Where to see drag shows in Montréal
Montréal has a vibrant drag scene that has been cranking out legendary drag artists for decades. Here are some Montréal nightclubs where drag performers perform regularly.
The origins of drag in Montréal
Long before Montréal drag icon Mado Lamotte – whose uncanny likeness is on display at the Grévin MONTRÉAL wax museum – came on the scene in 1987, professional drag in Montréal dated back at least to 1928, when renowned Black drag queen Dick Montgomery performed at famed Montréal Black jazz nightclub Rockhead’s Paradise in Little Burgundy.
French-born Jean Guida – a.k.a. famed Montréal female impersonator Guilda, who got her stage name from the 1946 Rita Hayworth movie Gilda – arrived in Montréal in 1954 and was a mainstream crossover star in Montréal’s nightlife scene for more than 50 years. Guilda was an instant smash at Chez Paree in 1954 and was billed as “Guilda & Sa Troupe – La Reine Des Emmerdeuses” on the marquee of the Casa Loma in 1959.
Meanwhile, gay men were first allowed to dance together in Montréal in the Tropical Room of the Downbeat Club on Peel Street on the night of August 27, 1958, to celebrate the 23rd birthday of legendary Montréal drag queen “La Monroe” – a.k.a. Armand Monroe, who also managed the gay hotspot.
These performers paved the way for Montréal’s present-day drag scene. Here are some nightclubs where drag performers regularly headline.
Popular with the younger set, Cabaret Mado (1115 Sainte-Catherine Street East) is one of the busiest nightclubs in the Village and a great place to spot celebrities and drag queens. Named for Montréal drag icon Mado Lamotte, Mado’s statue doubles nicely as the marquee to her drag nightclub. Another Montréal drag legend, Madame Simone – renowned for her outrageous hats and headgear – often works as the club’s “door bitch” in summertime. Drag shows nightly.
Bar Le Cocktail
Legendary Montréal female impersonator Michel Dorion’s classic Bar Le Cocktail (1669 Sainte-Catherine Street East) in the Village is a fun nightclub to watch nightly drag shows by many of the best drag performers in the city, including Dorion. In summertime, it also has a busy and comfortable street-front patio.
The biggest gay club in Canada, Sky (1478 Sainte-Catherine Street East) in the Village boasts bars and discos on three floors, plus a hugely popular summertime rooftop patio where sun splashed patrons can also dip into a rooftop pool or jacuzzi! Sky also presents its weekly FlashQueen! drag show hosted by Emma Déjàvu on Thursday nights, with performances at midnight, 1 am and 2 am.
A show bar since 1895, the Café Cléopatra strip joint (1230 Saint-Laurent Boulevard) on the Main is the last remaining hold-out from Montréal’s Sin-City era. Historically a safe space for Montréal’s trans community, strippers ply their trade on the ground floor while the second-floor show bar still hosts drag performances, fetish parties and burlesque shows. With its shows, Montréal’s popular drag troupe House of Laureen – starring Uma Gahd, Anaconda LaSabrosa, Dot Dot Dot, and Selma Gahd – follows in the footsteps of such local drag legends as Vicki Lane, Lady Brenda, Vicki Richard, Twilight, Black Emmanuel and Gerry Cyr. Plus, Cleo’s vintage 1970s décor and disco lights are a mind-blowing time warp.
The Wiggle Room
Montréal’s top burlesque nightclub, The Wiggle Room (3874 Saint-Laurent Boulevard) hosts live comedy, music, improv and the hugely popular ManSpread: MTL’s Only Monthly Drag King Show, with host Charli Deville.
Other drag nights of note are Crystal Palace hosted by drag diva Crystal Slippers, and Les Jeudis 3D starring renowned female impersonator Jimmy Moore each Thursday night at District Video Lounge (1365 Sainte-Catherine Street East) in the Village.
Richard Burnett, blogger
Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.