Thanks to the Hogtown Hepcats
We had GREAT breakfasts here every day!
Wednesday February 17, 1999
Our trip to Toronto began at about 6:00 in the morning when we departed for National Airport. Our Air Canada flight took off on time and in about two hours we were at our hotel, the Bond Place (65 Dundas St, E, 416-362-6061) On the way in, I spotted an Art Deco restaurant and memorized its coordinates. After unpacking (briefly) we headed out to the Senator (249 Victoria St, 416-364-7517), one of Toronto's oldest restaurants (founded 1929). The atmosphere and food were spectacular --- the owners not only make fantastic coffee, but they collect antique coffee paraphernalia. I had a wonderful time talking to the owner about percolators and vacuum pots.
In the Dundas Street Subway Station
Toronto has a wonderful public transportation system. A "Central Core" subway system is supplemented by a grid of surface trolleys and busses. You are never more than two blocks from public transport in any direction. You can buy a daily "flash pass" that allows unlimited riding. Fortunately, our hotel was just across the street from the Dundas Street Subway stop, so we were set.
Toronto's Subway stations are filled with art and the photo above is part of "Cross Section" (1984) by William McElcheran. During our visit, Mr. McElcheran passed away and we became more aware of his art. He focused on a character called "The Businessman". At first glance, it appears that his subject is a satirical look at the middle class, featuring an overweight middle-aged male with briefcase and Trilby hat. After some reflection, we have a lot more sympathy for The Businessman who makes life go on through his devotion to duty.
The Businessman again
Trials and Tribulations...
In "Cross Section" the Businessman encounters lifes difficulties. In this panel, he has inadvertently knocked over a lady's packages.
We spent the day riding the trolleys. When we saw something interesting (like vintage, antique, or thrift stores...) we would simply disembark, shop and get back on the trolley. Believe me, this is the way to comb out a city! One of the best places that we hit was Machine Age (692 Queen St, E., 416-461-3588) , a place that specializes in the kind of curiosities from the 30s and 40s that we feature on the website. If you like Art Deco and Streamline, you should definitely put this place on your "Must Visit" list.
The Bohemian Cafe
Peter and Friend
In the evening, we were the guests of Peter Renzland of the Hogtown Hepcats, the local Lindy group. Peter kindly volunteered to schlep us around for the evening. He has a "Volkswagen of Many Colors" --- with fenders, doors, and other panels of widely different colors. Peter says: "The car is made at the factory. the model is called Harlequin. There are a few hundred in North America, and very many in Europe." Anyway, you can't miss it!
Jody and Dan
Happy Birthday, Jody
We hit three hot swing venues. We started out at the Bohemian Cafe (128 Pears Avenue, 416-944-3550, cover $2 CA) This is a very warm and friendly place.
The dance floor was wood but had an odd slope to it; after a while, we got used to it and throughly enjoyed ourselves. Jody Glanzer, one of our regular readers and correspondents was celebrating her birthday and we arrived during her birthday dance-off. I think that I surprised her when my turn came up. Jody has the makings of a first class Lindy Hopper. We hope to get her down here some time.
This photo shows Jody the birthday girl with her main squeeze Dan "the machine" nicknamed so very early on for his enthusiasm for lindy hop not to mention his stamina.
Crowd at the Bohemian
The crowd at the Bohemian seemed to be very big on Lindy Hop. We saw these folks over an over again at the various venues that we visited.
The Killing Jive
A fine band!
A live band, the "Killin Jive" played jump blues taken largely from Louis Jordan and Louis Prima. Their card says: "Viper Tunes, swing, jump blues, and boogie hotter than a barbecue"
For booking, contact Kevin Philips at 905-949-2995.
Interior at Barcode
Check those candles...
Next, we hopped on over to Barcode (549 College Street, 416-744-1383, cover $5CA). This is an unusual place that has a terazzo floor. The lighting is candles set out all over the place. Very romantic, but you don't want to kick any of them over. "The Swing Gang" was playing, a larger band with full horn section. We thought they were very good.
Crowd at Barcode
Club hopping is very popular in Toronto
This is Jody, Dan, Shannon and Sue
40s Glam Queen
This photo catches Daniella making one of her funnier faces. She's Toronto's own blast from the past 40's star.
She started this...
Our whole interest in a trip to Toronto was piqued when we got a letter from Mandy describing the rising Lindy scene. We're sure glad that she contacted us!
