Sunday, August 12, 2018

Ronnie Prophet

 n 1976 Ronnie Prophet played the Horseshoe in Toronto for a week. I got to have a beer and swap stories with him most days. We had a few things in common. I was born in Montreal and he was born nearby. I had just come back from spending the winter sailing in the Bahamas and he had played 'west end' Bahamas for 3 years not long before.
He told me how he decided he need a small boat to fish with. so he flew 'chalks airlines' to Miami and bought an 18 ft Boston whaler and an out board and a case of beer and a pizza and motored back to west End. I think he had a compass no radio no phones then etc. I said do you know how crazy that is man. Nobody in their right mind would do that motoring across the 'Gulf Stream' in a putputt,. Your engine dies and you are floating to England.
he shrugged he didn't know. Ronnie had an act then called Harold the Horny toad.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Peter O'Toole

I was host of the Toronto Film Festival Hospitality suite in 1977. Donald Sutherland knew me a bit and asked me if I could arrange a private spot for him and Peter O'Toole could chat they had never met before. I gave them and empty room in the suite and loaded it up with drinks for them.I had a brief chat with them and left them on their own.
Some days later Peter came in the Club 22 at he Windsor Arms one night  I was at the next booth and i waved hello and he nodded and smiled at me. He had his girlfriend/keeper with him. she ordered him a Shirley temple something or the other for him and wine for her. He waited patiently until she went to the washroom. he called the waiter and ordered 2 no 4 no 6 shots of rum and finished them all before she got back to the table

Richard Burton

I hung out with Richard Burton for a while and he told me dozens of stories and "confessions" that have not been published anywhere elseWhile shooting 'Circle of Two' in Toronto, I met him him at the 22 he invited me to lunch with him and  I was his drinking buddy for the rest of movie we got to gether 3 or 4 times a week over 3 months and again when he came back to do Camalot and he told me dozens of jokes and stories and a few confessions all of which I wrote down at the time and have shaped into stories   called 'Lunch with Richard".
I am now living in Louisbourg Cape Breton island. Being out of the loop I am having difficulty selling my story. I wonder if I could interest cbc in my endevours.

 he recounts a couple of young actor stories one about Ralph Richardson and one about himself.

here is that example

I was on that same sort of circuit myself early in my career, I was playing one of the summer theaters and the Lord and Lady invited me out to the local Manor for the weekend. I meet the Butler at the door and he sniffs down his nose at me and shows me to my room.
I didn't pay too much attention at the time but I knew vaguely that it was in the old part of the manor, it was a long narrow room, painted white with a four poster at the far end with a night table and a lamp. I was to find out later that there was no electricity in this part of the manor.There was also a fireplace and near the door an ornate antique writing desk with a fresh bouquet of flowers in a vase.So the Butler starts to open my bag and offers to help me dress for dinner but I don't want him to see my poor belongings so I got him out of there and put on my old threadbare theater tux and went down for cocktails before dinner.
We had dinner, it was pleasant enough. I of course already had a taste for fine liquor in those days and not a lot of money to buy it so I was delighted to find the Manor had a well stocked bar and a fine collection of single malt whiskies and I got right in to it.
I must have drank A TOTAL OF three bottles by the time I tottered off to bed about twelve and fell into deep sleep.
Well, after all that Scotch I wake up in the middle of the night totally dehydrated and absolutely parched.
I must have a drink of water, and it's then that I realize there is no electricity in this old part of the mansion, that I don't have a match for the lamp and I don't know where the loo is, and its pitch black as well.
I am absolutely dying of thirst after drinking all that scotch and I must have a drink, of anything.
I am lying there feeling very miserable When I remember the vase of flowers. Ah water!
So I get out of bed and feel my way from the night table to the window and pat my way down the wall, past the fireplace down the wall I feel around blindly for the desk and the flowers.
Only in the dark I tip it all over and I can feel the water dripping everywhere, so I push and pat the water on to the floor and since I can't see anything I must give up and head back to bed.
I feel my way along the wall and past the fireplace, then I pat my way along the wall until I feel for the night table and crawl back into bed. I pull the sheets over me and lay there very miserable until first light and then to my horror I see it wasn't the flowers I knocked over.
I had knocked over a huge writing horn full of ink and the ink was everywhere, over the desk and the floor then there were my hand prints all over the wall across the mantelpiece, then all along the wall again across to the night table and all over the bed clothes. The mess was everywhere, it was hopeless.What could I do? I was thoroughly embarrassed. How can you possibly explain it?
I packed my things hitchhiked back to town and then caught the next bus to London.
We all wait for it.
You can see the Lord telling his guests the next weekend. "We had this actor chap over last weekend, you know he dipped his hands in ink and printed his hand prints all up and down the walls of his bedroom wiped them off on the bed sheets and then disappeared into the night"
"Strange people these actor chaps."
Long pause. twittish
"Strange people these actor chaps."
Again Richard tipped his glass and drained it in his unusual manner while we cheered his tale.
It is hard to describe how well he told them.
The stories were completely new to me and the perfection of the voice and timing were awesomeI believe The Voice could read his laundry list to thunderous applause.

Patrons keep sending bottles of wine to the table and the more he drinks the more he reveals
There are stories about broadway and Hume Cronyn. Stories of friends in wales, Stories of Elizabeth etc. there are confessions and predictions and even his finances. I guarantee dozens of tales that have never been heard before.

