Thursday, 3 September 2015

FOLK ICON PENNY LANG ON COMING OUT, JANIS JOPLIN AND LEONARD COHEN

"I think you become a legend after living all your life and I haven’t lived all my life yet. I’ll be a legend when I die." Photo courtesy Borealis Records

This interview with Penny Lang originally ran in Three Dollar Bill on May 4, 2006

Montreal folk singer Penny Lang was going to teach Janis Joplin how to play guitar back in the fall of 1970. But Janis died on Oct. 4 of that year at the Landmark Hotel during the L.A. recording sessions for her album Pearl, and Joplin’s keyboardist Ken Pearson, a Montrealer who was the love of Penny’s life, returned home without Janis.

"Once I spoke with Janis on the phone," Lang recalls. "I was in pretty bad shape. I’m bipolar and I’ve had some rough periods. I take lithium now but back then it wasn’t legal. I was looking for Kenneth and Janis was great."

Lang had two things in common with Joplin – Ken Pearson, of course, and that they both loved women.

MIKA CELEBRATES MONTREAL, FREDDIE MERCURY AND GAY LIBERATION

“Sexuality and identity have been the ingredients of my music and lyrics since the beginning.”
 UMG recordings

This interview with Mika originally ran in Daily Xtra on June 18, 2015
The tabloids have been obsessing over Mika’s sexual orientation ever since the British-Lebanese pop star exploded on the charts in 2007 with his debut album, Life in Cartoon Motion. To the surprise of no one, Mika came out as gay in 2012. But just three years earlier, when I first interviewed Mika, his handlers warned me to avoid personal questions and stick to the music.

So instead, Mika and I had talked about another closeted pop star, the late Freddie Mercury. It was like we were talking in code. Imitating Mercury from the famous backstage British TV interview on the Queen —We Will Rock You: Live in Montreal 1981 DVD, Mika turned to me, legs crossed and, pretending to hold a cigarette, did his finest imitation of Freddie Mercury. “Yes, dahling,” Mika said à la Mercury. “Hello, dear!”

Following three sold-out concerts with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (OSM) earlier this year, I sat down with Mika to talk about his new album and his obsession with Freddie Mercury.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

HOLLYWOOD HEARTTHROB TAB HUNTER SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT


Tab Hunter's bestselling 2005 autobiography Tab Hunter Confidential has been transformed into a documentary film directed by Jeffrey Schwarz, and will screen at L.A.’s Outfest on Hunter’s 84th birthday, July 11, 2015


This interview with Tab Hunter originally ran in Three Dollar Bill on November 24, 2005

When I learned a couple years ago that 1950s matinee idol Tab Hunter was going to come out in his forthcoming memoirs, I told my friend, author Felice Picano, who’d had lunch with the onetime Hollywood heartthrob. 

"He’s a wonderful man," Felice told me, which only made me want to interview Tab Hunter even more. 

Well, I finally got to blab with Hunter last week, the day after he returned home to Santa Barbara after a cross-country U.S. book tour to promote his bestselling memoirs, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star (Algonquin Books). I can’t even begin to tell you how terrific Hunter’s autobiography is, an immensely frank and entertaining read that, Hunter proudly tells me, has just been ranked Amazon’s number two pick for best books of 2005. 

"I thought about writing my memoirs a long time ago but didn’t have the guts," Hunter explains. "Then when I heard someone else was going to write a book, I said what the hell. I hate talking about my private life but I had to do it [come out]. I had to be fair." 

Tab Hunter Confidential tells the quintessential Hollywood fairytale of a gorgeous young kid – in this case a young Art Gelien – who was named Tab Hunter by Henry Willson, the (in)famous Hollywood agent who also created Rock Hudson and Rory Calhoun, sex symbols who became known as Harry Willson’s boys. Along the way, Hunter publicly dated the likes of Debbie Reynolds and, by the age of 25, he was a number one box office draw who’d even had a number one hit single with the song Young Love

Thursday, 18 June 2015

DISHING WITH IRISH DRAG SUPERSTAR PANTI BLISS

Panti Bliss is the guest of honour at Toronto’s Green Space Festival’s all-drag Starry Night, co-presented by Pride Toronto on June 25


This is an expanded version of Bugs’ interview with Panti Bliss originally published in Daily Xtra

Irish drag queen and “accidental activist” Miss Panti Bliss became a YouTube sensation in January 2014 when she walked on the stage at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and gave a touching and memorable speech on homophobia.

