A Brief Encounter With A Cellist & The Hairdresser
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Brief Encounters 8 at the ANZA Club( I went last night on the last night) brought the combination of talents that at a first impression one would think shared no common ground. This unlikely idea came from the combined heads of the The Tomorrow Collective made up by modern dancers Mara Branscombe, Katy Harris-McLeod and Jennifer McLeish-Lewis. These three women confirm my suspicion that Vancuouver dancers are not only graceful, but articulate and intelligent, too!
Brief encounters gives 12 artists, paired up, two weeks to think of something. In most cases none of these artists and performers have never met before. To me it is going to be hard to surpass the ultimate brief encounter (Brief Encounters 6, I think) between Butoh dancer Jay Hirabayashi and a female bagpipes player.
But close was the collaboration of cellist Cris Derksen
and Norman The Hairguy. Besides listening to Derksen's avant garde electronic cello The Hairguy injected some humour and made it twice as memorable.
The only damper for me is the constant filling with sound (sometimes silence between performances is like Champagne between courses) by soundman Jacob Cino. He insists in playing reggae with drums, drums with reggae and drums with drums.
My revenge would consist in putting him in a room and have him listen to all of Haydn's symphonies. But this is just a small quibble. For Brief Encounters 9, April 16th to April 18th, I will take ear plugs. Meanwhile here's to the three beautiful black-wigged women of The Tomorrow Collective. Below is one of them, Katy Harris McLeod
Doctor Death Checks Out Prematurely- Posthumous Thoughts
Friday, December 07, 2007
When I was 21 I wrote some poems to Buenos Aires cemeteries. I evidently thought then that I wasn't immortal. Now, for a change, I am afraid not to die.
Jorge Luís Borges
I remember very well sometime around 1950 riding a colectivo
(bus) with my cousin Wenceslao
and my Uncle Tony. We passed by a cemetery on our way to General Electric Field in the outskirts of Buenos Aires to fly a U-control Stuka (It crashed and burned as the wings bent and done to scale made it highly unstable. In the photograph in the above link my Uncle Tony built a Stuka with more conventional wings and this Stuka flew well.) As the colectivo was rounding the cemetery my Uncle Tony told us, "Some day when I am dead, and buried in yonder cemetery you will come and visit me and remember our good times together." My Uncle Tony died a few years ago in North Carolina and I was never able to find his son Wenceslao so we will probably never share those memories again. Three prominent Canadians died recently and I wrote my little memorials here: Jane Rule
, James Barber
and Norval Morrisseau
. The latter's death and my remembering what Chris Dafoe wrote brought a rapid, pleasant and funny response from Dafoe:The obit in the Globe ran under the byline of Donn Downey (aka Doctor Death), the longtime obit writer (and former entertainment editor) who obviously banked this one way back when, figuring Morrisseau was likely to pop off at any moment. In fact, he survived Downey by more than six years. Then again, I suppose it is the hope of every writer that their work live on after they die. In newspapers, obit writers are among the few who can count on that happening.
Somehow I find that funny and it made me remember another incident, not funny at all, that happened to my mother, Filomena de Irureta Goyena when she was a child in Manila. She wrote about it in this poem penned in Veracruz, Mexico in 1965:Posthumous Gift
"Your birthday's coming soon
What will you have for then?"
"But it's three months away....
Oh yes, I want the doll house in the store."
"Let's go see it dear child
It will be yours, I promise."
October came & took my father beyond
(or so they said)
My birthday just a few days later
Brought with it the doll house
And the card "To my dear daughter
On her birthday."
"He can't be gone, Mother!
See his card, his gift.
He's here, I know he's here."
I didn't believe or understand
Till I was seven years old.DeathMore DeathEven More DeathAnd Even More DeathAnd More
Men for All Ages
They were men for all ages
Captain Kirk, Spock, Scotty and Bones
They were men for all ages
Somehow evil was overthrown
They always strove for honour
Never fought for gold
Live long and prosper
Never really got old
Live long and prosper
Never really got old
Joe Keithley, Falling Apart Songs, SOCAN
I received an invitation from Joe "Shithead" Keithley to attend his band's (Band of Rebels) CD release party and fund raiser to help Marc Emery
in his US court costs. The show was at the Plaza on Granville and Smythe. The Plaza used to be a movie theatre and its conversion was a happy one. It was an excellent venue with a very good and very loud (naturally!) sound system.
