Members of a queer comedy troupe allege that a Granville Island shopkeeper aimed derogatory remarks at them and threw away one of their cellphones after he witnessed a photo shoot that featured a male member clad in high heels and stockings.
On the afternoon of Feb 25, Alan Pavlakovic and five other members of The Bobbers queer comedy troupe were outside the Improv Centre conducting a lighthearted photo shoot, a recreation of a jazz album cover that features women’s legs.
“We thought it’d be a little bit tongue-in-cheek to recreate the image of these legs in high heels so they’d be hairy and skew the line between straight and gay,” Pavlakovic explains.
When the group posed for another set of photos in front of Blackfish Marine, which sells luxury yachts, Pavlakovic says, they caught the attention of a man who emerged from the business.
Pavlakovic says he and the man initially engaged in good-natured banter about the shoot.
“When he first came out he made a lighthearted joke, asking me if I lost a bet,” Pavlakovic says. He told the man that he “only wears heels for money.”
He says it appeared to be a “cute back-and-forth” until the man approached fellow troupe member Rae Clark, who was taking the photo.
Pavlakovic says the man allegedly asked, “How long are you freak shows going to be out here scaring away our business? We probably have a lot of customers who are creeped out about this.”
Pavlakovic says he and Clark told the man his comment was unnecessary and decided to “just get our shots and get out of there.”
“You couldn’t possibly scare away business because I had four or five people on the other side of the building give me positive feedback about the outfit,” Pavlakovic recalls. “Everyone was really, really positive until we got to the water side and this gentleman started a verbal argument and it escalated.”
After the rest of the troupe was told about the incident, another member, Amy Fox, approached the shopkeeper and asked him to explain his behaviour.
“I asked him, ‘Why do you have a problem with my friends?’” Fox told Xtra in an email interview. “He said something along the lines of ‘Nothing is the matter. Have a good day.’ I repeated my question. He repeated his answer. I asked why he called my friends a freak show. He may have repeated his answer.”
The shopkeeper asked her to leave a couple times and said he would call security. Fox alleges that he picked up the phone and said, “There’s a dyke here who won’t leave.”
She says that when she started to text Clark on her phone, the man hung up and allegedly told her he would remove her from the premises himself.
Fox alleges that he took the phone from her, told her she was “out of control” and threw it. “I heard it hit something but did not see where it landed.” Her attempts to locate the phone were unsuccessful.
“I have no comment on this,” Blackfish Marine sales manager Greg Hughes tells Xtra.
While they did not witness the exchange between Fox and the shopkeeper, both Pavlakovic and the Bobbers’ artistic director, David C Jones, say they believe Fox conducted herself appropriately.
“In no way does The Queer Arts Society condone the behaviour of the shopkeeper however, as already stated, the board members that were present for the photo shoot thought that it would be better to leave the area and invite the shop owner to attend our show in an effort to encourage understanding,” Jones says in a statement. “Although she was not acting on behalf of the Queer Arts Society, we know her to be a responsible and professional individual more than able to conduct herself appropriately and the society does support her right to ask for an explanation as an individual.”
Vancouver Police Department spokesperson Constable Brian Montague confirms that police did receive a call about the incident on Monday, Feb 25 and plan to speak with the people involved. He did not confirm who made the call.