The Elephant Walk was the top floor(photo by Patrick Cummins)The Elephant Walk was an infamous Black After Hours bar at Queen and Spadina. it was a den of thieves, pimps and dealers and you pretty well had to be black to get in and known about. it was the entire Top floor of a building and the only way up was a very narrow stairway with a clear view to the landing. they had a monstrous steel door and extreme security.
From the middle of the sixties I had a lot of friends in the older black community in Toronto. Most of these families were Nova Scotia Blacks and i often went to parties and picnics and was friends of entire families. I met most of these people through the waiters at Grossman's or the Paramount Taverns. the Paramount was primarily a black bar. I swear I could go in the paramount at 12 noon sit down at a table with a dozen or so black guys and be both drunk and stoned by the time the waiter reached the table. Most of theses guys were into a lot of things from drugs to pimping etc. and it was very much a live and let live time I was not judgmental. 10 years later I had my own 'After Hours Club' across from the Horseshoe Tavern. The infamous Elephant Walk club was around the corner. it was a famous black after-hours bar and a regular hangout for dealers thieves and pimps most of whom I knew from my previous time at Grossmans.
So one night I am hanging out at my usual place the Club 22 at the Windsor Arms and this very elegant girl hits on me. Like she says Your Gary LeDrew a friend told me about you yada yada yada. She looks much like a model. Beautiful with long black hair and a full length Sable coat. I had no idea who she was but what the hell we had a few drinks she was pleasant to talk to as well. Then as closing time comes around she’s snuggles up close and says. I hear you can get me into the Elephant Walk? Now I knew she wasn't an undercover. I tried to figure out her angle. I told she was crazy it was not a place for a nice girl. She went on about just wanting to see the place it fascinated her. As it happened my bar wasn't open that night so what the hell I took her. It was on third floor we walk up to the steel door like 6 inches thick and the eyes glare out from the peep hole. Door opens Hey Gar who is the babe? We breeze in, even in the dark the heads turn like sunflowers. I get us drinks find a table with a couple of Scotian friends and sit in., other than a couple of obvious hookers she is the only white woman. I can tell it is bit more intimating then she thought. But it was when a pimp friend dressed to the nines with glitter and fur and gold rings on every finger sits down. He looks straight at me and says wow gar where did you find her. I 'll give you 3 grand for her and I'll throw in a couple thousand for coat. That was enough for her she latched on to me like glue. Screaming under her breath “please get me out of here!” I got her out and got her a cab and and I never ever saw her again. Well except for maybe a glimpse one time in a Lamborghini.
I had a bad night there one time too
My bar was closed I was leaving the next day with Murray Maclaughlan. We had chartered Hodge’s boat for a month in the Bahamas. I was sitting at the bar alone having a drink and playing with a really stupid cheap switchblade knife Matt had brought me back from Spain. My bags were packed, I had several thousand dollars in my pocket and was all ready to go. I just wasn’t used to sleeping at night time. I wanted some body to talk to. After a couple of more drinks and without thinking I slipped the knife in my Pocket and went for a walk. There was not much going on Queen and Spadina at 2 in the morning. But I turn the corner and there is Hubert and Winston. I am the only one who dared call them that. They were known to everybody else as ‘Rocky’ and ‘Lad’ but we were good friends and I enjoyed tormenting them a little. They were going to the Elephant Walk so I joined them. It was a slow night maybe a half a dozen guys. I bought us drinks and we sat down and this shady dude slides in. The music is loud so I don’t really hear what is going on and next thing money changes hands and we got a giant splif of ganja. So we are talking and drinking and smoking. Shady dude is hanging too. The ganja hits like a sledge hammer. I have never had pot so powerful. My brain was flashing like a neon sign that said You are one stoned motherfukka. Then I said something stupid like. “Wow do you niggers ever get incredible dope.” Now I could talk like this to Rocky and Lad but shady dude went wild. He got right hostile and even threatening. Everything was spinning. Rocky and Lad were more or less ignoring shady dude but I couldn’t tell. Paranoia hit me. Black bar! Thieves and pimps! Friends Stoned! I’m Stoned, shit a got thousands of dollars in my pocket. Next thing switchblade is in my hand. I lined everybody up against the wall except Lad and Rocky who were rolling on the floor laughing. I made them open the door and I ran for home. I didn’t see those guys for a long while but they never let me forget that night. Later that knife almost caused me grief the police found it when they busted my bar one time. They were going to charge me with an illegal weapon. (I was not normally a weapon person) But it was a very cheap knife and when I told him to click the button the knife fell apart in his hands so they let it go.
I must say I had a few pleasant nights there too. The only thing I regret is my friendship with the pimps. the very nature of that business is very nasty and I witnessed a few things I just had to shut up about.
This me in that era