by Captain Maniac

Sparkling Apple at the Olympic Hotel, North Vancouver, November 1974. Rocky Rockamoto on bass, Captain Maniac on drums and Art the Fart The Heavy Metal Kid on guitar

Everybody make a funny face for the camera! Photos by audience members.

Sparkling Apple 1974

Sparkling Apple 1974

Sparkling Apple 1974

In 1974, The Big O was apparently a favourite watering hole of one particular North Vancouver motorcycle club, although deteriorating brain cells prevent me from remembering their name. As Dan Helfrich aptly put it, “Was it the Rogues? Among others, they were a kinda loose knit fraternity of poorly haberdashered motorcycle enthusiasts, and now that I think about it, poorly motorized as well. There were others, but it seems name changes came often, Chosen Few? Gypsy Wheelers?” If memory serves, the bikers in question may well have been the Tribesmen, although as Dan noted, there were several motorcycle outfits around BC at the time with fearsome & descriptive monikers like the Coffin Cheaters, Grim Reapers and Satan’s Choice, before they all amalgamated with Hells Angels. Whatever bike club these guys were members of, I do remember one gentleman was named Moose, who had fingers like sausages, and his buddy was Mouldy Mel (not “Moulty” – he was the drummer of the Barbarians).

At any rate, The Olympic was much like Surrey’s Turf Hotel in that local bikers from miles around would congregate in the bar because it was The Place To Be. Be there or be L-7, to paraphrase Sam the Sham. The nearby competition was the St. Alice down the street, but hipsters in-the-know made it their business to frequent the O. Despite their ruff & tuff menacing demeanour, the bikers were true rock & roll afficionados, and enjoyed Sparkling Apple’s music. Rather than play wimpy Top-40 pantywaste as was the unfortunate preference of most local rock bands of the era, the Apple would instead present our own brand of Loud, Fast and Out of Control rock & roll – something that was right up the bikers’ proverbial alley. The more rockin’, the better, and naturally we were ready, willing and able to comply. Back in those days, Sparkling Apple’s members were Art the Fart the Heavy Metal Kid, Captain Maniac, and Rocky Rockamoto the Hip Nip. Although Rocky (real name Gord Higo) was Asian (and of Japanese descent), his popularity at the O had a lot to do with the fact that typical North Van patrons imagined our bass player to be First Nations/Aboriginal/Native (in those days, known as “Indians”).

The majority of our performances at the Olympic were in the cabaret, although the beer parlour became our home away from home, too. The bartender was the ever-genial Teddy Rogers, who as Tony D-a noted, “No one could pour a beer like Teddy Rogers, and no one could get it to your table faster than Buzz Rogers”. Situated at the bar was a hot-dog warmer, where a lone wiener would be speared on one of the tongs, continually revolving end-over-end like a ferris wheel. Years later when we played the same bar disguised as Bruce Wayne & the All-Niters, that identical wiener would STILL be revolving in the hot dog appliance — until one night it disappeared. “Somebody bought THE wiener,” we remarked from the stage. Incidentally, in the 80s, we would have to share the stage with a stripper, although not at the same time, unfortunately (check out our upcoming blog reporting the time we DID have to share the stage with a stripper!). After each evening’s show, we would have to remove our gear from the stage, because during the day strippers would be doing their gyrations (yes, a pole was installed as well as a shower stall) on the same platform. Consequently, before each evening’s performance we would have to set up our gear all over again!

But back to the 70s: The centre of attention at the Olympic in 1974 was the cabaret, known in the neighbourhood as Club 140 (named because of its location at 140 E. 2nd Avenue), and regardless of its compact dimensions, was a scene of intense activity each time Sparkling Apple made an appearance.

Site of the Olympic Hotel today on Lower Lonsdale,

now fittingly known as Olympic Tower.

The stage in the cabaret was the size of a postage stamp, and positioning our gear on it was quite the challenge. As you can see by the photo at the top of this page, the walls were covered in 70s wood panelling and cheesy day-glo posters, but the dressing room (scene of the usual depravity and beverage consumption) was through the door directly behind Rocky. The owner, Larry Stepanick, was concerned that our music was deafeningly loud, and despite our protests, demanded that we keep the music volume down so that nearby apartment dwellers had no cause for complaint. One time when we told Larry that were just playing a normal volume (which in our case was probably not unlike sittning next to a 747 at 40 paces), he perched himself onstage to listen for himself! So here we are, playing Choo Choo Mama by Ten Years After, with the hotel owner sitting stonefaced on a chair in front of the drums, much to the hilarious enjoyment of the customers, who were (to use the Oxford American Dictionary definition} plastered, smashed, bombed, sloshed, sozzled, sauced, lubricated, well-oiled, wrecked, juiced, blasted, stinko, blitzed, half-cut, fried, gassed, polluted, tanked (up), soaked, out of one's head/skull, loaded, trashed, buzzed, befuddled, besotted, pickled, pixilated, canned, cockeyed, blotto, blind drunk, roaring drunk, dead drunk, punch-drunk, ripped, stewed, tight, the worse for wear, far gone, pie-eyed, three sheets to the wind, and lest we forget, shit-faced. Larry’s verdict: we were too loud.

In an effort to keep up with the changing times, the Big O cabaret started a policy of strippers dancing between band sets. One stripper who shall remain nameless (mainly because I can’t remember her name) performed her routine, which involved gymnastic positions featuring gynecological exhibition (guaranteed to make viewers frisky, I suppose), and at one point was perpendicular with her legs pointed skyward. Regrettably, the jazz music she used was on a well-used cassette tape, which jammed at the most inopportune moment. At that point, what had been an artistic display was now an embarrassed dancer, nude with her legs upended in a silent room. Her reaction was, “Oh, F*ck!”, which probably would have been my response as well.

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The Olympic Hotel in the 70s.

Photo courtesy of the Facebook group,
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