Our survey of 2012’s most notoriously nocturnal people, places, and things—all lovely in their own ways. (Okay, maybe not everyone.)
The Odd Friday Night Treat: Strip Spelling Bee
Most likely to: Make you fall in love with someone else’s genitals.
Dirrty worthy: 2012 started with a flash—of other people’s junk. Montreal transplant Sherwin Sullivan Tjia brings his Strip Spelling Bee circus to Buddies in Bad Times theatre almost every month. The premise is simple and sexy: 10 or so compete by trying to spell a weirdly difficult word (say, from the Wiccan dictionary) over three rounds. If you get your word wrong, time to peel off a layer of clothing. It’s part peep show, too, with contestants dressing in everything from lingerie to a penis in a bow. No cameras are allowed, and any wordsmith can strip. It’s all love.
In 2013: Sherwin also hosts the formidable Queer Slowdance series, with the next one happening on Jan. 5.
The Underdog: Comfort Zone
Cyber stalk: comfortzonetoronto.com
Most likely to: Scare the shit out of you.
Dirrty worthy: There are few places in this city shrouded in so much lore as the Comfort Zone, Toronto’s most notorious-ish legal after-hours venue, where you can dance for literally 24 hours if you wanted to. The place has had its share of legal troubles and has long fought the city for “unfair scrutiny.” Washed in black light, CZ opened in 1997 and remains a favourite among the older set due to its music bookings, regardless of whether or not big names roll through. Last I checked, there wasn’t even alcohol service—part of an effort to clean up its image. Still, the cult-like devotion to the place is something every person under 30 should experience at least once.
In 2013: Maybe its last year in operation?
The Soul Sister: Rea McNamara
Cyber stalk: @reeraw
Most likely to: Point you to new friendships and psychic connections.
Dirrty worthy: Artist/writer/performer Rea McNamara, a.k.a. Reeraw, had a busy year doing exactly what she wanted. Nothing was off-limits. With the smashing success of her consistently-packed Sheroes night honouring legendary ladies, reeraw ended the 12-party programme with Virtual Season, a day-to-night music festival featuring live performances, vogue 101, and food. On Halloween night, she launched the karaoke night Moonshine Cabaret at Holy Oak Cafe in Bloordale “to heal your universal mind with HeartSongs™, magical thinking and mystical cocktails.”
In 2013: Head to Unlovable on Dundas West for her Shakedown Street, a bi-monthly banger of disco-rock.
Photo: Courtesy of Rachel Conduit
The Underrated: HandleBar
Cyber stalk: @The_HandleBar
Most likely to: Be the place you’re not going to.
Dirrty worthy: When it comes to cozy Kensington Market watering holes, HandleBar is probably second only to Cold Tea. Earlier this year, The Grid followed HandleBar’s owners—also behind The Avro on Queen East—as they endured the trails and tribulations of opening a bar. (It took two years!) There’s nothing flashy or brash about the space, and its charms are palpable, what with all the ’70s rec-room furniture, the cheesy/endearing meadow mural, and bicycles mounted behind the bar. There’s also food, cocktails starting at five bucks (and change), a bumpin’ social calendar and a decent patio space. Sadly, the few times I’ve been, the place has been less than rammed.
In 2013: Try going to their Nintendo competition night on Jan. 5 for something really retro.
Photo: Jerod Harris/Getty Images for VitaminWater
The One Night Stand: The premiere Party for The Perks of Being A Wallflower
Most likely to: Be somewhere you didn’t go.
Dirrty worthy: During TIFF’s celebrity hysteria and the parties that follow them, it can all feel so routine: hors d’oeuvres, open bar, crowded room, dim lights. Yet the shindig for the critically acclaimed, highly-anticipated Perks was like something out of Teen People. Sure, there was writer/director Stephen Chbosky, Emma Watson, Nina Dobrev, Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, Alia Shawkat, and Glee boys Chord Overstreet and Darren Criss. But who can worry about them when you’ve got a prom-style photo booth, a life-sized Lite-Brite, and an out-of-the-way location with minimal fan attacks?
In 2013: Send flowers to The Mint Agency, responsible for some of TIFF’s most memorable post-premiere nights.
The Good Cause: CANFAR’s Young Professionals Council
Cyber stalk: @CANFAR_YPC
Most likely to: School you on the truth about HIV while wining and dining you.