Peter and Jacqui
Finally, the late-late night Lindy scene moves over to the Reservoir Lounge (52 Wellington St, E 416-955-0887, No Cover on Wednesday, $7CA on Tuesday and $5CA on Thursday)
Janice Hagan and Friends were playing and we were very much enamored of her vocal stylings. The place is very small and intimate. Although there is only a tiny dance floor, the quality of the music well made up for physical limitations. Besides, we had been going solid since six in the moring and (sort of) welcomed the opportunity to sit and listen for a bit.
This is a picture of the lovely and talented Janice Hagan with bass player Michael "Clean Head" Carson.
What a cutie!
This is Karen, an associate producer for TV Ontario. We spent some time talking with her about the Swing revival. She seemed to enjoy dancing and we hope she keeps up with it!
Janice Hagen Again
We really liked them!
We really stayed out too late, considering that the day had started at about 5:30 in the morning. However, the scene at the Reservoir Lounge was really just incredible.
The swing bands in Toronto have a wide number of interchangeable players. The fellow at the piano shown here turned up at the Court House on the next night playing a really hot trumpet.
At the end of the evening, we had a late night snack at the Tim Horton's Donut Shoppe just around the corner from our hotel. Those of you who don't know should be aware that Canada has zillions of donut shops. Tim Horton's (I think he was a hockey player or a cowboy or something) is the largest chain and has marvelous coffee. The quality of the donuts far exceeds anything we have here in the United States. For dancers, the Bond Place Hotel is ideally located for public access to all the dance venues and it has the added attraction of being next door to a 24 hr Tim Horton's. As I write, I am sipping coffee from a Tim Horton's mug that I picked up at a thrift store for about ten cents.
Daisy and Cory
Daisy taught the lesson...
Thursday February 18, 1999
We continued out visit to Toronto. This was an especially nice day --- the CNN report had it five degrees warmer in Toronto than in DC. We spent the day riding the streetcars, paying considerable attention to the large concentration of antique stores on West Queen Street. There seems to be a considerable amount of material from the 1930s and 1940s available. My partner was also able to find a noteworthy pice of antique dollhouse furniture; I found a double breasted suit coat from the 40s and a 1950s Countess Mara silk shirt with mother of pearl buttons.
Peter at the Court House
and a lovely young lady...
As we reached the end of the Queen Street West trolley line, we paid a visit to the Palais Royale, Toronto's equivalent of the Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo. Both are (were) the dance hall at the "End-of -Streetcar-Line" amusement park. Here in DC, the trolleys are gone; in Toronto, the trolleys remain. It appears that the Palais Royale is about the same size as the Spanish Ballroom. The place was locked, so we could not get in to compare the floor, etc.
Jake and the Blue Midnights
Yet another Hot Band
In the evening, Peter Renzland called for us in his VW of Many Colors and we began at The Court House (57 Adelaide St, 416-214-9379) . We met a number of very interesting folks, including Daisy who taught the lesson. Once again, there was a great live band, Jake and the Blue Midnights. They have a very polished jump blues style. Terry, their bass player remembered us from Barcode the night before and we had a great chat about the growth of Swing.
She designed it
We asked Daisy about her fantastic dress --- it was just perfectly suited for Swing. Daisy said that she and her mother made it specifically for Lindy, with an eye toward the 1940s.
More of Daisy
The Canadian Glynis...
Here is another view of Daisy's dress. This is a great thing --- perhaps we can get her to share the pattern with dancestore.com.
Gatekeeper at the Reservoir Lounge
The Court House closes early, so we headed back to the Reservoir Lounge where we were greeeted by Bradly, the friendly doorman. We seem to have made a big hit --- Brad liked the zoot suit and thought that I looked like Cab Calloway.
A Great Singer!
We really enjoyed the band, Alex Pangman and her Alley Cats. The crowd was very good --- although there is only a small dance floor, we were very pleased to see how the Toronto hepcats can manage space. After a short break, Bradly persuaded the band to do "Minnie the Moocher", and we were drafted into doing a solo. I hope that I did Cab to Bradly's satisfaction...
The Reservoir Lounge closes at about 2:00 am, and sadly, we left. We did, however, pay a visit to the all-night Tim Horton's (Check out www.timhortons.com, by the way...) As we enjoyed our coffee and donuts, my partner asked me why the place had suddenly filled with attractive young women that didn't seem to be dressed for the cold. I really didn't want to venture an opinion. Maybe they were out dancing, too.