We are left with a more complete understanding of Richard Burton as a master entertainer a very ordinary man at heart who thorelly enjoyed his life

John Allan Cameron

95 - the man who made Cape Breton famous - hosted his own TV program - propelled Maritime music to the national stage 
He came to my bar when he was playing the Horseshoe.We often stopped for a chat here and there. Then he became a regular at the Uxbridge highland Games and we got together for a few pints and I met Stuart too.When I came to Cape Breton I became friends with his brother Alex.

John Allan Cameron was visiting home and with a little shot of sibling rivalry one of his brothers proudly showed him Darryl Sittler's autograph.
another brother chimed in "I bet you dont have his autograph John Allen?"

"No" says John Allen "but he does have my autograph".

Catherine O'Hara

Catherine O'Hara
Catherine was a good friend she loved the afterhours scene. her brother Marcus ran the 505 another Afterhours spot on Eastern queen Street. We spent many nights there long into the morning with her and mary margret and Marcus. But she often came to my place too and always brought interesting people. One of her first movies was double negative and I was Assistant to the Producer.
So there I was at the Club 22 at the Windsor Arms. With my then buddy Michael Ironside. Michael and I were trying to break our record of about 80 maragaritas. When Johnny Hart and Jack Caprio the cartoonists showed up and we were really throwing the drinks back and having a great time. When I saw Catherine waving at me. She had just came from the Courtyard Cafe where she had treated her parents to dinner. She waved me over and I gave her a peck and she says Gary I want you to meet my mother and father. 'Really How nice"I said trying to be polite and bent over with a little bow and extended my hand when: from out of nowhere Ironside bit my ass. I don't know how he did it, but I screamed and jumped and kicked. He hung on like a pit bull. I writhed around hit him while the stunned O'Haras wondered what was going on. I finally shook him off and everything settles down but I am sure Katherine's parents wondered what kind of friends she had. Everyone else was laughing but I was limping. Ironside could be a real crazy asshole sometimes.

Paul Bradley Going Down the Road.

Going Down the Road.

When I was living at Hazelton Ave. in Toronto (we had a commune)  there was a premier or preview of 'Going Down the Road' at the New Yorker.
I went with Melinda, Carla ad Helen and Pauline. Pauline and i were going together at the time.
We were knocked out by the movie and afterwards we went to the Pilot and we all raved about it. we felt it was a big step for Canadian Movies. Pauline really liked it. anyway they wanted to go back to Hazelton and i stayed on for a few more drinks.
so I am sitting there and who walks in but Paul Bradley. We hit it off we were friends from almost the first moment we met. We had a couple of hours of drinking and story telling and somewhere in
this haze i got a great idea. it was Pauline's birthday on Friday and we were having a party. So I talked Paul into coming and to play his character of Joey from the movie (this was not difficult). This was my idea of a crazy birthday present for Pauline.
Friday night Paul showed up with a friend (who kinda looked like McGrath) Introduced as Joey and just blew Pauline and the girls away. Paul is a traveling roadshow by himself and after a couple of hours went into entertainment mode. we had lots of drugs and booze and food and he ended up staying for a couple of days and we were good friends for ever more. Over the years we would get to gether every once in a while and have a  good get together.

Cayle Cherin

 Cayle Cherin was Salina in Going Down The Road.

. She went off to Hollywood and Dennis Hopper etc. Anyway just after i opened my after hours club about 5 years later. Cayle showed up on the scene I didn't recognize her to me she was this mysterious beautiful girl who started hanging around the 22 and Grossmans etc.

Then one night she shows up at my bar with some guy. Didn't like him much but ended up playing poker dice with him. I won about $300 off him. it was late and we all had a bunch of drinks into us. When he said he didn't have any money left. I said half joking I will play you one more game. you win you get your $300 dollars back I win I get your girlfriend. He said ok and we rolled the dice as  Cayle looked askance. When I won Cayle went into a bit of a tirade and told guy to get lost who did he think he was etc.I guess she though i was a better deal because she paid off and we dated for a while but even better became really good close friends. for the rest of her life we were really good buddies and enjoyed our friendship. I skyped her just a few days before she die. I really miss her. She was an extremely brilliant writer, actor and producer.

George Hamilton IV

 I actually sat and talked to and George Hamilton the fourth. he was at my club the night before and at that time the Horseshoe was very much a cop bar. So he had used my phone and somebody called him back so I caught him between songs to tell him and in the Nashville spirit he announces "this is my friend Gary he has a great bar across the street." as i am going No No Shh

The Smothers Brothers

The Smothers Brothers
Dickie Smothers came to the bar one night with a young lady. We hit it off and talked to the early hours. He had just bought a vineyard in California and we had great conversation on wine. They were playing the Royal York Hotel the next night so I got a date and went. for twenty bucks to the Maitre De I got a front row table. The Smothers show was fantastic and Dickie saw me from the stage and after the show invited us upstairs to a private party they were hosting for the cast of Chorus Line. He introduced me to Tommy and in the course of the night they mentioned they were looking for some drugs. I laid some tranquilizers and grass on them from my personal stash to tide them over. I ran into the next night and it was obvious they had found some.

Charlie Mingus

it was back in the seventies he was playing at Sherbourne and Charles and Doug bush took me to meet him, Now I had a lot of black friends in those days and hung out with them and Doug and I had a run in over a girl at one time.anyway Doug led me down a path that charlie took offense to, and became an argument and I had to leave. Too bad. It was very much Black Power days and I was just a whitey to Charlie anyhow.

