The Penthouse - The Castle - A Rampage, Alan Wood & Jack ShadboltFriday, November 30, 2012
In 1973, an up market Vancouver bar "Gary Taylor's Show Lounge", employed showgirls and strippers as waitresses, who gave a free dance with every drink. It was raided by the police under the obscenity legislation, but in 1974, Judge Jack McGivern ruled that the nudity of dancers was not obscene, which started a trend of nude dancing in bars. No contact was allowed but Gary Taylor's had a boxing ring where the girls performed revealing acrobatics after stripping off, and then earned tips. American men from Washington State made the trip from the United States, which at the time had stricter laws.
|Gary Taylor & gang|
Few really know that that Gary Taylor's Show Lounge at the Castle Pub on Granville really marked the beginning of the end for such places as the Penthouse. The Penthouse, paradoxically, escaped that end and all of the many strip bars of Vancouver, with the exception of a couple are gone. Taylor’s Show Lounge combined the novel concept of being able to bite on a hamburger at lunch while sipping on a beer and watching beautiful women take off all (top and bottom) of their clothes. This sort of thing did in the old-fashioned burlesque and strip joints that opened at night and charged an admission fee which was called a cover charge.
Two Wednesdays ago I went to the book launch of Aaron Chapman’s Liquor, Lust & the Law which is all about the legendary (and, yes, still open) Penthouse on Seymour Street in Vancouver. I had no real desire to go but I received a summons from Randy Rampage that I could not refuse. I found myself sitting at the corner of what we used to call gyna-row with Randy Rampage on my left, and Susanne Tabata (producer/director of the film documentary on the Vancouver punk era, Bloodied But Unbowed) and Gary Taylor on my right.
Taylor, who had a copy of the book, showed me the reproduction of a Penthouse poster that listed him as manager. And yet, nobody came up to Taylor since few if any knew who the man with the eternal boy snicker on his face was. An announcer pointed out to us that the event, presided over by a tearful and nostalgic Danny Filippone (nephew of Joe seen here and who spells his family name differently) had brought together the unlikely combination of two Vancouver legends, musicians Dal Richards and Randy Rampage.
While the Penthouse opened as a supper club in 1947 by the time I arrived in Vancouver in 1975 it was not the place you might tell your family and friends you planned to visit. There was an air of seediness about the place while strip bars became almost accepted places for power lunches. By the 80s lunch at the Drake, Marr, Number 5 Orange, the Austin, the Cecil Hotel or the Marble Arch had patrons from the largest of the town’s law firms.
Sometime around 1982 the Penthouse attempted to compete for lunch by promoting Omaha steaks on its upper floor lounge. I remember going with Vancouver Magazine’s resident ecdysiast aficionado, Les Wiseman. I had a steak, he had beer and we both watched a beautiful woman with a considerable upper structure take it all off. By then few of us remembered that Gary Taylor had made that possible.
|Annie Ample & Joe|
|Susanne Tabatta |
ended up as poster for Gary Taylor's Rock Room
In the late 70s when I used 35mm cameras I shot several assignments in one roll. In the same roll with the picture of Gary Taylor a the entrance of his Rock Room where pictures of paintings by local artist Alan Wood (the first) and the second Free at Last a serigraph by Jack Shadbolt. Two of them had sympathetic connections, I think.