This piece is for Mandy-Lyn, Dani, Gezza, Keenan, Free, Lauren, Cam, and Gair to name far too few. And of course, to Lola, Tristan, Crystal, Rufio, and the wealth of beautiful and truly talented people they have introduced into my life.
A twirl of a downward turned finger puts an unnamed bourbon cocktail in my hand. The room is dark, deliberately so. Small, filament-filled, test tubes hang from the ceiling, casting dim shadows into even dimmer corners. The bar staff can provide you with a mini flashlight to read the drink menu, but I prefer to use the onion shaped oil lamps that dot the bar surface. I rarely glance at the menus anymore, preferring to trust the bartender’s discretion over my own taste. Bartenders get to know me pretty quick and from night to night my taste is often dictated by the gustatory gumption of the person facing me from the other side of the bar. This is why I return to The Keefer Bar whenever I can make the trip into Chinatown from my wooded, suburban enclave. To be honest, it is one of the reasons. The other has to do with why my visits almost always fall on a Thursday.
Sweet Sip Thursdays with the ladies of Sweet Soul Burlesque.
It was Keefer bartender, Gezza McAlpine, who first turned me onto the “finger twirl” ordering system; unspoken communication being a valuable tool when The Keefer gets busy. As for burlesque, I’d like to give that one to Red Heartbreaker, but it actually belongs to Natalie Wood and Gypsy. It was Red, however, that got me out to my first burlesque show. It was at The Biltmore Cabaret and the closing party for the Vancouver International Burlesque Festival. Her troupe, Pink Flamingo Burlesque, were performing. It was quite an eye opener. I was no stranger to strippers, but this was definitely different. I managed to get out to a few more of Pink Flamingo’s shows but it never became a habit. On December 2, 2010, I walked into The Keefer for the first time and a habit (going to The Keefer. Booze was already well in play!) was born.
Last Thursday, I was down at The Keefer again to help the ladies (and gents) of Sweet Soul Burlesque celebrate one year of performing at The Keefer. To be honest, I was a little too drunk that night to relate to you all the amazing acts that hit the stage. I usually have to swing back through my twitter feed to remember such things. What I do remember are the conversations, the personal interactions. Sweet Sip Thursday is a happening. I have heard some derogatory things about the burlesque there but, for me, those comments are inconsequential to what I write here. I have met a lot of burlesque performers in the past few months. They all have they own styles, their own reasons for being there. But had it not been for the ladies of Sweet Soul performing Thursday nights I would never have met any of those people. Nor would I have met some of the people who have had the most profound effects on my life in the past 10 months. I even had a homeless man save my life in the parking lot one embarrassing evening. Had it happened on Granville Street, I would have been robbed of $4000 and frozen to death.
I once complained to Danielle Tatarin, the bar’s manager, that she needed to hire uglier staff (Danielle, herself, has made the best cocktail in the world in competition). When I made the crack about “uglier staff” it wasn’t completely shallow. Her staff are amazing. They have turned me on to new horizons of art, music, and literature, all the while serving up the best cocktails in Vancouver. I have semi-regular conversations with The Keefer’s owner (suites and bar), Cam, about how if he gets an offer for the penthouse on a Friday, I want a weekend to check my lottery tickets and make a counter offer before he signs the papers. I think he might just do it too.
A visit to The Keefer Bar on a Thursday is a night filled with handshakes, hugs, winks, and kisses. Sweet Soul Burlesque is a glitter-filled street gang and the staff at The Keefer facilitate a party like few can.