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Sunday, July 31, 2016

The 1970s in Toronto film and TV

1970s film torontoToronto in the 1970s was by all accounts a wild place; industrial soot from decades past still coated the city, but a cheery makeover saw new icons appearing at an accelerated rate - The CN Tower, The Eaton Centre, Ontario Place, The Metropolitan Zoo, The Toronto Blue Jays and Citytv, all born in the so-called decade of malaise.

Here are few of the best examples of films and TV shows which perfectly captured that transformation in 24 frames per second, and in some cases showcased the new iconographic Toronto sites better than then anyone since.

Goin' Down the Road (1970)
Everything from Letterkenny to Bob & Doug Mackenzie to Trailer Park Boys owe their existence to this, the original low-rent adventures of two Nova Scotian hosers who set upon 1970 Toronto looking for girls, booze and darts.

The original "Cancon" movie is a grimy glimpse into the endless possibilities Toronto of the 70s could offer, and was directed by none other than Donald Shebib, Drake producer Noah Shebib (aka 40)'s dad.

The Collaborators (1973)
Like a 70s Toronto-set CSI, The Collaborators explored the hot-blooded conflicts between forensic scientists working in Metropolitan Toronto Police Department and the hard-boiled detectives and street cops on the front-line.

With episodes set in the Scarborough Town Centre, seatbelt-less high-speed chases with Yellow police cars and a menagerie of exotic villains that ranged from gay Nazi bikers to roaming gangs of mute children, this series could only have existed in brown and orange haze of 1970s Toronto.

Black Christmas (1974)
A madman terrorizes a sorority house at the University of Toronto, first pestering them with a series of vulgar phone-calls, then murdering them as their fellow students melt away for the Christmas holidays.

Crafted the template for the next decade's slasher craze (erroneously credited to John Carpenter's much more celebrated Halloween), but instead of suburbia or summer camp it's bleak U of T architecture in wintertime.

toronto 1970s filmThe Adventures of Timothy Pilgrim (1974)
TVOntario's first foray into kid-friendly Science-Fiction, this surprisingly bleak and gritty time-travel series was filmed in and around the industrial wasteland that was Liberty Village circa 1974.

By climbing into an old trunk, young Timothy travels back to Toronto in 1874, where he befriends travelling elixir salesman Zachariah Gibson as they traverse the equally unpleasant realities of Toronto in the past, and Toronto in the future.

Sidestreet (1975)
CBC's violent, proto-Hill Street Blues cop show was shot entirely on location across the city, giving an authentic flare and coming across almost like a documentary chronicling the mean streets of Toronto. Criminally this series remains a lost relic, never repeated and thus far absent on YouTube. With a dynamite opening theme song by Chuck Mangione, to boot.

toronto 1970s filmKing of Kensington (1975)
The opening titles alone elevate this rather patchy CBC show to legendary status. While most of the series was shot on stodgy soundstages, the location footage establishes Kensington as a kind of zenith for Toronto's multicultural harmony, something which until the 70s was never really seen on TV.

Silver Streak (1977)
Set on Chicago-bound train, this Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor comedy-thriller shot its climactic finale - the train smashing through a barrier and into the terminal - at Union Station. Chicago and Toronto have always been correctly comparable, so we'll give this cheat a pass, plus it's great to have this particular incarnation of Union captured on film for prosperity.

toronto 1970s filmThe New Avengers in Canada (1977)
TV sequel to the cult '60s tele-fantasy series The Avengers set 4 episodes in Toronto, all of them crackers. Assassins atop the CN Tower, bullet-spraying villains commandeering a Toronto Star delivery van along the Lakeshore, Secret agents rendezvousing at the Eaton Centre, political prisoners at the CNE, this truly bonkers series played out Toronto locals for all they were worth.

Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century (1977)
Gonzo Italian rip-offs of King Kong don't come anymore unhinged than this. A giant Yeti is unveiled to the public out front of City Hall, after which it goes on a city-wide rampage looking for its true love. Sadly for film lovers everywhere he does not climb atop the CN Tower.

