The Boots dancefloor during a 1990s Pride weekend event. Photo courtesy of Casey McNeill.
Article originally published September 17, 2013 by The Grid online (thegridto.com).
One of the largest and longest-lasting gay dance clubs in Toronto, this Sherbourne Street super-club went through a number of evolutions as it spurred the local mainstreaming of gay culture during the ’80s and ’90s.
BY: DENISE BENSON
Club: Boots/Boots Warehouse, 592 Sherbourne St.
Years in operation: 1981-2000
History: The story of Boots, one of Toronto’s best-known and longest-lasting gay dance clubs, begins in 1980 at the Waldorf Astoria apartment building. The basement of what was once a hotel at 80 Charles St. E. was rented to a group of men; their first incarnation of Boots proved popular enough that there were noise complaints. The lease was not renewed.
The original Boots on Charles Street. Photo by Joan Anderson,
courtesy of the Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives.
By late summer of 1981, Boots re-opened in another lower-level location, this time at 592 Sherbourne St., site of the historic Selby Hotel. Once a grand mansion, the building was constructed in the late-1800s, and was home for more than 20 years to members of the wealthy Gooderham family. In 1910, a large addition built on the rear of the mansion opened as Branksome Hall, a private school for girls.
Allan Bell a.k.a. Phyllis (left) with Sister Rock-On at David’s. Photo courtesy of Wendy Peacock.
Article originally published March 26, 2013 by The Grid online (thegridto.com).
In its brief lifespan, this ‘70s hotspot served as both a gay disco and punk-rock haven—before it all ended in a mysterious fire and murder.
BY: DENISE BENSON
Club: Club David’s, 16 Phipps
Years in operation: 1975-1977
History: The allure that the Yonge and St. Joseph area once held for creatures of the night has been detailed in a number of previous Then & Now pieces, including those about early 1980s venues Voodoo and Club Z. Here, we visit a prior decade to travel a short distance south, down a once-existing strip of the St. Nicholas alleyway, to a barely-there street called Phipps.
Moving and storage company Rawlinson Cartage constructed the building at 16 Phipps in the late 1890s. A small tunnel, thought to once hold a conveyor belt, connected it to the building directly north, at 11A St. Joseph. As with a number of neighbouring structures, it was also erected by Rawlinson.
In the early 1970s, 11A St. Joseph was home to popular all-ages gay male dance club The Manatee. Nearby Yonge Street bars The Parkside Tavern and St. Charles Tavern were gay hotspots, as was intimate Isabella Street disco Mrs. Knights.
Club David’s added new possibilities to the mix when Jay Cochrane and Sandy Leblanc opened it in the spring of 1975.