Even though I was in my pijamas and in bed by 10, I managed to get dressed and showed up at the Plaza, an hour later, with an element of anguish, dread and caution. Would I enjoy myself? At 65 am I too old for this sort of thing?
I was wrong on every count. The band was excellent with lots of variation. They would have a sax and trumpet or they had an extra drummer or a female vocalist. The band count was anywhere from 6 to 10 members at any given moment.
And the songs! The songs! I heard the ultimate rock paean to the original Star Treck (Men for All Ages
), and a pop song I will be humming for a long time called People Power
But what was the best was to run into faces from my past. I could have taken a digital camera along (there were many with digital cameras there) and show you what they look like now after 30 or more years.
But I think I did well to leave my camera at home. I would rather remember them as they were, in their prime (although Joe seems to be from a Punk Portrait of Dorian Gray and has weathered very well).
If I am 65 then DOA's original manager, Ken Lester would be close to my age. An old man he was with a smile on his face, all excited about the band's performance. "Alex they have rehearsed for about 6 hours for this and they never had all the band members in place at any given time." They sounded great to me. Ken is seen in the colour photograph sitting at Christmas dinner in a black tux. The little boy was and is Bev Davies's (read below) son.
The scary (but never scary in real life) Randy Rampage (below) with his long bleached blond hair and his motorcycle boots gave me a hug and placed a copy of the CD in my hands. "I am relinquishing my $0.14 royalty by giving this to you," he said.
Jumping around, pogo style, up front was a stubby man with a smile on his face. It looked like former singer (The Subhumans) and former bassist (DOA) Wimpy Roy (in top b+w photograph second from left). But it couldn't have been Roy because of that smile. But it was. I tapped him on the shoulder and he beamed at me. At one time I would have treated him with a touch of fear and respect.
The band was so loud that I had to resort to the old trick of chewing on a VISA receipt and making a couple of moist little balls which I forced into my ears. The low frequencies sort of disappeared and I could hear Bill Runge's sax and John Korsrud's trumpet.
When the concert was over there was enough clapping that the band came back for an encore. And that's when the fun really began. The first encore was my fave People Power and then Joe's "bunch of reprobates" including Randy Rampage and Wimpy Roy jumped on stage and joined in for killer renditions of Goodnight Irene
and Born to Be Wild
. It was then when I spotted ex-punk photographer Bev Davies (sorry I don't have a picture of her) and the lovely Susanne Tabata (below, right) who is working on a documentary on Vancuver's punk scene of the 70s and 80s.
I had my picture taken with them and I felta bit old but I kept thinking of all my friends there who surely must be Men for All Ages. After all these years they have stuck to to their guns and unwavingly have stuck to what they do best which is to entertain us while making us aware of the inhumanity and greed of our times. Ah! If we only had a little help from:
Captain Kirk, Spock, Scotty and Bones
When I got into my car I slipped the CD into the player and I am happy to report that this is one "punk" record that is clean, hummable and the lyric sheet included is not really necessary. It's that clear.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
As more and more films deteriorate to glorified music videos or offer a half'n half vision of animation with the real, Rosemary and I have found solace and pleasure viewing the films of channel 46, Turner Classic Movies (TCM). I must even admit that we have some jury-rigged TV trays and we watch films while eating. Recently we viewed Cecil B. de Mille's The Greatest Show On Earth
. Host, Robert Osborne made a comment on how this film was one of the last that represented the end of an era. There was hope and redemption in this film. There was little indication of the angst of a possible atomic holocaust. There was no revelation of the extreme greed of modern capitalism that so sadly affects our present times.
