Wasn't it called the Imperial Room at the Royal York? Never did see a concert there, before my time, but know many who did.
Wasn't it called the Imperial Room at the Royal York? Never did see a concert there, before my time, but know many who did.
Yes it was,more like a supper club than a concert hall,in fact I used to give the odd song in the downstairs bar. There were so many piano bars in town, all us (young then) queens singing show tunes what else. Lascelles Blvd was the apartment hotspot for gays to live the apts were lovely and reasonable. Its like some of the bars I forget the names of. I loved the free concerts held at Ontario Place, had some top names appearing.
Last edited by Torontovibe; 2011-Oct-13 at 16:06.
I'm just talking with a friend here.
He remembers that the bar on Hayden was called "Rawhide", and that originally it may have had a Golden Griddle in the basement. The bar kept the carpet when they moved in, which gave the place the undertone of sausages and pancakes - and grease. It didn't last long.
"Stages" was up above the Parkside - where Sobey's is now. It might have been one of Toronto's late-night bars for dancing that stayed open until 6a.m. Monday mornings. This was in the days when serving alcohol stopped 11pm. On Sundays, it was even earlier - or was it that there was a window between 7pm and 11pm? Anyway, it was pretty limited.
"Soltero's" was a ill-omened place with a dubious reputation. It was subject of hushed whispers and sideways glances. No young queen that I was with would go near it, and on one knew anyone who had ever gone in. It was just down the laneway from Chaps between Isabella and Gloucester. You had enter off the laneway through the back. Apparently at one point there was a murder there - a gun, and they never caught the guy.
There was also the Chez Moi - my first gay bar in Toronto and a bit of a hallucination. It was rather dykey - I remember being cowed by a large, handsome woman who was doing security watch. This was also the time of "The Rose" on Parliament - not the friendliest place to go if you were a guy. You'd only get in with a lesbian pal, and even then were subject to unpleasant glances.
"Lipstick" on Parliament was across from "The Rose" and just up the street towards Wellesley. It closed then re-opened as 'The Women's Common'. (I think). Lipstick was fun because it was a dessert and coffee place after you got out from the bars.
Myself, Komrads was my big coming out bar, with Chaps right next door. Komrads had a fantastic stainless steel sprung dance floor which let you twirl faster than anywhere else. There was a little cafe downstairs where we used to get grub when stumbling out after attempting to Vogue, and watch the crowds go by. Chaps was fun. They made brief foray into being a country and western bar for awhile.
The old Barn was a riot. My first trip there was when it was still a leather bar. I went in and out in about five minutes...in, oh, 1989. The whole place was creaky, smoky, dirty, dark, tumbledown and completely unpretentious. Everything about it was kind of wrong - from the ill-positioned black light that showed off your dandruff, to the wretched kitchen that served terrible food behind the coat check. It had a funny little sex shop that opened right into the stairway that took you to the main (middle) floor. Great if you needed to grab a cockring or a dildo on your way in or out. Rumour was that they made their own real poppers in the basement. If that was true, it's a miracle the place didn't explode. The place was a terrible firetrap. Apparently, one drag queen that got fired returned in a huff, and was lighting strips of newspaper in one of the open fireplaces that unbelievably still existed - and was dropping the flaming bits of paper into a hole in the wall in an attempt to level the joint.
Every Pride the entire floor would bounce. I was always convinced the place was about to collapse in a cloud of wigs, roaches, dust, screams and popper bottles.
It had a ground-floor bar, too. Le Cavalier's also known as Lay Cadavers. That where the grampires hung out to drink because they couldn't move their legs to get up the narrow staircases. With it's underpopulated back-of-the-bar dance floor, it was one of the last holdouts of fan dancing seen in Toronto.
Everyone smoked, and ventilation was an exotic rumour. The air was blue. The bars had air quality that would shame the ugliest foundries in the country.
Trax was haunted. Literally and figuratively. A former children's funeral parlour, if you can believe it. It never shook the reputation, or the air. It did have two split-level decks out back that had a good Sunday tea dance, but no one willingly hung out in the front section, with it's chapel-like coffered ceiling and it's large gothic windows.
There was also "Showbiz" in the now-burnt down Empress Hotel, and "Cornelius" at Dundonald and Yonge - right above a straight rock and roll bar.
There was a bar at Jarvis and King owned by George Pratt..."The Albany".
There was also 18 East, later, The Toolbox out on Eastern Ave. Quite a ways to go, and a really intense leather bar. Right next door to the local chapter of the Hell's Angels.
