When I was 17 years old, I started my first company. Some of you in the early days of Toronto’s rave scene may even remember it. It was called Feline Promotions, and my first and only party was called ‘Revival’. I didn’t know it at the time, but I ended up throwing Toronto’s first ‘fusion’ party.
It was 1995 and I had an art gallery, a half-pipe for skateboarding, a line up of amazing DJs including Freaky Flow (who was 16 and just starting out), MC Flip Side, a clothing boutique, and live bands like the awesome indie ‘Kat Rocket’ (just a coincidence folks). It was ambitious and awesome. And it was a total flop.
Oh, not for lack of promotion and working every connection available— last minute some bigger event companies threw some competing parties and while they kept their words to ‘help get the crowds over’, those crowds arrived at midnight, far along on the rabbit hole high of every imaginable drug that was popular at the time. I remember vividly staring at about 100 people who were just sitting outside my event. Sitting on the concrete. They didn’t want to pay to come in— somehow there had been a rumour that my event was ‘free to get in’ if they came from these other parties. Huh.
Have you ever tried explaining something to someone on drugs? It’s actually remarkably like trying to parent a toddler. But I digress.
My entire party was based on new Toronto talent. I wanted to introduce some new voices and invite guests to enjoy the unique spin on everything from art to fashion to skater to punk to jungle and hip hop. This was all about welcoming the up and comer. I remember looking inside at the faces of these really amazing people as they waited for the verdict of the (literally) high and mighty. It wasn’t much, but it might as well have been Carnegie Hall to them. And I was standing there in the spotlight, failing them. Tension mounted.
The police had already been by once to ask why there were so many people sitting outside a prominent downtown building, being rowdy. I (in my overalls and pigtails) filled them in as professionally as I could. I remember the police looking me up and down and finally addressing the crowd.
“You can go in, or you can go home. I can’t tell you what to do, but I think you should go in.” More grumbling from the crowd.
My artists looked crest fallen. My team looked defeated. My potential guests were squatting. Occupy Friday Night.
And then I thought EFF IT. I stood up on a concrete riser and my security guy with his booming voice said ‘SHUTUPSHESGOTSOMETHINGTOSAY’. You could hear a pin drop. I barely recognized the grounded calm of my voice and I began:
“I started this event because it’s hard to break into an industry. It’s hard to get people to listen to your demo’s, and see your art. It’s hard to get the gig. I wanted to give everyone a chance to get that gig, and for you to experience the awesome. And right now you are sitting here wasting new Toronto talent. Please don’t waste the talent. Just go inside. I don’t care if you pay. Music and art comes from real people and they are all waiting to blow your mind.”
It could have been the magic glistening hot summer city air, or the lucky moment of saying something profound at the very moment that the drugs kick in, but 94 people became solemn and rethought their night. They all attended. 78 of them paid.
And I never threw another event. Again.
On Friday February 12th, I will be throwing B&H’s first event— our Valentoon’s Family Geek Boutique.
The funny thing is it’s over 20 years later and I still carry the same founding principles of Feline. I believe in helping those around me get into a spotlight. I believe that music and art, small business, and storytelling all come from real people. And that if you give back to the community and the people who have those stories to tell, life will generally be better. It’s that simple.
This time I won’t have a half-pipe but the evening still carries some novelty. The ‘Valentoon’s Family Geek Boutique‘ brings together the worlds of ‘geek lifestyle’ and ‘parenting’. And depending on who you are that might sound like an unsustainable micro-niche or the best thing since Ghostbusters breakfast cereal. Either way I am thrilled to feature local businesses, events, and creatives who are more about heart than heart-shaped boxes of chocolates.
This Valentine’s we are raising money for Extra Life and the Hospital for Sick Kids, and instead of the pretence of roses and silk sheets and booking babysitters and coin-worthy courtship; we’re saying friends, family and fun for the win.
We’re bringing a date to the whole family, and we all get to give back at the same time.
Extra Life has been supporting Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals since its inception in 2008. They’ve raised more than $14 million for local CMN hospitals. This awesome charity unites thousands of game-players (video, RPG, and other) from around the world in an annual 24 hour gaming marathon and the funds raised go directly to the hospitals, children and their families who need them. We are so proud to be a part of their team, and are eager to channel proceeds from our event to Sick Kids in Toronto.
So many people have come together to make this happen, and to make this Valentine’s extra fun for the whole family while we raise money to change lives.
I am thrilled to feature an exclusive signing by IDW (My Little Pony) and Marvel artist, and comic creator (Bodie Troll) Jay Fosgitt! Comics will be available for purchase for Jay’s signing from Silver Snail.
- Join local Etsy star Gracie Klutz (Klutz Mega Korp) for a ‘Pin Up Clinic’ featuring her Star Wars pin up head bands and under $20 geek gifts like her Ghostbuster ‘Ectobubble Bubble Bath’.
- Get a 5 minute makeover from Notable Nominee Emerald City Beauty Bar, and pick up gift certificates for yourself or your sweetie.
- Forget flowers, choose the super hero cookie bouquets hand-picked by Master Chef Canada’s Gav Martell.
- Take part in our silent auction featuring original artwork from Jay Fosgitt, to raise money and awareness for Extra-Life.org!
- Plan future family dates with exclusive theatre and film promotions (like from Evil Dead the Musical, Movies for Mommies and more!)
- Kids get in free and can enjoy cocoa, yoga fun from Jai Yoga by Kids Yogi Sasha Walsh, and they get to take part in our KIDS COSPLAY CHALLENGE!
I don’t know if there are going to be 20 people, or 200, but I know it will be the most enthusiastically-planned, the most heart-ful evening I have ever thrown.
And yes, I will be cosplaying as Supergirl.
Share news about our February 12th event by using the hashtags: #BHValentoons and #BHJFosgitt. Get your tickets now! See you soon!