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pogo2posterFINAL2The Last Pogo Jumps Again studies the evolution of Toronto from small town to big city and it’s pop/counter-culture lifestyle during the early and mid-70s.  It centers around the first wave of Toronto punk rock and new-wave music, from the Ramones playing the New Yorker Theatre in ’76 through the police shutting down Teenage Head and causing a riot at the Horseshoe Tavern’s infamous “The Last Pogo” concert in December 1978.

London had the Sex Pistols, New York had the Ramones, but Toronto had a punk movement all it’s own.  The Toronto landscape by the late ’70s was forever changed with the infusion of the DIY/Punk/Alternative Culture(s) movement.  Six years in the making, The Last Pogo Jumps Again successfully explores the whys and wherefores of what was arguably one of the most exciting but misunderstood movements in Toronto’s history.

The DVD contains the 204 minute documentary, plus over a 100 minutes of added material, and a snazzy 24-page booklet.  Check the Shop for details on where you can purchase it.

The Last Pogo (1978) is the documentary that chronicled the last punk rock show at the Horseshoe Tavern when it was run by legendary Toronto promoters The Garys (Topp and Cormier) featuring The Scenics, Cardboard Brains, The Secrets, The Mods, The Ugly, The Viletones and Teenage Head. The Last Pogo was released on DVD in 2008 to great reviews.  Available at the Shop.

Cinema and Punk


The opening shot of the title sequence for our film The Last Pogo Jumps Again is a photo of an empty movie theatre, The Allenby, opened in 1936.  It would become The Original 99 Cent Roxy Theatre (just 243 steps from the Greenwood subway station!) in 1972, run by Gary Topp.   As Stephen Perry of the radio show Equalizing X Distort (on the University of Toronto’s radio station CIUT-FM) pointed out in an interview the other day, there was a thread running through the movie connecting punk and cinema.


Around 2010, the Roxy/Allenby Theatre was gutted and turned into a Tim Horton’s Donut shop, convenience store, and gas station.  The facade was cleaned up and renovated to it’s former glory.  The only unfortunate part of the reno is that most of the gak they have up about the history are from the days the people who ran the Roxy after Gary Topp and Jeff Silverman left, riding their coat-tails, and endlessly and unimaginatively showing The Rocky Horror Picture Show.


The first film booked at The Original 99 Cent Roxy was Jimi Plays Berkeley, a 55 minute 1971 minute concert film featuring Jimi Hendrix, Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell.


Regulars at the Roxy would not only get turned on to great films, but great music too.  The above poster is for Caged Heat, a Roger Corman production, directed by Jonathan Demme, who would later direct, amongst others, the Talking Heads‘ concert film Stop Making Sense.  Caged Heat came with a musical score by John Cale of The Velvet Underground (and John Cale) fame.  In 1977, when Gary Topp had teamed up with Gary Cormier and became the legendary promoters The Garys, they brought in both Talking Heads and later John Cale to the New Yorker Theatre. As the audience filed in for the Cale show, the theatre showed clips from Caged Heat.


Go to a movie at the Roxy, especially on a weekend, and endless joints would be passed around and shared.  The policy at the Roxy was that you couldn’t drink booze or deal dope, but smoking weed was just fine, thanks bud!


At times the entire auditorium would be filled with a huge pot cloud.  This isn’t exaggeration.  A thick haze of cigarette and marijuana smoke. Teenaged ushers would be hired to stand at the exits at the back of the auditorium, so the doors could stay open to ventilate the joint.  Or more correctly, the smoke from the joints from the joint.  This didn’t always work out:  one night Larry Hudson dropped acid, and spent the evening hanging out with another usher, both of them focusing on the same door as kids sneaked in the other.


Pogo filmmaker Colin Brunton was hired to take tickets when Gary booked Reefer Madness in 1972, the film that put the Roxy on the map.  The place would be packed:  sell-out audiences of 750+, ninety nine cents a ticket.  Everyone getting high.


Pink Flamingos was the notorious John Waters film that premiered in 1972. The Roxy staff and friends were treated to a midnight screening of the print before it got cut up by the Ontario Censor Board.  One of the censored scenes was the song Papa Oom Mow Mow, lip-synched perfectly by the twerking anus of a doubled-over actor.  The Raving Mojos‘ lead singer Blair Martin said in our film that he thought the outrageous ground-breaking film demanded a new kind of music.  “Music for this just wasn’t invented yet.”


