The Cameron's 20th-Anniversary Celebrations from Thursday (October 4) to October 15, at 408 Queen West. 416-703-0811. www.thecameron.com Rating: NNNNN
Has it really been 20 years since the Cameron morphed from a down-at-the-heels dive into Toronto's most avant-garde watering hole? Sure has, and the Cameron is marking the anniversary with a mega-celebration through this week and peaking with a huge bash October 15.
The Queen West landmark's co-owner, Paul Sannella, bought the dilapidated four-storey building in 1981 with dreams of turning it into living and working spaces for the local arts community.
Along with the rabbit warren of upstairs rooms came a dingy bar frequented by, as Sannella puts it, "a lot of old guys who'd order four drafts, then talk to the empty chair across from them all afternoon."
The Cameron's new owners encouraged the old-timers to stay, and a lot started happening. Local art-scene musicians like the Government, Jane Siberry and Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet began playing regularly in the back room, which was decked out with portraits painted by Rae Johnson.
Sybil Goldstein turned the front room's cathedral ceiling into a cherub-filled mini-Sistine Chapel. Fastwürms' Napoleon Brousseau sculpted 10 oversized ants, fastened them to the exterior and made the Cameron a tourist attraction.
Upstairs, the ex-flophouse became home to playwright Michael Hollingsworth, Video Cabaret's Deanne Taylor, singer Molly Johnson, Big Sugar's Gordie Johnson and the late Handsome Ned.
Oddest moment in the Cameron's history? Sunday brunch. It became so successful, management pulled the plug.
"It just became too much work," says partner Cindy Matthews.
This week a reunited Leslie Spit Tree-o appear Friday (October 5) and Johnny Macleod, Groovy Religion and more show up Saturday (October 6).