Northwest Dance and Music Venues
Embassy Ballroom/Dante's Inferno - Photo Courtesy of Chris Wolfe
Embassy Ballroom
Later Became Dante's Inferno, The Elegant Parlour, and Retinal Circus
1024 Davie Street
Vancouver, British Columbia

Some of the bands that performed at this place during those great years of Northwest music were:
The Accents
Little Daddy & The Bachelors
Bobby Bland
The Collectors
Daily Flash
The Doors
The Drifters
The Epics
Eddy Floyd
Dave Lewis
Painted Ship

Others ?

In Memory of

Jim Wisby

Image Courtesy of

THE EMBASSY was a popular spot in the 60's and 70's. It became a gay club known as Celebrities in the late eighties, and closed its doors in the mid-ninties and sat vacant for many years. Recently it has been renovated and reopened.

Nick Cardarelli, December 2005

I am Fraser MacDonald, the son of Murdo MacDonald who, along with his mother Katherine MacDonald, bought Lester Court in the 1930’s. They changed the name to Embassy Ballroom.

During the second world war they operated other Ballrooms as well.  My father at one time had his own house band playing violin and alto sax.  He did however have musician union problems.  He was told he could either be a unionized musician or an owner boss.  He chose to remain an owner but I think it broke his heart and he gave up playing music.

Despite being a onetime professional, I never heard him play the sax and can count on one hand the number times I  heard him play the violin despite being a medal winner.

Originally The Embassy operated six days a week and remained at that level during the war and 1950’s.  The days of dance bands were on the way out.  Gradually the openings went from six nights, to five nights and eventually three a week with very small crowds.  At this time my dad thought a $100,000 remodel would revitalize business.  He converted the original Ballroom’s concession pop stand and huge coat room into The Pillar and Post Cabaret. He built a full kitchen in the basement next to what used to be the Happytime Social Club where Bingo and Whist was played.  For the Pillar And Post he hired a young German couple to look after the food service and hired various small bands and combos for entertainment and dancing on the small dance floor.

In the early 1960’s, the key to success was liquor.  However, these permits were highly regulated and my father was never able to get one.  Needless to say profits were non-existent and it closed.

By this time the Embassy was down to just Saturdays.  My father’s age group to whom he catered had matured with families.  They weren’t into packing there booze into  brown paper bags and dancing to the big band sound.  I don’t know who approached who but in 64, 65 or 66, a deal was struck with Jim Wisby, leading to Dante’s Inferno, The Elegant Parlour, and Retinal Circus.  I believe the original rent was $1000 a month.

Fraser McDonald, March 2012

Viscounts 1965 - Photo Courtesy of Terry Coan
The Viscounts - Photo Taken at the Embassy Ballroom

Dante's Inferno - Image Courtesy of Brian Shields

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Last Update:  20 March 2012
Credits: Terry Coan, Chris Wolfe, Nick Cardarelli,, Garry Gramm, Brian Shields, Fraser MacDonald