Thursday, August 18, 2016

Lord Tanamo, ska vocalist (1934-2016)



By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
May 6, 2016
The singer known as Lord Tanamo shared with audiences around the world the buoyant sounds of ska music born in the shantytowns of his native Jamaica.

As a vocalist with the Skatalites, Lord Tanamo gave voice to a music that would thrust his island homeland to the forefront of popular culture. Although the band's original lineup lasted less than two years, the group's recordings had a profound impact.

Ska melded traditional island music with American blues and jazz, creating a fast-paced, infectious, danceable sound with a steady bass line and an emphasis on the upbeat. It was the sound of poor, black Jamaica and a precursor to reggae. Ska has undergone at least two revivals since the Skatalites broke up in 1965. The surviving members have had several band reunions with Lord Tanamo joining them for tours of Europe, Asia and South America.

The singer had already settled in Canada when hired in 1969 to perform at the Jamaica pavilion in Montreal at the post-Expo exhibition known as Man and His World. Based in Toronto, he performed on occasion in the city even as he returned frequently to his homeland to record.

In 2008, the singer suffered a stroke, which left him unable to speak, a cruel affliction for one whose voice had entertained audiences for so many years. He communicated by batting his eyelashes. He lived in an assisted care facility in Toronto until his death from natural causes on April 15. He was 81.

With a lollipop physique, the singer was neither a crooner nor a belter. Lord Tanamo preferred a relaxed, seemingly carefree vocal styling, capturing in recordings the feel of the easygoing street musician and hotel entertainer he had been as a young man.

The singer was also a noted percussionist for his playing of the rumba box, a bass lamellophone also known as a tinkle box. The instrument provides the heavy bass line typical of Jamaican music and is usually played by sitting atop the box while reaching between the legs to pluck the keys.

In island fashion, he took as his performance name a noble title paired in his case with an exotic locale, Tanamo (pronounced TAH-nah-mo) being a shortened version of Guantanamo, the Cuban city across the Caribbean Sea from Jamaica.

Joseph Abraham Gordon was born on October 2, 1934, in Kingston, Jamaica, to Julia (née Dunkley) and Charles Simeon Gordon, who operated a business in the craft market aimed at tourists. The boy, the youngest of 15 children, remembered first hearing the sound of a rumba box when Cecil Lawes, later known as Count Razza, visited the family home with one. The instrument fascinated him.
“I liked the sound from the first time I heard it,” Lord Tanamo told Tim Perlich of Toronto's Now newspaper in 2002. “Later, when I was a teenager, I began performing on the corner with Cecil and his rumba box. In the day I'd put on torn pants and a straw hat and sing calypso to hustle the tourists, and then at night I'd put on my suit and tie and sing ballads with a band.”

As a young man, Mr. Gordon performed in swanky hotels along the island's north coast — the Royal Caribbean, the Casa Montego and the Casa Blanca. He sang calypso, the Trinidadian style that became a sensation with North American audiences in the early 1950s, and he also sang mento, the unique music of the Jamaican countryside known for witty, sometimes ribald lyrics and an emphasis on the upbeat.

Meanwhile, the Kingston businessman Stanley Motta, a prominent electronics and appliance merchant, launched a domestic recording industry by opening a recording studio and launching his own label, M.R.S., for Motta's Recording Studio. Lord Tanamo had his first hit at age 20 with “Crinoline Incident,” released as a 78 r.p.m. record. Strongly influenced by the stylings of calypso singer Lord Kitchener (a Trinidadian born as Aldwyn Roberts), Lord Tanamo would remain a presence on the Jamaican charts for years to come.

When Louis (Satchmo) Armstrong arrived on the island with his orchestra for an engagement in 1957, he was greeted at the airport by dignitaries, while a band led by Lord Tanamo played calypsos, including a number titled “The Things Satchmo Said,” written by Tanamo for the occasion.
Radio Jamaica regularly played Lord Tanamo's songs, including “Come Down,” which peaked at No. 3 on the Jamaican charts in 1963. His first album, “Come Come Come to Jamaica,” featuring a selection of mento tunes, was released the following year. The singer also performed live in theatres on stage-and-screen cards including dozens of acts, including comics and dancers, as well as movie double bills.

