Sunday, March 23, 2008

Is Comfort Zone Down for the Count?

Toronto party-goers buzzed last weekend with news that the city's longest standing after-hours, Comfort Zone, had been raided by 200 police who'd made 33 arrests, mostly involving illegal narcotics - $30,000 worth. People unlucky enough to be inside the club last weekend were quickly thrown on the ground and handcuffed with plastic teathers. Some admitted (on blogTO) that officers would step on the backs of their necks if they were caught squirming to get comfortable. It seemed like a brutal situation. Police, who called the operation white rabbit, were implored to take action after the recent death of a young man who'd been partying at the Comfort Zone, made his way home to Hamilton, and was found dead from a drug overdose.

The club certainly has its detractors and I haven't been in many years. Back when I was 18 and 19 the after-hours was called Buzz and I was happy to go dance the night away while ignoring all the sketchy people around me. I have a little sister now close to that age, and she could've easily been looking for a place to party with friends when police busted the joint. Out of towners and first timers who were there last weekend certainly learned their lesson.

The big questions was, is CZ going to remain open? It's been a part of the Toronto scene for over 10 years now, with relatively little trouble, except for a sullied reputation. It appears Comfort Zone did open back up, and police were back this morning arresting two kids for peddling drugs. That's some big cahones those boys have.

Will this second series of take-downs be enough for CZ to consider an exit from clubland, or will the spate of arrests convince
the club-owner to emerge from the dark-side to find a new crowd of squeeky-clean clubkids?

Photo from: PatrickKErby

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Rochdale College Remembered

Most Torontonians in their forties and up remember the social experiment that was Rochdale College, they might even have a good story to tell, but to those too young or new to the city it's just another concrete monolith. The eighteen-story-high brutalist structure at St. George and Bloor is the subject of Ron Mann's documentary, Dream Tower, and is also the result of a group of idealistic students in the late sixties who hoped to challenge reigning educational models.

They believed that students should have more control over curriculum, design and teach their own courses, as well as run the administration. Young people rallied behind the idea and its popularity grew, but space became a concern. There had been no central location for the school, so the feds gave them seed money - 5 million dollars - for the construction of a building for the college which would include a residence. The Rochdale dream was becoming a reality.

The design by architects Tampold and Wells was unique, accommodating for communal living and areas that were known as ashrams, each unit of which was independent and responsible for its own welfare. The free college accepted many kinds of people into the fray from hippies and homeless to drug-dealers and draft-dodgers, however the lack of regulation and direction resulted in chaos. Rochdale's student body soon couldn't reach consensus on anything, like what to do about their open door policy, and the school quickly became a haven for biker gangs, dealers and their clientele. Cops' visits then became so frequent some students would welcome them with freshly baked cakes.

Seven years later, in 1975, the Rochdale dream lost steam. Political pressure led to the school's closure. Police carried the last of the students out and welded the doors shut. Today a monument called the Unknown Student rests outside the building, now named the Senator David A. Croll Apartments. Not all of Rochdale's creativity went up in smoke however, the Rochdale movement helped propel the creative minds behind Toronto cultural institutions Coach House Press, House of Anansi Press and Theatre Passe Muraille.

Fashion Week's Full Line-up for Fall 2008

L'Oreal Fashion Week Andy The-Anh
I love seeing how Toronto Fashion Week evolves each season, now just underway at Nathan Philips Square. Just looking through the schedule of events one can see the list of contributors is growing and morphing from a few fan favourites - Denis Gagnon, Andy The-Anh, Pink Tartan and Greta Constatine - to a sophisticated roster of Canadian talent. I'll miss Izzy Camilleri this year but am excited by some fresh scene-stylers. Keep your eyes peeled for designs by Nadya Toto, Mellinda-Mae Harlingten and Tatsuaki. Newcomers Evan Biddell and Carlie Wong of Project Runway will have a chance to impress next week, while Russian designer Max Chernitsov brings some international flare to Toronto.

image by Toronto Street.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Toronto Fashion Week to Hit the Street

white/spectrumTaking a page from NYC's Fashion Week, celebrated in midtown's Bryant Park, Toronto's week of runway shows is also back in a prime pedestrian intersection, Nathan Philips Square. I've been around for the Liberty Grand shows and Muzik too but this venue excites me a bit more. Likely it's because the best fashion I see in Toronto is on the streets, where style is most exposed. It's also where, rubbing shoulders with strangers all day long, fashion plays the biggest part in your identity, you can play it up or play it down, be anyone you feel, swathed in a sweet cloak of anonymity.

