenerational Residence — was inspired by her close long-time friend Gregory, who was kicked out by his parents at the age of 12 when they discovered he was gay. “Gregory slept on park benches,” Lauper says today.

Shortly after Gregory died of AIDS in 1985, “True Colors” (written by songwriters Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly) was offered to Lauper.

“Songwriters pitch you songs in your style, and this song was originally written for Anne Murray. All I had was the melody and lyric. I sang it really softly,” a teary Lauper told me a year before the True Colors Residence opened in 2011. “And as time went on, I realized that with the True Colors Residence, Gregory [would] finally get his wish.”

Lauper recently told me that on opening day, “I put a little plant for Gregory in their garden.”


Photo from the “David Bowie Is” exhibit at the AGO in Toronto. Album cover shoot for Aladdin Sane (1973), design by Brian Duffy and Celia Philo, make up by Pierre La Roche. (Photo courtesy AGO)

Who doesn’t love David Bowie? Except for maybe the voters at the Grammy Awards, who snubbed Bowie during his peak creative years and finally awarded him a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

The Grammys aside, Bowie is widely-revered as one of the great visionary talents of the late 20th century, and he finally gets his due in the massive “David Bowie Is” exhibition currently drawing capacity crowds at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.

The man appeals to just about everybody, alternative and mainstream, gay and straight. Like Bowie once famously quipped, “It’s true – I am a bisexual. But I can’t deny that I’ve used that fact very well. I suppose it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. Fun, too.”

Wednesday, 23 October 2013


The Go-Go boys at Krave Las Vegas take 5 to pose for Three Dollar Bill 

(Photo by Bugs Burnett)

This travel column originally ran in the October 2013 issue of Fugues magazine
I pretty much didn’t draw a sober breath for five days when I visited Las Vegas this past summer with a motley crew of some of the world’s finest gay journalists. It was also my birthday, so I had a legit excuse.

Bugs enters Vegas limo with refreshments
But after listening to Old Vegas stories from my buddy, onetime chorus line dancer Michael Doughman, pretty much any excuse is reason enough to party in Vegas.

“Like any high-tourist town, local people tend to band together,” Michael told me. “They have their little groups and aren’t anxious to mingle with passers-though, invest time in people just for a few days and never see them again. Tourists are star struck when they come to Vegas, so there’s that starfucker mentality going on: ‘Oh yeah, I slept with one of the guys from this show or that show.’”

Friday, 18 October 2013


Amélie Nothomb’s new novel La Nostalgie Heureuse

Internationally-acclaimed Belgian author Amélie Nothomb’s new novel La Nostalgie Heureuse is racing up the bestseller charts. But back in 2009 when her memoir Tokyo Fiancée topped the charts, I asked Nothomb about her love affair with a – gasp! – man that she famously documented in her memoir.

“I loved a Japanese boy and it was a nice and strange experience,” Nothomb told me. “But then I escaped and I wanted to explain this poetic place. He wanted to marry and marriage is not for me.”

Why not? Are you a dyke?

“I am very open to that state of mind and most of the characters in my books are quite indefinite when it comes to their sexual identities,” Nothomb replied. “Indefinite like their author.”

That’s as close to publicly coming out as Amélie Nothomb has ever come.

Saturday, 14 September 2013


George Takei starred as Captain Sulu in the original Star Trek TV series and six movies
Bugs' new interview with George Takei was first published in XTRA. This is the longer version of that interview.

Star Trek legend George Takei has been the ultimate outsider for much of his life. Interned in American “War Relocation Camps” during World War II, Takei later dealt with racism and the Hollywood closet during his Tinseltown years.

Takei is currently advocating for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics to be relocated to a country that respects gay civil rights.

George Takei
“I remember the terrible morning when [I was five-years-old in 1942] my parents got my younger brother and baby sister up early, and I saw two soldiers with bayonets on their rifles flashing in the sun, stomp up the porch and knock on the front door,” Takei, now 76, remembers. “They ordered us out of our home. My mother was the last to come out and she was carrying the baby in her right arm and held a huge duffle bag in  her left hand and tears were rolling down her cheeks. I remember that vividly.”