The evolution of the ska genre coincided with the heady days following Jamaican independence in 1962. At the heart of the new sound was a band of crackerjack instrumentalists who had attended the Alpha Boys School. The Skatalites formed in 1964, featuring two tenor saxophones, an alto saxophone, a trombone, a trumpet, an upright bass, drums, piano, guitar and several vocalists, including Lord Tanamo and Doreen Shaffer, though many of their most popular numbers, including “Guns of Navarone,” were primarily instrumental tunes.

Lord Tanamo took credit for coining the band's clever, punning post-Sputnik name, although other members dispute his claim. In any case, the Skatalites quickly became the most popular band on an island filled with terrific musicians. In 1965, the group performed aboard a float in the independence day parade in Kingston, preceded by the Jamaican Agricultural Marketing Corporation and followed by a bevy of beauty queens.

For a time, Lord Tanamo had several songs on the Jamaican charts, both as a solo artist and as a Skatalite vocalist.

One of his more popular songs was “I'm in the Mood for Ska,” a bouncy cover of “I'm in the Mood for Love,” a song first made popular by Louis Armstrong.

After the Skatalites broke up, the Jamaica Tourist Board hired Lord Tanamo as a troubadour promoting island music. In January, 1966, he performed at the Eaton's store in downtown Toronto with a calypso band as part of a promotion for the tourist board and Air Canada. The band, with members wearing torn straw hats and ruffle-sleeved shirts, played in the store throughout the day.
A local woman invited the band to her home in Etobicoke for dinner. When Lord Tanamo telephoned to announce the band was on the way, the call was answered by the woman's daughter. After he hung up, the singer told his bandmates, “I am going to marry this girl.” He married Joan Fletcher in a ceremony in Jamaica that December.

In 1969, the singer and his Calypsonians, including old friend Mr. Lawes on rumba box and Wilbert Stephenson on bamboo saxophone, travelled to Montreal for a four-month gig at the Jamaican pavilion at the successor to the world's fair.

In Toronto, he formed a mento group that became the quartet for the keyboardist Jackie Mittoo, another Skatalite original who had also settled in Canada. The two men also owned and operated the Record Nook with Karl Mullings, a shop which became a popular gathering place for the Caribbean diaspora.

On one of his return trips to Jamaica, Lord Tanamo recorded a reggae cover of “Rainy Night in Georgia,” a plaintive version which spent seven weeks at the top of the Jamaican charts.
On his many forays to his homeland, Lord Tanamo recorded backed by the likes of the famed reggae rhythm duo Sly & Robbie (drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare). In 1979, an album, “Calypso Reggae,” was produced and arranged by Bunny Lee (born Edward O'Sullivan Lee), a prominent figure on the Jamaican music scene.

A revival of ska in Britain in the late 1970s led to a reunion of the Skatalites in 1983. The band played together for the first time in 18 years at the Reggae Sunsplash festival in Montego Bay, where Lord Tanamo delivered “a sensational performance,” according to Jamaica Gleaner newspaper. He joined the Skatalites on several subsequent global tours and sat in with the band for a performance at the Glastonbury Festival in England in 2003.

In 2000, he revisited many of his mento and ska hits on a compact disk titled, “The Best Place in the World,” backed by Dr. Ring-Ding and the Senior Allstars, a German band with which he toured Europe.

At home in Toronto, he performed at such night clubs as the Silver Dollar and the El Mocambo. In 2002, he sang old-time mento tunes and played the rumba box during a Legends of Ska concert at the Palais Royale, which was filmed by Brad Klein for a documentary of the same name released last year.

The singer was honoured at an event called Canada Salutes Icons 2003, in which the calypsonian Jayson (a Juno-winning singer named John Perez) and the singer and dancer Pluggy Satchmo (John Gilbert Peck) were also praised for their cultural contributions. Lord Tanamo had to skip the ceremony as he was touring overseas with the Skatalites. At a London show during the tour, he was urged by bassist Lloyd Brevett to give the crowd “some real old time music.”
Lord Tanamo looked out at a crowded venue filled with young dancers before pronouncing, “Old thing? A new thing this!”

