The 1990’s Toronto’s Gay Naked Golden Years
I came out in the early 1990s. I not only discovered the fabulous gay bars and club in Toronto’s Downtown, It was also the start of Toronto’s gay naked golden years. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know it was the golden years … I just assumed the bars, clubs and naked events had always been around, and it was just that I was getting familiar with the “gay scene.” Now 20 years later, I can look back and see that about ten years from the early nineties to the early 2000s, was the height of the gay naked movement and the most fearless.
Towards the end of the decade of nudity, an ultra-right wing provincial government was busily repressing most of the fun things in life, not to mention cutting the incomes of the poorest and most vulnerable members of the population. The police, infamous for the destructive and repressive “Bath House Raids” of 1981, got the power to do liquor license inspection of clubs and bars instead of the special Liquor Control agents. As a result, whereas the liquor agents ignored everything in the bars that were not related to the liquor license of the establishment, the police shutdown any behaviour of which they did not approve, even if there was nothing illegal about it.
The police could, in their role as liquor license inspectors, suspend the license of an establishment for various periods of time – a disaster for a bar that can lose tens of thousands of dollars per week if they cannot sell alcohol. One brave bar owner fought the banning of nude events at his bar, but it took several years to finally get a judgement. The Verdict? In the words of the magistrate, “I find no offense here!” Since then, nude events have resumed and some even expanded, however not the the extent they were before.
I will post some articles about some of the venues and events that were popular at that time and that I attended from 1995 to 1998. Here is the first article:
The Barn and Stables
The Barn and Stables, was a three-floor mega-dance venue, with bars and dance floor on every level. I first went there when I saw the posters for the Underwear Party. The guys at the clothes check gave me a plastic bag to put most of my clothes in. The ground floor was being used as a change room, so I climbed the stairs to find out what was actually going on. Men mostly clad in underwear were dancing under the gyrating disco laser lights spinning patterns on the floor and walls. I say ‘mostly’ wearing underwear because one or two were actually completely naked. This was definitely my scene!
I went up to the top level. Here the place was amazing. More people were naked up here, but mostly guys were climbing all over a great wooden structure that looked either like a jungle gym or the walls of a horse-barn! They were hanging off this structure engaged in about every kind of sexual activity I could think of – and a few I’d never thought of!
Later a men’s nudist group, now named TNT!MEN, held a Sunday afternoon naked dance at the Barn. It was well attended with between one and two hundred guys dance their junk off every week!
Unfortunately, by the later nineties and early 2000s, the police began regularly issues license suspension for picayune liquor infractions, but the purpose seemed mostly to do with their objection to nude events. Eventually there were some charges regarding nudity, but they did eventually get dismissed. After the death of the owner, Janko Naglic, the Barn was eventually sold and the nude events ceased at that location.