"Hotel California" was just south of Gerrard and Jarvis, in the old brick building (just recently stuccoed) just a few doors down. It was in the basement, and had a really low ceiling that you would hit your head on if you were over 6'4". It was usually packed - and this is when that corner was a wasteland. One of the hotels on Jarvis briefly had a gay bar in it too, called "The Carriage House" that was closing when my friend got here.
Last edited by CanadianNational; 2011-Oct-14 at 18:31.
Stages was also fun too. I miss the old Tool Box and 18 East. I had some crazy nights there. Now those were the days!
Last edited by Torontovibe; 2011-Oct-15 at 00:41.
I came out in 1979. My brother and his friends (homophobes then, but not at all today) were teens. They used to laugh about calling 923-gays. I got curious and when I was alone called it. Couldn't believe my ears. Found out there was a group called Gay Youth Toronto. Called a number of times and spoke to some guy, forgot his name (heard he passed away early). He invited me down to their office on Hayter Street I think it was (the street east off of Yonge across from College Park)...I finally got up the nerve to go down one Saturday evening. The guy wasn't there, but another guy named Rob was. He invited me to join him to go to the Manatee. I can still remember being incredibly nervous and walking in. The big muscled guy with the hairlip looked at me and asked me for I.D.!!! Guess I looked under 14, lol. I can remember walking in and down the stairs and getting my first look inside.....I freaked....the mishmash of disco lights/fog machine/go go boys ....and guys dancing with guys! I turned and started walking back up the stairs. Rob grabbed me and asked why I was leaving. I told him I worked for a bank (at the time)..and I was sure the place had to be illegal and would get raided and then I would lose my job. He convinced me to stay. I still remember the characters that were regulars and the nicknames we had for them. My mom's neighbour was in the navy...gorgeous guy. I'd met him at Christmas two years prior. He and his boyfriend (not known to me at the time) got me drunk on Southern Comfort that Christmas when I was 16. I never saw him again.....until that first night at the Manatee. My first night out anywhere...I'm standing with Rob on the stairs watching the start of the after midnight drag show (which freaked me out as well) and the Navy guy walks by....stares at me for a moment and moves on. The place was packed. I turned to Rob and said "I have to leave". He asked why and I explained. He insisted I talk to Navy guy. I said absolutely not. Just then, Navy guy (Michael) walked by again and grabbed me by the waist (I was 5'8", 130 lbs and he was 6'1", 200 muscled lbs)....and looked me right in the eye and said..."What took you so long?" LOL...We laughed about that for years. I begged him not to tell his mom. He said he wasn't out either and had no intention of it. There was so much fear of what being "discovered" would do to your family/work relationships.
Around 1980, there was a shortlived bar called "Tanks" on Church Street. I remember walking in and there was mesh netting hanging from the ceiling with army helmets lodged in it. "Boots" originated in the basement of the old Waldorf-Astoria Hotel (not to be confused with the Waldorf Hotel in New York by ANY stretch of the imagination...this hotel was a dump) on Charles St. with very low ceilings and smokey......which is now a condominium. When it was at the Waldorf...I still remember that Sheena Easton's "My Baby Takes the Morning Train" was the huge hit at the time...people played it endlessly on the jukebox....after a short time, Boots moved to to the Selby Hotel. It was weird when it first moved there as the bar at the Selby had been an old straight tavern kind of place. When it went gay, they kept the old timers who had worked it as a straight place....there was one dark haired older woman (Sylvia, I think) who was one of the originals...great lady...the guys who worked there (for only a short time) were straight old timers who had no idea how to react to, let alone treat all these gay guys in their midst, haha. Rick Stenhouse (who owned Crispins took it over...asked me what he should do with the patio...I said you need foliage and a fountain/waterfall...he put it in!) There was a bar that opened in Yorkville for a very short time, as well...but it's name escapes me. It was a big deal at the time because it seemed the gay community was moving north. The Manatee was a favourite of mine for a few years (it reincarnated as a couple different places after that...none really as successful)...I was only 18 when I came out and looked 14...it was the only place I could get into. Craig Russell showed up one night and performed...I didn't know who he was. As he breezed by me, I said to my partner at the time, "Who the hell was that?" A short time later, Craig came by again and looked me right in the eye and said "It sure as hell ain't Jim Bailey, hon!" lol. I was a very youthful, boyish, clean cut kid in those days....bars like 18East (later the Toolbox) and the Barn scared the crap out of me. I was afraid of leather guys....the movie "Cruising" with Al Pacino had just come out....I thought they were all killers lol. I managed to get into Katrina's