This week we are heading back in time to the early 00s – this is the time when the Spice Girls were unravelling, we had e-mail but not social media (not even MySpace!), and electroclash was at its peak.
And it was at this time that my guest Jordan King – a Canadian multi-disciplinary artist, archivist, and historian, with her personal work currently focused on the overlap of drag culture and trans female identity – and a small group of friends started to host a weekly party in the then recently renovated basement of the Lotus Hotel in Vancouver.
We talk all about the subtle difference between being a ‘ringleader’ and being a ‘wrangler’, Jordan’s casting in the Hollywood film Connie and Carla, and the magic and chaos of throwing yourself head first in to something you’re passionate about…
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Listen to Jordan’s podcast Radio Never Apart
Jordan King 00:00
I mean, when you’re 20 like you really do think you’re going to just change the entire world. Yeah, with what you’re doing. So there’s a bit of like hubris, there’s a bit of ego. There’s a bit of naivete like that. It’s just such a magical time in life. And I don’t think back on it like, Oh my gosh, oh, I’m not 20 anymore. I just think Wow, we did it to the fullest.
K Anderson 00:25
Hello, my name is K Anderson and you are listening to lost spaces, the podcast that mourns the death of queer nightlife. Every episode I talk to a different person about a venue from their past, the memories they created there, and the people that they used to know. My guests on this week’s show is Jordan King, a Canadian multidisciplinary artist, archivist and historian, with her personal work currently focused on the overlap of drag culture and trans female identity. And she is also the host of her own podcast, radio, never apart for Montreal’s online magazine never apart. And we are heading back in time to the early noughties. This is the time when the Spice Girls were unravelling. We had email but not social media, and not even my space. I mean, can you even remember that far back and electro clash was at its peak. It was at this time that Jordan and a small group of friends started to host a weekly party in the then recently renovated basement of the lotus Hotel in Vancouver. We took all about the subtle difference between being a ringleader and being a Wrangler. Jordans casting in the Hollywood film Connie and Carla and the magic and the chaos of throwing yourself headfirst into something that you’re passionate about.
Jordan King 02:26
I moved to Vancouver in 1999. From where my boyfriend at the time from Vancouver Island. Oh, okay. So, um, Cooper Island is it’s about an hour and a half ferry ride but it’s just like a massive Island. I mean, I think it’s like, the size of Ireland to maybe I don’t know,
K Anderson 02:43
huge right now. And look, it’s the size of Ireland.
Jordan King 02:48
I know it’s a huge Island. It’s got you know, cities with over a million red multiple cities with over a million people living on it. So it’s, you know, but it wasn’t like a little teeny tiny island, but it was still a big jump across to the big city from, you know, from the smaller town that I was living in and I moved with my boyfriend at the time in 1999.
K Anderson 03:11
Full of hopes and dreams to Vancouver to
Jordan King 03:13
the big city. Exactly. I had my one duffel bag packed. I think that was it.
K Anderson 03:20
And I’m not going to labour on this. But how long did the relationship last? Once you got to Vancouver?
Jordan King 03:26
We’re actually still quite close friends to this day.
K Anderson 03:30
Okay, but that didn’t answer my question. We were in a relationship for I would say about two years. Oh, okay. Oh, so it didn’t just like disintegrate within three weeks? No, definitely not. Well, you weren’t doing it right then.
Jordan King 03:46
I mean, and I was I want to say maybe 17 or 18? Wow, there actually was a point in time in which I thought I remember thinking is this what happens? You just marry this person? Or, you know, obviously marriage was even on my mind. I mean, are you kidding me? But it was sort of like, Am I is this just I’m no committed to this person. And we just kind of make this work. And then I had that, you know, late adolescent. I wasn’t even a fully formed human. Yeah. And sort of like, Oh, my gosh, wait, no, like I haven’t. There’s so much I haven’t done much I haven’t experienced, right. And also pre transition. But it basically began as soon as I arrived in Vancouver, if I’m honest with you, so in that dynamic, I mean, I knew it also wasn’t really a fit because he still identifies as a gay person and I now identify as a trans person and transitioned really quite shortly after arriving in Vancouver.
K Anderson 04:45
No, that must have been really tough.
Jordan King 04:51
It wasn’t really because we saw that that relationship just sort of almost switched in this really Natural, totally logical way to be less like, we were in a couple. And more like we were just kind of best friends.
K Anderson 05:09
Jordan King 05:10
And I think that can happen for a lot of people or, you know, I don’t know, I mean, I guess I don’t know if I could say a lot, but I think it does happen for some people in queer relationships where, maybe sexually, you’re no longer compatible, or you’ve had lots of fun and you’ve had lots of experiences, and then maybe one or both of you are a little bit like, you know, maybe something’s kind of fizzling out a little bit. But you really also just, like, dig each other, and have lots of fun together in the context of your relationship. And so you either like, open it up, or you break up or you stay friends, or, you know, I think there’s lots of possibilities there. Doesn’t have to be like a big breakup that you’re gonna just sort of walk away from it. So yeah, I’m still quite close with that person. And we stayed close. Really, we we’ve been close, ever since that me 20. That was over 20 years ago. It just really wasn’t like, we were a romantic couple. As I began to transition, it just was sort of like, Oh, yeah, well, cool. Now we’re best friends.
K Anderson 06:12
I mean, yeah, yeah. And like, I mean, that sounds very, very healthy. I guess my experience of relationships at that age is like, let’s just be rigid, and like, expect this perfect thing from each other that neither of us can provide. And then if we don’t give, it’s a total failure on both of our parts.
Jordan King 06:29
It’s so heteronormative. And I find it so fascinating, because I still talk to people where I just think, well, we’re so lucky, as queer people. That’s how I see it anyways, to really just kind of define our existence in our own way, define our relationships in our own way. So I mean, gay marriage, same sex marriage became legal in Canada in 2003, which is quite early, comparatively speaking to other parts of the world. But I also can’t say that I necessarily aspired to be like, married in a white picket fence, sort of a sense. Although I am married now, that’s another interesting part. I’ve been married for seven years, almost
K Anderson 07:13
seven years. Wow. I didn’t know what to say.
