4 min

Wayne Cave 1960 – 2003

Remembering a life of music and community

Credit: Capital Xtra files

Businessman, musician, partner and friend – Wayne Cave wore all of these hats during a life that ended on Mon, Jan 5, after a short battle with cancer.

While some people in Ottawa’s gay community may not have known Cave, most know of his life’s work. Cave, together with his partner in business and in life, Ed St Jean, was co-owner of Ottawa’s well-established gay businesses, the Centretown Pub, Icon and Steamworks.

Cave and St Jean met in 1985 at the Centretown Pub (CP). Both held full-time jobs, but worked at CP part-time. Their attraction to each other was instant.

“It clicked,” explains St Jean simply. “When two people click and love each other – I guess that’s why we were together all these years. There was nothing else but love.”

Their relationship moved quickly. Within months, they were living together. Within a year, they had bought a home in Wakefield.

Just as quickly, both invested in, and became part-owners of CP. But it didn’t end there.

“It felt like Ottawa had no gay community,” says St Jean. “There were one or two bars and they were straight-owned. All we heard was negativity and complaints, and [that] they weren’t helping the [gay] community.”

Cave and St Jean set out to change that. By 1990, they shared full co-ownership of CP. The opening of Icon, then Steamworks, followed.

“We did it together,” says St Jean. “That’s the way I wanted it.”

The arrangement also suited Cave, who found himself in the enviable position of being able to combine two of his life’s passions, Ed and the businesses, with a third – music.

“He was one of the most incredibly talented musicians I’ve ever encountered,” says singer Elaina Martin, who sang downstairs at CP’s piano bar, accompanied by Cave. “He could read any music, from classical to jazz. But he also had an ear. In the music world, especially pianists, they either read, or they play by ear and they can’t read. Wayne was the best of both. He was the perfect piano man to sing with.”

Martin met Cave through her best friend, a bartender at CP, who convinced the two to perform together. Then living in Sudbury, she first balked at the idea of going all the way to Ottawa for what amounted to a jam session. But her first conversation with Cave helped to convince her otherwise. “He was so nice, so soft and kind, and I could feel that through the phone.”

Music came to Cave early in life.

“He started playing the piano when he was about two years old,” remembers Wayne’s oldest brother, Clayton. “Before he could walk, he was tinkling on the piano. It was just natural for him to play. He was taking piano lessons before he was going to school.”

The Caves grew up in south-central Saskatchewan, on a far six miles south of Tugaske, a tiny town with a population of 110. There were three boys in the family. Wayne was the baby, seven years Clayton’s junior, and five years younger than the middle son, Bruce.

Wayne went to school in nearby Eyebrow, while taking piano lessons in Central Butte. By the time he graduated from high school – the only one of the Cave boys to do so – he had also passed through the Royal Conservatory of Music Certificate Program. After graduating, he left Saskatchewan, first spending time in Quebec City and Montreal before settling in Ottawa.

“He wanted to be himself, and in redneck Saskatchewan, it’s pretty tough [for someone who’s gay] to be yourself out there. I remember a number of years ago he came out [to Saskatchewan] and we went out to the bar one night and I just thought, ‘Man, how do you put up with this stuff?’ The remarks his so-called friends were making in general…” says Clayton, shaking his head.

Cave didn’t come out to his family until after he’d moved out east. If he was apprehensive about their reaction, he need not have been.

“We talk about all the rednecks in Tugaske and how hard it is. Well, this is one family that didn’t fall into that realm,” says Martin. “They’re kind folk. They’re quiet. They’re all shy, but brave and shy. They’re hardworking and very ethical and open and accepting.”

St Jean uses similar words to describe his partner of 20 years.

“Quiet. Quiet and he liked his time alone at home. He was quite happy with that. It was about the two of us. He was interested in the business, he was interested in music and of course he enjoyed the community and the staff.”

When asked for examples of some of Cave’s favourite music, both Martin and St Jean mention his love for Elton John.

“Wayne will always be remembered singing something like ‘Rocket Man.’ That was his signature song. He did it so well and he loved doing it. He’d have a big smile on his face and he’d be singing and his eyes would be closed because he was so shy!” laughs Martin.

“On special occasions, when we’d get together, I’d request a song, ‘Bumblebee Boogie,'” recalls Clayton. “That was really special. He played it when he was real young. It was one song that I really enjoyed listening to. The scales and all that sort of stuff – I could care less about that. But every once in a while, he’d play this ‘Bumblebee Boogie’ and I’d stop and listen to it. It’s up-tempo, upbeat and you can almost visualize this bumblebee buzzing around.

“It was like him. It was full of energy and it was [emotionally] contained and in control, but also [physically] all over the place.”

Martin agrees. “He was very contained. He’s not the kind of guy you ever saw freak out on people. Even when he was upset, you couldn’t tell. He was very controlled. But on that piano, he let loose. That’s where he showed his emotions.”

“The piano was his release,” Clayton concludes. “It charged him up, too. It wasn’t just a release, it was what gave him life, too.”

Wayne’s life will be celebrated at a ceremony at Icon (366 Lisgar Street) on Sat, Jan 17 at 2:00 p.m.

“It’s going to be about closure, just to reminisce and see people and let him go,” says St Jean. “And you’ll see at the ceremony from the pictures that he’s lived the life of a 60-year-old man. He’s done so much. He’s had a full life and when he left us, he was quite content.”

* Wayne’s life will be celebrated at a ceremony at Icon (366 Lisgar St) on Sat, Jan 17 at 2pm.