In many wasys Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life
(1946) to me is a similar film. It is a classic three act film/play where we meet the hero in the first act, are introduced to the conflict and villain in the second and see the resolution in the third. But this is a film that somehow escaped my radar because my parents never took me to see it. My first viewing happened in Vancouver in the mid 70s.
Seeing it as a play in the Arts Club Theatre Company's production on the Granville Island stage was a refreshing treat over the yearly viewing of the film as a Christmas tradition. The fine adaptation as a play by Philip Grecian retains elements of the film by intelligent projection of parts of the film as part of the set design.
But my wife, who is a fan of director Dean Paul Gibson (above) wasn't fooled. She (She-who-does-not-like-anything) looked at me with a smile during the intermission and told me play has all kind wonderful Gibson touches. Perhaps she is right. Gibson's touches are based on the humour of a director who happens to be a fine actor and has the potential of being the best stand-up comedian this city has ever seen.
The cast is good but of special note is villain Henry Potter played by Kevin McNulty. I was never convinced by Lionel Barrymore in the film version. Kevin McNulty, who has a passing resemblance to Carroll O'Connor, is believable (scary real) as the modern greedy capitalist. He reminded me of past logging company and energy company executives I have photographed for business magazines and the Globe & Mail.
The whole situation of the huge conglomorate attempting to forcibly take over an independent institution (that is helping the disavantaged acquire homes of their own) parallels what seems to be the ills of Vancouver. At a recent city affairs lecture at Simon Fraser (downtown campus) ex-premier and author, Mike Harcourt said "There is one simple way to solve the problem of the homeless and this is to build them homes."
Or another comparison with the villanous Henry Potter is the situation of Arthur Erickson's Graham House in Horseshoe Bay. The present owner, Shiraz Lalji, wants to build a new, bigger home on the site, which he bought in 1988 for $925,000. He has applied for a demolition permit, which will probably be issued in the next few days. Reporter John Mackie of the Vancouver Sun recently wrote:Shiraz Lalji is one of three brothers who own West Vancouver's Larco Developments, which owns Park Royal Shopping Centre and recently spent more than $1 billion buying seven buildings from the federal government and then leasing them back for 25 years. In 2006, Canadian Business magazine ranked the Lalji family the 50th richest in Canada, with a net worth of about $928 million.
I am guessing that Lalji, who probably lives in a wonderfully apointed flat in London would stay in Vancouver for a couple of weeks a year. Why would our architectural heritage in any way be of his importance?
But this has to end on a more positive and hopeful note. I am thinking of Sasa Brown (below) who plays the town's "fast girl" Violet Bick. To me she is much more interesting than the angelic and perfect Mary Hatch Bailey played well, as well as the plot allows her to, by Jennifer Lines. When Sasa Brown moves on stage, she moves on stage! And then I spotted those silk stockings with that seam in the back ("Start at the ankle and follow that seam all the way up, until it disappears... ," someone once told me.) on Brown's legs. Plus she wore satin!
In a perfect It's A Wonderful Life, Clarence Oddbody would not give George Bailey the chance to see a world without him being born. It would be a world where he would have married Violet instead of Mary.
December 6 in the afternoon.
Henry Potter 1, George Bailey 0
Arthur Erickson's Graham house was demolished today.
Norval Morrisseau The Grand Shaman & His Hungarian Son
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Norval Morrisseau, 1935-2007
Sometime near the end of May 1999, Chris Dafoe
, the Western Arts Correspondent in Vancouver for the Globe & Mail
called me up most enthusiastically that I had to photograph a native (Ojibwa) artist, Norval Morrisseau with a strange ex-street person of Hungarian extraction Gabor (Gabe) Vadas. Vadas was Morrisseau's "adopted" son ("His kinship with the old man is not recognized by family or law," Dafoe wrote) after they met in the streets of Vancouver or as Dafoe wrote (he had interviewed both Morrisseau and Vadas at Joe Fortes on Thurlow and Robson):A dozen years ago, those same people [diners at Joe Fortes] might have stepped over both the old Indian and the young Hungarian on their way to this restaurant. In the late 1980s, both Norval Morrisseau and Gabor Vadas were living on the streets of Vancouver. Morrisseau's presence on those streets - the news that he was selling sketches for the price of bottles of booze, sleeping in parks, prone to unintelligible rants, telling people that "to get drunk in Vancouver is the most beautiful thing there is" made national headlines in 1987. He was, after all, one of the most important artists this country had ever produced, a member of the Order of Canada, a man whose work was collected by major galleries across Canada and around the world.