Jordan King 07:19
And we’ve been together, my husband and I have been together for almost 15 years. Oh, I just look like I’m only 12. Right.
K Anderson 07:35
15 years. Wow. That’s, that’s an achievement. And, but so Okay, so I want to pick up on the thing that you said about not having to aspire to this heteronormative idea of what a relationship is? Because I think that like for a lot of us. I mean, I agree, I totally agree. But for a lot of people, if you grew up in a culture that is heteronormative, and at a time, like you were saying in 2000, when there aren’t very many alternatives offered to you through culture through media, then I can see why people are just like, well, I guess this is what I’m supposed to do as well.
Jordan King 08:19
Totally. And I still have conversations with friends, who I would consider to be very progressive, who live in cool cities like Berlin, where there’s lots of people doing things that are progressive and crapping on realities,
who make comments
Jordan King 08:36
sometimes. And I just think, oh, my goodness, like, wow, it’s a lot of us are still stuck in certain concepts of what a relationship or a marriage or partnership is sort of supposed to look like. And I just think to myself, who on earth created this supposed to? And maybe it’s just that I had cool friends from a very young age, who were defining their queer relationships on their own terms. And who introduced me to like some really incredible reading at that time. So again, we’re talking like 20 years ago that I just I sort of questioned a lot of that stuff.
K Anderson 09:16
Yeah, I don’t think I questioned it until quite quite a while. Quite a while later.
Jordan King 09:22
I mean, in England, I think it’s there’s certain things that are a bit more traditional. Right, and there’s certain expectations.
K Anderson 09:29
Oh, hang okay. So hang on to what you’re schooling me on the UK. Come on, to friends who are British, and I know that some of those some of those traditions there they run compared to Canada. I mean, they were speaking abroad. I’ve only just met. Okay, well, anyway, so. So the theme here is I lived a sheltered, sheltered existence. But DJs we were joking About DJs, DJ culture shift DJ calls for vinyl were suddenly uncool.
Jordan King 10:06
What they were still seen as really cool, but it just in terms of nightlife, a lot of things were sort of changing really rapidly. And so, I mean, I think what I’m most interested to talk about is this, this space, the Lotus hotel, and, and also what this time was like in Vancouver nightlife, because it was just prior to many other big changes happening, right. So it was pre social media. And Vancouver is the city is, is sort of, there’s lots of things about it that are quite unique. So it has what’s called an entertainment district now. And at the time that I was most heavily involved in nightlife, this didn’t exist yet. So they were in the process of creating this one sort of Central street in the downtown core that was going to be this entertainment district and all of them, they wanted all the nightclubs to be there. Okay, just sort of create this, like Las Vegas Strip kind of idea where it was really like. And in their minds, I think, from what I recall reading at the time, they wanted it to be easier to police. And to sort of monitor if it was all in one place was I think the logic, although, again, I wasn’t necessarily involved with it, I just remember watching this all happening over that time period around early 2000s. And, and that’s the direction it was starting to go was to move everything there. And so prior to that,
K Anderson 11:33
like how spread out is the city and and was the nightlife spread out. In a way you would expect a city that naturally grew
Jordan King 11:42
Vancouver, Vancouver, sort of, again, it’s quite an odd city, it’s it’s almost the downtown is on a little peninsula almost. Right. And there’s Stanley Park, which most people are familiar with. It’s this beautiful, massive, sprawling sort of urban park right adjacent to the downtown, on this same little peninsula of land almost sort of tiny. But there there was always traditionally a divide between sort of the east side, and then the downtown core. So East Vancouver was sort of maybe what people who are British might, or people who live in London might think of as like East London, that it was a bit sort of more like, frat for experimental and that was sort of where the more artsy sort of cool stuff was happening. It was a bit dodgy here. And then in the more central part of downtown, obviously, there’s the sort of towers and the commerce focus sort of area. And then there was the gay village which is Davie Street. It’s also fairly well known. And so there was kind of a divide in that. Some of the, you know, queer folks who lived on the east side, didn’t go down to Davie street as much. And if you were living on like Davie street or living in the West End, you hang out a lot on Davie Street. And although they’re not, geographically far at all, we’re not even talking to distance between like East London and like Soho, it’s like, sort of Okay, not, but people just wouldn’t really cross over. And the other thing that’s unique about Vancouver is that the Downtown Eastside is an area people might have heard of, because it’s still to this day, experiencing major problems with homelessness, drug use, in full open view, despite being within a couple of blocks of the police headquarters. And I think there’s a lot of reasons why that is the situation there. I mean, partly, it’s because it’s historically for over 100 years, but an area where people who were sort of, I’m using air quotes here, like disenfranchised, were living residing, making their homes there. So that history is quite embedded in that area. There also just has, in my opinion, not but wonderful management of, I guess, people who are experiencing mental health issues and stuff, it’s just, it’s really sort of created this snowball effect that now here we are 2021 I mean, it’s still a massive problem in Vancouver that that area is basically door to door with fancy shopping and people who are very visibly dealing with mental health issues and using drugs out in the open every single day. So I mean, it creates this sort of bit of a dangerous feeling, I guess if you’re not someone who’s like from there, and they might even advise tourists, like don’t go down that street because it’s might be scary and stuff. But it’s that’s just a part of the downtown of Vancouver. So from that standpoint, to the nightlife that was happening In East Vancouver, or in a gas town area was always seen as being a little bit more like on the fringe or like, a little bit more on the perimeter of, you know, these areas that people would see as more sort of scary or something. But it’s where a lot of the cooler nightlife was right, like more of the sort of interesting venues were in that part of downtown.
K Anderson 15:23
Because the rent was cheaper is humid Leon Yeah.
