Whistling Along - The B-Line Bus & The Auburn
Saturday, January 20, 2007
On any nice sunny day in the garden, especially on Sundays when the noise level of nearby Granville Street is down I have been listening to a strange whistling sound that has grown on me. The Kerrisdale tracks are seldom used by trains these days. I miss that midnight train siren. The only sound that evokes the romance of transport from the past is that curious relatively new whistle. My friend Paul Leisz who has been know to drive one, says it's the supercharger of the B-Line articulated bus engine.
In the mid 80s my daughter Ale and I had a thrilling ride in Ed Aveling's convertible Auburn. As we sped on the Upper Levels Highway I heard the whistling sound. I asked Aveling what the noise was. "It's the supercharger."
I photographed Aveling's Auburn and other antique cars for an article that Alyn Edwards had written for Vancouver Magazine
. I got to see many fine cars but Aveling's Auburn was tops.
He lived in a house in West Van. In his living room he invited us to go down to the motor rooms to see his collection. It was then that I realized that he had designed (Aveling was a contractor) his house around separate garages (the motor rooms). He told me he had recently spent $7000 on new leather upholstery for the Auburn.
When Ale saw the car she asked, "Why is it that new cars in a showroom don't look as new as this one?"
Corrie Clark - Actress
Friday, January 19, 2007
I first met Corrie Clark ten years ago at an acting agency Christmas party. Malcolm Parry had invited me to accompany him on an evening's activities. Mac bantered with this diminutive young lady whose face could change so quickly that she reminded me of Jean Seberg, Rebecca de Mornay, a young Alice Liddell and in some moments Audrey Hepburn. I decided to be direct. Corrie Clark was receptive and I had three photo sessions with her in my studio.
I don't think that in all my years as a photographer in Vancouver have I ever had such a clash of wills with anybody as I did with Clark. She was difficult, rude, unreceptive (at times) but when I looked at my contacts of her I realized how amazing our "collaboration" was. So I suffered in silence.
I asked her if she could cry on demand for my camera. She did this easily. There was a touch of bitterness in the 26 or 27 year-old actress. It seems that she had been typecast as teenager in all the movies she made. She longed to be "made up in full" - to play a real adult.
But that was not to be at the time. She also played the young girl who is raped. She told me how she would be placed on a revolving bed after having to remove all her clothes in a crowded set and told to fake an orgasm when the film rolled. She made the poignant observation that dogs and other animals were treated better in some local productions.
I put these photos away and I forgot them. Recently I received a an email from Clark where she apologized for her actions in the past.
My only reaction is that I don't need an apology as these photographs are ample proof that I was rewarded in full.
Corrie Clark - Revisited
Al Tomko - Gentleman Wrestler
Thursday, January 18, 2007
The past can seem rosy in some cases precisely because it was. I have never held a job in Vancouver but the closest I ever got to a 9 to 5 job was in the height of the 80s when I was virtually taking most of the pictures at Vancouver Magazine. Mac Parry's magazine was on the corner of Davie and Richards and looking back I can assert that it was a centre of all things cultural, musical, theatrical and sometimes, even, it was a circus.
Vancouver Magazine then was a city magazine, our city magazine, during an era when city magazines mattered. Everybody knew this so those who were part of the city went over to Vancouver Magazine and asked to see the editor. More often than not they got their wishes. I remember a young man who walked in from the street with a collection of slides of people wearing Hawaii T shirts. A month later the magazine had a feature with just those pictures. On any given day (on one given day of a Christmas party Mac invited the local prostitutes in for drinks with us) you could bump into Max Wyman or in this case with legendary Winnipeg wrestler Al Tomko. Mac came up to me and told me, "Go home and fetch your lights. I want you to photograph this gentleman." A gentleman he was and my past on Davie and Richards was truly rosy.
Toothpaste Glass 161
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
My maternal grandmother Lolita went to a boarding school for girls in Spain in the 19th century and was issued sterling silver cup No 161 to drink with her meals. I never asked her the name of the school or where in Spain her school was. I never asked her if all she drank out of it was water or how she polished it. By the mid 1950s the cup had been relegated to function as a toothpaste glass. We never ever called it a toothbrush glass. When I married Rosemary, she saw the sentimental value of cup 161 and insisted we display it with our collection of pocket watches and other family memorabilia.
