A Life in The Bar, 1969-2000


Dancing boys

"Je me souviens"
Quebec's referendum replay

Maclean's cover
Breathtakingly close:
Cover of Maclean's, Nov 6, '95, with final figures for the Oct 30 "sovereignty association" vote.

Death of Wolfe
The Death of Wolfe
by Benjamin West (detail, version of 1779; courtesy of Toronto Reference Library): the British commander, the French Montcalm too -- & New France -- all meeting their end on the Plains of Abraham, Sept 1759.

For all of its history, Canada's most pressing politics have roiled around whether is it, or should be, a nation at all. It can seem odd.

But there's something bracing about a country never quite sure what it is or wants to be.

Words that do ring from our history -- Dieppe, Batoche, the Plains of Abraham -- name battles in which some of us, or all of us, were defeated.

Names & places too oft forgot

For a historical tour of the battles, people, places & events alluded to in this chapter (many of them little known even to Canadians), see: Losers (who sometimes win), an addendum in a separate file.

October through December

In June we'd had an election. The New Democratic Party had governed Ontario since 1990, not always well and not in good times.

With the early '90s came a deep recession. At first the NDP tried to spend their way out of it but in time the bullet was bit. Their occasional "we know best" self righteousness, too traditional on the left, got backs up even among the party bedrock: trade unions. Progressive forces grew complacent over the few years of social democratic rule.

With the defeat of the 1994 spousal rights bill gay people blamed both the flip flop Liberals and the "vote your conscience" NDP, abandoning the party of the left long their natural home. Many had sat out the June election.

In the downtown riding that encompassed the ghetto, Tory Al Leach won by little more than 300 votes. Tories won all over and formed a majority government, one hard to the right, premier Mike Harris launching his tax (and service) cutting "Common Sense Revolution."

Leach, having already let public transit rot in his term as TTC commissioner, would become minister of housing and urban affairs, trashing both. In 1997 he would be the executioner of the old and often radical City of Toronto, burying it in a huge, suburb dominated amalgamation.

Life would get tougher for folks downtown, gay folks -- or some of us -- among them.


On October 30 I glued myself to the TV for more election returns, joined by most of the country -- to see if we still had a country.

Quebec had launched another referendum on sovereignty. Smug federalists touted polls promising an easy win for the "No" side, just as in 1980. But early that night "Yes" was ahead, in the end losing by just a hair: more than 49 percent had voted to begin the process that would take Quebec out of Canada.

I was less sympathetic to the separatist cause this time than we'd been at The Body Politic in 1980. I believed in self determination still, but I'd had my fill of identity politics. I wanted to ask: OK, let's say you win rights, respectability, maybe even your own country -- now, what do you want to do with it?

The Parti Québécois was vaguely social democratic, a flower, even a peace sign, sometimes standing in for the "O" on their "Oui" campaign placards. At the end of that long October night we'd see the darker side of identity rooted in -- as an ancient phrase had it -- "la langue, la foi, la race."

Angry at the defeat, PQ premier Jacques Parizeau blamed it on "money and the ethnic vote," saying that "three fifths of who we really are" -- Québécois pure laine -- had opted for sovereignty.

Even separatists were shocked at this appeal to veins running deep in Quebec's nationalist history, long fed by Catholic prelates: linguistic and religious bigotry; antisemitism; xenophobia.

But those veins, if now mostly submerged, were still there to be tapped by fascists in flower child drag.


It must seem odd in most other countries, the USA in particular, to hear of a nation whose most pressing politics for all of its history have roiled around whether is it, or should be, a nation at all.

On that night in October it nearly ceased to be one, or a single one, the long entente between English and French, fragile foundation of a united state in northern North America, barely surviving.

Well, the separatists lost so for a time the agonizing died down. It would no doubt revive: it always has.

Still, there is something bracing about a country never quite sure what it is or wants to be. "Canadian Identity" is a toothache ever probed -- if there even is such a thing. There is, if inchoate (I'll skip the usual modest litany), but even that is too much for some, seeing the country as a nearly blank slate on which we can write our own stories.

