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Elizabeth Taylor dies; Mammoliti calls for Toronto Island red-light district

BY MATT MILLS – Sad news from the celebrity world today…. Elizabeth Taylor, dead at 79.

Suddenly Last Summer is one of my favourite Taylor performances: 

I also love Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Both films were Tennessee Williams joints, and both featured tortured gay male characters at a time when depictions of homosexuality in Hollywood films were largely taboo. 

Taylor took dangerous and provocative roles and spoke out for gay men and those who are HIV-positive at times when it was not fashionable to do so.   

She was, well, fabulous. I'll be having a little Elizabeth Taylor fest at my house in her honour. I think I'll watch Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

UPDATE 12:50PM – Todd Ross, director of community development and partnerships over at Toronto's Casey House, was kind enough to send along the picture below of Taylor from her visit to Casey House in 1993. Ross says The Elizabeth Taylor Foundation was a Casey House supporter in recent years. Thanks Todd.

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The Toronto Star reports that Toronto Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti has renewed his push for a red-light district in the city. He suggests that the Toronto Islands would be a good place for it.

“The sex zone, and hotels and other businesses it would draw, could put ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’ in ‘sin taxes’ into city coffers,” Mammoliti is paraphrased in the Star piece. “Get provincial permission for a casino on the Islands and ‘we would have solved all of our problems at city hall without cutting and going crazy.’”

I don’t know that the Islands is a good place for a red-light district. I suspect it’s not, but Xtra writers have argued passionately for the legalization of sex work for decades. There are good reasons for this. Most notably, and beyond the dollar signs Mammoliti sees, is the fact that sex workers now find themselves in a kind of legal limbo that often leaves them without the protection of the law. It’s dangerous to be a criminal, and sex work itself simply ought not to be criminalized. Prostitution laws will likely be an election issue in both the federal and provincial elections coming up in the next few months.

Check out:

Ontario court strikes down Canada’s anti-prostitution laws
Conservative MPs and critics squabble over prostitution
Ontario prostitution laws remain in grey area
MPs react to stay in prostitution ruling
Cities should set rules in prostitution laws fail
In defence of drug dealers pimps and liars

The world has been watching the Netherlands on this matter since sex work was decriminalized in that country in 2000. It’s a complex issue that bears careful scrutiny.

Check out this 2007 study for a start:

Prostitution in the Netherlands since the lifting of the brothel ban

Since we’re talking about sex work, there’s a payola/sex scandal now unfolding within the Conservative government.

Let’s not let the fact that Michele McPherson, the young woman taking some of the heat on this story, is a sex worker be a guiding factor in this matter. I hope people will concentrate on Carson and what he did or didn’t do.