Jordan King 15:27
Yeah. And and so this, when we started to throw our party, it was prior to the Granville Street, sort of entertainment district being even in existence yet. So nightlife was spread out a bit more so and there just would be like little pockets here and there of places that people might go out, and especially for different types of nightlife. I mean, in gas town, there were a lot of much larger electronic music venues, which don’t exist now, I don’t think. But there was sort of cool stuff in that vicinity. And so the Lotus hotel was this historic hotel, and it had been called the Heritage House Hotel, in the 1980s. And they were sort of beginning in the 90s, to start to try to programme it a little bit differently. Because my understanding and I, even at that time, was quite interested in like nightlife history was that it had been sort of a queer Hangout, there would be maybe fetish parties there periodically, lots of lesbian events have been going on there. But those venues had been there for like over 20 years. And then they started in the 90s, to programme more electronic music in this basement space, and do like a weekend party that was maybe attempting to kind of draw a bit more of a mainstream crowd. And on Tuesdays, they had a drum and bass night, which I used to go to, in the basement space. But what’s also quite fascinating about it is that it was actually three distinct spaces. So there was the Lotus was sort of the basement venue. And then there was a pretty spacious pub sort of venue right directly on the corner. And the intersection is Hastings, and Abbott. And, and then there was a slightly smaller, sort of little pub almost, that was just up from the corner. And so those venues in all through the 80s and 90s, the corner space had been called Charlie’s lounge. And then the smaller little pub and called Chuck’s pub. And the basement, I think had always been called the Lotus.
K Anderson 17:44
And they were all like part of one building.
Jordan King 17:48
Yes, they were all interconnected by these corridors. Which I got to then sort of learn about and see the whole inside of it really because so they made the decision that I guess the building owners in around 2000 2001 to completely sort of renovate or give it a facelift rebranded. So we I think just my, my little cohort of friends, those of us that were involved in throwing this party, I think we just sort of struck at the right time, because it was our first time organising anything on our own. We’d all been involved peripherally in different parts of nightlife prior to doing this party. But essentially, we had carte blanche to do whatever we wanted, because they were going to be renovating the space, they want it to bring in younger promoters, new talents, new organisers, performers that need this kind of stuff. And I mean, we, we were given free rein, I mean, we weren’t given any money to do any.
K Anderson 18:52
Okay, that’s the downside,
Jordan King 18:54
but we were told we could do whatever we wanted. And the the rebranding of the spaces was as milk and honey, milk being the smaller space, just up from the corner and then honey lounge was what they named the space right on the honey lounge.
K Anderson 19:10
It’s so cheesy, isn’t it? The so I want to find out more about you and your friends. And so, like, how did you have the conversation that was like, should we do something together?
Jordan King 19:21
I mean, I don’t really remember there ever being a conscious, like sort of meeting where we all decided, Okay, who is going to do wide or hard, this is gonna be organised. There really wasn’t a structure per se. I think I was probably the one the most motivated to try to do something and bring everybody together. But I wasn’t necessarily like it wasn’t solely on my shoulders by any stretch. We really were kind of a little collective almost. And so it was my very dear friend Preston, who, again is someone I’m still friends with to this day Preston Buffalo and He and I think we’re sort of the, the sort of creative force, I guess a little bit in terms of envisioning what, what the flyers and stuff might look like. So we worked a lot on that side of it. And then we had a friend Jason, who was a DJ, his DJ name was Eddie tune flash. Sorry. I mean, we all, we all had these little sort of quirky names, and. And then we had another friend named Joshua, who was going to be our emcee. And I mean, a lot of us worked, sort of in proximity to one another. And we just knew each other through nightlife. I mean, again, there wasn’t sort of a meeting where we all decided like, Hey, we’re all going to do this. It really just sort of happened. I mean,
K Anderson 20:54
and there was no ringleader. Or was that your bro?
Jordan King 20:59
I mean, I guess I would, I would be the prob, I probably would have been the closest to a sort of Wrangler. But I would, I would refer to myself as a Wrangler moreso than a
K Anderson 21:10
ringley. Oh, okay. And what how would you differentiate the two terms?
Jordan King 21:16
Well, I see a ringleader to me is really somebody who wants to like lead the charge be in charge. And I didn’t ever necessarily want to be the sort of, you know, sole person responsible for it, per se. I really, I love collaboration. I think that collaboration is where the most exciting creative stuff happens in any sort of creative endeavour. So we all contributed. Right. And so although I was definitely, like I said, I was probably the most motivated, and I would have loved to have seen it grow and continue. I mean, they’re just, you know, we’ll get to this part, I’m sure in terms of the evolution of it, because we did it for over a year and a half. But I think I had the most sustained energy around our okay.
K Anderson 22:04
I mean, basically, I’m just pushing you in this direction, because I want to mourn about people who aren’t motivated. I like in whatever dynamic I’m in, I always end up being the person who’s like, come on, everyone, come on, we’re going to do this. Now. We’re going to do this now. And it’s like, you just feel like I’m the biggest nag in the world.
Jordan King 22:22
You know, what I will say, I will say this, it’s something that I’ve learned in my years of wisdom, is that when things start to kind of move, and when things can start to really happen, is I think, when you connect with, and if it’s just organically or if it’s because someone says, I think you should know this person, because I feel like you’re gonna really like each other. When you have people that want to move at a similar pace to what you do. That’s when exciting stuff can happen.
K Anderson 22:53
So what do you say? What do you do when they don’t want to be?
Jordan King 22:57
I think it’s totally okay to say, You, You do you. I mean, there’s so many people out there in the world, and, and you just kind of got to keep staying open to meeting new people and talking to new people and keep putting your projects. Yeah, out there into the world. And yeah, I mean, I
K Anderson 23:15
think I think like, I’ve always been similar to you in that, like, I want something to be bigger than me. So I want something that like involves other people and like brings their strengths from other people. And then I just always end up being the one that’s like, Okay, everyone, I’ve got my checklist here. And this needs to be done by this time. And this needs to be done by this time. And everyone’s like, yeah, sorry. Well, I
Jordan King 23:36
do feel for you, because I will say that it can be frustrating to have an idea. And I mean, I literally just said this, right and, and to want to continue with it or to want to see it get better or to want to see it grow. And to just have no one else that’s involved really be sort of matching that enthusiasm. I mean, it can be really frustrating. But I think it’s also okay to just sort of let something live for a little bit. Or to walk away from it for a while.
K Anderson 24:01
Yes. Okay. So sorry, this isn’t a therapy session for me.
Jordan King 24:04
No, I mean, it’s good. It’s it’s all interesting reflection for me.