The few shreds of national mythology rarely fly uncontested: the Red Ensign with its Union Jack replaced in 1965 by a bland maple leaf; Dominion Day, the anniversary of Confederation -- some players in 1867 reluctant, others not playing at all -- rechristened Canada Day and sold as a birthday party to blur fractious history.

Our few rebels -- Louis Joseph Papineau and William Lyon Mackenzie in 1837; Louis Riel leading the Métis in 1869 and 1885 -- became not founding fathers but pariahs, some allowed to slink back once neutered, none rehabilitated by history until after a long, safe sleep in the grave.

Heroes like Dr Norman Bethune go unheralded at home until canonized elsewhere, in Bethune's case Communist China.

Words that do ring from our history -- Dieppe, Batoche, the Plains of Abraham -- name battles in which some of us, or all of us, were defeated. Even Vimy Ridge, Easter 1917, Canada's first big victory in a global war, is remembered mostly for its dead.

Displays of patriotic (or, again in contrast to the US, religious) fervour are seen as something of an embarrassment here. The reputed last words of nurse Edith Cavell, shot by the Germans as a spy in World War I, were: "Patriotism is not enough!"

Though English, many think she was Canadian; her sentiment certainly was. There's a mountain in the Rockies named for her, and a monument, "Edith Cavell and the Canadian Nurses," outside Toronto General Hospital.


But most often we wipe the slate clean, or try to, obscuring a past we might do better to recall. Those names above, the people, the places -- even many Canadians don't know them.

But if the long debate over what Canada is ever stops, as some testily demand -- Let them go, for Christ's sake! Let's just get it over with! -- the silence we'll hear will be the sound of a country too tired to bother with being what it truly is: a place quite rare, built on values beyond race, religion, language -- or international supremacy.

Canada endlessly reinvents itself because it has to, so little about it safely presumed. It's been called "the world's first post modern state" (we did after all give the world Marshall McLuhan) -- precisely because it's not sure it is one.

Rather a nice place, in all, for gay people to live: also presuming little; also facing the obligation -- and the privilege -- of making ourselves anew every day.


A "kiddie porn ring" turns out a mere moral panic created by the police -- & exposed by a young reporter who did what no one else bothered to do: he went to the "children."

Eighteen years after "Men Loving Boys Loving Men" we'd see media pedo panic played out again -- with many of the same players.

On March 11, 1995, The Globe and Mail had run a feature by Gerald Hannon: "The kiddie porn ring that wasn't," exposing a London Ontario crackdown, "Project Guardian," as little more than a police created moral panic.

Stacks of videotapes piled up for dramatic effect in a May 1994 press conference by the city's top cop Julian Fantino turned out to be everything from Abbot and Costello Go to Mars to Zorro the Gay Blade.

Some tapes found earlier had shown sex involving local boys; they were identified, tracked down and harassed into naming their contacts. Forty five men were arrested, hundreds of charges laid. Most related to sex with boys, all but a few in their teens, most over 13.

Since 1988 the age of consent in Canada has been 14, but with significant exceptions, among them sex gained by "consideration" (money, gifts, a roof overhead, almost anything) and depictions of sex with anyone who is or appears to be under 18.

But few of the charges here had to do with porn -- or "children," though both terms were wildly flaunted. This "kiddie porn" panic was really about teenage hustlers.

The story had first been broken by a young freelance journalist, Joseph Couture. As Gerald wrote:

He found his way into the lives of several of the "child victims." (Mr Couture had cruised London's downtown Victoria Park himself when he was 13, looking for older men to have sex with, so he had some idea where to go.) He did what it seemed no one else had done thus far: He looked beyond the steady stream of police press releases. He went to the "children."

Joseph sent his stories to Xtra , often to see them hacked by Eleanor Brown. He had better luck with Max Allen, scourge of censorship and producer of the CBC Radio series Ideas. They did a documentary, The Trials of London, aired in October 1994.

Police harassed boys interviewed on the program, dragging one out of a restaurant -- as he was talking with Couture. Joseph's house was once surrounded by police cruisers and the canine unit: they said they were looking for a stolen car.


Gerald's article, two full pages, told of these men, these boys, the cops, and Joseph. In May 1995 Fantino complained to the Ontario Press Council. On November 9 the council ruled that the piece should have been labelled "Opinion," not "Analysis." But its facts stood, The Globe standing by them.

