Brad McDonald The Fearless Bug Wrangler & The Colonel
Saturday, January 12, 2008
When Brad McDonald, famous Vancouver "bug wrangler" showed up at my door in 2000 with a tarantula in tow I started getting the creeps. And when I photographed McDonald in my living room with the spider moving up his neck the shudders that went through me reminded me of the Colonel so many years back in 1963. I felt I could not tell McDonald the story and quickly took the shots so I could be rid of his bug.
I was never afraid of bugs and spiders and even today I share an interest in them with Rebecca who scours my garden in the summer looking for bugs. She overturns rocks and peers into my roses in search of excitement. But I draw the line at tarantulas. Perhaps it all began in 1963 when I showed up at a pensión in Mexico City. I was going to the University of the Americas and I needed a place to stay. This particular pensión was run by a French family so the food was exceptional. The only problem was the other boarder. He was a lean retired USMC Colonel from Carlsbad, California who immediately told me, "Call me, Colonel, breakfast is at 6." I soon found out that this was not quite true. I woke up at 6 to find out that our first order of business was to run around the block several times and we then did what the Colonel called calisthenics. It involved chin ups and countless pushups. It didn't take me long to find out that our diet was previously vetted by the Colonel. For a year I lived in a clandestine boot camp and I was perhaps as fit as I ever was.
The Colonel had other clandestine activities in his past. He had instructed the hill tribes of Laos and Vietnam, the Montagnards in the art of anti guerrila warfare. He had also pioneered, so he told me, the idea of using helicopters as gun ships. In his mellow (very rare) periods he would summon me to his room and show me photographs of places I had never suspected that existed. One such picture showed him standing by a huge stone jar and he told me about the Plane of Jars. It was in one of these mellow periods when the Colonel, with an almost smile on his face, confessed to me that the sight of a spider made him freeze on this tracks. "I can face anything except a spider," he told me and then proceded to explain with a luxury of detail (he was using his GI Bill to pursue a career in writing) how a spider's legs were independent of each other. Perhaps unknowingly I had come to admire this gentle but fierce man and I too became afraid of spiders.
One day he told me ( a wonderful vision that has remained with me all these years), "We were on patrol in the jungle with a bunch of Montagnards when we spied on a young woman eating a mango on her stomach. She was casually savouring her fruit while a man on top of her was doing his thing. It was a hell of a sight, they were so independent of each other."
Turning Into Lear
Friday, January 11, 2008
M. William Shak-speare : His True Chronicle Historic of the life of and death of King Lear and his three Daughters. With the unfortunate life of Edgar, sonne and heire to the Earle of Gloster, and his sullen and assumed humor of Tom of Bedlam...
The title page of the first Quarto edition of King Lear
The melancholia that affects some of us during January, exacerbated perhaps by the unending deluge of rain must have been palpable to my friend Mark Budgen who last night sent me an email titled Of self-anointed monarchs
. We had been earlier discussing the mayoralty race in Vancouver:so we'll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news, and we'll talk with them too,
Who loses and who wins, who's in, who's out,
And take upon's the mystery of things,
As if we were God's spies
All the above makes me think that we don't really need to look at ourselves in the mirror to notice the march of time. All I have to do is gaze upon Christopher Gaze's Richard III as I saw him in 1984, as I saw him in 1998 and as the lean but certainly graying man that is my friend now. They say that the internet is eternal and I found out, a week back, to my chagrin that the non payment (through my confusion) of $8.40 to the keepers of my domain name resulted in instant oblivion. A plug was pulled by them
somewhere and the electrons that were me dissipated into the ether.
I am now convinced that a "more" eternal possibility (a good friendship) is the calming voice of Christopher Gaze who in November, 2007 told me, "I am going to be Lear in the next year." Could it be that my own mirror of passing time will cloud if I can no longer look or imagine Christopher Gaze's voice? I believe so.
But then Harold Bloom (both a favourite of Christopher Gaze and of mine) writes in How To Read and Why
:We read not only because we cannot know enough people, but because friendship is so vulnerable, so likely to diminish or dissapear, overcome by space, time, imperfect sympathies, and all the sorrows of familial and passional life.
Kaiser, Kaisers, Henry Js, French Fries & Giorgio de Chirico
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Every time I pass the Hongkong Bank building on Georgia and Hornby I think of many things including a big hole, Henry J cars, Gary Taylor's
Bradley's, Henry John Kaiser, his grandson Edgar F. Kaiser Jr., French fries and a Giorgio de Chirico painting that went up in flames.
