Al Davidson - Vancouver A City With Short Memory
Saturday, July 18, 2015
|Al Davidson - Photograph Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|
I am a big city man. Since a boy I bought into the idea (not
suspecting where it came from) of the rosy but historical idea of the citizens
of Athens living the city life.
Part of living that idea is to read your daily newspaper.
Most of my contemporaries and even some have previously had high jobs at the
Vancouver Sun brag to me that they cannot abide by the present incarnation of
the daily. They don’t read it. I do.
While I am fairly adept a cruising the internet and being
able to find anything I want to find, I think that going through a hard copy
daily (be it my NY Times which is daily delivered, or the Vancouver Sun) and systematically absorbing
what’s on every page even if I may not be interested in the homes section or
the business section is important. A daily makes my knowledge of my city
(Vancouver) a relevant one.
It is sad to find out that our Vancouver Courier will be
only publishing one weekly edition by the end of this month. I remember with
glee when the Courier broke the story (a prime example of stellar investigative
reporting) and out scooped (does anybody under 30 understand the term?) of a
manse on the West Side that was a most unreligious bawdy house!
A case that proves my point is the little column in today’s
Sun (in the sports section) by Greg Douglas aka Doctor Sport.
I know that if I place the link here that the Vancouver Sun will
in a few months dispense with it. All that, further erodes on the very nature
of the essay which is about our short memory. So I will put here the essay (the
section on broadcaster Al Davidson and keep my fingers crossed that the Sun will not send their lawyers after me) in the hopes that my blog will be
accessible for a longer period that the Sun’s short lived hyperlinks.
The piece mentions Jim Taylor. Some will also have forgotten
who he was. I wrote about him here
. In this day and age of short memory it is
pleasant for me to point out that I listen to CBC’s Panamerican Games radio
alerts in the hopes (most of the time it happens! ) of listening to Steve Armitage
Greg Douglas’s essay (below) mentions golden-voiced Lyndon Grove
as the man who is editing the Davidson biography being written by Michael Sporer. Grove is 82 and in his
head he has some of the best memories about this city which I am happy to
report is my city.
Kudos to Greg Douglas and the Vancouver Sun for constantly
surprising me with good stuff.
My photograph of Davidson appeared February 1987in Vancouver Magazine
with an essay by Mike Gasher (see below) . Harvey Southam
lent me the disinflated football.
VANCOUVER — Retired sports columnist Jim Taylor has given up
his fight to have the late Al Davidson inducted into the media category of the
BC Sports Hall of Fame.
“I tried to make it happen several times over the years,”
Taylor says from his home in Shawnigan Lake. “The man was a broadcasting icon
in Vancouver. In his day, he owned the town. But I guess it’s too late now. The
majority of the people on the Hall of Fame selection committee don’t even know
his name. Too much time has passed. It’s sad.”
Taylor will be pleased to know that not everyone has
forgotten the fiery little man who was once described as “a broadcaster who
covered sports the way a penitentiary guard covers prisoners, with a shotgun
and a lot of suspicion.”
Over the past two years New Westminster lawyer Michael
Sporer has been researching and writing a book about the life and times of
Davidson that will be published in 2016 to coincide with what would have been
his 90th birthday and 25 years since his passing in August 1991.
Revered broadcasting journalist Lyndon Grove has been
working with Sporer as an editor and consultant. The Davidson story goes back
to his war years in the RCAF 438 Wildcat Squadron and chronicles his radio
career that included stops with CKPR in Port Arthur, Ont., CKCK in Regina and
CKY in Winnipeg before arriving at CKNW in 1958.
During his tumultuous career at ’NW, he was acquitted of
arson charges that were laid after fire damaged the station’s boat Seawatch and
he later won a wrongful dismissal suit for threatening the life of sportscaster
Neil Macrae, whom Davidson had hired.
Vancouver Sun columnist Denny Boyd once wrote: “I hated the
infuriating way Davidson practised his trade. He was biased, bigoted,
vindictive and inaccurate. Put him in front of a microphone and he became as
unpredictably dangerous as an exploding stove. But, God help me, I would get
out of bed early every morning to hear him commit all the foregoing sins.