Two days later at a women in media conference, the chair of journalism at Ryerson Polytechnic University was attacked for having in his employ a certain part time instructor: Gerald Hannon. The attacker: Judy Steed.

Three days later Toronto Sun columnist Heather Bird picks up the story in a piece called "The professor of desire," accusing Gerald of using the classroom to "proselytize." Next day The Sun heads a story: "Journalism teacher's essay sparks probe," that probe by Ryerson.

Then: "Prof backs adult-kid sex," based on comments by Gerald in an interview. A story the day after says the "prof" has become "the talk of the town." On the 18th it's Heather Bird again: "Prof pushes a perverse idea." The next night Gerald debates Ms Bird on CBC TV's On the Line. The Sun on the 20th: "Kid- sex prof stands ground."

Then on the 21st: "Police sex squad probes professor," looking into allegations that Gerald had "watched a man having sex with a 12 year old boy" -- 18 years before, in 1977, in "Men Loving Boys Loving Men."


T O Sun, 25 Nov 95
Prostitute & "pedersast prof":
The Toronto Sun promotes Gerald Hannon to professor (he was not) & pedophile (not his line either).

We would learn a lot about "journalism" -- as if we didn't know too much already.

The one truly apt take on the whole media whore feeding frenzy came as a cartoon caption: "Oxymoron of the year: Journalism professor continues to work as prostitute."

The investigation was dropped in just three days -- but the media spectacle had just begun. It went on well into 1996, with echoes even beyond.

It got a fresh kick on November 25 when page 1 of The Toronto Sun blazed with a three inch high headline: "Ryerson Prof: I'm a Hooker." Contacted by a Sun reporter Gerald had fessed up to his other career. Some griped he had good reason not to -- but, he knew, no honourable ones.

I first saw that headline staring out from a newspaper box on my way to a meeting of a group that had come to Gerald's defence. It did not shake that group, practically a reunion of the people who had come to The Body Politic's defence so many years before.

Max Allen, Richard Fung, and old Queen Street ally Lisa Steele were there, all noted anti censorship activists. So were Mariana Valverde, Ed Jackson, Gerry Oxford, among others. From Xtra, where we held that November 25 meeting, there were Ken Popert, David Walberg and Rachel Giese. Ken and David wouldn't be much involved after that; Rachel would.

There is too much more to tell you here, endless drama and details. But you can go find it on the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives website (there's a link to it farther on). I did some of the chronologies there, my first one beginning:

This is a chronicle of non-events. In the late '70s and then nearly two decades later in the mid 1990s, stories essentially the same and involving some of the same key players gripped the local media and made national headlines. For all the wash of "news," in neither case did anything truly new actually happen. The subject both times was timeless: sex and power as we live it from day to day -- good, bad, ambiguous; but mostly unspoken.

That website (actually two, done by Gerry Oxford and Xtra's Jeff Lindstrom, later "archived" together on the CLGA site) was part of our defence effort, using technology that hadn't been on offer in the 1970s.

But it did give fresh life to some thought from the '70s: "Men Loving Boys Loving Men," "Another Look," and Jane Rule's "Teaching Sexuality." She wrote me on December 10:

I'm very glad I wrote "Teaching Sexuality" when I did and that it can be recycled on the internet now. Though I don't always agree with Gerald, I think of him as one of the few who can keep us honest, insisting that we look at what really is, to avoid nothing, to think through to some sort of sense. The dishonesty, hypocrisy, and vindictiveness aimed at him now simply enrages me.


I will give you a few highlights. Ryerson suspends Gerald -- by press release, issued late Sunday night, November 26. We get a press conference together by 1 pm the next day at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

In The Star Judy Steed likens Gerald to Ernst Zundel, purveyor of Nazi propaganda. Britain's Guardian Weekly runs a feature on the case; it gets reprinted in The Washington Post. Sevodnya in Moscow does too: "By day in the faculty, by night on the streets." (Gerald never worked the streets.)

A new comic genre rises: the Gerald Hannon joke. "If you could be born again, would you rather come back as Princess Di [then hustling British trade] or Gerry Hannon? Look at the guy, face like a spaniel on acid, and, he claims, he still gets paid for it."

