Keith Cole (performance artist)

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Cole at a mayoral debate in 2010. He is in the second row, first from left

Keith Cole is a queer[1] Canadian performance artist and political activist. Originally from Thunder Bay, Ontario,[1] he is currently based in Toronto, Ontario. An alumnus of York University's Fine Arts program, Cole has worked in film and video, dance and theatre performance, both as himself and in character as drag queen Pepper Highway.[1]

His theatrical work has included the shows Mine, Alma, The Needle Exchange and Dodged Bullets/Missed Opportunities.[2] He also appeared in Maggie MacDonald's play The Rat King, Luis Jacob's A Dance for Those of Us Whose Hearts Have Turned to Ice and Jim LeFrancois' musical revue Arthouse Cabaret, garnering a Dora Award nomination for Best Male Performance in a Musical in 2008 for Arthouse Cabaret.[3]

He has produced and hosted live events in Toronto, including Porn-a-Roake, a comedic event which blended karaoke performances with amateur porn videos, and Cheap Queers, an annual performance night of LGBT entertainers at Buddies in Bad Times. He was also a contestant in the original 2006 edition of Canada's Worst Handyman,[1] and was named the winner in the final episode.

Cole is most famous for an incident in December 2004. While hosting a fundraiser at Buddies in Bad Times, the audience appeared to be losing interest in some of the performers — accordingly, during one of his introductions he pulled down his pants and began to urinate on the stage.[4] Although he was publicly criticized by Fife House, the event's beneficiary, he has noted in subsequent interviews that the press attention he gained from the incident actually advanced his career.[4]

He has been the subject of two songs by Toronto-based queercore band Kids on TV, "We Are the New Keith Cole" and "Still On About Keith Cole". Cole performed a vocal in the album version of the former song, and directed the music video for the latter.

In 2013, Cole participated in Salvatore Antonio's Truth/Dare: A Satire (With Dance), an interactive audience participation show which featured staged reenactments of scenes from Madonna's 1991 film Truth or Dare, at Buddies in Bad Times during Toronto's Pride Week.[5] The show's cast also included Adamo Ruggiero and Gavin Crawford.[5]

Mayoral candidacy[edit]

In 2010, Cole ran as a candidate for Mayor of Toronto in the city's mayoral election.[6] His major campaign themes involved support for arts and culture, improvements to the city's bicycling network, and efforts to increase and develop a renewed sense of civic engagement in the city, where recent municipal elections have seen voter turnout of as little as 40 per cent or less.[6] He also campaigned on the issue of adding green space to the city's Yonge-Dundas Square, staging a "MILF Diaper Toss" on May 9 after having a political discussion in which he was discouraged from pursuing the issue on the questionable grounds that adding trees to the square would encourage young mothers to litter the space with dirty diapers.[7]

He was one of two "minor" candidates, along with Rocco Achampong, selected by an online vote to participate alongside the six "major" ones in a debate on municipal voting reform sponsored by the civic advocacy group Better Ballots.[8] He also initially led an online poll to select a "minor" candidate for inclusion in a debate sponsored by ArtsVote on the city's arts and culture programs, but withdrew due to concerns that the poll was too easily manipulated and hijacked.