Arts & Entertainment
4 min

Queer picks at the Fringe

From phone sex to burning brothels

"For some in the [prostitution] industry today, it's quietly tolerated but put in a different neighbourhood to keep 'respectable' women safe," says Katherine Glover. Credit: Skot Nelson

Burning Brothels

In her solo performance Burning Brothels: Sex and Death in Nevada, Katherine Glover explores the history and culture of Nevada’s sex trade.

In the space of an hour, Glover recounts five stories covering the history of the only American state to legalize prostitution, from the silver-mining days of 1860s Virginia City to the 2009 battle over male sex-trade workers.

“I look at the different legal systems,” says Glover. “In the Gold Rush [prostitution] wasn’t legal, but it was quietly tolerated. And for some in the industry today, it’s quietly tolerated but put in a different neighbourhood to keep ‘respectable’ women safe. Every approach to prostitution has been weird and hypocritical in different ways.”

Among the five stories she tells: the 1867 murder of Virginia City sex-trade worker Julia Bulette (with a nod to Lucius Beebe, the gay columnist who later immortalized her life story); Russ Reade, a high school biology teacher who purchased a brothel during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s; the “unsavoury” Joe Conforte, who operated Nevada’s first legal brothel; and Jessi Winchester, a sex-trade worker who triggered a national scandal by competing in a beauty pageant.

“I’ve never been a prostitute, but when I read about the stigma prostitutes deal with I feel it’s something I can identify with,” says Glover, a bisexual journalist and performer from Minneapolis.

Through her years of research on the topic and her onstage storytelling, Glover hopes to lend some humanity to the tale of sex-trade workers.

“I try to sort of show prostitutes as people,” says Glover. “With some people it’s like, ‘duh,’ but other people are surprised because prostitutes are so marginalized [they] don’t consider them as regular people. I also try to show its place in the culture and how it’s evolved.”

Burning Brothels
Origins Organic Coffee
1245 Cartwright St
Fri, Sept 9–Sun, Sept 18
$10/$12
vancouverfringe.com

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Sally Lives Here

Sally Lives Here… A Tale of the Forgotten City is Lynna Goldhar Smith’s dark comedy about lost souls in the city of dreams.

“Vancouver is often called the city of dreams in the real estate brochures,” the local playwright and performer notes. “They say, ‘Live your urban fantasy in the city of dreams’ and focus on the unbelievable natural environment. There’s so much development here and people want to come here. But I’m talking about people who may not be considered.”

On the surface it’s a story of three women who live in a rundown East Vancouver house slated for demolition. Sally, a former country music singer and waitress, has taken refuge with her elderly lesbian aunt Phoebe and the ghostly presence of Marcia, who was Phoebe’s lover for 45 years.

“One of the things that’s important to have right at the core of the action are relationships, and in this case it’s a relationship that goes back to the ’50s and ’60s,” says Goldhar Smith, who wanted to embed the span of modern gay history into her play. “They came through a time when it wasn’t acceptable for two women to live together as lovers, and they had to live so deeply in the closet. They were expected to live these hidden lives. They managed to survive, and thrive in fact.”

Goldhar Smith describes the lesbian couple as the most important characters in Sally’s life and the heroes of the play.

“Aunt Phoebe was probably one of those women who was 15 in the war and worked in the war effort,” she says. “When the war was over and girls were getting married, she was coming to terms with her own identity as a lesbian. And what did that mean? How was she going to fit in life? She worked in the canneries, the bush, lived up the coast. Now she is coming to learn to live by herself on her own terms.”

Sally Lives Here
The Cultch
1895 Venables St
Thurs, Sept 8–Sun, Sept 18
$10/$12
vancouverfringe.com

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Phone Whore

When queer performer and “all the way kinkster” Cameryn Moore started working as a phone-sex operator two years ago, she had no idea she’d wind up entertaining so many homoerotic calls.

“I didn’t know what I was expecting, but that certainly blew my mind,” she says. “I would say probably 30 to 40 percent of my calls are homoerotic. They are either explicitly looking for encounters with men or implicitly, in that they want to hear stories, for example, about their wife having sex with another man, but are clearly interested in the dick.”

In Phone Whore, Moore allows her audience to eavesdrop on four scripted calls.

“The calls are heavily based on actual calls or callers I have had,” she says. “In fact I’ve had friends who have hung out for actual calls and then heard my performance say, ‘Oh my God, you’ve captured it.’”

For years, friends told Moore she had a great voice for phone sex, but she dismissed the idea until she lost her nine-to-five job in the recent recession. “I always brushed it off because I didn’t feel that desperate,” she says. “I took the job because I was desperate and kept the job because I was good at it.”

An excerpt
“I guess I just didn’t realize how taboo gay sex still is for a lot of people until I started taking calls and seeing how many wanted it. I’ve been an out queer for 20 years; I guess I forget.

I feel sorry that my cocksuckers have no one to play with; I wish they felt like they had the option. I’m good, but I’m not real life, you know?

I’m lucky that I have friends and lovers who are pervs, and we can talk about and do all kinds of sex, all the time. I feel… safe in my perviness. Some of my callers don’t even feel safe in their own heads. They bury desire deep, hiding it from themselves, and bring it out carefully every couple of weeks for me to help them stroke it into seven minutes of some kind of happiness. Or something.

I wish I could talk with them a little more. But when I only have seven minutes, conjuring up someone’s dick in their ass is the best I can do.”

Phone Whore
False Creek Gym
1318 Cartwright St
Fri, Sept 9–Sun, Sept 18
$10/12
vancouverfringe.com