The weathered letters are now gone, I figured I’d best grab this nostalgic ghost, while the brick beneath it still remembered them. The Brunswick Tavern is no more – and honestly, it had been going downhill for quite some years, so it’s demise surprised no one. It is frustrating that Toronto, once such a vibrant live-music city, is losing so many of it’s venerable performance temples, but by the time the blues-greats no longer stopped by, and even the Trotskyists had moved-on to fairer climes, it’s days of pleasing anyone but economical alcoholics were definitely numbered.
Catherine also supplied a funny tidbit in reaction to this photograph – in her usual dry, offhand (and absolutely never self-aggrandizing way). She said, “You know – I never once waited in a line, to get into a club.”
I looked at her, a bit puzzled (though of course her natural effortless-cool has long-since been established, to any who know her well). “Not ever?”
She shook her head. “Nope. I went to plenty of places with lineups – but I always just walked past them and straight in, every time. Even when there was a lineup for the table where they checked if you were on the guest-list.”
The things one can do, with just the right attitude – magic, most definitely! And just for reference – my historical luck has been quite the opposite – in fact, one time I wasn’t let-in the door even though I WAS on the guest-list! (okay, technically, my pal was on the list and gave me his pass). Still, you try spelling a five-syllable Estonian last-name perfectly when the 7 foot bouncer is glaring at you and holding your friend’s fake ID – and you’re already tipsy! Totally unfair test! (He was strangely unmoved by my appeals for a do-over)
And BTW – Catherine’s effortless-cool skill-set remains intact, decades later. We went to a showcase for a band that a friend was producing, not so long ago – and we weren’t standing there for three minutes when a young hipster practically vaulted the bar to get her a chair to sit on (everyone else was standing, even at the bar) and a waitress came-by to see what we wanted, ‘on the house.’ Place was packed, and nope, my friend wasn’t there – they just took us as ‘industry’. ;o)
Graffiti artists use right entrance
Here a shot of the mid-renovation Brunswick house (which blues-beerhall has, after the investment of much-needed millions, now become a drugstore). I instantly loved the texture on the door and stairs (Sargent’s Venice?), which I’m pretty sure somebody is going to clean-up before their grand re-opening (everyone likes to look snazzy on day-one, rather than venerable, don’t they?)
Then I caught the clear signage-bifurcation – one door for the more conventionally established trades, and one for those with the ability to bring a tag to a level of high calligraphic excellence. Respect indeed.
The work the old place needed
Here’s a shot of the interior of the former Brunswick house – third blurb, so I’m out of inebriated rabble-rouser references now – but there is one more observation to be made all the same. Millions were needed, to get the old place in shape. I am not happy about a music-hall (and indeed, venerable beer-hall) being turned into a drugstore – some real greats played here once – but without our butts in live-music chairs, paying cover and buying drinks, (happily!) we really don’t have a right to complain. Still, such abandonment is not always a final end of high purpose.
The grand old Hungarian palace restaurant was a desolate abandoned hulking ruin on Bloor St all throughout my childhood, though several smaller Hungarian restaurants still flourished (only Country-Style left of the originals now – N side of Bloor just E of Bathurst – but they are still excellent, and always packed for dinner!).
Back then, I found it’s flaking black-painted boarded-up face quite fantastic, because it had shields with coats of arms hung in two rows running vertically up the front – which made me invent all sorts of ridiculous and improbable backstories for the place. Now however, as a serious grown man possessed of a fine and rigorous epistemology, it is quite obvious to me that it was actually a secret Templar meeting place the whole time (illuminati every second Tuesday, but strictly BYOmachinations).
Anyhow – it took the fast-growing BMV chain a rumoured four million to renovate that old beauty and put it back into service as their finest location (see their own post) and the best new bookstore in our city in ages.
At least with this drugstore money-infusion, the building will remain in lovely shape structurally for future generations – who may still pony-up a few bucks more, to convert it back to culture-use, both high and low – should we prove ourselves interested in (and thus deserving of) live music of real quality once again.