03/12/2013 05:50 EDT | Updated 05/15/2013 10:26 EDT

The Eighties, Vancouver and the Luv-A-Fair: An Excerpt


What follows is an excerpt from former MuchMusic VJ Kim Clark Champniss's new book The Republic of Rock 'n' Roll -- an in-depth exploration of the 1980s and how music and world events influenced each other at the time. In this passage, Champniss writes about '80s Vancouver New Wave club the Luv-A-Fair.

The Luv-A-Fair was a giant warehouse at the intersection where the red light and gay districts met. Its capacity was somewhere between 300 and 500 people, depending on whether management stuck to the club's legal limit. The club had once been home to a gay disco that had a wicked reputation for wild nights, colourful characters, and street hustlers, but had now changed its music policy to New Wave. The turning point in the musical direction had occurred when one night the crowd spontaneously sat down on the dance floor to protest the continual playing of disco music. And so Luv-A-Fair became the top New Wave musical outlet (club or radio) in the city. However, management kept the sign at the front door that read, "you are entering a gay establishment" to keep the tourists out, and you could still purchase amyl-nitrate from someone at the bar (known as "poppers," it's a recreational drug that produces a short-lived high, relaxes the muscles, and increases sexual pleasure).

There was an other-worldliness to the club, and as you passed the bouncers you felt you had crossed an imaginary line, or possibly, like Alice, had fallen down a rabbit hole. One of the club's waiters, Adrian, who had been with the Luv-A-Fair since its early days, had become famous as the server on roller skates. This only added to the uniqueness of the environment. The bouncers were tough and mean -- they had to be to keep out troublemakers. There was one incident where a bouncer had not only barred a yahoo from entering the club, but also chased him around the block wielding a bicycle chain.

The club still attracted its original gay clientele, but now also party kids, artists, designers, and hairdressers. Hairdressers were like stars in those days, the way that TV chefs are now. (My wife Lily was a hairdresser at one of Vancouver's top salons and I would make New Wave mix tapes for them. Whenever I visited it was like entering a miniature nightclub.)

The men's washrooms at the Luv-A-Fair consisted of one long trough and two beaten up cubicles. The women's washroom was always the site of interesting happenings. The bass bins in the club were so large some of the patrons would climb on top of the speakers to dance like sixties go-go dancers. This was completely spontaneous, unplanned, and organic.

From The Republic of Rock 'n' Roll by Kim Clarke Champniss. Published by Warner Music, 2013.

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