The Ghost of Simon Snotface At The Newly Renovated York Theatre
Saturday, December 07, 2013
|Friday night - Simon Snotface at the York circa 1978|
The scene in George Pal’s 1960 The Time
Machine where our time traveler (H. George Wells) sits in a marvelous Victorian
contraption and travels into the future has always been imbedded in my brain. In
the special effects of the time, the machine is surrounded by rapid flickering,
an appearing and a disappearance of trees, mountains, building, and an orange
glow that represents WWI. It would seem that those events occupied the same
place in physical time.
I feel the same as I drive through downtown
Vancouver and see Pier BC, as
a ghost of my imagination when I glimpse at Canada Place. Whatever is at Davie and Richards is for
me only the old offices of Vancouver Magazine. I feel much like Wells sitting
on my machine and recognizing the place for what it was and not for what it is.
It was with all that circulating in my confused
mind that I attended with my Rosemary the premiere of Charles Demers’s Jack & the Beanstalk: An East Van Panto (directed
by Amiel Gladstone and with music by Veda Hille) at the newly renovated (saved
is more like it!) York Theatre, on Commercial
Drive this past Friday.
|Firday night - Victoria Drive circa 1978|
The event brought to mind another Friday night sometime
around 1978 when I attended a punk concert at the York after having taken some
pictures of inhabitants of the punk quarters, a row of houses at the almost end of Victoria Drive, near East
Hastings. Former occupants were Art Bergmann and John Armstrong, aka Buck Cherry of the Modernettes.
Of the York Theatre I have two memories
that are indelible. One is of Art Bergmann sitting on the balcony of the York, his face in delight
while listening to The Scissors on stage singing his favourite punk song,
Wrecked My Car. The other one is of the Simon Snotface (with what
looked like a used Tampax hanging from one of the buttons of his black leather
jacket) in the lobby and standing by the most horribly
tacky wallpaper in Vancouver, the wallpaper of the York Theatre. It had a
passing resemblance to the one of the Commodore Ballroom of the time.
|Friday night - Victoria Drive circa 1978|
I am happy to report that the lobby of the
newly renovated York Theatre is not as tacky although while standing by the
brilliant blue tiled walls I told Malcolm Parry, “I feel like turning around
and having a piss. This wall resembles an airport bathroom.” Parry with a smile
on his face (the room was a din of people) answered, “You think I can hear what
you are saying but I can’t.” And I left it at that.
While I have known that C12-H22-O11 is the
formula for sugar and that U.S. Grant’s horse was called Cincinnati, I had no knowledge of what a
panto was. My head is full of useless facts surrounded by vacant holes of
Furthermore I did not know that the
Christmas pantomime was an English tradition in which a fairy tale was modified
and that di rigueur the play would have a man dressed as a woman and sometimes
a woman playing a man.
While I enjoyed all the goings on of the
co-production by The Cultch & Theatre Replacement, my pleasure was
increased only after I filled in the blanks of knowledge on what a panto really
was. I finally “got it”.
Of the production three things stood out.
One was that Allan Zinyk was so good as a woman that he could easily have sat
on Wells’s time machine and gone back in time to the 70s to work in the
original Hamburger Mary’s on Davie.
Two, Dawn Patten who can indeed carry a
tune and even play an instrument as she proved in the 2011 Arts Club Theatre
production of Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad , sang wonderfully (if painfully)
out of tune while Veda Hille played her harp (for her) and the Cheese Song (I
could not find it in the program) was perhaps one of the few songs I have ever
heard in which almost no word (the name of a cheese) was ever repeated except
for a few at the end.
Third, the presence of the Cultch Executive
Director, Heather Redfern in a dress, very tight and very short, and stockings
with little black points that tickled the edge of the dress where it attempted
to hide, not too well, some nicely shaped thighs, shocked me, ever so nicely
and my delight was increased when I found out that Redfern is credited for the
costume design of the play.