In a year end compendium of silliness we find: "The 10 people we hope not to hear from in 1996, but suspect we will." Number 5 is Princess Di; number 6 "Ryerson prof and part time hooker Gerald Hannon." Frank magazine lists "The Bores of '95": Gerald ranks ninth out of 20.

The best came from Montreal cartoonist Aislin: "Oxymoron of the year: Journalism professor will continue to work as prostitute" -- the one truly apt take on this media whore feeding frenzy.


The whole, endless
(& unending) story

For much more on this media mess -- commentaries; more than 50 news stories & columns; chronologies tracking the tale though 1996 (even a bit beyond); as well as "Men Loving Boys Loving Men," "Another Look," & "Teaching Sexuality" -- see Kid- sex Hooker Prof Scandal! on the CLGA site.

Too late for that: The Sun, Nov 26, 1999, rehashing the story & reporting Gerald still at Ryerson. I responded with a letter:

"How sweet of Heather Bird to remember Gerald Hannon on the 4th anniversary (plus a day) of his blazing page 1 Sun debut: 'Ryerson Prof: I'm a Hooker.'

"So: 'Hooker Prof Back' -- page 1 again. But, again, not news. Your Nov 26 story says 'The Sun was first to report ... Gerald Hannon was an admitted prostitute.' For the record, he 'admitted' that in Xtra -- on Jan 26, 1990. As for guest lecturing at Ryerson: he said he would, in a press conference -- on Sept 13, 1996.

"Perhaps Heather feels the 'prof- titute' (how clever: he's not & never was a 'prof') needs a career boost. Or that she does."

I didn't bother checking whether The Sun printed it. Not that it makes any difference. On this story, too, there seems to be no expiry date.

We would learn a lot in this (as if we didn't know too much already) about "journalism."

Gerald's headline elevation from instructor to "prof" was telling, exposing the infectious anti intellectual bent, reminiscent of the McCarthy era, of "popular" media: even Xtra called him "prof."

So was Heather Bird's take on him at that Buddies press fest as he "descended the staircase a la Norma Desmond, with the demeanor of an innocent virgin under vicious attack for no apparent reason" -- accusing him of hogging a spotlight she herself cast.

She'd later have a "last word" (twice) on "the pederast prof" -- another convenient conflation, Gerald never a "pederast" either.

And so was the odd consternation of some reporters when Gerald refused to play a common TV news scene: running from cameras with a coat over his head. He stood his ground unashamed -- breaking the banal shock frame so vital to journalist hacks.

Gerald would get to use these lessons in class: on December 20 Ryerson reinstated him, clearing him of any charge that he'd used his classroom as a pro pedo pulpit -- but censuring him for admitting to prostitution.

He was not to talk about it. At a later press conference a reporter challenged a mild allusion to his extracurricular work. Gerald said: "Presumably I can discuss almost anything except the explicit sexual stuff. If I was a good prostitute I'd probably charge for those details."

He could teach out his contract, due to expire in May 1996. It would not be renewed then -- and then it would all blow up again.


On TV Ontario one night Judy Steed said Gerald Hannon advocated eight year olds suffering adult sized dicks shoved up their butts.

Watching that with Gerald I said to him: "We have to take that definition away from her." I urged him in his many interviews to go back to the opening theme of his review of her book: ethics.

But it was hard to speak calmly of ethics when the vein of panic where kids and sex flow together was now so easy to tap, no longer submerged but running molten on the ground, a daily part of pop media culture. There was no expiry date on "child sex abuse" stories: any tale would do, from 1977, the 1960s, even before.

We'd come a long way -- downhill -- from "Teaching Sexuality."


After declarations of divine right "independent of the community," Xtra sees its own minor moral panic -- over disgruntled "loonies."

I wrote to Ken Popert: "There was a time when, in the face of hostile & established media, we were the loonies."

For all the insanity of the Steed / Bird / Ryerson / Hannon mess, I could find it invigorating: at last real issues again, with strong, smart, funny people rising to defend free expression and thoughtful sense about sexuality. I felt I'd come back home -- to The Body Politic.

