Toronto
3 min

Glitter & be gay

In the true north, strong & free

QUEERLY CANADIAN. Our sexy, silvery cover boy is a merry Tyler Moore - too bad we can't give him out as a trophy to this year's best. Credit: Paula Wilson, Make-up: Doratabuczel.com

While homos to the south run for cover from the culture wars wracking the US, up here homos are winning the peace with a dazzling display of cultural weaponry. Whether mixed into the mainstream, or out, proud and indie, queer Canucks made 2004 another bounteous year bursting with exciting art. From gay teens on TV to electro-punk dykes steaming up alternative clubs, our artists celebrated and challenged a queerly un-American identity.



Here’s a much-too-short list of year-end highlights.



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MUSIC



The queer indie scene is bursting at the seams: Tegan And Sara, Lesbians On Ecstasy, The Hidden Cameras, Gentleman Reg, The Cliks, Skarlet O’Hara, The Jane Waynes (sadly, now defunct), Evalyn Parry… all released albums this year and gave TO great gigs in the bargain. But best-of kudos go to two CDs:



Want Two by Montrealer Rufus Wainwright. “This may well go down in the history books as the first great gay album,” wrote Xtra reviewer John Webster. “No out gay artist has ever reflected the emotional complexity, the longing and the admiration of beautiful male love so exquisitely.”



And Hymns Of The 49th Parallel by kd lang. The best cover album to date from the big-boned gal from southern Alberta. In a Webster word, “flawless.”



And best concert of the year goes to The Hidden Cameras with the Toronto Dance Theatre at the Winchester Street Theatre back in January. “Their best show that I’ve seen,” writes Xtra’s Jon Davies. “Perfect in every way.”



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BOOKS



Life Mask by Irish-born London, Ontario-based Emma Donoghue. Book columnist Maureen Phillips called this entertaining exploration of passions imprisoned by class and gender in 18th-century London, “a full, provocative novel… Donoghue creates a beautiful, imaginative portrait of a period that is both familiar and utterly foreign.”



Grab Bag by Derek McCormack, a smart repackaging of two earlier works Dark Rides and Wish Book by the Little House On The Bowery imprint. “Anarchic and macabre” wrote book columnist Jim Bartley. “There are passages that hit the senses (and the sub-conscious) like weird waking dreams. Visually, Grab Bag is cinematic – it’s like Hitchcock meets John Waters.”



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FILM & VIDEO



Touch Of Pink, the feature-length comedy written and directed by UK-based Torontonian Ian Iqbal Rashid. As I wrote before, the film is “something truly special, a deliciously sweet confection that nourishes with its insights into 21-century cultural dynamics.”



Leslie Peters’ new video projection Becoming was an intriguing complement to her artist spotlight at Toronto’s Images fest this year, a retrospective featuring her 400 series of abstract landscapes where “the familiar made strange,” according to reviewer Nicholas Davies, results in videos that are “stunningly lovely.”



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TELEVISION



CTV’s broadcast of Prom Queen. Brent Ledger called the biopic on Marc Hall by writer Kent Staines and director John l’Ecuyer, “camp, funny and charming.”



The CTV series Degrassi: The Next Generation continues its fearless look at the lives of young folk, including the ongoing drama of gay Marco who got a boyfriend this year, allowing for what’s considered TV’s first-ever gay teen kiss.



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THEATRE



2004 was the year of Morris Panych. He won the Governor General’s award for drama for Girl In The Goldfish Bowl, his plays were produced across Canada, in the UK and Australia, he directed a new production of Threepenny Opera in Vancouver and the outstanding CanStage production of his play Vigil which he directed saw two of the best performances on a Toronto stage this year from Martha Henry and Brent Carver. Reviewer Martin Roebuck called Carver’s “gruesomely funny” performance a “tour de force,” one that rested on Henry’s “refined and perfectly tuned comic performance.”



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CLUB SCENE



DJ Deko-ze: From Lüb, Five and the Comfort Zone to Pride stages and clubs across the county, TO’s hardest working DJ embodies great dance music, fun times and mixing scenes.



The Scandelles: Not sure if Sasha Van Bon Bon and her burlesque troupe should be celebrated for taking stripping into theatres or bringing theatre into boozy clubs – either way, the revamped productions of Neon Nightz and the new production Under The Mink at Buddies mark a queer and exciting development.



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VISUAL ARTS



Winnipegger Daniel Barrow had numerous shows in Toronto this year, including appearances at the Images fest, Trinity Square Video and Mercer Union, all of them fascinating in their live mix of exquisite illustration and demented storytelling.



Honourable mention for brazenness: Cree painter and filmmaker Kent Monkman in drag on horseback as Share Eagle Testickle cruising the grounds at the McMichael Gallery during his residency called Group Of Seven Inches.



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RIP



Sad milestones: The local lesbian magazine Siren calls it quits after publishing for eight years. Eccentric booze palace Pimblett’s closes its doors after 27 years, as does the 23-year-old east-end landmark famous for its friendly spirit and sexploits, The Toolbox. The murder of Barn owner and popular iconoclast Janko Naglic.



* With contributions by Jim Bartley, Michele Clarke, Jon Davies, Nick Davies, Brent Ledger, Suzy Malik, Maureen Phillips, Shaun Proulx and John Webster.