My first several months as the Georgia Straight’s groundbreaking queer columnist were a rush, and I’ve got the clippings and outraged letters to the editor to prove it. But I’ve come to realize that the “party” really began in 1970 at a club called The Music Room, in the 1000 block of Seymour Street. There I lost at least a bit of my innocence under the tutelage of someone who is best known, for a variety of reasons, simply as Mrs G.
Mrs G’s most recent public performance, which even our youngest readers may remember, ended after a good run and great reviews when she retired from her gig as maître d’ at a popular curry house on Davie Street. For some years she could be seen nightly in a turban that was more Joan Crawford than Guru Nanak, bejewelled and sometimes begowned, greeting old friends and customers as they passed through the Village and enticing them into her latest “curry in a hurry” adventure.
That ended a couple of years ago, and every once in a while you’ll hear someone ask, “Whatever became of that wild old queen at the Indian restaurant? You know the one! He was great fun!”
Well, yes, Mrs G was great fun, and continues to be great fun, in case you’ve wondered or worried about that.
Why, only last week I spent a delightful few hours in Mrs G’s rooftop garden, enjoying the autumn sunshine and a little light refreshment and, something we spend a lot of time doing these days, recollecting our past.
I first caught sight of the nascent Mrs G saga in 1969 when some fellow South Vancouver teenagers and I ventured downtown to a Gastown drinking hole called The Banjo Palace. The main claim to fame of this place was that the men’s room featured, as the backsplash to the urinal, the original brick wall from Chicago’s St Valentine’s Day Massacre. Big thrill, pissing on a wall that seven gangland thugs had been executed against in 1929.
Our server that evening was campy, at a time when campy was daring in a straight milieu. Especially if the guy at the next table was bragging about the awesomeness of the location of his last piss.
The waiter was campy, funny and quick and bounced with every step. “Just call me Gerry,” he said, so we called him Gerry till last call.
Fast forward a year or so and, doing my rounds as the Georgia Straight’s queer columnist, I checked in on the brand new Music Room. Not that brand new, actually, but recently transformed from Paul Waterman’s ill-fated Hampton Court.
Asking to speak to the new owner, how delighted was I to be turned over to our memorable waiter from so long ago! At 20, 18 months ago seems like ancient history.
The Music Room featured a circular staircase to an office above the bar, with windows overlooking the dancefloor. Gerry asked me what I’d like to drink and called down for my gin and ginger. When it arrived, my new best friend opened a little vial and, with a tiny McDonald’s coffee spoon, tipped a little pile of white powder into my drink, exclaiming, “This will make the party go!”
With 40 years’ hindsight, we think it was probably MDA. Could have been speed. At any rate, it did its job, and that’s the moment the party really began. For me at least. It was already well underway for Mrs G!
Mrs G went on to starring roles in many nightlife adventures of the 1970s and ’80s. I devote an entire column to introducing this beloved old friend today because it is going to take several columns to get through even the highlights. And we have to start somewhere. Future episodes (with timeouts for asides) will involve the founding of Hamburger Mary’s, plans to present The World’s Tackiest Drag Show at the Waldorf, the emergence of Mary’s hapless nemesis Hamburger Hilda, the true story of Captain Pickwick on Davie, and, just before the curry in a hurry finale, the high times at Vanessa’s Nelly Deli.
Come back next month for the dirt!