The Elephant Walk Club

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

10 comments:

Tara said...

Great work.

Shannon Moore said...

I totally loved your blog about the Elephant Walk, I wish you had more to say about the place.If I may introduce myself my name is Stephanie Fraser the eldest daughter of the owner of the Elephant Walk Club.If you can share more with me contact me at daysofthenu@hotmail.com Thank you again for this I've spent many years after my fathers passing finding more about him or that era.

Shannon Moore said...

I totally loved your blog about the Elephant Walk, I wish you had more to say about the place.If I may introduce myself my name is Stephanie Fraser the eldest daughter of the owner of the Elephant Walk Club.If you can share more with me contact me at daysofthenu@hotmail.com Thank you again for this I've spent many years after my fathers passing finding more about him or that era.

Gary LeDrew said...

Hi Stephanie
I cant remember too much I went there about a dozen times I was one of the few white guys he would let in because I had an afterhours club too plus I had a lot of black friends. I remember something of him betting Winston that he could beat him in a race and they raced for 3 blocks in the middle of the night and Winston beat him for $500.00. I pretty well covered it in my stories it was a pretty rough place and your father had to rule it with an iron hand. It took the police years to fiqure out how to bust him They went up in the attic and cut through the ceiling. I am living in Cape Breton now and lost contact with everybody. Reguards Gary

Anonymous said...

My friends and I went to Elephant Walk on a regular basis. We are white but had Scotian friends/boyfriends. We had great times at this club and I never ran into any problems, fights, etc. Just listened to good music,drank, laughed and cannot remember better times than at this club. Loved the owner - he was a great guy who never stopped us from coming through that steel door. This was in the 70's (around 1974 or so).

Qtip said...

WOW loved it.... knew it well and the parmount,grossmens, el mocambo. 4 brothers and the Colonel Tavern seeing the Tower of Power was the best..... was it John Fraser the owner of the EW ????.....rocky still kiking it ... Lad passed in 2009....

Gary LeDrew said...

I would love to talk to you and Rocky
I am on facebook
Gary LeDrew
235 Alexandra St # 17
Sydney N.S. B1S3A4
902-270-0910
http://www.capebretonart.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Garyledrew.art
garyledrew@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

I'm a white female, spent lots of time in the Elephant Walk. John had a baseball bat that he kept close to him and if there was any trouble - out it came LOL!!! He was always a gentleman to my friends and I, there wasn't only pimps and thieves in the place, there were musicians and people who worked nights who wanted to chill after a night of working, the bars closed earlier then, so if you worked, lots of people went to the after hours, there were a lot of them at that time and you had to know someone to get in, but once you were in, you were open to a world of so many different people who for the most part got along, it was fantastic. So there was a large mixture of different people, who on the whole all got along. One thing about people of the night, is that you usually don't have to guess about their life, you know what their life is and if you accept people, life can be wonderful, we don't all have to be angels. :) I miss those days A LOT !!!!

Maria McLean said...

I'm a white woman had many good nites at the Walk, but never went without a man. Saw a few fights there but never got involved.

til said...

Bounced at s strip club downtown and had a run in once with Joe Patterson but that's another story. Made friends with a pimp named James and he took me to the EW in his Caddy. Yeah it was a dark place and I was the only white man there. A couple of guys there were sizing me up and when I asked James what's going on here(I had no dough but was healthy) he looks at them and they leave. Never went back....I hate stairs.

Hi I am Gary LeDrew
And I am writing a book
I was lucky enough to be in the middle of most things in sixties and seventies and got to hang out with some of the greats and near greats and characters of that time.

I was involved in the Art scene and was friends and hung out with Jack Bush, Harold Town, Gord Rayner Robert markle, Mickey Handy, Gerry Gladstone, Gershon Iskowitz etc. etc. and I have stories about all of them.
I was in the music biz and managed a few bands like Kid Bastien and hung out with most of them. I was a close friend of Murray McLachlan for years, and hung out with Mike McDonald, Danny Marks, Praire Oyster, Irish Rebels, Downchilds, Ian Tyson, Tom Cochrane, Burton Cummins etc. etc. of course I was the Lobsterman and sang with McLean and Mclean. I hung out with Cannonball and Nat Adderly whenever they came to town.
I was Toronto's leading bootlegger for 5 years everybody came to my afterhours club from the Rolling Stones to the premier of New Brunswick. And Joanie Mitchell sang there.
I won an Actress in a poker game, Helen shaver cooked me supper and I went out with a bunch of models and actresses.
Lesley McDonnell introduced me to Leonard Cohen , Rod Steward and Paul Shaffer for a few. I hung out with Leonard for a while. I survived a night hanging out with Hunter S. Thompson (sitting with tom Waites)I basically had backstage passes to Maple Leaf Gardens and Massey hall whenever i wanted and Bonnie Rait kicked me out of her dressing room.
In the Movie biz I was friends with Mike Ironside for years and Winston Reckert, Catherine O'Hara, Michael Sarrazin,I have lain on Elizabeth Ashely's belly while she shoved coke up my nose. I showed Johnny Hart and Jack Caprio a good time. I took Howard Duff to Lunch everyday for a six weeks and was on his xmas card list until he died. I drank with Richard Burton at least a couple of times a week for 3 months and he told me everything.
I lived on a lighthouse as a kid and took off sailing in the caribbean for 15 months. I took and sold all manners of drugs and in the seventies I was The guy to know in Toronto.
I was one of the few white guys go to the Elephant walk club. If there is one thing I hope to dispel is Toronto as a dull place.
To business I am getting old and not in great health, I am living on a basic pension and I have to Hustle with my art and web sites most of the month to get by. I am afraid I might die before I get all these stories down
My friend Richard Flohil is also raising money to write his book so far over ten thousand and well deserved Richard was instrumental to the folk and blues and jazz scenes in Toronto and tells a good story too. In my own way I was too, I helped a lot of people along the way and I never really cared about money , you wouldn't believe the people that never paid their bar tabs for starters. i just might be a little more fearless in my admissions. For I am not ashamed of anything I did there is lots I wish I had never done.