Fats Domino

Fats Domino was playing the El Macambo. I was sitting in Grossman's when out of the blue Cliff Bastien asked I I wanted to go up the street and see Fats so I agreed we went up and caught the first set. Fats did his shtick lots of hits to playwith and had the place jumping. For the last number of the set he thumps really hard and pushes the piano across the stage with his stomach as he plays. When the set was over Cliff led me up to the dressing room and rapped on the door. Fats opened the door with a big smile and a hug for Cliff and invited us in. After the introduction we sat down and cliff gave Fats the lowdown on a bunch of people in New Orleans. Fats smiled at me and said 'Damn he knows more about my family than I do." I learned that Cliff had lived in New Orleans for a while and Fats'uncle had t                                                    aught Cliff how to play the banjo and Cliff was friends with quite a few of Fats relatives. Fats dedicated a song to his friend'Kid Bastien' in the second set. It was a night to remember.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Leonard Cohen

    My short Friendship with Leonard Cohen
This was in 1979 I had just quit the booze can biz and was transgressing into the Movie biz.
The Club 22 at the Windsor Arms was my principle milieu. I was at home there comfortable and confident.
I came in one evening and not seeing any friends I got a drink at the bar. in a glance around the room There was Leonard sitting by himself and nursing a drink at a nearby table. my milieu what the hell, I walked over "hey Leonard I'm Gary LeDrew, I am a friend of Lesley McDonnell she talks a lot about you. Leonard's eyes lit up. "The beautiful Lesley. have you seen here lately" "Not much since she married that St. Nicholas guy. "I say. I sat down and after a mutual admiration of Lesley conversation our talk drifted to other things. I was born in Montreal and gave my brief history there. He told me he was in town for an opening at an Art Gallery on Dundas St., and that the Artist had painted pictures of some of his released songs and he had to go. We drank pretty much till closing time covering a lot of subjects from gossip to philosophy. he said he had some meetings the next day but we would meet later. 
The next day I got a surprise phone call from my ex-wife. She had not let me see my daughter in 5 years and I had lost contact completely. She had broken up with guy she said was responsible for the ban and if I wanted I could pick her up the next evening if I took her sister as well. Sarah was now seven and Shaleen was four. I was ecstatic.
Leonard was emerging as a star about this time with  3 records and a tour. He still seemed a bit shy, he wasn't that comfortable in Toronto and had no friends around at that time. We had a very comfortable few hours of drinking and talking and he invited me to the opening the next night. I explained I couldn't go and why. Leonard was insistent "look man I really need you to go. I really don’t know anybody there and frankly the whole thing is a bit embarrassing. I need the support and you at least know the art scene. I protested that I hadn't seen my daughter in 5 years. So bring them I’ll take care of it.
So i showed up the next night with Sarah and Shalleen. We drank a lot of wine the kids tore around the Gallery with Leonard’s blessing. i dont remember the art I don’t think I was not too impressed and Leonard was polite  in a couple of interviews but soon drank more wine and was terrific with the kids. Somewhere there is videotape of Leonard with Sarah in one arm and Shaleen in the other one with a glass of wine too.
I got the kids home happy and made arrangement to take them out on Sunday.
I got to see Leonard for a bit the next day and a few drinks before he caught the train to Montreal. As was usual for me then I never thought to get phone numbers etc. (i always just expected to see people) As it happened I had to move back to Uxbridge for a bit when I got back to the 22 i was told Leonard had asked about me a few times but I never did see him again. i managed to get a message to him when he went through here on tour but he didn't reply after all it was 40 years before.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Nick Auf der Maur and Michael Sarrazin

Nick Auf der Maur and Michael Sarrazin

Michael and I became friends at the pilot tavern about 65 or 66 just before he became a hollywood star. We were friends for many years and even made a movie together 'Double Negative' We got together any times. My favourite memory might be when he was dating Jacqueline Bisset he brought her to Toronto for Robert Markle's huge birthday party at the masonic hall. They got into a fight and as one of the few people she knew I got to dance with her most of the night stoned on acid.

I had no idea he was friends with Nick

Nick had a membership in my booze can and often came to Toronto for the weekend.

He came to my bar a half a dozen times.I guess I was his secret hideaway. I wish I had more to say but he was intelligent and engaging and I was always glad to see him and enjoyed talking to him. I was very surprised when I found out who he was and very sad when he died so young.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Elizabeth Ashley

I used to hang out with Elizabeth, We were great friends. Eating at the underground railroad and drinking at the 22. She usually stayed at the Windsor Arms. We would ride around in her limousine supplied by the movie company smoking weed and snorting you know what. She was married to a buddy of mine so we were mainly friends came close a couple of times. She got in trouble over a couple of late nights with me that night I ended up when everybody left lying on her belly while she shoved cocaine up my nose. I have trouble telling that one.
. I wasn't exactly heartbroken when she broke up with my buddy but I was when she got busted at the border and could't come to Canada anymore. Anyway this is a good article she is a brainy broad and a lot of good lines . we laughed a lot. Elizabeth and I hung out quite a bit.


Donnie Downchild
Photo by John Radcliff

I was one of the early habitues of Grossman's I became great friends with Al
and he let me make and sell my Grossman's Tshirts (I made up to $300 a week off them)
One of the first articles Richard Flohill wrote was for the Toronto Star Weekend. It was about Grossman's but he interviewed me so it ended up mostly about me and my Tshirt etc.