Seeing Redferns's two-woman cow, Dawn Petten and
Patti Allan, is worth the price of admission for this hilarious play which
should be more so if you brush up on that very English Christmas panto
Blood Makes Noise - Truth In Fiction
Friday, December 06, 2013
Consider the following:
1. Dr. Pedro Ara was the man who embalmed María Eva Duarte de Perón after she died July 26,
1952. There were persistent rumours that Dr. Ara also made a precise replica of
Evita’s head in wax that was virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. Dr.
Ara was known to carry to parties hatboxes containing perfectly preserved heads
of not so notables. Dr. Ara advised the Russians on possible methods to
preserve Lenin’s cadaver. Dr. Ara wrote a book El Caso de Eva Perón in which he
reveals a few of his methods in 1974. The book is out of print but still
2. When Evita’s body
was removed from its original holding space at the CGT (the very Peronist headquarters
of the Secretariat of Labour where Evita had held court as the spiritual head of the nation) in 1955, flowers would mysteriously appear outside
of whatever place her body was hidden by the military authorities who deposed
Juan Domingo Perón in that year. The authorities did not want Evita;s body to serve as a rally for opposing forces to the military government.
3. Evita’s body was abruptly
removed out of the CGT by Colonel Carlos Moori Koenig, Chief of Argentine
Military Security. She was, carried around to many locations including a flower shop
backroom. Moori was disobeying the order of his superior, the then president of
Argentina, General Pedro Aramburu,
by virtue of being the head of the military junta that had deposed Perón, to dig the body into a clandestine burial spot. Moori eventually
took Evita to the house of his second in command, Mayor Eduardo Arandía. Arandía
had a strange and overly protective relationship with the body of Evita which
he kept in his attic hidden by papers. Sometimes he would show her off to
dinner guests. One evening convinced that the Peronist resistance was outside
his door to retrieve the body he unaccountably shot his pregnant wife to death.
He eventually went mad.
4. Aramburu transferred
the care of Evita’s body to Moori’s replacement Hector Cabanillas. With the
help of the Catholic Church and an ambitious general, General Alejandro
Lanusse, who admired Aramburu, the body disappeared. We know from later
revelations that the body was buried in Italy under a nun’s name, María
Maggi. We also know that when Evita died there was a movement that wanted her to be declared a saint. That most serious Pope, Pius XII declined to initiate proceedings.
|Death mask at Museo Evita|
5. In 1970 Montonero guerrillas
kidnapped Aramburu and tortured him (until he died). If Aramburu knew where
Evita’s body was he never revealed it. At that time grafitti appeared on Buenos Aires wall demanding the whereabouts of her body.
6. In 1974, Aramburu's body was stolen by Montoneros.
The corpse was to be held until President Isabel Perón (Perón’s third wife)
brought back Evita Perón's body.
7. In 1987 unknown
persons broke into Juan Perón’s burial place and removed his hands with an
electric saw. The hands were never recovered.
8. When Evita’s body
was removed from Italy and
taken to Perón’s headquarters in exile in Madrid, his wife Isabelita would comb Evita’s
hair every day. Her body was put on a platform so that Perón’s dinner guests
could gaze on her.
Of these events
Argentine novelist, Tomás Eloy Martinez reveals in an interview in the Sunday,
July 30, 1995 NY Times to correspondent Calvin Sims why he chose to make his
book on Evita, Santa Evita, a novel:
Explaining his reason for telling his story in a novel, which was published
this month and was at the top of the best seller’s list here, this week, Mr. Martínez
said what he learned about the fight for Eva Perón’s body from the informants
and from is own research was “so incredible, so unbelievable that it had to be
written in the novel style.”
“The novel is the most
effective way of telling the truth especially
about a person like Eva Perón, whose character has taken on mythical
qualities in Argentina,” said Mr. Martínez, who is one of Argentina’s most
prominent authors. While some names, places and events have been altered, the
novel is a reconstruction of the truth, he said.
