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The Flamingo: Former Strip-Club Transformed Into Arts Hub

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Written by Johnny Papan

The Flamingo Hotel and Lounge is one of Surrey’s most storied entertainment and lifestyle venues. Opening its doors in 1955 as a motor-hotel, the Flamingo became a preferred spot for pleasant social gatherings such as dinners and even weddings throughout the 50s and 60s. As time progressed, however, the venue located on King George Boulevard turned from a wholesome family establishment to an adult nightlife-destination caught up in a vulgar hurricane of sex, drugs and violence. The 1970s saw the property’s addition of Surrey’s most notorious strip-bar: the Byrd Exotic Show Lounge, which was met with a plethora of controversial events from the mid-80s to late-2000s. The Flamingo Hotel and Lounge as well as the Byrd were shut down in Spring 2016.

Penmar Community Arts Society is a non-profit organization headed by David Geertz who, alongside marketing manager Dione Costanzo and many others, are reinventing the run-down strip club and lounge as music venues to help pump some much-wanted air into the Surrey arts-industry.

“David found out there was an empty strip club sitting here with a stage and a sound system and said: ‘Oh, my God! We could fit 250 people in there and start live shows!’ That’s the story of where the idea came from,” Costanzo chuckles.

Costanzo discovered and attended indie-rock concerts at Ocean Park Hall in White Rock. These shows were being put on by Geertz’s promotion company: Legion of Sound, which specializes in bringing live-music to communities that are often overlooked by touring artists. Once Costanzo and Geertz made contact, they put together and promoted a sold-out fundraiser for Penmar Community Arts Society with 400 people in attendance, one of which was Flamingo property-owner Charan Sethi.

“We built a proposal to help reinvigorate the network of the neighborhood by using music and culture as a way to do that,” Geertz explains. “This is not only a project that gives musicians, promoters, artists and people who work in the creative industry a way to make sustainable wages, it’s also a way to help increase the visibility of the future neighborhood.”

Costanzo and Geertz confirm that putting the needs of local artists and music fans at the forefront of the project. They hope that this ambitious effort can help add financial growth to local musicians, photographers, digital designers and sound engineers while providing appreciators of the arts venues to feed their interests.

Geertz states that the Flamingo will offer extremely competitive booking rates for artists and promoters in comparison to other venues.

“The cost of the room is basically zero. We do have a sound man fee, which is typical if you’re booking multiple bands in one night. These fees are lower than any other venue in the city and we are willing to waive those fees depending on bar expectations, etc.” Geertz continues: “Bands make 100% of the ticket income and we provide those tickets, both physical and digital, for free with no transaction fees and no ticketing fees. Any promoter or band that are promoting their own show can contact us and be listed on the site through our brokerage. They get to keep all their own contacts we get an export and give them their client list after the fact.”

The Flamingo will also aid in event management by providing security, door people, coat-check staff, sound engineers and bartenders to all booked events. Fancy lighting can be discussed on an show-by-show basis. Aside from the musical portion, a small casino is also being built within the Byrd to help boost fundraisers and things of the like. The casino will also be open during concerts and any profit made by the venue will be paid forward to performing artists.

Costanzo is in the middle of building a street-team to help spread word about events taking place at the Flamingo. Perks include free admission to shows, and commissions on ticket sales with opportunity for advancement.

“What I want to do is build a network of young people that are able to get the word out through postering and talking to local businesses and selling tickets,” Costanzo explains.

Geertz, Costanzo and Sethi hope to make the Flamingo venue-trifecta, consisting of the Flamingo Lounge, the Byrd as well as what will formerly be known as Panchos Top 40 Rock Club, the hub for Surrey’s arts community for the next five to six years. The buildings will then be torn down, highrises will be built, and, if this project proves to be successful, a brand new all-purpose venue will be structured as well.

The first live concert to be held on the property will be alternative rock band Slevyn with special guests Sly Detrick, Caustic Sodapop and Landmark 20 on Friday, January 12.