From that November 27 press conference I had to go back to Pink Triangle Press where, I found, Ken had stayed behind -- drafting a memo on what to do in case of a fire alarm. I did resist jokes about real fires, though a smaller one had broken out shortly before.

On November 10 a letter in Xtra had taken Eleanor Brown to task for admitting she "played God" and was "independent of the community." She'd said that in a meeting of people with HIV who lived in a building designated for them, upset at some coverage they'd got.

She responded in print: "I did indeed say 'I play God' -- in the context that the nature of my job gives me enormous power over other people's lives and I acknowledge that. I carefully think through decisions I make."

Gee, thanks. As I said at the time: the invocation of divine right doesn't have a great track record in the face of irate assemblies.

A few days later one of God's hapless subjects called the office, anonymously, with a threat on publisher David Walberg's life. Such things weren't new: people had called 24 Duncan saying they'd planted bombs there; Ken Popert had been under police guard during our 1979 trial, also threatened with death. We knew how to deal -- or did then.


This brushfire got fanned into a moral panic of the Press's own making. A memo went out ordering front desk staff not to let anyone pass without escort, saying "they might case the joint."

On the door leading from reception to the inner sanctum a sign went up: "PLEASE! NO ADMITTANCE Unless Accompanied by an Employee." On the "employee" side it read: "REMEMBER! DON'T OPEN YOUR DOOR TO STRANGERS! If they don't look familiar, don't be familiar!"

A new divider was bought to block easy access to that door -- which had a window. Someone fretted, "People can still look in."

I asked: when do the grills go up on the windows? The machine gun nests on the roof?


Ken Popert had not created this mass delusional system (one way to describe a moral panic) but, despite protests, simply let it flare.

He called me once in the middle of it, seeking evidence on a "loony." If long a lapsed Communist, Ken still had the impulses of the sectarian left: cudgel always in hand ready to bop not the nasty oppressor but fellow radicals -- if further to the left as "wild eyed adventurists"; if to the right "opportunist running dog lackeys of the capitalist imperialist swine."

He didn't talk like that anymore but remained ever vigilant for "loonies" close by, this time a Black gay activist who in a public forum had accused Xtra of ignoring a story Ken was sure got reported. He'd gone digging, was right -- and now hoped I might recall the exacting wording of that slanderous public charge.

I was astounded. Two days before I'd given him my protest, in writing, of that "no admittance" sign and of comments he'd made about a recent issue. (He did written critiques of each one, often very good -- but they sank without comment: there was no forum to discuss them.)

There he'd gone on about a few gadflies, saying "all we have to do is define political lunacy as major news instead of politely sweeping it under the rug as if it were a slightly embarrassing but minor problem." I'd written him back:

Right. But first we have to define political lunacy itself. How about: "I play God"? How about "independent of the community"? For the Press, I call that major lunacy. Major news, too: Hed: "Xtra Builds Barricades, Declares Independence"; Kik: "From all of you in the name of journalism."

There was a time when, in the face of hostile and established media, we were the loonies.

Across the way from that sign separating the inner sanctum from the public world is another sign, the type not nearly so bold. It says we mean to engage, entice, incite, challenge and lead. The presence of both means either that one is seriously misguided or the other is a fraud. The Mission Statement can't coexist with: Stay on Guard if you're inside; Keep Out if you're not.

In time one of those signs will have to come down. We can have one or the other, but we can't in conscience have both.


I had put up the Mission Statement (it appeared almost nowhere else, never in Xtra) in October 1994 as part of a display on the history of the Press.

That display would come down in February 1996, replaced with one marking the 15th anniversary of the big bath raids. Coming down with it was the Mission Statement; it didn't go back up. The graphic bit of xenophobia across the way stayed many months beyond.

I knew then, even before, that my days at Pink Triangle Press were numbered. I told Jane:

I tried to go lightly on Ken, saying I can see behind his wickedly clever cynicism to the substance I know is there -- but that others, unblessed by nearly 20 years of his mals mots taken in context, ape the style and miss the depth (Eleanor, I told him, has been an avid pupil of all the wrong things). Ken's dryness has finally made the place an intellectual desert. He knows better in spirit, but it's his style that prevails.

