Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Do you ever wonder what it might be like to be famous?
I mean really famous.
Like Celine Dion, Jesus or William Shatner.

If there was a lot of money attached to fame, I believe I could handle it.
I believe I could.
Yes. I know I could.
If world-wide fame snuck up behind me tomorrow and smacked me- right up the side of my head, I could adjust.

Now I have had a moderate amount of fame in my life.
Being in Broadcasting for 25+ years gave me the opportunity to be known- a celebrity if you will, in the various communities where I lived. The positive side of “Radio Fame” was the fact that many people- although familiar with my voice, didn’t always recognize me in public. Frequently, when I was out “on location” doing a live broadcast for a radio station, someone would walk up to me and say- “Who are You?”
A fair question since listeners mostly knew voices- not faces. Of course, that all changed in the computer age when our faces were plastered across Internet websites.

How do I live with Fame?
One of the funniest chance meetings I had with a faithful listener happened right here in Orillia at the old Loblaws store that was located on West Street North just south of Coldwater Road. The location is now a health club.
I had stopped into the store to get something to BBQ on my way home from the radio station. I started browsing through the sausages, moved to beef and hot dogs and segued to poultry. There was a lady standing to my left dressed in yellow chiffon who appeared as if she had just come from an elegant summer garden party. She sported a wide-brimmed summer sun hat which sat low on her forehead. She reminded me of Greta Garbo standing there anxiously picking through the chicken bits.

I had read when Garbo walked through outdoor Farmer’s Markets or flea markets in New York City, she would wear a large, wide-brimmed hat to disguise herself.
She rarely talked.
However, she was usually recognized. People expected her to show up on Saturday mornings or Sunday afternoons at her favourite haunts. Some even went looking for her. Apparently, she was never bothered by over-excited fans or paparazzi.
She was such as icon, people just admired her from a distance.

Meanwhile, back at the chicken counter, I started to sort threw the chicken thighs to find just the right package.
The lady in yellow chiffon eventually broke her silence-
“Darling, aren’t the prices terrible for a piece of chicken?”
The voice was low, distinctly British and definitely had an upper class timbre.
It sounded vaguely familiar. I didn’t pay too much attention at first.
“Yes, for a little piece of chicken they certainly want a lot- don’t they?”- I said.
She stopped sorting through the poultry, looked up at me and placed a left hand across her chest and said-
I looked up from the chicken, recognizing the voice and the person standing next to me and said- “Constance?”
“Yes Darling. It’s me! We finally meet, face to face after all these years!”
“It appears so. Who would have thought?”
“Yes and can you believe it? What fate. We meet over packages of raw chicken at the meat counter” she pauses and looks around and says in a disappointing tone- “at Loblaws!”
We laugh.
“Darling,”- she says clutching my arm, “Let’s make a pact!”
“All right.” I say with a little hesitancy in my voice, “Just what kind of a pact?”
She leans towards my face and in a deep, throaty voice- pausing between each word, she says quite simply-
“Never ~pause~ tell ~pause~ a soul!
We shook on it, chose our chicken and that was the first and last time I ever talked to her- face to face.

Constance continued to be a faithful listener for many years. She would call me up when I was “on air” and- usually dispensing with telephone pleasantries such as “Hello, it’s Constance”, she would get right to the point-
“Darling, that song by Perry Como. I detest that song!”
“When is it going to stop raining Robert?”
Some times she had had a glass or two of bourbon and it would sound like this-
“Woberrrrt Dahhhling. Dooo you shuppose I could hear a tuuuuune from Pppppeggy Lee?”

The price of fame.
I never got rich from radio. Hardly made a dime.
I haven’t gotten rich from theatre either- at least not so far.
I do have people stare at me from time to time when I am around town.
A couple of years ago a pair of ladies standing a couple of metres from me at Zehr’s pointed to me and said- “That’s that guy from that show!”

Sitting at Theo’s having dinner one evening a man turns to me at the next table and says-
“You were wonderful in that show, what was it called?”
Not being sure what show he meant,I said- “What show was that Sir?”
“You know, the one where you played that guy!”
“Oh. That one. Well, thank you very much.”
I had no idea what show he meant.

Then, last weekend at Street’s Alive, I had wandered ahead of Tom and was talking to one of the artists who had painted a guitar. As I spoke with the artist, I could see Tom speaking with a lady who kept looking at me and pointing. Eventually, he brought her over to meet me.
“I just loved you in that show where you played a butler!”- she tells me with a laugh.
At least she knew the part I had played.
“Oh yes, I was Cogburn and the show was “Out of Sight, Out of Murder”.
“Well it was good, I just wanted you to know.”
“Thank you. I appreciate that.”

Here endeth the one important lesson.
Fame is fleeting.
If it’s what you desire, grab it and hold on because it doesn’t last.
You’re only as famous as the last package of chicken you bought at Loblaws!

Have a good day!