Café Cleopatra on St. Laurent Boulevard has been in the public eye since late 2007, when the administration of Mayor Gerald Tremblay announced its plans for the revitalization of the Lower Main. This entailed bulldozing existing venues to make the area part of the Quartier des spectacles and to add a five-storey building that would serve as a Hydro-Québec office. Since then, the part of Montreal otherwise known as the red-light district has become virtually unrecognizable.
With local fixtures like Club Opera, Les Saints and Frites Dorée gone, and others like the Montreal Pool Room and Les Katacombes relocated, Café Cleopatra is desperately trying to remain at its location. Owner John Zoumboulakis is fighting their expropriation, which was announced in January, in court.
“There’s still life in this area,” says Velma Candyass, a member of The Dead Doll Dancers burlesque group and a member of Save the Main, a coalition working to preserve Montreal’s storied entertainment district.
“An office building in the entertainment district has no business here. It’ll be nothing but a huge eyesore. Café Cleo does belong here. It’s a place where people go to have fun,” says Candyass.
It’s for this reason that The Dead Doll Dancers burlesque performers have organized a show called “Drags N’ Dolls” to celebrate Café Cleo’s 35th anniversary in a building that’s been standing since 1895.
On April 23 and 24, “The Dead Dolls will drag culture kicking and screaming to new lows,” says Candyass. With performances by Tommy Toxic, a spoken word performance artist whose outfits are just as fabulous as his craft and fetish act from Club Sin, this will be a show that’s not to be missed.
Baladi troup Dakini Dancers; drag king Nat King Pole; The Cutie in the Kilt, aka Jessica Currie, a punk-rock bag piper; Drag Queen Myriam Deschenes and DJ- Rush n’ Noize will show the crowd what Café Cleopatra is all about. “This is the entertainment district and we want to keep it about entertaining,” says Candyass.
The MC for the performance will be Reena, the host of the Café’s Miss Cleopatra Drag Queen competition. There will also be special guests from the Café’s past. “It’ll be from politics to boobies,” Candyass says with a laugh. “Drags N’ Dolls” promises to showcase old-school drag and modern burlesque at its best with plenty of glitter and glam, many laughs and abundant booty shaking.
One of the reasons why Candyass is putting together the show is so Montrealers can see that Café Cleopatra is an important part of the city and shouldn’t be destroyed. “If people want to help out Cleo’s, they could write a letter to the city. Tell them how you feel,” advises Candyass.
Without Café Cleopatra, Montreal’s oldest and original show bar, where else could Montrealers see burlesque, drag queens, a bag piper, a poet, transvestites, belly dancers, strippers and fetish acts on a regular basis? It’s our little piece of Las Vegas.
The nightspot means a lot to the entertainment district and to the many artists who perform there, including Candyass. “The Dead Dolls feel most at home at Café Cleopatra’s. When I step on that stage, I feel like I’m at home.”
Tickets can be purchased at Joy Toyz sex shop on 4200 St. Laurent Blvd., suite 415, for $10. At the door, tickets will be sold for $12. Doors open at 8 p.m. and all the shimmying and shaking will start at 9 p.m.
For more information about the show email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on helping to save Café Cleopatra please visit savethemain.com
Café Cleopatra , 1230 St. Laurent Blvd. (2nd floor)