“So what was to like about him? He was a standup pal. He
would climb a mountain to help you. He wept easily. He loved his family. He
knew what he was doing every minute of his most crazed broadcast. He was a
runty little pest who was fun to be around.”
Sporer might want to distribute copies of his upcoming book
to the BC Sports Hall of Fame selection committee. Taylor says he’d gladly pay
The Otakar Suchy In Our Den
Friday, July 17, 2015
Our home has many of my framed photographs on the walls. Today
I took inventory and found out that I have lots of original art from other
people. Most were given to me a few I purchased. I have several sculptures, 9 paintings, three photogravures,
one photograph and this 10cm by 15½ cm copper (pressed?).
I remember that it was given to my Rosemary by an employee
at Mariposa in the middle 80s. Rosemary worked there until 2008. She has no
memory of the man or the pressed sculpture that has been in one of our den’s
wall bookcases since we moved to Athlone in 1986.
I inspected the left hand corner with my Agfa photo loupe and read
Otakar Suchy. I am not sure if that y is accented. And underneath there is a
date, 1977, that is scratched.
The Otakar Suchy in my den is an object I have admired
through the years. It is most pleasant to have art in one’s house even if one
cannot afford a Picasso.
I recently reconnected with artist Rudy Schneeweiss
who kindly sent me this portrait of Otakar.
Addendum: Suchy's life seems to have ended in disappointment and tragedy. I thought twice about including here Rudy Schneeweiss's information on a man I thought lost years ago. But I think that this man's life and artistry need to be remembered.
Sculptor Otto Suchy was employed in Mariposa at the Display dept. for about
two or three months in 1980.(?) He was fired upon McNamara's wish. He caught
him several times attending his car in the shift.
He moved in the eighties to the USA and I lost track of his doings. Later I found
out he opened a shop for restoration of antique metalwork in New Jersey.
The last news about him I got from the internet, he was already broken by the loss
of his wife Vicki and had mounting debts for rent. He ended up living in his
shop until a benevolent landlord couldn't carry it any longer and then he most
likely got a place through a social help organization.
That was when he was already seventy five years old. If he still lives I do
not know because he did not keep in touch with anyone in Canada.
Otto was in Czech Republic well known artist and Canada and US was for him a
great disappointment because of his inability to promote his work and
While I knew him and consider him to be friend I made his portrait which I
Rudy- September 18, 2015
Charyn - A Shriek Inside My Skull
Thursday, July 16, 2015
Can you judge a book by its cover? Perhaps, sometimes you can.
I use other methods. I read book reviews and look for authors I like or admire.
I also have another procedure and this is to read the first paragraph or the last
paragraph. In some cases I do both. But certainly the last paragraph
never in a mystery!
For years I wanted to read The Personal Memoirs of U.S.Grant.
When I finally nailed a copy (a not too well preserved second edition at
my Vancouver Public Library’s main branch) I was rewarded by this incredible first
My family is American,
and has been for generations, in all its branches, direct and collateral.
A few weeks ago I received in the mail a copy of the latest (2015)
book by one of my all-time favourite authors. It is Bitter Bronx – Thirteen Stories
by Jerome Charyn
Without looking at the first paragraph of the first story or
the last of the thirteenth one, I picked Princess Hannah
story) which I thoroughly enjoyed. While that
story sinks in I decided to give Bitter Bronx my first and last paragraph test.
Here it is!
Lorelei, Page 19
Howell was still on
the lam. He’d been a grifter most of his life, a guy without a permanent
address. He had six Social Security cards, seven driver’s licenses, a potpourri
of voter registration cards, bankbooks
under a dozen names. He was Mark Crawford in Florida, Mel Eisenstein in
Tennessee. He’d never declared any income, never paid any tax, never been
caught. His grift was quite simple. He’d settle into a small town, deposit ten
thousand dollars into the local bank, walk around in a very conservative suit,
register at the best hotel, and wait: the women would always come to him. He never
poked around, never asked questions, never made a list of wealthy widows.
