Michael J. Fox & Leo And MeWednesday, February 27, 2013
On Tuesday I lectured on photography at Burnaby South Secondary School. My wife asked me, "Isn't that the place where the Michael J. Fox Theatre is?" Indeed my Rosemary was right. When I returned that day I decided to look into my files . Besides my negs I found this article written by the Sun's Alex Strachan. At the time, the year 2000, Charles Campbell ,who had nicely run the Georgia Straight as its editor, had moved to the Vancouver Sun where he started his own competition to the Straight, a nice tabloid called Queue which appeared on Thursdays. Campbell came up with the last page idea called Rear Window where an event from the past that had some relevance to the week in question would be given a full page. He told me, "I had you in mind." I came to not only to contribute with my photographs but also wrote many of those Rear Windows.
|Brent Carver and Michael Fox|
Vancouver Sun May 18-25, 2000
1978 Rear Window
The secret to staying young, Lucille Ball once said, is to live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age. In 1978 when Alex Waterhouse-Hayward snapped this photo of Brent Carver with a young Mike Fox, as he was then known, hardly anybody could have imagined the career path that awaited the Burnaby teenager.
In the well-nigh 20 years since, Michael J.Fox – he was compelled by the Screen Actors Guild to add the “J” to differentiate him from the late American character Michael Fox, in line with a Guild bylaw that states that no two actors may have the same name – has lived honestly, eaten lightly and made a career of playing younger than his years.
In 1978, he was 15 playing 12, the “Me” half of the Vancouver-based CBC sitcom Leo and Me, described in an old Mothercorp press kit as “a bright comedy series” about Leo (Carver), “who lives with his nephew Jamie (Fox) on a yacht moored in the harbour. Together they get into some wild adventures and meet a number of odd characters.”
It may sound a chip of the old Beachcombers block, but where The Beachcombers became a CBC tradition and part of West Coast lore, Leo and Me lasted just 13 episodes. Even so, looking back at it today, it retains a certain charm, viewed through the admittedly disarming prism of nostalgia and fond hindsight.
In the debut, “Turn of the Worm,” which aired 22 years ago, Leo “discovers that an old acquaintance has become a millionaire rock star; now that dates it – who turns out to be “a worm, low and deceitful.” In “An Embarrassment of Riches,” featuring the ubiquitous Jackson Davies, Jamie “discovers that panhandling isn’t all fun.” And who, having seen it, could possibly forget “Nice Italian Girl,” in which “a girl who sews, cooks, cleans and sings in the kitchen has her eyes on Leo, much to 12-year-old Jamie’s amusement.” Or the inimitable “One Night of Love” in which Leo “is visited by a former girlfriend who borrows his home for a meeting with her current boyfriend. He turns out to be a Mafia boss, which calls for some fast thinking.”
Waterhouse-Hayward, who shot stills for a number of variety programs at the time – “those horrible shows they used to have with dancers, with people like Leon Bibb and Paul Anka and René Simard”- says Leo and Me harks back to a time when stills photographers were allowed free rein on film locations, unlike today’s sets where style is frowned upon and photos automatically become the property of the studio, not the photographer.
“There were these characters,” Waterhouse-Hayward recalls of his Leo and Me set visit. “I didn’t know who the hell they were, and I never did find out until later on. I didn’t care who they were. Nobody cared who they were. I just took the pictures as best as I could.”
Years later, Waterhouse-Hayward, faced with a decision whether to keep the photos or toss them out, decided to squirrel them away. A fortuitous choice, as it turns out.
“I guess what struck me about Fox was how tiny he was and what a kid he was,” Waterhouse-Hayward recalls. “He mouthed off a lot. He was a kid, for Christ’s sake. In retrospect I consider myself lucky to see and photograph him when not only did he look like a kid but he actually was a kid. That’s the part I like the most. He was a kid, a nice kid – the kind of kid who should have thousands of freckles. Which he did.”
Leo and Me’s finale aired August 14, 1981. The show’s title, ironically , was “The Big Time.” It foreshadowed things to come back in the future as Leo and Jamie, faced with losing their home because of a cash crunch, strike it rich when “Jamie lands a job advertising peanut butter.” You could say it was the secret of his success.”
Alex Strachen looks at the career of Michael J. Fox in Saturday’s Mix, as the actor who suffers from Parkinsion’s Disease, steps away from his lead role n Spin City following next week’s season finale.
May 18-25 Vancouver Sun 2000