For me it all started outside the American School on Freire in Buenos Aires in 1951My mother taught there and I walked a few more blocks down the street to the American Grammar School. Parked in front on Freire, one of the students had brought his brand new Henry J.
It was a smallish car with unusual fins and it was painted in a bright middle blue. I had never seen a car that colour and that shape.
The car was the brainchild of Henry John Kaiser and Joseph Frazer. Kenry J Kaiser, an American had moved to our Vancouver in 1912 and had started the Henry J. Kaiser Company Ltd in 1914 which built the first concrete paved roads in Cuba. During the war Henry Kaiser had innovated the rapid construction of modular-built ships (using car assembly line procedures) which became the famous Liberty Ships (the later ones were called Victory Ships
. One Liberty Ship was built in four and a half days. These ships transported, as an example, thousands of Sherman tanks as fast as the Germans destroyed them. Henry J Kaiser's son, Edgar F. Kaiser continued with the family tradition (he supervized the building of Liberty and Victory Ships in Vancouver) and had a reputation of pushing his employees to their limits.
It was in the late 80s that I first met Edgar Kaiser's son, Edgar J. Kaiser Jr. I was to photograph him many times. I quickly found out that he spoke a perfect Argentine Spanish. The reason was that he was in charge of the Kaiser car production in Brazil in Argentina and Brazil which made cars into the late 1960s after the company had stopped production in the US in 1955.
I remember vividly the Kaisers in Buenos Aires as they were extremely large cars in comparison to the smallish Peugeots, Renaults, Austins and Fiats that were more economically priced.
To me those Kaisers were beautiful with a curvy windshield and curvy side windows that reminded me of art deco structures like the American Chrysler Building. Only a few years ago when I photographed my favourite military airplane, a Grumman A-6 Intruder
at the Pensacola Naval Air Museum did I finally notice the resemblance between car and plane.
The hole (if you notice on the top right of it, you will read Bradley's which was Gary Taylor's last venture in the entertainment business) preceded the building of the main branch of the Bank of BC. Its CEO was Edgar Kaiser Jr. When I photographed him with the model of the building which then became the HSBC bank he shouted at the underlings that told him that the architects had decided on a particular colour for the building's glass.
I remember him saying something like, "I don't care what they say, this is my building and I will decide on the colour of the window glass." I never found out if he indeed prevail with his choice.
On a previous occasion I photographed him for Equity Magazine. We used a beautiful chess set as a prop. I conciously cropped out of my camera's viefinder a beautiful Giorgio de Chirico painting (in the photograph you can get a hint of the bottom frame). Years later when I photographed Kaiser who was backing a venture that proposed installing French fry vending machines in airports, etc I asked him about the de Chirico. Kaiser's house had gone up in flames a few years before. He looked at me sadly and told me it was gone as well as most of his extensive (one of Canada's largest) art collection.
Articles had appeared at the time on the French fry venture that reported that the machines had a tendency to catch fire and also stank of cooking oil. There is no way that Mr. Kaiser will pose with chips for you, his publicist told me." I showed up the morning of the shoot and had a nice chat in Spanish with Kaiser and asked him if he would pose with product. Without any hesitation he sent the publicist to buy some chips at MacDonald's and then we filled an empty Spud Stop container and I took my shot.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
On Monday Rosemary watched Hillary almost cry on BBC. Rosemary wasn't convinced but I was. If anything I almost consider myself an expert on women crying. At least four actresses have cried on demand for me in my studio and Rebecca, my granddaughter knows I offer next to no resistance to her when she cries. She can cry on demand with the panache of a seasoned actress. I remember the first time someone cried on demand just for me.
In April 2001 director Richard Wolf and playwright/asistant director Tim Carlson (both of Theatre Conspiracy
) approached me with a unique proposition. I was to photograph the cast of Patrick Marbler's play Closer
(a Vancouver premiere on June 7) and provide the pictures for the program and also display them at the opening (Performance Works, Granville Island) in large framed prints. The play is a about a complex relationship among two couples. One of the women is a photographer and the other is an exotic dancer. I immediately thought of Toni Ricci's Marble Arch
as the perfect location for our session.