Dafoe finished his fine interview:As lunch wound down and the coffee grew cold, Vadas continued to talk about life with Norval. When he was asked how their relationship has changed over the years, it became clear that he sees himself s more than just a caretaker or an agent, even more than a son. "Our relationship started out as student and teacher, because Norval is a grand shaman," he said. "I think it has evolved into a relationship of two teachers. Norval has figured out how to get the power and how to hand it down to me. He's taken me as an apprentice. If Norval died tomorrow, he wouldn't be leaving this world, because he would continue to see it through me."
The old Indian looked on silently, through heavy lidded eyes, as his Hungarian son talked excitedly about mystical tales of legend and the power they possess. It is a world the old man knows well, a world that has been much kinder to him than this one.
Chris Dafoe, April 10, 1999 The Globe & Mail
Noël Coward, Hycroft & The Mystery Bassoonist
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Excuses sometimes happen for very good reasons. For example it is very pleasant to be depressed if one then has the excuse to ameliorate it with the purchase of a pair of shoes or a thick chocolate milkshake at The Red Onion on 41st Avenue in Kerrisdale.
In the case here the excuse is hazy. The excuse is a book I bought for a quarter not too long ago at a book bin in Safeway at Oakridge Centre. It came as a discard from the West Vancouver Memorial Library. It is a 1982 British Edition (Butler & Tanner Ltd) of The Noël Coward Diaries
edited by Graham Payn & Sheridan Morley. The picture of Noël Coward
may have been taken in the 60s judging by the tie and the vintage typewriter (could it be a Hermes or an Olivetti?). But the other photos could represent the Coward years earlier in the 20s and 30s.
The diary covers from 1941 to 1969 which is way off, to match the look of the photographs I took perhaps 15 years ago at Hycroft (the University Women's Club of Vancouver) at 16th and MacRae Avenue. The clothing and underwear came from the collection of Ivan Sayers and the Vancouver Museum.
But the excuse is sufficient for me to note here some of my favourite entries of this book that never leaves my bedside table.
Saturday August 6 1960 Paris
....I have just read carefully, Waiting for Godot, and in my considered opinion it is pretentious giberish, without any claim of importance whatsoever. I know that it received great critical acclaim and I also know that it's silly to go on saying how stupid the critics are, but this really enrages me. It is nothing but phoney surrealism with occasional references to Christ and mankind. It has no form, no basic philosophy and absolutely no lucidity. It's too conscious to be written off as mad. It's just a waste of everybody's time and it made me ashamed to think that such balls could be taken seriously for the moment
To continue in this carping vein, I have also read The Charioteer by Miss Mary Renault. Oh dear, I do wish well-intentioned ladies would not write books about homosexuality. This one is turgid, unreal and so ghastly earnest. It takes the hero - soi-disant - three hundred pages to reconcile himself to being queer as a coot, and his soul-searching and deep, deep introspection is truly awful. There are 'queer' parties in which everyone calls everyone 'my dear' a good deal, and over the whole book is a shimmering lack of understanding of the subject. I'm sure the poor woman meant well but I wish she'd stick to recreating the glory that was Greece and not fuck about with dear old modern homos.
Tuesday 11 December 1962 London
....On Monday I lunched with Joyce and did some shopping, and in the evening took Rebecca to the premiere of Lawrence of Arabia. It was a grand gala for the Queen, Prince Philip and all. A truly magnificent picture, brilliantly directed and acted and superbly photographed. Peter O'Toole very fine and far, far more attractive than Lawrence could ever hope to be. I said to him afterwards that if Lawrence had looked like him there would have been many more than twelve Turks queueing up for the buggering session....
