If Dean Odorico has learned anything from his 33 years as general manager of iconic Church Street gay bar Woody’s, it’s that “we can never take Pride for granted.
“It’s important to look at it from the perspective of someone from another country or small town where it’s not accepted to be queer,” he adds. “That’s what Pride is for, and we should always remember that.”
Odorico has fond memories of this Toronto Star photo – building Woody’s first parade car – and the spectacular day that preceded it.
He worked on the float with neighbors Lisa Penstone, owner of Lee’s Glitz, and David Barrett, manager of gay nightclub Boots. “His mother had us build the float in the underground parking lot of an apartment building on Isabella Street,” says Odorico. “She was the super there and made sure everyone moved their cars for us.”
The theme of the 1993 Pride Parade, the 13th year of the event, was “Come Out”. “It was a beautiful float,” says Odorico. “We had all our employees and drag queens and friends on it.”
Odorico becomes emotional as he remembers the impact the float had on him and the local community. “It was probably one of the most beautiful things we’ve ever accomplished,” he says. “The way it all came together and blew everyone away on the parade route. The response from the audience was huge and it really made a name for us. It was one of the highlights of working here.”
While Woody’s is still one of the largest and longest-established venues in the Gay Village, it is no longer comes in a float. “(The parade) has become so big,” he says happily. “Everyone works-work-works on the day.” But that doesn’t mean Woody’s is cutting back. “We really decorate inside and outside the bar,” says Odorico. “We’ve been working on it for the past few weeks. After missing two years, we wanted to make a big splash and celebrate.”
Like many local businesses, Woody’s received federal pandemic support, for which Odorico is deeply grateful. “If it hadn’t been for the government, we wouldn’t have lasted more than a few months,” he says. “We’re lucky to live in Canada.”