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Book review--Scott Thompson and Paul Bellini -- Buddy Babylon: the Autobiography of Buddy Cole
It’s an impossible pattern to break: every time some great civil movement comes along working to change the world, a comedian will stand up and create a character that incorporates every stereotype of the members of the movement. Richard Pryor did it for Black Pride, Andrew Dice Clay did it for women’s rights, and Scott Thompson did it for gay rights. Their characters are immediately popular; they strike into the collective unconscious and set up camp. A small part of the populace invariably holds these characters up as proof of the evils of the movement, but the majority get the point: we’re all a stereotype of something and it’s inescapable. It doesn’t mean it’s right, but it means we can relate, and in relating we’re able to start to heal. Where the movements themselves are cutting the ropes of oppression, it’s these characters who hand out the band-aids afterwards.
Scott Thompson is indeed one of these pioneers, and his great lampoon of the gay male, Buddy Cole, has garnered him a lot of flack from the gay community. Patterned after the stereotypical "queen," Buddy got his start in Toronto comedy clubs and eventually graduated with Scott onto the highly acclaimed Canadian comedy troupe/show, the Kids in the Hall. Martini-swilling, lisping, and wearing that oh-so debonair red smoking jacket, Buddy’s monologues about gay life were biting, funny, and often unexpected ("I’m as upset when someone mistakes me for an American as I am when they mistake me for being straight!" Buddy exclaims.) Now, through his new book, co-written with Paul Bellini, Kids... writer and longtime Thompson collaborator, Buddy Cole shares all the sordid details of his life.
So what can one expect of the autobiography of the most jaded queen in Quebec? Quite a bit. Beginning with his highly symbolic birth (the statue of Mary in the local church began menstruating) and running through his shocking plan to save his family home (which can only be appreciated after reading the previous events of the book,) Buddy’s life is a long stream of highly humorous events which, while seemingly unrelated, merge to form what would be a highly compelling plot in any genre. "My goal is not to shock and horrify," Buddy says in the introduction of the section Caligula, Caligula, "but to tell the truth. And if that truth shocks and horrifies, well...maybe you should get out more." This attitude pervades the book, giving a frank look at gay life through the its twenty or so most hedonistic years.
Buddy Babylon succeeds on several levels. Its frankness breeds a familiarity with the gay life in a compelling way. The chapters where Buddy, always lighthearted and cheerful, suddenly realizes he may have AIDs maintain a high level of humor while dealing with the personal turmoil that such realizations bring. The characters of the book maintain that classic, Kids in the Hall oddness; Madame Levesque, who "performs" by showing her goiter, Yves, Buddy’s older brother obsessed with lactation and riding pigs, Suzanne and Pleshette, Buddy’s siamese twin daughers, and Elanor, a sixty-something woman in third grade with Buddy, who dyes her hair green with pickle juice are just a few of the characters which inhabit Buddy’s life. Of course, there’s the comedic element as well, which comes out supremely well in such inspired scenes as when he falls in love with a miner and deals with being caught by his lovers homophobic grandmother in "the act."
Buddy Babylon is, altogether, a successful book, both entertaining and informative. While quirky, and likely not to appeal to the mainstream American society, it’s innate zaniness and and dedication to maintaining Buddy’s character will appeal to the Kids in the Hall fan. Even if you come to the book with no previous experience in the being that is Buddy Cole, you’ll find an enjoyable and occasionally unreal read in his memoir. Highly recommended.
Order Scott Thompson and Paul Bellini's Buddy Babylon Today! In assoc. with Amazon.com
Read The Shrubbery's Exclusive Interview with Paul Bellini from the June, 1998 issue.