Venimus, vidimus, vicimus.
On December 15 and 16 2000 the city of Vancouver became the first (as far as I know) Canadian and non-American city to host a full on Santa event. The tradition started in San Francisco in 1995 and has since spread like a red cheap-suited cancer across the United States. For more information, check out http://www.santarchy.com/. You can also check out a fine video of the Vancouver event at the 120seconds.com Web site run by the CBC.
Santas converged on Vancouver from all over western North America. Calgary, Victoria, San Francisco (and the Bay Area generally), Portland, Seattle, LA. At its height at least 65-70 Santas were seen rampaging on the streets. This is Santas story.
Friday, December 15.
7 pm the time. MacKenzies Cabin, a restaurant packed with tongue-in-cheek rustic Canadiana, the destination. Sadly at the predetermined hour only four Santas were to be found. Luckily, this was simply an indication of Santas chronologically challenged nature more than anything else, and over the next two hours an increasingly boisterous army of Santas trickled in. Santa did a quick side-trip down to the lower level of the restaurant to spread some holiday fun, and the fine folks eventually bought us all cranberry shooters! An auspicious start indeed.
Royal Diamond Casino
Unfortunately Santa then suffered something of a setback. The casino was Santas first target, and a resounding flop at that. Santa discussed plans for too long outside before charging in, and security was onto the game. When Santa eventually got in we were greeted by a bunch of bemused and generally disinterested casino patrons staring blankly. Santa trudged out, tails between red legs. Pah. Casinos suck anyway.
Still, on the way there Santa encountered a marvellously-dressed freak from some sort of stag party or something, who provided good photo ops.
Unfortunately the gentlemans seasonal good cheer seemed to evaporate when Santa ran into him again upon leaving the casino. He accosted Santa, bellowing in spiralling drunken belligerence, WHAT GROUP ARE YOU WITH?! Cheerful replies of Were Santa! did nothing to assuage his alcohol-hazed obsession. Luckily the crowd of swirling Santas seemed to make it difficult for him to focus his rage on anyone, and Santa swept past him unscathed.
Shuffling out of the casino Santa crossed the Plaza of Nations square, bloodied but undefeated.
And lo, there was Mavericks. A crappy bar, but who cares? Santa needs a drink! And the dancing to the random music was fun for a while. But the sheer mediocrity of the tediously unimaginative sports bar got Santa down, and it was time to go. Santa walked out to discover...
Nothing like a pack of bedraggled Santas, trudging through the snow and suffering random snowball attacks by passers-by, to bring on a feeling of seasonal good-will.
Santa also mounted the large iron bull on Dunsmuir, to widespread Santa approval.
Santas first strip club. Luckily, the club turned out to be arranged in a kind of L shape. So that meant that Santas who wanted to admire the strippers got to sit at one end and the Santas who wanted to hang out and chat got to sit on comfy sofas at the other end. Very handy. Lurid reports of extremely naughty strippers filtered back to the sofa Santas, but I dont believe any Santas actually went up on stage.
Santa started splintering at this point, like icebergs calving off a glacier. One contingent of Santa headed down to Station Street for an after-hours warehouse party. I nearly got killed by a car en route, which added a bit of drama. Some fucker was driving way too fast on the other side of the street. He skidded on the snow, hit the concrete median, nearly flipped over and ended up in my lane directly in front of me. Luckily, rapid Santa instincts saved the day and I was able to swerve around him. The party, however, was not entirely packed with people and didnt go down too well with a big chunk of Santa, so Santa eventually moved on.
Then back to the Dakota, for more drinking, good-natured groping, porn-video-watching and general debauchery. Particularly in room 311, where a number of Santas started hurling abuse out the window at passers-by and flashing fine unclad Santa asses at them. The response? A flurry of snowballs from drunken lads on the street that seemed to go on for at least 45 minutes before the police turned up and told them to stop. Nonetheless, their enthusiastic reach was indeed impressive - they were whacking our window 3-4 storeys up.
