How Fuzz Box emerged from the Sex Garage

Zine of the Gay

A zine cover printed in black ink on neon yellow paper. The title reads Fuzz Box, mirrored underneath. There is a photo of someone in a cowboy outfit. Additional text reads: "Fall 1991 - Faggots galore - Justine and her pussy - Juicy Fruit & co interviewed - Sex Garage - Whirling lesbian dervishes - out come the freaks"
Cover of Fuzz Box Issue 2 No 5

Around 4am on July 16, 1990, around 400 Montrealers were enjoying a party in a second-story downtown loft, featuring go-go dancers, contortionists, house and garage DJs, and projections of queer porn, until a spotter stationed outside warned that police were on their way in.

The party, Sex Garage, was organized by Nicolas Jenkins, an experienced event promoter who was used to his events getting shut down. But what followed was much more violent than he was used to, with dozens of cops waiting outside to beat attendees as they tried to leave the party.

Photographer Linda Dawn Hammond was attending the party, and risked her safety to photograph the violent arrests. The next day, she brought her photos to both The Gazette and La Presse, Montreal’s main French and English newspapers. The violence of the raid, and the existence of photos capturing it, sparked a wave of community organizing.

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Image of a raised fist, with text reading, "FREEDOM CAN SEEM LIKE A REVOLUTIONARY IDEA. Freedom to know your own history. Freedom to walk the streets safely. Freedom to have sex without fear. Freedom to keep or adopt children. Freedom to be proud. Freedom to be honest. FREEDOM TO BE OUT. Are these such revolutionary ideas? ISN'T YOUR FREEDOM WORTH FIGHTING FOR?"
From Fuzz Box Issue 2 No 5

Soon thereafter, Jenkins started publishing the zine Fuzz Box. QZAP holds two issues of Fuzz Box, the first undated, and the second from 1991, following closely on the Sex Garage raids and documenting some of the fallout from them.

Unsurprisingly, the zine is political but irreverent. It includes a lot of fun items, like horoscopes, a gossip column, “Titi Galore – Dishin’ Dirty” (there was a party that was supposedly raising money for a hospice for people with AIDS, but the hospice had no idea their name was being used!), club playlists, lots of porn collages, and even recipes (“Chop one small firm and well shaped eggplant into large cubes and spread out comfortably in a baking dish. Sprinkle liberally with 1/2 a wine glass of olive oil (virgin is always a special treat)”).

Amidst the fun stuff, there’s also an article about La Ligue Antifasciste Mondiale, which began in 1989 as a beating-up-Nazis gang, and later evolved into a community organization:

“Presently, LAM is working on a list of bars in Montreal that are either frequented by nazi punks/skins or are barring access to them. Of course, as is well known to lesbians and gays, the practice of refusing entry to nazi skins all too often becomes a scapegoat for denying access to anyone the bouncers decide they don’t like the look of… prejudice in the guise of politics.”

Ads for parties are a fascinating graveyard of defunct Montreal queer venues, including The Candy Bar, an Act Up meeting in the Village, k.a.t. club, Cafe Tutti Fruity (links go to Google Maps, if you’re curious like I was what’s replaced them).

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For me, the highlight of the first issue was an interview with two “F2Ms who sleep with men”. It is a true joy to me to witness the continuity of transfag history, with the interview even beginning with that time-honoured question of (paraphrased) exactly why taking T turns everyone gay. It’s a really rich and thoughtful conversation, including the nuances of passing in different communities, cruising while trans, tensions and possibilities for solidarity between trans and cis queers, and drawing connections between trans and disability communities in opposition to body normativity.

My favourite item in the second issue was an interview with Boyd McDonald, or as Wikipedia calls him, Boyd McDonald (pornographer), creator of the legendary gay smut zine Straight to Hell. Founded in the 1970s, STH, which still exists under new management, mostly collected letters sent in by readers, documenting (or potentially imagining) stories of mostly anonymous and transient gay sex, sort of like “Dear Penthouse”, but with way more scat.

McDonald, who died in 1993, two years after the publication of this interview, shared some of his philosophy of sex:

“FUZZ: Your stories present a lot of potentially degrading situations. Initially you are shocked, until you realize that there is consent involved. It really makes you realize a lot about sexuality.

STH: Those are men who can afford to be humiliated. You see, I wouldn’t recommend that type of humiliating experience for someone who has nothing else going for him. But these men sometimes have satisfactory careers and they have enough money. They live well, and they are doing well in their professions. They might be a priest or what have you, and can afford to be humiliated. They want to be, and they enjoy it. But for someone who is unsuccessful and unhappy in all other ways, I wouldn’t recommend that he have this humiliating and degrading sex unless he wants it.”

He also describes why he handed STH off to his successor, Victor Weaver, in a response that is deeply relatable to me as a long-time zine maker:

“I just gave it to him. It got to be too much trouble. I was doing it as a one-man operation, including peddling it to bookstores, sending out copies to subscribers, and I just got tired of it. I did it for ten years. A lot of people don’t do anything for more that one year or three years, or at the most five years. But I stuck with it for ten years. Now it’s much easier. The publisher has a distributor, so that’s how the stuff gets into circulation.”

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Clipart of a man and woman leaning over a baby, with text reading "It is a simple reality... To be born gay is an honor and a privilege"
From Fuzz Box Issue 2 No 5

The site of the Sex Garage party and raid is unsurprisingly now a condo. So is the nearby site of Le 456 Sauna, which was open for 33 years, and before that, was the Neptune Sauna, site of another notorious police raid in 1976. It’s hard to imagine it being a fun part of the city. But I can assure you with complete confidence that there will always be queer people in Montreal throwing weird gay parties, staying up too late, and hating cops. 💜

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Lee P is interning at QZAP in spring 2024. Ze is a long-time zine maker, and hir current project is Sheer Spite Press, a small press and zine distro. Originally from unceded Algonquin land, Lee calls Tiohtià:ke // Mooniyang // Montreal home. Ze’s also a member of the organizing collective for Dick’s Lending Library, a community-run, local library of books by trans, non-binary, and Two-Spirit authors.

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