lights camera sound actions | time-based contemporary art

Some Queen West history – mostly a re-post for FB

In Uncategorized on September 3, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Peter Pan staff Hils & Elizabeth probably 1978

I lived over Jacob’s Hardware (beside The Cameron) from 1975-1988 (with a hiatus in Vancouver 1980-82) and this post is about the 70s. I rented the third and fourth floors and the fourth floor was a dance studio for 2 or 3 years. Most of the “new  dance” community as well as the infant modern dance Dancemakers  rehearsed there in the mid-70s. Terry McGlade, colleague from 15 Dance Lab and Visus (video), lived on the second floor and got me in. The rent was really cheap and protected by provincial rent control. I thought making a profit was a capitalist crime and charged the dancers 35 cents an hour. I remember the Manager of Dancemakers (Mark Hammond, now the head of programming at Sony Centre) laughing at me when I raised the rent (in a nice way). He lived down the street just west of Augusta on the south side. When McGlade left, having married Sally Dundas from Montreal and soon to be of IMAX, I got Tanya Rosenberg (later Mars) in, it was a premium spot.

General Idea’s Art  Metropole moved from Yonge St. to Richmond and Duncan in the mid-70s  and CCMC opened The Music Gallery on St. Patrick St. just north of  Queen. The Centre for Experimental Art and Communications (CEAC) was on Duncan and the independent film organization, The Funnel, was in  its basement. Lots of artists lived in the lofts along Queen St. W. around Spadina  including John Scott, Peter McCallum,  Randy & Bernicci and many others. Before The Cameron we drank at The Beverley and occasionally The Rex Hotel or Horseshoe (speaking personally of course).  The Cabana Room of The Spadina Hotel was the original artists’ bar of area – I think it opened in 79 or 80, ask Susan Britton. There was The Paper Door of course. The Elephant Club was upstairs at the cormer of Queen and Spadina but was a very, very different scene; I crashed into it once and remember a pile of the white stuff about two feet high.

The restaurants were key to the scene and provided employment for visual artists, dancers and musicians. Peter Pan opened in the fall of 1976 and was the game-changer to hipsterism. General Idea’s Jorge Zontal and myself were amongst the first wait staff along with Hillary (forgive me Hillary but I cannot remember your surname), Fergus Hambleton and others including Hugh Poole who I married briefly. Dishes and Diodes musicians were on the floor – Ian Mackay, Scott Davey – and in the kitchen – Murray Ball was in the kitchen with a lovely man who committed suicide soon after opening The Blue Angel. Le Select opened up before The Peter Pan and was a hangout for theatre people including  many Montreal emigrés from Bill 101 who flooded Queen W. at a certain point and some opened the Soho Theatre on  the second floor in the building that later became The Rivoli. Around this time, the hippie Beggar’s Banquet changed to The Parrot and its  owners and chefs were the soon-to-be-superchefs Greg Couilliard and  Andrew Milne-Allen. The Clichettes and other dancers such as Irene Grainger (early NOW photographer) formed most of the wait staff.

See The Toronto Star article, “A new village lures the creative crowd”, Saturday, June 125, 1977 by Bruce Kirkland for lots more including the inevitable dire warnings about gentrification – even back then! Me, I got my official eviction notice the very day Le Chateau opened. Perfect.

For more on the “new dance” artists turned performance artists, see my essay, “Asserting Our Bodies”, Caught in the Act: an anthology of performance art by Canadian women, ed. Tanya Mars & Johanna Householder, YYZ Editions, 2004

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