I spent the 4th of July weekend in gorgeous Montreal, Canada. As with the rest of the Quebec province, French is the official language in Montreal but pretty much everyone speaks English also. Unlike their European counterparts, French Canadians are not offended if you speak English immediately without attempting French. Montreal is an attractive city. In particular the Old Montreal district looks exactly a small town in Europe - it's gorgeous.
In general the atmosphere there is very liberal. Unlike American cities where sex businesses are zoned off into seedy commercial areas, it is common in Montreal to walk down any street and see a sex boutique of some sort nestled indiscriminately next to a bank tower, a cafÃ©, a subway station or clothing store. No one seems to think anything of it, and to my knowledge there are no pending legislative initiatives or right-wing politicians trying to change it. I started cracking up the first time I was walking through town and noticed BOUTIQUE DE SEXE! in flashing purple neon right next to an ordinary Mom-and-Pop hardware store.
Nightclubs, both gay and straight, are concentrated mostly on rue Saint Catherine East, a long strip that runs through the Village section of the city, and several streets that intersect it. Saint Catherine also features many gay restaurants and cafes. A notable exception to Montreal's liberal attitude are the weak cocktails you find everywhere. Apparently the Canadian government strictly regulates the measurement of alcohol and so all the bars pour their booze through a kind of measuring funnel before it goes into your glass. So a Canadian Cosmo will not taste like one you get here. If you want a strong drink you have to ask for "a double". But on the plus side the drinks are very cheap.
The drag scene is quite small and most drag shows take place at Cabaret Mado on Saint Catherine. The club itself is quite nice with a large stage, and the trannies are not at all about realness or passing. They are about outrageousness with outlandish clown-like makeup and gaudy jewelry, lip-synching Celine Dion and other French divas. They were fun, but in general I was reminded of the clichÃ© that in New York the queens are typically just so much fiercer than most other cities.
On Friday night I went to Sky, a big gay dance club on Saint Catherine with three floors. I wasn't terribly impressed with the music but it was okay. The space is pretty nice and there was no cover charge! I liked the middle floor which had 80s pop and some cute remixes, and the top floor which was small and dark and the DJ spun hip hop and R&B to an ethnic queer crowd. (For those who prefer their meat dark, most of the black men in Montreal are of Caribbean descent).
Queer strip bars I went to were Campus and Adonis. All the dancers stripped to the nude complete with hard-ons, no g-strings or pasties. At Campus two of the dancers blew each other for a minute or so on stage. Most of them had that zoned out Robin Byrd look, but there were some hotties strutting their stuff.
I also perused a couple of bathhouses. Sauna Centre-Ville was not so hot, but Oasis on Friday night I highly recommend. High quality men and very nice facilities.
On Saturday I went to Parking, a gay dance club right off of Saint Catherine on Amherst. Again there was no cover – I love that. It was packed, two floors. On the big main floor it is kind of Roxy-ish but with much more interesting music and the crowd more diverse in terms of the types of gay men, not just Chelsea types. To my shock there was not one single woman in the ENTIRE place – no fag hags, not even a butch dyke. Downstairs was an 80s room with a dance floor and pool tables, and the DJ is sequestered in a high booth that looks like the front of a Mack truck. Also downstairs was a leather room, and all those wanting to enter must be shirtless unless you're in full military uniform. So yours truly took off his shirt and proudly displayed my ribs and flat tummy for the bears and leather daddys, several of whom lined up to buy me cocktails (much to my surprise). Afterward I wandered back to the 80s room then later to the main space upstairs with punk dyed-blonde Rutger Hauer-esque muscle man in tow.
The clubs close at 3 a.m. After Parking I headed to Stereo, an after-hours club that is open until 10 a.m. the following day. (this place had a $15 cover, still cheap by New York standards). Really fun. My Rutger Hauer lookalike made sure afterward my weekend ended on an upbeat note, though I was quite exhausted when it came time to head back to New York on Sunday afternoon.