Toronto News ~ Toronto Focus

There's a New Tourism Toronto Ad (and it doesn't suck)

Heck, I dig it.

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Preserving the Blockbuster Quick Drop

I regularly walk past a building that was once a Blockbuster video store. Most recently it was a dollar store and is now being converted into a gym, but I know it was once a Blockbuster because it still has a Quick Drop slot.

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With it currently being gutted and remodelled as a gym, my fear is they'll get rid of the Quick Drop slot. It's far too young to be considered historical, so every day I walk by to see if it survived the day.

Today I saw they had built a new wooden box on the inside, a sure sign the Quick Drop slot is here to stay.

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Phew!

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Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

A decision should be announced today with regards to the fate of the beloved Honest Ed's sign. Honest Ed's is no more with the 1.8-hectare location on Bloor and Bathurst Streets soon to be repurposed. Demolition is scheduled for May.

I once wrote it's not the buildings we love, it's the signs. The iconic CHUM sign was saved, the Sam the Record Man sign was saved and now there are many wanting to save the Honest Ed's sign.

I can see both sides of this argument. On the one hand, the sign only dates back to the 1980s, so it's not really that old. And it is just a giant cheesy sign for a private discount store. I know that's sacrilegious, but it's true.

Snowing. Walking by Honest Eds

But then again, it's the Honest Ed's sign, an iconic sign closely identified with this city. Why destroy it if it could be preserved somewhere for fellow nostalgists to gawk and smile?

Does the sign turn to rubble with the building or should it be saved?

Update:

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HMV Canada Closing

My kids have no appreciation for record stores. They strictly consume music via digital channels and have never purchased a compact disc.

When I was a teenager, record stores were vital. My weekends would revolve around trips downtown and I would visit Sam the Record Man, A&A and HMV at 333 Yonge Street, not necessarily in that order. The store with the lowest price for the disc I was buying would get my business.

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I have many good memories of visiting HMV at 333 Yonge, sampling albums at the listening stations and digging through new hip-hop in the basement. I remember the thrill of being checked out by the actress who played Kathleen on Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High and the joy of bumping into Kish while he shopped for 12 inch singles.

Although I never worked at HMV I used to play for a slo-pitch team formed by HMV colleagues. These guys and gals would assemble monstrous CD collections and I'd borrow them by the dozens and rip them to MP3. This transfer to digital was the beginning of the end.

Yesterday, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice approved an application to place HMV Canada into receivership. All 102 locations have to shut down by April 30.

It's the end of an era. Digital killed the record store.

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McLaughlin Planetarium

I remember countless school trips to the McLaughlin Planetarium when I was in primary school. It was an amazing place to learn about the stars, planets, and cosmology.

I watched La La Land yesterday and there's a scene in a planetarium that took me back to the 80s when we all took our planetarium for granted. The McLaughlin Planetarium, located just south of the ROM, closed in 1995 and is currently slated for demolition.

An article on blog.to suggests the McLaughlin Planetarium could be saved afterall.

Spearheaded by Jeff Balmer, an ex-pat professor of architecture at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, the efforts to prevent its demolition are rooted not just in its architectural pedigree, but also its use-value.

"In a perfect scenario, U of T would work to resuscitate the Planetarium to its original purpose," Balmer explains. "During its decades-long period of operation, [it] was highly successful, both in terms of its educational mission... and in terms of its financial performance."

planetarium

La La Land, by the way, is excellent.

lalaland

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Defunct Toronto Live Music Venues

Jim Slotek wrote a piece for the Toronto Sun about how Toronto's live music scene isn't what it used to be. The catalyst was the closing of Hugh's Room, which may be re-opening.

In this article Jim listed Toronto's live music venues that have disappeared over the decades. I culled a list and am pasting it here to pack a punch.

  • Larry’s Hideaway
  • The Edge
  • The Nickelodeon
  • The Colonial Tavern
  • The Guvernment
  • The Big Bop
  • The Diamond
  • The Hotel Isabella
  • The Bamboo
  • The Midwich Cuckoo
  • Hotel California
  • The Gasworks
  • Ted’s Wrecking Yard
  • The Cabana Room
  • Masonic Temple
  • The Copa
  • Cafe Soho
  • Albert’s Hall
  • The Siboney
  • The Riverboat
  • The Mynah Bird
  • The Midwich Cuckoo
  • Le Coq D’Or
  • The Piccadilly Tube,
  • Network
  • Upper Lip
  • Nag’s Head North
  • The Turning Point
  • Healey’s
  • The Montreal Bistro
  • Top O’ The Senator
  • The Senator Guitar Bar
  • Bermuda Onion
  • X-Rays/Ultrasound
  • Ontario Place Forum

Did Jim miss anything?

