The Best and Worst Pieces of Advice Bruce LaBruce Has Ever Received

Floss more, and behave less: queer cinema's infamous provocateur gives us some much needed life advice.

Bruce LaBruce, “Bottom”, 2002

Adding that “NSFW” to the headline of this piece feels like a disservice to Bruce LaBruce in many ways. Over the past 25 years, LaBruce’s work has been confronting (and often obliterating) prescriptive ideals of what’s “safe for work”, what’s politically correct, what can or can’t be erotic, and what’s “in bad taste”. (Still, for the sake of not getting our readers fired, we’ll leave the tag in the title). Above all, Bruce LaBruce’s work is radical and queer as fuck.

It’s this legacy of smashing dogma and presenting queer sexuality in all its shadowy, messy, loving, sticky glory that makes his work endure. Indeed, LaBruce was recently the subject of a major cross-continental retrospective “FAGGOTRY”, hosted everywhere from the MoMA to Madrid’s La Fresh. The work on display — shots from live shows, porn mags, glossy shoots and LaBruce’s personal life as well as material from his movies — is now available via an online platform, courtesy of the Tom of Finland Store. Limited edition prints of the images are also available (this should probably go without saying, but that link is also not even mildly safe for work).

With a vast creative output which deeply penetrates our notions of sexuality, gender, arousal and taste, it should come as little surprise that many have offered their judgement and advice to LaBruce over the years — some solicited and useful, and some shockingly dumb. To celebrate the online release of “FAGGOTRY”, LaBruce shared with us the 5 best and worst pieces of advice he’s ever received. Coming into this week, we never thought it would end with Bruce LaBruce telling us to up our dental hygiene game, but the world is full of surprises.

The 5 Best Pieces of Advice Bruce LaBruce Has Ever Received

Bruce LaBruce, “Mike Diana As Peter Berlin #1”, 1998

Question authority

One of my mentors, the late, great film critic Robin Wood, taught us this one main rule of thumb. I studied with Robin Wood all through university. He was a true iconoclast and radical thinker. When he came out as gay in his forties, he wrote an influential piece called “Responsibilities of the Gay Art Critic.” It rocked my world. But he always reminded us to question his authority as well!

Bruce LaBruce, “Ryan McGinley, Toronto”, 2002

Some gay guy I was trying to pick up once said to me, “You know you can be very sexy when you’re not trying to be.” He was probably right!

Simplicity itself! Trying too hard never works.

Bruce LaBruce, “On the set of ‘Hustler White’ #4”, 1995

Floss!

This is so banal! Lol. When I was a kid I never felt like I had the time to floss. Now I’m religious about it. I literally brought my gums back from the dead!

Bruce LaBruce, “Skin Flick” Production Still #4, 1998

Make your bed every day. Clean socks and underwear every day. (Thanks Mom!)

What can I say? I’ve never been a crusty punk.

Bruce LaBruce, “On the set of ‘Hustler White’ #2”, 1995

Always be on time for your photo shoot.

Punks aren’t necessarily known for their timekeeping skills, but when I was a queer punk in the eighties we were very strict about being on time for our photo shoots or arriving at film sets. Priorities!

The 5 Worst Pieces of Advice Bruce LaBruce Has Ever Received

Bruce LaBruce, “I wonder what’s going on in the trunk? (‘The Raspberry Reich’ Production Still)”, 2004

Don’t flaunt your homosexuality/ Don’t be so sibilant/ Tone it down

My whole life I’ve been chastised for being too effeminate, but then I learned to embrace it. I had to learn to love my voice. As I get older, I seem to be getting somewhat more butch, and that’s okay too!

Bruce LaBruce, “Pig’s Mask Blow-Job”, 2001

Don’t make porn

People have always cluck-clucked and pooh-poohed me about making porn. And now it’s all the rage!

Bruce LaBruce, “Hustler, Johannesburg #1”, 2001

Don’t date hustlers or porn stars

If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that hustlers and porn stars — the good ones — tend to have a very open sexuality that isn’t judgmental or boxed in. They’re more sexually liberated. So if you are lucky enough to date one, by all means! I know hustlers who are sexual healers. Most prostitutes will have sex with very old people. Of course it’s for money, but it also involves a sexual generosity. When there used to be actual hustler bars, there was often a sense of camaraderie and mentoring going on between the generations, along with the exchange of gifts and cash. From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs!

Bruce LaBruce, “Ryan and Eddie”, 1998

“Why don’t you try to make it more of a coming of age story?”

This genre is so played out. I prefer Catherine Breillat movies about girls losing their virginity, in which the act of becoming a woman is always fraught with ambivalence. The same applies to boys. Growing up isn’t always a beautifully unfolding narrative in which young people learn from their mistakes and transition to adulthood with aplomb. Frank Perry’s Last Summer is probably a much more enlightening and accurate depiction of the phenomenon!

Bruce LaBruce, “Tiger Tyson on Harmony’s Fire Escape at Gramercy Park”, 1999

Behave.

Just don’t. But paradoxically, politeness and manners are important too. Figure out how to do both at once.

Bruce LaBruce was also kind of enough to share the 5 people, dead or alive, who he’d love to work with most — to find out who his fantasy collaborators are, sign up to the Sleek newsletter and keep an eye on your inbox!

NEXT ARTICLE
Stage Notes: An Interview with Actor Clemens Schick