A few weeks ago I
spotted Gregory Widen’s novel, Blood Makes Noise in the new novels section of
the Main Branch of the Vancouver Public Library.
The novel is by a man, a native from Laguna Beach, California
who is a former firefighter, NPR Station host, mountain rescue-team member and who
also wrote the script for the Sean Connery film Highlander. In comparison to a dead
general’s hand being cut off, it does not seem so strange that an American would write such a terrific novel about Evita. If anything I can
assert here that Eloy Martínez is right. From this Laguna Beach author I have learned many
things about my former country.
I often think of a little
story told to me by my former spiritual mentor, Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C.. He
said of a human swimmer encountering some intelligent fish. He tells the fish that
they are surrounded by a colourless substance, that wets everything and that it
is called water. The fish stare at our swimmer and say, “You are full of sh..”
politically polarized countrymen cannot see their reality because they are in
One telling paragraph
that stopped me in my tracks:
“History is sometimes…difficult”
This nation has an
unreal fixation with the remains of their famous. School children here were
taught to dutifully recite the last words of national heroes, like San Martín,
and celebrated not their birthdays but the day of their deaths. General Manuel
de Rosas, a nineteenth-century strongman who died in England,
had been buried for more than one hundred years, yet the government was today
using all its wheat power to blackmail a hungry Europe
into shipping his mouldy bones home. The dead have power everywhere, but
nowhere, it seemed, did their bodies themselves speak more forcefully than in Argentina.
And this one:
the Head of Argentine Military Security is one of the main protagonists in the
novel tells his friend and fellow spook, an American CIA officer]
Hector smiled, “You
think like an American, Michael. To Americans the power of myth rests in ideas
and people. Here the power of myth rests in objects. They need not actually
possess her body to stand before it and invoke her name as their name. It is
not her works that electrify the crowds but Her. Reveal where she lies with
such large-scale protection and there would be thousands of campesinos at the
gate in an hour, and our enemies would have succeeded in the same as if they
had run her up a flagpole. She would become their flag, something to rally
opposition around the way ideas never can in this nation.”
“Burn her, then. Dump
her in the river.”
“That’s an American
solution, Michael. You see history as linear. Cause and effect. The evolution
of events. But Argentina
is a land where nothing happens. History here is an endless cycle, and one day
the Señora will become the friend of the state, its flag. So we must keep her
safe, away from politics.”
everyone is on deposit, Michael, Even the dead…”
Blood Makes Noise is a
novel that follows the events of what happens to Evita’s remains in 1952 until
she is brought back to Buenos Aires
by Isabelita (now the Argentine president as her husband Perón had died of a
heart attack). The novel further reveals the conflict between Hoover's FBI and the newish CIA for control of Latin America.
The accepted version
that Evita’s body now rests in the Recoleta
Cemetery, not far from
Aramburu, is a current one. Widen’s version may not be the accepted one but for
me it was the fitting end to a satisfying novel that no Argentine would ever
write. It is a pity that the chances are awfully slim that the novel would be translated into Spanish.
When I finished Blood Makes Noise, I re-read V.S. Naipaul’s The
Return of Eva Perón which is an account of several visits by Naipaul to Argentina
culminating with his last one in 1977. Naipaul’s description of Argentina in that year is not much different to
that I encountered this September and October. It is a sad fact that these Naipaul essays on Argentina have not been translated into Spanish.
Wherever I went I was
reminded of Evita. She was on peso bills, there is a Museo Evita and countless
books have been written (mostly non-fiction) of her period and her husband’s in
When I purchased and read the just out La Furia de Evita, a novel in first-person
autobiography form by distinguished wrier Marcos Aguinis, my one very Peronist
friend Nora Patrich told me that I could not believe anything I would read in
the novel, after all it was a novel. I kept quiet, feeling very much like that
swimmer talking to fish.