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I Watched the Speakers Corner Outtakes Video Tape

In September, I sat down with former-Citytv anchor Anne Mroczkowski for an episode of my podcast. She mentioned a video cassette of Speakers Corner outtakes the staff would watch at parties. I took a mental note that I had to see these outtakes.

Brother Bill, a popular deejay at 102.1 the Edge throughout the 90s and into the 2000s, heard that episode, and mailed me his tape of Speakers Corner outtakes.

For those of you from out of town or too young to remember, Speakers Corner was a television show on Citytv comprised of user-generated videos taken in a booth outside the Citytv studios at 299 Queen Street West. In the days before YouTube, it was really something.

A podcast listener named Grant lent me his VCR so I could finally watch this video tape. Here's what a saw.

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It begins with 45 minutes of... well... how should I describe this... It's good ol' consensual adult debauchery on stage while a hard rock band plays on. Since I don't want to host nudity or pornography on this site, this is only screen I could capture.

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On today's internet, we're all only two clicks away from better quality, more graphic content. These 45 minutes were a true throwback to the pre-web days.

Next up were some highly anticipated Speakers Corner outtakes. In a nutshell, it was lots and lots of nudity! Flashing aplenty. The star stickers were added by me to protect the identity of those on this well-circulated cassette.

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Then there's a lengthy clip of a couple having sex on a public street. This footage was taken in 1995 by a Citytv cameraman and contains real-time commentary from a group of guys.

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Back to more Speakers Corner outtakes! But this time, it's not just flashing. There's fellatio, cunnilingus and more!

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Then we have a few recordings from an American radio show. The first clip includes a well endowed guest and a pie.

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But wait, there's more! A trio of nude wrestlers engage in further debauchery and a woman distracts a newsreader by removing her top. Essentially, a Howard Stern influenced deejay convinces female guests to strip down for a radio show.

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If you enjoy flatulence humour, this next bit is for you. It's a religious show called Only Heaven Knows with farts inserted into the audio with hilarious results.

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And finally, if you've made it through all of that, there's a cartoon entitled "Lupo's Meat" "Lupo the Butcher" with plenty of swears and a decapitation to boot.

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Now I've finally seen the Speakers Corner outtake video and bonus material copied to VHS in the mid-90s, so you don't have to!

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Toronto Sports Teams Had a Great 2016

I've been blogging here for 14 years, and during that time there were some pretty low times in Toronto sports. Just four years ago I wrote this about the new bottom for Toronto sports teams. Things were very, very bad for the big five.

In 2016, things got a whole lot better. In fact, there's something great to report about every team in the big five not nicknamed the Argos. Although we didn't win a championship, we were close!

Toronto FC
Ten years after their birth, TFC hosted the MLS Cup final, losing a heartbreaker to Seattle. That second leg against Montreal in the semi-final was absolutely thrilling.

Toronto Blue Jays
For the second year in a row, the Blue Jays played in the ALCS. Unlike the hype train of 2015, this didn't seem likely in September as we sputtered into the playoffs, but an Edwin walk-off against Baltimore in the wildcard game and a sweep of the Rangers in the ALDS helped recapture the joy of the previous year.

Toronto Raptors
For the first time in franchise history, the Raptors won a best-of-seven playoff series. And we did it twice! We even took two games against Cleveland in the conference finals, making this far and away the best Raptors season, ever.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Last season, the Leafs were bad. Very, very bad. This is a good thing, as it helped us land Auston Matthews with the first overall pick in the draft. Now, with Matthews, Marner and Nylander, the future actually looks bright and the present is a lot of fun, too.

Toronto Argonauts
Let's not ruin this entry with an Argos update.

In addition to successful developments for the big four teams in this city, Toronto hosted the Grey Cup, World Cup of Hockey and World Juniors. 2016 was a very good year for Toronto sports. Let's hope for a championship in 2017.

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Honest Ed's

The beginning of the end for Honest Ed's was July 2013. Now, the end is nigh.

When Ed Mirvish passed away in 2007, I first shared my memories of the Toronto institution at Bathurst and Bloor.

My grandmother loved Ed Mirvish and his discount store. She dragged me there many times and always glowed when scouring the place for bargains. I loved the signage and posters throughout the big barn. That place was magic.

The very first time I rode the subway by myself was to attend a school near Bathurst and Bloor one day a week in grade five. I'd get off at Bathurst station and walk from there. The lights of the Honest Ed's sign alway put a smile on my face. I just loved knowing it was there.

Snowing. Walking by Honest Eds

The store is slated to permanently close tomorrow. It's the end of an era, Toronto.

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Has the City Plowed Yet?

It snowed last night. I just shovelled my first snow of the season. Are you wondering when the City of Toronto is going to plow your street? Follow @TO_WinterOps for real-time updates.

I'm a fan of this new map that lets you know when roads have been salted and plowed in the City of Toronto. It's particularly convenient if you're planning a bike ride and wish to stick with streets and trails that have just been plowed.

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