once while underage.....I thought I'd died and gone to heaven....straight/gay crowd and the lighting/dance floor and atmosphere made me think of my favourite movie at the time "Saturday Night Fever". I was curious about the Bathhouse scene....so went down to the Richmond Street Baths....it closed after the raids due to severe damage by the cops. I remember it as being quite nice inside, actually. My step dad was a cab driver in his young days. He is a very gay positive man today. He loves to regale me with stories about picking up drag queens in his cab and going to Letro's (Nile Room was downstairs...way before my time) or the Ford Hotel (Atrium on Bay), again before my time. He was a muscular goodlooking boxer back then.....you can imagine the offers he got to "party" from the drag queens, lol. I was at...I think...the first or second Pride Day right after the raids....it was a few hundred people at Grange Park...felt more like a picnic where you either knew people or recognized them....today's Pride is not interesting anymore. I miss making a production of getting ready to go out....heading out around 11 and having a great time dancing to throbbing disco in gay discos....knowing that if you gave someone the eye...they'd probably look back. That's how people met...there were no gay phonelines or internet sites. That being said...there was this weird thing called "phone loops". A friend of mine introduced me to it. They were some kind of test numbers used by Bell that you dialed into, if you knew them. You would end up in blank air space almost like the old "party lines". It was strange/exciting and useless. All you heard was voices saying hello to each other. I guess some people met up through them, I never did. Even though I went to the gym back then because I was an athlete in training....people didn't make it a point of going to "beef up". I was in great shape not to attract people, but rather because my career as an athlete demanded it. I was attracted to all body/age types...actually I preferred guys 10 years or so my senior...wasn't really into people my age (early 20's). People would like my body, but I didn't get that. People would laugh at my humour and enjoy my company...that I did get. Life seemed so much more simple and straightforward, then. If I have memories of anything else...I'll post. Hope that this helps in some way.
Last edited by ceaz40; 2011-Oct-15 at 02:41.
Just remembered...there was Maloney's for a short while...across from Women's College Hospital...big straight bar that went gay....dance place. There was also, The Bloor Street Diner when it was on Bloor (coffee and dessert after the clubs), The Cafe New Orleans corner of Yonge/St. Nicholas, and an all night donut shop on west side of Yonge just south of Wellesley, Crispins Restaurant with Buddies?? downstairs. Also, there was the bathhouse on Bay Street south of Wellesley called The Romans. There was a "Lisboa a Noite"...you went upstairs ...it was on Dundas in Little Portugal...didn't last long. You went upstairs to what looked like you'd been invited into a rec room of a Portuguese household. Neighbours in Roncesvalles tell me about when there was a gay bar for a short time in what is now Hugh's Room. Not sure if this is applicable...but there was a gay bar on Lakeshore in Port Credit for a while, in the early 1990's....tacky, but fun....it originated as "Buttons" and then became "Go West".
Just on a side note...this was before my time...mid 70's...but there was a bar down the alley beside the Manatee....you had to go upstairs ...I think it was called David's....it was shortly before my time, so never went. I also heard from older friends about "Studio" at Church and Carlton I think.
Last edited by ceaz40; 2011-Oct-15 at 02:21.
Last edited by ceaz40; 2011-Oct-15 at 02:46.
Re: CanadianNational -
Soltero's was the only bar I ever got booted from. A group of us went there late one afternoon, our first time there. It was a rather unremarkable small warehouse type space with a crappy sound system and a pool table at the south end that was a bit higher than the rest of the bar, we had a few drinks, time flew and it started to get busy. Someone came around and started asking for ID, I was of age but didn't have my driver's license on me so they asked me to leave. I got mouthy because we were all in agreement that they wanted our money when it was dead but once it got busy they didn't need our money anymore. Suddenly I got grabbed from behind and dragged to the back stairwell (the entrance). I got mouthy again with the doorman and suddenly got thrown down the first flight of stairs and was told not to come back. I got hurt, twisted my leg and was off work for about a week. Memories!
Lipstick was also a great place to eat late at night after 'last call' (1am back in those days). They had a great "Mayo Burger" and fries with (gasp!) more Mayonnaise for dipping.
Chez Moi was on Hayden Street downstairs. An old school friend of mine & I went there after a movie, she was managing a Laura Secord store at the time. We were having fun, dancing, everyone was friendly and she ended up running into her District Manager there. My friend was straight (now a 'Born-Again') but there were some very awkward moments that night so we finally left about an hour later and found fun elsewhere.