For more information visit www.theflamingo.ca

Jonathan Nicholas “Johnny” Papan is a Canadian writer, filmmaker, and musician born in Surrey, British Columbia to a Guyanese mother and half-Hungarian, half-Trinidadian father. Aside from film and music, Johnny also enjoys performing standup comedy. His interest in journalism surfaced after watching documentaries on influential writers Nora Ephron and Hunter S. Thompson. - www.johnnypapan.tk

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7 shows you didn’t know were filmed in Surrey

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shows filmed in Surrey
The Good Doctor isn't the only big show to film in Surrey (ABC / Art Streiber)

The city has been a prime location for many famous TV shows. Here is a list of some of our favourite shows filmed in Surrey.

Riverdale

You’ll be surprised to know that the hit Netflix series Riverdale has filmed some scenes in Surrey, along with other famous places across BC like Rocko’s Diner and the Twilight Drive-In Theatre. The most notable place in Surrey is Bear Creek Park where in Season 5 the football workout scene was filmed. 

 

The Flash

Not to be confused with the movie featuring Ezra Miller (who knows what’s happening with the DC movies anyway?), CW’s The Flash has also filmed around Surrey and the Lower Mainland. You can see many familiar places like Surrey City Hall and Central City Mall. 

 

Turner & Hooch (2021)

While this show may claim to take place in San Francisco, and it’ll do everything it can to convince you it was filmed there, this remake starring Josh Peck was filmed right here in BC. Specifically, the exterior of the police station that Turner works at is Surrey City Hall. You can even see the evidence of the Take Five afe right outside. 

 

Peacemaker

The DC movie universe just seems to love filming in Surrey. Peacemaker, starring everyone’s favourite John Cena, filmed scenes in Surrey. 

 

The Good Doctor

Surrey’s City Hall can be seen in The Good Doctor as the exterior of the San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital. Now why they wouldn’t use the actual Surrey Memorial Hospital as a hospital is beyond us. 

 

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has used a couple of different locations in Surrey for filler shots like in Redwood Park for scenes in the woods. But it also converted a closed storefront into Cerberus Books, a bookstore from the series. Without the signs, it may be difficult to locate, but you can find the building used for this bookstore at 5657 176 St. 

 

The Stand

Based on the book of the same name by Steven King, The Stand was also filmed in Surrey. Starring Whoopi Goldberg, Alexander Skarsgård, and James Marsden (yes, this is the guy from Sonic the Hedgehog), this story takes place “After the world is in ruins, due to a man-made plague,” and “a battle of biblical proportions ensues between the survivors.” It shot scenes throughout BC, but most notably is the Pacific Inn Resort, which was used to film interior shots for the Flagg Hotel in the show.

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Famous Wrestler ‘Shakes Up’ Surrey Artifact Collection

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John Tenta ‘Earthquake’ memorabilia now on display at Museum of Surrey

Surrey, BC – The legacy of WWF wrestler John Tenta, known worldwide as ‘Earthquake’ is being celebrated with a display of memorabilia in the Museum of Surrey’s latest feature exhibition ‘Shake Up: Preserving What We Value.’

Visitors will have the opportunity to see the former Surrey resident’s iconic 1991 action figure, “The Wrestler” Magazine, featuring Earthquake vs. Hulk Hogan from 1990, a deck of trading cards and more in the exhibit’s pop culture section.

“Earthquakes are some of nature’s most powerful forces, and John Tenta certainly evokes that energy with the persona he created, which makes his legacy a perfect fit for the exhibit,” said Curator of Exhibits, Colleen Sharpe.

‘Shake Up: Preserving What We Value’ was originally developed by the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. Using cultural objects, art, and multimedia displays, the exhibit tells the story of earthquakes—and other natural disasters—through Indigenous knowledge passed down through oral histories.

To complement the multi-media installations, MOS added Surrey-specific content from the Heritage Surrey Collection, including the recent acquisition of Tenta’s memorabilia.

Kristin Hardie, Curator of Collections, says the memorabilia acquired for the Surrey Artifact Collection is one example of how objects can serve as a connection point with our community’s memory.

“We are thrilled to be able to preserve the amazing story of a ‘Surreyite’ who rose to the highest levels of his sport and who became famous on a global scale.

We hope that these items both preserve John Tenta’s legacy in his hometown and encourage his neighbours and fans to share their memories and stories about him.”

