Par le 19 July 2017
Rose Ouellette, better known to Québécois people as the queen of the burlesque La Poune, was born in Faubourg Québec (now the Village) in 1903. She performed during the glory days of the Théâtre National, the oldest theatre still in operation in the neighbourhood and located on the corner of Sainte-Catherine and Beaudry. This was the golden age of the burlesque, before the arrival of television, and La Poune, with her rugged, masculine voice and sailor’s hat, quickly became a legend. It was Olivier Guimond who taught her the trade and nicknamed her La Poune so that it would rime with his own stage name Ti-Zoune. The duo became a huge success in Montréal, as well as in Québec and Ottawa.
In 1928, Rose Ouellette became the director of the Théâtre Cartier in St-Henri and formed a burlesque troupe that included Juliette Pétrie, who was her partner for many decades. After eight years at the helm of the Théâtre Cartier, Rose Ouellette became the director of the Théâtre National and consequently, the first woman in North America to have directed two theatres. She attained national celebrity status and achieved great success. During 17 years, crowds would line up at the entrance of the theatre. La Poune’s opening theme song “C’est d’la faute à poupa” delighted the public night after night, and she would then present new, major talents such as Alys Robi. Every great burlesque actor of that generation performed on the Théâtre National’s stage, among them Manda Parent, Paul Desmarteaux, Juliette Huot, Olivier Guimond Jr., Jacques Normand, Léo Rivest and many others.
Rose Ouellette left the Théâtre National in 1953 and spent a few seasons touring across Québec with Jean Grimaldi’s troupe. Audiences would have to wait until the 60’s before Québec’s bourgeoning television and film industries got over their prejudice and began casting Rose Ouellette in sitcoms and movies. She performed for another 20 years and remained the darling of Québec’s burlesque world up until Gilles Latulippe’s last moments on stage at the Théâtre des Variétés, after which she retired at the ripe old age of 90, just three years before she passed away. After a short marriage and the birth of a daughter, Ouellette always remained discreet about her love life, but many would say that she was the first lesbian to make her mark in what would later become the Gay Village.
She was awarded the Ordre national du Québec in 1990.