The last paragraph of the last story is a killer but it
reveals too much in its ending which is a surprise so I will skip it. What will do are the first two lines of the Author’s Note:
For a long time I
couldn’t go back to the Bronx. It felt like a shriek inside my skull, or a
wound that had been stitched over by some insane surgeon, and I didn’t dare
undo any of the stitches.
Wiseman On Harrison - Harrison On Art & No Fun - Revisited
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
With all the proliferating TV food channels and all those articles on food in newspapers not to mention the restaurant lists to be found in Vancouver Magazine
(with covers that at one time have people but now feature genuine cheesecake) I remember fondly one of the best restaurant reviews I ever read. It was in 1985 that Vancouver Province
rock critic Tom Harrison took punk rocker Art Bergmann to a very good Italian restaurant. That and more (Iggy Pop, Les Wiseman and a funny No Fun) you will find below from a blog that I originally posted May 19 2010.
By Les Wiseman
may have met Tom Harrison (seen here with Iggy Pop) when we were both
interviewing our mutual hero Lou Reed on his Rock’n’Roll Heart tour. Tom
was immediately nice to me, which I appreciated because he was a
bigshot and I was writing for The Ubyssey, UBC’s student newspaper. I
remember when I first started covering punk for The Ubyssey, my editor,
Bruce Baugh -who had actually MET the venerated Tom Harrison, told me
that Tom liked this “punk crap,” so maybe I should give it the benefit
of the doubt.
has always been nice to me, immediately giving me gigs at The Georgia
Straight when I got out of university in 1978. Sharing his beer at
umpteen Commodore gigs. Tom has always had a rock’n’roll heart and he
has given to rock’n’roll as much as it has given to him. Rock journalism
in Vancouver IS Tom Harrison.
He has hung with the
greats. I remember him at a Pretenders gig at the Queen E. He was
ecstatic at having interviewed Chrissie Hynde that afternoon and having
finished the invu harmonizing with her on some old garage-rock tunes. I
remember having dinner with him at his house one night when he whipped
out a pic of him and Keith Richards together -man, was I envious. We
were in his home, which was lined with records. He asked what I wanted
to hear and I said the third Velvet Underground album and off he went in
search of it. When he had been gone for a long while, we went to find
him. The quest had proved too much for him and we found him passed out
in a chair among a zillion albums.
I recall one night
after a concert by Squeeze, we were at an after party at the Luv-A-Fair.
It was Tom’s birthday and we got thrown out. So I went back in, under
the guise of getting my coat, and smuggled some beer out. We went across
the street to a construction site and sitting on stacks of Gyproc we
drank and had a great time, just the two of us.
even without him being a terrifically nice guy, he would still be a
cultural treasure because of the massive volume of articles he has
written about the greats and those he felt just deserved some ink and
recognition. Tom has given a lot of breaks to a lot of musicians. He has
made careers, mine included.
Of course, Tom continues
to write today, as incisively and honestly as ever. He is a great
journalist and a great entertainer. He has also been a broadcaster on
both radio and TV and is an accomplished drummer and singer.
greats in this business are known by the addition of an expletive
adjective inserted as their middle name. He is Tom “Fuckin’” Harrison.
OUT FOR LUNCH - CONTINENTAL
By Tom Harrison
The Province, Friday, May 10, 1985
was Doug Hughes, the former regular occupant of the Out For Dinner
column, who suggested Niki’s Caprice Restaurant. “I go there all the
time,” said Doug, currently the assistant marketing director of the
“He comes here all the time, “said
Chef Niki, the one-time owner of the popular Chez Luba. That’s what he
said,” said I, author of today’s review.
“I like your
pictures,”offered Art Bergmann, surveying the hundreds of autographed
photos of dancers, film stars, musicians and other celebrities that had
made the trek with Niki from Chez Luba to his Richards location two
years ago. “Those,”Niki boasted proudly, expansively, “are all my
girlfriends. Who,” he asked, suddenly curious and fixing Art with an
inquisitive stare, “are you?”
I explained,” is the leader of one of the city’s best rock bands called
Poisoned.” “You are a good-looking young man, Niki told him, glowing
with Hungarian good cheer. “Rock music, eh? Oogie boogie. Striptease!”
