Thursday, September 22, 2005

Toronto gets Trumped

I can't help but love The Donald and all his peculiarities. The skits SNL impersonators do of Trump give me endless joy. "Five. Four. Three. Hi. The Donald here...." He's the man who does everything his way, including floor direct. Apparently it's not far from the truth.

During Trump's apprearance in Toronto at The Carlu last night (why wasn't I informed? I too work in the make-believe world of television) he told the audience he'd be more hands-on this time around. He'd hand-picked 2,000 finalists for The Apprentice and rumour has it he's going for ratings over ability. Can't wait to see the A-holes picked this time. Interestingly, both Trump and Burnett have said the playing field for US reality TV may now be open to Canadians, especially since it worked out so well for INXS's Rock Star show. Great news! Last time we saw a Canadian get through it was Kel on Survivor, but he'd moved state-side before he could make his debut on one of the world's favorite shows. Used to see him around the city, smiling sweetly at Fashion parties and running around in longjohns for Canadian Tire casting calls. Wonder where the kid is now. He'd probably have faired better under Trump's supervision than running around the jungle with his jerky hanging out.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

A Page in History*

The Ryerson Theatre was a bad venue for last night's (Toronto International Film Festival) picture The Notorious Bettie Page though, ultimately, I did leave the theatre feeling like I'd seen and done something worthwhile. The well constructed movie depicted the historical icon and pin-up girl Bettie Page (played by Gretchen Mol) as an innocent and somewhat naive woman. I'd been unaware until reading the movie synopsis that Bettie's modelling career had led her to do some bondage photos with other female models, and that the issue had arose in the US supreme court in 1955, ultimately leading to a ban on the photos and their subsequent burning. Suppose in a way that Bettie was the original Madonna. 50 years later there's not much difference in how Western, and especially American, culture reacts to fetish and bondage images. Some of Madonna's videos won't see any airplay in this country either, understandably, since TV is seen by the masses, but there was still quite a coup over her "scandalous" images in the pictorial book SEX. Admitly, I thought her overly staged shots just made her look like a sad celebrity overindulging in her rauncyiness; with all respect, however, to a woman who knows how to push and play with society's morays.

Gretchen, who ran by me 3 times wearing fantastic heels the girls I was with were dying for, did a beautiful job as Bettie Page, the icon who loved her body and enjoyed showing it. At the end of the day however I felt the film didn't leave anything for me to take away, to ponder, except perhaps where a sense of shame comes from. Once people told Bettie what she was doing was wrong she began to feel ashamed of her "sins". She turned to God and dropped out of sight. Perhaps she just needed Madonna's "cojones", a better group of friends, and should have moved to Paris to live the good life with her shameless peers Anais Nin, Henry Miller and Josephine Baker in a place where nobody gave a damn about a naked nipple or some leather boots. *(Added note as at September 22) - Bettie Page wasn't coerced into dressing up in "special costumes" and reportedly admitted having fun playing dress-up. This blog in no way condones harm to others in any way or form. It does condone loosening up a little.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A World In Black and White

I'd been excited to see DAVE CHAPPELLE'S BLOCK PARTY at the Toronto International Film Festival and was bummed when I couldn't get tickets. So last night I took my chances and tried "rushing" the film. This means you must get in line quite early and hope there are free seats available when the flick starts. Best laid plans fell apart and I showed up with only 35 minutes to showtime and discovered about 100 people in line ahead of me at the Elgin Theatre. At least I could "star watch" I thought...but the elusive Chappelle and his entourage were a no show. I did snap this pic of genius director Michel Gondry on the way up the red carpet and eventually made my way in to the flick with my friends.

The synopsis on the TIFF site raised the question: "What do you do when your net worth tops 50 million dollars?" "Start with a party." Chappelle had just signed a 50 mil contract with Comedy Central so his idea, in this verite documentary, was to throw the kind of concert he always wanted to see. With hip hop connections like his the line up was guarateed ghettofabulous: Kanye West, Erykah Badu, Mos Def, The Roots, Dead Prez, Jill Scott. As if that weren't enough to get your heart pumping, he adds THE FUGEES to the mix, reuniting after 8 long years, to the surprise to everyone at the Brooklyn Block Party. It was the most fun I've ever had at a movie, and probably the only time I cried while I was dancing (standing at the back) when Lauryn Hill busted into a sweet and sultry version of Killing Me Softly. Wow.

Beyond the prep for the concert Dave made his usual jokes and pointed out some funny things about the hood in Brooklyn, where one school director welcomed him to the 'mixed school' where Black and Mexican kids played. Chappelle laughs, "this is what they call a mixed school?" The element of race was always present and I found it kind of sad that Chappelle always sees the world in black and white. I did however think it was inspiring when Wyclef spoke to the (almost all black) University marching band that were invited by Chappelle to open the party. "Don't ever blame anything on the white man...I came from Haiti and didn't speak a word of English; English was my third language and I've made a good life for myself." Take out the element of race and we can all relate to his thoughts...don't let anyone hold you back, and as one black marching band student agreed..."Yeah, like Eminem said: You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow. Opportunity comes once in a lifetime."

Chappelle's getting his opportunity, let's see what he does with it.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Palais Royale Needs Some Attention

Walking by a recently boarded up Palais Royale made my heart sink. The building had gone through several exterior changes, mostly to paint colour and the lakeside deck, since I had started partying there 15 years ago. Lifeguard parties were always amazing. Pack 700 beautiful and bronzed athletes into a roaring dance hall and sparks fly. Great memories. It still continued up until a few years ago, when RNB and milk threw some New Years parties at the Palais. I remember one December 31st eve, standing on the back deck with friends as a warm chinook-like wind softly passed through, while glorious house rhythms rounded out the atmosphere.

I'm not the only one who's been entertained there. The Palais has had a long and fabulous history. My boyfriend's grandmother, June, recalls the days her and her honey used to dance the night away to the sounds of the big bands. It was a classic ballroom then. Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman and others used to jam the house for an admission price of 10 cents. The Rolling Stones, too, had rocked the Palais one night, after announcing a special concert to treat the people of Toronto to their album debut.

By this point though the Palais Royale has long since said good-bye to her glory days, though she had once been an integral part of the beachfront amusement on Lake Ontario, then known as the Poor Man's Riviera. Constructed in 1922 by the same architects that designed the Sunnyside Pavilion, the Palais Royale has now fallen into disrepair. With the trend in Toronto toward destruction as opposed to restoration it's wonderful she survived at all. Only the Palais and Sunnyside remain from this era. Many of the other buildings on the strip were damaged by suspicious fires in the early fifties, making it easier for the city to plow the Gardiner Expressway through Parkdale in 1956, cutting off the western beaches from the city and setting Parkdale on a downward economic spiral. In 1963, an arsonist burned down the Palace Pier, a mile long pier complete with ballroom that sat out on the lake. Another piece of Toronto's history devastated and long forgotten.

There is, however, a happy ending. I hope. The historic Palais Royale is set for a 2 million dollar renovation. The Pegasus Group, which owns and operates the recently restored Jolly Miller Tavern, the Brunnie and the Wheat Sheaf (Toronto's first hotel), will likely restore it all to its former beauty. The plan includes restoring all windows and doors, as well as several of the interior elements including the fireplace, the barrel vault and wooden paneling. A new exterior deck, similar to the original, and overlooking Lake Ontario, will be installed, as will new stairs and a wheelchair ramp. The famous spring-board floor will need to be replaced as well. Fingers crossed. The $2 million project must still be approved by Toronto City Council.