The woman (right) on the first photograph above is Patricia Keen one of the bassoonists of the Vancouver Philharmonic Orchestra
. She is also the woman in the second photograph, right.
Grasshoppers, Butterflies & Snow
Monday, December 03, 2007
While snorkel diving near the Gulf of Mexico Isla Sacrificios
, off Veracruz I happened to step on a sea urchin. The Mexican Red Cross could not help me much as most of the needles broke off, painfully, on the surface of my feet. A year later in 1967 the last of the glass-like needles was ejected by my body. Since then I have had the attitude that the sea is out to get me and that I must be resolute and careful when in it. I feel the same about snow. I respect both.
In my years in Argentina the skies brought us plagues of grasshoppers or white butterflies in the millions. Pamperos
, or winds from the interior, brought dust that almost clouded the sky. But I never saw snow. I could look at the horizon on the pampa, turn my head around 360 degrees with nothing, except maybe a lonely ombú
( a large tree-like shrub of the Argentine Pampa), breaking the pleasant monotony. The closest I ever got to snow in Buenos Aires was watching my father spray our Chrismas tree with a can of Noma Snow, a few days before December 25th with the contrast of temperatures that hovered around 35. It is summer down there.
My first glimpse of snow, real snow, not the picture kind, happened in Mexico City in 1955. When I arrived there, the skies were transparent. There was no pollution to hide the beautiful volcanoes, Popocatepetl and Ixtaccihuatl. I did not touch snow until sometime in the late 60s when it snowed at higher elevations near Mexico City in a place called El Desierto de los Leones (the Desert of the Lions). It melted before I could decide if I liked it or not.
In my first year in Vancouver, around late March 1976, while working at Tilden Rent-A-Car (on Alberni Street, across the street from the Ritz Hotel), I predicted snow. I was told by everybody working there that I knew nothing of snow and that it never snowed in Vancouver in March. My fellow workers made a bet with me and the prize for the winner would be a coconut cream pie (my fave) from the White Spot, around the corner on Robson Street (at the time there was one between Thurlow and Burrard). It did snow and I was forced to eat the whole pie in one sitting. My knowledge of things snow has not improved since I made the decision to never eat coconut pie again.
I don't ski as I am afraid of breaking something. As a freelancer I would not be able to make money during such a mishap. Driving in the snow is something I try to avoid but I must admit that Rosemary's Audi gives me a tad more confidence. If I don't have more confidence it is that sometime in 1977, Rosemary and I slid helplessly down Prince Rupert to Grandview in our Arctic White (that was the name of the colour) Mexican-made VW Beetle. Our beloved car was only the 10th or 11th in an eventual 28 car pileup that happened because of the the icy conditions during a January snow fall. It was the totalling of the Mexican Beetle that led us to buy the worst car of our life (after those two Fiats and that Maserati), a used Rabbit that suddenly stopped on the old Connaught Bridge (the one with wood instead of pavement) while almost being rear ended by a Cambie Street trolley.
But seeing the white stuff gently flutter down from the relative comfort and safety of my living room was a pleasant experience yesterday. That pleasant experience was shortlived as it contrasted with my taking Hilary (Rebecca's mother and my daughter)in the evening to emergency where she had four stitches to the back of the head. On her way for dinner with us she slipped and fell not far from our house. But then Hilary was born in Mexico and snow is a stranger to both of us.
James Barber, 1923 - 2007 & French Onion Soup
James Barber, 1923 - 2007
Shortly after I photographed Barber in his kitchen in his Commercial area home (perhaps early 90s), I had a business lunch meeting (the well paying Salmon Marketing Council, as they had lots of salmon then) at Cin Cin on Robson. During lunch I had to bring up the subject on how I had photographed Barber. I wanted to describe the apalling state of Barber's pans. They were all blackened and seemed like they had never been properly cleaned. One of the women winked at me but I kept going. Finally she said, "Alex aren't you aware that Christina [Burridge, the other woman and marketing head of the Salmon Marketing Council], is Barber's partner?" I was but I had forgotten. I did not know where to hide from my hideous faux pas
I first met Barber at the CBC in the mid 70s when I was doing stills. I remember him fondly particularly because he wrote one of the two best restaurant reviews I ever read in Vancouver.