Takei's personal experiences in WWII internment camps would later inspire the 2012 play Allegiance in which Takei also starred.

“I remember the barbwire fences, but I also remember chasing butterflies,” Takei says. “A child is amazingly adaptable. It wasn’t until I became a teenager after the war, talking with my father, that I learnt how degrading and humiliating it really was for my parents.”

By the time Takei got to Hollywood in the 1950s, he was relegated to playing stereotypes. But Takei told his father, “I’m going to change that.” 

Saturday, 7 September 2013


(Xavier Dolan. Courtesy of Ixion Communications.)

Glory be! Proud Montrealer and 24-year-old film wunderkind Xavier Dolan finds himself once again rubbing elbows with filmmaking royalty at the Venice Film Festival where this week Dolan’s latest film Tom a la ferme was awarded the critics’ prize by the Federation internationale de la presse cinematographique.

A couple of years ago, at the Cannes Film Festival, Dolan was already a star and drank it all in.

"I was at Cannes for 10 days, did 160 interviews, drank too much alcohol and smoked too many cigarettes!" Xavier told me, laughing lightly. "[Then] I had this Cannes glamour moment where at some mini-shindig I walked into some bar with Benicio Del Toro and this French actress, and suddenly my life changed. These people were [no longer up] on the screen. They’re chatting with you and you’re talking to them about cinema and your life and their life and you’re laughing [together]!"

Wednesday, 4 September 2013


Robert Pattinson, shown here in the 2008 Spanish film Little Ashes

(Photo still courtesy Kaleidoscope Entertainment)

Before matinee idol Robert Pattinson won international fame as a vampire in Hollywood's Twilight franchise, he portrayed artist Salvador Dalí having a love affair with poet Federico García Lorca in the 2008 Spanish film Little Ashes.

Now, in a new interview in the September issue of Germany Interview magazine, Pattison admits he masturbated on the set during a sex scene.

“My orgasm face is recorded for eternity,” Pattison said, pointing out that faking it “just doesn’t work, so I pleasured myself in front of the camera.”

In other words, Pattison whacked off on film. This is what they call “method acting.”

Watch it here in GIF form:

Sunday, 1 September 2013


Bugs' interview with James Arena originally ran in Daily Xtra on Aug 31

Gay audiences had torrid love affairs with disco divas well before the mainstream even heard the first strains of Donna Summer’s crossover smash hit “Love to Love You Baby,” which peaked at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1975.

But according to James Arena, author of the just-published book First Ladies of Disco, the genre’s gay core fan base is very much a North American phenomenon, closely tied to that era’s gay liberation movement.

James Arena (Photo via Facebook)
“The women I interviewed in my book told me that gay audiences don’t dominate their shows in Europe,” says Arena. “Their audience base in Europe is broader and more diverse than it is here in North America.”

Which is also why – with the arrival of HIV – the homophobic “disco sucks” backlash destroyed many careers on this side of the pond. Disco, mainstream America made very clear, is cocksucker music.

But in First Ladies of Disco, all 32 singers that Arena interviewed – including Martha Wash, Anita Ward, Gloria Gaynor, Carol Douglas and Evelyn “Champagne” King – embrace their gay fans.

Thursday, 29 August 2013


Tara in Gone With The Wind was modelled on Houmas House in New Orleans (Photo by Richard Burnett)
I blew into New Orleans with my buddy Bicente two days before Halloween 2008 and scared the bejezus out of the Big Sleazy on our absinthe-laced boozy first night there when I tripped and fell on Bourbon Street, then slid face first into a gutter next to a policewoman on her horse.

It reminded me of the famous Oscar Wilde quote, "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."

Except I now know the stars look brightest from the gutter.

Bugs morphed into Starlet O'Hara

at Houmas House
Anyway, I got scrapes on my knees and elbows for all the wrong reasons, as well as a bruise the size of Africa on my left thigh. And local spices made my ass so sore I decided to forgo a visit to The Club bathhouse on lower Toulouse Street ("Too Loose!" Bicente called it) in the French Quarter.

