This is a keeper.
Back in the late 1980s there was a TV program called CamÃ©ra 88 (which aired on I’m not sure what – guess I’ll ask Fagstein) which was running a kind of early 48hrs type game, albeit with a more local focus and a shorter running time.
Anywhootenanny, apparently Montrealers were as bored with themselves back then as we are today, and Montreal’s basic offerings for entertainment and leisure may have felt a bit stale even to locals twenty-five years ago. City’s with major tourist draws always tend to make the locals a bit cranky, as though they themselves have not delighted in the city so many tourists go gaga for. I get that feeling time and again, like I’ve seen it all, but I’m a creature of habit who’s easily entertained.
Enter CamÃ©ra 88 which decides, all the way back then, that they need to ‘shed some light’ on Montreal’s otherside, it’s ‘underground’ as it were, as if to learn the locals a lesson – what do they really know about Montreal? It’s almost as if this episode was anticipating Kristian Gravenor’s Montreal: the Unknown City, a kind of Hipster bible popular amongst Ontario ex-pats who settled here to get a cheap and dirty education right up until the economy sank.
Well this mini-doc would certainly appeal to Hipsters. For one, the ‘tour guide’ Errol or Harold, seems to be the quintessential proto-Hipster, washed up on our shores from what was doubtless a less open minded community in the United States. He takest he camera crew to visit some of the various odds and ends that made late-1980s, early-1990s Montreal a lot of fun.
Second, there’s a fair bit of urban exploration going on, as our host somehow manages to finagle his way to the top of the UniversitÃ© de MontrÃ©al’s phallic tower and and later visits a squat. Back then the sensation that we had fallen behind was not only sinking in mentally but further, manifesting itself in a whole lotta urban decay, traces of which can still be seen strewn somewhat helter skelter along the downtown’s southern fringe.
Third, and here’s the icing on the cake, our intrepid host takes us what then passed for seedy entertainment (like going to a, gasp, heavy metal show at Foufounes), or getting your car washed at the erotic car wash.
Perhaps my older readers could fill me in – did we all get a little strange back then? I seem to recall a proliferation of strip clubs with video arcades on the ground floor, teen prostitution rings, Jo Jo Psychic Savard, street-side erotic photography studios, a lurching Serbian strongman who pulled buses with his beard and a whole lot of other stuff seemingly all coming to fore back then.
The episode also features a Hare Krishna dining experience, a dÃ©panneur proprietress who served her clients in a Playboy Bunny outfit, a restaurant that provided psychic consultations between the third and fourth course, oddball vendors and ‘hands-off voyeurism experiences’ that pushed the limits of social acceptability a quarter century ago.
Suffice it to say, this mini-doc is kind of adorable. In retrospect I think we really are a far more conservative society than we like to admit if this is what passed for ‘scandalous’ twenty some-odd years ago. It’s comparatively quite tame.