I dont really remember when Downchild showed up, It seems like they were always there.
They were a fun band to know and hang with and Donnie would play anything you wanted for a shot of Jameson's Scotch.
I organized a small baseball league Grossman's, Pilot, Paramount, Vagabonds and anybody else that would play us. I did this for fun and to sell T-shirts. This was the 60's and I umpired in a dashiki and wearing a Fez.I usually smoked quite a bit of reefer before the game to keep me calm and slow the ball down. I remember Donnie sitting in the outfield with a dixie cup full of jamisons. "Pop Up! Donnie someone yells" he carefully plants his drink and lurches to feet slipping and sliding in his leather soled cowboy boots looking for his mitt. Somebody retrieved the ball and he sat down again. It was not unusal to have Kid Bastien's marching band take the field in between innings. I remember Donnie playing at Krash's studio for the season baseball party until his fingers were bleeding.

Tommy Hunter Ann Murray and Bill Bessey

Back in the sixties Bill Bessie was a CBC announcer. He was a general joe job announcer except he had a tv show Saturday mornings. It was called the Cousin Bill Show and it played Country music and showed completely unrelated movies of cows. Somehow it became a favorite of a bunch of us hippie artist types.
 A little later I was sort of  managing Duke Redbird and He had an appearance reciting poetry on the Tommy Hunter Show.

It happened to be the first TV show Anne Murray was on in Toronto.
So Duke and Tommy and his producer(whats his name the guy that married Anne and shaped her career?) Anyway we are walking down the hallway to the main studio
When Bill Bessie came skulking along. he was really trying to sneak by this star group unnoticed.
I couldn't resist. I shouted like a crazed fan." Wow! Cousin Bill! Hey look everybody
 It's cousin Bill. I don't Believe It. He's my favorite TV Star". I ran over and got him to autograph something while the others waited for me in complete amazement. I loved it and I sure hope Bill did.

Berkeley Breathed

Berkeley Breathed

I met Berkeley Breathed at the opening party for his screensaver in Las Vegas in 1993. it was at a hotel cottage type thing. About 50 people all ad men, promoters and other 'suits' and a dozen or so gorgeous models. Berkeley had not much interest in any of them and either did I . i was there for the week at the computer show and was glitzed out. Anyhoo Berkley and I chatted for an hour or so and quaffed a few nice cold beers. I remember him as sort of nicely outre that would come across as standoffish but we had a pleasant conversation.it was not long after this he went into a self imposed exhile.

Beau Chorney and The Colonial

I had a friend Beau Chorney who I met through Ratch Wallace. We were social friends for a few years and he came to my club a few times. He had 3 gold seats at Maple leaf Gardens which he let me have 4 or 5 times a year. So after I closed my first club. I had a couple of meetings with him and his lawyer for lunch.
One meeting was at a greek restaurant on Market St. that had a belly dancer. Beau had a special table almost in the middle of the dance floor.
He was insisting that I try octopus. What he didn't see was that the sweating belly dancer had swung her arm across our table and a ball of sweat had rolled down her arm and dropped onto the octopus.
I of course refused and so thought I was afraid to eat octopus which is not true.
Any how the meeting was about that he had just bought the Colonial and wanted me to manage it.He also bought the four seasons hotel and as part of the deal I was to get a small suite there as well.
I also went to dinner one night with his lawyer at Fridays. The dinner was with his some of his clients. Yvan Cournoyer, Henri Richard and Frank and Peter Mahovlich. Peter was late he had just bought a rolls royce and he pulled up and we all went out to the street to see it. When he opened the door a Heiniken bottle fell out.
Anyway shortly after Beau called said the deal was through and I was to go down to the Colonial and meet a man and tell him I was the new manager and he would be down later. so I go down and go in the office where there is a group of very serious looking men are going through the files. I asked for my contact and told them I was the new manager per mr Chorney. I was told briskly Well that didn't happen.
I never saw Beau again. His phone was disconnected. His lawyer promised to get back to me didn't happen. I have no idea what happened if it was a hoax I don't know why. I asked Ratch and he never saw him again either.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Austin Clarke

Austin Clarke Another old friend bites the dust. I met Austin in the pilot. We assumed he was a student he looked studious always neatly dressed in shirt and tie and a blazer. with dark rimmed glasses and always smoked a pipe, He kept pretty much to himself usually sitting in the front with enough light to read. Somehow got together and had many great conversations over a year or so. he mentioned writing a book I had never heard of. Then suddenly he wrote a piece for the Telegram or Maclean's or something entitled " I have No White Friends" .
I confronted him "what the hell is this, I thought we were friends." Somehow he convinced me it had nothing to do with me and we carried on Until he published a book and disappeared from the scene. The a few years later I met him at the track with his wife and we had a pretty good day and went out for eats and drinks. I met him another day by himself. We had both had a terrible day and in further honest discussion discovered we had enough between us to put a $2.00 bet on the last race. We picked a horse and made enough to drive to the Pilot in his Mercedes and have a couple of beers and laugh at our fortune bad and good.
Ran into him him at now and again at Art openings and the like and then met him at a book opening for Barry Callaghan.
and we reconnected a bit Barry and him used to go to Peterborough once a month for a writer's circle held by one of Barry's students who also happened to be a friend of mine. I visited him once in a while at his house but hadn't seen him for a dozen years until I called him last year he wasn't well and not much up for conversation.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Tom Hedley,

Ex-Torontonian who penned Flashdance readies stage version

June 01, 2010
Martin Knelman

Tom Hedley, who co-wrote the movie Flashdance, poses near Central Park in New York City on May 27.