La Mujer U Hombre Araña
Thursday, December 05, 2013
|Puig, December 1, 2013|
Some people might know that the author of
the book The Kiss of the Spider Woman (El Beso de la Mujer Araña) was written
by Manuel Puig who was an Argentine author. It is most likely that I was
distantly related to the man as his Catalan surname Puig (pronounced pooch) was
the same as that of by Barcelona great-great grandmother, Vicenta Puig de Galvez, and her daughter, Buenaventura a
virtuoso pianist in Manila
who died in 1915.
|Centre Vicenta Puig de Galvez -1888|
Buenaventura’s favourite was my mother Filomena who had long but very thin hair.
would comb and brush her hair and my mother would cry. Buenaventura would tell her, “It is painful
to be a lady and you must learn this now.”
The relevance to this slim connection has
to do with a recent arachnid inhabitant on the inside window of my front door. I
call him (her?) Puig. He (she) appeared a few days before Halloween. I thought
that this spider was awfully dumb. His (her) associates in the garden were all doing just
fine with a fine menu of insects that would otherwise be feasting on my roses’
I have observed Puig now for some time. He (she)
rarely moves. His (her) associates are all gone with the recent cold spells. But Puig
on his (her) reduced indoor diet is doing fine. Perhaps I might have to find
something for him (her) so we can share our traditional Christmas Eve dinner. I
will wish him (her) well and hope that he (she) might just help us uncork the Champagne for the new
I could stop here and any good magazine
editor would agree. But I can digress because as some say, magazine space is
limited but the internet is infinite.
I have often wondered why the beautiful
word for spider in Spanish araña (so close to the Latin name arachnid) has a
verb arañar which means to scratch. Do spiders scratch? In Spanish and in any
language the most adept entities that scratch are cats, or perhaps my youngest granddaughter
Lauren when she practices her violin. A big cat scratch is the fearsome arañaso!
So I finally looked it up and the verb form
arañar comes from the Latin arar and labrar which mean to work or to plow. To
furrow a land is perhaps close to what a cat may do to your face.
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
In a recent survey, 99.9% of those reached
responded that the clinically proven medicated ingredients of La Purga de San
Benito ameliorated their cravings for Wiener Schnitzel. These folks were
willing to send personalized affidavits to that effect.
I invented the above paragraph. La Purga de
San Benito is a
Spanish expression for a cure-all miracle drug that does not exist. The other
word that has a definite meaning is affidavit. But I have never accepted the
meaning behind medicated as it means nothing. A medicated substance is not a
medicine. I have often wondered why the 99.9% pure ivory soap that floats is
not 99.8 or 100% pure. Why is it that those recent surveys never tell you when
it occurred or where and by whom? And what is clinically proven?
And yet as my wife Rosemary and I try to avoid
the ads between listening to Rachel Maddow on MSNBC we are sent a barrage of
those terms that have no meaning. I end up clinically depressed.
To the nonsense words above I want to add
another one. The word is personalized.
In this scan of the title page of my first
edition of William Gibson’s Neuromancer I guess I can write:
1. It is personalized.
2. It is autographed.
3. It is dedicated.
4. It is signed.
It cannot be autographed as that in most
cases means that you go up to your idol and produce his or her book and say, “Will
you sign it for me?”
It cannot be because Gibson gave me the
book, I did not buy it.
Can it be personalized? If I write my name
on the book to signal that I am the owner is it personalized?
Can it be dedicated? Perhaps, but exactly
what does that mean? I took my personal copy of Peter Beales’s Classic Roses a
few years (before he died) when he came to Vancouver and asked him to dedicate it to my
granddaughter Rebecca who was not there.
If my Neuromancer is signed what can you
say of all that extra stuff? You can routinely go to a big box bookstore and
find a shelf full of already signed novels by famous authors.
I would like to point out that my first
edition Neuromancer is worth more than $1000 but that it would be worth more if
it had not been “written upon” by the author to that unknown person that I am. And
had I not opened the book at all, it would have been then be worth even more. An
unread book can be priceless to the buyer and the seller.
But what of the reader?