Dirrty worthy: Last spring, the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research’s Young Professionals Council hosted Our Future Without AIDS, a fundraiser aimed at raising awareness about, and funds for, HIV prevention and programs. But that’s just a fraction of what the council does. By appealing to a pleasure principle that fuels both sex and parties, they’re able to engage younger generations. During Bloor Street Entertains, for example, the council hosted a special cocktail social in the ROM Crystal’s C5 Restaurant. However, a sad truth remains: “more twentysomethings show up to a condo opening than to this thing.”
In 2013: Get tested and play smart/safe.
The One With The Party House: Timothy Alexander McCready
Cyber stalk: @timmccready
Most likely to: Let you sleep on his kitchen counter.
Dirrty worthy: I’m not personally acquainted with Mr. McCready but, damn, I wish I’d made a better effort. The could-be crooner just wants everyone to have a good time, and to like him, and that’s okay, eh. Hailing from Windsor, Ont., McCready owns the party house/temple that is 159 Manning, home to a blow-out BBQ last summer and an also-annual NYE party coming up. He charges cover, but anyone can come as long as you “BE NICE.” Plus, he seems to have lived 10,000 lives already (working for Strombo?!). And he’s one of the few male narcissists I can actually tolerate.
In 2013: I want to sit in his living room and write songs with him over bottomless whiskey.
Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star
The Playlist Killer: “Gangnam Style”
Cyber stalk: @psy_oppa
Most likely to: Remind you how old you are/will feel in the not-so-distant future.
Dirrty worthy: By the time you read this, one-hit-wonder Psy’s video for “Gangnam Style” will have reached a billion YouTube views, a record. But it is, sadly, merely the next “Macarena” or “Tubthumping.” Plus, a poor man had a fatal heart attack after attempting the ridiculous dance. I don’t dance ironically. And, when you hear it at a “serious club,” how serious can you really take said club?
In 2013: Strip a DJ of his laptop if this is played anywhere other than at a wedding after dessert.
The Perfect Plus One: Pam Kudlowich
Cyber stalk: She’s not that kind of girl.
Most likely to: Get you free drinks.
Dirrty worthy: Kudlowich, a manager at a certain West Queen West culture hub-slash-hotel, was my first and only downtown roommate. She’s also the silent star in most of my columns, fearlessly subjecting herself to any and every party patrol—even the shit that doesn’t make it to print, like that time we went to a Russian bar where everyone did vodka shots over techno beats and no one talked to us. When I’m hiding free bottles of Absolut under the table, she’s the lookout. When I’m forced to dance with a bunch of 19-year-olds, she makes sure I’m right wasted.
In 2013: Let her introduce you to the newest after-hours.
The Last Laugh: Toronto Nightclub Awards
Cyber stalk: torontonightclubawards.com
Most likely to: Make you LOL IRL.
Dirrty worthy: On Dec. 17, C-Lounge (Industry Night!) hosted the 12th Annual Nightclub Awards, emceed by Z103.5′s Tony Monaco and MC Iceman, both of whom won awards. I didn’t go. Full stop. Why? Because I don’t watch the Teen Choice Awards via YouTube clips either. Granted, the fact that we even have these awards, and a legit ceremony at which to hand them out, equals a solid effort on the industry’s part. But Toronto Fashion Week is where I fill my quota for nauseating, mostly useless self-congratulation. In addition, the Awards sooo obviously represents a mere fraction of Toronto’s legit after-dark experiences, the ones created for crowds not from the 416 and with too much money for bottle service. (Maybe they can pay for my drugs instead?) Anyway, here is an abridged list of winners from the categories that I find most interesting. Congrats, y’all. (You can find the rest on your own time.)
Nightclub Of The Year: This Is London
Best GTA Nightclub: Luxy Nightclub (I’ve been to this multi-award winner! And it was transcendent.)
Best Bar: Nashville North
Club Owner of The Year: Charles Khabouth
Best Patio: Tryst
Best Upscale Club or Lounge: Fiction
Best New Club: CUBE
Best Promo Model/Gogo Team: Femme Fatale
Club Staff of The Year: Century Room
Party of The Year: VELD
In 2013: Never go to any of these places (again), except for Nashville North—duh!
What was your most memorable nightlife experience—good or bad—of 2012? Let us know in the comments section below.