Nominated for: saving the El Mocambo.
Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—the people, places, things, and ideas that have had the most positive and negative impacts on the city over the past 12 months. Cast your ballot until 5 p.m. on December 30. At noon on December 31, we’ll reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.
You may not be familiar with his name, or with the show that made him a famous dragon, but this year, millionaire Michael Wekerle did something conspicuously heroic: he saved the El Mocambo from seemingly certain doom. He’s not the first to have done so, but we hope his heroic act will buy us at least another decade of fretting about the venue’s future.
The El Mocambo has a storied past. It’s perhaps best known for those secret Rolling Stones shows in the ‘70s—the ones that throw millennial Torontonians into fits of both regret, for not having being alive earlier, and pride, for living in a city where such secret shows were even possible—and for hosting acts such as Elvis Costello, Blondie, Tom Waits (as an opener!), and U2.
This past fall, locals were once again given reason to believe the El Mo would be closing. Arguably more people worried about the fate of that awesome neon palm tree sign—a Spadina/College icon that owner Sam Grosso put up for sale on eBay—than were concerned about the venue itself. “If people cared as much about the business as the sign, we wouldn’t have a problem with the sign,” Grosso lamented to reporters after removing the eBay posting.
It turned out Grosso wouldn’t have a problem with either, as Dragons’ Den cast member Michael Wekerle swooped in and bought the whole thing up. “I made the decision within a week and bought it within a day,” the “dragon investor” told CBC News. Little is known about the mysterious dragon, except that he is fairly clever with money and is a merchant banker—and presumably a fan of local music and/or shiny neon trees. Whoever he is, a thousand local indie bands should write him a thank-you card for helping to keep the music alive.