Forbidden Vancouver’s new walking tour

Granville Street Reveal Forbidden Vancouver

Photo courtesy Forbidden Vancouver.

By day, it’s a thriving shopping hub full of big chain stores, restaurants and buskers. By night it’s a drunken parade of college students, bar stars and stagettes.

But before the city decided to turn Granville into a Vancouver version of Chicago’s Rush Street, the street was the city’s entertainment hub. A new walking tour looks at the history of the thoroughfare, when it hosted international entertainers and eventually first-run movies before succumbing to the forces of commerce and Jagermeister.

Beginning June 22, and running Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays for the rest of the summer, Forbidden Vancouver’s new walking tour The Granville Street Reveal treats guests to a view of the downtown Vancouver of yesteryear.

Home to vaudeville theatre, a neon-lit theatre row, and world-class live music venues like the Commodore Ballroom and the Orpheum Theatre (the latter two of which have been preserved), Granville was also home to speakeasies and bottle clubs during Prohibition.

Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers and Fred Astaire all passed through town to perform on Granville during the early part of their vaudeville careers. The tour will also discuss lesser known talents, such as dancehall queen Marie Lloyd, whose ankle watch dance sent 1913 Vancouver into a frenzy and was banned by the mayor.

With the death of vaudeville due to ever-increasing popularity of the movies, Granville Street re-invented itself as “Theatre Row”For the next 30 years, movie theatres (with blazing neon signs) sprung up to show the latest offerings from Hollywood.

Granville Street Reveal Forbidden Vancouver

Granville Street circa 1946. Photo courtesy Forbidden Vancouver.

Thanks to some of the most liberal public decency laws in North America, Vancouver in the 1970s became strip club central. Downtown Vancouver was home to over 40 of the establishments, and Granville Street was right in the centre of the action. Today, only  the Penthouse Nightclub (on Seymour) remains from that feathered epoch. On The Granville Street Reveal, and for the very first time, the Penthouse will unveil its Wall of Sin, which charts the evolution of burlesque to striptease from 1913 to 2013.  Staged inside a private room in the Penthouse, the Wall might be your only chance to see the Penthouse’s archival collection of photographs, advertisements, illustrations and perhaps pasties.

Granville Street Reveal Forbidden Vancouver

Granville Street circa 1967. Photo courtesy Forbidden Vancouver.

Bringing us full circle, the Forbidden Vancouver tour will also include tales about some of the performers, from Frank Sinatra to Lady Gaga, who have played the street’s concert venues in recent years.

Forbidden Vancouver’s Granville Street Reveal walking tours are 90 minutes long and run all summer, at 11 a.m. every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday beginning June 22. Tours depart from Cathedral Sq., opposite the Holy Rosary Cathedral on Dunsmuir and Richards. Tickets are $22 for adults and $19 for students and seniors (the tour isn’t recommended for those under 16). Private bookings are also possible by contacting Will Woods at will@forbiddenvancouver.ca. Tickets can be booked online here.

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