Still, on this, my third trip to N’Awlins – a city founded in 1718 by the former French governor of Louisiana, Jean-Baptiste le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, who was born in Montreal in 1680 – I regaled friends old and new in a city that has won my heart.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013


Fierté Montréal's candlelight vigil in front of the Russian Consulate in Montreal on August 13 (Photo by Lyle Stewart)

Despite rain, over 1,000 people showed up for Montreal Gay Pride organization Fierté Montréal's “peaceful candlelight vigil” in front of the Russian Consulate in Montreal on August 13. Watch the video below.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013


Michel Tremblay (Photo courtesy Talonbooks)
Bugs' February 2010 Daily Xtra interview with Tremblay was reprinted July 26, 2013 by Talonbooks

Quebec literary and gay icon Michel Tremblay divides his time between Montreal and Key West, where he still hardly ever speaks English. Tremblay is the focus of a new English play about a fictional 1969 meeting of a 27-year-old Tremblay and then-47-year-old famed Beat writer Jack Kerouac. Tremblay graciously agreed to sit down and answer my questions in English.

BUGS BURNETT: You hardly ever speak English, even in Florida?

MICHEL TREMBLAY: I live in a big house and last year I had 22 friends come visit me. I live in French. I haven’t made friends in Key West in over 19 years because I’m not the friendly man I am in interviews. I always say, “The worst thing that can happen to me is that I meet somebody new.”

Monday, 22 July 2013


Joan Rivers returns to Montreal to headline Just For Laughs Festival (Photos by Charles William Bush)

 Bugs' new interview with Joan Rivers originally ran in Daily Xtra on July 19

Hollywood myth has it that former Tonight Show host Johnny Carson was betrayed by his public heir-apparent, stand-up comic Joan Rivers, when she signed with FOX in 1986 for her own late-night TV talk show.

Can we talk?
Except the little-known truth is it was NBC and Carson who betrayed Rivers: there was an internal NBC memo with a Top 10 list of candidates to replace Carson, and her name was not on the list.

“A friend of mine, [then] NBC vice-president Jame Michaels got the internal memo and sent it to me,” Rivers says today. “And he wrote on it, ‘Darling there is no place for you here.’ That’s why I walked away. And Carson never spoke to me again.”

But don’t fret for Joan: “I say what I think and I move on and I don’t hold grudges,” she says. “That’s why I don’t have an ulcer.”

In fact, the octogenarian comedian (she turned 80 on June 8) is in great health, and will host the July 27 Gala at Montreal’s Just For Laughs comedy festival.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013


Photo courtesy CTV

Openly gay Alberta natives and best friends Jamie Cumberland and Pierre Cadieux say they will “represent our towns, represent our province, and represent our tribe” in the debut season of CTV’s The Amazing Race Canada.

Cumberland and Cadieux’s CTV bio states, “Jamie and Pierre, known as “The Cowboys,” are best friends who met through the Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo Association fundraiser dance 15 years ago. When Jamie first saw the call for applicants for The Amazing Race Canada he immediately called Pierre and said, “Girl! Clutch your pearls, we can finally apply for The Amazing Race!” Pierre screamed “I’m in!” and the rest is history.” 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013


The Right Honourable Charles Lapointe (Photo courtesy Tourisme Montreal)

Bugs' story originally ran in Daily Xtra.

Charles Lapointe was just 17 years old when he stepped into his first gay bar, La Rose Rouge, in Montreal back in 1961.

“There were no gay bars in my hometown of Tadoussac, and I didn’t think there were any gay bars, so this was a very big discovery for me. I wanted to meet other gay men, and I discovered a vibrant gay scene in Montreal,” says Lapointe, the president and CEO of Tourisme Montreal, which put Montreal on the international gay map when he spearheaded a trailblazing gay ad campaign in 1994.