Hardie recently reached out to Tenta’s son, Jeff Tenta, who resides in Florida with his wife and two children. When asked how he felt about his father being included in the exhibit and his story being preserved and shared at the museum, he responded that it was a proud moment for the family.

“We’re happy that his community appreciates it – it’s good to know people care,” he said. Preserving and Sharing Surrey’s Stories. Heritage Services administers a large civic artifact collection, which consists of over 20,000 objects.

Already a world junior wrestling champion by age 20, Tenta first rose to fame in Japan, where he spent eight months as a sumo wrestler. He and his family returned to his hometown of Surrey from approximately 1989 to 1996, where he was affectionally known as ‘Big John’ to local media.

By 1989, Tenta was a full-time member in the WWF with the name, Earthquake. In 1993, Tenta headlined a West Coast wrestling competition at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.

In 2006, Tenta passed away from bladder cancer at the age of 42. His sister, Brenda, currently resides in Langley.

‘Shake Up: Preserving What We Value’ runs until June. Visitors must pre-register for one hour long self-guided visits, which are available from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. from Wednesday to Saturday. Visitors can register by visiting emailing or by calling 604-592-6956.

The museum follows all citywide COVID- 19 safety protocols as per Health BC, City of Surrey and Worksafe BC. Masks are mandatory. Registration required for every person in your family group, including infants. For more information, visit us.

For more information about the Surrey Artifact Collections, visit our site. The City’s artifact collection can also be viewed virtually using the Surrey Archives & Museums free Online Access (SAMOA).

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A Symbol of Welcome at Museum of Surrey

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The Rivers that Connect Us by kʼwyʼiʼyʼe Spring Salmon Studio

Surrey, BC – A new public artwork has been installed at Museum of Surrey, the final component of the Museum expansion. The artwork is easily viewed by those travelling along Highway 10. Designed and fabricated locally by kʼwyʼiʼyʼe Spring Salmon Studio (Drew Atkins, Phyllis Atkins, and Aaron Jordan),

The Rivers that Connect Us is a monumental sculpture that makes an important contribution to the Cloverdale Historic District by acknowledging and reflecting the longstanding presence of First Nations peoples.

The artwork’s five-metre-tall, illuminated paddles are raised to the sky recalling a traditional Coast Salish gesture indicating peace and respect made when a canoe traveller approached a village.

The artwork’s welcoming gesture is intended to honour the diversity of newcomers arriving in Surrey and the traditional lands of the Coast Salish peoples.

The sculpture’s four paddles encircle a 3.5-metre round base that features a design inspired by the traditional form of a Coast Salish spindle whorl, a tool used by Coast Salish women to spin wool for weaving.

The base also references a compass and the four directions. The Salish Eye designs around the base of the paddles represent the seven traditional teachings of the Kwantlen peoples: health, happiness, generations, generosity, humility, forgiveness, and understanding.

While referencing the deep history of the land and the traditional territory of the Coast Salish peoples including the q̓ʷɑ:n̓ƛ̓ən̓, q̓ic̓əy̓, and səmyəmɑʔɬ (Kwantlen, Katzie, and Semiahmoo First Nations) and traditional Coast Salish design, the sculpture also incorporates innovative technology with its steel and polycarbonate materials and programmable LED lighting.

Community consultation guided this public art opportunity from the outset. Multiple community engagement sessions were held, culminating in a group of Cloverdale residents serving on a panel to select the artists and artwork concept.

One of the key recommendations from the community was that the sculpture serve as a gateway feature for travellers to Cloverdale and the City of Surrey. The lighting will ensure the artwork is visible at night and fulfills the expectation of the Cloverdale community.

The artwork also offers an invitation to learn more about Surrey’s history, located beside Museum of Surrey (17710 56A Avenue) and Surrey Archives (located in the 1912 Municipal Hall).

For the artists, The Rivers that Connect Us provided an important opportunity to mark the traditional territories on which Surrey is built.

They say, “The Fraser River and its local tributaries—the Salmon, Serpentine, and Nicomekl Rivers—formed a transportation network that connected First Nations people in the area since time immemorial. Relied upon for resource gathering, travel, and trade, these rivers were traversed by canoes from many nations. Presently, the Highway 10 corridor, and its many connecting roads, is today’s river.”

