Opinion
7 min

Deep Dish: March 2015

Rolyn hops, skips and jumps to four wild events

Viking Camp
Sat, Feb 28
The Beaver 

Throughout history, there have been many armies that have inspired fetish fantasies for many modern gay men; the Vikings are probably tops on many lists. Big, brawny brutes that wear lots of fur and carry dangerous sex toys on their heads? Yes please. It makes perfect sense that this anticipated Cub Camp Vikings party at The Beaver pays homo homage to the nautical Norsemen of ill repute.

It’s also a great excuse for party organizer and DJ Scooter McCreight to show off his lily-white ass in his homemade, fun fur jockstrap. Considering how cold it was in Scandinavia, I’m sure true Vikings wore fur-lined leather pants over their real fur undies . . . but any excuse to see more Queen West guys half-naked in a bar is a plan I can get behind.

And I can also get behind many a guy tonight, including one wearing a construction hat with paper horns taped on. A modern twist on Viking lore, perhaps. Charles Pavia and companion chose to go the raver route in matching neon pink and blue fur Viking hats, while Artin perhaps got his warriors confused but still looks mighty fine as a Roman gladiator.

Then there’s musician and guest DJ for the night Landan Brawley AKA Frustra who perhaps is channelling the bones of a long dead Viking as he takes over the DJ booth in full skull face paint. Frustra, by the way, has been getting lots of attention, downloads and play off his latest single, “Break Apart,” on EDM.com and Soundclound. Tonight as a treat we are privy to this track. It’s like a siren song, luring us pseudo-Vikings to the dance floor.

TOM (Toronto Men’s Fashion Week)
444 Yonge St

Fri, Feb 27

Throughout history, there have been numerous famous Toms that have piqued our interest: Apostle Tom, Tom Sawyer, Thomas Jefferson, Tom Cruise and, my personal favourite, Tom of Finland. Like the Vikings, the latter Tom (and its creator) emerged from a country of snow and ice. From Toronto, in the middle of one the coldest February days on record, Toronto Men’s Fashion Week (known affectionately as TOM) has done in two seasons what other more established fashion events are still striving to do. With an army of fashion groupie volunteers, the event has managed to come off as slick as Toronto Fashion Week while also, at times, remaining as edgy as Toronto’s Alternative Fashion Week (FAT). The mix of these two elements is very important. Toronto Fashion Week, with its big budgets and history, tends to showcase more established designers who — for the most part — seek the safe, marketable route. FAT, meanwhile, is more artistic, eclectic and street smart, and sometimes comes across as a showcase for dreams. While marketable goods bring in big sponsors, they often put me to sleep. Dreams, on the other hand, don’t always sell, so sponsorship can be sparse and a grand production isn’t always possible.  

With founder Jeff Rustia’s extensive work in the PR, branding and marketing, the sponsors have been wooed and won at an early stage. And because “Lil’ Tommy” is still in its infancy, it’s populated with newer designers. One of these designers is 36-year-old Pedram Karimi.

It’s a packed house inside this new event space at 444 Yonge St. Born in Iran and raised in Austria, Karimi studied in the UK before heading to Montreal to complete his fashion education at LaSalle College. Comparisons and growth are one of the things we look for when weighing collections. Last season, Karimi left off with free flowing, androgynous, unisex tunics. Worn over shorts or worn alone, the tunics’ hems were unfinished and sometimes frayed, but the deconstructed structure was signature. In this new collection, his cuts are sharper, closer to the body and display more structure, but his signature androgynous, loose fits are still evident. Showing directly after Karimi and closing the official shows is Christopher Bates, another returning favourite. His collection was a total 180 in contrast to Karami’s collection in every sense of the word, which is what keeps TOM interesting. Bates is very much about the structured and tailored man. Personally, I’m more of a fan of his impeccable suits; it comprised the majority of his collection last season. This season, he focuses more on casual wear. I’m not sure if it was worth showing. Much of it, including tapered pants with exposed zippers, looks like anything you would find at any big box retailer. Like Zellers. I was tempted to put away my camera. Aside from that let down, my camera happily caught two eye-opening, head-scratching, knee-slapping sights that night. One was Robin Kay, founder and former head of Toronto Fashion Week, being escorted to her seat by a male friend. 

