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Though Xtra was born out of the artsy affiliation of Queen St W Body Politic collective members, it didn’t stay there very long. Its early history was a crawl toward the Gay Grand Central of Church and Wellesley.

The issues from 1984 to 1988 came out of The Body Politic magazine offices on Wolsley St in the west end. The demise of The Body Politic in 1987 coincided with Xtra’s move to 464 Yonge St, a space shared by the AIDS Committee Of Toronto. If Wolsley was a garret space, then Yonge was down-at-the-heels corporate.

“We learned a great deal about the drug trade by looking out the window,” says Ken Popert. Popert, now executive director of Pink Triangle Press (which published The Body Politic and publishes Xtra), was publisher and editor in those days.

Xtra arrived on Yonge just as most gay businesses had abandoned the street for Church. It was closer to the bar and tub culture the tabloid was chronicling, but not close enough. When Pink Triangle Press needed to expand in 1990, 100 Wellesley became its new home.

“For the first time, the press looked successful, which is what we wanted to achieve. We spend thousands on renovations, mostly on renovating the reception area,” says Popert.

When the press needed to expand again, there was a high-profile space on Church and a cheaper space on Charles. Higher-profile 491 Church, looming over Second Cup like a voyeur, won out.

Paul Gallant

Paul Gallant is a Toronto-based journalist whose work has appeared in The WalrusThe Globe and Mail, the Toronto StarTHIS magazine,, and many other publications. His debut novel, Still More Stubborn Stars, was published by Acorn Press. He is the editor of Pink Ticket Travel and a former managing editor of Xtra. Photo by Tishan Baldeo.

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