For 39 years we have had a varied assortment of toothpaste glasses. In our early years in Burnaby, our daughters borrowed them for mixing watercolours and Rosemary and I might have popped Eno or Alka Seltzer to fight stomach ailments. I hated the plastic glasses and the glass ones either looked perpetually dirty or they would fall and break. I was much too lazy to vacuum the glass splinters. Once I bled over our white sheets with a cut foot. I learned my lesson. In the last year we have been practical. In a recent trip to Mexico we stayed overnight in a Seattle Travelodge and Rosemay pinched half a dozen plastic water cups which have been splendid. Or so I thought.
Rosemary's 15 year-old male cat, Toby, has always insisted in drinking his water from either the bathtub tap or the bathroom sink tap. Rosemary first tried leaving either taps running for a while. The water noise drove me nuts until I discovered that if I placed the Travelodge glass, full of water by the sink tap, Toby would climb up and happily drink from it.
Must I share my toothpaste glass with a cat? Or could it be the appropriate time to bring back my grandmother's school glass?
King Solomon's Mine, Thumbs Down - Navigator, Thumbs Up
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
There is a keen enjoyment in deciding on a movie that I can watch on a Saturday with Rebecca who is 9. I want to replicate those rosy periods of my life when my father and mother or my grandmother took me to the movies. It is difficult because going to the movies with them involved the excitement of taking the train to Retiro in Buenos Aires and then connecting from there on the "subte" (subway) that would take us to Lavalle which was the station below the long street that was one movie house after another. In what they called "programa continuado" we would go into a movie, and see the middle of the movie, the beginning and then we would leave where we had arrived to go to another. We saw cowboy, pirate movies and even war movies. If Abuelita did not like these movies she was pretty good at hiding it. After the shows we would then go and sip on tall strawberry or chocolate ice cream sodas. My parents were a bit more discerning and took me to see movies they wanted to see. That is how I saw Beau Geste
and most of the other Gary Cooper films. My mother loved Herbert Marshall, Joseph Cotton, Ronald Colman, Stewart Granger (she took me to Scaramouche
, twice) and Leslie Howard. We saw as many Gene Tierney movies as came to Argentina, including my favourite ghost story movie, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
with Rex Harrison. But I was scared to death by Katherine Hepburn's pants and hated her movies. My guess is that the woman confused my early sexuality. One of the best moments was going to see Laura
(with not only Gene Tierney but with Dana Andrews) with my father and mother. I could not help but notice that my father's trench coat was very similar to Andrews's. That could be why I have had a special fondness for all of Dana Andrews's movies ever since.
Seeing a film on our own TV, without having to go anywhere, is not quite the same thing. It means that if the movie does not interest Rebecca she can get up and go to the piano or out into the garden. And she has been quick to do that. I have to be very selective.
I have picked some good ones which have backfired on me. Rebecca nags me that she wants to see Tarzan of the Apes
again. We enjoyed Gunga Din
but Roman Holiday
taxed her attention span. I was right that the special effects of the much more recent (1985) Young Sherlock Holmes
would suck her into seeing it. I would not be surprised if she insists we see Scaramouche
On Saturday night I took out two film DVDs from Videomatica. One I thought was a sure bet. I picked the Deborah Kerr and Stewart Granger Technicolor King Solomon's Mines
. As soon as the the two hunters in a safari shot two elephants, Granger's sympathetic and sensitive safari leadership was not enough to calm down Rebecca. But on a lark I took out my favourite time-travel film of all time, Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey
. This 1988 Vincent Ward New Zealand (in co-production with Australia) has a fairly complicated plot. Rebecca (and Lauren, 4, was never bored), was transfixed by the b+w portions of the film that give the impression someone took a time machine into a 14th century Cumbria copper-mining village to film it. Once it ended Rebecca ran to my computer to Google "the plague". I read her the best description on how the plague started from Edward Rutherford's Sarum
On a warm August morning, a little after dawn, the small ship had passed the low headland and come slowly through the sheltered harbour waters to tie up beside the quay at Christchurch. The ship contained a cargo of wine, from the English province of Gascony in south west France. The sailors, eight bluff, healthy fellows came briskly down the gangplank and were welcomed by the men of the waterfront. Soon afterwards they began to unload.
They did not know about their passenger and his small companion.
Rebecca was shocked when Rutherford reveals the mysterious passenger to be a black rat and his companion a common flea.
Cocktails With George, Alex & The Wrestler Who Never Was
Monday, January 15, 2007
My friend John Lekich suggested that I keep on the drinking theme by writing about our mutual experience with George Plimpton at the Wedgewood Hotel on November 1990. I threw the suggestion back and told him, "You write it."