I traipsed around with Tom to Gimlets in those days. Markle of course loved strippers.
Tom called last year to tell me he was naming one of the characters after me.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Johnny Hart & Jack Caprio

I met Johnny Hart and Jack Caprio when they were getting their Xmas Special animated in Toronto in 1980. They stayed at the Windsor Arms. We did a lot of drinking and cavorting. I organized a wrap party for them at the hotel and found some pretty girls to show them around. Johnny was a bit of a religious nutter underneath it all and we had a lot of religious arguments. They were funny and interesting and I always loved their humour. I take it they didn't get out much and had a blast hanging out with me.
I was at the Club 22 at the Windsor Arms. With my then buddy Michael Ironside. Michael and I were trying to break our record of drinking about 80 maragaritas. When Johnny Hart and Jack Caprio the cartoonists showed up and we were really throwing the drinks back and having a great time. When I saw Catherine O'Hara waving at me. She had just came from the Courtyard Cafe where she had treated her parents to dinner. She waved me over and I gave her a peck and she says Gary I want you to meet my mother and father. 'Really How nice"I said trying to be polite and bent over with a little bow and extended my hand when: from out of nowhere Ironside bit my ass really hard. I don't know how he did it, but I screamed and jumped and kicked. He hung on like a pit bull. I writhed around hit him while the stunned O'Haras and Jack and Johnny wondered what was going on. I finally shook him od. Everyone else was laughing but I was limping. Ironside could be a real crazy asshole sometimes.finally I shake him off and everything settles down but I am sure Catherine's parents wondered what kind of nutty friends she had

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ronnie Hawkins

In 1961 Ginni & Ronnie Hawkins did a show at the Palace in Hamilton fronting Robby Lane & the Disciples. Before the show started Hawkins passed out on a heap of cardboard and never did make it on stage, but he did wake up after the show & seeing Ginni said "...hey Momma! Some of us fixin' to have a party down t' the MOtel. Y'all want to join us?" Ginni, a hard drinking, hard smoking, tough little 16 year old said "No way! I don't want to be just another number in your 'little black book'" Hawkins, completely unfazed of course, came back with, "Sheeit Mama! I aint got no 'little black book'. I just fuck 'em and forget about 'em!", and lurched off into the night.

  • Hi Gary Thanks for that tip about Yonge St stories - we'll catch that for sure!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dame Vera Lynn

I met Vera Lynn at the start of a parade in Toronto. the parade was forming at the legislature grounds on University Ave. I was tooling around on my bicycle and was chatting with some people I knew in the parade. (Elwy Yost for one) When a bus with an American marching band arrived late. This held up the parade and I peddled slowly on down by the waiting parade. And There was Vera Lynn sitting alone in the back of a huge old Bentley limo convertible. She asked me if I knew why the parade hadn't started so I told her why and she just started chatting asking questions about Toronto etc. and we chatted for about 10 minutes until the parade started. She was very natural gracious and open and I was thrilled to meet her.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Kid Bastien

Started watching Treme HBO series about a New Orleans Neighbourhood.

Brings back memories of when I managed Kid Bastien. Which was an experience in itself. I tried to make the band full time and famous and it took me a year to realize Kid was happy with part time an infamous.I was manager of Kid Bastien's Camellia Band for about a year. I thought my job was to promote the band , get them gigs make them successful etc.I couldn't have been more wrong. I made a deal with owner of Yonge Station for his second floor bar., I made a dream contract with big money for everybody and Artistic control and design control everything you could think of. Everybody in the band was ecstatic, it was they all wanted. Cliff turned it down, he had his life sorted out the way he wanted. He like making signs and gold leaf etc and playing a few times a week and wasn't going to change.  This brought an end to the Camellia  band and the start of Happy Pals. I sold my motorcycle and went down south sailing for a year or so.

I started off going to New Orleans with the band for the 1972 Jazz Festival. We hung out at Johny White's Bar and drank Dixie beer which we called Treefrog. I got to meet Jazz greats like Louis Nelson and band leader Kid Thomas. The week before we got there Kid' Thomas's Bass Player died on stage. Kid said we turned to hear the bass solo and he was dead. Kid Bastien knew everybody and we played gigs at Heritage Hall. Hotel rooms were at a premium and I had 2 buddies traveling with me Gord Jones and Krash Radcliff. We ended up with an Attic room in an old slave quarters with one bed and we slept in shifts. Which wasn't a real problem since New Orleans swung 24 hours a day. I got to meet Dejean's Olympia Band which was much like the band in Treme. We partied and played with them and later that year they all came to Toronto where we got them a good paying gig and partied and played some more. Kid played 2 times at the Jazz Festival and I must sadly admit I never made it to either performance. new Orleans was like that.

With Kid Thomas at Heritage Hall New Orleans
photo by Krash

Fats Domino was playing the El Macambo. I was sitting in Grossman's when out of the blue Cliff Bastien asked I I wanted to go up the street and see Fats so I agreed we went up and caught the first set. Fats did his shtick lots of hits to playwith and had the place jumping. For the last number of the set he thumps really hard and pushes the piano across the stage with his stomach as he plays. When the set was over Cliff led me up to the dressing room and rapped on the door. Fats opened the door with a big smile and a hug for Cliff and invited us in. After the introduction we sat down and cliff gave Fats the lowdown on a bunch of people in New Orleans. Fats smiled at me and said 'Damn he knows more about my family than I do." I learned that Cliff had lived in New Orleans for a while and Fats'uncle had taught Cliff how to play the banjo and Cliff was friends with quite a few of Fats relatives. Fats dedicated a song to his friend'Kid Bastien' in the second set. It was a night to remember.
 . (Click the title to see video)

False but funny as cliff struggled to learn the cornet Donny Walsh meanly said That Kid Bastien was the only horn player he knew that only played with one lip. mean but funny

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Craig Russell

I met Craig Russell in the subway one night. He was on his way to his hit show at the Royal York.
Craig was entertaining about 6 people. He was sitting beside a wino and a small group had gathered around him and he had them in stitches. I stood and watched for awhile and when I got an opening I held out my hand. "Hi Craig I always wanted to meet you. I am a friend of your friend Sandy's." " oh Sandy, How is she? he pushed against the wino slightly to make room for me to sit down.We talked about Sandy for a couple of minutes and suddenly he stopped sniffing."What is that horrible smell?"he gasped. "I am afraid it is your friend." I said nodding to the wino. "Shit!" he said "there goes the promise I made to myself to fuck anybody that asked me."