The Ugly Little Boy (1977)
The Ontario Science Centre stands in for a futuristic Toronto where nasty scientists have used time travel to bring a Neanderthal child into the future. The Neanderthal child was played by local actor Guy Big, who had famously appeared as mini-Count in Billy Van's Hilarious House of Frightenstein, and who sadly passed away the following year.

Starship Invasions (1977)
Aliens from a dying world attack Toronto - and even land a UFO in front of Robarts library! The Ed Wood style of acting and special effects, and constant shout-outs to the Toronto Star make this a guilty pleasure. The film stars Christopher Lee and Robert Vaughn, who were clearly only in it for the drink money.

toronto 1970s filmThe Silent Partner (1978)
A virtual funk-fuelled A-Z of Toronto circa 1978, this crafty crime caper uses a bank in the freshly minted Eaton Centre as its central location. 1970s stalwart Elliot Gould plays a teller, and his cat-and-mouse antics with cross-dressing bank robber Christopher Plummer cover Cabbagetown, the Beaches, the Gardiner Expressway, The Silver Dollar Room, and even a romantic date at Captain Johns!

toronto 1970s filmThe Brood (1979)
David Cronenberg's ice cold treatise on divorce, this classic Canuxploitation horror flick features one of the greatest scenes of kindertrauma ever committed to film: Two mutant children attack Brown Public School on Avenue Road near St. Clair and brutally murder a teacher in front of her young pupils.

Anyone who attended a Toronto school in the '70s can relate - their sterile environments were the perfect setting for something awful.

Highpoint (1979)
Filmed at the tail end of the decade but shelved until 1982, this tedious crime film features an explosive finale shot at the CN Tower. After opening fire on diners in the 360 Restaurant, perennial bad guy Christopher Plummer falls off the top of the Tower. The stunt was done by daredevil Dar Robinson, who jumped off the Tower for a cool $150k (he returned the following year to do it again).

What did I miss? Please add your suggestion in the comments.

Ed Conroy's Retrontario plumbs the seedy depths of Toronto flea markets, flooded basements, thrift shops and garage sales, mining old VHS and Betamax tapes that less than often contain incredible moments of history that were accidentally recorded but somehow survived the ravages of time. You can find more amazing discoveries at

by Ed Conroy via blogTO

What a $1 million condo is like in Toronto vs other cities

one million dollar condoHow does a $1 million condo in Toronto stack up against other cities? You might be surprised at how competitive units are in this price range across the globe. Adjusted for the Canadian dollar, a million bucks certainly goes a bit further in Toronto than it does in New York and London, but the difference is less radical than you might think.

Here's what a $1 million condo looks like in Toronto vs. other cities.

$1,039,888 in Toronto
This building located on the waterfront and features three bedrooms and an open-concept living and eating space plus building amenities like a sweet indoor pool and exercise room. There's a view of the lake from one side and the Financial District from the other. Maintenance fees are just over $900.

one million dollar condo$749,000 US in Manahattan
$1 million CAN buys you a one bedroom apartment on Park Avenue. This unit is far from a shoebox, but space is at a higher premium than it is in Toronto. Maintenance fees in New York are typically significantly higher than in Toronto, but this particular condo comes in at just over $1000, which is quite reasonable for Manhattan.

one million dollar condo£650,000 in London
Located just outside of London's core, this two bedroom flat on Tenham Avenue is quite spacious with two bedrooms and an eat-in kitchen. It also features a small outdoor space at the back of the unit, which is roughly the equivalent of the a townhouse in Toronto.

one million dollar condo$1,000,000 in Vancouver
This townhouse in West End Vancouver has two bedrooms and two bathrooms spread across two levels. It's an older building near Sunset Beach, but highly attractive for its upper patio and wood-burning fireplace. Maintenance fees are a paltry $376.09 a month.

one million dollar condo$995,000 in Montreal
For just shy of a million bucks, you'll get a beautiful two bedroom condo in Montreal's Westmount neighbourhood. This building was completed in 2015 and isn't short on amenities (indoor pool, fitness centre) but it's the ample space that's so attractive about the unit. It also features a sizeable. Maintenance fees are $770 a month.