K Anderson 24:08
So you don’t remember like having that conversation with the three others about setting the night up? Do you remember having the conversation with the venue?
Jordan King 24:15
Yes, that I remember for sure. Because I’m also still in contact with the person that sort of made that happen. And it did feel like quite a grand meeting, in which I sat down with her and she is now living in London. Did
K Anderson 24:31
you bring a PowerPoint presidential
Jordan King 24:36
2000 2001 I mean, it was all very, like, we’d sat down and had like lunch in this super chic restaurant. Oh, and kind of did like a handshake to be like, Yeah, let’s do this. Oh,
K Anderson 24:49
so it was like a proper business meeting. Did you dress up for it?
Jordan King 24:52
I’m sure. Okay, this was over 20 years ago. I mean, I don’t I just am I just remember it feeling really grown up to me, because we also had never done anything like this before. So the fact that someone who was going to be the promotions manager of this venue that was being renovated, and it was going to be a brand new space in this historic hotel, I think I just thought, am I missing something? Like, how on earth? Are they giving us the opportunity to just have our own night? And give us a bar tab? And let us keep the door? I mean, it just seemed, they let
K Anderson 25:29
you keep the door, cut from it.
Jordan King 25:32
Now keep in mind, we on average, would probably have maybe 20 people show up every week. Okay, probably half of whom are our friends that are guests. So it’s not like it was some sort of resoundingly successful thing. I mean, I think that their vision for that space was probably a bit grand, and it had some organisational issues of its own, even as it got going. So that person that I had a meeting with, to set this all up, put this in motion, get the Yes, you’re gonna have Thursday night, all this stuff. She didn’t stay on, pretty much. The second they opened the physical space, somebody had replaced her. So they were then sort of stuck with us, even though maybe they wouldn’t have chosen to let this like totally disorganised group of 20 year olds, throw a weekly party in their space.
K Anderson 26:25
Well, well, they were, they said, What happened, like so the first night?
Jordan King 26:34
Well, the space itself was so stunningly beautiful. That I think we I think we were the very first night that it was even open to the public happened to be a Thursday. So it happened to be our night. So I remember going into the space and just thinking, I can’t believe this is even real. So they’ve completely gutted the interiors of each of those venues. But they had really done it in quite a beautiful way. And I’m not a huge fan of the gut rent, oh, that just strips everything away. And I’m sure lots of people who had been longtime patrons were horrified because it had been quite sort of beautifully dingy prior to that. And when we went in, it was all completely white. And they had actually pressed milk bottles, or glass milk bottles into the wall to create this like repeating pattern motif that were then painted white. So it was sort of meant to feel like a milk bottle. And it was called milk bar. And it had a beautiful fireplace. It had these big pillars, which were obviously structural, but they didn’t totally ruin the sightlines per se to the stage. And there was a small ish stage, but still a very decently sized one. When I think sort of now about the number of stages I’ve seen that are basically just like little risers. I mean, it was like a nice proper side stage. It had, you know, candles on each of the little low rise tables. It was quite a chic space. I just remember thinking I couldn’t believe it was ours to have our night in.
K Anderson 28:15
And so did the imposter syndrome kick in at any stage, or were you just like riding the wave?
Jordan King 28:21
I think it kicked in when I realised that really none of us had any experience actually presenting a show. Oh, okay. So I had wanted to just be a performer, I didn’t really want to be an organiser. And I had been performing, you know, to some extent over the year leading up to that, but never really sort of headlining my own show. And granted, I didn’t have the sort of ego to think that I could even carry a show myself. I mean, I was 20 or 2120, I was only 20 years old. So we were we were a whole lineup, there was a whole sort of group of us that were going to be performing. But our emcee hadn’t really like emceed shows before. So that was what I think it kicked in to sort of say, like, well, we actually really don’t even have any organisational skills surrounding like putting on a, like a proper cabaret show that has somebody who’s going to hosted and kind of guide the pacing of the night. We just were all sort of showing up and listening to songs.
K Anderson 29:26
The DMC role is so underrated. It’s so difficult. I don’t know how anyone does it, because I’m just like, Hello, would you like me, please but never works.
Jordan King 29:40
And ironically enough, the person who emceed our show still is a drag performer has since gone on to become a phenomenal host of shows and a performer in their own right. But at the time, they were I mean, I basically begged them to do it. They didn’t really say oh, I would love to host this shot where I’d love to emcee the show. And it was even during the first six months, I think that they then started to perform themselves. Whereas in the beginning, they just emceed. And so my very dear friend, Joshua, I mean, we’re still extremely close to this day as well. His drag name was and still is, teen Jesus Barbie. Because he sort of looked at the time like this beautiful, androgynous Jesus figure, but we were all sort of, like, beings, I mean, 20, so his drag name became teen Jesus Barbie. But and he still got
K Anderson 30:39
Jordan King 30:40
He still goes by that drag name to this day. He worked at a vintage shop. So on a lot of our posters, we credited our sponsors. I mean, I will use the term sponsor quite loosely, because basically an agreement to put their logo on our posters. I mean, we saw this shop he worked out was one of our sponsors, and we were allowed to go pick out the day the show, we went back the next day, and they would go back on on the sales floor. And it was this phenomenal vintage shop in Vancouver. I mean, so beautifully curated, and, and Birju. If she’s listening, she still is running
K Anderson 31:19
into how stressful was that day, like on the day like having to get the outfit. I
Jordan King 31:26
just honestly remember it being so fun. It was like going in and just deciding who we were going to be that night. And just trying out a whole mass of clothes. Our pictures were up in the change rooms for the longest time. She was sort of like our, our little fairy godmother almost to just let us pick out outfits on the day of and then go out that night and wear them out. I mean, what a dream.
K Anderson 31:48
Did you ever like? Did you ever ruin any of the outfits there?
