Downtown Yonge Street in the mid-’70s was a much different scene than the gradually gentrifying shopping and restaurant strip we know today. It was a place where no self-respecting storefront went without a giant neon sign—flashing words like “nude,” “girls” and “XXX”—and where seediness was a simple fact of life. (See this map for proof.)
At the time, Yonge was home to countless so-called body-rub parlours, where the discerning gentleman could duck behind the street’s glittering facade for a quick massage, complete with happy ending. For do-it-yourselfers, the strip’s erotic movie houses screened the finest pornography the decade had to offer.
Interspersed were other businesses that offered comparatively simple pleasures. Places like Starvin Marvin’s (313 Yonge), Le Strip (237A Yonge) and Zanzibar (359 Yonge) featured nude or semi-nude stage shows. These clubs helped form the nucleus of an X-rated scene to rival anything in New York at the time. Even before the city had attained its current skyscrapery grandeur, Toronto’s sleaze was world class.
Almost 35 years later, Yonge Street has changed dramatically. Most of the seediest businesses are gone and the remaining strip clubs seem like stragglers living on borrowed time.
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