Monday, August 20, 2012

Phyllis Diller

In the mid-'80's, I spent an entire day with Phyllis Diller in her home on Rockingham Drive, right down the street from where O.J. didn't murder anyone.

She was a warm and gracious host.

During the interview, which we were filming for a CTV show called "The Performers," Phyllis made me deviled eggs. The whole piece took place in her bright red kitchen, with her at the counters and me sitting at an old-fashioned work table in the middle of he room.

In the living room, she had a marvelous oil painting of her great friend and mentor, Bob Hope.

I remember especially two moments in our conversation.

Me: Phyllis, when you were writing ad copy for a radio station in Sausalito and supporting five children by yourself, did you have any idea that you had this much ambition?

Phyllis (Slamming down the fork she was using to mash the eggs in a bowl): Absolutely! I wanted it all and I've got it all!

When we finished the interview, she sat at the work table, smiled and said, Thank you, Gregory Peck.  So sweet.

In addition to being one of the most successful lady stand-up comics of all time, she was a movie star, played the lead in "Hello Dolly" on Broadway and on tour practically everywhere, and was an accomplished concert pianist. I first met her when she played with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. I was doing a play at Stage West Dinner Theatre with Norman Fell ("Three's Company's Mr. Roper") and he took us backstage after her wonderful performance.

As often the case, the best place to read an obit when we've lost a good person is the New York Times. Here it is.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


I was sitting in what was then the CBC cafeteria on Hamilton Street.

I saw Marvin Hamlisch walking down the front steps. I dashed out and introduced myself. I was working as a story editor for the evening television news.

Would he do an interview with me please?

"They've already turned me down," he said.

That year Marvin Hamlisch had done the impossible. He won the Oscar, the Tony and Emmy and a Grammy all in one year! Rita Moreno got all four prizes but not in one season as Hamlisch did.

And this was the year that he was here in town to do two concerts with the VSO at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and the year that CBC supper hour news had no room for him.

Not to worry, I said. I'll arrange it.

"Only on one condition," was his answer. "Get me a piano."

I got him the piano and we did a terrific piece which included his performing a beautiful new song by him and Carol Bayer Sager called "Two Boys." He also told some wonderful Barbra Streisand stories. (SEE THE VIDEO FOLLOWING.)

When certain people die, the only place to read the obit is in the New York Times. Enjoy and remember the tunes as you go about your business today.

A Little Classic

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Gore Vidal, 1925-2012

Prolific, Elegant, Acerbic Writer

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

fuel to the fire

Thanks, Susan!


Forget all the other noise passing as news:

The Premier pretends to care about the environment. The Premier has one setting - Snarl. She loves a fight, a contest, running for office or an arm-wrestle. She wouldn't know a pipeline if she fell over it. Worse, she shows her basic values. You want us to carry the risk of this thing? Give us more loot.

It's OK. We have only a few more months of this lack of leadership and vision and then we can start slogging the next guy.

NBC's Olympic coverage is late, pre-empted by the web and xenophobic in the extreme? Try the genius  over at CTV. Last night they spent three or four hours trumpeting a great tennis match between Canadian Raonic and French star, Tsonga. How many times did the granite Brian Williams - clearly the most boring sportscaster in history - tell us that a real treat was on the way?

When the coverage finally arrived - a 3-setter that ended 25-23 in the third for Tsonga - what we lucky souls got to see was a 90 second summary. Thanks, boys. Super coverage.

So forget all that.

There was only one real story and it stretched over at least two days and this was it:

Blackout cuts power to 670 million Indians

This is the future, kids.

 This story, which I expect to see repeated in one form or another on a regular basis coming from every place on earth that may still have the power with which to transmit the tale, is where we are heading.

Between air conditioning, the internet and the colossal inability of governments to do almost anything right, I believe we can predict meltdowns of so-called basic services of this magnitude to appear with frightening regularity.

Canada is a bubble.

We live in an amazing paradise. No mortar shells, no banks run by Bob and his cousin, Neil, an apparent abundance of space and natural resources and governments that may be stupid and annoying, but are not shooting or arresting citizens by the carload for their thoughts or opinions.

How long can it last?

I have no idea.

But I am not placing any bets.