Saturday, December 16
The Silvertone Tavern
The Silvertone on Commercial Drive was the designated meeting point for Santa action at 1 pm. And the staff did a fine job of serving the invading Kris Kringle hordes with friendliness and aplomb, amid cries of, WHICH SANTA ORDERED THE SOUP? and so on. After a couple hours the ranks had swelled to a good four or five dozen, and Santa marched triumphantly out to the Broadway SkyTrain station.
Vancouvers automated commuter light rail system was the next Santa target. Santa, chanting Santa Rides for Free! was a little alarmed to spot a pair of blue-clad transit employees notifying some central authority of the Santa invasion via walkie-talkie, but fortunately no untoward TransLink action was noted. The ride downtown was spent merrily singing Christmas carols, with a rapid car-change at the Main Street/Science World station. The train then disgorged its Santa load at Granville Station.
Malled from stem to stern
With joyful abandon Santa then proceeded to puzzle the masses and frighten mall security. Santa stormed the Bay and Pacific Centre to an ominous chanting shout of HO HO HO. People pretended to ignore Santa. People stared and boggled at Santa. People stood and scratched their head in bewilderment at Santa. Santa challenged shoppers as to their naughty or nice quotient, handing out candy to the kids and subversive tracts to their parents. Naughty people were of course spanked and paddled.
Mall security showed up, panicking, not knowing what to do. But two thoroughly notable highlights come to mind - first, Santa monopolized a pair of escalators for good consumer-thwarting fun.
And second, Santa was privileged to meet an elderly fan. The gentleman was being pushed through the mall in his wheelchair by a friendly assistant, only to be surrounded by a throng of Father Christmases invading the liquor store to stock up on necessities. The irascible senior stared at us for a moment, then an ancient and mischievous grin crept across his face. Slowly he slipped his pale right hand out of his glove, and gave Santa the finger. It truly was a magical moment and the second-best highlight of my evening. Santa basked in his love!
The Art Gallery
By now the winter light was failing, and Santa proceeded hastily to the steps of the art gallery by Robson Square for a quick photo op before the sun vanished completely. The sky was tinged with delicate salmon clouds, and the ground was covered with boisterous noisy Santas. Santa posed for a quick snap.
Robson Square Rink
Then it was a brief stop at the Robson Square covered outdoor ice skating rink for a little slide around the ice. Santa considered dropping in the bar situated next to the rink but beat a hasty retreat when it became clear that the establishment was, in fact, quite empty and thus not really worthy of being Santad. But a new odour filled the air - the smell of Santas hot for some good bowling action!
The Commodore Lanes
Santa headed down Robson and onto Granville, past the newly-Americanized Eatons department store emblazoned with its letter E logo. (which naturally lead to a chorus of SANTA LOVES E!) From here it was but a half block to the historic Vaudeville-era Commodore Lanes bowling alley, where the American Santas were astonished by their first encounter with Canadian-style 5-pin bowling.
Santa also indulged in a little table hockey and pool, when not consuming large quantities of refreshments at the bar. And dealing with some of the aftereffects thereof.
Fortified by the Commodores relaxing yet stimulating environment, Santa charged out to Robson Street. Distracted by a brief orgy of consumerist shopping glee at MAC Cosmetics (where many Santas acquired delightful rosy cheeks), Santa then invaded the Virgin Megastore amid chants of SANTA LOVES VIRGINS. The store manager was later seen at the door in the wake of the departing Santas, looking apprehensively at the red wave and clutching her walkie-talkie like a talisman. We thought it was some weird shoplifting gang! she confided.
