Whimsy At The Neverland Burlesque
Saturday, December 08, 2012
|Blood Alley Quartet & Goldie Monroe|
Top, left David Olajide, bass, Gus Vassos guitar and vocals
Below, Randy Bowman drums, Goldie Monroe & Anthony Walker guitar & vocals
My first email address in the mid 90s was [email protected]
. I remember that this dial-up service was spotty at best but I could call a techie on 4th Avenue which was where the wimsey headquarters were and he would say, “ Hi Alex, I know why you are calling. It's just pouring here on 4th and we have no lights. You are going to have to wait for the power to come back.” I would say goodbye and patiently wait for wimsey to come back.
Now there is definitely an h
missing in that wimsy but with wimsey.com long gone I feel that what I would call Whimsical Vancouver
is long gone, too.
In the mid 80s writer Les Wiseman, an ecdysiast enthusiast of note and I tried to figure how to sell Vancouver Magazine
editor Mac (now known as Malcolm) Parry a story on Vancouver strippers
. Wiseman came up with the idea of focusing on the money side and how these exotic dancers were loaded with cash. The bait was taken and we did the story. Parry
did not throw all caution to the wind and instead of putting my photograph of a stripper in a champagne bucket shaped tub on the cover put a picture of my cat with the headline, “One Cat's Fight Against Cancer by Sean Rossiter”.
In the late 70s Wiseman had purchased an ill fitting and cheap suit and shown up at the Vancouver Magazine office. I was there. He asked receptionist Maja Grip if he could see the editor (Parry). Grip did not even ask if he had an appointment but indicated him to go up the stairs and turn right and go to the first office. I followed. From the outside of the office I heard Wiseman say, “Your magazine needs a column on rock music.” Parry answered, “Go and write it.” And that was the beginning of the legendary In One Ear
in which Wiseman wrote about obscure local punk or alternative scene bands and of groups from abroad that were never mainstream. Borrowing from his idol Hunter S. Thompson, Wiseman dubbed me Lenso the Argentinian Lensman
and often began sentences when he talked to me, “As your attorney…” One of the whimsical paradoxes of Parry’s Vancouver Magazine, was a cover article on Vancouver Mayor Art Phillips and inside there was a neat In One Ear on Johnny Thunders
with my pictures.
Parry was not the only one to accept whimsy. There was Georgia Straigh
t editor Charles Campbell
who was cautious in always lawyering any investigative articles before publication but who often fell for stuff like writer John Lekich and I showing up at his office (no security, no reception, no closed doors) and saying, “We want to do a piece on a beautiful blonde
who says she is going to be famous some day,” or, “We want to do a piece on a beautiful brunette who used to be in a famous local TV program called Nite Dreems
.” Campbell would think for a few seconds, with lots of hem and hawing and then he would say, “I should not be doing this, but go and do it.” And we did.
I remember doing a story for Harvey Southam’s Vancouver business magazine Equity
that was called Sex Sells
(and yes, you guessed it, it was about strippers).
Later on I caught on that most local editors would go for any idea if it came in threes. An idea on a couple who collected toasters became a story on three collectors for the Straight.
I sold a story to Parry in which this was my pitch, “I am tired of reading about a set of twins, one living in Miami and the other in Prince George and both own by sheer accident pink Cadillacs. I want to do a story on twins
in which my family doctor will write a short essay defining exactly what twins are and with all the relevant statistics.” I was out the door with the assignment.
During the height of Wiseman’s In One Ear column there was a young man called Mike who once told me that he would wait with pleasant expectation the delivery of Vancouver Magazine on his doorstep.
If I could go back to Mac Parry’s office today (Vancouver Magazine now specializes on lists of the best 25 restaurants of Vancouver and the 25 most important decision makers of our city) I would say, “There is this rock quartet that has musicians that have been playing for 30 years and one of them is the legendary virtuoso guitar player Tony Baloney. Another played drums for The Subhumans. Another was a lead singer for a punk band called the Actionauts and the fourth is a solid bass player whose brother is Michael Olajide
, the boxer we once put on the cover of our magazine. And that is not all the quartet features a statuesque blonde, 6ft tall who belts out songs while taking most of her clothes off.” I have no doubt that Parry would have no reservations and he would assign me for the job. And Campbell after some he-hawing would do the same.
