My dear on again off again girlfriend known as Big had the most extraordinary clothes. None you could buy in Toronto at the time. Call it avant-garde or pushing the words haute couture down a pretty style-free city, when she walked in the room everyone’s heads turned. I am serious. Everyone. Dyed jet black hair cut, bangs cut on an angle from the left eye brow to the bottom of her eye lash on the right side.
Jackets that looked like they were previously worn by Amadeus, sometimes a proper black top hat, mesh gold top that didn’t leave much to the imagination. Wedding-like dress with eye makeup that made her look like she was a drowned bride. She was beautiful. Poetry. Scary. Her clothes were from Century 21 Stores in New York City, the clearing house for the world’s greatest designers and their New York fashion show creations. She was rich after all, so she only had quality dramatic clothes.
You had to then contrast that with where she lived in Toronto. At the Hideout, an abandoned house that was occupied by Beef, a punk band that lived off donated food and a lot of illegal drugs. The Hideout had only one-way in. Over a six-foot fence at the edge of Queen Street. And Big, being all of five feet tall, would scale it like a cat climbing a tree.
I never ever stayed there with her. I liked electricity too much. And running water. And a stove and fridge. And personal hygiene.
Ends up one of the Beef band members eventually bought the house from the city, found a very successful Toronto artist to invest, and created an inspired and very popular hotel on the property, with furry walls, beds in the shape of skulls, and mock murder scene floors. Each room was named after a terrible person. Beef, the hotel, was born.
Pamela and I were on our way to see it first hand and to check in to the Pablo Escobar room. Pablo, so the website proclaims, killed over 300 people personally and masterminded the murders of 3,000 more. When he died he was one of the richest people on earth with an estimated personal wealth of over $30 billion. Killer and wealthy drug dealer, meet Pamela and I, our backpack full of drug money and a loaded handgun. Too perfect.
I was hoping one of the Beef band members would be there so I could ask about Big. But we didn’t have to ask. Big was working the front counter wearing a green sea monster style dress and a giant white silk fan on her head.
She recognized me immediately.