Ah, do I ever want to remind that old Marxist, now running a $3 million, 45 employee enterprise, about the notion of material conditions and one's place in them shaping one's consciousness.

Well, I rehearse as usual. The essential message (once I've cooled off) is simply: I quit, and here's the date. I was to quit anyway, had to [my disability insurer's deadline coming up] . It's the date that may send a message.

I plan to continue doing things as a volunteer -- but, of course, as no longer a sanctified "employee" I expect with some point to ask for an escort into the office.

Ken responded to my letter with one of the most potent weapons of those secure in their power: silence. He said not a word about it, then or since.

He didn't need to: I'd soon be out of his hair. I did go on to some volunteer work, on conflict resolution; he'd find it too rabble rousing and fire me even from that.


Robin's The Crisis of Desire
More time with Robin:
If years later -- & if Robin.

The Crisis of Desire:
AIDS & the Fate of Gay Brotherhood
Robin Hardy & David Groff,
Houghton Mifflin, 1999.

David Groff, Robin's editor & friend, finished his book but with a new name. "The Landscape of Death," he said, "is a bummer of a title." Well, he is an editor.

Robin had left much undone, many chapters just notes. Groff fleshed them out, a service to Robin but an obscuring of him, too: he didn't say which words were Robin's & which his own.

I hear Robin's voice in places (for one see Sex: From erotic life to death by banality). In others I hope I'm hearing Groff: again, high American melodrama over sex "unsafe" only in the USA. If those bits are Robin's I'd like to raise him for a chat -- & a swat upside his handsome head with a copy of the Safer Sex Guidelines.

Most references are also US ones, Robin's life before New York & Tucson taking place nowhere more specific than "Canada," some vague place far north (up near Michigan, right?). The American usual if, I hope, not Robin's.

Mind you, if Robin was kidnapped by The Great American Soap Opera, the Stockholm Syndrome was likely at play.

Still, it's a wonderful work, full of passion for gay brotherhood, & of ambient eroticism too many came to fear after AIDS. Robin did not: he celebrated it, & beautifully.


The unfixed menage at Toronto's 97 Walnut Avenue continues in cyberspace, if without its dynamic denmother. Chris Bearchell died of breast cancer on Feb 18, 2007, in Vancouver. She is much remembered at Walnet.

On October 31, I'd got a call at the office from Philip Fotheringham, telling me Robin Hardy was dead.

It wasn't AIDS though he'd long had HIV: hiking in a rocky park in Arizona he'd slipped, fallen; Philip had no more details. There didn't seem much point to them anyway: whatever, however, Robin was gone, 43 years old.

He had been writing about AIDS for some time. In late October 1990 he'd faxed me an article he'd done, asking for a critique. He got one, apparently useful, as I saw when the piece appeared in the Village Voice in mid 1991. It was called: "Die Harder: AIDS Activism is Abandoning Gay Men." Ed Jackson later said Robin was doing a book on AIDS, still working on it when he died.

He got two obits in Xtra, a short one by Ian Young -- he noted the book, said it was to be called The Landscape of Death: Gay Men, AIDS and the Crisis of Desire -- and one by me just a bit longer. I ended it:

Robin had HIV, but his final landscape of death turned out to be the Arizona desert, not a bed in palliative care. Friends say he might have appreciated that. He did love that land.

I haven't really mourned him yet. I didn't have a chance to get ready. In our endless bargain with death we can think of AIDS as a kind of contract: the deal will be closed in time just as it will for everybody, but we're lulled into believing we know how and, vaguely, when. But of course it's not true.

The day after I heard Robin was dead, my world went on much as it had -- but for an odd sense that something I couldn't place wasn't quite right. And then it would come back: Robin is gone. I thought we'd have more time.

I did get more time with Robin, in a way, if not for some years. His book would appear in 1999, finished by a friend.


On December 15, I was at a funeral home yet again, this time it was for Danny Cockerline.

I'd been with him on Philip's boat a few years before: that's when he first told me he had HIV. This fall we'd got together to chat about our times at The Body Politic (I was putting Beepers' tales on tape). He'd been off around the world by then, more work as a safe sex slut, porn films included.