Today, Montreal is widely hailed as a pioneer in the multi-billion-dollar world of gay tourism. New York, London and Tel Aviv have all copied Tourisme Montreal’s gay-tourism template.

Friday, 21 June 2013


B&B has generated more than $320 million in local economic spin-offs, plus donated $1.8 million to various AIDS and LGBT groups (All photos courtesy BBCM)

The BBCM is revamping its Black & Blue Festival with its upcoming move to the cutting-edge L’Arsenal space in Montreal’s historical Griffintown neighbourhood, for the famed circuit party’s 23rd edition this October.

Who can forget the entire field

At Olympic Stadium covered in

candles with a walkway to the dance

floor in the shape of  an AIDS

ribbon, at B&B in 2000?

Some 5,000 people danced the night away on three dance floors in Montreal’s Palais des Congrès last year. The all-night circuit party’s attendance peaked in 1999 when 17,000 partygoers packed B&B’s dancefloor in the outfield of Olympic Stadium.

“We are excited to begin a new era of events with the selection of L’Arsenal as a major innovative space,” says Black & Blue president and co-founder Robert Vezina, “a great way for BBCM to increase the success of the Foundation and the generated proceeds in order to help community groups.”

The Black & Blue Festival this week also announced its new major partnership with the Priape group as a Principal Title Sponsor, which  follows the recent announcement of its major partnership with New York’s Saint at Large. “Our new partnerships with Priape and The Saint will help us reach our goals,” says Vezina, pointing out the event will be re-geared towards the gay tourist jet setters from all over the world, with a focus on the U.S.A.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013


"WWII Concentration Camp, Pink Triangle Prisoners, 1930s" is one image from  
The Fortune Teller (Photos courtesy Leo Herrera at www.homochic.com)

NYC-based gay activist/artist Leo Herrera has edited more than 50 years of video footage to create a fascinating time-capsule of the LGBT community’s journey over the past five decades.

The 5-minute video collage is called The Fortune Teller, took six months to pit together and consists of 100 clips carefully chosen by Herrera.

NYC-based visual artist Leo Herrera

“The story is told through the trance of The Fortune Teller (played by Stanley Frank) and created using archival and modern footage,” Herrera explains on his website. “The film is a documentary and time capsule, paying homage to psychedelic films of the 1960′s and the modern art of the YouTube Montage film. From Mapplethorpe to Lohanthony, Uganda to Burning Man, Vogue to Sissy Bounce, AIDS to The Berlin Patient, meticulously edited clips create a kaleidoscopic five-minute journey through more than 50 years of gay history.”

Herrera hopes The Fortune Teller will educate young and older gay people alike about the LGBTQ experience.

Thursday, 16 May 2013


Peter Rauhofer in 1994 (Photo via Peter Rauhofer's official Facebook page)

Pioneering DJ, producer and remixer Peter Rauhofer died on May 7 after a long battle with brain cancer. The iconic blond was arguably best known for his very gay Star 69 record label, and his remix work for Depeche Mode, Eurythmics, Madonna, Mariah  Carey, Whitney Houston, Pet Shop Boys and even Yoko Ono. He also won (under the name Club 69) the Grammy Award for Remixer of the Year in 2000 for his reworking of Cher's Believe.

"It makes me sad, not only that I have lost a friend, but that the world has lost an amazing talent and that future generations will never get to understand the magic that Peter created night after night all over the world," Rauhofer's friend and manager Angelo Russo posted on Rauhofer's Facebook page. He added, "I ask that his true fans keep his legacy alive by sharing his music with anyone who may not have had the opportunity to experience it for themselves."

