Oh to be Shocked and Awed on Yonge Street

In today’s Toronto Star, your humble editor writes about the dearly departed, sleazy dens of cinematic iniquity which lined Yonge St in the 1970s. The strip from Gerrard to Queen marked the city’s Red Light District. Amidst the drugs, strip clubs like Starvin Marvin’s and over 75 body-rub parlours were the bright lights of the Biltmore, Downtown, Cinema 2000, Coronet, Rio, Imperial Six, Yonge/Elgin, among many others.

Compared to the seediness of the era, which culminated in the grisly death of 12-year old shoeshine boy Emmanuel Jaques, it’s all pretty sanitized now; and there’s certainly no trash cinema to be seen. But what you can do is head over to the Fox Theatre in the Beaches on Saturday for the all-night Shock & Awe. Hells Angels, ghost stories, sexy frauleins, mystery films and punk rock zombies await you! Pure sleaze, trash and exploitation.

Oh, and cut from the article was a little gem about the Paradise. No, not that Paradise, but a short-lived 50-seater atop the Swiss Chalet which showed porno loops for $2. Keep that in mind next time you’re chowing down on a Festive Special.

Above image: a postcard from the late ’50s shows Yonge St looking south from Gerrard. In the distance you can see the marquees of the Rio, Biltmore and the Downtown. The canopy of the Savoy/Coronet survives today, although not the same one shown in the picture.

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