Next stop was the Hotel Vancouver, a charming establishment that until the end of WWII had a blanket prohibition on Orientals staying in its hallowed rooms, and which is now packed with Japanese tourists taking out their monetary revenge. Santa deemed a rapid walk-through Santa-ing was in Santas best interests, and charged through the hotel in fine form, stopping only to worship the Christmas tree in the middle of the lobby. The concierges tried very very hard to pretend that Santa was not there. People in expensive clothes blinked. Hotel security whispered to each other over radios in panic, but had no idea what to do. Before they could formulate a plan for dealing with the Santa hordes, it was too late. Santa had left the building.
The next destination was Blunt Brothers, the famous cannabis café. Unfortunately, it was quite a long haul for the tiring crowd of Santa, and a hasty stop was made at the Piccadilly. Flowing into the pub in a crimson tide, Santa refuelled and then charged out into the night. Its a, uh, Santa convention, the pub manager gamely explained to a friend as Santa departed.
Canadas answer to Amsterdam we may not yet be, but Vancouvers making bold moves with this particular establishment. Sweeping past the glass cabinets packed with bongs and pipes, Santa proceeded to make the space its own. Hungry Santas queued impatiently for food, and tired Santas reclined in quivering red masses on the many chairs and sofas.
Between the food, the acrid tang of burning leaves and the relaxing music it looked like Santa was losing steam. In a desperate bid to force rampaging action onto the general air of sloth, megaphones were produced. The next destination was determined.
Gastowns most popular sleazy bar, the Cambie provided Santa with plenty of pool-table-bumping opportunities, in addition to the opportunity to consume still more alcohol, this time at rock-bottom (by Canadian standards) prices. Aggressive testosterone jocks and random scruffy characters looked on in bemusement, only occasionally erupting into bursts of swaggering, shouting and threats.
Santa then headed off down Cordova, one of Vancouvers lovelier byways. Another stop was made, this time at the Bourbon Street bar. Here Santa was welcomed with open arms by management. A scattering of of glassy-eyed barflies gazed torpidly at the red throng as Santa hit the dancefloor. A free round of beer on the house was the response, which met with tremendous positive acclaim.
The Lotus and Uncle Charlies
Tired of being nice, Santa decided a raid on the Lotus nightclubs fetish night would be a splendid move. Ready to get naughty, Santa grandly marched up to the door, only to be told that a cover charge would be in effect. Lotus management was unswayed, and Santa reconsidered plans rapidly. A brief detour was made to Uncle Charlies, but the sparsely-populated scene was simply insufficiently exciting for Santas discriminating tastes. And they didnt want us there anyhow. Suddenly, Santa remembered that while at the Piccadilly the fine folks at 23 West, located across the street, had in fact offered Santa an invitation to attend. For free. Back to Cordova we went.
We entered the deserted club and took it over in the name of Santa. And boy did we make it our own. Within minutes Santas were stripping off parts of suits and giving massages and dancing and sprawling on sofas. (Overheard by the main security guard to his minion: "well - its okay as long as they dont take all their clothes off.) Many a languid cuddling moment was to be had before Santa was roused from soporific bliss and pushed out into the street by Santa action factions.
Number 5 Orange
Strip club number two was the next stop. Unfortunately, dissent appeared amongst the formerly unified Santa. A number of Santa objected to the crass commercial exploitation of women and would not enter, leading to a terrible Clausian impasse. After a confused period of indecision Santa elected to proceed to the Alibi Room instead.
Downstairs, with its comfy chairs and quiet lighting was the first stop, but Santa was soon ordered upstairs to the main restaurant instead. Relaxing and drinking continued to be the order of the day, though the less hardy Santas were by now sliding out into the night, whittling down the numbers considerably. Soon only a handful of the toughest Santas remained, and the Dakota (after a brief detour to the Marine Club for a few last drinks) was deemed the final destination.
And finally, back to the Dakota where the remaining exhausted Santas slowly unwound after a successful weekend strike. Vancouver SantaCon 2000 was at its end.
Images and text copyright © 2000 Grumpy Santa.
Please dont copy any of this crap without me asking first. Thanks!