Bernie Doucette said he set up his equipment at the Almon Street Legion on Sunday afternoon, and then he and his partner of 20 years went outside to smoke a cigarette.
Doucette said he noticed a man in a blue coat across the street who was “staring at us intently,” but he decided to ignore it. He said he gave his partner a kiss on the cheek and went in alone to start the show.
Midway through the second set, Doucette said he noticed the man in the blue coat going from person to person in the audience, pointing at him.
“I didn’t know what the hell’s going on,” Doucette said. “Am I bleeding? What’s happening here?”
That was when he said he heard somebody yell: “Get that faggot singer off the stage.”
Doucette said the bartender came over and told him to stop playing.
When he asked for an explanation, the bartender said the audience was complaining that his set — which included covers of Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan songs — sounded like “funeral music,” Doucette said.
He said he told the bartender “people are tapping their toes, and singing along,” but the bartender said “just take the money. We’ll pay you in full. Just take the money and leave.”
Gwen Hayden, volunteer entertainment chairwoman at the legion, said legion executives interviewed the bartender and one of the patrons who was at the show on Sunday.
“Neither of them heard anybody in the building utter a homophobic remark,” she said.
Hayden said she’s spoken to Doucette and “apologized on behalf of the Legion for anything that he did feel.”
She said she isn’t sure why Doucette’s performance was cut short. She said it’s up to the branch president to decide if the investigation should continue.
Loyal to the military
Doucette said he had played gigs at that location before and never had a problem. “I felt safe.”
He said he feels connected to the military. His uncle fought in the Second World War, his brother also enlisted and his nephew served in Afghanistan.
“I believe in the Forces, I believe in the Canadian military, I have tremendous respect for them and I always considered the opportunity to perform at the Legion a privilege, to be honest.”
Slurs not tolerated
Hayden said they’ve had other gay entertainers at the Legion before, and Doucette is still booked to play a gig there later this year. She’s also offered him additional shows next year.
“We have all kinds of tolerance in the world,” she said. “Homophobic remarks are absolutely not tolerated by any means, shape or form. Ever.”
Afraid to perform again
Doucette said this experience has shaken his willingness to perform again — at a Legion, or anywhere.
“When you get on stage you take on a persona so that nothing bothers you,” he said. “You have to, because if you let it get to you — because it will — then you can’t do your job. That is bullet-proof. That’s Teflon. That’s six feet thick.
“When that gets screwed, you have nothing left. Mine’s screwed,” Doucette said.
“Once the glass is broken, it’s broken. You can glue it together all you want. You’re still going to see the cracks.
“I’ll be honest, I thought this was over,” he said. “I thought that when the Canadian government decided it was legal for gay people to get married that discrimination — at least publicly, in this sense — would vanish, and here we are in the middle of this again.”
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