The artwork’s title, The Rivers That Connect Us, is a reminder and an invitation to a shared human connection regardless of cultural or ethnic backgrounds.

About the Artists

Drew Atkins (Nəq̓ɑɬc̓i) is a member of the Kwantlen First Nation community by marriage to his wife and fellow artist, Phyllis Atkins (q̓ʷɑt̓ic̓ɑ’s). He works in many mediums including painting, drawing, carving, and sculpture.

He was trained in the Coast Salish carving tradition while apprenticing with his dear friend and mentor Xwa-lack-tun (Rick Harry). Atkins owns and operates K’wy’iye’ Spring Salmon Studio and Gallery in unceded Fort Langley, BC with Phyllis Atkins. springsalmonstudio.com

Phyllis (Qwoy’tic’a) Atkins is an artist of the Kwantlen First Nation whose name means “I wear the clouds like a blanket” or “Shrouded in clouds.” Her name comes from the Nɬeʔkepmx language and it was given to her by her maternal grandfather Hereditary Chief Anthony Joe of the Shakan Band (Thompson River People).

Phyllis is also part Sto:lo (People of the river). Phyllis has taken oil painting lessons from Barbara Boldt and hand-carved silver jewelry lessons by Master Carver Derek Wilson. She is a renowned painter and jeweler at their home on Kwantlen First Nation in Fort Langley. springsalmonstudio.com

Aaron Jordan grew up surrounded by artists and craftsmen of all mediums. Working for a few years in art galleries and museums led Aaron to attend Langara College to study fine arts. He went on to discover the world of film and was swept up by the creativity and diversity of the industry while working as a sculptor and carpenter building sets and props. ajordancreation.com

About Surrey’s Public Art Program

Established in 1998, Surrey’s Public Art Program contributes to the creation of a lively, beautiful, inclusive, and complete community. The City’s art collection reflects community identity, cultural diversity, and Indigenous heritage.

Public art contributes to placemaking across the City and its sustainable socio-economic development. Among the 100+ artworks in Surrey’s public art collection are mosaics, paintings, and interactive sculptures that remember Surrey’s history, enhance infrastructure, and honour the surrounding natural environment.

From subtle to iconic, public art can be found in the City’s parks, on pathways, streets, SkyTrain pillars, and civic buildings throughout the City of Surrey. For more information about the Public Art Program and the collection, visit surrey.ca/publicart

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Recent Past Meets Speculative Future In Mark Soo’s Video Installation (Apr 17)

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April 17−June 6, 2021
Artist Talk: Saturday, April 17 | 1:00 p.m. –2:00 p.m. PST on Surrey Art Gallery’s Facebook page and YouTube channel

Surrey, BC – Surrey Art Gallery launches their spring exhibit Mark Soo: Twilight on the Edge of Town on Facebook Live and YouTube on Saturday, April 17 from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. PST with a talk by the artist that will be available for replay afterwards.

Drawing from an archive that evokes the history of science fiction film, 3D animation, documentary photography, and literature, Mark Soo’s newest video artwork explores the nature of perception and the limits of storytelling.

Through his juxtapositions of visual and experiential phenomena, this project stimulates poetic associations to place, reality, and imagination.

Across multiple screens, the artist creates an immersive choreography of visual elements over twenty-five minutes. Holographic images depict objects and events of the seemingly everyday where surreal log jams and raindrops mingle with flickering streetlights and backyard scenes.

An ambient soundtrack includes the voices of a child and adult simultaneously narrating the images, one in a speculation on the future and the other in a recollection of the past. Experienced in an ambiguous present, remembrance slips into projection and past and future are intertwined.

Mark Soo says, “I’ve tried to make a work that speaks to a complicated relationship to where we are, and of how we perceive that in terms of time and the relation to space.”

The result is part theatre, experimental cinema, and art installation. “By experimenting with the relationship between image and sound, fact and fiction,” says curator Jordan Strom, “Soo’s large-scale environment is a compelling meditation on the nature of individual and collective memory.”

