Historian of the city, politics, and society
The Brass Rail, for decades one of the most visible sexual entertainment venues on downtown Yonge Street, is finally closing its doors, part of a decades-long shift on the strip from bars, taverns, and strip clubs to more upscale retail and restaurants. Across North America, spots like the Brass Rail are holdovers from the era, beginning in the late 1960s and peaking around a decade later, when sexual entertainment districts full of strip clubs, adult bookstores, peep shows, and body rub parlour took shape on busy downtown commercial thoroughfares. As I explore in my research, the emergence of these districts provoked a range of public debates and state interventions, including a major police and court crackdown on Yonge in 1977. However, changing consumer tastes and rising real estate values have removed sleaze from Yonge more permanently and completely than morality campaigns and policing ever could. I was interviewed (briefly) on the Brass Rail by Oliver Moore of the Globe and Mail.