By: Eric Amber
Montreal, a party town like no other. Fuelled by booze, drugs, prostitution and one of the biggest porn industries in the world. The original sin city. A morally compromised place with an evil underworld most people can’t imagine let alone believe.
There are probably more strip clubs on Ste-Catherine street than in all of western Canada. Sometimes, the strippers in these clubs are just college girls making (so called) easy money, but often they are foreign women working against their will or addicted to drugs or both.
Directly across from Theatre Ste-Catherine is one of the city’s oldest and most notorious peelers called ‘The Pussy Corps.’ Open 24hrs a day, 7 days a week including holidays.
Except, it ain’t no strip club. Its a full brothel operating under an obscure Quebec law allowing what is called ‘Contact Dance,’ or ‘Danse Contact’ as they say in French.
I first met the owners during the time I spent building the theatre. Two brothers named Mike and Steve took over the business from their father Nicolas who started it in the 70’s. A couple of real greasy gangsters in their fifties with monobrows that made them look like evil Burt and Ernie from Sesame Street.
They just walked in one day and started asking questions. They wanted to know who I was, where I came from and what I was doing. I told them the truth. I was building a theatre.
‘You mean like a titty theatre, with naked girls?’ said the other, holding his hands out in front of him gesturing tits.
‘No, no’ I replied. ‘Like art and comedy and music and such.’
For a moment they seemed confused. Who the fuck would want to do that?
‘So, you’re like a comedian or something?’
There was a pause, then they just burst out laughing as if I had told them a joke.
‘He’s a comedian!’ said one brother to the other and laughed again.
‘Ok, well, good luck.’ One of them said in a more relaxed tone.
‘Come over anytime. Just ask for Mike or Steve.’
Of course, I never did step foot in the place. It was best to avoid getting to know guys like that.
Years later, as I exited the theatre, I saw them again. They were standing on my side of the street, looking back at their side of the street, at a new sign they had just put up.
As I was locking the door, one of the brothers recognized me.
‘Eric!’ I heard a loud voice say. ‘You remember us?’
Who would forget the local mafia? I thought to myself.
‘Yeah, sure. It’s Mike, Steve and Nicolas.’ I replied, forcing a smile.
‘He remembers! Except I’m Mike and he’s Steve!’ Mike said again.
I shook his hand, but instead of letting go, he held it and pulled me towards him. His face then made one of those accentuated frowns that made me nervous.
‘How’s the theatre business? Still doing that?’ He said in a more serious tone.
‘Yeah, yeah, good. It’s a lot of fun.’ I sputtered as he released me.
‘Uh, no’ I replied.
‘They’re difficult, eh? Women? Difficult.’ Steve said again.
It was one of those–question, question, answer–statements.
I wasn’t sure what to say but before I could come up with a reply, their father Nicolas, who was a smaller, older version of Mike and Steve threw down his cigarette and motioned me to move towards him.
His words came out in short bursts. Communicating as much with his hands as he did with sound he said ‘Now-a-days…by the time you get a woman…she has been fucked…SO many times.’
I was shocked. I’m not sure if my face revealed my surprise but Mike immediately spoke, saying ‘Forgive my father, he can speak frankly sometimes.’
‘And expensive eh? Women? Expensive!’ I said.
It was another–question, question, answer–statement.
‘Never mind expensive.’ Steve replied, looking around, as if someone might over hear him. ‘Nowadays, they got rights!’
I was stuck in a weird conversation. We could be discussing paint or the weather, like normal people. Instead it was one of those ‘Can you believe it’s illegal to punch a bitch?’ chit chats.
I was stuck, but then my phone rang and I was able to excused myself.
This is when I realized, I picked the wrong town to open a business. I was surrounded by dark forces. One doesn’t survive playing by the rules in a city like Montreal.
Maybe, Theatre Ste-Catherine could be a wedge of light in the middle of that darkness, I thought to myself. In the end, that darkness almost overcame me.