Tuesday, 28 May 2013


Hi, I'm Rob Ford. I'm writing to appeal to you because of all this garbage that's been written about me in the papers. Those journalistic maggots, eh? But I'm not going to talk about that. I'm writing to say this: I love you Toronto. And I know you love me. And I know you're not going to turn against me.
You know why I say that?
Cuz I'm your Dad.
I mean we all have Dads, eh? And in the past few years Dads in general have been getting some pretty bad reviews. And let me tell you something. It's completely undeserved. Dads are good guys. I'm a good guy. Your Dad is a good guy, right?
Think about it.
The thing about Dads is...sure, they screw up sometimes. That's the thing. Sure, they make mistakes. I mean....nobody's perfect. Sometimes Dads well...you know the story. Sometimes they can have a drug problem just like anybody else, sometimes they can have financial problems. Sometimes there can be some shifty dealings going on. And yeah, sure sometimes Dads well...they can get involved in a little hanky-panky if you know what I mean, do some things behind closed doors, late at night, after they've had a few.
You know.
But hey, they ARE men, right? And you know...men get into trouble sometimes -- if they're real men, old-fashioned ones, ones that pass muster, the kind of men that built this country.
And I know that each and every one of you has a Dad, and you love him, and that Dad of yours -- for better or for worse -- is a little bit (sometimes a lot) like me. But what's most important is that you can forgive your Dad.
Yeah, you can.
You probably forgive him every day, and you love doing that, because you love him.
Now I know there a lot of the downtown intellectual elites going on about Toronto's 'reputation,' on what they call the ‘world stage.’ Well first of all, who really cares about the 'world stage' except a bunch of cappucino-swilling, hip-swiveling maggots anyway? (I'd use a stronger word -- one that rhymes with maggots -- but I don't believe in using words like that.)
You know what? I'm NOT an embarrassment to Toronto. Because there are men like me all over the world. And people look up to them, and protect them from harm, and sometimes even worship them. There are even countries where Dads do worse things than I do. They kill and torture their own people. But there are people who forgive them, cuz, well -- they love their Dad. There are countries where little girls aren't allowed to read. But people understand that the Dads don't want them to read, so that's okay. In fact I'd say that most of the world -- outside Toronto -- understand that Dads sometimes make mistakes, and that you have to support them, no matter what.
So I'd say that if you took a poll of all the people in the world, most of them would agree with most of the people in Toronto, that you just have to forgive your Dad sometimes, or else...well the whole fabric of society would fall apart!
I mean, take a look at the alternative. If the world wasn't run by Dads, then who would run the world?
I'll tell you. MOMS. Now I don't think I have to tell you why that’s a bad idea in so many words -- and if I tried to, well some people might twist what I'm saying. Let's just say that...well if Moms ran the world, then once a month we'd have to take a vacation when they got cranky!
No, seriously, I think we all know that it just wouldn't work. You know it, I know it, we ALL know it.
So that's why you'll stand behind me, Toronto. Because you love your Dad. You will always love him, and you know that the world has been run by Dads for hundreds of years, since the Paleolathic Period, even, and well -- so far -- I think we're doin' pretty good.
So, don't rock the boat, eh?
Hey, I know you'll stick with me.
Cuz – why?
Say it with me.
Cuz I'm your Dad. 