Craig Russell (from glbtq)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Marcel Barbeau

Marcel was a delightful absolute madman. I met him through Jerry Santbergan in the 60s. he always seemed to be married to some heiress and had tons of money. After drinking 9 bottles of champagne at the rooftop bar at the Park Plaza. Marcel orders a tenth bottle. he sips it dumps the bottle upside down in the ice bucket. "Bah it is young and fruity he yells. so we get kicked out. One night we left the Pilot Tavern to walk down to an opening at a gallery some where south of Bloor. It was garbage night and Marcel gets me to help him carry a 10 ft long piece of cardboard tubing and plastic wrap to the gallery where he tells the owner it is one of his Artworks and he wants to store it there.

Cannonball and Nat Adderley

I met Cannonball and Nat Adderley at the colonial Tavern in 1969. Mickey Handy introduced me. Cannon and Nat became good friends and i was their Toronto buddy whenever they came to Toronto, we spent many days hanging out at the underground railroad etc
I once cooked a seafood chowder dinner for them at Grossmans Tavern. Al let me use the kitchen and was the special of the day. It sold out quickly.
One night I took them to Gordon Rayner's Studio to watch an Artist's Jazzband rehearsal. they liked it but would not jam.
This was very much a "Blackpower time and they got invited to all the Black after hours clubs. But they would not go without me. I knew most of the black clubs and we had a lot of fun.
I was on their permanent guest list at the Colonial and I got to listen to great jazz and meet their fabulous sidemen like  Louis Hayes,Ray Brown, Walter Booker, Bobby Timmons, Victor Feldman, Joe Zawinul.

One night I was late getting to the Colonial , they were halfway through the set and the bar was packed full. The only place for me to sit was at the staff table. They would not serve me unless I moved and there was no where else so i sat there drinkless till the set was over.They joined me at the end of the set and ordered us drinks. They still refused to serve me. So Nat called the manager over and told them they were not going to play until I was drinking. needless to say that never happened again.

After Cannonball's tragic death in 1975 Nat played Toronto regularly and he was always glad to see me. He embarrassed me on my birthday at the Montreal Bistro by dedicating almost every song to me all night long. Vincent Herring was with him.  I met his wife too and spent a few nights sitting with her.

Cannonball had never heard Paul Desmond's tribute to him until I told him.
Paul Desmond won the Evergreen Review's  Higgledy piggled contest with

Shubada Shubadee
Cannonbal Adderley
Came on the scene with a belt of the blues.
His popularity
Gives me more time
For women and booze.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bonnie Raitt - Runaway (Live 1977)

This is the best cover of Runaway it tops the original. i went to see Bonnie at Massey hall with Coleen Peterson. We were back stage before the show and i was having such a good time drinking toking and chatting that Bonnie had to kick me out of her dressing room so she could get ready.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Milton Acorn

I met Milton in Grossmans on Spadina and had breakfast with him at the Crescent Diner a few times too. I might have been the first to hear " I have Tasted My Own blood' at early breakfast there.
"Isn't it wonderful what they are doing in china," He sez one drunken afternoon at Grossman's. I don't think they have taverns in China I said which confounded him for a minute but we soon  broke into song "We'll rant and we'll roar like true Newfoundlanders!.

Xmas on the Carleton Streetcar. People everywhere carry armfuls of presents. Milton appears looks straight in to my eyes, "They are starving on the streets!"

I am at the Club 22 trying to produce a movie. I go out for some cigars and run into Milton and invite him in for a drink. He shows me his poker chip that he must break, he is on the wagon. Ok a coffee and I bring him in to my table of suits. Ad men and movie men. I introduce Milton and order coffee. The suits are confused at Miltons crumpled and unshaven appearance and my obvious deference to him. Finally one asks him. Milton What do you do?
 "I am a latent science fiction reader.' says Milton
. They asked no more. When I stopped laughing I explained he was one

of Canada's Premier poets.

The last time I saw him was about 1982. I said hello to him walking up Spadina. He looked into my face wildly trying to recognize me. "You are killing the fetuses of the working class!" he raged. I guess he thought I was Henry Morgentaler. Milton Acorn

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Harold Town

Harold Town (not Harry, it's Harold)

I met Harold at the Pilot Tavern he was not a regular there.
we got into some long discussion and he invited me back to his place.
We go to the den and he takes 2 quarts of Scotch out of the cupboard and
he hands me one and a glass. We tour around the house looking at works of Art.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Henry Winkler

I was Henry winkler's acting unpaid minder at the 2nd Toronto Film Festival for for a bit. Bill Marshall asked me  to accompany him to a couple of Festival parties and make sure he wasn't bothered by exhuberent fans or let any photographers take pictures of him smoking. When ever somebody would demand too much attention he would give me the nod and I would jump into the converstion letting him slip away.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Milton Jewell

I shared studio space with Milton on Duncan St. Witty Intelligent Artist and all around nice guy.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