Jordan King 31:52
No. Oh, yeah, truly? No, I can honestly say we took really good care of them. And
K Anderson 31:57
at that time, were people smoking inside. Yes. Yeah. So So you’ve returned them all like skanky. And I mean, I like
Jordan King 32:08
someone who takes exceptional care of my vintage now. And I do have a wonderful collection of vintage that I appreciate so much. I don’t think I was probably returning them all smoky and sweaty. I mean, we would wear them for the number sort of like being allowed to borrow our costumes for the number. But you know, what else can you reminding me is I think barsha even smoke inside her store at that time. So it was sort of one of those kinds of vintage shops. Like, you know, it was quite incredible. But it wasn’t like going into say like relic in London or something where it’s you have to buzz to be let in. I mean, it was a bit I don’t even know what that
K Anderson 32:44
is. I’m just like, it’s like very exclusive into your samosa reason me.
Jordan King 32:53
I haven’t I’m not because I would also be wearing those costumes, and returning them the next day.
K Anderson 32:59
But see, that’s the thing like so it was your performance. If you’d already picked out your performance, you already kind of knew what your character was for that performance. And then you couldn’t find an outfit that match that. I’m overthinking she had
Jordan King 33:12
Yeah, she had so much to choose from honestly, we had. It was packed. It was just one of those incredible, brilliant vintage shops that I don’t know. I mean, I think to some extent, they exist in some places. I mean, I still, it’s still my favourite kind of infrastructure going to personally, where there’s just sort of so much to look through and sift through. Also back then. I mean, it wasn’t as picked over, we found incredible stuff. And we each had our own aesthetic. So I will say that, you know, I was sort of, you know, envisioning myself as this like Parisian showgirl Josephine Baker, maybe like that’s so. So it’s like, even if we didn’t necessarily know the exact costume or character we were going to be we’re sort of we’re starting to hone our our brands a little bit. And, you know, teen Jesus Barbie would wear sort of caftan the prom dresses. Dan even I mean, it was all very experimental. Joshua, a lot of the time had facial hair, but he would be like full glam facial hair. It was always his own real hair. That would be like styled into this like incredible. I mean, yeah. And so
K Anderson 34:23
what was your first performance then on that first night?
Jordan King 34:28
Gold finger by Shirley Bassey classic. And I remember that I was wearing this gold sequined dress and it was probably even I guess my first ever even attempt at a burlesque act because I think that I did like a reveal. To take off the gold sequined dress I don’t really remember what I had on it. But that sort of is like loosely in my mind but you know again, it was tricky because I didn’t really want to be an organiser as much as I wanted to be a performer. And yet, our only way to make this happen was for us all to be simultaneously organisers and promoters and performers. And you know, so I could never put as much into my performances as I wanted, I, I also was probably the only one that would go and rehearse in the space.
K Anderson 35:23
You’re the only person that took it seriously at all sounds like? And so too bad by that? Do you mean like, because there were so many other things in your mind? You couldn’t like focus on the performance as much? You? Yes, definitely. What? And at that point, like you said, that you’d been doing performing for about a year up until that point, did you have specific aspirations around performing? Or was it just add, like, a way of expressing yourself?
Jordan King 35:52
I think it was, it was a lot about sort of identity discovery. And I think I dreamt of being able to be a successful performer. Although, at the time, I don’t, I don’t think I had any example of necessarily what that would mean, or what that sort of would have looked like to have become successful, I guess. And the thing is that Vancouver is, is really sort of a small city in North America. Right. And in particular, like Canada and the west coast of Canada, you’re removed from a lot of other opportunities and things that are going on, and even like Montreal, or Toronto, I mean, they’re just it’s it was, there was a big separation at the time. So I think I was having fun with it. I think I was dreaming big at the time, for sure. And I also was sort of learning about myself understanding myself, and it was pre sort of any formal announcement that I was going to transition medically. But I, essentially, from the second I arrived in Vancouver, started to present quite endogenously. And also just have fun, like I had, honestly so much fun, just experimenting, and exploring, and yeah, just discovering myself a little bit. So I still say that I discovered myself on stage, because it was really through that period of time performing and also performing with such freedom. I mean, we had no expectations placed on us. And we had a really devoted group of sort of fans, I will say, which was teeny, tiny. I mean, it was a really small little group. But that came to, I think every single one of our shows almost every single week, that we started to create this little, just this, you know, it’s like a little French circle friends, basically, circle of friends
K Anderson 37:44
from among those, those people as well. So, so as the night evolved in like, you know, week after week, and you were doing performance after performance, did the the plate spinning become easier? Or was it always this kind of mishmash of responsibilities that you were thinking about?
Jordan King 38:03
Well, we so we ran it as a weekly party for I think, really only about six months. And then I think we all started to lose steam a little bit with just how much goes into doing something weekly. And, you know, I think about just how much you’d be learning from doing it weekly. I mean, it would you would, I, we learned tonnes, but then I think we just all did quickly, feel like well, this is not sustainable. And, and, you know, we just, we were getting so little out of it financially, that I think none of us really were like that keen to be putting as much into it as we were in the very beginning. Because we sometimes took home like $20 each, like if I’m totally honest, right, like, you know, so then it became a monthly event. So that worked. In some ways, we, we would make them a little bit splash here, because we were only doing it once a month. And then it sort of became like goes from like weekly, to monthly to, like, there was a pride event. Yeah. And then it was like, and then I think in about 2003 we we sort of all just were burnt out of it.
K Anderson 39:15
And and so that decision for to go from that initial decision to go from weekly to monthly. Were you on board or were you like, feel a bit put upon.
Jordan King 39:27
I mean, I think I knew even at that time that we just couldn’t really I mean weekly is really, really tough if you don’t have a whole group of really strong performers that I think want to commit to be making that something really exciting and I think the audience can tell too and because of where this venue was located, so close to the Downtown Eastside, it was very difficult for us to draw any sort of a mainstream crowd or even like A more sort of West End, Davey street gay crowd, it just was seen as being so far away. I mean, it makes me laugh almost because I’m like, it’s really just sort of across the downtown. But we just knew it was never going to sort of take off. And so it’s like, at what point does it not to seem like, well, this is really exhausting, expensive hobby that I love. And I mean, I continued performing, really up until 2007. quite regularly in Vancouver, and then you left
K Anderson 40:33
Vancouver in 2007.