It was fun and rewarding for me as it became patently obvious that actors can act. One thing is to see them in a play but it is altogether more satisfying when they act just for you (for me). The actors Michelle Harrison (Alice seen here crying), Steve Griffith (Dan, kissing Anna), Kurt Max Runte (Larry, standing extremely jealous and watching Alice strip) Sarah Louse Turner (Anna, the photographer) were a professional bunch and more so as they had never yet rehearsed. Their first time together was there at the Marble Arch.
I asked Michelle Harrison to cry for me. She turned around and said, "Wait a moment," and then looked at me with a dispair that broke my heart and soon tears began to pour. Michelle Harrison is a professional, Hillary is an amateur. Hillary was genuine.My Hilary cries
Jimmy Pattison's Cadillac & My Unwavering Principle Goes Bust
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Being a photographer is not always easy if one purports to have principles. Writers, too have a problem. In the early 80s Vancouver Magazine Malcolm Parry offered free lance writer Mark Budgen
the plum job (in my opinion) of doing a profile on BC politician Pat Carney (and now to retire as senator a the end of this month). Budgen rejected the assignment citing a difference of opinion on political direction between Carney and himself. The man who took on the job (and I took the photographs) was, Bob Hunter the no less left-leaning and co-founder of Greenpeace. While I respected Budgen's decision I thought he was nuts and then just a few years later in 1985 I made a similar "blunder". I was called by a PR minion of the Expo 86 Committee and told, "Mr. Pattison our World Exposition Chairman has chosen you to take his official portrait." I remember answering, "Madam I don't like the man so I will not take his picture." At the time there were several stories circulating about how ruthless the man was.
Just a few years after 1986 several Canadian business magazines assigned me to take Pattison's portrait. I explained to those who remembered my initial rejection of the man that in this case I was being assigned and therefore if I was going to remain in the good books of art directors who gave me work it was my duty to be professional.
My first situation with Pattison was to photograph his boat, at the time the Nova Springs
for a photo essay I was doing on interesting BC ships and yachts. Getting an appointment with Pattison was easy and I was warned to be on time. He posed for me by his Hammond organ and explained that he was no sailor and that he liked his boat as a place for solitude and to tinker with his music which he enjoyed.
I was given all the opportunity to photograph the boat but I was amazed to see that the carpeting of the engine room was an off white and there was not a trace of oil on anything. The on board mechanic told me it was quite a job to keep the engine room spotless.
I photographed Pattison two more times, once for the Globe & Mail (the horizontal colour photograph) which shows Pattison's unusual taste for ties. My fave photograph I took for a private club brochure. I asked to see Pattison's office a day in advance and I proposed taking his picture holding his model Cadillac. I thought my request would be rejected. His executive secretary called me and told me that my request had been granted but that I would only have the man for three minutes.
Pattison respects efficiency. I began to understand that. He gave me his undivided attention for exactly three minutes. He thanked me for my punctuality and for my efficiency.
While I will not purport to understand that time is money nor do I see the point of amassing millions if not billions of dollars, I have a grudging respect for the man. Rebecca was most impressed when I told her on Sunday night at Dal Richard's
party that Pattison was Canada's richest man. I plan to invite both Rebecca and Mark Budgen for tea, soon. Between them they might set me straight.
Of Memory - Dal Richard's 90th - Legs Under The Steinway
Monday, January 07, 2008
Pensó que en la hora de la muerte no habría acabado aún de clasificar todos los recuerdos de la niñez.
He thought that in the hour of his death he would not have finished classifying the rembembrances of his childhood.
Funes El Memorioso
Jorge Luís Borges
I took Rebecca to the Orpheum yesterday for Dal Richard's
90th birthday bash. The Orpheum was a full house. Rebecca and I noted that there were only two other little girls in the audience. All there wanted to experience memories of their past. We were there for a different reason. I was there to give our first Vancouver-born member (on our side of the family) memories for her future. I looked around and pointed out people who reside in my files. "That blonde woman (sitting in front of us), she used to be readhaired, almost became the premier of our province, "I told Rebecca. During the intermission we ran into others from my files. I placed Rebecca in front of a very serious and large (not fat, just large) man and told her, "He's a politician. Ask him who he is, Rebecca." The very serious man (perhaps with a smile that I was not able to discern) said, "Rebecca, I am Garde Gardom, and I was more than a politician, I was the Lieutenant-Governor of this province." "See that little lapel flower, Rebecca?" ask him what it is. "This is the Order of British Columbia, Rebecca."
