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7 min

Rapture: The Next Generation

Reviving Vancouver's circuit party scene

TIME TO STEP UP: 'I think in Vancouver as a city we should be able to compete with Montreal or Toronto on certain events and I don't think we do," says Rapture attendee Adam Dreaddy (left). Credit: Chris Howey photo

There’ll be no Rapture for New Year’s Eve. But the new owners of the once-marquee circuit party say it will be back for Pride 2008.

Over the summer DJ Lampitt who purchased Toy Box Boys Productions (TBB) —Rapture’s host company —from long-time owners Michel Nadeau and Randy Palmer, cancelled the event at the last minute when an unnamed financial partner pulled its support.

In a pre-Pride web posting, Lampitt says he holds himself “fully responsible for the cancellation of the events,” which included Rapture Black, Rapture Mardi Gras, Rapture Carnivale and Rapture Rehab but also refers to “a few bumps in the road of production” that prevented the events from going forward.

“One obviously centering around the financial aspect of the production… lost due to the financial partner pulling out of the production at the last minute due to competitive concerns,” he claimed.

Lampitt did not name the partner who pulled out in his cancellation notice.

The web posting concludes with Lampitt saying: “This is obviously not a way that anyone would like to leave the industry but this is the case for me at this time.”

Months later, and on the cusp of a new year, Tommy Dolanjski of Two Flames and a Dame Presents (TFD), which has now purchased the rights to Rapture, feels the absence of Rapture left a palpable void in the community.

“Nothing was happening for Halloween and everyone asked if we were going to do New Year’s,” Dolanjski notes, adding “we weren’t prepared for this year.

“We didn’t want to do something, because unless we could do something absolutely amazing we didn’t want to do it this year. Next year is a whole different story.”

But Nadeau says New Year’s was not a profitable venture for Rapture, pointing out that the event had been declining year after year.

“So I recommended the new owners drop New Year’s and stick to Pride, he says. “Without an inexpensive venue for New Year’s it’s very hard to break even. The last few years, New Year’s events were declining in attendance. It was good for the five years Celebrities was closed but once Celebrities came back it took a big chunk of our market.”

James Steck, promotions manager at Celebrities acknowledges his nightclub is attracting people who would normally attend Rapture but says it can’t possibly fill the void.

“Sadly enough, Rapture would have a party that brought in like 2000 or 5000 people. They booked out the big, big venues,” he says.

“Celebrities can’t do that.”

Nadeau and Palmer started Rapture in 1999 in response to a need for larger queer parties not offered at existing gay spaces.

“There were no such events in Vancouver such as other big North American cities like Toronto or Montreal,” says Nadeau. “All-night parties were not happening here so we decided to do these events to respond to the need for people to go to these events.” Their company, Toy Box Boys Productions, hosted Rapture events at Pride, Halloween and New Year’s.

Landon Chorney, who attended a Rapture event in 2006, feels it did not compare to events such as Toronto Pride or the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

“Compared to those two events, Rapture was kind of generic,” he says.

“If you’re going to have fun in Vancouver, you have to go with your friends. At big parties in Toronto, for example, you go because of the people who are going to be there. People who’ve travelled from around the world,” he elaborates.

“This is not so much the case in Vancouver where you’re going to hang out with friends you hang out with all the time. There’s nothing wrong with that but sometimes you want to meet new people.”

Adam Dreaddy, another Rapture attendee, believes Vancouver party organizers should look to other cities for inspiration.

“I think in Vancouver as a city we should be able to compete with Montreal or Toronto on certain events and I don’t think we do,” he says. “With the 2010 Olympics coming here, lots of people will be coming here and wondering if we can step up to the plate like other major cities.”

Dolanjski himself feels Vancouver’s gay party scene is in a state of transition.

“When I started going out about four years ago the circuit parties were in their heyday. These parties were legendary, now these things have sort of declined. The theatrics have gone down a little bit.”

Overall, the 24-year-old travel agent, with three years’ experience in event management, believes Vancouver’s gay scene is seriously lacking in direction and involvement from queer youth. He emphasises that he wants everyone to enjoy Rapture, irrespective of age, but wants to reach out to young people and “take Rapture to the next generation”.

“In 10 years, some of the people organising parties like this are going to be in their 50s and 60s, and I don’t think that people in their late 40s and 50s know how to throw a party for people in their 20s,” he argues.

“I think we really need to inject some young blood into this community. The youth and the younger generation, I don’t really see them getting involved. We went to the Pride Society [AGM] and there were maybe between four and eight people below the age of 28.”

Dolanjski affirms he’s up to the challenge of resurrecting the Rapture scene. “We are talking to the Commodore Ballroom,” he says. “It’s going to happen.”

“There were so many parties last year but a lot of friends got separated,” he recalls. “Everyone was going to smaller parties and there wasn’t anything really large scale happening and I think that’s what every one wants. A lot of out of towners wanted to come and meet in one place.”

Dolanjski is intent on living up to those expectations.

For next year’s Pride, he plans on bringing in successful acts from previous years as well as showcasing new talent. “We have to bring in really amazing talent, and go above and beyond. We feel we have to fix what’s happened last year,” he says. He’s currently talking to Derek Daniels, an event producer in Hawaii.