Jordan King 40:35
Well, that was when I started to step back a little bit from nightlife. Oh, wait, wait,
K Anderson 40:41
let me just let me get your math met your husband out? All right, I’m with you.
Jordan King 40:49
You know, so and I can also look at that as a real benchmark moment in time, where like, I met my husband. And I just knew that for myself, there was there was a certain ceiling in Vancouver. And there’s just, you know, there’s this, there’s certain limits on really what, what you can do as a performer and I wasn’t interested. I mean, I zero shade whatsoever. We’re all hustling to make our living in this world, but I was not going to do corporate gigs or bachelorette parties. What, why is that any of this kind of stuff that I just I don’t know, I just wasn’t what I wanted to do with, with my, I guess, my craft as a performer. And I was doing burlesque when I stepped away. And I think I was also really doing it to the best sort of level that I could possibly do it with what I had access to at the time in Vancouver, I was sort of more Okay, with the idea of stepping away from it than having to sort of try to sell out in order to
K Anderson 41:56
make it my livelihood, I guess, was this conscious decision, like, I am going to step away from this? Or was it more of like, Oh, I’m just not going to gigs booked for the time being, I’m not gonna, like actively pursue them. And then things just became more and more infrequent.
Jordan King 42:13
There was the there was a few things that happened that year. So one was that I put together a show that I just put like, blood, sweat, tears, heart and soul into I poured away too much money into props, and you know, all this that in the other. And although some really wonderful people came and saw it, and I think enjoyed it, and might remember it, it was like financially such a flop. That I I just remember sort of realising like where I envision taking this just may not be possible in Vancouver. So there was a conscious decision to say, like, I really aimed high. And kind of, you know, I mean, I didn’t like lose my shirt. I mean, it was a huge chunk of money. And logistically, it was super complicated to try to pull off. And there were so many challenges with it, that I just remember feeling like well, maybe I’ve done what I set out to do with this in Vancouver that paired with, you know, being in a search lationship with someone. And also, if you’re following the timeline, this is right around the time that social media started to become really omnipresent, right. And I also I mean, I participate in social media, it’s hard to be part of our generation. And not if you’re, I mean, lots of people don’t but it’s quite again, it’s part of our lives now. But I just remember feeling like the kind of performance that I was doing. I just didn’t think even at the time that it would maybe translate or that I necessarily wanted that out there on like the internet or
K Anderson 43:55
Ah, okay, now, that’s super interesting. I want to talk about that feeling of this is my word or not your word, but failure, that that comes with something you invest so much energy and time and money into. And if you were like a trust fund kid, it doesn’t really matter, like the monetary return does. And you can focus on other things that measure the success of that endeavour. But when when you’re not addressed by a kid and you grew up in cultures that we grew up in, where money is a measure of success, it’s really hard to do those things and step away and not feel like a failure. If it doesn’t wash its own face. Which kind of more and more I’m starting to realise is a lie. That I’m telling myself. If yes, if that happens, like if it brings me joy, and if it i mean this is super cheesy Say, if it touches two or three people, then I’ve done my job. But like, when, like, it’s being present and being seen and like, acknowledging that you have a voice, that’s the most important. But like, I’m totally with you, and I’ve had projects in the past where I, yeah, I’ve put so much into it. And then, you know, my marketing hasn’t been right, or this hasn’t been right. And so it hasn’t connected with people in a way that I wanted it to. And so I’ve just come away thinking, Well, what was the point, which is totally the wrong the wrong lesson to take from it?
Jordan King 45:40
There’s so much I could say about it. I mean, I think we live now, in a time where, again, because of social media, we have a sense of what other people are doing, or what sort of successes they might be enjoying, because we have this little lens into their life and into their world. So inevitably, we’re comparing our projects to theirs without thinking about maybe what sort of backing they have, or what sort of struggles they’ve had to endure, like, none of that is framed for us. Right? So I, I do encourage anyone who will listen to me, and my friends that I’m close with to like to put the device down. Now. Try to find Why did one of these drag race contestants say that the thing they couldn’t live without was their phone, and I just thought, a bit depressing. Not that I don’t have mine often, quite close at hand. But I think the more we can try to tune that out and focus in on the projects that we’re doing, and just coming up with some benchmarks of success, purely for ourselves, that don’t maybe even necessarily have to do with the financial return, or the number of views or I mean, all these crazy analytics, right around any of this stuff. I mean, it sort of is crazy making if we’re deriving joy from it, and if it is connecting with other people. And because that’s a reason to keep doing it, if you have the means to keep doing it. But I also think the other point that’s important and is worthwhile is to think about the sort of finances of it. And that’s the one thing that I had a difficult time with, at that time in the 2000s. Like I wanted for it to continue to sort of grow and to get better and for the costumes to get better and to be able to work with a choreographer like for it to just sort of keep improving. And there was just no way to really do that. Because there was no, like, then it’s just kind of expensive hobby.
K Anderson 47:42
Yeah. And and I mean, that goes back to what you were saying about comparing yourself to others on social media and whatnot. Like if you’re seeing them, and it seems to be effortless for them. It probably isn’t, it probably is that they’ve got a fuck tonne of money behind them somewhere or some favours being pulled in. And then just choosing not to share that information with you. Whilst we’re pitching about people on social media, can I just say, I hate when people try to be like all, like, here’s something vulnerable, I want to tell you about myself. And it’s really just like a turtle humblebrag.
Jordan King 48:21
I try to spend I try to spend as little time on social media as possible, because for that exact reason, because I think it’s most of it is very disingenuous. And I also started to listen to some audio books and just became aware of certain concepts, which I would encourage people to check out if they’re interested if it resonates with them. A guy named Cal Newport wrote a book called Digital minimalism. And, and, you know, it just it talks about how much of a distraction most social media and technology is, so that if there’s projects we’re trying to make happen, or things that we’re trying to work on, particularly if they’re ambitious, it takes a certain amount of time invested and organisation of energy and it’s a quite frankly, social media can a lot of the times be a bit of a distraction or a crutch from putting more time and energy into some of the things that we ought to be doing. Instead of comparing her selves to Well, yeah,
K Anderson 49:24
I was we had Grindr is a total myth. Like, you know, it’s it’s far more energy to hook up with someone then. Any other means. Yeah, just put that out. Yeah. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s the hell. Yeah, the way it’s all been engineered to give you a dopamine, hip, hip, hip hit. Yep. And even knowing that just can’t get away from it. It’s really interesting. Yeah.