He leaves Joan, his wife of 49 years, from whom he had separated, as well as their two sons and a daughter. He is also survived by two sons and a daughter from a previous relationship with Helena Khouri of Jamaica. He was predeceased by their son, Joseph, who was killed during political strife on the island in 1979. Lord Tanamo is also survived by five siblings and several grandchildren.

A visitor to his room at the assisted-living facility noted a framed invitation to Barack Obama's inauguration on a wall, while his beloved rumba box rested in a place of honour in a corner.

In 1989, his cover of “I'm in the Mood for Love” was licensed for a 30-second British television commercial in which a bored man has an ecstatic reaction after being served chicken coated in Paxo breadcrumbs. The spot thrust Lord Tanamo's 25-year-old recording onto the charts, where it peaked at No. 58, his only hit in the United Kingdom.

Lord Tanamo (fourth from left) with the Skatalites

Monday, June 6, 2016

James Doohan (1920-2005), actor

By Tom Hawthorn
The Globe and Mail
July 23, 2005
Star Trek 's chief engineer, Lt.-Cmdr. Montgomery Scott, was irascible, excitable and prone to delivering dire warnings in a Scots burr. As portrayed by James Doohan, a Canadian, Scotty became a favourite of the cult television program's legions of fans.
Many assumed the actor shared traits with his character, but out of his red uniform Mr. Doohan was a serious actor with a substantial list of credits.
As a young man, he led soldiers as part of the D-Day invasion in an attack which he later described as "giving Hitler the finger."
Mr. Doohan's chief engineer character cursed dilithium crystals and coaxed power from overstressed warp-drive engines on the Starship Enterprise. The order to be beamed aboard was directed at Mr. Doohan; "Beam me up, Scotty" became a cultural catchphrase, as well as the punchline to innumerable jokes. Mr. Doohan became so associated with the command that he used it as the title of his autobiography.
Yet, the program's dedicated fans —their numbers legion and their allegiance bordering on the fanatical — insist no character ever uttered the phrase. "Beam me up, Scotty" is to Star Trek what "Play it again, Sam" is to Casablanca.
After the original series ended following a three-year run, Mr. Doohan was upset at being typecast as the irascible engineer with the unforgettable burr. After all, he had earlier performed Shakespeare under the direction of Mavor Moore and won notice for his performances in dramas telecast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. He eventually made peace with the character, whom he portrayed in subsequent feature films. He also became a frequent and well-received guest at Star Trek conventions.
A first-class mimic, Mr. Doohan tested eight accents when auditioning for the role. "Well, if you want an engineer," he told Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, "it had better be a Scotsman." Mr. Doohan settled on a dialect he described as an Aberdeen brogue.
Scotty's accent, it has been noted by one newspaper, fooled no one north of Berwick-upon-Tweed, let alone a Scotsman. Yet the near-comic urgency of his delivery compelled many fans into worshipful imitation. The actor named the character after his maternal grandfather, James Montgomery, a sea captain.
In many ways, Mr. Doohan imbued the chief engineer with what could be described as Canadian qualities. His practical warnings ("In four hours, the ship blows up") and excitable protestations ("Ah canna change the laws of physics") always gave way to a resourceful fortitude in completing a task, however dangerous or improbable.
The actor may have drawn on his own experiences as a veteran of the Second World War. He was wounded during the D-Day invasion of Normandy.
Those who found his accent unconvincing were not surprised to learn he traced his Scottish roots to an ancestor who lived three centuries ago. He was Irish by heritage and Canadian by birth. James Montgomery Doohan, conceived in Belfast, was born in Vancouver on March 3, 1920. His parents and three older siblings had just emigrated to Canada, arriving in Halifax on New Year's Day.
In his 1996 autobiography, Mr. Doohan describes his father as a dentist, pharmacist, veterinarian and drunkard. His memories were of a household made unhappy by his father's alcohol-fuelled rages. The family moved to Sarnia, Ont., when the boy was 6. Two years later, while serving as an altar boy at a Catholic mass, Jimmy suddenly felt delirious and was rushed from church. He was diagnosed with diphtheria.
Around home, he was known to imitate the voices he heard on the radio or at the cinema. At 16, he played the title role in a school production of Robin Hood at Sarnia Collegiate Institute and Technical School.
