Rebel Dykes @ CUFF.Docs

The Calgary Underground Film Festival has often been kind enough to include queer history in their programming line-up. This year, the documentary festival running November 24-28, 2021, is featuring Rebel Dykes about a pivotal ten year period in London, England’s lesbian community (1981-1991).

Rebel Dykes touches on themes of kink, hedonism, fashion, drugs, nightlife and political activism. This rabble-rousing documentary focuses on the heritage of young punk lesbians who existed on the edge of society in areas like Brixton, Peckham, Soho, and Hackney. The documentary uses archival footage, interviews with members of the movements, and is intercut with animation, to share this untold story.

Director Siobhan Fahey explains the film came out of a queer oral history project that started in 2014. The Rebel Dykes History Project preserves, explores and shares the archive of “a bunch of kick ass post punk dykes who shook up London, UK in the 1980s.”

“This boisterous oral history of a little-known underground London lesbian scene which spawned from a collision between punk and feminism is a blast” —SCREENDAILY

Rebel Dykes is available to stream on demand, or one can catch the in-person screening November 25th, 9:30 PM at the Globe Cinema. Come out for queer history in Calgary!

{KA}

Video

Vogue Mapping

{The Calgary Gay History Project is thrilled to bits that queer history in Calgary is getting this fresh artistic treatment—the videos are superb! You only have until this Sunday to check them out. – Kevin}

From Springboard Performance‘s Fluid Fest:

Inspired by Calgary Atlas Project’s A Queer Map, Vogue dancers bring significant queer history sites in Calgary to life. Featuring and inspired by Calgary’s Vogue community, queer history in Calgary, and The Calgary Atlas Project’s A Queer Map: A Guide to the LBGTQ+ History of Calgary {launched in 2019}.

Curated by Vogue YYC and Shandie Ta

Featuring:
Abby, Abhi, Bohlale, DJ, Jared, Kaew, Rocky, Roubert, Sarah, Shandie Ta

Partners: Springboard Performance, VogueYYC, The Calgary Institute for the Humanities, and The Calgary Atlas Project

Words: KEVIN ALLEN
Map art: MARK CLINTBERG
Design collaborator: JEFF KULAK
Graphic design: GLENN MIELKE
Interactive digital map: Timothy Lopez
Video: Devon Carter Wells, Beau Shaw, and Sabrina “Naz” Comanescu
Curation by Shandie Ta

Special thank you to Kevin Jesuino, Mark Clintberg, and James Ellison

Available online until Sunday, November 7 @ 12:00 PM [midnight]

The Golden Age of Gay Bars in YYC

{The Calgary Gay History Project is revisiting its most impactful blog posts—now numbering in the hundreds—since its inception nine years ago. The Golden Age of Gay Bars in YYC has been the source of much nostalgia since it was published on September 22, 2017. It recounts a time of oppression, community, possibility and camaraderie.}

Calgary was booming in the 70s. The city’s population increased about 50% in those 10 years. Club Carousel, the only gay club at the beginning of the decade saw its popularity wane as commercial gay bars opened in the city. The owners and operators had more capital to invest in their emerging discotheques, and the growing gay community flocked to them.

The Parkside Continental ran from 1973-1986 and was located at the corner of 13th Avenue and 4th Street SW (where Shelf Life Books is currently). The Parkside was named after a famous gay tavern in Toronto. Vance Campbell, a businessman and gay bar owner from Vancouver moved to Calgary to start the Parkside with local partners.

In the early years, there were provincial regulations about food being served with alcohol at bars. Rudy Labuhn, who was initially a DJ at the club and then manager, remembered that when the Parkside began they served 50 cent burgers to all drinkers.  He explained that the Province also limited the amount of recorded music that could be played. Fortunately, a straight bar called Lucifer challenged those rules successfully ushering in the age of disco to Calgary. Interestingly, the bar would end most nights with a song that was decidedly more downtempo: Broadway singer Maureen McGovern’s song, “The Continental.”

Vance

A grainy image of Vance Campbell in front of the Parkside Continental from the Body Politic, Sept. 1980.

The Parkside expanded upstairs creating a second bar called The Green Room. The Imperial Sovereign Court of the Chinook Arch in April 1976 was founded there; their first coronation followed in January 1977 at the Holiday Inn Downtown. Drag legend, Sandy St. Peters who grew up in Calgary and lived and performed across Canada, entertained occasionally at the Parkside. After a big Saturday night at the bar, she would run across the street to campily welcome churchgoers arriving Sunday morning for early service at the First Baptist Church. In addition to drag performances, Eartha Kitt famously did a highly regarded concert one night in the Green Room.

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Sandy St. Peters (1953-2001). Image Source: YouTube

Vance Campbell proved to be a divisive figure at times publicly opposing the local gay activist community, which revolved around Gay Information & Resources Calgary (GIRC), headquartered only one block away. He was described by the Body Politic in 1980 as one of the power brokers in the gay community “confident enough of his position to write to the mayor and counter GIRC’s claim that Calgary could face a gay rights march.”

Another reason perhaps why Campbell felt powerful was he was an owner of Calgary’s other gay bar of note: Myrt’s.  Opened in 1976, the sign on the building said Myrt’s Beauty Parlour and was located at 808 9 Ave. SW (now a parking lot). This gay lounge and disco were initially open Friday and Saturday nights for men only. As its popularity grew, it operated six nights/week and became a mixed club, reportedly played the best music in the city.

Parkside Discotheques

Advertisement in GIRC’s 1977 publication, “Gay Moods”

A hallway off the dance floor led to a 150-seat theatre known as the “Backlot” which also served as an after-hours bar. The gay community was encouraged to use it as much as possible; it was the venue for emerging theatre artists, Imperial Court drag shows, Mr Butch Calgary “Slave Auctions” and, on Sunday mornings, Metropolitan Community Church services. Myrts’ final song every night was Kermit the Frog’s “Rainbow Connection.”

Butch Bucks

Butch Bucks from a Calgary Slave Auction in 1978. Donated to the YYC Gay Archives by Terry MacKenzie.

The bar closed on New Year’s Eve 1981/1982 as the building fell victim to boomtown redevelopment. Myrt’s and the Backlot briefly moved to 17th avenue before it closed again. One former patron broke into the site and retrieved the neon “Backlot” sign. The preserved sign now hangs over the door of the contemporary Backlot bar on 10th Ave. SW.

Backlot

Neon sign at the Backlot Bar, 2017. Photo: Kevin Allen.

{KA}