I interviewed Rauhofer just once, when he headlined Divers/Cité’s official closing party in Montreal back in 2005. He was pretty frank and honest, and told me that - unlike many other cities - he still loved spinning in Montreal.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013


"There is this dumbing down of gay culture, and nobody reads or cares," says Edmund White.
Bugs' interview with Edmund White originally ran in Xtra
Literary lion Edmund White is well known to gay readers as a novelist, biographer, memoirist and charter member of the Violet Quill, the legendary New York City writers group whose members – White, Felice Picano, Andrew Holleran, Robert Ferro, Michael Grumley, Christopher Cox and George Whitmore – are widely considered to be the trailblazing gay-male literary nucleus of post-Stonewall 20th-century America.
But on the eve of his much-anticipated arrival at the 2013 edition of Montreal’s Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival, White told me, “You can make too much of the Violet Quill. I mean, we only met seven or eight times. But I do think it was very useful at the time, in the late '70s and early '80s, because without even discussing it, we figured out who would have which turf. For instance, Andrew [Holleran] would write about Fire Island, I would write about childhood, and Felice [Picano] would often write about the dark side of things.”
White — who suffered a stroke last summer (he has fully recovered) — turned 73 in January. In the interview below he speaks about the evolution of gay life, literature, barebacking and equal marriage. 

Thursday, 2 May 2013


Brit punk alt-rock legend Billy Bragg is still fighting establishment “Tooth & Nail”

(Photo by Andy Whale, courtesy Rubin Fogel Productions)

Bugs' current interview with Billy Bragg originally ran in Xtra and Curtains Up 

British alt-rock musician and left-wing activist Billy Bragg formed the punk rock band Riff Raff in 1977 and was touring London’s pubs and clubs when one day, in the spring of 1978,  he joined 100,000 people in the first-ever Rock Against Racism march from Trafalgar Square to East London to see an outdoor concert at Victoria Park, organized to counteract rising racist attacks across Britain. 

Headliners that day included The Clash, Buzzcocks, Steel Pulse, Generation X and the Tom Robinson Band, who recorded the landmark song Glad to Be Gay. 

Today Glad to Be Gay sounds like a like lovely little song, but back then you could get your fuckin’ head kicked in for being gay,” says Bragg. “So Tom Robinson sang this song, and then all the guys that were standing around me and my mates, all these guys started kissing each other on the lips, and we turned around and saw we were standing under a banner that said ‘Gays Against the Nazis.’ They’d been marching behind us in the parade and we hadn’t realized it, and then I realized this wasn’t just about racism, it was about prejudice, bigotry – and that also means equal rights for gay, lesbian and trans people.”

Tuesday, 30 April 2013


Les McKeown’s Legendary Bay City Rollers headline new 12-concert cross-Canada tour

I remember I was chatting with 1980s pop star Samantha Fox the day after Les McKeown, frontman for 1970s heartthrobs the Bay City Rollers, admitted on the British TV show Rehab in February 2009 that he is bisexual.

"I’ve been a bit of a George Michael, meeting people, often strangers, for sex," McKeown said. "Not in public toilets – I’m not big on the unhygienic side of things. These days you’d meet online and figure out a place where to meet – your place or mine." 

Ironically, a week earlier, New Kids On The Block heartthrob Jonathan Knight was outed in America. In other words, the song remains the same.

But Fox – whose fabulous lesbian partner of 14 years, Myra Stratton, is also her manager – was as stunned about McKeown as I was. 

"Les and I had become great friends on [an Australian] tour," Samantha explained. "When I was 10 in 1977 the BCR were huge and I used to wear white trousers and tartan bottoms! My friends and I had our own BCR song" – here Samantha sings it to me – "and I sang it to Les at the airport! I could see on that tour that he was a broken man. Now I understand [why]. I wish he had spoken to me because I could have helped him. Because it was [also] very difficult for me [coming out]. I could never live that lie that long because it destroys you. And people know. That’s what happened to me. Even when I went out with guys, like Paul Stanley of Kiss, I knew." 

Monday, 29 April 2013


Internationally-acclaimed, Montreal-based Canadian transgender country and indie singer-songwriter and author Rae Spoon (above) is one of the subjects in photographer JJ Levine's Queer Portraits exhibit (All photos by JJ Levine, courtesy JJ Levine)  

I first came across the photographs of Montreal photographer JJ Levine in the pages of Maisonneuve’s Summer 2012 issue, where Levine parodied prom-style portraits, and then again just days later in the 10×10 Photography Project: 100 Portraits Celebrating LGBT People in the Arts, during Gay Pride at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel last summer.