“At previous Rapture events he produced a really well produced drag show that they do to house music in the circuit parties,” he says, quick to point out the differences between these events and standard drag fare. “There are usually four to 10 trained choreographed dancers, extravagant dancers. Similar to a Vegas show.” Some of the big drag names he hopes to attract are: Circuit Mom from Chicago, Lena Love from Toronto and Flava from Los Angeles. “We’ll also mix in some of the great local talent so we can showcase them a bit more. We really want to get people from Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles up because there’s no reason we shouldn’t be one of the better known Prides.”

Nadeau and Jean Yves Pigeon, a mortgage broker who has attended his fair share of Rapture events and was a co-producer in 2005, have faith in Dolanjski’s ability to resuscitate Rapture.

“I like him,” says Pigeon. “He has a lot of energy. I think he has the financing in place already so that’s a big step, because you need money to do these productions. And I think he listens to the advice of other people because that’s good too. He might not have as much experience as others but he’s definitely a good listener.”

But even as Rapture’s revival is in the works, party-goers will have to find somewhere else to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

Sylvain Cyr, once an avid Rapture aficionado, says First Dance 2008, carded for the Roundhouse Community Centre, is as close as he’s going to get to Rapture on New Year’s Eve night.

“It’s a gay celebration of New Year’s, similar to Rapture,” he notes.

“It’s got the same demographic as far as the clientele is concerned. It’s starting around nine or 10 o’clock and will hopefully last until the wee hours. They are limited to 200 people. It’s a more humble party than Rapture.”

But he still harbours fond memories of good times at Rapture. The typical bar scene cannot compare.

“If you think of the bar which is limited capacity, you end up in a line up that will take forever, but if you buy a ticket to get into Rapture, you’re sure to get in. You can start partying and mingling right away.”

The entertainment factor is definitely high, Pigeon agrees.

“It’s always fun because there’s people from all around the world coming to it,” he says. “There are different types of individuals that go there, but it is open to everyone. Everybody has their own thing, and the circuit party is another element to our community. It’s a production dance party that lasts all night.”

So how is Dolanjski planning to fill the Rapture void this New Year’s Eve?

First Dance 2008 is also on his list of party options. But he has his eye on Celebrities’ New Year’s bash as well.

“My friends and I start off at someone’s apartment and then we’ll do the rounds in the village. We’ll go to Celebrities, have a drink, say hi to everyone. Then we’re going go to the Roundhouse until midnight and figure out what to do with the rest of the night.”

His friend Anna Thorsen, chief operating officer of TFD Presents, will be partying along with him.

“Tommy and I are dressing up really crazy, and we’re going to a girlfriend’s big New Year’s party,” she says. “We’ll have fabulous champagne before heading off to Big Roger’s New Year’s party.

“We’re excited because it’s going to be colourful, fun, fabulous and gay.”

A SAMPLE OF YOUR NEW YEAR’S EVE PARTY OPTIONS

Big Roger Events: First Dance 2008.
Featuring DJ Escape (New York) and DJ Rob C. (Vancouver).
Roundhouse Community Centre, Davie St and Pacific Blvd.
Free champagne.
Tickets $40.
Information: roger2@telus.net

Numbers: New Year’s Pink Party.
Everybody will be in pink “because we don’t want to do white.”
1042 Davie St, 9 pm-closing.
Meat platters, buns and champagne at midnight.
Tickets $20.

1181: Slumber-themed New Year’s Eve.
Ring in 2008 in your favourite pyjamas.
1181 Davie St, 9 pm-closing.
Champagne at midnight.
Tickets $50.

The Odyssey New Year’s Party.
“The full meal deal” with a balloon draw, complementary champagne, countdown and decorations.
1251 Howe St, 9 pm-closing.
Tickets $20.

Oasis: Hollywood-themed New Year’s Eve.
Gouda Gabor, Dorothy Dittrich Trio, special guest stars. Hollywood look-a-likes, champagne at midnight, party favours, DJs Eric Lewis and Jason.
1240 Thurlow St.
Ticket prices vary: $75, $25 and $10.

The Majestic: Majestic First Night.
Five-course meal, and a show hosted by Joan-E and Robyn Graves. Retro Groove Lounge music on tap.
1138 Davie St.
Tickets $75.

PumpJack: New Year’s Eve Party.
A fun, free New Year’s Eve Party for PumpJack folk and those who admire them.
1168 Davie St, 9 pm-4 am.
Free.

Imperial Sovereign Court of Surrey: Your Last Date B 4 08.
Presented By Their Most Imperial Sovereign Highness Imperial Crown Prince & Princess 4 Plastika Von Wrap & Boyd Divin.
Fireside Café, 13593 King George Highway (at 108th), Surrey.
Doors at 7 pm; dancing and show, 7:30 pm followed by more dancing, 11 pm to 2 am.
Tickets $15 purchased by Dec 25.
Information: icp4surrey@hotmail.com or college@gaysurrey.com

New Year’s 2008 Snowstorm at Celebrities.
Wear your New Year’s mittens. The club will be transformed into an ice palace.
1022 Davie St, 9 pm-4 am.
Features DJs Zach Shore and Dan James, go-go dancers, silk dancers and Jaylene as the Snow Queen. Wear white and receive a free shooter. Snowstorm at midnight.
The first 200 tickets are $40/the remainder are $50 available at Celebrities Night Club, www.clubzone.com and Little Sister’s Bookstore.