David Ruben Piqtoukun

 I met David outside The Coloured Stone. Duke Redbird introduced us.
I said I was going to The Cameron House. Do you know John? he asked.
I said I did, I owe hin 50 bucks will you give this for me and gave me a fifty dollar bill,
Inuksuk built by David Ruben Piqtoukun in the lobby of the Embassy of Canada in Washington, D.C.
David Ruben Piqtoukun (1950-) is an Inuit artist fromPaulatuk, Northwest Territories. His output includes sculpture and prints; the sculptural work is innovative in its use of mixed media. His materials and imagery bring together modern and traditional Inuit stylistic elements in a personal vision. An example of this is his work "The Passage of Time" (1999), which portrays a shaman in the form of a salmon moving through a hole in a hand. While shamanic imagery is common in much of Inuit art, the hand in this work is sheet metal, not a traditional material such as walrus ivorycaribou antler orsoapstone. Ruben's brother, Abraham Apakark Anghik Ruben, is also a sculptor. Fellow Inuit artist Floyd Kuptana learned sculpting techniques as an apprentice to David Ruben.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Al Grossman

Al Grossman was a great friend.  One time he caught me smoking a joint with his nephew Sandy in the basement. Sandy split quickly and AL lit into me about it. He was giving me proper shit and I finally mumbled what about sandy/. fuck him Al said he's a relative but you You are a friend.

Al is wearing the  the T-shirt I created with the famous Grossman's peace sign T-shirt.
Bob Dylan and Joan Baez sported them at concerts.Don Owen found a camel driver wearing one in Timbuktu

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Murray McLauchlan New York

In 1976 I invited Murray to come to New York with me for the July 4th weekend and the tall ships. I had to fly down to pick up the van for the SORC sailboat Bonaventure V. The boat was racing in the Onion Patch in Bermuda and coming in to New York to go up the Hudson river and Erie Canal etc. back to Toronto and they wanted me to drive the van back. Besides July the 4th is my birthday and where else to celebrate? An added goody was an invitation from the Canadian Norwegian ambassador to have a sail on the Christian Radich.
(This was compliments of my sister who worked at harbour-front in Toronto) we were using Murrays agent to book tickets. The trip got complicated, my bartender Laura wanted to go home to New York so I got a ticket for her and then Krash's girlfriend wanted to go to meet Krash who was sailing to New York, so I got a ticket for her. We no sooner were in the air than somebody phoned Murray's wife and told her Murray and Gary were going to New York with 2 women. (this caused serious problems) After much ado we got a hotel room and I went to pick up the boar's van for transportation. As it happened I got a free parking spot around the corner from the Hotel. In New York on July4th weekend etc etc. so we never moved the van until we left and took cabs. Laura took us to her old studio and the bar she used to work at. It was right at the Manhattan side of the Brooklin
Bridge which is a great a place to hang out. This was beside the Fulton fish Market which was having a fair so we ended up spending the evening at the fair. Spendoing was the operative word for Murray he went a little crazy. One of the Hanky Panks had a life sized stuffed bear as a grand prize. Murray decided he had to have it. After about 5 hours and 5 hundred dollars he finally won it. So there we were 2 o clock in the morning going back to the Hotel trying to stuff this giant bear toy into the cab. It wouldn't fit so after 15 minutes of trying Murray took a long look at the bear and said What the hell do I want with this and threw it on the street. As we
drove off the streets were empty.

Murray McLauchlan Lady Luck

Lady Luck is a song by Murray McLauclan it begins. I remember shooting craps at Gary's Bar where the money disappeared on every roll. So I had a drink on someone else's paycheck and Lady Luck stayed with me no more. Murray showed up on Friday night with Jim McCarthy. Jim was an old friend and married then to Elizabeth Ashely.
They were having so troubles and here I am on a busy Friday night. Murray says Jim is very depressed and I think a crap game would cheer him up. I didn't have crap games anymore. But what the hell find a room up stairs. I 'll find some guys and we will have one. So I round up a couple of rounders and we have it. Jimmy is on a lucky streak and soon it is down to the 3 of us. Murray has his weekend money. Jimmy makes 6 straight passes and cleans him out. I cover. 7 passes he cant do it again I run down to the bar and get a couple of hundred dollars more. He makes 8 straight passes. I quit. Jimmy must have taken us for about 2 thousand dollars. We have a drink or two.
Jimmy isn't nearly as depressed he as was. haha

I could almost write a book on Murray stories. We were good friends for quite a while and had many adventures together. Murray and I had dinner a while ago and argued a bit about who's version was right. I am sorry Murray but I know my versions are truer because I wrote them down shortly after they happened.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

After Hours & The Police

After Hours Bar Questions.
You must of went to a lot of different Liquor Stores?
No I went prettymuch to the same store all the time, I was treated as a
valued customer and at xmas i was usually given a few bottles of wine as
a present. I remember picking up order near Xmas one year. A wino watched
in amazement as they filled case after case of liquor. After a couple of
minutes he gasped. Well if you got the money I got the time.
It should be noted that I was often offered stolen booze and I never ever
bought any. I was a bootlegger not a fence. I also only bought priemium
booze and charged priemium prices.

The only exception was with beer. Again I used the same beer store all
the time. I was often offered cases of overage beer at slashed prices.
of course there was nothing wrong with it it just reached 3 months old
and I went through it very quickly.

