Leslieville Lives; Stories from the Ville – Alex Dordevic
Meet Alex. The only child of Peter and Joan, Alex’s surname is a bit of a giveaway to his roots. His father was born and raised in Serbia (former Yugoslavia), his mom in South Africa, but they met in Montreal in the 1950s when they both worked for the U.N., married and subsequently had Alex.
Alex’s formative years were spent globe-trotting due to his parents work with the UN. He spent most of his youth in Africa, namely The DRC (Congo) previously Zaire, Kenya and South Africa. He went to the American high school in Kinshasa and was also home schooled.
At 17, he left his folks and Africa to return to Canada, but not to Montreal. He went to study in St. John’s, Nfld., mostly because it was one of the few universities to accept students in January (when he decided to return), as opposed to September. Although his passion was with the ocean, (he wanted to be Jacques Cousteau), he ended up studying psychology. He graduated at 22 and left for Toronto shortly thereafter. “I knew no one, but came to make money. I felt like a fish out of water to be honest, but I had business sense. I was good at finding treasure ie; seeing a need and filling it.”
He started working in health care; a Toronto treatment centre for people with chemical dependency, later working for an American hospital group as a counsellor, triaging patients to the US. “After five years, I started to take my own advice. I was telling clients to ‘do what you love, live life’, trying to inspire them to get away from the drugs/alcohol lifestyle”.
Still into the DJ scene, which was big and bold here in Toronto, compared to St. John’s, it was around then that he had a brainchild. He noticed magazines like NOW and The Eye were band-driven, political, free papers, but there was nothing representing DJs in the city. “It was early 90s. Raves were big and opportunity knocked”, he smiles.
He had worked at a university paper, so knew the fundamentals of publishing. He started Tribe Magazine in 1993 and then tribe.ca in 1994 (one of the first online communities). “I wanted a name that meant coming together/community, so Tribe was perfect. I coined the name after observing ‘tribes’ of club kids roaming the streets looking for warehouse parties after the normal bars closed.” An avid photographer as well, Alex shot all the covers, the emphasis being on youth, colour and energy. While living in Africa, he’d taken a darkroom class, which changed his life and way of seeing things.
Tribe not only represented DJ culture, but also clubs, fashion and record stores. “I bootstrapped the whole operation and self-published it. I would include an Ad rate sheet in every issue, hang out at all the after club parties and talk to the key promoters (there weren’t many then – maybe 4!). Starsound was the first store to carry Tribe. Most Djs congregated there so it was the obvious first choice. Then, I would call the other stores, using different phones and names pretending to be a keen customer asking if I could get Tribe magazine there. Then a few days later I’d walk into these stores with Tribe – as me – and they’d say ‘Thank God you’re here! We’ve been getting all sorts of phone calls about this magazine’.” Ha ha. The perfect marketing strategy. Eventually Tribe would be distributed in quite a few stores/venues around Toronto, gaining a huge fan base and writers nationwide who volunteered their columns and helped distribute the magazine. By 2004, Tribe had a circulation of 100,000 readers a month. Tribe’s last issue was printed in 2003: 10 years, 105 issues. The online version is still alive and well. It contains over 4 million message posts, making it one of the largest message boards on the Internet today, covering a wide variety of topics including new music, technology, nightlife, culture, sports, men’s, women’s issues, and politics. The DJ Mixes area contains the most extensive collection of links to mixes by Canadian DJs in Canada.
“So, did Tribe make you a living?”. “Yes and no. It was a free magazine and the writers contributed for the love of it, but the advertising started to branch nationally vs just Toronto, so it provided most of my income. I did private photo shoots and record covers on the side to supplement my income, but the rent I was paying above a little pawn shop on Church St. kept going up and up. So, I eventually left and bought my house here in Leslieville in 1997.”
Once Tribe stopped printing, Alex continued to run the online version, but with more free time, he decided to pursue other interests. One, which has elements of his dream of being Jacques Cousteau, started out on land.
He saw an ad one day for a metal detector on craigslist. “The ad brought back a memory when I was in South Africa. I remember seeing an old lady on the beach searching for treasure with one. I responded to the ad, feeling somewhat sad that the young guy who was selling it, did so to buy his girlfriend a guitar.” A noble gesture for sure and in his first week, Alex found a gold ring. “Then, I was hooked!” he laughs. He’s found mostly junk, but the odd time he’ll find a little treasure which keeps him going. “Detecting on land is hard. I eventually moved to water, starting in Lake Ontario. Once I did that I never went back!”. His greatest find was a wedding band dating back to 1884. (See pic) “I was fascinated by this and did everything I could to trace the ring back the family somehow, including going on to Ancestry.ca. The best I could get was that the couple were from Hamilton, had one son, who never had children. The story kind of died there. It’s a keeper. I’m not selling that, but have sold many of my finds.” He showed me many of them. Fantastical pieces. Many from the 1930s and 40s, up to the 60s/70s. Mostly rings. Some custom-made, worth thousands of dollars, others with gems and diamonds worth as much or more. “It depends on the gold, the diamonds and the quality. I have a great appraiser.”
Every year Alex high tails it to South Africa for six months and continues the ‘treasure hunt’. His parents have both passed and left the family home to him. As well as South Africa, he’s hunted for treasure in other exotic locales, like Mauritius, where he’d just come from when we met up.
If you’re a member of the Leslieville Swap ‘n Sell, you may have seen this ad. It was this that prompted friend, Sandra Brunner, to message me with a couple of screenshots of this ad and this comment. “Wow. This guy would make a great story.” He sure has. Thanks Sandra! And not only that, it turns out Alex and I have mutual friends in the Tribe world. It really is a global village.