Jordan King 49:53
Well, and then it all of a sudden became almost compounded due to COVID that we were sort of forced to Stand side be inside with good reason. I’m here to say I’m a child of parents who are healthcare providers, right lifelong health care practitioners, I’m in full support of doing what we need to do. But it then almost created even more of a situation where one of the easiest thing for us to do was to be on a device, be on a screen, be on social media and be seeing what everyone else is doing and feeling like their situation, not my situation, or just any of that kind of stuff. Right? That’s, I think, not necessarily helpful.
K Anderson 50:36
But addictive, nonetheless.
Jordan King 50:39
addictive nonetheless, and I and so I would encourage people to check out to check out some of Cal Newport stuff because it is quite thought provoking. And it’s interesting to eat to think back on 2007 as sort of a benchmark here, because I will also say this. And even you asked me this question, sort of, spurred this thought a little bit. I mean, I think one of the things when I reflect on being a burlesque performer and having transitioned, you know, starting out performing, sort of drag femme drag, not really being part of like a traditional drag queen circle, per se, but absolutely loving and identifying the sort of fundamentals of drag as a, as a way to sort of explore gender. So I had transitioned by that point. And then I had performed, you know, but a burlesque performer and I performed with a burlesque troupe, travelled, performed in other cities with my translate entity not being known. So I think by 2007, I feel like I had maybe done what I needed to do with it. So it was like natural for me to want to say I just, I didn’t necessarily want to reinvest any further it was, I was totally okay with saying, I’m going to go in a different direction. Not because I’m sort of bitter about having maybe like, how to show that was a failure. And, like, I just sort of like that. What? Wow, amazing. Cool. I did it. Now I’m changing gears a little bit, are
K Anderson 52:14
we able to talk to there’s that ongoing tedious conversation at the moment about who is able to perform drag? And I feel like we’re kind of coming out the end of that conversation. But did you? Yeah, what what were your views, then after you transitioned? Were you still considering it drag? Or did the whole thing evolve to a point where it wasn’t drag anyway?
Jordan King 52:39
It definitely didn’t, I didn’t think of it as drag or not drag at any point. But you have to imagine in the late 90s, and early 2000s, we did not have somebody like got MC, or you know, people, um, there’s been a number of them, which are the most sort of readily, I guess, accessible examples to most people who are maybe watching or consuming popular culture, right through drag race, who are trans performers appearing on drag race. There was no examples of it, but I will say that I always just had fun with it. And I consciously wasn’t necessarily wanting to be a part of the traditional drag circuit. There was, I think, one night that I was invited to do a performance at the sort of classic like, high drag in Vancouver, you know, pageants and trs kind of weekly party and, and, but I mean, I loved it. I was friends with all those girls.
K Anderson 53:41
I love the reason that you didn’t want to be part of it, because it was that high kind of old school version of drag.
Jordan King 53:50
I think so to some extent. And there was the there was a real moment for me that served as a delineation between what I was doing which was performance, and sort of showgirl and cabaret performance was I guess how I saw it. I mean, it was lip sync, there was often elements of burlesque being sort of Incorporated, and I wasn’t setting out to be like a body queen or like a sexy performer. I mean, it was really meant to be sort of playful. Here’s a good example. One of the parties we did it milk, what’s called slop core. And it was meant to be as like sort of messy as possible. And I performed
K Anderson 54:31
were you in a swimming pool with baked beans? No,
Jordan King 54:34
definitely not. Because I still wanted it to be a little bit polished. I’m sure you’ve gathered by now that i i’d still, even if it’s a bit DIY. I do like it to have a little bit of polish to it. But my performance was a recreation of a whole medley of Flashdance songs, culminating in the famous bucket of water dropping from above. Which we actually, we did the whole thing. And even to this day, I think, like how on earth we poured an entire bucket of water on me. I
K Anderson 55:13
just didn’t like the thought of getting it wrong terrifies me
Jordan King 55:19
when went off so flawlessly. But so that was some, you know, was lip synching, but there was always that element to it. But the point in time where I was quite conscious of Okay, this is maybe where there are some differences. And there’s a bit of overlap. But there’s differences. As I was cast in the film, I was specifically reached out to contacted asked to be a part of it. The film Connie and Carla? Oh,
K Anderson 55:45
I mean, decide they’re just talking about humblebrag here. Oh, they reached out to me.
Jordan King 55:51
I thought it was quite hilarious, because at the time it was, so for people who have seen it. It’s a movie about two women on the run from the mob. mafia. Have you seen this movie? Kay,
K Anderson 56:03
I know what it is, but I haven’t seen it.