I went to Rawhide a few times, I had forgot the name of it until you mentioned it. I heard George Hislop had some money in that place, he was always there too. It was kind of dumpy though and seemed to have low ceilings. Nothing really ever "happened" there unless you played video games, pinball or shoot pool so we didn't go much.
Komrads was my all time favorate bar. It was open late on weekends (4am?), had the biggest dance floor and the absolute best sound and lighting system. We always had fun there. The last time I saw Divine was when he performed at Komrads around 1985.
Katrinas/Colby's/Club Colby's was, along with Boots, our favorate, regular watering hole. Friendly, good dance floor, great DJ's (Boots too), great bar staff/waiters and our group always had a blast there. So many fun, great memories there.
Downstairs at the St. Charles was very rustic and run down with old tables, worn "wall couches" and chairs much like what you'd find at the Rex Tavern on Queen W. The clientele was generally a mix of older gentlemen and hustlers. Up the beautiful, wide, grand staircase to the second floor is where it all happened and was the place to be. It had a really good sound & lighting system, pool tables, a couple of dance floors, was very modern with lots of mirrors/mirrored wallpaper (can't really remember) with lots of neon and was really friendly. Quite a contrast between the two floors. I always used the back door in the alleyway, I guess it was the reputation of the place.
Boots & Buds at the Selby, legendary.
Chaps - the only place with some attitude at the time (upstairs), but I still went regularly with friends and met my 2nd partner of 13 years there.
There was a place on lower Church, maybe around Queen? It was upstairs. Can't remember the name of it but had some good times there too.
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Wow - great posts guys.
It was a different atmosphere - a different world in all sorts of ways - between then and now.
The sense of the Church Street village as being a safe zone has become normalized and diffused. The sense of the bars being the safehouses has changed, along with the feeling of the weekends being uncommonly sacred, because that's when you could leave the 'straight' world. In an era where hockey mobs still walked up Church Street, ducking into the door of a bar was like entering another world. The weekends had marked stages to them, since every moment counted, and all the action would be happening at the bars - which were a bit like defacto community centres, and circus all at once. The drag queens would preside as paradoxical public community leaders - an important function that's been watered way down since legal equality and the internet began spreading things out and away from the village.
Phone trees - I dimly remember them. My friend used them a lot.
I remember house parties were a much bigger deal at the time. It was a way of finding your way (or being taken into) a group of friends. It was also a way of sizing people up, and meeting up in a fun, personable way outside of the din of the bars. The bars and scene had a different emphasis on being social then. Going home with someone might lead to a house party or tea dance (after brunch, gossip and looking around to see who's with who) the next day at where you could meet their friends.
You had to go meet and talk to people to hook up with them, by and large. That took time, and had a different pace to it - unless you just wanted to hang out in the shrubs somewhere! People noticed each other. The word got around the bars pretty quickly, too, if someone was a bad apple.
I was glad to see Voula from Brother's mentioned in a different post. Brother's was one of those bruch places where everyone went for a hangover breakfast and to see who was with who, and nod and say hi. I don't think the interior had ever been renovated since it opened.
I can't speak for the kids now, but I think the intensity was different. A lot of fear, from HIV, inequality and prejudice - and bonding together. A lot of pride, fury, and hard-won happiness. The intense pleasures of a participating in a real 'secret world' - though that had a lot of pitfalls, too. There was a better connection between the lesbians and the gay folk. Rough Trade on the radio, and Divine in the bars. It was pretty wild.
Last edited by CanadianNational; 2011-Oct-15 at 16:59.
Wow great stories!!! I missed out on the 60s & 70s. For me being gay in the 90s wasn't really all that exciting lol I remember when i was a teen watching a Prince music video on TV when my Dad said that Prince reminds me of a " black gay guy" who performed around Toronto in the 60s. My dad couldn't think of the guys name but he did say he was one hell of a performer and was openly gay and very androgynous which was a rarity back then. My Dad saw this guy perform at the bluenote and " some old hotel bar". He said this black guy attracted a lot of "gays" to the shows but straight guys didn't care! they were all there for the music. Keep in mind this was the early to mid 60s!
I always wondered who hell my dad was talking about until i watched the Bravo! documentary "Yonge Street - Toronto Rock & Roll Stories" they featured Jackie Shane, a black androgynous R&B singer who played the Empress Hotel and Bluenote in the 1960s!
What a rebel!! An androgynous glam artist 10 yrs before it became a Rock Music fad