Back in the days, there likely was never a weekend where I didn’t pass by The Barn & Stables as part of my friends and I bar hoping, Friday night, last call on Saturday, or the Underwear Party on Sunday, we were there at some point of the weekend. That place was iconic to many, when you were there it felt like community. 

Even during the week, I may have passed by sometimes for a quick drink, or to say hi to Paul, my favourite bartender on the main floor, the friendly familiar face to all patrons, who made me feel special by knowing my drink and having it ready for me when he saw me coming up the stairs.

My memories of that place will last me a life time of happy, and there were more memories made in that place that I can count, from many friendships forged, to great chats, lots of laughter, and of course dancing, dancing, and some more dancing. There were the naughty bits too, after all it was The Barn, and The Barn was hot, sweaty, manly, and naughty.

But what made that place even more special were two of the most energetic, talented, resident DJs, Barry Harris and Cory Activate, whom never failed to play what I was hoping to hear on a night out. Those two, along with other Barn DJs kept the energy high, and the dance floors packed.

Since The Barn & Stables closed I have dreamt of a reunion, and now it is happening thanks to Barry and Cory, along with one of the people I love the most in our community, Dean Odorico from Woody’s who will be hosting the special night. I already got my tickets.  

Hey guys so excited to see you do this, but why did you decide to do it, and why now?

Barry: This is more a question for Corey. He’s the ‘ringleader’ of this event.

Cory: Thanks, Antoine, we’re pretty excited about it too! First off, let me say thank you for doing this. It’s always a pleasure to talk to theBuzz! So, why now? Simply put, it was time. I had been kicking the idea around for 4 or 5 years, since about 2014, the 10th anniversary of the Barn’s closing (the original incarnation of the Barn, under Janko Naglic’s ownership, closed on October 28, 2004). For various reasons, the timing just never worked out. Then, a few months ago, some friends mentioned the idea to me again, and as I pursued the idea things just fell into place. Putting this party together was effortless. Everybody involved truly wanted to be involved and all the pieces just fit together perfectly. Also, as time has gone on, it became clear to me that if I ever wanted to do it in the way I had envisioned, it would have to be soon. We’re losing so many spaces to condos in the downtown core that it feels like the clock is ticking faster and faster. Club 120 is one of those spaces that is under threat and it was always my first choice for a reunion. It just has that 80’s gay bar feel to it! Wood, brick, great acoustics – all of it! And as for why? As the community continues to change and evolve, and in many ways shrink, I feel that it’s important to remember where we came from. The Barn was an icon. It was one of the granddaddies of the gay bar scene in Toronto and it was a special place for many of us. For those of us who worked there, and even for many of the regular patrons, it felt like a family. In many ways, this is an extended family reunion. It will be great to see old friends and, as a DJ, it will be a lot of fun getting to play that music again!

Barry: The Barn holds a special place in a lot of people’s hearts. Hard to explain why. Perhaps because of its longevity and history. It was always like coming home. It was always there. It was always the same. Like wearing your favourite pyjamas or sweater. Just something about the place that was just comfortable. No attitude, just a fun place with everyday kinda guys. Everyone and anyone were welcome there and everyone in Toronto knew that. Sure it had the image of a leather bar, but i never thought of it that way. Just a regular bar with regular people of all ages to me.

I couldn’t have said it better myself in terms of the comfortable feeling of the place, love the favourite pyjama reference Barry, it is truly how it felt like back then. Cory as for the space, right on re Club 120, it is the closet in feeling to The Barn.

So, now let’s talk about what we are to expect on September 29th. Some of my friends and I are trying to reach out to the old timers, the familiar faces from The Barn, so it can truly be a reunion. What are you planning on, what are your expectations?

Barry: I have no idea what to expect. Well, perhaps a little! Music wise I kinda have it ‘penciled in’. I have an idea of what I WANT to play DJ wise and what I feel should be played. As always, I’ll play it by ear and feel it out come the time.

Cory: At my end Antoine I’ve been reaching out to as many of the old staff as I can find. I’d love for them all to attend! I really want it to have that old “Barn feeling”! Musically, it’s going to be a night filled with great memories. A lot of the music played at The Barn, was virtually exclusive to The Barn. It was heavily influenced by the European Hi-NRG sound of the time and while there will be lots of the familiar retro favs, the music will definitely have a distinctive Barn flavour. I’m also thrilled to have Dean Odorico as our host for the night! I spoke to the manager at Woody’s and got him the night off! All joking aside, I’m incredibly thankful to have Dean on board for this party. When I approached him with the idea, even though I’m sure he has his hands full at Woody’s, he said yes immediately. It just goes to show you the affection that many of us still have for The Barn. Oh, and did I mention the hot go-go dancers? Yeah, we have those too! A little man-candy never hurts, right?

No, it doesn’t hurt at all, we do like the man candy, nice touch Cory. And Barry as long as you play “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” I’m good to go lol. So guys, while you were both resident DJs at The Barn & Stables, is that where you had your starts?