Montreal photographer JJ Levine
That exhibit featured 10 photographers, but it was Levine’s portraits that caught my eye – and many of those are also featured in Levine’s new solo show Queer Portraits at display at Toronto's Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography from May 3 to June 16.More images from JJ Levine's series Queer Portraits will be on display at Gladstone Hotel's Art Bar from May 1 - 31.

The Queer Portraits press release states, “Each portrait is taken in a different domestic setting, characterized by saturated colours and often discursive backgrounds. Using professional lighting and a medium format film camera, Levine creates a studio within each home environment, and intentionally places every piece of furniture and object that appears within the frame. These settings are intended to raise questions regarding private queer space as a realm for the development of community and the expression of genders and sexualities that are often marginalized within the public sphere.”

“I’ve been taking these [portraits] since 2006 and I’ve probably taken over 100 [portraits]  in this series by this point,” Levine says. “I photograph my friends and people around me, so there really is no decision-making process [about who to photograph]. It just comes to me when I’m interacting [with others] in my daily life.” 

Queer Portraits runs at Toronto's Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography from May 3 to June 16. More images from Queer Portraits will be on display at Gladstone Hotel's Art Bar from May 1 - 31. Click here for more info.

Click here for JJ Levine’s official website.
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NBA center Jason Collins has come out on the cover of the  May 6, 2013, issue of Sports Illustrated.

"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay."

Those are the very first words by 12-year NBA veteran Jason Collins from his essay in the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated, making him the first openly-gay male athlete playing in a major-league sport in North America.

"I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport," Collins continues. "But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, "I'm different." If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."

And after writing, hoping and wishing for this very moment for many years, all I can say is "Wow!"

And congratulations to Jason Collins who has now become one of my all-time favourite athletes.

"I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston's 2012 Gay Pride Parade," Collins writes. "I'm seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn't even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I'd been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, 'Me, too.'"

Thursday, 18 April 2013


Montreal singer France Joli became an “overnight success” at the age of 16 back in 1979 when she replaced Donna Summer at a legendary beach concert performance for 5,000 gay men on Fire Island now famously known as Beach ’79 (Photo by David A Lee / All photos courtesy France Joli)
This interview originally ran in The Montreal Gazette

Montreal singer France Joli became an “overnight success” at the age of 16 back on July 7, 1979, when she headlined a legendary beach concert performance for 5,000 gay men now famously known as Beach ’79.

Donna Summer had cancelled at the last minute, so Joli stepped in as a replacement and sang her song Come to Me, which would chart at #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart  – then at #1 on the disco chart – and to this day the song is widely-known as “the definitive Fire Island dance classic.”

“I was blown away, I was a kid and had never seen gay life like that before, it was beautiful to see two men embracing – and it was 1979!” France Joli says today. “I loved that freedom and the happiness that disco reflected. It’s impossible not to be happy and dance to disco. The lyrics could be dark, but the music always lifted you up.”

Joli will headline Disco Montréal’s 2nd annual Disco Party benefiting West Island Community Shares, which funds various local charities. The April 20 benefit will be held at the Pointe Claire Holiday Inn, whose main ballroom will be transformed into a 1970s disco. Legendary DJ Robert Ouimet –  known worldwide as The Godfather of Montreal Disco – will spin, and Joli will perform Come to Me and Gonna Get Over You, as well as her latest hit Hallelujah (a dance version of Leonard Cohen’s signature song).

“I always wanted to be a singer,” Joli says. “I even cried on key when I was born!”


Time magazine's April 8 issue had two different covers

This op-ed originally ran in The Cornwall Free News.

The last few weeks have been a pretty intoxicating time for LGBTQ Americans, as the gay civil rights movement in the U.S.A. has finally attained critical mass and reached a tipping point.