The first one involved Province music writer Tom Harrison who took alternative rocker Art Bergmann to dinner to a ritzy French restaurant. The pair was served and Bergmann demanded to talk to the chef. The chef arrived and Bergmann asked the chef what they were eating. The chef answered in a long description in French. Bergmann countered, "Isn't this pan fried salmon?"
The second one by Barber was similar in nature as it served to call a spade a spade when iit was so. In this instance it happened to be French onion soup. Barber's review appeared perhaps in Vancouver Magazine (I don't quite remember) but it is a review that would probably not be written today in magazines that court restaurant ads. Barber ordered French onion soup in the best of our city restaurants and wrote in which ones the kitchen may have used two ingredients, anathema to Barber himself:
1. Flower used to thicken soup.
2. The use of Bovril (chicken or beef) instead of the real thing.
With Barber sadly gone I hope that one of the finest food writers in Canada, Christina Burridge, continues in her profession. I will never ever forget a third essay on things gourmet. Burridge wrote one on absinthe that made me want to catch the first plane to Paris.
Christopher Gaze - In My Room
Sunday, December 02, 2007
This is a continuation of yesterday's blog
with another photo essay from the December/January issue of VLM.
Christopher Gaze is best known as Artistic Director of Vancouver's Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival. He has performed in England, in the US and across Canada. Born in England, he trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. He moved to Vancouver in 1983 and in 1990 founded Bard on the Beach. Gaze also hosts Vancouver Symphony's Tea amd Trumpets series and traditional Christmas concerts. His numerous honours include: induction in the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame (2002) and Canada's Meritorious Service Medal (2005). He received a Jessie Award
for best supporting actor for his performance in Equus
at the Playhouse.
Christopher Gaze's life was transformed on December 1, 2000 when he married Jennifer McMahon. In 2008. Gaze is going to play the title role in Shakespeare's tragedy, King Lear
. The VLM interview was conducted in the Gaze bedroom during a mid-October Saturday morning. The Christopher and Jennifer Gaze Kitsilano apartment/townhouse has two floors. I was served a Japanese Genmaincha green tea that had taste overtones of popcorn.
Christopher, what is your favourite room?I love our bedroom. That's where on Saturday or Sunday morning I get up(I'm first up; I am a morning man) and go upstairs to make the tea and up to the front door to get the papers. When Jennifer wakes, which is shortly thereafter, I take it all in and we lie on the bed and we read and drink our tea for as long as we can before we go out and run in Stanley Park.
How long have you lived here?I bought it off Raffi in February 1999 and lived here with a bunch of boxes and bits of loose furniture. It all looked very odd, very much bachelor territory. Till I met Jennifer. She moved in, about 20 months later. She transformed it with beauty and light, colour and vitality. She chucked out all of my old boxes, a lot of stuff from days gone by, from both of us, and we kept what we needed and what we loved. It is one of the loveliest places I have ever lived.
What is it like to be in a bedroom that has a bay window by the corner of the bed?It is beautiful to have the light. I am not bothered by the people outside. I don't think about them. In the springtime there are gorgeous cherry blossoms. And magnolia flowers, too. It's splendid, like living in paradise. When the morning sun comes in here and it bathes and warms it is gorgeous. In the summer it is luxurious and in the winter it is cozy.
What did Jennifer do to your bedroom?
I didn't own a bed. One of the first things we did, even before we became intimate, was to buy a bed. We bought a bed at Parker's. Fortunately Jennifer liked it a great deal. And it is the bed that became our matrimonial bed. And so it was perfect.
© 2007 VLM/Alex Waterhouse-HaywardChristopher GazeMore Christopher GazeAnd even more Christopher Gaze