Booze, bars and videotape

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We returned hungover from our summer holidays to a message from Canada AM. They want to know if university students drink excessively, just one of the many topics they’re exploring during a show on student life that aired Monday.

They looked to the Eyeopener for guidance on the issue of binge drinking. Would we be bringing up the annual drinkfest, they asked, so humbly stared six years ago but sadly given up last year for lack of time and availability?

Why yes, we replied, summer is over, school has begun, and we planned to celebrate by getting wasted and maybe stalking a celebrity or two during the Toronto Film Festival.

But celebrities we became as we hit the town dressed to kill lat Saturday for a night of Bacchanalian debauchery, armed with two photographers and a cameraman.

On this star-studded voyage: roots and culture editor Stephanie Bomba and her friend Nadia Bello; photo editor Allison Heather: newd editor Graeme Smith; features editor Lori Fazari; and former Eyeopener staffers Shane Dingman, Dino Sossi and Bessie Ng.

6:55 p.m. The Bedford Ballroom 232 Bloor St. W. 

Alone at the bar before everyone else arrives, Allison begins the night with a gin and tonic. Alison is on a mission: She works at midnight and wants to squeeze in a couple drinks first.

“I’m n a quest to drink them fast,” she tells the waitress. “All I’m doing is serving the Eyeopener. That’s why I’m here.”

Once everyone shows up we sit by the front open window.

The dim atmosphere inside the bar makes it hard for our cameraman, Dino, to shoot clear footage. So does the shot of tequila and bottle of cider he consumes.

9:30 p.m. Uptown Theatre, 764 Yonge St.

We unexpectedly stumble on some film festival action as we hit the next bar, Hundreds of people, line Younge Street hoping to catch a glimpse of celebrities arriving for screenings of Dogma and Top of the Food Chain.

The experience proves disappointing. Allison, Lori and Bessie wait under the marquee as limousines unload stars and wannabes, but they fail to get autographs from the only two people of note, Kevin Smith (Dogma) and actor Jason Lee (Mallrats).

We decide drinking is far more fun that being crushed in a crowd of celebrity stalkers.

9:45 p.m. Duke of Gloucester, 649 Yonge St. 

Dino stops filming the group to get footage of the guy who walks in with a massive boquet of red roses for sale shouting: “Two dolla! Two dolla!”

After a round of shots (or was it two?) It’s time to leave the Duke for some place more upscale. Graeme and Allison skip out to go to work, and Stephanie and Nadia break rank to catch the drag show at El Convento Rico.

11:30 p.m. Sassafraz, 100 Cumberland St.

In our continuing quest to rub elbows with the rich and famous, we find ourselves completely uncomfortable seated in the dining room of this Yorkville resturant/bar, with its subdued lighting, mustard walls and wood panelling.

One round of drinks is all we can afford here (five cost us $36.24), so we give up on stalking clebrities  and decided to go see the drag show.

12:30 p.m. Sneaky Dee’s, 431 College St. 

On the way to El Convento Rico we stop by Sneaky Dee’s for some cheap booze. Within 10 minutes inside the dark, loud bar, we consume 11 shots and Dino interviews the bartender about drinking. We leave impressed with how cheap our drinks were (total $34.17).

1 a.m. El Convento Rico, 750 College St.

The minute we pay $4 cover and descend into the basement, a wall of heat hits us. The ceilings are low and tons of people are packed together forming a circle around the dance floor, where Sasha Montenegro, dressed in gold, sequined outfit with fringes, is about to perform.

Dino changes his camera battery and shoots 10 minutes of footage of the drag show…for his own personal use. Everyone in the club is groping, looking for action. Bessie is molested by a bar patron she can’t escape.

Only a few drinks are consumed after the drag show ends because our cash flow is drying up. Anyways, alcohol-induced hunger kicks in once last call passes. Onward.

3:15 a.m. Happy Seven Restaurant, 358 Spadina Ave. 

Way too much to eat. Plate after plate of Chinese food arrive to satisfy our inebriated palates.

Once we leave, Shane decides its a good time for a rest. He lies down on the filthy sidewalk outside the restaurant. We’re tempted to leave him there.

On his way home, Shane manages to leave a path of destruction, knocking down National Post newspaper boxes, assaulting mailboxes and kicking over sandwich boards. “They were all talking back,” he explains later.

Sunday Sept. 12

Groggy and hungover, we send over our tape to Canada AM, with specific instructions to ignore some of the footage.

5:45 a.m. Monday, Sept. 13, Victoria College squad at the University of Toronto, 91 Charles St. W. 

Bessie, Dino and Lori arrive on location at the crack of dawn to appear on Canada AM. Students from universities across Canada mill about in the pre-dawn light litening to musical guests Sloan warm up while waiting for hosts Valerie Pringle and Dan Matheson to appear.

7:45 a.m. 

Our moment has arrived. Pringle sits beside Laurie to talk about binge drinking and introduces the video from our bar crawl.

The tape roles and the antics of a half-dozen fools play for bleary-eyed viewers across the country.

Later, Bessie takes issue with the fact that there’s a 15-second clip of her giving her theory of eating butter before drinking to help absorb the alcohol.

8:05 a.m.

The segment on drinking is over and the discussion turns to sex on campus.

Time to schmooze with Sloan. We approach their stage during a commercial break and get autographs of all the band members. We met celebrities after all.



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