I introduced Rebecca to Jennifer and Christopher Gaze
. Jennifer told her, "Rebecca we know you well because of your grandfather's blog."
We then spotted pianist Robert Silverman and I introduced him to Rebecca. He seemed to be pleased that one of Rebecca's piano teachers had been Nikolai Maloff. I explained to Rebecca that Silverman was going to play with another UBC pianist a series of Happy Birthday variations in honour of Dal Richards. But when Jimmy Pattison blew Happy Birthday on his trumpet and I told her that he was the richest man in Canada she was impressed.
But if anything the high moment for me happened when boogie woogie pianist Michael Kaeshammer played a solo piece. Just a few notes into it Rebecca looked at me and said, "Hymn to Freedom, Oscar Peterson."
Rebecca wanted to know more about Jim Byrnes
who sang an unusual St Louis Blues accompanied by Dal Richard's Orchestra. On the piano was Diane Lines (she also sang very well and played a mean electric piano) who wore two little dresses (one blue, one red, both tight, one for each half of the concert). My binoculars (even though we were on the 10th row) were trained on Miss Lines's legs, the finest I have ever seen under a Steinway.
Of Byrnes I said, "Rebecca, Byrnes met your mother and aunt some 15 years ago and whenever I run into him he always asks, "How are Ale and Hilary?"
It all made me think about memory and how little I remember of when I was 10. Last night Rosemary and I caught the last hour of the 1948 John Wayne film The Wake of the Red Witch
with the beautiful and mysterious looking Gail Russell. I soon realized what the ending was going to be.
Memory of seeing it with my mother suddenly came to me. Perhaps then there is a faint hope that Rebecca will remember some of our good times together. As Rebecca kept her autographed program of the night's performance close to her she asked me, "Why did Dal have two lapel buttons?" "That's because he also has an Order of Canada," I explained. Rebecca who watched part of the show with one eye closed (she wanted to know what it was like to have only one eye) then asked, "Why is Dal's artificial eye larger?" "You'll have to ask him one day, "I replied. But mine were not the last words. "When I am 20 Dal will be 100," Rebecca said with the confidence of youth.
Paul Hyde, The Payola$ & Bribing God
Sunday, January 06, 2008
On Friday morning I was having coffee with my pal Ian Bateson
in one of my favourite places in Vancouver. It happens to be the Starbucks inside the north end of Sears
on Georgia and Granville. We were lucky to sit in the plush sofas and from our vantage point we could see the whole world (at least the Vancouver part) pass through. The ceiling thanks to the inspired (perhaps in only this section of his building) design of Argentine architect Cesar Pelli
seems to go on forever in the closest attempt we may have in Vancouver to the idea of a Gothic cathedral's dimensions as they (the cathedral's dimensions) soar in search of God. Coming down the ramp was one very healthy and fit man I had photographed several times in my past. That he was still around is ample proof that God exists. That he is not rich and famous is ample proof that God, perhaps, does not exist.
Paul Hyde has to be one of Vancouver's best composers and singers. As lyricist he is up there in my pantheon of Vancouver passionates (as I really like to call them) Art Bergman
And coincidenally it seems that Paul Hyde and Ian Bateson both went to maternity/paternity classes together. Sadly I did not think to ask the name of Hyde's son (seen here some 25 years ago).
When I first photographed Paul Hyde and his band the Payola$ (yes that's $ and not an s) I was in my "I own this fantastic Pentax rectilinear 15mm wide angle lens. Little of the Payola$ shows in my photo which I took in 1980. At about that time they showed up at CBC variety show called Star Charts which we insiders (I was the stills man) called Star Farts. The producers, staff and, camera men including Mike Varga
of the CBC where a bit on the sheltered side (particularly in the cavernous Studio 40)and were not prepared to see or listen to anything that was not mainstream rock and roll. When the Payola$ descended, accompanied by wives, hangers on and even babies (Paul Hyde told me, "They must have been Bob Rock's as he got started before we did,"). When the band left, the CBC crew looked shattered. I will never forget!
Later on, quite a few years later, I photographed a smoking Paul Hyde and this time I got closer and used George Hurrell
type lighting including a deep green filter to show up that face.
But this last time, on Friday, Hyde was the very picture of slim health. He does not smoke anymore and the twinkle in his eyes might just tell me that he might soon prove me wrong and get very rich.