The Green Dolphin Restaurant Toronto

The Green Dolphin restaurant on the south side of Queen Street West facing north up Lansdowne Avenue was to Parkdale/Toronto West, what the Brown Derby and later the Zanzibar was to downtown Toronto. It was a kind of hub where people from surrounding areas would meet to find out what was "going on". This was the place where New Brunswick boxer Gerry Durrette's meeting Robbie Robertson from Toronto's east end, and eventually Arkansa's Ronnie Hawkins inspired Gerry to become an entertainer playing harmonica and singing. Here too the dapper and trimly attired Norm Robichaud would stop for a coffee or conversation during his walks from Sunnyside and the five corners to Dufferin and Queen. And there he'd run into Eddy Billick standing wearing his latest Slack Shop suit in front of the Dolphin at the Queen Lansdowne intersection. They'd talk of where they'd been recently: the Elm Grove near Dufferin, the Pool Hall near Sunnyside, and sometimes even the downtown bars.

But their favourite topics were Hollywood movies and movie stars. They wanted to be actors, not on stage but on location in movies. And they seemed always dressed for the part, wearing suits and ties at any time of day or night: in those days(1950's to 1960's)our minds were filled with Hollywood movies and movie stars. In a way these images were patterns for our dress and behaviour until the end of the 1960's when "rock & roll"became "ROCK", and musicians' black mohair suits were replaced with colourful shirts and hats, and even jeans. Neither Ed, nor Norm were musicians, but both, especially Ed, eagerly participated in discussions about the groups and musicians I was working with. I don't recall what Norm's talents were, but as time went on I learned that Edy was a rather accomplished visual artist.

There were of course numerous other visitors to the Dolphin. There was "Big" Mike from Germany who always wore a beige trench coat year round who'd be sitting in a booth waiting to greet you 24/7; and there was the seeming perennial bachelor from one of Canada's eastern provinces who eventually married I heard an entire family of wife and children. Most were friendly with the restaurant's proprietor, Louis (looeey) who when it got busy would hustle us coffee sippers out of the more lucrative booths. Most of us lived a short walk from the Dolphin: none of us drove. Edy lived in a house up Lansdowne, Gerry Durette in a modern apartment on Jameson Avenue south toward King Street. In those days I was living on Close Avenue. I don't think I ever knew where Norm resided.

Tops Restaurant

Tops restaurant two doors up from the Brown Derby Tavern in a way seemed to be the downtown, Yonge Street counterpart of Toronto's west end Green Dolphin restaurant.

In the north wall of the Derby was a door to Frank's Hot Dogs and United Deforest Cleaners where you could get your pants pressed and shoes shined while-u- wait and beside United Deforest was Tops all night 24/ 7 restaurant where almost every evening after the bars closed you could run into entertainers and ladies of the night enjoying a" hot dog surprise" or "schmaltz Herring" or some other menu item that only Tops seemed to offer . Conversation often centered on where various performers were working, the groups they were with, who'd just got back in town after a road tour and where they might be heading. In a sense Tops was where entertainers, entertained each other with their memories: anecdotes about the places they'd been, the clubs they'd played and most of all the fascinating people they'd met and got to know both in the audience and on stage. Tops to compliment its unique menu had a juke box at each booth where for an inserted coin one could listen to the latest top hits, and it was on this system that I first heard Max Falcon's singing "I thought I heard you calling my name" which eventually led to his performance at the Peppermint Lounge in New York City.

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Peter De Remigis