Partying with Ike & Tina in 1976
Partying with Ike & Tina in 1976
Seeing Tina Turner that night at the Edmonton Gardens in 1976 still remains one of the biggest highlights of my lifetime.
I was a young 21 year old when I had a chance to “run away with the circus”. I was asked to join a traveling drag show called the Fantasy Follies as their sound and lighting technician. What a chance to go way past my shyness and fears and live in hotel rooms travelling across Canada with a group of amazing Drag performers.
We often played in Edmonton at the Corona Hotel but travelled from Prince George, B.C to International Falls, Ontario. They were a great bunch of truly imaginative talented people that became friends and family while we were out on the road.
The late Jamie Durette was the leader and was also up for a unique challenge. During our travels we had already met a few celebrities like Eartha Kitt and Gino Vannelli so when Jamie found out they were playing in Edmonton on May 29, 1976 at the old Edmonton Gardens he set out on a mission to get their attention.
So he got out the groups Promotional Package, drafted a quick letter and delivered it to the Edmonton Plaza which a few years later became the Westin Hotel. A quick flirt with the Front Desk clerk got it delivered to the rooms of Ike and Tina Turner. A couple hour later we received a special invite to the “Special Floor Box Seats” for the show that night.
To say we were thrilled is a complete understatement. Even back then she was fast becoming becoming an icon. So we planned our arrival meticulously with the Queens finding their most spectacular dresses and the guys looking for the most dressy garments we could find.
We booked a black limousine and timing it perfectly we arrived just as the warmup band – Tuxedo – had finished playing their warm-up set. The lights in the Edmonton Gardens had gone up so audience members could hit the refreshment stands. Moments before the lights went down we arrived at the front of the Edmonton Gardens then ceremoniously strutted down the centre aisle of floor seating with sparkles of light glittering off the hundreds of rhinestones and the feathers of boas waving gently in the breeze. We could see people standing up across the arena wondering who these glamourous people were…. not really knowing the truth… that these gorgeous “women” were all drag queens. Reaching the front of the stage the Security Guard escorted us into the private boxed-in seating on the left side of the stage. And then lights went down…..
The Revue Band started playing then the lights came up on Ike Turner… focused on his guitar. The night was becoming magical, the Ikettes were gently swooning in the background.
Then SHE came out!
Tina Turner marched across the stage aiming straight for us seated on the far side. Reaching us she leaned over with a truly amazing smile and welcomed us to the show and said “Come backstage after!” then her mouth opened up and the truly unique voice of Tina Turner took over. We could hear the crowd behind us as thrilled and ecstatic as we were at the wonder the night was bringing. This picture above is literally our view of the show and was taken that night by someone that clearly was near us.
After the show we went back to their dressing room to visit with them. Well… dressing room really was an overstatement for the quickly erected curtains and tables that created an area in the back halls of the cold concrete hockey arena that they could call a dressing room. We spoke briefly with them and then we saw the temper of Ike Turner come out and it became a bit tense.
We were invited by their Manager to come back to the Edmonton Plaza to party for a bit…. which we did but left soon after as the mood had gotten tense from the arguments between Ike and Tina.
Nonetheless we were thrilled by this amazing experience and as I said at the outset, one of the biggest highlights of my life. I am so glad to have experienced it.
Bless you Tina Turner for all the music you shared with us and the Queer community who worshiped you. We love you and will miss you dearly. ❤️
“Sometimes you’ve got to let everything go – purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything… whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you’ll find that when you’re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.”
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Actual Story on YEGQueerhistory.ca
Author: Ron Byers