Rogues’ Gallery

Looking for inspiration in all the rightfully wrong places

Millennial marketing will surely drive us into Bolivia.

From the 100 Best Pervert Books Of The Millennium to the Top 10 Apocalyptic Films Of The Century, it seems some sort of list is thrust upon us every 10 minutes leading up to Jan 1, 2000.

These “Best Of” lists are always unsatisfying; no matter how large or inclusive, somebody or something gets left off. The gay ones are just as bad. “They forgot Billy Strayhorn!” you scream. “Where’s ‘Highschool Confidential’?” “What about Pez?”

Not to be outdone, we here at Xtra decided to ask art stars of the Canadian queer universe to come up with their own personal lists of people, events and art – contemporary and ancient – that influenced who they are or what they do. They’ve come up with everything from their fave camp film or diva, to books every young homo should read.

Altogether, it’s a quixotic and subjective list that doesn’t pretend to cover all the bases. It’s just fragments of a map, a star chart, indicating the depth and breadth of queer culture – and trust me, it’s queer. You might not consider some of this stuff homo, but then, these gay men and lesbians take it to their breast and make it their own… and presto – gay.

So peruse this Rogues’ Gallery of artistic influences and enjoy.

Remember, it’s up to each and every one of us to explore the freakish firmament that is our (often hidden) heritage and to fashion our own little piece of heaven.


Husky Voiced Actresses

Joan Greenwood. Did you know they dubbed Anita Pallenberg’s voice with hers in Barbarella?

Eileen Heckart. Whoever can sit through unmoved her cameo in The Bad Seed (as the mother of the murdered boy), has a heart of stone.

Suzanne Pleshette. I always cry when they find her pecked to death in The Birds.

Ill-advised Film Adaptation Of A Novel

Myra Breckenridge. Rex Reed? Mae West? Tom Selleck? Raquel and Farrah in bed together. It just doesn’t get any better.

Art/Porn Movie

Pink Narcissus. Run, don’t walk to your local video store.

Mattel Toy

Cosmic Kiddies. Louie Blooie is my most prized possession.

Beginner Book

Go Dog Go.

Niche Market Magazine

After Dark. Intense glamour.

Eccentric Socialite/Artiste

Florine Stettheimer. Check out her sister’s dollhouse at the Museum Of The City Of New York when in Manhattan.

Vanity Press

Marlene Dietrich’s ABC Book. A must for pre-feminist women and modern homosexuals.

Octogenarian Fashion Photographer

Francesco Scavullo.

Crossover Artist


Hayley Mills. I am thinking of getting together a drag act using her songs. Can you see the resemblance?

Childhood Role Model

Billy Van as Griselda on The Hilarious House Of Frightenstein.

Dead Cartoonist

Mary Petty. “I’m afraid I am like the people I draw, of whom Harold Ross said, “They look like something that lives under a rock.”

Contemporary Reference


SKY GILBERT (playwright, novelist and founding artistic director of Buddies In Bad Times Theatre)

Mr Gilbert has constructed his list as advice to our younger readers.


Frank O’Hara. A little known New York beat poet, but better than Allen Ginsberg and certainly more fun. He invented “personism” – a movement.

Constantine Cavafy. The most poignant gay poet you’ll ever read. Greek, lived in Egypt over a brothel for most of his life.


James Purdy. Anything by him. The US author is still alive. Writes with great humour. He’s pro being a beautiful young fag; against US consumerism.

Francis King. A little known British author who writes with absolute beauty and truth.


The must listen to gay composers. The best two are:

Samuel Barber (US) and

Francis Poulenc (France).

Peter Tchaikovsky (Russia). He’s okay, but don’t listen to “Pathetique” too often. It’s depressing.


The young fag must find an older man, have sex with him once and then continue as a friend. The older fag must have rejected all notions of middle-class life and be living in a hutch somewhere above a store. He will instruct you further.

ANN-MARIE MACDONALD (novelist, playwright and actor)

Fave Camp Film

Roadhouse. Starring Ida Lupino.

Adored Film Star

Clint Eastwood.

Film Every Homo Must See

The World Of Henry Orient. Stars Peter Sellers and Angela Lansbury.

Influential Book

Jane Eyre.