When Alex suggested that I reminisce about our professional encounter with the late George Plimpton back in the early nineties, I was delighted to oblige. Alex and I have collaborated on many articles over the years. But the founder of the famed Paris Review
– a legendary editor, writer and raconteur who launched his distinguished career by interviewing Dorothy Parker – is the only subject who ever suggested that we indulge in a cocktail before noon.
True to his impeccable Ivy League breeding, Plimpton offered us first crack at the little bottles in the hotel mini-bar before indulging in his personal choice of a gin and tonic. I recall a distinct thrill at raising a glass in the company of a man who was one of the guests at Truman Capote’s famed Black and White Ball back in the sixties.
As the originator of “participatory journalism” – a form of reportage that saw the young and gangly Plimpton partake in everything from boxing with Archie Moore to playing goal for the Boston Bruins – Alex and I were startled to discover that his most terrifying professional experience was playing the triangle under the demanding baton of Leonard Bernstein. At the time, George was toying with the idea of managing a wrestler who limited his ringside banter exclusively to Shakespearean text. As an example, he mimed an overhead body slam and roared: “I am the grass! I cover all!” When I suggested that he was still spry enough to actually play the role of cultivated wrester, his eyes lit up with excitement. “Do you really think I could do it?” he asked.
For the rest of our time together, George reclined on the bed and related intimate stories of his friendships with everyone from Hemingway to A.J. Liebling. He had that rare quality of being perfectly elegant and perfectly relaxed at the same time. When Alex suggested a portrait that involved Plimpton toying with the stem of his eyeglasses, his response proved that he was both a seasoned journalist and a true gentleman. “Of course,” he said. “I’ll do anything you’d like.”
A few years ago, I bumped into the publicist who shepherded him around town that day. “He couldn’t believe that you knew so much about who he really was,” she recalled. “You made him so very happy.” I went home, fixed myself a gin and tonic and thought of George.
Lord Gilbey Sips A Tio Pepe
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Sometime in early 1986 I arrived early to the billiard room of the Mandarin Hotel, the most luxurious hotel in Vancouver at the time. It is now the Metropolitan Hotel on Howe Street. I was there to take a portrait of:
The Honourable John Hugh Philip Gilbey, Lord Vaux of Harrowden. But he was also the unnoficial Ambassador of Gin.
I set up my light on one side of the billiard table and my large camera on the tripod. I was ready for the man. When he arrived he looked at me and said, "Alex you have everything ready, I see, but you did not take into consideration that I am a southpaw." I did not see myself putting my light stand on the billiard table to light Sir John from his left. I thought about it for a few seconds; I removed my Hudson's Bay Harris Tweed jacket, placed it on the table and then the light stand on it. I took ten exposures. Sir John gave me a bottle of gin which he autographed first. I have never opened it.
In his talk with writer Garry Marchant, Sir John told Marchant that his favourite gin drink was as a summer drink, a gin and tonic. He called it a long drink. But he said that his favourite drink of all was a fine claret or a bottle of vintage port "If I was in a condemned cell and they said I could have a jolly nice bottle of wine with my last meal, I'd choose a bottle of vintage port."
During the interview, in his room, I noticed a bottle of Tio Pepe on his private bar. I asked him why he had it. I found out that Sir John was related by marriage to the Spanish Gonzalez Byass company that makes the very pale and very dry sherry, my favourite soup improver ( a shot in consommé is divine). I asked him if he had concoted some sort of drink that included Gilbey's Gin and Tio Pepe. With a big smile in his face (after having sung the Gilbey's Gin Song while accompanying himself on the piano, he had a piano in his room) he said, "Yes, it's called Primos Hermanos
(first cousins) and you substitute Tio Pepe for the vermouth in a martini.
I decided to try the drink in the downstairs bar. I ordered it and the bartender put a disgusting look on his face. Without going into details I told him, "I have it from the horse's mouth that this is a fine drink." Since I am not much of a connoisseur, all I can say is that it adequately suited my needs for that afternoon.
In 1995, the hotel was no longer the Mandarin Hotel and the library had lost the billiard table. I was present during a long interview with Evelyn Hart. Like most men I fell for the swan.
After the interview and my photos I asked Evelyn if she would accompany me for a drink downstairs. She did. We had a couple of Primos Hermanos and I told her the story. She looked at me and said, "It's all right."