It’s been a few years since the Tote Hotel in Collingwood was any sort of major hub for my social activities, which is one of the main reasons why I decided to stay away from the place during its final weekend of trading. The Tote has never been ‘my’ pub, and I had no desire to show up like an incongruous ghoul in order to lament the demise of a place I haven’t really frequented for some time.
I saw some great (and some less than great) live bands at the Tote, but the main thing I will miss about the place had already been taken away several years ago. Situated above the main bar and band room was the exotic confines of the Cobra Bar, decked out in bamboo with framed posters from old snake themed movies lining the walls, Phillipa would hold court behind the bar, lighting your cigarettes and serving up her superb cocktails with a fine hand and a sharp tongue.
Here in this often sweaty and cramped environment, we would gather to watch screenings of old 8mm films (some of which I organised myself), take in scatological plays performed by the Sissies & Sluts theatrical troupe, listen to DJs like Bebe Bombora and Betsy Jinx, watch burlesque dancers shake and shimmy, attend art exhibitions, or just sit and shoot the breeze over a cool beer, a hot pizza and some great music.
Things were never the same once Phillip gave up the reigns on the Cobra Bar – the name stayed the same, but the atmosphere was gone, and soon so was I. Going there became too depressing, like trying the chase the ghosts of a past. I kept the memories and moved on….