Winston Carlyle Miller & His Orphan ClientFriday, August 14, 2009
In the late 70s I had a lucrative contract taking industrial and PR photos for Canadian Pacific Limited. I took pictures of CP trucks, planes and trains. I photographed train crews fixing rail lines and once even got the chance to photograph the Royal Hudson being repaired at the Round House (now The Roundouse Community Centre) on Drake Street. The contract with CP brought me good money so I decide to attempt to double it by getting a job doing the same for Air Canada.
Harry Atterton, the public affairs manager for Air Canada liked my portfolio but told me that he already had a good photographer. I left a bit glum. It was about six months later that I read in the Vancouver Sun that a photographer had died suddenly of a heart attack. He had a wife and two daughters. The daughters were about the same age as my own. It was the photographer for Air Canada. I received a call from Atterton a few days later offering me a job. Not long after I got another call (a cold call) from an life insurance agent wondering if I wanted to buy a policy. My yes was instant. I bought one. Rosemary did not like my agent citing his used car salesman qualities. I really did not care at all as long as I was insured. But then I started running into my agent at Wreck Beach. There is something odd about having a conversation with your life insurance agent when both of you are in your birthday suits.
In the beginning of 1986 I received another cold call this time by a man whose voice sounded like Sidney Poitier. He asked me what kind of insurance I had and somehow he convinced me that it was the wrong one and that he would make it right.
Winston Carlyle Miller looked very much like Sidney Poitier and even shared that skin colour. While Poitier was from Miami, Florida, Miller was from the more exotic Georgetown. He quietly and smoothly nudged me to cancel my former policy and to switch to his company (Transamerica). He even sold a policy to Rosemary. He calls me on my birthday and his soothing voice never intrudes that much even when I tell him how bad business seems to be for me.
I photographed Miller in the garden three weeks ago. It was like having a friend in my garden. I realized I have known him for 23 years. His voice is still that voice but his Poitieresque features are perhaps less evident now.
Yet as I watched Sidney Poitier in Lilies of the Field today it seemed like it was Miller who was building that chapel for the German, Austrian and Hungarian nuns. And I have to point out that Winston in his short-sleeved sports shirt looks as good as Poitier did in his.