By Simon Thibault
I first heard of Bruce LaBruce when I was still in High School. I was leafing through some gay rag and out of the blue was a picture of my then object-of-idolatry: Sandra Bernhard. Drooling, I scanned the page for information about her. Her film "Without you I'm nothing" was on the film festival circuit. Meriting a larger part of the page was a film still of a young man in glasses gazing adoringly at another. The caption read "blah blah blah Bruce LaBruce's Super 8 1Ú2." I read the article, and my interest was piqued. Mildly. Like cheap salsa.
I eventually found a copy of said film, in a video store, a year or two later. The owner of the store said it was her second copy. The first one had been stolen. Later on, I learned of the release of "Hustler White" and Bruce LaBruce appeared everywhere. I read about him in gay mags, in trash rags and his name popped up among high and low brow fags. I read the synopsis of the film and was infatuated: it was all hustlers. I had just started my fascination with hustlers - I was 18 and I was tragically romantic, so sue me - and to prove my loyalty to the subject(s), above my bed hung a poster of "My Own Private Idaho," my new fave movie and River Pheonix's swan song. My curiosity was no longer piqued. It was engorged. I longed to find a copy of "Hustler White," but alas, I lived in a small catholic village of 300 so my chances of finding it were rather slim. I called up my best friend who lived in the city and told him about it. He eventually found the film and called me back to tell me all about it: Scott Thompson and two malevolent lesbians raping a beautiful young man? Oh! The young Tennessee Williams in me fainted and the porn-fed punk in me creamed his jeans.
I eventually moved to the city, leaving my screaming queenie shoes at home to freeze in my parents' basement and my lycra shirts to rot in garbage bags. Does lycra rot? Never mind. I was tired of being a walking ACT-UP demonstration. Pornography was tired (unless it was from the 70's) and I soon entered the bourgeois institution of beginning a relationship. I became quiet, reserved, even child-like at times. I watched too many episodes of Teletubbies, went to too many raves and became victim to too much candy induced-nostalgia. My inner child had claimed me back from my adolescent angst and the adult in me realised that my parents were people and that "Reality Bites" was a sad reality. I had graduated university , had no job and I did nothing but watch cable TV and eat ice cream from the 24hr store next door. This is where Bruce LaBruce found me, just as subtly as he had in that magazine, years ago.
It's rather ironic that I use the term "subtle" in the same sentence as Bruce LaBruce, since I don't think that adjective can be used to describe his films. I rented "Hustler White" and watched it, stuffing my face with Moon Mist ice cream. I soon closed the windows, worrying that the old guy who sat on the steps to the laundromat next door would think I was watching porn in the afternoon. On my television screen, in living color, squatted Tony Ward, the infamous boy toy who has been connected to everyone from Madonna and Belinda Carlisle. He was jerking off. I couldn't believe it. I watched on. I remembered watching "Andy Warhol's Frankenstein" and thinking "If Andy had a gay baby by immaculate conception, this is what he would do instead of finger paintings."
This brings me to my point. I believed it was time for the readers of Oasis to meet Bruce LaBruce. I had stopped writing for Oasis since my new relationship (my partner, BTW, hates, or hated B LaB until I bought his book) and all kinds of things had come up. I still thought it was important to write for Oasis, but in a new guise. I wanted to interview people who I thought gay youth should know about, and believe it or not, I think Bruce LaBruce is one of those people. Although you probably wont find his films in your local video store, and they probably won't come to your local cinema (believe me, it won't happen) and even if they did, you'd have to be 18 to see them. Why? Because his works borders (?) on the pornographic. In fact, his latest flick, "Skin Flick" is a porn film. You're probably asking yourself "Why should I give a shit about some guy who makes indie/porno flicks? I'm too young to even "legally" look at his stuff." Perhaps. But I think his message is important. His message is more than just DIY. It tells us to mess with people, mess with notions and ideas of what we as individuals and members of communities are meant to be. We are not meant to blindly read magazines and watch TV and dress like identical twins. We, the youth of today, specifically the gay youth of today have the world on a plate, and instead of taking it and making it our own, we are swallowing it its prefabricated entirety. Bruce LaBruce didn't, and if he did, he's making up for it now.