New York Interior
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
For years I have been an admirer of the
paintings of American Edward Hopper. I have been attracted to Hopper’s subtle
(but perhaps not) portrayal of our personal isolation (perhaps alienation is a
better word). Today I took this photograph of my friend Bronwen Marsden for a
project in which she is a woman out of a Raymond Chandler novel. But when I
saw the picture I knew I had an image that would go hand in hand with my
favourite Hopper, New York Interior.
Edward Hopper, New York Interior, c.
1921. Oil on canvas, 24 1/4 × 29 1/4 in. (61.6 × 74.3 cm). Whitney Museum of
American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest 70.1200
© Heirs of Josephine
N. Hopper, licensed by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Pantera tigris 'Canuckus' & Ursus arctos
Monday, December 02, 2013
I photographed Vancouver Canucks player
Tiger Williams in his home in 1994 for Equity Magazine. The art director, Chris
Dahl liked the photograph so much that he put the b+w version on the cover. I never
bothered to do anything with the colour transparency until I saw my friend, Ian
Bateson’s artwork of a bear skull he photographed on a recent trip to Alaska. This is a work where he starts with the photographic image which
he then works on with an iPad application made famous by David Hockney called
Procreate. I decided to combine Bateson’s image with mine. I like it lots.
A Ballerina, The Répétiteur & Snow White
Sunday, December 01, 2013
Saturday Rosemary and I went to Granville Island’s Arts Umbrella for an open house
on our granddaughter Lauren’s ballet and modern dance classes.
No matter how many times, through the years
that I have gone to this sort of thing (we went for Rebecca’s classes until she
lost interest) I always leave with the certainty that there is no better dance
school in Vancouver
than the Arts Umbrella Dance Program run by Artemis Gordon.
A few people understand that many of the
graduates of the program have gone to some of the best ballet companies around
the world, not to mention our very own Ballet
BC. In fact Ballet
BC has an impressively long bench of stars
that I liken to a bench that runs the span from Granville and Davie (where the Vancouver Dance Centre is
located) all the way to Granville Island.
I particularly enjoyed today’s classes
because of the program’s répétiteur, Robert, who jazzed up (most skillfully)
Christmas carols or simply played beautiful jazz standards to accompany the
dancers. Lauren’s ballet instructor, Margaret Reader-Martin teaches with an
accurate and insisting style that she softens with most personal corrections. Lauren’s
modern dance teacher, London-born Claudia Segovia, gives her students lots of
room to create and innovate their own ideas. I find that these two teachers
become a fine balance of discipline with a let-loose policy that gives the
dancers lots of confidence.
Of particular note for me is the efficient
performance of my very own Fuji X-E1 digital camera which seems to take lovely
window portraits with a soft texture that I am warming up to.
Our afternoon after the dance was an
afternoon at the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library. We went home with
a pile of Film DVDs and books.
After a dinner of barbecued vegetables and
flank steak with little potatoes baked in the oven with Parmesan cheese and
olive oil we retired to the den and watched Blancanieves which is a 2012
Spanish black-and-white silent fantasy drama film written and directed by Pablo
Berger. Since this circa 1920s Snow
White protagonist becomes a bull fighter (of the female kind) it gave me the
opportunity to explain to Lauren that bullfighting is not a sport but an art
form similar to ballet. The bullfighter (who most often kills the bull and the
bull most often does not reciprocate) has to be graceful in the path of danger.
How he (or she) twirls the cape or the muleta (a squarish cape held in place by
a sword) is poetry in motion even though Spaniards and most that are fans of
the art know that the bull does not have a chance.
Lauren did not question my explanation even
though I suspect she might in a few years. In Mexico City as a teenager and a young man I
often went to the bullfights and saw some of the best. I have no idea how I
would react to one now.
The film was enjoyable. I took a happy
mother and daughter home (the other daughter now works on Saturday evenings).
Looking back at the day I can consider it a
success. But I will have to come up with a very good encore for next Saturday’s
after dinner film.