Know your history - Celebrities

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      Like many Vancouver nightclubs, Celebrities started out as a teetotalling ballroom. On September 24, 1914, Lester Court opened its doors for dance lessons. Then in '33, one of the oldest buildings in the West End changed hands and was renamed the Embassy, which eventually turned into a cabaret. Later on, legend has it the basement housed a mini rhythm-and-blues concert hall. It would be another 30 or so years later, however, before the 1022 Davie Street venue would gain any notoriety outside of the Lower Mainland.

      "In 1967, it turned into the Retinal Circus," says Mark Woods, promotional manager for Celebrities. "Apparently a who's who of '60s musical acts played there: the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and the Velvet Underground. So I guess that was sort of a heyday."

      After several forgettable incarnations in the '70s, the Kerasiotis brothers took over the lease in '83 and called it the Rock Palace. Originally their intent was to make it just another straight club.

      "But then the Davie Street area kind of started to grow as a gay village," says Woods. "More and more gays were hanging out there and more gay businesses were opening up, so they made the decision to just join in and turned it into a gay club in 1987."

      By the late '90s Celebrities was one of the hottest clubs in town, partly due to Rehab Fridays, a raver night that was popular among both gays and straights.

      "People still talk about it," says Woods, "The '90s, just in general, were such a great time to go out—there were the club kids and people got dressed up."

      They also did a lot of Ecstasy. Translation: not a lot of liquor sales, which meant the club had to adapt.

      "I think they sold waters for, like, five bucks," Woods says with a laugh. "I mean, a lot of people were drinking and a lot of them weren't. I know it was a huge popular night. Was it a money-maker? Probably not. But it sure was a good time."

      Alas, the city shut 'er down in 1999, supposedly because too many wild nights had loosened the brickwork of the building. Four and a half years and millions of renovation dollars later, the Kerasiotises reopened their beloved nightclub. And so far business has been good.

      "Not to pat ourselves on the back, but we've been voted number one in several publications, including the Georgia Straight ," says Woods, before adding, "so you could consider now the real heyday for Celebrities."