Vancouver After Dark: The Wild History of a City’s Nightlife

If you’re a fan of Vancouver’s night life scene, or ever wondered what existed in the decades gone by, Aaron Chapman’s Vancouver After Dark: The Wild History of a City’s Nightlife will speak to you. Covered in its 11 amusingly-titled chapters (including Fly by Night, Last Call and Night People) are descriptive histories of some of our great supper clubs, dance venues and concert halls. And there’s a ton of great imagery to go with them!

Lena Horne at the Cave
[Lena Horne at the Cave; photo courtesy Neptoon Records Archives]

Chapman’s a great storyteller and in addition to penning this book as a best-selling author, is a cultural historian and musician.

Do you remember the days of The Cave, Oil Can Harry’s, The Smilin’ Buddha, Gary Taylor’s Rock Room or punk palace The Starfish Room, where Queens of the Stone Age and Guided by Voices performed?

Dead Kennedys onstage at the Smilin’ Buddha, 1980
[Dead Kennedys onstage at the Smilin’ Buddha, 1980; Bev Davies photo]

DYK that the Smilin’ Buddha was well known in the 60’s amongst the cross-dressing community, a fact rarely mentioned in Vancouver’s own LGBTQ circles?

According to retired VPD detective Grant MacDonald, “I remember coming into the Buddha one night and looking at the men’s washroom stall, and seeing two pairs of feet: one pair in work boots, the other one in high heels. I opened the door and this guy in women’s clothing was all over this drunk old logger but picking the logger’s pocket while they were going at it.” And the book just carries on with more shenanigans throughout Vancouver’s nightlife venues!

And oh yes, a shout-out to friend/fellow concert photographer Bev Davies, whose awesome black and white punk band photos are included in the Smilin’ Buddha story.

Richard on Richards exterior
[Richard on Richards exterior in the 80’s; Howard Blank photo]

Some of the photos within the soft-cover book have never been published, making this a goldmine for entertainment lovers of all genres. And if you think that our city’s moniker, “No Fun” City, is a valid one, you’ll definitely challenge that slogan once you’ve combed the pages of this highly-entertaining read.

Killing Joke at Luv-a-Fair
[Although it was known primarily as a dance club, Luv-a-Fair did host a number of legendary live performances by such artists as Nina Hagen, I, Braineater, Divine, Sonic Youth, Nine Inch Nails, and in a memorable 1982 gig, Killing Joke; Bev Davies photo]

This book also serves as a great companion piece to Eve Lazarus’s Vancouver Exposed: Searching for the City’s Hidden History. Both are identical in size and format so they stack nicely on a coffee table. Just sayin’.

Rudolph Boyce and band at the Living Room
[Rudolph Boyce Band; photo courtesy Roger Vickers Archives]

In addition to Vancouver After Dark, Chapman has written The Last Gang in Town (the story of Vancouver’s Clark Park Gang), Liquour, Lust, and the Law (a history of Vancouver’s Penthouse Nightclub) as well as Live at the Commodore (a portrait of the beautiful and luckily still active nightclub in the heart of downtown). The latter book earned Chapman BC’s Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award in 2015.

You can purchase Vancouver After Dark: The Wild History of a City’s Nightlife via Arsenal Pulp Press online, at Indigo Books and at select booksellers; CAD $32.95

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