Brief Encounters

“Brief Encounters” is the title of an arts column I write weekly for the online journal, Facts & Opinions. You can see my Facts & Opinions profile page by clicking HERE. Each column recalls an interview I did between 1973-88 with a writer, comedian, director, actor or musician, when I was working as a staff arts and entertainment columnist for the Calgary Herald. The featured celebrities include:

  • Jay Silverheels. He played Tonto in the classic television series The Lone Ranger and created one of the best-known jokes about the “masked rider of the plains” and his “faithful companion.” Read an excerpt HERE.
  • Leon Uris. He prided himself on being a popular historian who did his homework, as well as being a bestselling novelist. However, I dared to question the accuracy of his historical research. Read an excerpt HERE.
  • Vera Lynn. Long after the Second World War was over, she wanted to switch from singing wartime favourites to country music. But the fans wouldn’t hear of it. Read an excerpt HERE.
  • Tom Lehrer. Although he had not been active as a performer and recording artist for 15 years when I met him in 1980, he still had a cult following of enthusiasts who fondly remembered his trenchant observations of 1950s’ American life and politics. Read an excerpt HERE.
  • Glenn Ford. It was the classic “hurry up and wait” situation when he filmed a brief scene for the 1978 movie, Superman. Part of the problem was that Ford couldn’t remember his line. Read an excerpt HERE.
  • Shari Lewis. She made her mark as a talented ventriloquist with a sock puppet named Lamb Chop. But Lewis had much more going for her talentwise than ventriloquism. Read an excerpt HERE.
  • Richard Harris. He was off the booze and missing it when he starred as King Arthur in a touring production of Camelot. He said that going back to his native Ireland and not having a drink was like “going to church and not saying a prayer.” Read an excerpt HERE.
  • Frankie Laine. He had been one of the most successful of the big-voiced balladeers who emerged in North America in the late 1940s and 1950s. Yet Laine first made his name not as a singer, but as a world-record champion of marathon dancing. Read an excerpt HERE.
  • Randy Bachman. He walked away from two of Canada’s hottest rock bands, the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, when they were at the height of their fame. So what happened to him next? Read an excerpt HERE.
  • Tammy Wynette. She said that if she had to make a choice between husband and career, she would choose the music first. She revealed this just as she was about to divorce her fourth husband, Nashville real estate executive Michael Tomlin. Read an excerpt HERE.
  • Chuck Berry. He stopped talking to reporters after they wrote about him being jailed in America during the 1960s for transporting an under-age girl across U.S. state lines for “immoral purposes.” But he made an exception for me. Read an excerpt HERE.
  • Chubby Checker. He wasn’t getting much credit for his early contributions to rock ‘n’ roll during the disco dance craze of the 1970s.  He viewed the popular dances of the day as little more than variations of his big 1960 hit, The Twist. Read an excerpt HERE.
  • Judy Collins. The song Amazing Grace was and continues to be a staple of her concert repertoire. However, when she performed a concert in Calgary, she never got to sing it. I explain why. Read an excerpt HERE.
  • Norman Maen. He had many challenges as a professional choreographer working on both sides of the Atlantic during the 1970s. But none was more demanding than his assignment to devise a routine for Rudolph Nureyev and Miss Piggy on The Muppet Show. Read an excerpt HERE.
  • Burt Mustin. He didn’t become a screen actor until he was 67. But   over the ensuing 22 years he became one of the busiest bit players in Hollywood. Read an excerpt HERE.
  • Sally Rand. The legendary fan dancer was still dancing nude on stage with her trademark ostrich-feather fans when she was in her 70s. But not while the television cameras were rolling. That, she said, “would destroy the illusion.” Read an excerpt HERE.
  • Mordecai Richler. He had never written for the stage before but really wanted to see his adaptation of his beloved novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz make it to Broadway as a musical.  It had a very rough ride. Read an excerpt HERE.

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