THE 150-YEAR-OLD ST. CHARLES CLOCKTOWER IS A SURVIVOR & COULD BE STANDING FOR 150 MORE

Whatever’s left on the west side of Yonge St. from College to Grenville is on the endangered species list – even though it’s now part of a heritage conservation district. But . . . Fire Hall #3’s clock tower has been given a new lease on life.

<ABOVE – the clock tower in 2017; the street level small businesses have all been demolished.>

<ABOVE – the clock tower in 2018>

The elegant little tower lives on. It will soon be incorporated into the podium of a 38-storey condo tower named Halo Residences by architectsAlliance.

<PHOTO – west side of Yonge Street between College St. and Grenville, ca1950’s>

Built in 1872, the structure has a checkered career from fire station to auto tire emporium to hotel to Canada’s largest gay dance hall, restaurant and tavern. In 1939 a fire destroyed the whole building, but the little tower survived.

In 1955 millionaire horse breeder CHARLES HEMSTEAD opened the Oriental Room, serving Chinese and Canadian food.  Soon it went decidedly gay. After he died in 1961, the building hosted a variety of clubs and discos – the Empire, Time, Tower, Circus, Maygay, Charly’s and Y-Not – until 1992. The clock, perpetually stuck, became a monument to gay culture in TORONTO.

“Meet me under the clock” was a summons for gay community events, cruising and a night out.

<PHOTO – the clock tower in the 1950’s; foreground future site of the Westbury Hotel, which itself could be demolished soon.>

Hallowe’en nights in the sixties and seventies attracted huge crowds – up to 5,000 – on the sidewalk opposite, hoping to catch a glimpse of a drag queen or an exotic dancer – many of whom were pelted with eggs.

VIMEO video – http://www.queerstory.ca/project/st-charles-tavern/

<The Survivor – standing tall on Yonge Street, 1872 – 2018>

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TORONTO HAS BEEN A MAJOR PRODUCTION CENTRE FOR KIDS’ TELEVISION – SINCE AT LEAST THE 1960’S

<POLKAROO from Polka Dot Door, TVOntario>

For decades, children around the world have been watching television produced in TORONTO. From the days of DeGrassi and TVO’s Polka Dot Door, to the CBC’s new Studio K, animators, writers, directors and producers have been turning out quality kids’ television series.

<KID’S DAY/2018 at the CBC Broadcasting Centre, July 18/2018>

Among the players – CORUS Entertainment, which envelopes YTV and Nelvana

Independent production companies such as Sinking Ship and Radical Sheep.

Broadcast pioneers – the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and TVOntario, known for the daily CBC Kids and TVO Kids.

Mr. Rogers got his start at the CBC. In the 1960’s he appeared for the first time, on camera, in an early Canadian prototype for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Goosebumps, The Big Comfy Couch, Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock were all made at least partially in TORONTO. So are today’s Annedroids, Paw Patrol & Super Why.

CENTENNIAL COLLEGE is home to a children’s media program – the only one of its kind in Canada. The college hosts the 7-year-old Children’s Entertainment and Media Centre for research on kids’ tv content. Centennial’s NATE HOROWITZ says “(Canadian) products tend to be not-so-much sweet cereal-driven or consumer-driven . . . and I think that’s what the industry here is about.”

A POD OF GALLERIES HAS ASSEMBLED AROUND LISGAR PARK – IN TORONTO’S QUEEN ST. W. NEIGHBOURHOOD

The Propeller Gallery at 30 Abell Street is now over 20 years old, and is one of TORONTO’s longest standing artist collectives. Exhibitions here change every two or three weeks – and feature work by both members and artists who are not members.
To keep up to date on what’s happening at Propeller go to https://www.propellerctr.com

The Modern TORONTO is a new gallery focusing on abstract painting and sculpture. It’s located at 68 Abell Street and shows great art not commonly seen in Canadian museums. The layout of the gallery itself is quite amazing, and makes excellent use of an elongated space.

Works by JIRI LADOCHA (‘Architectonics’) are now on The Modern’s concrete walls. Website – http://www.themoderntoronto.ca

The Helen and Walter Zwig Foundation Collection, also at 68 Abell Street. This TORONTO couple, both now deceased, had a taste for adventure – which led them by sailboat to Europe, the US, the South Pacific and Central America. They circumnavigated the globe, often alone.
Their gallery features work drawn entirely from their collection. The Zwig family is planning to update exhibits on a regular basis.

Website – https://www.zwigcollection.ca/

Craft Ontario specializes in Canadian-made art of all kinds, is now open at a new address – 1106 Queen Street West, not far from the Drake Hotel. Legally known as the Ontario Crafts Council, this is a member-based, not-for-profit organization based in TORONTO.
Website – https://www.craftontario.com/

Across Lisgar Park with its cafe and bar – THE THEATRE CENTRE, 1115 Queen Street West.  It invests in ideas, nurtures artists, presents new work and new ways of working. The company provides space, mentorship and exposure to writers and actors – and presents a year-round programming schedule.
Website – http://www.theatrecentre.org

And there’s LISGAR PARK itself. Opened in 2017 it’s TORONTO’s newest park. Not to everyone’s taste, the park features a well-used playground for kids, and adds much-needed public space for a high-rise community.
As well there are canopy trees, sculptural seats and planting areas, along with a grid of ‘art poles’ providing night lights <PHOTO ABOVE>.

