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The Idler Pub -- half salon, half saloon -- will soon be permanently idle. Manny Drukier, 73, founder and proprietor, author and owner, is shutting the place down. Last call, Sept. 22. "I made the decision two weeks ago. It didn't come all of a sudden. I just thought now was a good time to stop."

The Idler will not be sold. It will simply disappear. Fifteen years of poems read, books launched, beer spilled down the drain. "Who would run it? Not a poet. Poets can't run anything." Manny says this with a smile. The kitchen is leased to a caterer. So ends an era.

As you may know, Manny was the money behind The Idler, an ornate, right-wing literary journal; he bought the old Laurier Life Insurance building at 255 Davenport Road, relocated the offices of the magazine, and opened the pub downstairs a few years later, "In order to have a place to hold editorial meetings."

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The magazine ceased to be in 1993, but the seeds of at least one marriage -- that of a certain Frum and Crittenden -- were sown in the Idler Pub. Manny says, "I saw it developing."

There was no stopping it, I suppose. David and Danielle, the Lilith and Frasier of the far right, were clearly made for each other.

Never mind the marriage; the Idler is most famous for its weekly literary readings. Manny was the best man of arts and letters. He let writers read, and he furnished readers with free drinks. "If you figure 50 weeks of readings a year, and three or four readers a week, spread over 15 years, that's a couple of thousand readers." Actually, it's more like twenty-six hundred readers, and a lot of free drinks.

His best memories? "Jane Urquhart. She had the smallest hands of any person I ever met. And Evelyn Lau, a bitter January evening, we had to turn people away at the door."

There were no fights in the 15 years of the Idler, unless you count the spats of poets, although -- let's be serious -- no one but another poet cares whose strophes are stroppiest.

Your obedient servant read at the Idler one night six years ago, while touring with a group of Montreal writers. Our ranks included the late Ian Stephens. He was rotting with AIDS at the time. His rage was as eloquent as any of his open wounds. He read his poems last. None of us had the nerve to follow him. He killed that night, and died not long afterwards.

In spite of the readings, the Idler was never very arty. Manny says: "People come in with laptops, we don't pay attention to them: A laptop, it's an affectation." He is a particular publican. "People who are bores, I make it so they don't come back."

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Idler regulars, a literate, devoted bunch, will soon have no local to which they can come back. The stylish Gillian McIntyre -- black capris, red hair, striking silver bracelet -- says, after a post-work drink, "This is such a civilized pub. I've had mad conversations in here. It's not a pick-up joint. A conversation will start at the bar and run around the room." She lives in Oakville; no Idler there.

Mae Scott, with her mane of smoky silver hair, lives nearby; she comes in often for a carafe of wine and brings a book to read. The place is like her living room. She's not sure where she'll go now. "We're going to miss you, Manny."

"I'm taking a leap into the unknown."

"Every day, something new."

"We adjust."

There are a number of parties planned to help regulars and others adjust; the most poignant of all may be on the evening of Sept. 13, when Idler magazine contributors and subscribers are invited to drown their sorrows in celebration.

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It should be noted that John Mackenzie -- it's his face drawn on the wall outside the bar -- drank the Idler's first drink 15 years ago. A tall, thoughtful man, he says, "I think it was a beer. A beer, yeah. I still come here three or four nights a week." "You're being too modest," says Manny, "it's six or seven nights, at least."

"Yeah," says John. "Yeah." jfiorito@globeandmail.ca

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