Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Regressing in our downtown

Opened in 1975 and closing in 2007, the landmark restaurant La Cuisine on Pelissier is closing it's doors. After 32 years in business the owners state they cannot sustain their business and will be shutting down operations.

This announcement was made on the same day that it was announced City Council approved the plans to have Burger King move onto the old Top Hat property, upon which the Drakich family operated it's supper club for generations, establishing it as a cultural institution, hosting celebrities and townfolk alike.

There's a downward spiral happening in our downtown that we must learn to halt.

A poster (Michelle) to International Metropolis had this to say about her time at the Top Hat. "I used to work at the Top Hat and have some crazy memories of that place. My folks used to bring me there as a kid to watch the many performers that graced the stage. One of my favourites was Bill Hart and his pal Harry, Bill was a ventriloquist and was an amazing man. He and my father became fast friends and I later knew Bill Hart as Uncle Bill. He passed away many years ago followed by his lovely wife Claire. In my early 20’s I found myself working as a waitress at the Top Hat and was fortunate enough to meet a few celebrities. The Gaylord’s were always top professionals and their shows were usually a sell out. One of the most unique guests I served was Frank Gorshin (sp?), TV’s Riddler from the Bat Man and Robin series. That man was an enigma wrapped inside a riddle.To look at him you would physically see a very small framed, yet agile, looking man, but to see him eat you wouldn’t believe it. He ate more than I have ever seen anyone consume at one sitting anywhere. Every day at lunch he ate SEVEN large, and I mean really large mixing type bowls full of different foods, coleslaw, bean salad, pasta etc. and he eats this everyday from what I was told…. amazing to see as he cleared every bowl of every bit of food.Not many people got to see the upstairs dressing rooms and small banquet room at the Top Hat; it had that funny magical feeling that a theatre has backstage. I will never forget my first time serving up there. I was new and had one of those big, oval, brown trays full of prime rib and lobster and steak, I must have had at least $150 worth of food on that tray. Well, I carefully balanced the tray and proceeded from the kitchen up the narrow back staircase and was doing well until I hit my head on a very low beam, fell backwards and lost every meal on that tray.As I stood there shocked, I happened to capture Sam Drakich’s eye and could see a fury welling up…. oh dear Lord…. I thought that would be my last waitressing stint at the Top Hat.To my surprise, Sam did not lose it with me, instead, knowing I was new and had never been up that stairwell before, he asked, or rather demanded to know who let me go up those stairs with that tray….. I was so relieved, so very relieved. I will never forget that day, I found a special fondness for Sam that I don’t know he ever knew about, but I was forever grateful to him for sparing me the wrath of the kitchen (anyone who has worked in a restaurant knows what I am referring to here). I continued to waitress for over 20 years and never, never dropped another tray again....I should tell you about Mike Drakich and Bette Midler someday, that’s a piece of Top Hat history that many don’t know about."

We must learn to value our cultural and architectural heritage in this town, or we will perish in a world of fast food restaurants, big box retailers and raised ranch McMansions.

1 comment:

Simeon (Sam) George Drakich said...

Thank you for the lovely tribute .The younger Windsorites will never know how great this city was and the role it played in the entertainment world.
City hall now openly courts chain restaurants with a death wish to all independents.