The police.
I had a funny relationship here because The Horseshoe was my local bar
and it was a police hangout. Half of them liked me and half of them hated
me.but I did get a speeding ticket fixed anonymously. There was even a
handful of police that drank at my bar and none of them ever grassed me.
But there were others.
My first bust was by a rookie cop in plain clothes who snuck in with cast
of second city. he just tagged on to the group and came in.
the next night he came back and I let him in He bought a drink with
marked money and went out and came back with the squad.
Later another cop told me he almost blew it. The night before he was so
happy to get in unnoticed that when he came out hes leaped into the air
and clicked his heels and drove his head into the lowhanging branch of a
tree outside and knocked himself unconcious and spent the rest of the
night in Hospital,

More of Georgie.
One of the things about running an illegal bar was security. All the doors were double latched. but fear of fire was a concern so I had my backdoor rigged in such a way that a good push would open it just in case. So of course it was easy to pick. I came out on the roof one weekday night and there is Georgie and his partner.
Georgie i say you are breaking and entering. "No he says it was open.' No way asI am dtalking his partner runs for the bar I stop him and push him back to the door. Georgie runs for bar I stop him his partner runs etc. Finally his partner says I see them selling drinks. Georgie says" We're busting you Gary." Ok" say I
In we go I had about 20 customers. Frankie is working the other end of  bar. He comes down to throw the money in box we had under the bar. Georgie says "Stop the bar is close.' "With you in a minute," says Frankie
"You are busted." says Georgie " "I said wait a minute," says Frankie picking up the money box for change.
Then Frankie sees me and realizes what is happening. He panics and throws the box under the bar which knocks off a loose panel and it comes off and the money scatters all over the floor. Georgie and partner start picking it up. I give Frankie the hi sign and he runs out the back door and in the general direction of 'away'.
Georgie and partner ask "Where is the bartender?"  The ask everbody. Nobody knows. I am laughing. "Well you fucked this up Georgie "I say. Give me back my money. He knows he is finished. He gives me back my money. "I am officially warning you . ." says Georgie. Ya ya say I get out!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Billy Joel

 Billy Joel Cost me my Job!
I loved singing the Lobsterman song with Maclean & Maclean.I did this for over 5 years. When the Macleans would come to Ontario I would tour around southern Ontario as the Lobsterman. We had lots of fun.
My last performance was at the El Macombo. We were doing the last set and as I was getting ready to go up to the stage I saw the manager whisk Billy Joel and his band who had been playing at maple leaf Gardens to a reserved table.

So when I sang the Lobster song I stuck Billy Joel's name into it. The macleans looked askance they had no idea.

After the show Billy came up to the dressing room and found we that Billy Joel was a big fan of dirty Humor . The management provided cases of Heineken's and we drank and partied late into the night. Billy raved about the show. But all that he could really remember was me.
The Macleans never asked me back on stage to sing again.They always seemed to forget.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Myrna Lorrie

Myrna Lorrie was a frequent visitor, She was a lot of fun and I caught a few of her shows and liked her music. She showed up on the arm of Jerry Reed one night. They had Rosanne Cash and one of the Eagles. They were there almost every night for a week or so.
Myrna Is Playing in Alberta

Kid Bastien

Cliff Bastien: For a short while I was the manager of the band, I started off going to New Orleans with the band for the 1973 Jazz Festival. We hung out at Johny White's Bar and drank Dixie beer which we called Treefrog. I got to meet Jazz greats like Louis Nelson and band leader Kid Thomas which was a real honour.

MacLean and MacLean

MacLean and MacLean
The MacLean’s came to my club one night and we immediately became fast friends. I joined them in performing sing the second oldest recorded song in the English language. It is an old Scottish Ballad called the ‘Lobster’ and I was known as the Lobsterman. I couldn’t sing that well but mostly got through it. To begin with I took it very much in stride. But eventually I begin to care about how I did. That is when I ran into trouble and got stage fright and I actually used to sweat before I did my bit. Then one night I did it, I forgot the words. They waited through a chorus and then Gary Looked at me. “Did you forget the words?” I nodded my mind racing trying to find the words. “You Arsehole!” says the ever-helpful Gary. Somehow I found the words and finished the song and never really had much trouble again.
One of my favorite memories of the boys is with Murray McLaughlin. Murray was a good friend and I used to drag him along when I sang. He didn’t like to go, not so much that he didn’t like the MacLeans I think but just didn’t’ t like to be seen at their performances. We were playing ‘The Chimney’ on Yonge Street and there was an hour between shows and we were all sitting in the dressing room with a couple of girlfriends drinking Heinekens when somehow we all started singing Show Tunes. It was hilarious. They are all good singers and we went through an incredible repertoire. I can only think of dressing room door opening and the startled audience looking in At Murray McLaughlin and MacLean and MacLean singing Oklahoma at the tops of their voices.

That night we ended up back at the boy’s Hotel room. Gary and I were trying to impress a couple of tag a long sweet young things and Gary asked Murray if he would sing the Farmers Song for us. Murray grabbed a guitar and obliged us. Murray did a beautiful job and Gary thanked him.. “Thanks Murray that was very nice I know it is just like me being at a party and someone asks me to do ‘The Shit Routine.”
On Sundays I used to entertain whoever was in town with free drinks a huge dinner (mostly seafood) and a Jam Session. MacLean and MacLean loved to run the bar and they were excellent bartenders. I especially remember Burton Cummings sitting on the counter in my kitchen singing ‘I got a letter from the postman’ with MacLean and MacLean and Murray McLaughlin doing the harmony. It was magic.

Ronnie Prophet

 n 1976 Ronnie Prophet played the Horseshoe in Toronto for a week. I got to have a beer and swap stories with him most days. We had a few ...