Junk store owner and John Waters mainstay Edith Massey played Edie the Egg Lady in Pink Flamingos.  In 1978 she came to the Horseshoe Tavern armed with her poetry, and performed two sets with The Viletones (minus lead singer Steven Leckie) including her song Hey Punk, How About A Shot of Dope?  The poster, above was hand-drawn by artist John Pearson, who created all of the special Roxy handbills.


Edie was ushered around town by star-struck fan Nash the Slash.


Nash the Slash made his premiere at the Roxy, unmasked, set up at the bottom of the left hand section of seats, with a candelabra for mood and lighting, creating instant tape loops on a couple of reel-to-reels, and droning on his electric mandolin, a live soundtrack to the surreal short classic Un Chien Andalou, by Bunuel and Dali.  Jaws dropped.  Nash would later live in the flat above the Roxy, Phantom of the Opera-style.


John Pearson would hand-paint invites for the Roxy staff in 1974 for the first Roxy Music show in Toronto at Massey Hall in 1975.  Not a lot of people in Toronto knew about Roxy Music in 1974.  Roxy patrons did.


Another band that made their debut at The Original 99 Cent Roxy was Rough Trade.  At this early point in their career, Kevan Staples and singer Carole Pope called themselves The Bullwhip Brothers.


Last year, Superchunk and Mountain Goats drummer Jon Wurster saw a YouTube video of Rough Trade’s High School Confidential, and said that it had the best opening lines of a song ever:  “She’s a cool blonde scheming bitch, She makes my body twitch, Walking down the corridor.  You can hear her stilettos click, I want her so much i feel sick, The girl can’t help it, she really can’t help it now.”

Bobby Troup‘s composition “The Girl Can’t Help It”, popularized by Little Richard, was featured in Pink Flamingos.  When we saw Jon Wurster’s posting about Rough Trade, we made contact, told him we wanted to take him to skool, and got him a DVD of our film when he was playing the Horseshoe. The next day we were rewarded with this quote:  “This is the best movie of a scene I’ve ever seen.”


Viletones‘ frontman Steven Leckie said that Gary’s rep theatres had such an impact on him that he could quote more dialogue from A Clockwork Orange than he could words of wisdom from his DadA Clockwork Orange was punk.  We can’t imagine it getting a green-light today (“So, it starts off, this half-naked buxom blonde is getting raped on a stage by a gang, and they’re laughing…”)


In 1976, Gary Topp and partner Jeff Silverman took over the New Yorker Theatre on Yonge Street.  For the first year, Nash the Slash was the manager, his day job. Sitting at the back of the auditorium one night, smoking a joint and watching Amos Poe‘s film on NYC punk, The Blank Generation, Gary thought that they should “build a stage and start bringing some of these bands in.”

Photo of RAMONES

Over one weekend a concrete stage was poured;  the first concert was sitarist Ali Akbar Kahn, and then in September 1976, The Ramones.


The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre was one of the favourites at both The Original 99 Cent Roxy and later The New Yorker TheatreThe Ramones wrote a song about it, and they autographed the above promo still for Gary.


For a lot of people, The Original 99 Cent Roxy was a counter-culture college, specializing in film and music and show-biz.  Near the head of the graduating class would be Roxy and New Yorker regular, award-winning documentary filmmaker/filemaker Ron Mann.  Ron starting coming to the Roxy in his early teens, and contributed some sweet footage of mid-seventies Yonge Street for us.


Wayne County & The Backstreet Boys played the New Yorker in 1977.   Without money for a hotel, and faced with the prospect of sleeping on their tour bus, they opted to spend the night slumped in the chairs in the New Yorker.


They were treated to their first-ever screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and a gay bath-house commercial for a special do-it-yourself masturbation toy, The Accu-jack (also available with car lighter adapter.) In 1979, after Wayne finally became Jayne, she played The Edge, The Garys’ post-Horseshoe club.


In 2000 former Roxy usher and Pogo filmmaker Colin Brunton was hired to produce John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig & The Angry Inch, the cult play-turned-cult film, which a lot of people thought was lifted from Wayne County‘s persona.  Including Wayne, allegedly.


The Last Pogo Jumps Again opens theatrically at The Big Picture Cinema at 1035 Gerrard Street East in Toronto on Friday November 1, and runs to Wednesday November 6.  There’s a 3:30 matinee on Sunday November 3, and another matinee on Thursday November 7 at 3:30.  All tix are $10.00;  the Thursday matinee is $5.00.







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