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This past Friday and Saturday, the West End Neighbours association held a New Orleans-style wake for a building: Maxine’s, the anthropomorphic Spanish-influenced structure at 1215 Bidwell St in Vancouver’s west end that for the last hundred years has been, among other things, Maxine’s Beauty School-cum-brothel, Maxine’s for Ribs, and the final incarnation, Maxine’s Hideaway- a self-proclaimed Broadway burlesque dinner and dance show that played up Maxine’s licentious and libidinous reputation, and where I was once employed.
On the last night of Maxine’s Hideaway, at the end of a long battle to save the business and an even longer battle to save the building, we accepted defeat and threw the final party to say farewell to an era. The Candy Girl Cabaret - a sexy song and dance revue that had enjoyed a two-year run under the guidance of Lee, the house mother and retired Broadway dancer and her husband JD, a holder of four degrees, who was among other things, an investor and a beverage chemist – gave their best performance yet and then we locked the doors, pulled shut the red-velvet window coverings, and proceeded to drink the bar dry.
onths ago, the City of Vancouver voted to destroy Maxine’s in favour of a 21-story high-rise. It began as a rumour, and then became a distant deadline, and then the city revoked JD’s liquor license and set the re-application date beyond the three month deadline to evict. JD and the whole Maxine’s family were devastated to have lost more than just a business, but also a home. Today, the Vancouver West End Neighbours - a community group made up mostly of seniors, the same perhaps, who stood outside the Safeway around the corner from Maxine's and petitioned the HST bill after it already been passed - fight for a cause that sadly I feel is also past-due.
Someone in the crowd at the wake said, “Fences go up Tuesday, and demolition begins August 15.” Later, this man stepped up to the microphone and talked about the travesty of city policy. When the director of the wake asked for the audience to share some stories, nobody rose to the occasion because nobody had any; only hearsay and old rumours. But I had a story.
I told a crowd of forty about how I moved to Vancouver last year and took a job at Maxine’s partly out of
The passion that the West End Neighbours have for the preservation of heritage is admirable, but unfortunately their hope that the stories and memories and secrets that they feel are contained within the walls of 1215 Bidwell will be enough to save her is misdirected, because sadly these things are all gone, locked up in the hearts and minds of the people who experienced them, and not behind the empty shell that still stands there waiting to be demolished.
They fight for a skeleton, and not the fake one inside the cardboard casket set up on the street out front along with a smoke machine, an accordion player, and an array of blood-red snapdragons and coleus, but rather, the old bones of Maxines- stripped of heart and soul- for now, still tremble in their place on Bidwell St. and await the wrecking ball.
1215 Bidwell is slated to be demolished on August 15. To sign the petition and learn more about Maxine’s, visit WestEndNeighbours.ca