Twilight on the Edge of Town builds on Soo’s work of the past decade and a half, including his interests in photography and film, the history of social movements, and experiments with the technological image. Surrey Art Gallery and Wirklichkeit Books, Berlin, will be co-publishing a catalogue about Mark Soo: Twilight on the Edge of Town in the fall of 2021.

Twilight on the Edge of Town is one of the 200 exceptional projects funded in part through the Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter program. With this $35M investment, the Council supports the creation and sharing of the arts in communities across Canada.

Other exhibitions at Surrey Art Gallery include Art by Surrey Secondary Students, a display of collages, drawings, and paintings from local youth (closes April 30) and the artist video Yam Lau: Hutong House. At UrbanScreen, Surrey Art Gallery’s offsite art venue, the Flavourcel collective presents I Spy a City, a series of animations that capture different sights in Surrey (closes May 2).

About Mark Soo

Mark Soo was born in Singapore. He graduated from Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design in 2001 and currently lives and works in Vancouver and Berlin. He works in a variety of media including photography, sound, and video, which he uses to investigate notions of perception, modes of representation, and considerations of social space.

Soo draws on diverse sources ranging from art history to popular and social histories. He has had solo exhibitions in Vancouver, Berlin, and London and has participated in numerous group exhibitions.

About Surrey Art Gallery

Internationally recognized for its award-winning programs, Surrey Art Gallery, located at 13750 88 Avenue in Surrey on the unceded territories of the Salish Peoples, including the q̓ic̓əy̓ (Katzie), q̓ʷɑ:n̓ƛ̓ən̓ (Kwantlen), and Semiahma (Semiahmoo) nations, is the second largest public art museum in Metro Vancouver.

Founded in 1975, the Gallery presents contemporary art by local, national, and international artists, including digital and audio art. Its extensive public programs for children through to adults aim to engage the public in an ongoing conversation about issues and ideas that affect our communities and to provide opportunities to interact with artists and the artistic process.

Admission is free. Surrey Art Gallery gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance of the City of Surrey, Province of BC through BC Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, and the Surrey Art Gallery Association.

Surrey Art Gallery will continue to present Art Together, a series of online programs that began in March 2020 and explore art and artists in the community, spark the imagination, and celebrate the ways that art can impact our lives.

Visit our website, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and subscribe to our YouTube channel. surrey.ca/artgallery

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Shake Up: Preserving What We Value

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Indigenous knowledge, science and pop culture unite to address ‘the Big One’

Surrey, BC – Museum of Surrey announces its latest feature exhibition, Shake Up: Preserving What We Value, coming March 11 to June 6. Through multimedia installations, art, and cultural objects, Shake Up examines the knowledge of earthquakes and natural disasters that has been passed down for generations through First Nations oral histories.

“It’s about reflecting on what we value, and how we ensure we keep our loved ones and stories safe,” said Museum of Surrey manager, Lynn Saffery, of the exhibit that was originally developed by Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.

As part of the immersive exhibit, visitors will have the opportunity board an electric car and take a simulated drive down a San Francisco street, featuring never-before-seen footage of the big 1906 quake aftermath. Visitors can get up close to an earthquake-proof yurt, built locally in Langley.

The theme of earthquakes in pop culture is explored through movie posters, cards, earthquake toys and the famous WWF wrestler, ‘Earthquake.’ Surrey-specific content and artifacts from the Heritage Surrey collection will also be on display.

Free pre-registered, one-hour self-guided visits of the museum are available from Wednesday to Saturday. The museum follows all citywide COVID-19 safety protocols as per Health BC, City of Surrey and WorkSafe BC. Masks are mandatory. Registration required for every person in your family group, including infants. Call 604-592-6956 or email museum@surrey.ca to register.

Museum of Surrey is a dynamic and accessible community hub and cultural space that reflects the City of Surrey’s innovation and creativity.

It is a people museum, with a mission to connect people and stories through engaging events, interactive award- winning exhibits, programs, textiles and local, national and international exhibitions, as well as public space for rentals. The site, located at 17710 56A Avenue in Surrey, is on the Heritage Campus, home to Veterans Square, Anderson Cabin, 1881 Town Hall and Anniedale School.

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