Niki, if you haven’t guessed, is an extremely personable, gracious
gentleman who will be 93 years of age next week. His Caprice Restaurant
has an old-fashioned continental style, informal and quaint but with an
attention to service and detail.
If Art and I had come
to dinner Thursday, Friday or Saturday evening we would have basked in
the radiance of a blonde woman at the piano and her violin-playing
accompanist performing, in Niki’s words, “beautiful gypsy music.” But
this was lunch, so I made do with a special, poached turbot in lobster
sauce, while Art was attracted to the coulibiac.
turbot, Atlantic white fish, was served with a mound of rice, spinach
and carrots. Coulibiac, Art discovered, is similar to a coarse pate in a
light pastry crust.
“Let’s face it,” he said, probing the solid pink slice, “It’s salmon loaf.”
enough. The exalted coulibiac, a favorite of Russian royalty, equals
salmon loaf. Art Bergmann’s trademark as a songwriter is that he doesn’t
mince his words. One of the most respected figures of Vancouver rock
underground, he has taken steps to “cross over” with a powerful new six
song mini-LP, simply titled Poisoned.
Restaurant, 722 Richards. Telephone 685-2352. Open weekdays from 11:30
to 2:30 for lunch; 5:30 to 11:30 for dinner. Saturdays, 5:30 to 11:30.
Closed Sunday, All major credit cards accepted.
Tom Harrison is a Province music Critic.
OUT FOR DINNER - Chi Chi place to drop anchor
By Tom Harrison
The Province, Friday April 19, 1985
column has reviewed family restaurants in Surrey before, but never with
the esteemed Surrey-ologist, David M (left in picture below), and his
musical collaborator in the rockin’ folk duo No Fun,
Paul Leahy (bottom
“We come here all the time,” says M as we are
seated in the smoking section of Chi Chi’s Restaurant. “It is our
favorite place,”the murmuring Leahy concurs. “Foodwise, it’s a lot like
McDonald’s, except Mexican,” M says. “The food is cheap and the servings
are big, which appeals to Surrey’s people quite a lot. Surrey people
are big eaters.”
not to be negative, David,”cautions Leay. “We want to come back here.”
“Hunter S. Thompson says that no matter how fragmented your life is,
everybody has a psychic anchor,” M says. “His is breakfast: mine is Chi
Scanning a menu dotted with such items a
Chimichangas (four types of filled tortillas plus beans and rice,
$5.25), the Chihuahua (three flautas, choice of filling, the
ever-popular beans and rice, $6.95), margaritas and Mexican “fried” ice
cream (French vanilla deep fried in corn flakes and cinnamon coating,
$2.95), M immediately decides on his staple, Nachos Especiale (nacho
chips covered in cheese, tomato and onion) with a side order of refried
Leahy likewise opts for his usual, the cheese
and onion enchilada ($3.25) and is in luck – today the cheese and onion
is Chi Chi’s luncheon special: $2.95 with beans and rice.
our level of the music business,” M explains as he gingerly slides a
Nachos Grande (chips under cheese, ground beef, beans and jalapeno
slices, $5.95) off a hot plate, “you have to be cost conscious.”
Fun last Friday managed to divide a sellout crowd as opening act for Al
Stewart at the Commodore. At least half the audience hated the duo; the
other half has expressed an interest in the band’s tow latest releases,
the abridged cassette version of No Fun’s massive Snivel boxed set, and
a new cassette of old No fun nuggets, realistically and drily called
While David and Paul explain how Leahy no longer
is a pizza delivery man since being robbed and beaten in a church by
pizza bandits, I consider the Chajita. The beef Chajita for one ($9.95)
is strips of beef, sizzling on a bed of onions, accompanied by rice,
shredded cheese, guacamole and sour cream. You can have a wonderful
wallow by slapping various portions onto your tortilla (you get three),
folding it like a burrito and chomping down.
is fun. As David M seest it, Chi Chi’s doesn’t try to present itself as
authentic, and as franchises go, it is a lot smarter and several steps
up from the ersatz Mexican junk food pit stops. More like the Keg of
Mexican restaurants than a McDonald’s. Chi Chi’s is at 15140 – 101st
Ave, Surre. It’s open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday
to Thursday; until midnight Friday and Saturday; noon to 10 p.m.