“Have you ever been standing at a pedestrian crossing when a car drives by and in it are a bunch of lads, and they lean out the window and they shout “Fag!” and throw a milk carton at you?” Miss Panti asked the Abbey Theatre audience rhetorically. “Now it doesn’t really hurt. It’s just a wet carton and anyway they’re right – I am a fag. But it feels oppressive.

“When it really does hurt, is afterwards. Afterwards I wonder and worry and obsess over what was it about me, what was it they saw in me? What was it that gave me away? And I hate myself for wondering that. It feels oppressive and the next time I’m at a pedestrian crossing I check myself to see what is it about me that ‘gives the gay away’ and I check myself to make sure I’m not doing it this time.”

I can relate: I live in the McGill Ghetto in downtown Montreal and I can’t tell you how many times over the years folks in drive-by cars have screamed “Faggot!” at me at the corner of Parc Avenue and Milton.

The video of Panti's speech went viral — it has been seen more than 700,000 times on YouTube — and landed her a North American lecture tour.

Upon her return to Dublin, publishing house Hachette Books Ireland asked Panti (aka Rory O’Neill) to write her memoirs, Woman in the Making.

“The turnaround on the book was less than six months,” Panti says. “But saying I cashed in suggests I was given loads of money, and I wasn’t. It is part memoir, part rant. And I have two chapters about the aftermath of my lecture at the Abbey Theatre. It was an insane period in my life, exciting and exhilarating.”

Thursday, 26 February 2015

HOW GAY MEN DEFINED 20th CENTURY INTERIOR DESIGN


Montreal author John Potvin’s new book explores the homes of Oscar Wilde, Noël Coward and Cecil Beaton

This story was originally published in Daily Xtra

Montreal author John Potvin was researching his new book about the homes of famous gay men around the same time he married his husband in December 2010, in the home of a close gay friend. It was here and then that Potvin’s vision for his book Bachelors of a Different Sort: Queer Aesthetics, Material Culture and the Modern Interior in Britain crystallized.

“I’d been thinking about this for half a decade, and what fascinated me about these gay male couples were their lives together,” Potvin says. “Much of what is written about gay life and queer identity is geared at the public sphere. I wanted people to understand how these men created lives within their homes.”


Bachelors of a Different Sort gives readers an inside look at turn-of-the century bachelorhood by offering case studies of the private lives and homes of several prominent gay bachelors living in Britain. All the bachelors chosen were in the creative arts — writers, actors, painters, designers and photographers — and the book includes the domestic interiors of Oscar Wilde, Noël Coward and Cecil Beaton.
Potvin, an art history professor at Montreal’s Concordia University, explores a largely unseen side of queer sexuality by showing how these bachelors used interior design to set themselves apart from the constraints of the hetero-patriarchy that surrounded them.

“Although [gay men] have been written out of the histories of design and the home, a profound sense of community was forged as a result of [them] living in these homes,” Potvin says.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

2014 HEROES AND ZEROES OF THE YEAR



My column on past year’s heroes and zeros originally ran in the January 2015 issue of Fugues magazine.


Here is my 19th annual column of the past year’s heroes and zeros. 


Hero Pope Francis, for encouraging a Synod draft to state “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community.” 

Zero The Vatican and Pope Francis, for backtracking on the Synod’s “Homosexuals has gifts” statement after coming under furious assault from conservative Catholics. 

Zero Luca Magnotta. Enough said. 

Zero The organizers of Ottawa’s Capital Pride, who ran that city’s Pride festival into the ground with an $106,000 deficit in 2014. 

Hero Toronto, for hosting the world at their kick-ass World Pride 2014 festival. 

Heroes Brewers Guinness, Heinekin and the Boston Beer Co. (maker of Sam Adams beer), for pulling out of the New York and Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parades because both parades refuse to allow LGBT marchers. 

Zero Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps, who finally died. Good riddance.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

JOAN JETT AMONG 2015 ROCK HALL INDUCTEES

Jett's white Melody Maker guitar has been covered with various stickers over the years, including "Gender Fucker" and the black and blue Leather Pride flag


She may sing otherwise, but the truth is Joan Jett does give a damn about her reputation. That’s why we know so little about her, and so much.

She cemented her legend status with her 2006 comeback studio album Sinner on the Vans Warped tour when fans and critics alike re-evaluated Jett’s hugely important place in rock’n'roll.

"It’s very humbling that anybody will accept you at all," Jett told me at the time. "It’s overwhelming. I tend to deflect it because I don’t know how to deal with it."

This week Jett was among those announced in the 2015 class of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "I'm flabbergasted," Jett told Rolling Stone. "It can be really hard sometimes to assess myself. I'm living it and it's hard to step back and see the larger picture in terms of what the music industry thinks of me."