The Smiling Buddha Cabaret pin

I was very excited about getting this pin. I first heard about these pins from someone (who shall remain nameless, as requested) who knows someone who received one as a form of a thank you. And that person passed it on to me. Pins are just falling in my lap for some reason. They seem to be finding me. I didn’t think they’d be of interest to me after the Olympics, but I could not be more wrong. This is a cool one. This pin is a photo of a neon sign for an old dive bar in Vancouver – located in the Downtown East Side = skid road = a part of town with “character” or “history” or “rummies”. It looks like the sign was installed for the bar in 1953 and stayed up until the bar shut down in 1987. I think the sign now lives in the Museum of Vancouver. I should go over there and see it. Actually, I definitely have to get over there. They are having a display about Handmade Nation over there. I gotta get to that.

But back to the Smiling Buddha – the history of that place is pretty excellent. I am very sad I missed the experience, but I didn’t get to Vancouver until 1991. Some of my friends, however, who resided in Vancouver during this time filled me in on the place. Here are some of their stories about this seedy bar:

There were go-go dancers in cages at that barCathy Mechanic

Alcohol wasn’t served, but people brought their own, and the establishment put tablecloths on the table so you could hide your bottles under the table.Uh. Should I put the person’s name who divulged that? Maybe not.

Now there was a dodgy placeSuzanne C.

I know someone who was so drunk, she fell out of her car in front of that place, casually got up and asked the bouncer who witnessed the whole thing if he’d light her cigarette.I think that person should remain nameless as well.

But the best comment left on my facebook profile about this raunchy place? It’s this one from Fiona:

Ha ha, I got spit on by Joey Shithead in that place. No lie. That was the end of my punk rock days – no random bodily fluids, ewwww!

What a glorious place the Smiling Buddha Cabaret was! I’m so sad I missed it.

If you’re interested in some other interesting facts about this place, there’s some info in this article. And if you’d like to be a fan of the Cabaret on Facebook like I am, you can do that right here.


  1. Susan says:

    I was here in Vancouver at that time – but just a bit too young to sneak in… Dang! But I went to lots of punk rock shows at the time, and it seems like minors had the best chance of getting in if they were “in the band.” It’s great to see so much interest in the place. I heard Bev Davies talking about it on CBC radio a while ago.

  2. Shirley Chan says:

    The Smilin’ Buddha pin is a limited edition joint project of the Museum of Vancouver who owns the sign, and Building Opportunities with Business who is working on the City’s Hastings Renaissance Program and on bringing back neon to the DTES. The iconic sign is on display in the Revolution Gallery of the Museum on Chestnut Street in Kits Point. We contracted with Pressed Metal Products on Alexander Street to make the pin. BOB is giving it to our partners and sponsors as a “thank you” for caring and acting to revitalize the heritage areas of Vancouver in a way that includes the people and businesses that are here. In its day The Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret was the place to hear some amazing bands like DOA.

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