Sundays and holidays. Chi Chi’s accepts Visa, Mastercard and American
Express. Phone 589-2145
Tom Harrison is a music critic for the Province
With Perfect Diction He Said, "I am dying."
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
|Mark Budgen, 2014|
Mark Budgen, Pat Carney & Maldon Salt
Arriving at an acceptance of one’s mortality and a clear
understanding of the limits and the possibilities of medicine is a process, not
Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
Since I was 20 I have known of Epicurus’s view on death
which simply put states that death brings no pain. Since there is no pain we
cannot possibly fear it.
As a young boy death happened to my neighbour next door in
Buenos Aires and the lottery was won by a neighbour across the street. Both the
winning and the dying happened always to someone else. I was a bad luck
Life in Mexico brought me closer to the concept of death
which seemed to be a happy-go-lucky-why-care by most Mexicans.
I talk a lot about death and of my own. Both my daughters and
my wife object to it. They particularly dislike my telling them that my hope is
to be vaporized in an airliner mid-air explosion. There would be not bits left
for the worry and expense of a burial.
My mother died in bed in our own house (one that she had
helped my Rosemary and I to buy). She died of peritonitis something that now
with a good doctor could have been prevented. Rosemary and I heard her breathe
in but she never did breathe out.
My father died in the street and had enough money in his
pocket that I was able to pay for a modest burial in the Chacarita Cemetery in
In the last five years I have lost four mentor/friends (three
lifelong ones). Three of them cried in my presence and one of them simply told me,
“After me, the deluge.” This, latter, man, Vancouver architect Abraham
Rogatnick and I had discussed for years the prospect on how we would face
death. A year before he died he decided to stop treatment on his prostate
cancer. He knew he was going to die.
A few days before it happened I read to him by his hospital
bed Ambrose Bierce’s Parker Adderson Philosopher. It is the tale of a man ready
to die the next day as he has been caught as a spy. He does not fear death, he
tells his captors. His captors unable to understand then decide to have him
shot then and there. The spy and an officer have struggle and they shoot each
other. Rogatnick and I talked about the fact that while we may not fear death
and be prepared, little by little to let go, the situation would be different
if someone put a gun to our temple. We can never know and Rogatnick, who was
dying could not tell me how he would react.
A few years ago, while driving through a Vancouver back
alley I spotted a gull that was in the last throws of dying. Perhaps it was sick,
perhaps it had been hit by a car. I felt saddened and curiously ashamed to be
watching. I seemed that in dignity we (humans and gulls) have to die alone. In
fact we are often told that we all die alone.
In so many Hollywood, the wounded warrior, sickly wife is
surrounded by friends or relatives. The “expert” gets close and then nods (this
expert is always a man) negatively. He knows the person lying on the floor or
being held by the hero’s arms, is a goner. Mark Twain, famously begged to
Every time I feel that numbness in my elbows, a knot on my
chest and I am short of breath I think of death. The first time it really
happened (October 2013) in a motel room at the Toronto Airport all I could
think of was, “I am not going to see my Rosemary or our cats again.”
All of the above and more went through my head as I drove
(alone) my Malibu to OIiver, BC yesterday Monday. I consciously made it a point
not to turn on my radio or play CDs. I wanted the relative silence to mull in
my mind that my friend Mark Budgen whom I had met in 1977 had brain tumours and
that his prognosis made it doubtful he might see 2016. I was going to visit him at the hospital. Returning home, there
was no music in the Malibu. I had too much to digest.
Budgen is an eccentric Englishman who is a connoisseur of
food, good books, music and an orderly and mostly uncomplicated living. He is
also a very good essay writer known for precision and for meticulous
fact-checking. He is well versed in politics and when after having met my first
cousin/godmother, Inesita O’Reilly Kuker in Buenos Aires in the late 80s she
gave Mark the nickname Marx because of his left-of-centre views. To this day
Inesita, who is 92 remembers Marx fondly.