 -Sky Gilbert

Sunday, 26 May 2013

What’s Wrong With Soderbergh’s Liberace

            I know, I haven’t even seen it yet, which I know seems cranky of me. But I’m sick and tired of this kind of thing.
            I mean, have you read the interviews with the cast? We are supposed to be so happy, nay perhaps grateful, that these hugely successful, straight, Hollywood actors have stretched their instruments (pardon my French) to such a degree that they are able to play gay men. There have been lots of jokes about the admirable lack of discomfort Matt and Michael have about kissing each other (well gee -- aren’t you guys open-minded!). And Matt Damon has warned us that he has a big ass (really Matt, that kind of thing is absolutely no problem – at least for me!) And we’re supposed to be oh so impressed with what wonderful actors they are to be able to play gay roles. I’m sure they will both be so brilliant that people will wish they could be nominated for Oscars instead of simply Emmys (which I’m sure they will win). Nothing says great acting like a confirmed straight guy playing an effeminate gay role.
            Why am I so offended by all this?
            Because I founded Buddies in Bad Times theatre almost 35 years ago and I thought we would be over it by now!!
            In the early years of Buddies there was a lot of homophobia surrounding my theatre. I remember being on a Canada Council committee with Eric Peterson (1985). He whispered to me: “I’ve always wanted to come to Buddies, but you know, most people think that if they went to your theatre, they would have to wear a paper bag over their head.” I have nothing against Eric -- who was, after all, simply trying to be nice. Unfortunately, Behind the Candelabra reminds me of Eric’s well-meaning -- but ultimately homophobic -- remark.
            I founded a gay theatre for one reason and one reason alone. I was gay, and out, and I knew that theatre in general was a place for many gay men to hide. Effeminacy, vulnerability and emotionalism are aspects of gay culture, and some gay men are willing to exhibit these qualities more than straight men do – but in the theatre men can exhibit these qualities without being thought of as gay (they are only acting). The problem is that if you are gay, and a good actor, you a) might feel the urge to come out and b) if you do come out, you may be accused of not being as good an actor as a straight man.
            I did a drag performance at the University of Toronto a couple of years ago, and two very sweet innocent male students who had somehow never heard of me (I know it sounds arrogant, but I was surprised) came up to me, bowing and scraping -
“Um, do you mind if we ask you if you are gay?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Well because, no offense, but if you were straight then that would mean you were a magnificent actor, really, but if you were gay then it would just be – something that you do.”
            Sadly, we are in exactly the same place we were in back in 1985 -- no one would ever think of putting a major gay Hollywood actor in a gay role in a major Hollywood movie (first of all, who are the major, Hollywood, gay actors?). Secondly, most men still seem to fear that being in the theatre might mean that they are gay, and they go to great lengths to prove their heterosexuality -- whether in or out of gay roles (have you noticed that in recent years theatrical bios have come to include information about the actors wife and family? I mean, who cares?).
            When will we realize that what makes a good actor is her or her ability to inhabit any role, regardless of gender, or sexuality? When will we learn to stop caring whether anyone is straight, gay, bi, or trans? When will the theatre stop being a closet that people pop in and out of, alternatively -- sometimes hiding, occasionally peeping out to say hello?
            When it comes to Behind the Candelabra -- I’m sure I’ll enjoy the show, as all involved are mighty talented. (If nothing else, the font used to advertise the show has already been put to good use: Harper employed it in his attack ads on Trudeau to make the young, handsome, future candidate for Prime Minister look gay!)
            But the whole thing makes me mad.
            And honestly, this is not just because I’d make just as good a Liberace as Michael Douglas! 
            (And, might I point out -- my ass is much better than his!)

N.B. If you care about this issue, and you are an agent, an artistic director, or some other powerful Toronto theatre person, I would love to see you at The Kitchen Party Nervous Breakdown Reality TV Show, on the evening of Monday June 17. It’s an annual event hosted by my drag character Jane, only an hour long in total, where you get to see young queer actors create their own material -- and then meet them afterwards in an informal setting. If this is you, you can get more info at: kitchenpartynervousbreakdown@gmail.com

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Fear of Golden Gays

            I turned on SLICE the other day. I don’t ordinarily watch SLICE because the programming is aimed at older straight women. True, as I get older I do begin to resemble an older straight woman -- although people do insist on calling me ‘Sir!’, which I find incredibly unnerving -- unless, of course, I’m in the backroom at The Eagle. At any rate, I don’t recommend you turn on SLICE any day soon, unless you want to be frightened out of your wits.
            They have a new program called Golden Gays.
            You heard it here first!
Be afraid: be very afraid.
My own personal fear of Golden Gays has absolutely nothing to do with my terror of aging! Well maybe just a little bit. As I approach sixty-one, let me tell you, the whole kit and caboodle seems perilously close to ending at any moment.  So yes, I will admit that the prospect of watching gay men of a ‘certain age’ cavorting about on TV, reminds me far too much of my own mortality.
But my profound fear of the show is for a reason other than that.
I am not the only one who fears Golden Gays.  Lots of my younger friends are also terrified of it. But they still find themselves drawn to it -- like a car accident on the 401.
            What is it about Golden Gays that both haunts and entices us?
            Let’s have a closer look.
Being old and gay, is apparently quite a jolly thing; especially in Palm Springs. The lives of the ‘golden gays’ revolve around– money, real estate, getting new photos taken, and ‘true love.’  And certainly the central characters are loveable and recognizable enough – two older self-identified bears who insist on hugging each other at the drop of a hat, and are conflicted about whether or not to sell their gay guest house or ‘hold onto that dream.’  Then there is the young woman trying to borrow money from her best friend who doesn’t want to lend it to her, but does anyway. And the 70 year old who is trying on new hats because he has found someone 42 years younger than himself with whom he is ‘in love.’  And last but not least, the old queen who puts on funny hats and ‘performs’ in a bar for his friends.
Let me tell you, it isn’t so much that I object to this cavalcade of witless, charm-free lightweights, as that I am frightened by how willing television seems to be to celebrate the sheer innocuousness of their sexless, inconsequential lives. (Sure there are lots of heterosexual boobs on reality network TV shows – pun intended – but they are balanced out by all the serious-minded, grown-up-but-not-aged sexual straight folks that populate HBO dramas.)
            What frightens me is that a few years ago there was a show on TV called Queer as Folk, which (whether you enjoyed the show or not) featured -- not the nostalgic tales of endearing retirees -- but contemporary stories of young queers having lots of sex and living the prime of their lives.
            So what happened?
The message queers are receiving these days from mainstream culture is this: ‘We are ready to accept gays and lesbian with open arms only if they are not having sex and not doing anything besides planning their retirement.
Think I’m exaggerating?
Witness the two much lauded ‘outings’ of the last six months.
Jodie Foster finally decided to come out as a ‘single person’ at the ripe old age of 50 -- after 47 years in the film business.
Jason Collins boldly came out at the ripe old age of 35 – which is when most basketball stars retire.
Double wow.
I wonder why they both waited so long?
Maybe because they were finally old enough and past-their-prime enough that people could handle it.  (And besides, their former careers were basically over, anyway.)
Which makes me think that even though everybody seems to think that we’ve come a long way baby – is that really true?
Or that just the way it seems?