one million dollar condo$779,000 US in Los Angeles
This Los Angeles apartment was built in 1970 and is located near Brentwood. It shows its age a bit, but the condo is quite spacious at 1,547 square feet. This is the type of place that a struggling television actor might camp out at until getting picked up for a new series.

one million dollar condo$799,999 US in San Francisco
For a million Canadian, you'll only get a one bedroom in San Francisco, though there is a small den at your disposal. This is a relatively new condo (built in 2002) that's right next to the Bay in the South Beach neighbourhood. As far as usable living space goes, it's spacious enough at approximately 900 square feet.

one million dollar condo$730,145 US in Tokyo
This Tokyo flat is two bedrooms and 871 square feet. It features a huge balcony and spacious master bedroom as well as a shared rooftop terrace with a stunning 360 degree view of the city's skyline.

Are there any surprises here? Let us know in the comments.

by Derek Flack via blogTO

Toronto quietly loses landmark Bus Terminal Diner

bus terminal dinerThe Bus Terminal Diner quietly shut down earlier this year and its former home at 1606 Danforth Ave., went up for lease in late April. There's been almost no press about the closure and little is known how one of Toronto's oldest restaurants suddenly fell on hard times.

With its 1950s-style facade and retro interior, this throwback spot had been a neighbourhood staple for about 68 years - not bad for a spot slinging out simple, but filling eggy breakfasts, burgers and fries.

But what replaces it is unlikely to hone in on its throwback vibes. The 2,100 square foot space is zoned for commercial and retail use. But Michael Sapera, vice president of the The Behar Group Realty Inc. says the current owner isn't looking to lease this storied gem to an old-school restauranteur - instead, they're open to anything.

"Ideally, we would like to get a name brand or a national, somebody who's got some strength behind them," Sapera tells me. Though they'd also be okay working with an independent business owner.

It's worth noting that the nearby Allenby Theatre (or the Roxy) at 1213 Danforth Ave., is now a Tim Horton's and Esso station so there's precedent in this neighbourhood for turning iconic buildings into fast food chains. We'll just have to wait and see what the future holds for this iconic landmark east of Greektown.

by Amy Grief via blogTO

New Toronto Indian restaurant does great grilled meat

Empire Grill TorontoOne of Toronto's newest Indian restaurants doesn't mess around when it comes to grilling up lamb kebab, salmon, sausage and tandoori chicken. Too spicy? They do great mango lassis to wash everything down.

Read my profile of Empire Grill in the restaurants section.

by Amy Carlberg via blogTO

5 must-see shows at SummerWorks 2016

summerworks 2016The annual SummerWorks Performance Festival in Toronto runs from August 4 to 14 at various venues across the city. The curated event is turning 26 this year and to celebrate, it's showcasing 69 projects as well as events and workshops. Like other local theatre festivals, there's usually something for everyone, whether you're looking to sit down and enjoy a show or participate in a site-specific piece.

Here are 5 shows to check out at SummerWorks 2016.

In this PhD research project turned performance art, young people from Flemingdon and Thorncliffe Park use song, dance, rap and poetry to talk about sexuality in the wake of the controversy over Ontario's new sex ed curriculum. If you're wondering, SExT here stands for Sex Education by Theatre.

Who are you when you're home alone? That's the question this site specific performance explores. It's structured around a series of one-on-one encounters at a west end apartment, so buckle up for an intimate experience created by Cat Montgomery and Sasha Singer-Wilson.

Head to the Paddock Tavern on Bathurst Street to hear from a panel of love experts, between the ages of 7 to 97, as they share stories that'll make you ask, what is love?

Two Indians
This show by Falen Johnson is described "a darkly comedic look at the landscape of being Indigenous." It brings together two woman who try to recreate a ceremony from their childhood in a Toronto alleyway. You can see it at the Factory Theatre.

