Sparkles CN Tower

That time the CN Tower had the highest nightclub ever

One of the richest if stereotypical tidbits of 1970s and '80s Toronto history involves what was billed as the "highest nightclub in the world." Located, as it was, in "the city that works" you know already that the tagline is a literal rather than figurative observation, the latter title likely held by Studio 54 in New York.

Hovering over 1,100 feet in the air Sparkles nightclub occupied a section of the CN Tower's main pod between 1979 and 1991, a period when the city was obsessed with all things tall, from buildings to hairdos to cocktails. Lounge by day and disco by night, the space was popular in a way that's hard to believe these days.

Sparkles CN Tower

It even had its own cocktail, the Heavens Above, which featured amber rum, creme de cacao, coffee liqueur, and pineapple juice. Intriguingly, you'll still find this in some bartending guides, which properly attribute the drink to the lounge at the tower.

sparkles CN Tower

If the CN Tower is deemed mostly a tourist trap today, back when Sparkles and neighbouring restaurant Top of Toronto opened there was still great novelty attached to the giant attraction. It was three years old when the idea was hatched to bring a dancing crowd up to the observation level.

Sparkles CN Tower

It all sounds rather goofy now, but in the early years Sparkles was an important place. Not only did it attract a steady weekend nightclub crowd, but it was one of the city's most desirable event venues, playing host to all manner of affairs, including the first year anniversary party for the First Choice Celebrity Channel, sardonically reported on by Citytv in the clip below.

Perhaps it Sparkles worked well in the early '80s because it was so perfectly of its time. The interior was excessively decked out in colourful neon, the elevator ride to the top conferred a certain exclusivity to the club, and the height of the venue stood as a visual symbol of the excess that the decade would later come to be known for.

CN Tower

It was also, however, a quintessentially Toronto place, one that attracted U.S. media coverage when it opened. Toronto grew immensely as a city during the period just before Sparkles opened. By the time the nightclub started attracting crowds, it was like a sign that the city had arrived.

Denise Benson has written the authoritative history of Sparkles as part of her Then & Now series on Toronto's evolving nightlife scene. To get a deeper understanding of how Toronto received the club and what the people who partied and worked there thought of it, check out her excellent feature.

Thanks to Retrontario for the lead photo and video.


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