Toronto
3 min

What really killed Herb Ritts

And who's helping Bitch Diva

Credit: Xtra files

Despite what every major media outlet reported, Herb Ritts, the famed gay photographer recently died of AIDS and not “complications from pneumonia” which was the Reagan-era euphemism for AIDS and was used by every media including the Toronto Star.



Speaking of AIDS, one of our community’s most prolific and famous artists recently found out that he has AIDS and it could be too late to save himself. Michael Fitzgerald, aka Bitch Diva, collapsed one night back in October. It was revealed that he had AIDS without being aware of it. He’s currently in Casey House AIDS hospice. Friends say that he is very weak and has lost considerable weight. Famed actresses Ellen-Ray Hennessey and Keith Cole are organizing a benefit, Bucks For Bitch, at 7pm on Sun, Jan 26 in all three spaces in Buddies In Bad Times Theatre – the largest non-Buddies benefit ever held in that space (12 Alexander St, $10). Knowing Michael as I have for years he will fight to get better, if only so he can smoke and drink again – as that is his biggest complaint at Casey House.



I first saw Bitch Diva performing at an AIDS fundraiser back in the late ’80s and have been a huge fan ever since. He is one of the most talented singers and performers I have ever seen and has tirelessly performed at countless AIDS benefits over the years. Despite his bitchy persona and his high tolerance for booze, Michael is down-to-earth and has been a friend to many. This is very evident, as an unprecedented number of performers will be coming out for the benefit, including The B-Girlz, Sonja Mills, John Alcorn, Sky Gilbert, Enza, Jane Ford, David Bateman, Edward Roy, Peter Lynch and dozens more. Basically, the old Sky Gilbert Buddies gang is back, and thank God!



After the supposedly forced departure of Buddies general manager Gwen Bartleman (she was like the Mel Lastman of the theatre world: wouldn’t leave and N-O-B-O-D-Y liked her) and with a creatively disastrous last year, Buddies is apt for a renewal just in time for its 25 anniversary next fall. They’ll be announcing shortly that they will remount Sky Gilbert’s smash Play Murder and will end the season with a never-before-seen sequel to Sky’s biggest hit, Suzie Goo, but this time she’ll be running for Prime Minister.



Congratulations to Toronto’s Unity as it was recently voted the fourth best circuit party at the fourth annual Circuit Dog Awards in the US. First place went to Orlando’s Gay Disney followed by Montreal’s Black And Blue and Miami’s Winter Party. Unity’s Victory Party with Peter Rauhofer was also singled out as one of the top five parties of the year. Lesbian DJs continued to dominate gay circuit parties as DJ Tracy Young was voted top DJ, followed by Joe Gauthreaux, Paulo, Rauhofer and Lydia Prim (who was #1 last year). Favourite song of 2002 was Angie Stone’s “Miss You,” followed by “Safe From Harm” by Narcotic Thrust, along with Kim English and Sheryl Crow. Congrats to our own Sofonda as her stunning performance and choreography of Unity’s Pride event came in third for best performer of the year. Jo-Jo Infinity placed first for Gay Day and Jennifer Lopez’s surprise performance at the White Party in Palm Springs was second.



Club bits: Fri, Jan 24 at Roxy Blu is the seventh anniversary of Bump ‘N’ Hustle, featuring a performance by rare groove queen Gwen McCrae as well as top deep house DJs such as Paul E Lopes and Son of SOUL: Scene? Bi-annual sure-to-be-packed event. One of the most highly anticipated parties within the Black-soul scene…. Producer Jane Ford will shortly begin production on a new TV series for the W network that will star Diane Flacks, Kathy Greenwood and Lisa Merchant. Ford describes it as an edgy one-camera female Kids In The Hall/Smack The Pony. Ford continues to produce the weekly Thursday cabaret night at The Looking Glass (582 Church St, $5 cover), which is apparently doing so well that it will soon move to a bigger space on the main floor. Mark Cassius from The Nylons performs tonight (Jan 23) and hottie comedian Dave Tomlinson and brilliant singer Denny Hall on Jan 30.



Tidbits: Shania Twain’s brother Darryl is a bingo caller at a bingo parlour in Edmonton…. Paul “Pee-Wee Herman” Reubens, who is facing kiddie porn charges, had 90,000 images in his computer’s erotica collection…. The date for Fashion Cares has been set for Sat, May 31. Tickets will go on sale in a few weeks and the rumour that Liza Minnelli is their new spokesperson was denied by a MAC rep, yet Liza may do a collection with MAC in the future. Liza is also rumoured to be up for the role of Norma Desmond in the musical movie version of Sunset Boulevard…. The world’s first major label multi-ethnic all-gay boy band is being launched this month in Germany. They’re called Marilyn’s Boys and the first single being released internationally is “I Give You The Stars”…. Susan Sarandon is being touted to play Bette Davis in a bio-pic for A&E…. The world’s biggest and best fag-hag comedian Margaret Cho is on tour again and will be in Toronto at Convocation Hall on Fri, Apr 4. Cho’s show last spring was one of the best events of the year. I highly recommend this show and anticipate tickets will sell out very fast.