Book Every Homo Should Read

The House On Pooh Corner.

Influential Singer

John Lennon.

Performer Who Blew Me Away

Big Mama Thornton.

Intriguing Homo Historical Figure

Louise Brooks.

Other cultural Mentionables

Bugs Bunny.

Mr Dress-Up.

Sonja Mills.

Sky Gilbert.

Personal Influence


CHRISTOPHER PETERSON (female impersonator and actor)

Fave Camp Film

Rocky Horror Picture Show. Mainly because of the song “Don’t Dream It, Be It.”

Adored Icon

Barbra Streisand. What can you say about a performer who has taken you from crayons to perfume… no wait, that’s Sydney Poitier. But Streisand’s rendition of “I’m The Greatest Star” in Funny Girl did it for me. Think of the irony behind that number.

Film Every Homo Should See

Outrageous. Starring Craig Russell. Not only was it one of the first Canadian films to receive international acclaim, it also showed the world that underneath the drag queen’s wigs and lashes are real people.

Influential Book

When I was 16 I bought a Gordon Merrick gay trash novel, snuck it home and read it in bed by the light of the moon. It was like forbidden fruit…. No pun intended.

Influential Band Or Singer

Queen. Here was a man dressed like a queen singing rock and roll and living the life envied by most. How strange that some male singers have that “We Are The Champions” quality, like:

Elton John.

David Bowie.

Michael Jackson.

Intriguing Historical Figure

Chevalier d’Eon. The first recorded transvestite in history.

Alexander the Great. Wore a skirt and had a 90-day funeral for his lover slain in battle.

Joan of Arc. Dressed as a man to lead her country into battle.

I guess clothes really do make the man or woman.

Personal Influence

Sheila Maclean. My art teacher and president of the youth theatre in Halifax. She allowed me to experiment and grow as a performer. In grade 12 she told me: “You can skip any class… except mine.” It showed me she cared.

SONJA MILLS (playwright)


I am influenced, nay inspired, nay nay, moved to tears by the very blades of grass beneath my feet and by each breath of air that I take.

Seriously? Game shows. Bad Canadian ones, especially. As a youngster (before 35), I spent my summer vacations inside watching Definition while my silly friends worked relentlessly on their suntans (they’re all dead now). Bad Canadian game shows have taught me that anyone can be a winner, even if you’re an unmarried, 50-year-old dental hygienist from Rexdale, and even if all you’re actually winning is a mop.

JAMES KUDELKA (choreographer and artistic director of the National Ballet Of Canada)

Fave Camp Classic

Pride And Prejudice. Perhaps not camp, but classic, yes. Greer Carson is luminous and Laurence Olivier makes my heart beat faster, as Mr Darcy should.

Adored film icon

I don’t adore anyone on the screen, but I do appreciate Hooly Hunter’s talent and the stills of Woody Harrelson in natural Born Killer (although I’ve not seen the movie).

A film every homo should see

The Golden Coach. Stars Anna Magnani; I rest my case.

A book every young homo should read

The Picture Of Dorian Gray. I don’t know what homos under 10 are readings these days but I read Wilde’s classic novella for the first time when I was 11.

An influential band

I’m a Beatles child.

A performer I would have loved to have seen

Serge Diaghilev and his Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. I would have liked to meet him and seen them. But more importantly, I would like to have experienced the culture that made what I consider to be the most resonant contribution to dance, visual art and music in now this dying century. That was 80 years ago.

Pop icon

Cher. Rex Harrington insists I mention her.

Personal influence

David Earle, Toronto Dance Theatre co-founder. He has been my friend and mentor since my teen years and I thank him for the trouble I’m in these days.

A staged reading of Sky Gilbert’s 1984 play The Dressing Gown is part of the festivities at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander St) on Sat, Jun 19 at 7pm. Sonja Mills’s Dyke City: The Pride Episode is at 8pm on Sat, Jun 26.

The contributor photo for Gordon Bowness

Gordon Bowness (he/him) is the executive editor of Xtra. With a 30-year career covering the LGBTQ2S+ community, Gordon is also the founding editor of Go Big magazine and In Toronto (now In Magazine). He is an English speaker and lives in Toronto.

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Culture, Toronto, Arts, Theatre

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