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Kissing, touching… stop!

How Bad Boy Club Montreal handles the police

ANYTHING GOES... ALMOST. BBCM's decadence is highly choreographed. Credit: Annie Bergeron

When revellers attended last Victoria Day weekend’s lineup of events surrounding the Wild And Wet party in Montreal, they undoubtedly marvelled at the light shows, live acts and circuit music. Part of the Bad Boy Club Montreal’s annual cycle of parties, the ninth annual May event has proven a favourite with both locals and international circuit queens.



But what revellers might not have noticed is the considerable preparation that goes into the event, including the careful and constant negotiation that must occur to maintain police cooperation and sustain party permits.



This may sound simple, but consider what BBCM events involve: huge droves of people, most of them gay men, who entertain themselves by stripping down to practically nothing and dancing until 10am. The friendly working relationship between cops and the BBCM is all the more impressive when one considers that Montreal’s history of police/gay relations has been far from rosy.



“Basically, the entire thing is about communication,” says Robert Vezina, president and cofounder of the BBCM. “Communication is paramount. We sit down with police months in advance and work out the guidelines for what is and isn’t allowed at these parties.”



The guidelines are written out in detail. The last document passed between the BBCM and police was three pages long; basically, hugging, kissing, necking and a bit of groping are allowed, while any sexual activity beyond that is verboten. The morality squad then reviews the guidelines, deciding whether or not the event gets the green light.



“They don’t always agree with it,” says Vezina, acknowledging the process is not always smooth sailing. “We occasionally have to argue about it. But we always manage to work things out.”



Another key to keeping things smooth with police has been to ensure all BBCM volunteers at the event are briefed on exactly the same guidelines as police. The volunteers are told to enforce the rules carefully and aggressively, to intervene whenever things get out of hand.



This, explains Vezina, clearly indicates to police that the BBCM is capable of policing its own events and is serious about meeting the guidelines to which it agreed.



But problems have been known to occur, recounts Vezina: “One woman intervened when one guy was sucking another guy off. Just as she broke them up, the guy came on her.”



As for issues surrounding drugs, Vezina says the police appreciate the BBCM’s coat and bag check policy.



“All bags and coats must be checked at the door. That’s a strict rule. For us, a bit of drug taking hasn’t been such a huge problem. What we really don’t like is the drug selling, because often dealers will sell bad stuff, threatening the health of people at the events. If anyone is caught doing that they’re asked to leave.”



Though they conduct random checks for drugs at many rock concerts, the police do not random check at BBCM events. The BBCM has certain advantages when it enters into negotiations with the police.



“We’re an organization that raises money for local charities, not simply a party,” he says, noting that the BBCM has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to gay- and AIDS-related charities since its inception a decade ago. As well, Vezina says the police regard the gay community as generally well behaved.



“Thanks to the track record we have, gays are not seen as troublemakers. There has never been a violent incident at the Black And Blue, or any of our events. We’re not seen as a rah rah rah crowd. We get together, take some clothes off and dance until morning and then go home. The police don’t mind.”



Vezina admits the now-undeniable economic clout of gay men can’t hurt either. The BBCM has received grants from the Quebec government, and the city of Montreal consistently pumps up the city’s gay hedonism cachet to potential tourists. Estimates of fiscal benefits to the city run in the millions.



“Basically, we’ve earned the respect of the police,” says Vezina. “Kudos to us.”






Matthew Hays is a Montreal writer. He was an honorary member of the BBCM board in 1997.