Our Windi City

Windi Earthworm, a gay artist and activist, lived in Calgary in the 1970’s, and was notable for his gender non-conforming dress and street music. He was a dedicated agitator who had the conviction of his beliefs.

In the early 1970s, Windi chained himself to a marble pillar in the Palliser Hotel when the during a provincial Conservative convention, to protest the absence in Alberta of legislation protecting homosexuals from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

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Windi Earthworm circa 1979.  Photo: François Couture from kersplebedab.com

In 1975, as part of the People’s Liberation Coalition, he was one of four protestors who took guerrilla action against an anti-gay skit.  It was included in the nightly performance of a band called The Dandies in the Four Seasons Hotel’s Scotch Room.  One evening in June, when the skit was about to be unleashed, Windi and his friends rushed the stage and took over the microphone.  They explained to the surprised audience why they were offended.  As the hotel bouncers dragged them away, they asked the manager if she had ever been to a gay bar.  When she replied, “no,” they told her they would going to invite all of their friends and turn the Scotch Room into a gay bar the following night if the performance was not changed.  It was changed.

At that point the four activists saw the need for a gay activist group in the city.  Gay Information Resources Calgary (GIRC) started shortly thereafter.  The group’s first chair was John Windi (a.k.a. Windi Earthworm).

Activist Doug Young (1950-1994), in a 1980 interview, remembered Windi hanging out in the Kings Arms Tavern in the mid 70s, and always thought him a bit strange with his long bluejean skirts.  He noted that Windi did not stay long at GIRC as the other people who helped set it up thought he was crazy and eventually squeezed him out.

Filmmaker, Claude Ouellet, recalled meeting Windi in 1976 when he was a young person hitchhiking across the country.  Finding himself in Calgary, without money, he ended up meeting the troubadour on 8th Avenue Mall.  Windi at that time was taking in street kids who needed shelter.  Windi sheltered Claude and his friend for the night.  Claude thought the denim skirt and cross dressing flare was courageous for Calgary in 1976.

Later in the 1980s, when both lived in Montreal, Claude made a documentary about Windi as a year-end film school project.  At that time Windi was central to that city’s anglo anarchist left.  He often was hassled by the Montreal police (or worse) for being a strolling musician (despite being licensed as such).  He was also seen occasionally in press coverage being dragged away from peace demonstrations.

Described as a caring, unique, and challenging human, Windi died of AIDS in 1993.  Windi’s courage and artistry are remembered fondly on a memorial website: There’s a Fire Truck on My Ceiling: Windi Earthworm Remembered.

{Wishing you a reflective holiday season and a happy new year!}

{KA}

 

3 responses to “Our Windi City

  1. Pingback: GIRC Origins | Calgary Gay History

  2. Pingback: Before GIRC. YYC gay support in the 70s. | Calgary Gay History

  3. Pingback: The OK Campaign | Calgary Gay History

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