Edith Iglauer & Valerie Gibson
Saturday, February 03, 2007
In 1981 American writer Edith Iglauer wrote Seven Stones - A Portrait Of Arthur Erickson - Architect.
Not known by many is that Vancouver Magazine
gossip writer Valerie Gibson had helped Iglauer in her research for the book. At the time Gibson knew more about most of the people in power in Canada, BC and Vancouver than anybody. And Vancouver Magazine editor Malcolm Parry knew this. So Gibson wrote a monthly column that was the most popular column in any magazine in our city at the time. Mac knew that she had other talents and it was her 1978 cover article on 6 very old and brilliant Vancouver old timers (including Jessie Richardson) that was my first magazine cover. For many years she insisted that I take the pictures for her column, as she explained to Mac, "Alex knows who my people are and I don't have to tell him whom to photograph." It was amazing to see Gibson work a room. She would occasionally whisper in my ear, "My! That's the third time Elini Skalbania has worn that dress!"
In 1987 I went to the Sunshine Coast to photograph Edith Iglauer at her home. I was particularly excited as I had read and thoroughly enjoyed (even though I hate fishing, fish and I get seasick on any boat) her book and part memoir, Fishing With John
. It was there that I also first met her son Jay, by a previous marriage to Philip Hamburger of The New Yorker
fame. I don't think anybody else would have been so gracious and delighted as she was when I gave her as a gift (I was told that she was going to insist I stay for dinner) a large tin of Russian Caravan tea. The meal was one of the best I have ever had in my life. At dinner she told me that Valerie Gibson had a special gift for writing and she only wished she (Iglauer) could push Gibson to take her seriously and write.
I have not seen Gibson for at least 8 years and I last saw Iglauer and Jay a couple of years ago at a party at Arthur Erickson's
garden. Every once in a while (it is usually a Japanese restaurant or a theatre) that I delight in being able to loudly yell, "Hey, Hamburger!" and Jay comes over to where I am and he updates me on the status of his mother and the state of his plays. He is a playwright.
Today editor/art director Bob Mercer told me that during his short tenure as editor of Vancouver Magazine, Valerie Gibson won the magazine an award for a profile on John Turner.
Pancho El Esqueleto
Friday, February 02, 2007
I saw this forlorn guy (he is both a candle stick and a bell) at a Comercial Mexicana
near our home in the Estado de Mexico (outside Mexico City) 34 years ago. The company, which had a chain of large Save on Foods type stores in central Mexico was owned by the gracious, beautiful and very Spanish Mrs. Gonzalez. I had recently taken her family photographs. Rosemary and I liked her stores because she also sold fine Mexican crafts. I had spotted this 10-inch-long guy many times but nobody had bought him. Someone had written in bold black marker Pancho El Esqueleto
(Pancho the skeleton) at the bottom. I felt so sorry for him that I finally brought him home. He has been part of our family all these years and all that remains of the graffiti is that black sweap at the bottom. Inside the bell his maker signed Josefina Aguilar
. While there is no connection between death and Christmas we light the candle on Christmas Eve and Pancho shares space at our Christmas Eve dinner table.
Rebecca is always scoffing at me for saying stuff, "When I am dead, Rebecca...." She is beginning to understand me. After all we had a great time looking at every momia (mummy) in Guanajuato. They are frozen in death with horrible expressions on their faces. She is still suitably impressed by the final scene in Navigator - A Mediaeval Odyssey
we saw a few weeks back. The little boy's coffin is gently pushed into the sea at the end. I think it is important to recognize the existence of death at a young age.
When I was 11, or two years older than Rebecca the big orange Colegio Americano
bus picked me up at my house in Mexico City. On its way to the school in Tacubaya I always anticipated as it passed by the Panteón Dolores
which is a huge old cemetery in Mexico City. The long walls, all in the shade of the thick growth of trees, were full of moss. I could see the statues and crosses of the grave monuments peeking over the wall at me. I was never curious enough to visit. And of course, if I had my chance, I would go back to Mexico City just to "do" the Panteón with my cameras.
1/5 Of The Perfect Breakfast
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Since I can remember I have enjoyed tea. By tea I mean the stuff that Yankee Clipper ships carried while braving storms around Cape Horn, racing to get it home first from the Orient, to fetch the best price. I mean the kind that comes from fermented leaves of Camellia sinensis
. I am very subjective about tea. I think Japanese maccha (matcha) is glorified swamp water, no matter how many oxidants it may have. I will drink Japanese tea, so similar to celery broth, only with Japanese food. I love the taste of tea sweetened with a sweetener (white sugar) that does not add any taste. And, like Dr. Samuel Johnson I put enough milk (very little) to allay the bite of the tannin. My tea has to be the colour of Coke so I use two heaping spoonfulls in the teaball seen here which I steep for at least 5 minutes in my Ken Edwards mug from Tonalá, Mexico.
