Beyond Proud Toronto

In April of this year, I joined ten US meeting and event planners for a three-day “Men About Town” experience organized by Tourism Toronto.

Jeff Heilman

It was my seventh excursion to Toronto since first visiting two decades ago, and most entertaining, and eye-opening, by far.

My early ventures were of the in-out variety, and not the pleasurable kind, but as a “executive” somewhat at sea in the role. There were no real touches, just taxis, windowless meeting rooms, corporate hotels, and lobby bars, which did little to disprove Toronto’s then prevailing reputation as an Americanized, corporatized yawn. Or, as the late-actor Peter Ustinov once remarked, “Toronto is a kind of New York operated by the Swiss.”

Catalyzing my better appreciation of Canada’s largest and most diverse city was a 2012 story by gay Montréal-based journalist Richard “Bugs” Burnett. “Sacre bléu!” exclaimed Burnett in the Montréal Gazette, describing his “fabulous long weekend” in the city. “It’s time Montréalers revisit Toronto, and give the Queen City a second chance.”

If a leading voice of sexier, raunchier Montréal was giving its seemingly vanilla rival the rainbow sprinkles, then it was high time for my own reassessment. From getting the royal treatment at the Ritz-Carlton’s Urban Spa & Salon and dining with celebrity Canadian Chef Donna Dooher at her acclaimed Liberty Village restaurant Mildred’s T

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