Saturday, 4 May 2013


            Ordinarily I wouldn’t review a Toronto play. But one of the many great things about The Book of Mormon is that it features no Toronto talent whatsoever (as in days of olde, we provincials are being treated to a touring production, with a foreign cast). So praise be to God (to coin a phrase). I can actually review this play because no one I know is in any way connected with it.
            The Book of Mormon is a fascinating cultural phenomenom.  Why is this potty-mouthed musical about Mormons such a mammoth hit with old, Blue-haired Ladies? What in the name of hell (to coin a phrase) is going on?
            First, The Book of Mormon puts the word ‘comedy’ back in musical comedy. You see, a musical comedy is not just a play laced with pretty songs (sorry, Andrew Lloyd Webber). The songs have to be funny (or at least witty). Rodgers and Hammerstein often ride the fine line between sentiment and comedy. But at the heart of the American musical lie songs like “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No!” and “Doin’ What Comes Naturally’ (a song which by the way is as dirty – at least by implication -- as anything in The Book of Mormon). Parker and Stone have written a smart, entertaining and truly witty musical comedy, so we can all breathe a brief (and perhaps illusory) sigh of relief.
            But what is the goddamn play about? One might be forgiven for being uncertain. The publicists for the touring show are certainly doing their best to confuse us.  They seem to view Torontonians as a passel of hay-chewing rustics in a know-nothing hick town. A tiny piece in the Globe’s Friday May 3rd issue – planted by the play’s publicists, no doubt -- suggests that The Book of Mormon is a pro-Mormon, religious musical. The brief article informs us that the young stars Mark Evans and John O’Neill visited Rochester, New York – apparently an historic Mormon place -- and that the visit “gave them new respect for what they’re preaching onstage.”
            I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a canny display of misrepresentation in the history of theatrical publicity.
            The Book of Mormon does not preach Mormonism though, understandably, the publicists would like to fool all The Blue Hairs into thinking it’s so. No, the show is a very funny, didactic satire of all organized religion, bigotry and of the institutionalized ignorance that is so often attached to fundamentalism. At the climax of the play the two heroes go so far as to question whether religions need rules, beliefs, or even faith in God! And during the course of the play Christian white fundamentalists learn about life and the human spirit from the non-white people they are seeking to teach.
            So why in the name of heaven (to coin a phrase) are The Blue Hairs buying it? Why don’t they get the real message?
Let me tell you, three things really help a lot to sell this wildly inventive experiment  in theatrical hucksterism to small town hicks everywhere:

1. The people who swear, use foul sexual language and have AIDS in the play are black, not white – them, not us. (Usually the characters in American plays who swear, use foul language and have AIDS are gay. But I guess we’re finally getting tired of that tired old trope).

2.  Most Christians have no idea of what what their religion actually says. And frankly, most of them don’t care. Once I got dressed up in drag and interviewed a bunch of young Catholic women (don’t ask, it’s a long story). I asked them -- how can you reconcile being a young modern woman with the Catholic church’s stand on abortion? All of them basically agreed on one rule of thumb:  “There’s my religion, and then there’s my life. Never the twain shall meet.”

3.  Finally, the theme of The Book of Mormon is that the specific beliefs of any religion are less important than the fact that people believe in something – anything -- whether we’re black, white, Christian, or ‘pagan.’ The Book of Mormon is a success partially because it has the same theme as many other hugely successful American musicals – The Music Man, and 110 in the Shade (to name two). These musicals posit that the shyster/huckster figure (exemplified by Mormonism in The Book of Mormon) is an okay guy, because we all need a little magic, and we all need ‘a dream.’  It’s not the content of the dream, but the fact that you dream at all, that’s important.
Okay now that I’ve explained the whole Goddamn Jesus thing for you (to coin a phrase), I hope you’re happy.