So it’s Friday evening and we’ve just landed in Montreal and snaked
our way through a mile-long meet-and-greet customs line (Everyone
was there! Tracy Young! JC and Alex!) and settled into the
deliciously chic serenity of our room at the Hotel Gault—whereafter
we stroll over to the Welcome Center at the Delta where volunteers
are passing out little plastic baggies filled with perfectly folded
slips of paper reading NEW DEALERS ON
which, upon closer inspection, contain notices for Saturday’s BBCM
health summit titled Party Drugs=Risky Sex?—because, let’s
face it, the 17th annual Black and Blue Festival isn’t
only one big party—but rather a smorgasbord of cultural and artistic
activities. Rather like a gay cruise—without the rocking boat.
So after a
round of Welcome Center smooches and hugs (Everyone was there!
Tracy Young! Jake and Jesse! Gael!), we head over to the
oh-so-chic Sherbrooke Avenue for the President’s VIP Cocktail at
Holt Renfrew (sort of the Sak’s Fifth Avenue of Montreal). Business
cocktail attire suggested—said the invite—which we’d neglected to
read, but no matter, because BBCM doesn’t stand too much on
formality—and once we’re inside, the place is packed with camera
crews and video cams, because Quebec’s entire Gay Chamber of
Commerce is in attendance, along with possibly some gay ambassador
from the Netherlands (Everyone was there! Robert Vezina! Kat
Coric! Caroline Rousse!), and we’re all feted with all sorts of
delectables such as cranberry blueberry vodka shots and mini grilled
cheese (can we say delish?) along with slender splits of iced
hard cider and, honestly, it’s such a spread, and everyone looks so
elegant and handsome, and with Charles Poulin on the decks sending
out such cool cocktail grooves—well, we almost can’t bear to leave.
somehow we stumble out onto the street—bearing a sweet little Holt
Renfrew swag bag, filled with all sorts of Jo Malone fragrance and
emollients. Perfection! Exactly the sort of product we’ll need to
combat the tolls of this circuit weekend. What an excellent start
to this year’s Black and Blue. Make note to self: don’t miss
President’s VIP Cocktail next year.
feeling frisky and fun, we head over to Leather Ball at Medley (Everyone
was there! Well, almost everyone—) where it’s almost one a.m.
and where the leather boyz and daddies have coalesced into one
massive leather harness. And right away, we run into Alex who sends
out his red laser to notify JC to get over here. They’re laser
light sisters! They’re the circuit equivalent of the camp swimming
pool call-and-response: hubba-hubba, ding-ding.
And on the
boards, it’s David Knapp plating Deb Cox’s “Everybody Dance,” which,
already, at this early point, is threatening to become the song of
the weekend (and hereafter will be referred to as “Everybody Dance,
Deb.”) And yet no matter how often it’s heard, there’s still
something joyful in its admonition: “everybody dance—now.” Just as
empowering and gratifying as the words “Gimme a hug”—a phrase that
we’ve co-opted as our m.o. for the weekend.
always works for Leather Ball given its slightly seedy grotto
quality—and Robert Vezina escorts us upstairs so that we can cop
some photo ops of David Knapp in action. And while we’re upstairs,
there’s an elaborate production number called “Power Dream” which is
something of a cross between Woody Allen’s Sleeper and
Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange, if you can imagine such a
thing—but it’s all good because the hottie quotient is high—and
especially on the floor.
And just as
we’re reading Joe Caro’s tm—who should stroll into the maelstrom but
Joe Caro Himself, fresh from Parking and totally encased in black
leather, complete with brand-new black riding crop—and the way that
one struts across the floor leaves us reeling. That is one fierce
SISTAH! She is totally our people—and as the song has it, we’re
down with our peeps.
sings—and good for her for showing up. She sings “I Believe in
Me”—which Tracy Young has mixed into something ferosh—and then it’s
Tracy’s turn at the decks as she tosses down mixes of “You’ve Got To
(Free My Love)” and “I Make the Beat Go Boom, Papi”—and amen to
that, with a roomful of hottie leather daddies and their puppies,
who’s going to complain about a single thing?
there, it’s on to Military on Saturday night. First stop:
Parking—which as someone explains to us is sort of the Club Babylon
(from Queer as Folk, peeps—keep up....) of Montreal—and how
apt that description appears as we enter on Saturday at midnight to
find the place packed and happy. It’s Junior on the boards. Junior
with his semi-regular residency at Parking. The man has a home
here—and Pascal, the Parking manager, has helped make, and keep,
this club a place where the happy people go to dance. You walk in
and you feel at home. And there are few places as good as those
which Junior calls home. He’s got it werking here at Parking on
Saturday night at the Uniform Party and the boyz are eating it up. (Everyone
was there! Doug and Josh! Jake and Jesse—again!) It’s that
crystal clear beat with a ringing pulse that seeps into the pores
and makes you move—happily. And these boyz are—happy.
And of course,
there’s Joe Caro, fresh from a hook-up which didn’t work out—and
which had him explaining, “Oops, sorry, gotta book. My friend just
got locked outta the hotel room.” Whereupon he’s off and running—to
Parking. Where the boyz are. And where Chris is sporting the
fiercest Gucci belt—and the nicest 5K Cartier watch one could ever
expect to fall off a truck at JFK. And Adam T.’s arrived with his
Boston posse, and Jake and Jesse are hanging with Jerome, and
Junior’s werqing the #($^& out of “Take Me Up, Take Me Higher” and
“Fascinated” and as Junior shifts into wailing vocals, there’s no
question—this is a full-on Saturday night blow-out at Montreal’s
Club Babylon called PARKING.
And of course,
this being Montreal, this being Black and Blue, there’s always
another party, another club, around the corner—and so, somehow, we
tear ourselves from Parking and head to Club Medley for another
round. This time for Military Ball in the very capable hands of
Manny Lehman—which means we enter to the sounds of Rihanna’s
“Umbrella”—which could hardly be more appropriate given the light
rain which is currently falling on the boyz along St. Catherine and
also that we’re somehow, all of us, all over town, under the very
large and encompassing umbrella of BBCM.
And all over
Club Medley, the boyz are coming and going, as T.S. Eliot would have
it, because it’s Saturday night and Military Ball is the prelude to
Main Event, the Saturday night party which the locals wait for and
the out-of-town boyz flock to (Everyone was there! Michael
Stanley! Chris and Raoul! John and Tim!) and the floor is a mass
of lasers and lights as Manny werqs his military magic. The man
owns this party. It’s his. He’s played Military enough to have
earned the sobriquet Military Manny. And when Suzanne Palmer
appears onstage, to tumultuous applause, she werqs as hard as
Manny—to keep the boyz happy and hard and pounding the floorboards
beneath their feet. These are people who know how to entertain and
keep a crowd moving. We see boyz from South Beach and boyz from New
York—boyz from all over who have made the trek to Montreal for Black
and Blue—because why? Because as Manny puts it “I Just Can’t Get
Enough”—but mostly because Montreal is a party town that knows how
to party well and party hard.
inevitably, it comes time for the party to end and the boyz to
disperse, there’s that lovely walk along St. Catherine: the search
for take-out—or take home. Picking up something to eat for the
night—a little grub, a lotta love—because that’s what Montreal does
best: it knows how to love—and it makes you know it too.
Pope might have put it, there’s something about Montreal, and
especially during Black and Blue, that makes one feel the “endless
sunshine of a spotless mind.” You might have been here before—but
Montreal makes you feel it all anew.