as Xtra’s staff reporter I sometimes get invited to parties by people who want me to get other people to buy whatever it is they’re selling. Often the parties have only a tangential relationship to anything queer so when an invite landed on my desk to an evening with PC leader John Tory at the swanky Fifth Grill Bar I was skeptical.
But then I got to the bottom of the letter which promised that “in attendance would be key gay people,” and was signed by Glenn Dixon, the queer host of Take This House and Sell It.
I was intrigued. Was this a gay party or a party gay people happened to be attending? What constitutes a key gay person? Was I invited because I’m a key gay person or just to report on the key gay people who would be there?
The first question is answered as soon as I walk into the bar and am greeted by two studs in black muscle Ts that have “John Tory” written in rhinestones across their chests. Gay as they appear, neither describes himself as key.
That’s when shoe designer Ron White, the evening’s host, finds me and starts introducing me to the important people. I figure he must know what a key gay is.
“It’s mostly an affluent, upscale, gay audience,” he says. “Partners in law firms and accounting firms, entrepreneurs, people who would relate to me as a business owner.”
I look down at my coffee-stained jeans and faded Gap golf shirt.
“Yes, you’re a key gay person, too,” he laughs.
I mingle with the guests to find out who these key gay people are.
One is lawyer Douglas Elliot, who, among other things represented Marc Hall, the student who took his Catholic high school to court in 2002 after he was told he couldn’t take his boyfriend to prom. Elliot seems less than convinced by Tory’s plan to publicly fund religious schools.
Others include theatre producer Jeffrey Latimer, Harris-era PC strategist Jamie Watt, Fashion File host Adrian Mainella and AIDS Committee of Toronto cochair Karim Karsan.
Volunteer firefighter and owner of Machine Tool and Production, Declan Conlan, tells me that owning a business, not being a firefighter, earned him the key gay designation.
The soles of my Reeboks are coming apart. How did I get grouped with the high rollers?
Eventually, Tory addresses the guests with jokes about same-sex marriage — he and his wife have been having the same sex for 25 years, yuk-yuk. He promises to fight for minority rights and pledges to march in next year’s Pride parade. Immediately following the speech, White unveils his latest shoe, The Tory. It will debut at his stores in the days leading up to the election with $25 from each sale going to a charity of John Tory’s choice. Without missing a beat Tory announces that the charity is Casey House.
White tells me The Tory is a slip-on dress shoe with brogue detailing on the toe. It’s made of calf skin polished for sheen with ultralight flex construction and a shock-absorbing, antibacterial footbed. It will retail in the mid-to-high $400 range.
It certainly looks pretty but I quickly realize that I am not quite key enough for The Tory.