Like Robin, Danny didn't die of AIDS. He'd gone out one night with friends, bought drinks all around on his Visa card and then went home and killed himself. He was 35.

He left a note saying he didn't want to put anyone through a lingering death, though so far he was still fine. He also referred to "that Nazi, Harris," the new right wing premier of Ontario. He'd been worried that Tory slash & burn would cut off funding for drugs he could never have paid for on his own.

He got three obits that I know of. Gerald did one in Now, saying "Danny was the man who persuaded me to become a prostitute -- and that is perhaps one of the most joyously corrupting touches I have known."

Chris Bearchell put one on the Walnet website (done by her former housemates at 97 Walnut Avenue; Danny had been one). She called him: "Brilliant and reckless. Beautiful but insecure. Destined to provoke."

I did one for Xtra. At his funeral councillor Jack Layton had read a resolution from the metropolitan council, honouring Danny's safer sex street work. I wrote:

The suburban politicians, of course, don't know what they're talking about. Danny's life will be truly honoured on streets they don't often walk. It was honoured in that funeral chapel (Pet Shop Boys on tape, not warbling organs) by more hookers and hustlers than, I'm sure, have ever gathered under that fake church roof.

One of them, young, tattooed, wearing a "Safe Sex Professionals" T shirt Danny had given him off his own back, said in tears: Without him, I wouldn't have survived. Now we are all without him.

I can understand why he decided to go, still strong and beautiful, with AIDS and Mike Harris no great future. Not for any of us. But we will survive if, without Danny, on streets now much more mean.


In late October I had called Bill, uncle of two nephews, wanting a yak with Shel. He was gone, Sebastian with him, in a car rented on Bill's Visa card.

It would be found in a garage at Pearson International, retrieved but technically stolen. Shel certainly got into scrapes but was, I was sure, no thief. Bill agreed. "With any other upbringing," he said to me about him, "he'd have a university degree by now."

Then he said: "Did he ever tell you about the trip to the welfare office?" I asked which one. The one, as he told me, seared on Shel's brain since he was six years old -- when his mother took him there and said: "This man will take care of you now."

He'd never told me that, so like him not to. I was glad he'd been able to tell Bill.

Shel called me on December 27, had twice before: I'd said he should call Bill, and he had. He and Sebastian were in Vancouver, living in a welfare hotel. They'd paid a deposit on an apartment -- to a scam artist not the landlord.

Shel had told Sebastian to go back to Toronto and he had; he'd come back himself later -- which on that December night was now: he needed $15 for bus fare to Chilliwack, from there he could hitch with truckers. He'd pawned everything, was broke.

I went off to a Money Mart downtown and wired him what he needed. I was heading down anyway, for a party. On the subway I got hit up three times by panhandling kids.

I half wanted to explain why my charitable account was in the moment a bit low. I didn't. But I didn't resent them. Life just seemed then very hard and humbling.


The party was a birthday, a joint one, for editor Clive Robertson and artist Karl Beveridge, both Queen Street hands of the glory days, both turning 50.

I was early (I always am) so sat for a while in a donut shop at Queen and Bathurst, not far from The Body Politic's last office. I'd seen an article saying the area was getting rough, dangerous. To me it felt like home.

At the party I found the birthday boys; Karl's wife Carole Condé, the two of them charming old hardline leftists; Lisa Steele and her lover Kim Tomczak, he also part of Gerald Hannon's defence group; performance artists Randy Gledhill and Berenicci Hershorn (who'd been with me in 1979 when I met Gordon Bonnell at The Bev) -- "the old gang," as I told Jane, "the one rooted in politics beyond sexual orientation."


I also found their kids: Tallulah, daughter of Randy and Berenicci, and Clive and Lisa's LaRue. I'd seen them as babies. Now here they were teenagers, raised in easy awareness of sexuality and power, including their own. We talked. Smart kids.

I said that to Randy. "Yeah, they are," he said, then paused. "But you know the odd thing? They're very straight."

In the best sense, I gathered. With that, I knew I was home.

Go on to Part Seven: 1996-1999  Looking backwards

Go back to: Contents page / My Home Page
This page:
January 2000 / Last revised: July 19, 2008
Rick Bébout © 2001 /