Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Montreal’s Divers/Cité turns 20

Drag legend Mado Lamotte celebrates career milestones at Mascara, biggest drag show on earth

Mado Lamotte's free outdoor concert, Mascara: La Nuit des Drags, billed as the biggest drag show on earth, turns 15 at Divers/Cité, the Montreal queer arts and culture festival that itself turns 20 this year.

Some pretty amazing standup comics have come out of Montreal over the years, and one of the best is legendary drag queen Mado Lamotte, aka former UQÀM theatre student Luc Provost, who quit university two credits shy of a bachelor’s degree and got her start as a “shooter bitch” and cigarette girl at Montreal nightclubs Poodles and Club Lézard back in 1987.

“I was part of a drag trio at Poodles called the Vulva Queens, and we wanted to post flyers all over The Main. But then we thought feminists would freak out, so we decided to invent a French name, because after all we were French!” Mado recalls. “We came up with the ‘Lamotte’ family name first. Then, after watching a Weight Watchers video, whose host Madeleine had the worst female voice I’ve ever heard, I discovered I could imitate her! So I became Mado.”

Twenty-five years later Mado Lamotte is pretty much a household name throughout Quebec and has become a beloved Montreal showbiz icon. She’s released her own record album, as well as an anthology of her columns for Montreal’s gay monthly Fugues magazine, has hosted her notoriously ribald bingo nights at the Just for Laughs festival and was even a spokesmodel for a potato chip company. Mado opened her own nightclub, the phenomenally successful Cabaret Mado, 10 years ago, and this week her three-hour free outdoor concert, Mascara: La Nuit des Drags, billed as the biggest drag show on earth, turns 15 at Divers/Cité, the Montreal queer arts and culture festival that itself turns 20 this year.

“I didn’t model Mascara on Wigstock, though I’m sure it unconsciously influenced me,” Mado says. “The idea really came about after Divers/Cité organized their first gay pride parade [in 1993] and asked me to create a small show with other drag queens for after the parade. I prepared a 15-minute show. Then in 1998 they asked me to organize my own full-fledged concert.”

Mascara now boasts 20 drag queens and more than 100 dancers performing 20 elaborate numbers. When famed Wigstock cofounder Lady Bunny attended Divers/Cité some years ago, she told Mado backstage, “What a fabulous show, darling!”

Mado has also had 20 new museum-worthy outfits created by her own fashion designer to introduce each number. “I never thought mascara would last this long. I thought maybe it might last three years. So I’m very proud of what I have accomplished. And after 25 years I still work hard because I have to keep it fresh.”

For its 20th anniversary, Divers/Cité has moved from Montreal’s Gay Village to the Jacques Cartier pier at the quays of the Old Port. Other festival highlights this year include:

♣    1, Blvd des Rêves
Marleen Menard hosts the longest running musical variety show in Quebec, featuring a who’s who of Quebec’s “vedette” system , including Stefie Shock, Carolyn Fe, Angel Forrest, Gardy Fury, Julie Massicotte and Kim Richardson.
Thurs, Aug 2 at 8pm
(DJ / singer Sandy Duperval opens the night at 6pm.)

♣    Apocalipstik
An event uniting the movers and shakers behind Montreal’s best alternative
queer parties. Performers include Sarah Neufeld (of Arcade Fire and Bell
Orchestre fame), Toronto’s Dirty Mags and Brooklyn sensation Kid Savant.
Fri, Aug 3 beginning at 6pm.

♣    Mascara, La Nuit des Drags
Will pay homage to Whitney Houston and include a tribute to Dalida on the 25th anniversary of her death. Drag performers are Nana, Jimmy Moore, Miss Butterfly, Dream, Tracy Trash, Franky Dee, Barbada, Manny, Kitana, Cantelli, Sandra, Amy Haze, Gisèle Lullaby, Marla Deer, Rita Baga, Célinda, M Michel, Peggy Sue, Gabriella, Gyzel, Sheena Hershey, Jae Aviance, Lipps and Kiki.
Sat, Aug 4 at 8pm.

♣    Le Grand Bal
One of Divers/Cité’s signature events, Le Grand Bal is one big tea dance. Musical guests include the Israeli electro-pop band The Young Professionals and an homage to music’s black divas by two of Quebec’s own, Marie-Alice Depestre and Kim Richardson. The Boogie Wonder Band will also perform.
Sun, Aug 5 beginning at 3pm.