Barry: My very first DJ gig ever was upstairs at Cornelius 1982 (The Gasworks), when it turned into a gay bar for a few years. After that i DJ’d part-time at Dudes off of Breadalbane. I worked regularly DJ wise at The Barn at first in spring of 1984, before moving over to upstairs at St. Charles Tavern for summer 1985. I’ve moved around Toronto gay bars playing pretty much all of them at one time or another, but The Barn was that one dance bar that was always there. I’d visit Gordy MacMillan often when he DJ’d there in the mid to late 80’s then I’d be there all the time to visit Brian Perry in the 90’s. Both of us also worked at the Dance Import Record Store “Starsound Records”. I was always kept in touch with what was going on at The Barn musically over the decades, whether I DJ’d there or not.

When I made my first record “I Beg Your Pardon” I met the Atlantic Records rep from NYC at The Barn one night while Gordy was playing it (and now the rest is history). I started the alternative house night there in the mid 90’s on Wednesday nights which was quite different and successful for a few years before I moved to L.A. January 1998. Yes The Barn has ALWAYS held a special place in my heart as it was around for all of my adult life 20’s 30’s and 40’s. It represented Gay Culture in Toronto in many ways for about 4 decades.

Cory: I was spinning for a few years by the time I started in The Barn, but The Barn was my first serious residency. I owe a lot of my subsequent success to Janko and to Paul Grace, who was responsible for the DJ’s – and a great DJ himself – at the time. Not long after I had started there, I started my “Circuit Bump Thursdays”, which were a mix of the new circuit sound and New York underground. They were packed like a weekend night for many years. That night led directly to a residency at 5ive Nightclub and then subsequently Fly, It’s a Boy’s Life and Zipperz/Cellblock. The Barn was the launch pad for everything that came after for me and I’ll always be very grateful for that.

Thanks for sharing guys, lots of great history and familiar names in there. So, The Barn, we all seem to love it, any fond memories of that special place in the hearts of our community, that you two can recall?

Barry: My fondest memories will always be that it always felt like home.

Cory: Many. For me, most of my fondest memories are of the staff. They were quite a cast of characters! I remember laughing my ass off on a regular basis with a bartender named Kirk, who worked on my Thursday nights. Margaret (his nickname) had an acerbic wit and an acid tongue. If you had nothing nice to say, go sit next to Kirk! But man, did we laugh. Those are the memories that stick with you the longest.

Barry, you are also one of my most favourite producers, part of the legendary Thunderpuss, and have remixed for many music icons. What are you working on these days?

Barry: I’m doing whatever I feel like these days, especially music wise. I’ve always been somewhat of a culture vulture and i get bored easily music wise if things start feeling the same. I love remixing old and current stuff and DJing for different crowds with different tastes from the ‘Bear crowd’ to the ’25 and under’ crowd. It’s all good, it’s all interesting to me, and keeps me on my toes with current culture. I’ve DJ’d a lot of Pride and Bear events all over the U.S this year. more than ever.

How about you Cory, what have you been up to?

Cory: I’ve been keeping busy! Over the past while I’ve been spinning at Wayla, The Drink, Striker, Steamworks and a few other places. I’m also doing a regular classic disco night with my partner in crime, Dwayne Minard, which are always tons of fun.

Let’s have a quick chat with Dean about this reunion.

Dean, you know the community more than anyone else. Tell us in your words why does The Barn & Stables have a very special place in the heart of our community and our history?

Dean: The Barn is a Sweet and Sexy memory for many men around the world, including me. A big part of its charm is because of its owner and creator Janko Naglic. Not to mention its longevity and incredible success. The Barn was friendly, cruisy, sexy and most of all down to earth and inviting. It was our temple, where music was always hot, and the DJ’s took you on an uplifting journey. The Barn (and Les Cavaliers downstairs) was a big, sprawling treasure hunt, yet at the same time was very intimate with the DJ on his altar, smack dab in the middle.

Any fond memories you care to share?

Dean: I had the extreme pleasure to work the main bar many nights. Along with Janko’s other bar The 457, it was my first experience in learning bar management. With Janko it was always by seat of your pants style, but he was a warm and generous man. He donated, and did a lot of things for our community that he never talked about. I learned a lot from him and had the pleasure to work with some awesome staff and superb DJs. The Barn is a very important part of mine and many people’s lives. It is a very iconic and important part of Toronto’s and our Gay community’s history.

Thank you Barry, Cory, and Dean, for taking the time to share with us, can’t wait to see you all. And to everyone else who has fond memories of this LEGENDARY space, it sounds like we are in for a reunion night to remember, so get your tickets, and see you on the dance floor.

Tickets can be purchases at Men’s Room, and The Barn & Stables Reunion takes place on September 29th at Club 120


About the Author

Antoine has on numerous occasions said that everything he does is "a love letter to the LGBTQ community". and he truly loves this community. A 29 years' media and marketing leader, Antoine is the publisher of theBUZZ, The Pink Pages Directory, PinkPlayMags, and a magazine for Durham Region families The Local Biz Magazine, and is the host of talk show "On the Couch". On his off time he is usually involved in community organizations and causes.