Keith Cole is a queer Canadian performance artist and political activist. 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.

Theatrical works include: the shows Mine, Alma, The Needle Exchange and Dodged Bullets/Missed Opportunities. 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 and performed in Hamlet In A Hot Tub during the 2014 Rhubarb Festival in Toronto.

He has produced and hosted live events in Toronto, including Porn-a-Roake and Cheap Queers, an annual performance night of LGBT entertainers at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. He was a contestant in the original 2006 edition of Canada’s Worst Handyman and was named the winner in the final episode.

Cole is most famous for an incident in December 2004 where while hosting a fundraiser at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre where during one of his introductions he pulled down his pants and urinated on stage. Although he was publicly criticized by Fife House, the event’s beneficiary, the press attention he gained from the incident advanced his career.

He is 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.  The show’s cast also included Adamo Ruggiero and Gavin Crawford.

In 2010, Cole ran as a candidate for Mayor of Toronto in the city’s mayoral election. 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. 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. 

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. 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.

Catch Keith Cole as starring in RAID: Operation Soap, an unconventional love story about the Toronto bathhouse raids. Written by Raymond Helkio with David Bateman, the play is on for one night only as part of Buddies In Bad Times Theatre’s Queer Pride. If you weren’t lucky enough to experience Bette Midler at the Continental Baths in New York City then you really need to see this show, it’s widely entertaining and a potent reminder of how Pride came to be.

The above information has been edited down from Keith Cole’s Wikipedia entry.

theBuzz is an official sponsor of Pride Toronto and RAID: Operation Soap.

Buddies In Bad Times Theatre presents
QUEER PRIDE 2016 (June 12 – July 3)
Festival Sponsor: TD Bank Group

Buddies celebrates Queer Pride with a month-long festival of theatre, comedy, art, music, and parties that feature the very best queer entertainers our community has to offer. Box Office 416-975-8555

Operation Soap was a highly organized simultaneous raid on four Toronto bathhouses and the catalyst for one of the most significant turning points in LGBT history. At 11pm on February 5, 1981, Metropolitan Toronto Police kicked-in walls, yelled obscenities and smashed through doors in a grotesque display of power intended to humiliate the men they found. TICKETS


About the Author

Raymond Helkio is an author, director filmmaker, and graduate of Ontario College of Art & Design. He currently lives in both Toronto and New York. His most recent play, LEDUC, is now available in paperback.