The Pantages Theater
Friday February 19, 1999
We started our day in Toronto with breakfast at the Senator restaurant. When we walked across the street, we found ourselves in the middle of a parade. It seems that the Toronto Maple Leafs (hockey team) was moving from the old Maple Leaf Gardens (a fine art deco structure) to the new Air Canada Center.
It was a very nice parade of genuinely human scale: a marching band, trucks full of kids in hockey gear, the players in open cars, and three Zambonis.
We followed the parade for a while and found ourselves outside the newly restored Pantages Theater. A fellow was polishing the brass on the door and my partner persuaded him to let us in for a peep. The place is truly magnificent. As we poked around, we attracted the notice of a nice lady who seemed to be more than willing to engage us in conversation, especially after she heard that we were travelling dancers. (Lindy Hop seems to open a whole lot of doors) After discussing the history of the place, she mentioned that she was just about to release some half price tickets for the next day's performance of The Phantom of the Opera. After feigning discreet interest, she allowed that there might be a few seats available at an even deeper discount. We snapped them up...
From there, we headed to the Bata Shoe Museum (327 Bloor St. West 416-979-7799, check out www.batashoemuseum.com). We got interested in this based on a coffee table book on the subject of Shoes that Gay Shepardson has. Ladies, this is the place for you --- four huge floors devoted to nothing but shoes. We arrived in time for the unveiling of a new exhibit. It seems that Geri Halliwell ("Ginger Spice") had just donated several pairs of shoes to the museum. Good luck just seems to follow us around...
We spent the afternoon riding the trolleys , disembarking at all thrift stores and Italian bakeries. The Riviera Bakery (400 block of College Street West) has fresh Arancini --- a light fluffy pastry filled with sweetened ricotta and gently deep fried (they look like oranges). This was truly amazing! Our stops also yielded several ties, shirts, and several 1940s dresses.
At the Gala
Dan, Jody, Peter, my partner
However, as the evening rolled around, the business of the trip was at hand. Along with several Canadian couples, we were scheduled to perform at The Coldwell-Banker Awards Gala at the Westin Harbor Castle Hotel and Conference Center. Peter arrived at the appropriate time and we headed downtown to the Westin. We had no idea that this was going to be a GIGANTIC affair. When we got there, we found that we were seated at Table #1 (a little pressure, please...). We got a brief rundown on the script and got our cues as to when they wanted us to come out dancing. The large number of photographers and TV cameras were just a little bit scary.
Sue and Max
Great WCS Stylists
The Candian dancers were a mix of Peter's Hogtown Hepcats doing Lindy and Mike Wagner's Toronto Swing Dance Society doing West Coast. It was a very gregarious group. We did our very best to show the flag. I led a driveshaft, throwing my partner right toward a TV camera --- we hear that made the news. We worked all evening and had a very remarkable time. We'd certainly like to thank the folks at Coldwell Banker for the opportunity.
Temperature hit 102...
Saturday February 20, 1999
Saturday is apparently a slow day for Lindy Hop in Toronto. We spent the day riding the trolleys in search of Vintage and I hit the jackpot --- a whole man's blue pinstripe suit (coat and pants!) for $5 CA. It is almost a miracle that a whole suit would survive unscathed, particularly one with high waisted pants. Next, it is a miracle that it escaped the screening at the thrift store. This is a real treasure.
We had a fantastic dinner at Regina Ristorante (673 College St W.) in the heart of Little Italy. An excellent family restaurant with wonderful cooking. A very enjoyable experience.
And then it was time to see The Phantom of the Opera. We had a great time. It turns out that several patrons with front row seats had failed to show up at the performance. Our friend from the theater saw to it that we got to fill them. The chandelier came crashing down about three feet from my head. We had a brief apres-theater repast at Tim Horton's and went back to the hotel to enjoy a CBC festival of Agatha Christie films on TV.
Sunday February 21, 1999
We had a very nice flight back from Toronto and arrived to find DC in the icy grip of winter. It was much colder in DC than it was in Toronto! We'd like to thank Peter Renzland, Mandi Gould and Jody Glanzer for helping us have a fantastic time in Toronto!
Unfortunately, I caught the flu. My partner snapped this photo of me trying to get warm as my temperature hit 102...
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