I have personally contacted the now not-so-young man who waited for his copy of Vancouver Magazine. He is now the popular music editor for a local arts weekly and directly asked him if the folks at the Blood Alley Quartet could contact him. He said yes, particularly since he remembered Tony Baloney and told me that the former Subhuman’s drummer had repaired his fridge. I stressed that this was solid sounding band with good original music. To date the quartet and their monthly Neverland Burlesque Show (next one December 15) at the Russian Hall on 4th Avenue, has yet to receive any mention (but they have still managed to have a full house).
I believe the reason for the non mention is that wimsey and whimsy are all but gone from this city.
But then today I noticed for the second time a quarterly magazine called
. It is full of whimsy, good photography and lively writing. Could things just be improving?
Blood Alley Quartet
A Newbie and a Seasoned Performer at the Neverland Burlesque
My iPhone 3G at the Neverland Burlesque
Neverland Burlesque at the Russian Hall
Neverland Burlesque - Cute, Dainty, Sexy, Twirly & Dirty
The Mason-Hamlin Organ at the Russian Hall
Friday, December 07, 2012
Cuentan magos ya desvanecidos,
que el cuerpo en el espejo
no era más cosa
que la imagen tersa
de una figura
que se retira en sueños
Wise men now long gone tell,
that the body in the mirror
was nothing more
than the sleeking image
of a figure
recoling into dreams
From Homero Aridjis
Eyes to See Otherwise/Ojos de otro mirar
Edited by Betty Farber and George McWhirter
General Henry Waverly's Eagle Brand & Sara-Jean Hosie's Swan
Thursday, December 06, 2012
Today, in the afternoon I parked my car in a back alley to the Stanley Theatre. I was removing my photographic equipment from the trunk when a gentleman, with a most pleasant smile came up to me and said, “I brought you something.” The gentleman, actor Allan Gray, handed me a can of Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk. I noticed the can was very cold.
On the previous day, my granddaughter Lauren Stewart, 10, and I went to the opening performance of the Arts Club Theatre Company production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas
, directed by Bill Millerd, at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage on Granville. We dressed to the teeth, me in my only suit and a festive Brooks Brothers candy cane tie and she in her lovely wine coloured dress and black shoes.
I noticed that Lauren put her feet up (after she had removed her shoes) on her booster seat. She had a look of concentration as the show progressed that proves that even a 10-year-old can understand that Irving Berlin’s musical is more than just holiday fluff. Add to this that Arts Club productions always have solid sounding orchestras, this one directed by Bruce Kellett (alas Henry Christian brought his trumpet but left his flugelhorn at home).
There is a bit of confusion in my mind as to how this musical ever came about. Here are some of the facts. The 1954 film, with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen came before the Broadway musical. The signature song, White Christmas
was an Irving Berlin hit in 1940. The now ever present jazz standard, How Deep is the Ocean?
was composed by Berlin in 1932. And one of my fave ever songs Blue Skies
(especially the 1978 version by Willie Nelson ) was a last minute song in 1926 by Berlin that was inserted into the Rodgers and Hart musical Betsy.
This Arts Club’s musical is a combination of the Paramount Pictures film and with the music and lyrics by Irving Berlin with Book by David Ives and Paul Blake of the Broadway musical.
As Lauren watched all the terrific tap dancing (never my cup of tea but I am warming up to it thanks to choreographer Valerie Easton’s involvement, and I must add here a disclaimer that I did meet her many years ago at the CBC’s Wolfman Jack Show) and the even more terrific number of the second act I Love a Piano
I could not get my eyes off two people on stage.
One is the mesmerizing Sara-Jean Hosie
whose David Cooper portrait, as Patsy Cline
(before I had ever seen her or met her) in the lobby of the Stanley a couple of years ago made me fall hard for her as Gene Tierney’s portrait in Laura
did for Dana Andrews.
The other is Allan Gray playing General Henry Waverly. While Hosie can sing (a smoky voice that puts Circe’s sirens to shame) dance, and wear tight dresses (designed by Sheila Whie) that instantly rejuvenate my aging plumbing system, Gray told me while posing in his general’s uniform, “I am not a hoof and sing kind of actor but I love being in this production of White Christmas because I can watch and listen to Hosie sing.”
