3 min

The man from outer space

A chameleon in queer clothing

A TORNADO OF ACTION. Michael Venus, and his altered ego, Cotton, never stop looking for new events to produce, new ideas to bring to the gay community. Credit: Jacques Gaudet

No matter how many times I see Michael Venus-on stage, in person, on screen-he’s a mystery. Honest, yet inconsistent. Sincere, but vague. Confident and shy. His thoughts on gender are radical, but Cotton, his altered ego, hosts the most popular parties in town. The boy makes sense talking new-age psychobabble.

With help from his ‘posse’, The House of Venus and their friends, he’s changed the face of nightlife in Vancouver: Sleazeballs at the Penthouse, a decade of Wiggle (Vancouver’s answer to Wigstock), one-offs flying in some of the best DJs, live bands, and drag legends in North America. Not to mention organizing the most popular dance nights our gay community has seen in years at, how many locations, now?

If that wasn’t enough, he and friends are writing, shooting, producing and screening their own films and video. All this, from a run away high school dropout.

“I was raised on a tobacco farm until I was 15 and I moved away to become like Depeche Mode. I didn’t want to be a farmer. I wanted to live in the city and dress good and sleep with boys and be like Joe Delassandro and be a prostitute in NY.” He smiles; it’s nearly a wink. We’re in Soma, a coffee shop on Main St, with his film buddy Mark Kenneth Woods. Michael looks, mmm, comfortably urban.

“I started putting on shows when I was a kid. We used to get all the kids together around the farm and we’d invite all the neighbours to watch and we’d do break-dancing routines and stuff like that. We’d have a whole gang of potato pickers so we’d think up our shows while we were picking.”

See what I mean? Sometimes the guy’s so hard to believe.

I ask him what he hopes to accomplish with his work.

“I want to make the world a better place; I want to make change.”

What kind of change?

“Positive change, acceptance, enlightenment. There’s so much negativity in the world, especially right now with what’s going on. I think the artists and creative people are the ones saving the world.”

Sure, he may sound as flaky as a Pollyanna, but I agree with him.

I also like what he has to say about the mainstreaming of the gay community.

“You fight so long because you’re different to discover who you are and to be gay and then-everyone’s just the same. It’s the cloning of the gays. I think people lost their identity. It became all beer and crotches and jeans, that’s all they cared about. And I didn’t relate to it. I guess which is why I’m doing what I’m doing, partially. Hopefully to inspire other people to do stuff and to create something different.”

Different. That’s Michael Venus. He’s been making films and videos with Mark Kenneth Woods (of the Pimp & Ho series) and Robert-John Farrow from Both talented guys. Both shooting campy gender-fucked queer-to-the-core crossover work.

“We’re working on a television pilot. It’s sort of a variety show. Mark Kenneth Woods, Robert-John Farrow, Dickey Doo, myself and other friends. It’s going to be a mix between Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Solid Gold, Sonny and Cher, and Laugh-in. And Kids in the Hall, naturally.”

That’s different all right. But why film, I ask him? Why this, now?

“I can’t be a club kid forever. The club nights basically allow me to make art. It’s basically what they’re paying for, and for me to live. Right now, what we’re up to is short films and video-the stuff that’s on now, the stuff that’s on PrideVision. At least once a year we have a screening that’s called Venuscope, and that’s what’s coming up now.”

He’s committed to “the stories that haven’t been told, within the gay world, being in Canada and especially being on the West Coast. For me, there’s so much great energy and creativity and talent and it’s not like they’re going to waste, but they’re not getting the props that they deserve. If there’s anything that I can do to help, I will.”

Venuscope is a vehicle for that. “There’s a cornucopia of visual delights,” he explains, “that hopefully will inspire you to pick up a camera and make your own shorts.

“Like everything we do, I think there’s something in it for everyone,” he says, getting syrupy again, “because I think we’re all reflections of each other. I think a little of you is in me and a little of me is in you.”

I ask him who Michael Venus is since it’s not his birth name (which he won’t discuss for publication). He thinks for a second. “Michael Venus to me is a projection of who I am …a lot of who I am.” He gets a bit muddled, finding the right words, then I see him nail it. “He’s my boy drag and Cotton is girl drag. They’re my showcase to the world.”

And I think there lies the mystery of Michael Venus. “I love being a chameleon,” he says. “I like changing. It’s fun.”



Pacific Cinemateque.

Mar 4.

7:30pm, 9:30pm.