Les Wiseman - Mentor - FriendFriday, July 05, 2019
In my 77 years of existence on this planet I have been lucky (I am not going to use this now hackneyed word “blessed”) to have had many mentors who pointed me in the right direction. Most were much older than I was. Besides my father (who made me a good cook) the Brothers of Holy Cross in Austin taught me history, music, theology, civics and many a lesson on how to survive this world with at least a grain of sanity. Not all my mentors were men.
My mother was one who sacrificed everything to give me an education. My wife Rosemary was a pioneer in knowing when to leave a country or when to buy a house. My grandmother Lolita gave me my first indications that I might someday be an artist. Argentine painter Juan Manuel Sánchez made me an artist and convinced me from his example that my obsession with the female form was not unsound and perfectly normal.
Here in Vancouver, Vancouver Magazine's Mac (Malcolm Parry) gave me my chance to work for a magazine and commanded me to write my first article (a cover one!). His two art directors, Rick Staehling and Chris Dahl pushed me to be versatile and never gave me jobs in fashion which was the kiss of death for most locals, who were soon replaced by the new one on the scene.
Writer John Lekich with a simple sentence brought me into some sort of efficiency in my writing. He told me, “Whatever it is you write about in your first paragraph you should bring into the last one.”
Lekich and writer Les Wiseman, (whom I met around 1977) were and are both much younger than I am. This confirms my opinion that mentors can be of any age in relation to my own.
When I arrived with my wife and daughters in Vancouver, my knowledge of most things involving Vancouver and Canada was minor. As soon as Wiseman becameVancouver Magazine's rock columnist, In One Ear (and associate editor, etc), he had me firmly under his wing with statements (I was totally ignorant of the man who had written Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson), “As your attorney I would…” or “When in doubt, drink heavily.” I never had a clue that Wiseman by calling me "Lenso the Argentinian Lensman" he was associating me with Thompson's relationship with Ralph Steadman.
The expert on popular music that he was (and is) would give me such advice as, “Lou Reed is God, and if you are going to like heavy metal it must be Motorhead.”
In short order he made me a snob to good popular music and with his writing and my photographs we became darlings of the local record reps (they were powerful then). We were always granted exclusive access interviews like Sting (and later the Police), the Police or Iggy Pop in their hotels.
Wiseman invented the idea of making his Christmas In One Ear to be about a local band and we worked to make sure the photograph would reflect good Christmas spirit.
But of the many things he taught me there was this, which may be self-evident to most (but it certainly was not to me), “If you are going to write, write about that which you know.” I soon learned that this meant also that when you didn’t know you consulted someone who knew and then you did heavy research (at the library).
And there was one more thing, “Never start your writing in the beginning (implying that Dickens’s David Copperfield was the exception). Start in the middle and then work both ways."
The final coup de grâce (in a positive way) advice from Wiseman was in teaching me how to write profiles. He would make piles of a information of the person to be profiled on the floor. These piles included quotes from friends, enemies or family. He would add quotes from books about the person, and so on. He would then start shuffling them around which gave his profiles (he won many kudos and magazine awards) a lightly intended randomness.
So, Mr. Wiseman, thank you.