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Diary of a Restaurant – Ch. 5: Enter Ted + Ivan

Jul 28, 2020

A Story By Kevin Gallagher

We met Ted Whelan through a catering job with the film workers union, ACFC. Ted, who worked as a set dresser, had been hired to decorate the venue  – the Palais Royale on Lakeshore. He was creative, energetic and focused on making the event spectacular, so there was a lot of back and forth on the details; he and Donna often worked on them in our vacant space.

We stayed in touch after the event and from time to time, Ted would rent equipment from us for a set. He worked on the film, The Freshman, much of which is set in a restaurant and we supplied smallwares for the kitchen. When the production wrapped, he encouraged us to go to the prop sale where we bought, among other things, eight large circular banquettes that had been featured in the dining room scenes. About two metres wide, they were covered with a delicately pleated cream coloured satin. Being film props, no money had been wasted on padding. There was just enough to plump up the satin. They looked great though –  and they were cheap.

It was inevitable that Ted and Donna should talk about decorating our vacant space. We were clear that we had very little cash available for anything. Nonplussed, Ted offered to work for contra catering services. We would pay for the materials.

My ideas for decoration were pretty conventional – walls in muted tones, perhaps some large canvases, but Donna and Ted had much grander things in mind. Donna brought out some old Travel & Leisure magazines that she’d been hoarding, with pictures of historic houses and Tuscan palazzos.  One house in particular inspired them, a vintage Georgian house from Dublin; walls layered with generations of faded paint and a conservatory tiled in blue and terracotta. I shrugged it off – such ideas seemed to me well outside what could be done to a warehouse in Parkdale.

But Ted proposed that he and his partner Ivan would put together some ideas and we could move forward at a pace that we could afford. 

 Ted was a cheerful burly guy, always slightly unkempt with a mischievous chuckle, so we were slightly surprised to meet Ivan, dressed in crisp linen and a panama hat serenely smoking a cigarette in a short holder. He surveyed the room thoughtfully, seeming sober and aloof, stroking a Dali-esque moustache. 

The two of them, sized the place up. I was convinced that Ivan would not be interested and was perhaps doing this out of politeness and to humour Ted. Ivan was always in demand for his film work with hair and wigs and this didn’t seem to suit him at all. He also didn’t seem well. At one point, coughing violently, he stepped outside for air, rolling his eyes. So I was surprised when a few days later they presented us with a plan and set to work.

First, they had the industrial ceiling spray painted “Parade Blue”, using twenty-two gallons on beams, trusses and ducts and leaving everything in the place covered with fine blue particulate. It took us days to clear it up. Clumps of birch and poplar saplings filled with fairy lights were set arching up the wall posts to the roof. A flight of five-foot ninja angels with chicken wire bodies and swathed in sari material in each colour of the rainbow, coursed its way across the ceiling. 

Then they turned their attention to the walls.

“We can distress them.” said Ivan.

“Distress?”  I asked, looking at my expanse of fresh new drywall.


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