For some Torontonians, a perpetual spotlight shines on the exact moment you learned of Will Munro’s death. What I remember most isn’t where I was or who told me, but the reaction of the 22-year-old friend I was with. When I relayed the sad news to him, he asked, “Who’s Will Munro?”
By the time he died in 2010, Munro had been battling cancer for several years. He’d been less present on the scene than the early 2000s, when you couldn’t go anywhere in the West End without running into him or at least a poster for one of his events. The Beaver was booming, and a younger generation of queers was content to drink and dance there, not knowing the name of its famous founder.
It may be that same younger generation doesn’t know the history of Vaseline. Named for a product that can spike your hair as efficiently as it can lube your ass, Munro’s queer rock night was a seminal moment. He’s called a “community builder” as often as an artist or a DJ, and Munro’s monthly event was one of the most successful manifestations of his desire to bring queers together.
Following a “build it and they will come” mentality, he created a space for queer people who didn’t fit in anywhere else. Kids ventured from around the city to dance to The Scorpions in their Motörhead T-shirts. Vaseline — Munro eventually was forced to rename the night Vazaleen — wasn’t just a place to drink, dance and hook up; it built community in the most fundamental way possible by connecting people who’d often never met.
In 2007, Munro moved Vazaleen from monthly to twice yearly, at Halloween and Pride, dubbing the Pride edition Shame and inviting those who came to be their freakiest selves. Whether Shame was the highlight of your Pride or is an entirely new concept, this year’s version will be unlike anything on offer.