The gays of our lives are no longer limited to trivialized exploits of straight actors playing queens. This country has a long and rich tradition of ‘mos on TV but things have gotten out of hand with the upsurge of makeover series. There’s a beachhead of bitches primed to give everyone a taste of what it’s really like to be gay in Canada. Thanks to diva hosts and designers, our airwaves have become a rainbow of real-life gays… or at least real flamers, regardless of who they diddle. I’ve never seen a black hanky hanging from the right pocket any of these guys, so my read of them is based solely on clichés and stereotypes. Hey, don’t blame me. Those flouncing interior decorators are the ones who started it.
The style-unconscious can look to enterprising Steven Sabados and Chris Hyndman (these two we know about) whose staged arguments can settle any design dilemma. After establishing a strong following with Designer Guys, even making it onto Oprah, Sabados and Hyndman were forced to rebrand when they left that show – they didn’t own the series title. The pair’s playful antagonism is now an empire of advice with multiple spin-offs including, among other things, a potential talk show down the road. Between Design Rivals (HGTV, Tuesdays at 8pm) and So Chic With Steven And Chris (Life Network, Fridays at 8pm), the duo can get you a new house and a wardrobe to match. These two are so desperate for dilapidation that in a recent episode they took a stab at Hyndman’s mother’s pristine wooded country house. A rather insipid challenge. There are certainly more deserving candidates (I’m in the book).
If you’re excessively wealthy but suffer a terminal lack of vision, CityLine’s Brian Gluckstein is on hand to decorate your coffers on a fitful Tuesday/ Thursday schedule on CityTV. For his own yard, seemingly modelled after the gardens of Versailles, Gluckstein is true to form with an emphasis on the practical accessory. As he states: “I love to have a tea cart on the terrace.” You’ll never have to worry about coordinating all those confusing colours as he makes the choices simple: beige, off-beige or ecru. Although Marilyn Denis can’t count on him for personal style advice (he dresses like the deathbed edition of Mr Rogers, for chrissakes!) she does have a retinue of queens on hand to help in this department, too. Crack squad of lispy servicemen Kevyn Martel, Kerry Warn and Dino Dilio can make a real Avon lady of you in 60 minutes or less, completing housewife ensembles with gravity-complying hairstyles and dress-down make-up suitable for any Tupperware party (this motley crew is usually on Friday mornings).
Then there’s Robin De Groot, designer to outgoing Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, who periodically shows off his keen eye for coffeecake opulence in Restaurant Makeover (Food Network, Tuesdays at 7pm). Appealing to that unusual failing restaurateur who’s still got plenty of extra cash, De Groot routinely finds all sorts of extravagances to help turn a moribund business around. Remember, it takes money to make money. Pots and pots of money. That said, when he’s the featured designer you know everything’s going to look appetizing, even if no one can afford to put food on the tables after he’s done with the diner.
For my money though, especially when there’s not a lot of it to go around, I always turn to interest-free Easy Pay on The Shopping Channel. Catering to any desperate late-night impulse, or just an alternative to drunk dialing your friends, Richard “Dick” Nester is available 12 hours a day in back-to-back and quite ecstatically parched three-hour shifts. Determined to win the Celebrity Eyebrow Deathmatch against Joan Crawford, Dick is one of the hardest working queens outside of an ER. No matter what he’s hawking you can expect a good show of it at the very least. To see Richard at his best, check out his last two-hour slot (usually airing while most are getting ready for work in the morning) when he’ll be deliriously wrapping up with that perfect 14K white gold diamonelle and rubellite ring you absolutely must have before your first coffee at 7am.
If you’re really looking for bleeding-edge style advice, you can always flip on Tim Blank’s Fashion File (most weekdays on CBC or Life). Following in the hoof-prints of fashion maven Jeanne Beker’s sacred cow, Fashion Television, Blank has picked up the yoke right where it fell. Always well dressed with a friendly quip and ever girdled by the gossamer and the gaunt, Blank travels to the most dolled-up international venues in his quest to make haute hot again. You can tune in almost every day with a good chance of seeing the lately svelte Karl Lagerfeld complete with boy-toy, granny glasses and hand-fan or the hysterical porno fantasies of Canadian twins Dan and Dean Caten.
Of course, globetrotting may be what you’re really searching for and there’s a channel for that, too. Often more than a little lispy, Michael Lamport can be found enjoying facials at the best digs in any locale while his fag-hag Krista Sutton billets in any old shack she happens upon en route on Discovery Civilization’s Suite And Simple. In one episode, during an excursion to St Lucia, Lamport is seen dining on a curiously named dish and though it may be self-evident, he remarks, “I must admit, I’ve never eaten a ‘Stuffed Pussy’ before.” More telling still was his subsequent purchase of several florid perfumes that looked like bile which, I presume, were designed to mask that particular fishy smell when he hit Boystown on the way home. Tune in at 8am on Mondays and plan a honeymoon with your special lady-friend, beard or such.
There’s also the Comedy Network’s Popcultured with Elvira Kurt, which airs Monday to Thursday at 10pm. With all the oomph of fellow Canadian comedian and forefather Mike Bullard, Kurt and krew stagger through mediocre one-liners when the real joke is the bargain-basement production and acerbic writing that leaves even the studio audience groaning. Yet Kurt remains consistently entertaining with a sharky smile and genuinely agreeable delivery. By design, the show is most comparable to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart but beyond the format, there really is no comparison. I’ve been a big fan of Kurt for several years, but this particular specimen could use some more time in the Petri dish.
Recently, the most appealing homo series was Global’s My Fabulous Gay Wedding. Host and queer-on-TV pioneer Scott Thompson has found a hilarious format that, despite his scatterbrained minions, showcases both his comic brilliance and the almost-human couples featured weekly. As an easygoing Cupid, Thompson’s playful hijinks expose a slightly more realistic side of gay and lesbian life as he pits participants against time in a two-week rush to wedded bliss. Once at the altar, the show succeeds where many fail, as queers are revealed for who they really are instead of the usual queenlier-than-thou caricatures that are the more common television fare.
It seems any old homophile with a paintbrush and four beige walls can get a half-hour slot after Dr Phil. But where all these folks really succeed is in breaking ground in camp entertainment. Whether they intend it or not, Can-con queens are genuinely funny and, most importantly, don’t take themselves too seriously. No matter what you decide to watch, you’ll always find everyone smiling and having a good time, even if it’s somewhat rehearsed. So now, like you, I’m just feverishly anticipating Gay Pet Makeover where Mittens gets a pink diamond-studded collar from Jacob to compliment her new Bianca Carrera Kitty Condo (Mittens and I are in the book).