TORONTO’S ANTIDOTE TO “SQUARESVILLE” FROM 1975-1989 WAS QUEEN ST. W. – THE REBEL ZONE

In the early seventies Queen Street West streetcars rattled by some of TORONTO’s oldest and funkiest low-rise buildingsThe apartments above the stores were run-down, inhabited by derelicts, and dirt cheap. Surrounding low-rise office & sewing factory buildings were often used for no more than storage.

Artists and students at the nearby Ontario College of Art (now OCADU) moved into these rundown apartments and illegal loft spaces in which they could perform and work.  They set in motion funky theatres, grungy warehouse lofts, and an odd assortment of legal and illegal after-hours bars (booze cans) and salons, as well as venues for art bands, reggae groups and performance events.

<THE CLICHETTES, a famous Queen Street performance troop>

Human rights, racism, censorship, cultural diversity, feminism, homophobia, and nuclear disarmament were rising as the political issues of the day.

<THE BODY POLITIC and FIREWEED, two long-lasting publications from the era>

An electric feeling was in the air. The Rebel Zone was a perfect breeding ground for Do It Yourself culture. Living in the pre-internet era meant events were communicated by posters, handouts and in person. This led to an intersection of ideas, art, politics and music, creating an atmosphere of fearless creativity.

<The popular BAMBOO Club.  It kept on going for decades.>

<MOSES ZNAIMER introduced music videos to Canadian television on Citytv, Queen Street West>

This era of sexual and political rebellion (resulted in) countless benefit events that dotted the nighttime landscape throughout the city.  The Horseshoe Tavern was known for its punk rock concerts.

<THE CLICHETTES seemed to be everywhere.>

<GENERAL IDEA, a gift to the world of art and sculpture – to this day.>

QUOTES from an essay by LORRAINE SEGATO – singer, songwriter, filmmaker, social justice activist & then-resident of The Rebel Zone. IMAGES are from a 2016 exhibition by YTB (pop-up) Gallery.

WITH A MUNICIPAL ELECTION ON THE HORIZON, WHAT HAS TORONTO’S MAYOR, JOHN TORY, BEEN DOING?

– restored adult decorum to City Hall after four years of Rob Ford’s chaos
– negotiated with the taxi industry and legalized Uber
– welcomed the first Lyft ride program outside the United States to the city
– sped up the rebuilding of the Gardiner Expressway project

– introduced raccoon-proofed green garbage bins
– got $150-million from the province to plan a Downtown Relief Subway Line
– endorsed a controversial one-stop Scarborough subway extension

– delivered the Bloor Street separated bike lanes after every survey imaginable
– repaved and/or added bike lanes to Richmond, Adelaide, Woodbine & Wellington Streets
– first time that I can remember – Montreal, Vancouver & Toronto, Canada’s three largest metropoli, have begun working together to solve mutual problems
reduced transit fares for people on the Ontario Disability Support Program; free rides for kids under 12; restored suburban bus services cut by the Ford administration
– initiated the King streetcar transit pilot project to speed up commutes – an immediate hit with riders, not so much with business owners

– kept residential property taxes below the rate of inflation (2% increase) – lowest in the Greater Toronto Area
– launched the Open Door program as an incentive to developers to build affordable housing
– increased funding for the rent supplement program
– marched every year with city councilors in the Pride Parade
streamlined Invest Toronto, Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance & city’s economic development division
– doubled the number of companies in Partnership to Advance Youth Employment (PAYE)
– kept his promise to keep Toronto Hydro a public institution

– promoted towing & ticket blitzes for traffic lane blockers
introduced full-time traffic wardens & a bike lane policing brigade
– shepherded first stage of The Bentway Skating Trail under the Gardiner through council
– supported Safe Injection sites for those addicted
– developed a climate change plan

– successfully passed city budgets with a minimum of council fights
kept his promise to hold at least one weekly press conference
– appears monthly on a CP24 television call-in show
championed the tech, film, and television industries

– developed good rapport with Prime Minister Trudeau & an on-and-off good rapport with Premier Kathleen Wynne

In a year-end interview with The Toronto Star, Mayor Tory has promised to work more closely with downtown councillors if he’s re-elected in 2018.  He’s proven himself a consensus builder who doesn’t go too far left or too far right – but in his first term he often seemed more allied with right-leaning suburban councillors.

Downtowners voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Tory in the previous election.  If history repeats itself, residents of the city’s core will no doubt expect their priorities will be among his priorities.

A TSUNAMI OF SELF-INFLICTED WOUNDS HITS PRIDE TORONTO – THE MONEY POT IS DRYING UP

They shouldn’t have done it, but they did. Pressured by ‘politically correct’ demonstrators, PRIDE TORONTO decreed that police cars, police floats and uniformed officers would be banned from the Pride Parade, beginning in 2018.

The result: donations & corporate sponsorships year over year have plunged; last year’s SURPLUS of about $1-million fell, creating a DEFICIT of $500,000; revenue from donations and fundraising dropped from $758,015 in 2016 to $106,565 in 2017; corporate sponsorships fell from $2,269,180 in 2016 to $1,506,804 in 2017.

This is a huge blow to a relatively small, but important organization, which means a lot to the LGBTQ community in particular, and the citizenry at large. The Pride Parade is a highlight of the year, and a huge money-maker for the City of TORONTO and businesses large and small. Fumbling it in this way is both regrettable – and unacceptable.