Travel

Sacre Bleu! Toronto rocks!

Richard Burnett
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Richard Burnett
plage toronto
  • Richard Burnett
  • plage toronto

As a lifelong Sin City Montrealer, it was my civic duty to trash Toronto the Good at every opportune moment. But I no longer do: For many years now I’ve happily travelled to the Queen City via Porter Airlines or Via Rail, just to go shopping on Queen Street West, take in some local theatre, opera (at the finest opera house in the land, The Four Seasons Centre), Blue Jays baseball games and – if I’ve got the time –  the city’s loudmouth drag queens, as well as Toronto’s amazing Hockey Hall of Fame.

One recent trip to Toronto I remember I was picked up at Toronto’s glorious Union Station in a sleek chauffeured black limo. I was back in T-O with my mother Diamond Lil, whom I first brought to Toronto years earlier for her birthday, to see another British Empire glamour girl, Joan Collins, star with Linda Evans in an ill-advised remount of the God-awful play Legends.That was the same weekend my good friend, theatre living legend Louis Negin, hosted a star-studded Toronto party in Collins’ honour. ??“Joan’s an old, old friend and she was in Toronto with her husband – he’s very nice and very young, he’s like 12 years old,” Louis told me afterwards. “But I didn’t tell anyone at the party that she was coming because if she doesn’t come, then everybody’s disappointed. But there were lots of people there she knew and, of course, the doors open, every head turns and she’s Joan Collins.” ??Of course Collins herself only travels by jet – she has maintained the title of British Airways’ “Most Frequent Flyer of First Class” for over four decades. Diamond Lil and I, on the other hand, travelled green to the Queen City by environmentally-friendly rail – VIA 1 tickets, of course, the only civilized way to travel by train, complete with three-course meal and open bar.
 
VIA 1 or a quick Porter Airlines flight to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, commonly known as the Toronto Island Airport, will be the easiest ways to travel to Toronto when the city hosts the fourth international edition of WorldPride this summer.
 
WorldPride 2014 (WP14TO) – 10 full days of spectacular LGBT programming in Toronto taking place from June 20-29 – will replace the city’s usual Pride Week. WorldPride 2014 also marks the first WorldPride celebration ever held in North America and the fourth such festival in the world.
 
Here are some anticipated highlights:
 
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, a not-for-profit professional theatre company, creates performances that question sexual and cultural norms. Buddies supports new and experienced artists and works that reflect values of queer libation. The world’s longest-running and largest queer theatre, Buddies will feature a play for WorldPride called The Lady Hamlet, written by Sarah Schulman.
 
WorldPride 2014 will also host two photography exhibitions; one in partnership with the Art Gallery of Ontario called Fan the Flames -- Queer Positions in Photography, and the other in partnership with the Ryerson Image Centre called What it Means to be Seen: Photography and Queer Visibility.
 
The Gardiner Museum celebrates its 30th anniversary with Camp Fires: The Queer Baroque of Leopold Foulem, Paul Mathieu and Richard Milette. Onsite [at] OCAD University presents Generations of Queer: Robert Flack, John Greyson, Elisha Lim, and Kiley May, an exhibition centred on storytelling, creating dialogue and queer discourse.
 
The Official WorldPride 2014 Toronto Opening Ceremony at Nathan Phillips Square will feature Toronto’s very own Deborah Cox, as well as American singer-songwriter and LGBT icon Melissa Etheridge. Free admission. Showtime is 7:30 pm.
 
“Original Weather Girl” Martha Wash will perform her own timeless pop and dance classics such as It’s Raining Men at the OLG Central Stage on June 27.
 
“My gay fans have been my largest supporters over the years,” Martha told me when I caught up with her in Montreal in February. “They have kept me working, and I thank them for that.  I think this love affair began when I started singing for [the late disco star] Sylvester, and it just carried forward.”
 
In addition to these and other WorldPride activities, here are some popular Toronto mainstays:
 
Crews & Tangos features drag performances seven days a week in addition to two dance floors. This bar welcomes everyone to their daily drag queen and king events including karaoke, musical performances, and sharp-tongued wit.
 
Woody’s and its brother bar Sailor have been the hottest gay men’s bars in The Village since 1989. Woody’s features nightly DJs and “The Best Men’s Contests” every Thursday to Saturday.
 
My old friend, stand-up comic Maggie 
Cassella’s The Flying Beaver Pubaret in Cabbagetown hosts a comfortably-mixed crowd of gay and straight. Comedy, music or a variety of other performances happen nightly.
 
And weather permitting, head out to the Toronto Islands to spend a hot sunny afternoon at Toronto’s world-famous nude and gay beach at Hanlan’s Point. Getting there is simple: regular ferries depart from Queens Quay at the foot of Bay Street all day, and you’re just a half-hour away.
 
HOW TO GET THERE
VIA Rail – which links 450 communities across Canada with its 12,500-kilometre route network and transports over four million passengers annually – is also a partner of nine Gay Pride festivals across Canada. The VIA Rail Panorama Lounge at Toronto’s Union Station has also been relocated and expanded, with complimentary snack bar and business centre. There are no special rates during WorldPride. However, there are always last-minute deals on Discount Tuesdays:
Porter Airlines also offers heavily-discounted fares often. https://www.flyporter.com.
  
WHERE TO STAY
Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel has stylish guest rooms, is located in the heart of downtown’s fashionable Yorkville District, just steps from the Yonge and Bloor subway lines.
 
The award-winning Park Hyatt Toronto Yorkville is a wonderful deluxe hotel with 336 guestrooms, including 45 suites with complimentary high-speed Internet access, and full-service Stillwater Spa and salon. Centrally located in fashionable Yorkville.
  
Voted one of the Top 25 luxury hotels in Canada, the chic new Four Seasons Hotel Toronto soars 55 storeys in the heart of Yorkville. Designed on a warm, personal scale by international design house Yabu Pushelberg, the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto boasts 259 spacious luxury hotel guest rooms, including 42 suites. www.fourseasons.com/toronto.
 
For more information visit 
 
 
Read Richard Burnett’s POP TART blog for The Montreal Gazette at
 
Read Burnett’s national queer-issues column Three Dollar Bill online at