Toronto
3 min

Waiting in the wings

Hello and welcome to my little corner where I’ll dish on all things arty and gay. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Cecil Pennyfeather and I have worked in and around the arts all of my life. Ever since Dame Joan Sutherland was in diapers. LOL.

Someone once told me in a rather taciturn email that one is not supposed to LOL at one’s own jokes but rather to leave the LOL up to another. Or alternatively that LOL is supposed to imply a humorous intention to the previous statement. As in “Madam, that huge ass of yours resembles an eclipse. LOL.” Although I must say the laddie lady outside Starbucks to whom I addressed these words was not softened by my LOL. She LOL’d a slice of lemon cake into my face. At which point I responded with a simple, “Touché.” But I digress.

The point is that I am delighted to be writing to you here in Xtra, wherein I shall endeavour to relay the latest goings on in the world of art and culture as seen through my very own very gay lens.

Speaking of gay lenses, I went to an optician on Church St the other day as I felt it was time for a new look. Which may or may not have been prompted by me walking by the open window at Sailor one afternoon last week and having someone yell out, “Hey, Sally Jessy Raphael!”

Regardless I decided it was time for a new pair of glasses so I went into the Oh Mighty Eye-sis, seeing as I had a coupon for 10 percent off that I’d got at the baths. I asked the proprietor, “What kind of glasses would make me look good?”

He looked at me for a long time before he quietly replied, “Beer goggles?”

Can you imagine? I was incensed! The indignity! That little prancy Nancy! How rude. I’d never been so insulted. If I hadn’t been so enchanted with his crotch I may even have told him so.

But I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about culture!

There are different kinds of culture. There is pop culture — which I will endeavour to explore — in which people with names like Lindsay Lohan do things like run away from paparazzi and get orange spray-on tans. Also pop culture-y is when something called an Octomom is let loose on the innocent citizens of Los Angeles.

Speaking of which I was watching some coverage of her on Entertainment Tonight recently and thought to myself, “Oh, dear, look at her! The glassy-eyed stare. The crazy voice. The cheerful psychosis.” And then I realized it — that wasn’t Octomom at all, it was Mary Hart! It was better than when I sat down to watch a Dolly Parton special a few years ago and I said to my partner-at-the-time, David, “She’s really let herself go. Look at that fat face, the slack-jawed expression. It’s like she’s gone retarded.” At which point he calmly walked over and turned the television on. Apparently I had been looking at myself reflected in the blank screen.

But the thing I really mean to say is that culture is all around us. Sometimes you just need a guide to get through it all. I understand this. It wasn’t so long ago that I too was a small-town innocent, getting by with my good looks and some pocket money from pleasuring businessmen at the local movie theater. But I knew there was more out there for me. Sure, the Bijou blowjob business was good, but I craved more. I wanted to be where the action was. Toronto! The arts! The ballet! The boys!

When I arrived in the big city I got a job as a dresser at a certain national ballet and a certain Canadian opera company. Many people don’t know what a dresser does — we help performers dress. But it’s more than just zipping and buttoning. It’s also unzipping and unbuttoning. And sometimes it’s belting.

I have many funny stories from my days as a dresser. I’ve kept some of them as titles on index cards for a book I plan to write one day. They say things like, “Karen Kain’s boob popped out” and “Saw Pavarotti’s pee pee.”

Everyone knows that famous dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov defected right here in Toronto in the 1970s when he dashed out the door of what was then the O’Keefe Centre and into a car waiting to take him to freedom. But what most people don’t know is who it was standing in the shadows, holding his codpiece. That’s right. It was me.

So I think I know a thing or two about the arts and I look forward to bringing my insights to you here in Xtra.

Let me end with a friendly word of advice: If you’re going to walk by the open window at Sailor, you may want to wear an iPod.