Toronto
4 min

Toronto’s scene: Cocktail confessions

Best of times; worst of times

BASH BACK. Shaun Proulx calls for a boycott of any business associated with Canadian concerts by Elephant Man (pictured) and Sizzla.

Fat congrats to those involved in the AIDS Walk For Life on Sep 16 which raised $400,000 for the AIDS Committee of Toronto. ACT needed the Funk ‘n’ Walk’s success following the dismal Fashion Who Cares this past spring. Great turnout, great weather, a route that wound through the village to give the event a much-needed community feel, ending with a party in the parking lot at Church and Wood streets featuring a better-than-I-would-have-imagined Boogie Wonder Band. Nice.

Circa (126 John St) at long last throws open its doors Thu, Oct 4 at an exclusive VIP bash set to go down as the party of 2007, with a guest list rumoured to include Kanye West, Ewan McGregor, Liv Tyler, Justin Timberlake, Jude Law, Mena Suvari, Rachel McAdams, Ryan Gosling, Jessica Alba and, naturally, Paris Hilton. What are you wearing?

I recently had a private tour: Holy fucking moly. Toronto has never seen the likes of this. Having been to hotspots around the world, I can’t say I’ve seen the likes of Circa anywhere. Peter Gatien and his staff, which now includes the cream of queer/mixed clubland &mdash Steve Ireson, John Walke, Rolyn Chambers and Matt Sims among them &mdash have created a masterful playground for the art and club scenes for events and concerts. Never mind the high-end touches that abound, what’s more impressive is the micro-thinking that’s gone into myriad aspects of the massive space, from designing easy crowd flow to serving abundant visual stimulation, so each visit is a unique experience.

Even the often-agonizing process called coat-check has been turned into a stimulating encounter. You enter from a backlit art tunnel (provocateur Bruce LaBruce currently has a photography installation up; love the shot of armpit hair being lit on fire), pass by performance art diorama boxes and murals, stop in a massive washroom replete with a DJ booth and a huge bar (look again, it’s shaped like a toilet seat), get your hair and makeup done, make an inquiry at the concierge, all before hitting a main space.

The main spaces include the for-rent condo, the DJ penthouse, the Sens-A-Cell bar (you’ll know it when you touch it), the underwater bar and their ultra VIP section (there are several VIP concepts, the main being that anyone who goes to Circa is a VIP), an eight-person glass room jutting out high above the main four-storey atrium dancefloor. Congratulations, and may it live up to all the potential it has to enhance our city.

Alas, something wicked this way comes, set to shame Toronto’s so-called standard of queer tolerance.

Jamaican dance-hall artists Elephant Man and Sizzla are on their way here as part of a 12-city Canadian tour. Their repertoires include violent lyrics like “Battyman fi dead! Tek dem by surprise” and “Shot battybwoy, my big gun boom.” (In case you don’t know what battybwoy is, that’s derogatory patois for us cocksuckers.)

Call me kooky but I’m really not digging the idea of songs being sung in my city inciting murder upon you or I, much the same way I assume Jewish people aren’t up for hearing lyrics saying Hitler had the right idea or the way black people aren’t into sing-alongs in praise of the good ol’ days of lynching.

And where, pray, will they perform? At Koolhaus, a venue supported by queer events produced by the likes of Mr Leatherman Toronto and Unity years ago, and most recently, Prism Toronto at Pride. Elephant Man is booked for Fri, Sep 28; Sizzla is slated to perform Fri, Oct 5. Disgusting. I can’t even guess the total pink dollars I’ve spent there.

I called for comment. I also made sure to state that, as a queer Torontonian, if Ellie and Sizz do end up performing at Koolhaus, I will never set foot in there again.

Christina Vlahos, Koolhaus’ media relations person, seemed reluctant to understand why I would object to Koolhaus accommodating performers who sing about murdering some of its loyal customers, stating, “You need to talk to the promoter, we’re just the venue.” She later supplied this comment:

“The Koolhaus does not support violence and aggression against the gay/lesbian community; nor do we condone intimidation or bullying of any minority group. If we could single-handedly stop it &mdash we would. Unfortunately having turned away two similar shows in the past proved to have no impact on them appearing in Toronto.”

I’m all for capitalism, but the mind boggles at such twisted priorities. If you really don’t condone violence against us, don’t let the acts in your space. That’s like saying, “Oh, hi, OJ Simpson, I believe you killed your wife and her friend, but since the criminal justice system set you free anyway, welcome to my home, do come in.”

Luckily we have people like Egale executive director Helen Kennedy, who has joined Toronto-based Canadian Caribbean Human Rights Group, to form a campaign called Stop Murder Music. They are urging Ottawa to deny Ellie and Sizz entry into Canada. Canada has banned anti-Semitic and other racists from entering the country before.

When I raised this issue for discussion on my Proud FM show last week, I got a flurry of listener response expressing concern about supporting a venue that would welcome such artists, typified by the sentiments in this email: “I sincerely hope that Prism Toronto would find a venue elsewhere regardless of whether [Elephant Man and Sizzla] will or will not be playing at Koolhaus or I, for one, would definitely boycott Prism Toronto.”

I offered Prism the opportunity to join a discussion continuing this week on my show, about how we, as a community and as queer business people should deal with a situation like this, and to address such concerns from their customers. Prism’s Darren Bryant said in an email response, “I would just rather not voice my opinion on this matter for reasons of my own.”

Amazing. Right. Got it.

I hope Canada refuses entry to these artists and their ilk. If they don’t, shame on the venue that gives them space to preach gay hate and shame on anyone &mdash especially a queer business &mdash who would support it thereafter.

Bwye-bwye, from this battybwoy.