Drag elite honour end of Odyssey
Popular nightclub will close doors Sept. 5
Standing backstage at the Odyssey nightclub on Howe Street, drag queen Raye Sunshine carefully applied makeup prior to making his final performance as one of the stars of the weekly Faux Girls show.
"Last night at our Frequeency show we were bawling our eyes out," said Sunshine, who alongside fellow drag queen Kamelle Toe, has raised funds for non-profit charities by performing at the Odyssey for eight years. "We've worked here for so long."
This week is the final curtain call for the popular nightclub, which opened more than two decades ago and closes its doors Sept. 5. The city and provincial government are building social housing on the Howe Street property. To mark the closing, the Odyssey held special final events all week.
Long time doorman Dale MacCalder, who's worked at the club for more than 10 years, calls the closure the end of an era.
"There's been a lot of reminiscing this week," said MacCalder. "It's been open for almost 25 years and some people literally grew up here. A lot of people who haven't been here for a long time have been dropping in to say goodbye. It's bittersweet."
The mood in the packed nightclub Wednesday night was indeed bittersweet and almost reminiscent of a wake, with hugs and tears shared between staff members, drag queens and party-goers. And while the hair on each drag queen was piled high, their heels towered even higher as each of the performers dressed in their show-stopping best for the final performances.
The glitter-filled evening was a who's who of the local drag elite, with performances by Joan-E, Carlotta Gurl, Willie Taylor, Iona Whipp and Ann Margaret look-alike Robyn Graves. Joan-E, aka Robert Kaiser, has raised money for charity alongside other performers at the Odyssey for more than 16 years at the weekly Feather Boa show. This Sunday is the final production of Feather Boa, the same night the Odyssey closes its doors.
Longtime gay community organizer Barb Snelgrove was at the Odyssey Wednesday night to pay her respects to staff and performers. Snelgrove, a grand marshal in last month's Pride Parade, said the Odyssey has been a part of her life for 20 years.
"I can't put it into words," said Snelgrove of the club's demise. "Even as a writer I can't find the words to describe what this closure means to me and the community."
Odyssey manager Will McGuire said the sense of loss has been real in final days leading up to the closure.
"When you think of a nightclub, you don't really think of it affecting people like that, but it really has," he said. "I can't imagine what that final night will be like and where we're going to put everybody."
McGuire is not rushing out to find a new job because the club's owners, Calverton Holdings Ltd., want to relocate the Odyssey. McGuire added a suitable location has been found, but couldn't provide any more information because the deal isn't final.
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