Budgen would invite our mutual friend Ian Bateson (who also
was in Oliver on Monday) and I for sumptuous lunches in his heritage house in
Strathcona. There is one day I remember most fondly (Bateson was not there that
day). By my plate there was a little bowl with a peeled hard-boiled egg. I looked at Budgen quizzically. His
explanation was, “Try putting some of that flaked salt from that little
container on your egg.” The egg exploded in my mouth with flavour I had never
experienced before. His explanation was,
“That’s Maldon Salt. It comes from the Maldon Sea in England. The Danes
defeated the English there. There is blood of Englishman in that salt.
Everybody in my family will not touch, eat or season any
dishes without the glorious Maldon Salt.
There is a curious fact about how Budgen eschews certain
types of technology to the point that he simply ignores it. Consider that he
owned records and record players, but skipped the CD and went straight to podcasts.
Budgen would listen to obscure Norwegian classical music stations at night in
bed. He is a master of his iPhone is and
is good with computers and when he didn’t want to talk to me on the phone his
excuses were many but never repeated. My favourite was, “Alex I cannot talk to
you because I am monitoring my fax machine.”
Budgen when he wants to can be one of the best dressed and
most elegant men around. This is true, even though he has a preference for
strange Mountain Co-Op foot gear. My best memory of his elegance happened in a
VAG party during Expo 86. There was Budgen in an immaculate suit and beautiful
tie. He was standing next to a similar kind of man except that the man, Patrick
Reid was a lot taller.
One of the funniest moments (funny for me) happened in Lima
in 1991. I had arrived to interview and photograph Mario Vargas Llosa. I had,
knowing Budgen was already in Peru, found him a job with Maclean's. He was
furious with me but softened up a bit. Before we even left the airport (he had
come to pick me up) someone had managed to steal his wristwatch. I want to add that both of us were members of
the Explorers Club. We both went to the Lima clubhouse.
The man I saw for about 13 minutes in the Oliver General
Hospital was sitting in bed eating blueberries and peaches. He was dressed in
street clothes. He looked exactly like I remembered him even though I had been
warned that he had lost 20 pounds in two weeks. With his exact and sonorous
diction (he could have made a fortune as a hard news TV reporter) he
gesticulated with his open hands (a very Mark Budgen trait) very much like a
fisherman showing you how big the fish that got away was.
He asked me, “How do you find me?” I answered truthfully,
“You are the same but different only in one way. You are a tall man and you
always looked down on me from up there with your long nose. Now you, on your
bed are at eye-level.” He then said, “You can take my picture.” I declined as
the ones that I took back in 2014 for his future website are much better than
anything I could have taken of a man on a hospital bed.
Budgen told me that in January he had read Being Mortal:
Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. "I read it before I knew
anything about what was going to happen to me." And to inject a bit of that
Budgen taste for good and lofty things he added, “He writes for the New
Yorker.” He then said what seemed so
easy for him to say and something I will never know until, (will I be lucky or
not?) I am in the same boat, “I am dying.”
I told him of my experience with Abraham Rogatnick and
reading him the Ambrose Bierce story.
Budgen was keen to explain to me of his terrible
hallucination/nightmares. In one of them he learned that his policeman brother
(who visited him recently from England) had died. He recounted this “fact” to
his nurse who simply said, that is not true, you dreamed it. She (the night
nurse is a woman) then gave him a pill to take away the anxiety. Budgen
explained that they are not dreams or hallucinations but projections from his
I then said, “Please tell me when I should leave.” He said,
“That is now.”
As I left I thought of a man with lots of dignity. I thought
of a man with tidy habits and extreme pulchritude. I thought of that dignity
and how matter-of-factly he had told me, “I piss through this tube.” At some
point as this man of dignity is pressed by a diminishing of it, I know he will
come to some sort of decision. But then I could be completely wrong. This man
is private and his most innermost thoughts are unknown (at least to me). He
told me that his mother had died of cancer in a little hospital surrounded by
friends and relatives, “She was too polite to tell them to go.” He then told me
while looking at me (with his new cancerous telephoto vision), “Most people
think they will die surrounded by relatives and friends at home. That does not
happen anymore. They now die alone in a big hospital surrounded by unknowns."