In Argentina I tolerated the excellent Taragüí that is grown in Corrientes province. In our years in Mexico (the importation of tea was prohibited) we treasured and re-used smuggled Ameerican Lipton Tea bags. The worst tea I ever had was at the fashionable Kinneret Café at the Zona Rosa. I asked for a té con leche
. I was served a cup of boiling milk with a tea bag. When we moved to Vancouver I swore I would always drink the best tea.
I purchase my favourite tea (with the exception of the wonderfully strong Taylors of Harrogate Yorkshire Gold at the Gourmet Warehouse
) at the Granville Island Tea Company
. They sell the perfect, strongest and most fragrant Earl Grey. If you look closely at the above image you will note the blue filaments and flower buds. Since I know so much about tea I have been ashamed to ask them what they are! Their Organic Assam and their Rwanda Rukeri are equally strong.
On my two visits to London what I missed most about Vancouver was a decent cup of tea. Unless a hotel used bottled water (they didn't) London tea is made with some swill the English call water. Their tea is terrible. But it was in London where I purchased one pound of Saint James Fannings for £85. I nursed that tea for six months back in Vancouver and this was the most complicated, interesting and flavourful tea I have ever had. In the best book about tea ( alas! a French book called The Book of Tea
) this is what it says of Saint James Fannings:Paris
Betjeman And Barton
23 Boulevard Malesherbes
This shop is regularly visited by tea lovers. Every day, a cup of one of the hundred and twenty teas stored in either red or green canisters is offered to customers - with any luck you may drop in on a day when a Saint James Fannings or a Castleton G.E.O.P. second flush is being brewed.
But tea is only 1/5 of my perfect breakfast. For 12 years Rosemary (2/5) and I have had our breakfast in bed (3/5) every day of the week. In leaner times we used to celebrate Sundays with bacon. But that is no more. Our perfect breakfast is her coffee, my tea, her toast with honey, my (two) Venice Bakery Brown & Serve Original Scissors (4/5), and a copy of our daily delivered New York Times (5/5).
Modern technology has changed the routine a bit. Since I read the Sunday New York Times at 10pm on Saturday, when it is delivered, Sunday is back to 4/5 perfection. It becomes 3/5 when our grandaughters have a sleepover (four for breakfast in bed was much too messy). But sitting at the table on Sunday with Lauren and Rebecca is 4/5 again and with the thin homemade pancakes it's a perfect breakfast again! Unsalted cultured butter and confectionary sugar on pancakes accompanied by an Earl Grey is as perfect as perfect is. Granville Island Routine
Joey Shithead, DOA's Consumate Gentleman
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Sometime in 1979 0r 1980 I went to see the band Devo (Are We Not Men?) at the Commodore Ballroom. I was completely turned on by the sound of their guitars. The only reason I was there is that Les Wiseman (right between Joey and Joey's first wife Cheryl whom Mac Parry always addressed as Mrs. Shithead), who wrote a rock column (In One Ear) for Vancouver Magazine
had told me we had to go. I knew nothing of rock and roll and much less anything related to punk or new wave music. Five years before when I lived in Mexico City I liked listening to the happy music of Ray Conniff. It was the Devo concert and a previous experience listening to Art Bergmann and the K-Tels at the Smiling Buddha that had awakened my enthusiasm for the raw-short-loud-primitive sound of punk. Leaving the Devo concert I will always remember seeing this scary, loud and angry man who somehow had not liked the Devo concert. That was my first glimpse of Joey Shithead (a.k.a. Joe Keithley In my long association with the lead singer of D.O.A. I learned to quickly realize that he was a gentleman (with an emphasis in gentle) but who will always be Vancouver's best spitter. Shortly after the Devo concert I took my first picture of Joey at the Buddha seen here with Simon on bass.
It was in 1984 that he knocked on my door in Burnaby, and said, "Alex we need a band photograph that is going to be published in Interview Magazine.
. I remember that for this elaborate photograph, above left, I used many lights and I got paid very poorly but this was my first published photograph in a New York publication.
Through the years Joey has been so pursuasive that I even photographed his wedding. Note, Wimpy Roy, a.k.a. Brian Goble (Subhumans, D.O.A.) feeding his baby at the ceremony.
Below you will see a picture of D.O.A. at the Smiling Buddha shaking some beer.
Note the picture at Gary Taylor's Rock Room with Joey on stage Taking Care of Business with Randy Bachman.
And the pictures all make me smile even the one I took in an 80s Yaletown.
I borrowed a fire hydrant from the city and carrying it in my Fiat I managed to break the seat. My favourite ever configuration of D.O.A. is this one seen below. It featured from left to right, Wimpy, Dave Gregg, Joey and Dimwit. It was Dave Gregg's fantastic guitar in tandem with Joey's that made any D.O.A. concert an exciting sonic experience.