Just before the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two highly-publicized gay-marriage cases in March, a decisive majority of Americans said they support gay marriage in a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

That poll showed that 58 percent of Americans now believe it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to get married. Among young adults aged 18 to 29, support for gay marriage was a whopping 81 percent.
Clearly the writing is on the wall.

But it has taken a long time for U.S. President Barack Obama – not to mention much of D.C.’s political establishment – to come on board. It was only in May 2012 that Obama finally publicly said, “It is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

I do not doubt that Obama always supported gay marriage. But when Obama first ran for the Oval Office in 2007, Chicago’s Windy City Times newspaper dropped a bomb when it dug up this 1996 Obama quote when he ran for the Illinois state senate: “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”

Once in the Oval Office, Obama said in an open letter to America’s gay communities, “As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws.”

But then the long-standing member of the evangelical United Church of Christ added, “I personally believe that civil unions represent the best way to secure that equal treatment.”

I have always taken Obama’s civil-rights agenda with a grain of salt – he is a politician after all and he didn’t get to become president by accident. Certainly, President Obama’s refusal to endorse gay marriage was not the first time a politician has said – or believed – one thing and done another.

Sunday, 7 April 2013


Newspaper legend, cartoonist, author and LGBTQ icon Alison Bechdel (Photo by Elena Seibert)

I’ve interviewed Lambda Literary Award-winning cartoonist and author Alison Bechdel – whose groundbreaking biweekly comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For was syndicated in over 70 alternative newspapers around the world for 25 years – many times over the years, and she always gives good quote. 

See for yourself when Bechdel will discuss her creative process and latest graphic memoir, Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama, in a visual presentation in Montreal on April 12.

Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? is a graphic memoir about her own Mom. In fact, back in 2003, before Alison retired her Dykes to Watch Out For cartoon strip, she told me, “I never thought this would be my career. When I started out my mom was not happy. Her first response was, ‘You’re not going to do this under your own name, are you?’ She came around, though, and is now really supportive. She says she’s proud of me."

Are You My Mother? is a sequel to her  2006 bestselling memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic which told the true story of Bechdel’s coming out, as well as the discovery that her own father was gay.

Fun Home was eventually named a Best Book of the Year by Time, Entertainment Weekly, New York Times, People, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Village Voice and The San Francisco Chronicle, but when the book was first published, Alison admitted she was nervous.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013


Former NFL player Wade Davis now speaks publicly about what it was like to be closeted in the National Football League (Photos courtesy Wade Davis)

 When Wade Davis came out as a gay man last summer and spoke publicly about what it was like to be closeted in the National Football League, the news not only made waves in the NFL, but also forced his parents to deal with the fact their son is gay.

Former NFL player Wade Davis
“I grew up in the south and my family is very religious,” said the Louisiana-born Davis, who began his professional football career after attending Weber State University in Utah. “Thankfully, my mother has come full circle. She used to be very much against (homosexuality), whereas my father still refers to it as a ‘lifestyle choice.’ To be honest, my father and I are still not in a good place. But it took me 15 years to be okay with being gay, so I feel I need to give them time as well.”

Davis, a former defensive back, never cracked a 53-man NFL roster. But he was signed as a free agent by the Tennessee Titans and played in the preseason for the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks before moving on to NFL Europe, where he played for the Barcelona Dragons and the Berlin Thunder.

This past weekend, Davis closed Montreal’s fifth annual Afro-Caribbean gay and lesbian film festival, Massimadi, with a free public lecture at the Imperial Theatre, where he talked about how he worked hard to maintain his “straight” cover in the NFL.

“In my football days, I was one of the guys, I was very well liked, so I had this persona to keep up,” Davis told me. “I’d even go to strip clubs with the team to keep up my image of being a strong, heterosexual, masculine man. I remember spending my (entire first paycheque) in a strip club trying to act like one of the guys.

“This pressure didn’t really come from my teammates, it was more (from) how I grew up in the south. I believed being gay meant you were weak. So I tried really hard to push against that. By the time I got to college and the NFL (at age of 21 in 2000), coming out was not even an option.”