Bright Lights, Big Victory: Saving the Cleo

 A major victory was won last week in Montreal. No, the Canadiens didn’t win the Cup. No, the language debate wasn’t finally settled. And no, an even better bagel wasn’t created.

This is a victory for sex positive spaces.

When the decided to pull the plug on a major redevelopment in the Main, historic strip club and performance Café Cléopatra was saved from demolition. The entire block was to be destroyed to make way for an office and commercial tower. All of the other landholders sold out to the development company, but Johnny Zoumboulakis stood his ground and refused to sell. With the help of a dedicated community group, Zoumboulakis has saved one of the few remaining spaces from Montreal’s once thriving red light district.

Personally, I can’t image walking on St. Laurent without seeing the Cleo. But oddly enough, I’ve never managed to go inside. Usually my trips to Montreal are event specific and time contrained, but now I think that isn’t a valid excuse.

Sex spaces are both a rare and booming thing. Places like the Cleo, with shows and spectacle (beyond just strippers, those clubs are definitely plentiful) are less popular these days, whereas fetish clubs, swing clubs, dungeons, bathhouses and the like are popping up all over the place. The 2005 ruling allowing sex in publicly accessible spaces has made this possible—and that is a good thing!

But what about the tease? What about the chance to sit in the back of the room and get some kicks seeing some skin? Not everyone is able or willing to jump right into the sex club scene. Some just want to blend in as part of the crowd and have a little thrill just looking. And because the Cleo offered so many different levels of tease—from burlesque to buck-ass naked—it fully deserved to be saved.

I love the tease! Getting sexy and slippery in a club has always been a little too intimidating for me. So instead I have often gotten my kicks with the peelers and the burly girls and boys.

And I’m glad that I’ll have another chance to check out such a legendary joint.

A victory party will be held on Saturday March 26 At Café Cléopatre (1230 St. Laurent Blvd) featuring performances by Velma Candyass and the Dead Doll Dancers, drag queens Reena and Bony, drag king Nat King Pole and historical dramaturge Donovan King. Admission is $5.