To be safe from all the pogoing and other near and on stage shennanigans I always positioned myself on stage right, right under that other gentle soul, Gregg who always made sure nobody ever bothered me and my photo gear.
one of D.O.A.'s biggest and most generous fan was pioneer music video
maker Brian Ross who appears here with Joey. I remember having to go to
Granada Television who gave me the TV cabinet for the picture. I also
had to rent a smoke machine from the CBC for the shot. Ross made the
video on a rock bottom budget.
In Praise of Terry David Mulligan
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
In my 32 years in Vancouver I have photographed many people and the list is getting longer and longer as I have yet to stop. But few people I have photographed through those years were as gracious and as pleasant as Terry David Mulligan. No, Mulligan is not dead. I remembered him this morning as I was driving Rosemary to work. On 1st and Columbia I stopped to let a black unmarked Vancouver Police cruiser pass by. The man at the wheel (he had no passenger) seemed to be very busy with a cell phone in his left ear.
At least 11 years ago (in one of the many times I photographed Terry David Mulligan) I was riding in Mulligan's van. We were going to pick up his dog at the dog groomers for a photograph for TV Guide. The phone rang in the van and Mulligan pressed a button. He had his cell phone connected to his van's sound system and he did not have to let go of any of his hands to talk.
It would seem to me that Mulligan's early years in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police served him well and he knew all about driving safely. If only our Vancouver's Finest would follow his example!
It is always good to find a reason for writing about Terry David Mulligan as I can show off some of the many photos I took of him. He has always been a ham and a good sport. Here he is with his personal trainer.
Malcolm Parry's Privileged Position
Monday, January 29, 2007
Malcolm Parry has a definition for the privileged position. A person in such a position is able to see what most cannot. This is why he dispatched many photographers to take pictures from the top of bridges, very high buildings or to fly low in a helicopter over Wreck Beach. In one such instance that I would rather forget he made my fly in a Harvard trainer (the British version of the AT-6 Texan) to photograph a stunt team flying upside down through the Lions in West Vancouver. To do the job I had to fill my mouth with Dramamine.
I do agree with Mac that looking up from below is not privileged. One has to be above and looking down. But I also believe that there are other forms of privileged positions. I remember vividly being told by a customs officer in the Acapulco airport that I could not bring in all my photographic equipment. I respectfully asked him to turn around as there was a gentleman there who had the necessary permits. He turned around and there was my friend Licenciado Felipe Ferrer Junco, the chief of the city's Judicial Police and his bodyguard holding an AK-47. I was whisked away without my bags being searched. I felt most privileged.
And here are two more examples of a privileged position of sorts. They were taken in the dressing rooms of well known Vancouver strip parlours. The one above left was at the Number 5 Orange and the other at the Drake Hotel.
Jack Diamond, The Brush Man & The Sure Bet
Sunday, January 28, 2007
In 1972 I had a teacher friend in Mexico City who had fled Cuba with his family during Castro's takeover. His name was Jorge Urréchaga. He taught English literature and was a fine operatic tenor. He had a system for betting horses. Every once in a while he would call me in the morning to tell me that he, Rosemary (my wife) and I were going to dine in the evening. I always knew what that meant. In the afternoon I had to accompany him to the horse races at the Hipódromo De Las Américas
. His system involved meeting up with a Jewish man when they paraded the horses before the race. The man had a brush company. Most of his brushes used horse hair and he was an expert in determining when a horse was healthy or not. We would watch the races and we would never bet until Jorge would say, "¡Ahora, sí!" I never really liked to bet even when the bet seemed to be a sure one so my winnings were much more modest than Jorge's. We always won and we invariably celebrated in the evening with Champagne at Sep's our favourite restaurant, which served food from Alsace-Lorraine. It was on Tamaulipas street about a block from the house where Edward Weston had lived and photographed Tina Modotti nude on the roof. I am not sure if the brush man was part of the appearance and Jorge just knew which races were fixed. I never asked him. He never seemed to abuse his knowledge. He played excellent bridge and had the ability of being able to memorize instantly any deck of cards from minute imperfections on the edges or nicks on their backs. I never lost at bridge when he was my partner.
I supect my father was a burrero
, which is the Argentine slang for someone who bets on the horses. He took me to the imposing hipódromo in Buenos Aires a few times and I was always impressed and intimidated by his friends who all seemed to carry a gun in the armpit.
It is perhaps for this reason that I have never enjoyed horse racing and boxing, another sport that seems to be seedy and subject to rules that exceed the mathematical ones on chance.
In October 1987 Harvey Southam dispatched me to photograph Jack Diamond at Exibition Park for his magazine, Equity. It had rained all week so when I indicated to Mr. Diamond that I wanted to photograph him on the race course he told me we were going to get dirty. We did.
I will never forget what followed my photograph. He told me, "Alex, let's go inside and get our shoes shined. I remember very well how he slipped the shoe shine man a bright red $50 bill.