L’Oreal Fashion Week begins showing fall collections 2008 on March 17th.

fourONEsix foto: Robo Lomo

Robo Lomo
Originally uploaded by scienceduck
Over two years ago I started "curating" a flickr photo pool called fourONEsixSTYLE, so i could have a gallery of thumbnails for readers to explore on this site - you can see it to your left. At the time there were only one or two photo groups that showed Toronto some love. Now that flickr's grown so have the groups, but I'm still very proud of this one and all 328 Toronto enthusiasts documenting Toronto the good and Toronto the not-so-good. Here's one photograph from recent submissions that grabbed my attention. It might not be unique to Toronto but to me it's encouraging; even in the strangest of places, on top of a garbage can, in a back alley, you can still find something worth photographing if you've got a sense of adventure, imagination and in this case a bit of nostalgia too.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Ron Jeremy Wants You To Read

The post I wrote for blogTO last March, now with video!

Ron Jeremy, who may very well be The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz, swung by The Gladstone last week to stimulate us with stories from his recent autobiography. From the moment he mounted the stage the adult film icon was on a roll, dropping a few of the 1900 porn titles he's starred in: Halloweenie, Weapons of Ass Destruction (Ouch!), Fantastic Foreskin and Throbin Hood.

But interviewer Sasha Von Bon Bon was quick to cut him off, trying to take control of the stage right from the start. While Bon Bon carries a certain weight around town - writing the sex column for Eye Magazine and performing in burlesque shows - her petulance was an annoyance throughout the talk. Like in her column, Sasha seemed to have a need to voice her disdain for certain parts of sex culture. It really surprised me that a woman with the clout she has would use it this way, revealing her less than healthy attitude, in this case towards marriage (everyone cheats don't they?), sex for/with seniors (Jeremy talked of one film where he had sex with an 87 year-old woman) and industry beauty standards (it's easy to knock fake boobs when you're sporting doubleDs). It was the wrong match for a man like Jeremy, who makes no apologies for what he does, but also having really seen and done it all is realistic about sex in all its variations and life in general.

While Ms. Bon Bon bounced between the conflicted personas of attention-hungry schoolgirl and jaded lover, Jeremy, the consummate pro, spewed anecdotes from his life in porn and we lapped up every dirty bit.

Oh-eight update: Check back soon for my review of the book and I'll fill you in on all the salacious details of my own encounter with the porn legend.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

RIP Jeff Healey

Sadly, on Sunday night, Canadian musician Jeff Healey passed away at St. Joseph's hospital in the westend of Toronto. The cancer that had caused his blindness at the age of one had spread throughout his body and could no longer be controlled by doctors.

Healey had had a successful career, rising up the international music charts and winning a Grammy award for the ballad Angel Eyes. He was to become a famous figure in Toronto's jazz and rock music scene, lending his name to a couple popular music venues.

I met him once, outside Healey's on Bathurst. I'd been having a drink at The Paddock next door with a friend, and we'd made our way out for a cigarette on the patio. Out of the blue a smooth voice sidled up to us and said "Hello Ladies! Care to join me for a drink?" We were charmed by the tall blond man we both knew to be Jeff Healey so we found ourselves taking his arm to follow him downstairs for a drink. We had a few laughs and then watched him perform. He was a classy and talented man, with an obvious love for what he did. Rest in Peace.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Doc Soup Screens Autism: The Musical

Though the causes of autism cannot be definitively pinpointed, it has become apparent that cases of autism have increased dramatically since the 1980's. It wasn't until a couple of summer's ago that I'd met someone with this brain development condition. At first he seemed odd, sociable, but unable to make eye contact. Then, his fixations with unusual things like highway rumble strips and recording everything from voices to generator noises, made him more curious to me and my friends who interacted with him. Now, what defines him most is his fascination with the play Evil Dead: The Musical. He'll ask everyone he meets whether they've seen it and what they think of it. He's gone so far as to get some of the cast members' t-shirts, covered in fake blood, and wear them out to parties. No doubt dressing up for Halloween is his favorite time of year.

Since I really know very little about people with Autism, I'm hoping that this week's Doc Soup screening "Autism: The Musical" will shed some light on the associated personality traits, not only the repetitive and extremely intelligent aspects of the neurological encumbrance we've come to know from Rain Man, but also how a focus on creative expression can help those with Autism. It's fascinating, when you know that most of us only use 5% of our brain's capacity, that there may be a key there in understanding this different wiring that might help us all evolve a little further.

Screenings are at 6:30 and 9:15 this Wednesday the 5th. Tickets are currently available online for the later show. You'll have to take your chances to get into the early one.