Empire of Night
Join this communal overnight on August 11 at the Drake Undergound. From 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., you can BYOB (bring your own blanket) and relive your childhood as Adam Paolozza, Matt Smith, Charles Ketchabaw and Kari Pederson throw a sleepover dance party - you may not even get to doze off.

Photo by Dahlia Katz Photography at the SummerWorks launch party via Facebook.

by Amy Grief via blogTO

Burger Pawty brings girly-looking burgers to Toronto

burger pawtyBurger-worship is pretty common in Toronto. But the most revered patties are usually meaty monstrosities slathered with cheese, bacon or a slew of unorthodox toppings. But for the past year, a pair of local foodies have been putting a glittery spin on this fast food staple.

Burger Pawty (it's pronounced party) is a Toronto-based brand that puts on food-focused pop-up events filled with tiny pink burgers. Louise Mangalino founded it with cook Jessica Lagman, but she's now flying solo.

Mangalino, who also runs the blog Burgers and Barbies, has visited an array of burger joints over the years. "Doing my burger blog, I noticed that 90 per cent of the places I'd been to catered to men," she says. She describes Burger Pawty as girly girl, with an edge - that's also how she defines her personal aesthetic.

And while her burgers are certainly eye-catching, do we really need to create a dichotomy for this classic North American sandwich? A burger doesn't need to be pink in order to appeal to women.

The female founder of the popular Toronto-based Instagram account BurgersTO (full disclosure, she writes for this site too), says most businesses she works with are surprised to find out she's a woman. Despite those stereotypical expectations, she still thinks burgers are gender neutral.

And while creating so-called girly-looking food is important to Mangalino, Burger Pawty, like other women-focused initiatives in Toronto, is ultimately about more than just pink burgers and pastel-coloured waffle buns.

She uses her events to bring together female-identified entrepreneurs and fellow food vendors. She also tries to collaborate exclusively with local businesses - such as Coco and Cowe and Naked Beauty Bar - at each pop-up party.

So far, she's held three Burger Pawt(ies?) and has also served up her signature burgers at other parties and markets around the city. She has an office job during the week so right now, this is a part-time operation.

And while she has no firm plans in place yet, her dream would be to open up permanent Burger Pawty location. Because hey, we could all use a bit more sparkle in our lives.

Photo via Instagram.

by Amy Grief via blogTO

The top 5 free events in Toronto: August 1-7 2016

theeb movieFree events in Toronto this week include sexy books, film screenings, a leather festival and a sick downtown basketball tournament.

Here are my picks for the top 5 free things to do this week.

Action: A Book About Sex (August 3, Type Books)
If you've never been to a book reading or talk at Type books, this is the night to do it. Amy Rose Spiegel's revealing new book of sexual adventures (the good, the bad, and the ugly) will make for a very cozy evening of wit, convo and dirty stories.

Toronto Leather Pride
(August 4-6, Church Street)

Th city's leather community has its very own Pride celebration every year. Events include The Ms. Leather Toronto, Mr. Leatherman Toronto and Toronto Puppy Contest, the Leather Ball Dance party and educational talks.

Chris Harms Exertion (#Hashtag Gallery)
A super interesting little art show about the constant construction happening in our fair city. Exertion shows off Harms' vibrant sculptures with Plexiglas that resemble earth-moving excavators. Giving light and colour and childlike imagination to our urban landscape.

TPFF 2016 Party in the Pits Outdoor Screening (August 5, Christie Pits)
This is the Christie Pits night to go to. There's a pre party with music, food and pre-film chatter with pals. Then a screening of Oscar-nominated film Theeb at 9 p.m.

Full Court 21 Canada (August 6, Harbourfront Centre)
Have you ever walked or biked by the basketball courts at the very bottom of Bathurst on the Lakeshore? If you're lucky enough to witness a casual game happening, you know what I'm talking about. The people that play here are neighbourhood masters, and it's amazing to watch. This tournament should bring out even more ferocity.

Do you have a free event this week you think we all need to know about? Let us know in the comments and let's get free!

Photo of Theeb.

by Phil Villeneuve via blogTO