August 31, 2011

Close Encounters of the Fourth or Maybe Fifth or Sixth Kind

Last night I watched about 10 minutes of a Wayne and Shuster comedy show from 1964. Wayne and Shuster were a popular Canadian comedy act of Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster. They appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show dozens of times. And I knew them.

Deer Park Library
They didn't know me, except as the young gal in Deer Park Library in Toronto Ontario who checked their library books in and out in the early 1970s. They never came in with their families, or with each other, but always alone. I'd smile and greet them. One would return my smile and a reciprocal hello. The other (and I'm not about to reveal which one did what) would remain stony faced and simply nod.

I mentioned all this to hubs as we watched a few minutes of this old black and white comedy, and he asked "What other famous people did you know?" My rather hasty response was "Oh gee, no one, I don't know any famous people" But he persisted,  saying that I didn't have to be best buddies with them, but had I ever had any encounter of any kind with anyone well-known. That got me thinking and I realized that over the years my path had indeed crossed the paths of several famous individuals.

So indulge me this morning and let me list my encounters with celebrities, politicians and other famous people. I'd love to know about yours!

Ovide Mercredi. Ovide was an Aboriginal Canadian politician, very well known in Canada. He travelled far afield, speaking at the United Nations in Geneva and New York. Around 1993/1994 he went to Mexico as head of a Canadian delegation to the troubled Mexican state of Chiapas. I had a chance meeting with him there in Ixtapa. I was on a holiday with my sister and we went to a new restaurant for dinner one night. The staff did not speak English very well. I speak a little Spanish, just enough to get by on, and was enjoying using what Spanish I know with the restaurant staff.

At the table next to us was a  distinguished-looking man about our age with a woman. The stranger at the next table was listening and finally he spoke, telling me that the staff thought he was Indian from Mexico and so they insisted on speaking Spanish to him. But he did not understand them, and would I mind translating for him. So I did, and we began chatting. He introduced himself when I told him he looked familiar. It was Ovide Mercredi and he was taking a break from the talks in Chiapas. We had a very pleasant conversation for a few hours as we enjoyed our meals.

Gordon Lightfoot, Canadian songwriter and singer. For many years Gord had a home near Penetanguishene which is a few miles from where I live. He also sailed on Georgian Bay in his sailboat Golden Goose. I also sailed in those days (both for pleasure and competively) as crew on a 30 foot sailboat called Bobby Shaftoe. Georgian Bay is a tricky Bay to sail in with lots of shoals and vast stretches of open water. If you are crossing from Penetanguishene or Midland heading to Tobermory on the other side, you need to watch the weather as strong gales and huge waves can come up suddenly. One beautiful day four of us decided to take a run to Tobermory for a weekend away. I can't recall the year but it was in the 70s.

Golden Goose
We saw Gord's boat in the distance, making the same run. A gale came up and things got very bad. Two of our 4-person crew were seasick and not able to help take sails down or man the tiller in the storm. Gord's boat, piloted by Vic Carpenter, drew near ours and Gord yelled out to say that their crew was also seasick and we should sail together for safety reasons.

We had several hours of fighting the storm, wind and waves together as we yelled back and forth to each other. Finally we made Tobermory Bay and we anchored, as did Gord. I immediately pulled out my tape recorder (remember those?) and began playing my Gordon Lightfoot songs at full volume. Gord came out on deck and I yelled out "Hey Gord, do you like my music?" (Now so embarrassing to think about but at the time I thought I was quite clever). His response was a grumbled "It's interfering with my playing!" And he disappeared below deck. I don't think I impressed Gord very much that day.

John Dieffenbaker, 13th Prime Minister of Canada. I happened to pass him in a deserted hallway of the old Pearson Airport in Toronto in the early 1970s. He was within an arm's length from me, surrounded by 3 or 4 staff aka bodyguards. I did something something out of character - smiled and said "Hello Mr. Dieffenbaker!" He looked up and nodded his head, then kept on walking. That counts as a semi-encounter I think.

Lincoln Alexander & Lorine
Lincoln Alexander, 24th Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario. I met Mr. Alexander in April 1990 at Victoria Harbour Public School where I was teaching.  He spent some time in our classroom of special needs children and we talked for a short time. This is a photograph taken of us standing together with another teacher. That's me on the right (his left) in the polka dot skirt and short-sleeve blouse.

Guy Lombardo,  bandleader. I happened to be on an elevator with him in my hotel in Forida in the late 1960s or very early 1970s.  I think it was in Fort Lauderdale but it was so long ago I'm not sure. We were the only two on the elevator but I was too shy to speak up.

I couldn't think of anyone else but hubs seemed to think  my list was pretty good. He couldn't recall anyone famous with whom he was ever in any kind of encounter, but maybe you have an encounter or two or several that you can share with us?  It was a fun exercise and brought up a lot of old memories. I plan to add this blog post to my Genealogy Journal for my children to enjoy reading one day.






4 comments:

Kristin said...

Good one. Got me thinking. I was around some famous or infamous people but I don't think I ever spoke to any of them. I was not an outgoing person.

Anonymous said...

I love how Canadian all your celebrities are!

Anonymous said...

Chris and I were in LA and were having dinner at Spago in Beverly Hills when they came to get us for our table. Chris followed the host and I dropped something so quickly got up and dashed off behind him drink in hand (yikes!)..not looking up I felt two strong hands on my shoulders that stopped me in my tracks before I ran him over. It was Wolfgang Puck..we had a chat before he helped me find Chris in the crowded restaurant, haha. That trip we also ran into Tom Hanks who had met some friends at Ivy near the pier, he was very nice.

ponyswimgal said...

H'mm ... I've been lucky enough to meet several famous people, including two of the Doctor Whos (both Tom and Colin Baker). The best was, along with 3 friends, taking Tom Baker to dinner. We had an extremely enjoyable evening and -- we like to think! -- he enjoyed himself, too. Then there was the time I got to watch Gene Kelly perform live on stage in Columbus, Ohio, & afterward getting to actually talk to him when he was meeting the public. I'll never know where I got the nerve!, but I asked if I could give him a kiss. Without hesitation, he rose to his feet and leaned across the table so I could kiss his cheek. A good thing I had a friend with me, otherwise I don't think I could have found my way out of the building and back to our car. ::stillstarryeyed::