Jordan King 56:06
So it’s about two to cisgender women who go incognito at a drag club
K Anderson 56:12
to hide up from the mob. And it’s Toni Collette and the woman from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, we
Jordan King 56:17
have our Dallas Yeah, from my wedding. So, I mean, they wanted, I guess, a range of background drag characters to appear in this club. And my aesthetic wasn’t, you know, drag, like really high drag. And all the rest of the featured background drag performers were like the really classic sort of high drag. And so even when we were all sharing our sort of separate dressing room together. It To me it was like being at drag queen summer camp and I loved it. Like it was nonstop laugh riot. You can’t even imagine that much energy in that one room. But lots of other people in the film were a bit confused as to why there was like, a thumb, like young girl and but the drag queens are like, what’s going on? Because I had already begun to transition. So I looked a bit out of place. But I had an absolute ball. I mean, at no point was I really conscious are feeling like oh, I’m trans identified. I don’t belong here. I just thought it was hilarious. Like, I thought it was so much fun. And they got really, really well to do that film like it was. And they had recreated this whole nightclub interior, that the second you set foot in it, it was all built from scratch. You sort of felt like I’ve been to this club. Like it reminds you of a bunch of different places. So it smelled the poppers Is that what you’re saying? Well, it’s kind of smoky and dingy and like sweaty and a bit maybe pee stains like that. I’m sure that was like that. That kind of place. Oh, I
K Anderson 58:05
think I’ve been there. Yeah. Trust me, you’ll watch the film and be like, Oh my gosh, that reminds me a bit. And then so like, so then did you find out? Why we like I know how this is going to come up. But why were you cast then if everyone else was high, fam,
Jordan King 58:24
you’ll have to watch the film and and you’ll make up your own mind. I guess. Because I am. I’m quite visible in it, you know, in the nightclub scenes. So there’s this there’s a part where I push push the other girls out of the way. I mean, I had, you know, I don’t know, maybe I was supposed to be the like, bitchy young, dry queen. I wasn’t really given like a brief. But we did all have to provide our own costumes. That was part of it. So Oh, that’s interesting. But then I had also started to grow my hair by that point quite long. So I was the only one who like had my own hair through a lot of it. I think I had a wig and maybe like one scene. Yeah. And and the lead hairdresser who was in charge of the whole drag queen. Sort of portion of gaggle. The background. The gaggle of drag queens was I’m sure he just saw me and knew exactly what was up. And so he would basically style my hair for each of these scenes. Like we would just sit and Kiki and cackle and he was just like, beautiful older gentlemen. I mean, I wish I knew, even who he was, where he came from, maybe he’s in the credits anyways. And so he one of the looks he gave me was very like Patsy in Edina, like this French role and he like he just would basically fuss over my hair. I mean, I wasn’t having
K Anderson 59:51
Oh, wow, imagine so it’s not a gaggle, but what is a group of drag queens called and is there an official term? Well, let’s make they want to make up one. Yeah. So, I want alliteration, so like, do a drama of drag queen, a drama of drag queens. I love it. Okay, let’s let’s try and make that stick. Yeah, let’s do it. Because there’s a Murder of Crows, isn’t there? Yes. Yeah. Couldn’t
Jordan King 1:00:16
there be a drama of drag queens?
K Anderson 1:00:17
Yeah, yeah, I think that’s gonna work. I think that’s gonna land. And so where were we we were at performing. So it all started in a big explosion of excitement, and then fizzled out.
Jordan King 1:00:33
Yeah. And I think that that’s, I think that that’s a good metaphor for it in some ways, because, really, we started out with all the energy, enthusiasm and passion in the world. And then, it’s, it really is difficult to sustain that, right. I mean, especially in nightlife where things can really be hot for like a month, and then not. And I’ve definitely been a part of other parties that had these phenomenal runs, some of which were longer, some of which were quite short. But people’s tastes and appetite for certain kinds of event can change quite quickly. And especially in a smaller city. It’s not like there’s a huge sort of population of people that it might sort of ebb and flow between, it’s sort of like it has its moment. And then the moments passed. But the space was just so exceptionally beautiful when we, you know, first stepped into it, and and then they made a few aesthetic changes to as time went by, because they think that it wasn’t really taking off in the way that they had hoped. So like, nothing really compares to just that initial, like relaunch of a space, so fresh after the renovation, the, you know, whole resurfacing, Polishing Buffing. It’s only going to go downhill from there, isn’t it like?
K Anderson 1:02:02
Well, I didn’t know because you do get to a point where it’s scuzzy and grows. Home again. Yeah. And that’s exciting.
Jordan King 1:02:11
Yeah, absolutely. And, and I do think that that’s what I, I hope, I just would hope people that are listening to these kinds of podcasts and stories, and getting a bit hung up on the nostalgia component of it are, are like taking some notes. Because I think my hope with all this is to say that post COVID and in some not too distant future that there will be parties again, in cool spaces, quirky spaces, non traditional spaces. You know, I just think right now for most people that I know who are involved in nightlife, it’s a really sort of dour sort of dark time a little bit. nightlife in particular is going to be one of the one of the last things you know, lots of people say like people, you know, gathering and DJs dancing, any of that kind of stuff as soon as can seem like a long ways away right from where we are currently. I think it has the potential to come just you know, surging back but
K Anderson 1:03:22
yeah, every like everyone’s talking about this roaring 20s. The next decade is going to be totally hedonism. One of the things that I want to see more of I want to see that embracing of just total, sloppiness again, like, you know, that’s just disappeared, because we all have to be perfect on social media. Yeah. So now like you go to our performance, everything is perfect. Everything is just like rehearse to the nth degree. I like that kind of spontaneity and scrappiness. And I want to see more of that.
Jordan King 1:03:56
Well, and, and I think that was what you when I look back on the posters and flyers when I think back on that time period, I mean, I definitely wanted to try to bring some polish to it. But I was by no means trying to necessarily eradicate the grittiness of it either. Right? And I also think that that’s sort of where a lot of magic can happen is when you’ve got a bit of grit and a bit of glamour happening sort of simultaneously. It’s what I like love about New York is that New York is both exceptionally glamorous and also just like kind of filtering. Yeah, but I agree with you i think to have some polish and some glamour and some preparation but also to be open to spontaneity. But it didn’t genius but a grime Enos DIY.
K Anderson 1:04:49
Yeah, cuz I think that’s the things that are too polished. You just you’re polishing away the joy. Oh, God, did I just Yes. You know what I mean? Absolutely. And just yeah that that joy is so infectious and it’s real, a real shame when it’s lost. Do you have any memories of Vancouver clubbing that you would like to share? Or do you want to just reach out for a chat with a suggested space for a future episode? Well, either way, I would love to hear from you. You can reach me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with the username K Anderson music. And make sure you also follow Jordan on Instagram whilst you’re there, her user name is Jordan King archive. You can also listen to Jordans show radio never apart, and I’ll be sure to leave a link in the show notes for this episode. Last basis is not only a podcast, but a concept record as well. I have been writing songs about queer venues and the people who used to live their lives there. And we’ll be releasing songs over the next year. You can hear the first single well groomed boys which is also playing underneath my talking right this very second on all good streaming platforms. If you liked this episode, I would really appreciate if you subscribe, left a review on Apple podcasts or just told people who you think might be interested in giving it a little listen to I am Kenny Anderson, and you have been listening to lost spaces.