The Arts Club production of White Christmas seems to put a particular emphasis on the general and how his men love him and in the end help him with his bills, manage to produce snow with help from the Chief of the Joints Chiefs (upstairs). Perhaps this emphasis has something to do with Gray’s stage presence.
In my years (since 1975) there are three theatrical performances by men that I can fondly remember. There was Christopher Gaze
as Richard III in an early 80s precursor of Bard on the Beach, Bill Dow’s
2008 performance of Little Mountain Studio’s production of Glengarry Glen Ross
and Gray in 2007 a Tennessee Williams
in Daniel McIvor’s His Greatness
an Arts Club Theatre presentation at the Stanley.
Of His Greatness, Allan Gray told me as I was taking his portrait, “I forgot I was acting and I was Tennessee Williams.”
This presence somehow also projected an honesty and demeanor that made me reflect that Gray’s General Henry Waverly represented an image of great generals that has been recently tarnished by the shenanigans of General David Petraeus. I also noted that there is more than a passing physical resemblance between the ideal general and the fallen one.
Lauren and I left the show amused and entertained. Of particular note is the fact that I can now take Lauren to more theatre and for at least a while (and I hope I am not around when either of my grandchildren have children of their own) I will not have to sit through one more Nutcracker in the holiday season. The two Arts Club Theatre gems, White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life
(which Lauren enjoyed a week ago) are much better options.
But alas there is only one wrinkle in all this joy. Sara-Jean Hosie
is picking up sticks (after the present run) and moving to Stratford. It will be hard to top this year’s White Christmas without her.
If you are still reading this and wondering about that can of Eagle Brand? I wrote in a recent blog
I am not embarrassed at all to disclose this here. I sleep with a night shirt. Sometimes I bring a tin (previously chilled in the fridge) of condensed milk and a spoon to bed and...
I have no idea what Gray wears to bed but he did write this for me:
As a little boy in Scotland after WW2, we were on rations for quite some time, and consequently
I never got much in the way of candies or treats. My mother happened to be a friend of one of the cooks at Balmoral Castle, and she would occasionally smuggle food out and share it with us (don't tell the queen)- butter, flour, but especially tins of condensed milk, which became my major sugar hit and source of intense childhood pleasure. To this day, if I feel the need of serious comfort food, I will buy a tin of Eagle Brand condensed milk, chill it in the fridge so that it gets to the correct consistency, then proceed to eat it with a teaspoon - the method is to dip the teaspoon in the deliciously gooey substance, then, as I did as a wee lad, lick it off the spoon then repeat. The only difference is that now I can consume an entire tin, only taking a break to allow my tongue to return to normal after the sugar assault.
Wednesday, December 05, 2012
Mirrors Are Not More Silent
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
No son más silenciosos los espejos
ni más furtiva el alba aventurera;
eres, bajo la luna, esa pantera
que nos es dado divisar de lejos.
Por obra indescifrable de un decreto
divino, te buscamos vanamente;
más remoto que el Ganges y el poniente,
tuya es la soledad, tuyo el secreto.
Tu lomo condesciende a la morosa
caricia de mi mano. Has admitido,
desde esa eternidad que ya es olvido,
el amor de la mano recelosa.
En otro tiempo estás. Eres el dueño
de un ámbito cerrado como un sueño.
Mirrors are not more silent
nor the creeping dawn more secretive;
in the moonlight, you are that panther
we catch sight of from afar.
By the inexplicable workings of a divine law,
we look for you in vain;
More remote, even, than the Ganges or the setting sun,
yours is the solitude, yours the secret.
Your haunch allows the lingering
caress of my hand. You have accepted,
since that long forgotten past,
the love of the distrustful hand.
You belong to another time. You are lord
of a place bounded like a dream.
Jorge Luís Borges
You Almost Bathed Your Tongue
Monday, December 03, 2012
She sights a Bird - she chuckles -
She flattens - then she crawls -
She runs without the look of feet -
Her eyes increase to Balls –
Her Jaws stir - twitching - hungry -
Her Teeth can hardly stand -
She leaps, but Robin leaped the first -
Ah, Pussy, of the Sand,
The Hopes so juicy ripening -
You almost bathed your Tongue -
When Bliss disclosed a hundred Toes -
And fled with every one -
Trouble With Kittens
Sunday, December 02, 2012
The trouble with a kitten is that eventually it becomes a cat.