Last year, controversy over federal tourism funding for Pride Toronto coincided with Divers/Cité’s (D/C) disappointment in Montreal. D/C received no federal tourism dollars, despite the cultural festival’s contributions to Montreal tourism for 18 years. D/C slashed programming and rescheduled a few artists, including Sister Sledge. Bad weather, a bad economy and a downturn in beer sales didn’t help.
This summer, neither festival benefits from the federal tourism program, and as D/C organizer Suzanne Girard notes, few festivals in Toronto and Montreal did. Prepared for that news, Girard immediately cut two days of outdoor programming at D/C, including the annual Sex Garage event. Organizers are bringing back Sister Sledge and some long-awaited musicians, DJs and drag divas.
“It’s kind of symbolic Sister Sledge is back,” Girard laughs. “We are a family, after all.”
For those who have attended D/C the last few years, the (usually) 10-day event is concert heaven in the heart of a gay village already closed to traffic for the entire summer. D/C, no longer hosting the community day or Pride parade (those are held August 14-15) chose to remain a unique queer arts, music and cultural event in a city known for its club and DJ scene.
Festival-goers can expect the return of drag night Mascara: La nuit des drags, along with free outdoor concerts like Le grand bal and Boulevard des rêves. Girard jokes about the annual 9pm lineup at Lesbomonde (this year featuring Miswhite and Kish/Delish), where girls actually seem to enjoy hanging out and partying in line. Lesbomonde promises more indoor ambience than ever, with a nod to house and hip hop.
New Yorkers Joey Arias and Lady Bunny, each a showstopper in her own right, make a side-by-side return to D/C. Xtra spoke with Wigstock creator Lady Bunny over the phone. It’s the hottest July day on record in the Big Apple, and even this down-home Tennessee vixen couldn’t handle the heat.
“What happens to your [60+] giant wigs in this heat?” I ask the artist and former roommate of RuPaul.
“Funny,” says Lady Bunny, “it seems to make the hair easier to tease, and it’s fluffier — perhaps that why some of the best hairdressers are from the South?”
After 20 years of producing Wigstock, Lady Bunny never says never to a beehive revival, but admits that weather (and an increasingly corporate NYC culture) have killed things for the celebrated festival.
“I remember doing one performance,” describes the Bunny, “and no one clapped. I looked out and thought, ‘Oh my God, no one can clap; they are trying to hold their umbrellas. Besides, no one wants to see some soggy ole’ Alice Cooper drag.”
Lady Bunny co-hosts Mardi à Gogo alongside Arias, featuring the sounds of DJ Scott Ewalt in Old Montreal’s Velvet Club. The following night, the pair performs at Jello Martini Lounge for an evening entitled Cabaret New York. The titles of the events seem irrelevant to Lady Bunny, who laughs that she and Arias are just “two old hags packing up and heading to Montreal for some fun duets.”
Airport restrictions, as Lady Bunny notes, have led to huge feuds on US flights for overhead carry-on baggage space, and with no styling experience, she can only hope her giant, pre-styled wigs make a safe arrival.
“They’re even serving Mexican food at airports now,” the diva complains. “Now everyone on the plane is completely gassed up upon departure.”
Bienvenue, Lady Bunny, to the land of poutine and créton.
Divers/Cité opens July 26 and runs until August 1. To download the schedule, visit diverscite.org. For more info on Lady Bunny, check out ladybunny.net.