If they played the Benny Hill theme during this circus of confusion, it would have made for an amusing YouTube video. The second moment was the sight of TOM founder Jeff Rustia giving a very long speech in an odd Kid Rock-styled wig, two-toned Mountie hat and “David Bowie meets Lady Gaga” makeup. Last season I wrote, “With all the controversy that surrounds the launch of TOM, Toronto Men’s Fashion Week, one wonders if executive director Jeff Rustia will become the male Robin Kay. If he keeps his head clear and glass empty, he might escape such comparisons.” But tonight, with this look, I’m comparing.

Rupaul’s Drag Race Battle of the Queens After-Party
Fri, Feb 27

Fly Nightclub

After the official Toronto show at Danforth Music Hall, we decide to sashay into Fly to meet up with some of the Rupaul’s Drag Race alumni. For some odd reason I assume they will all still be in drag. But like any job that requires a uniform of sorts, you put away your apron and don your street clothes when you aren’t working. And to many, drag is a job. Considering I’ve only ever seen the show a handful of times, it should come as no surprise that I had no idea who anyone is, especially out of drag. Imagine my surprise when I ask, a bit too loudly, where they all were . . . only to be told, in hushed whispers, that they are literally standing on both sides of me. Other than Alaska Thunderfuck 5000, whose fluttery full lips and high cheek bones give her away, I never would have guessed.

But all of the Drag Race Toronto fans, including Judy ViragoCassandra MooreJenna Syde and Allysin Chaynes, are able to quickly identify Jinkx Monsoon, Bendelacreme, Bianca Del Rio and Adore Delano for me. And here we all are, social schmoozing in the upstairs lounge of Fly Nightclub, while a Toronto drag revue comprised of Devine Darlin’, Scarlet Bobo, Olivia Chin and Jada Hudson is about to take place on the main stage downstairs in their honour.

There’s a rumour that someone is trying to get a Canadian version of Rupaul’s Drag Race filmed in Toronto. “We have so much great drag talent in this city,” says Prism’s Gairy Brown, who is hosting tonight’s party. “It only makes sense that we have a Drag Race of our own.” I’d vote for that.

Pitbull’s 5th Year Anniversary
Sat, March 14

The Phoenix

There are officially only two types of Pitbull breeds, just like there seems to be two types of Pitbull partiers. One party pup arrives around 11pm, shortly after the Fifth Year Pitbull Anniversary party officially swings opens its doors of The Phoenix. These are the well-trained partiers, the wise doggies who know what a Pitbull anniversary party can be like from experience. Then there is the partier, who shows up at midnight like a four-legged Cinderella in search of a princely leg to hump.

The latter are the majority tonight, and unfortunately for them, another 300 partiers just like them show up at the same moment, making entry into the club a slow, painful ordeal. Except for me, of course. Party organizers Francis Gaudreault and Steve Palmer, both looking dapper in sports jackets and fancy pants, have assured us easy entry.

We arrive just after guest performer Big Dipper finishes his first of two live rap sets. With two beefy back-up boys, he spits verse after verse of his hugely popular single “Da Money” as his shirtless belly bounces overtop his daisy duke cut-offs.

His voice has strength and his words are crystal clear over his EDM-pop backed hip-hop beats. I’ve seen and heard him once before, but tonight he has upped his game. From the hallway without seeing him, my friend thinks he’s black. It makes me wonder what the rap purist, many of whom are black and somewhat homophobic, must think of this chubby, white, gay Jew peeing in their talent pool. I ask him this question backstage, but he seems put off that I’ve started recording on my iPhone before asking for permission. We’re just having a casual conversation, I explain. He wants me to come back after he’s had time to think about the answer. I choose an easier question: “Why did you get into rap?” “I like it,” he says dryly, clearly not impressed with my persistence. He asks me again to come back in 10 minutes and wait outside his dressing room. I don’t.  Instead I go and party with DJ Deko-Ze who surprisingly isn’t working the party.

“It’s great to not be DJing and just have fun every so often,” says the man who usually DJs four gigs every weekend. And clearly, surrounded by horn dogs of every breed, this is the party to have fun at.