Eager to leave home, he enlisted as a gunner in the Royal Canadian Artillery immediately after Canada declared war on Germany on Sept. 10, 1939. After learning Morse code and earning a commission as an officer, Mr. Doohan spent two frustrating years in training in England. He served as a general's aide-de-camp during the planning for the Dieppe raid.
On June 6, 1944, Mr. Doohan commanded 120 men of D Company of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. In the early morning of D-Day, he joined the landings on Juno Beach. While he saw a captain go insane and another man suffer a grievous stomach wound, Mr. Doohan managed to lead his men to the seaside village of Graye-sur-Mer without casualty.
Soon, however, they came under fire from a machine-gun lodged in a church tower. Mr. Doohan, a command post officer by rank, borrowed a rifle. His first shot missed, but each of the next two shots felled a German soldier and the nest went silent. He never learned whether he had killed or wounded the enemy.
Shortly before midnight, Mr. Doohan was walking to his command post when a "machine-gun opened up on us. It hit me and spun me around. Staggering, I fell down into the shell hole," he wrote in his autobiography. "Then I looked at my right hand and saw the blood covering it. I could see the holes in my middle finger."
He walked to a regimental aid post where it was discovered four bullets had also imbedded in his left leg. In his shock at the three shots that smashed his right hand, Mr. Doohan hadn't even noticed the other wounds.
He examined the rest of his uniform, discovering a bullet hole in his shirt. He reached his left hand to his right breast pocket. "I pulled out the sterling silver cigarette case that my brother Bill had given me when I was his best man. And there I discovered a dent in it.
"The bullet had come in at an angle, ricocheted off the cigarette case, and bounced away. Four inches from my heart."
The finger was amputated. Years later, Star Trek fans would detail scenes in which the absence of the digit is noticeable. For his part, Mr. Doohan was always self-conscious about the loss. He often subtly camouflaged his right hand.
After six years in uniform, he was left with few plans for the future at the end of war. He became an actor by accident. Annoyed by poor performances in a radio drama, Mr. Doohan went to radio station CFPL in London, Ont., to record himself reading from Shakespeare and other works. He disliked what he heard, but an enthusiastic sound engineer convinced him he was a natural. By coincidence, a brochure for a Toronto drama school had arrived at the station not an hour earlier. The novice signed up, and soon won a scholarship to study at the Neighbourhood Playhouse School of the Theater in Manhattan.
Mr. Doohan was taught by Sanford Meisner, whose eponymous technique of self-investigation was heavily influenced by the great Russian director Constantine Stanislavsky. Others attending the school in those years included Lee Marvin and Leslie Nielsen, a fellow Canadian who became a close friend.
A versatile performer, Mr. Doohan did not want for work. From 1950 to 1958, he appeared in, by his count, 450 live television broadcasts and 4,000 radio shows, shuttling from New York to Toronto. He was called Canada's busiest actor. He starred in Flight into Danger , an hour-long television drama aired on CBC's General Motors Theatre in 1956. Mr. Doohan portrayed a traumatized fighter pilot who takes over the controls of a commercial airliner after both pilots are incapacitated by food poisoning. The script was the first written by Arthur Hailey, a British émigré who settled in Canada after the war and went on to write such blockbusters as Airport and Hotel .
A role as an agent on the television series Treasury Men in Action evaporated without explanation soon after director David Pressman was identified as a Communist. Only later did Mr. Doohan learn he had lost the gig to an actor who secretly accused him of being a Red.
In 1963, Mr. Doohan appeared as a defence attorney in his first feature film, The Wheeler Dealers , a romantic comedy starring James Garner and Lee Remick, directed by Edmonton-born Arthur Hiller. Meanwhile, his list of television credits reads like an anthology of cult hits. He appeared in episodes of Bewitched, Ben Casey, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea .
The three-year run of the original Star Trek series cemented the actor's image in the public mind as a blustery but dependable miracle worker in a red uniform. He was paid just $850 U.S. per episode in the inaugural season.
A cast so familiar now -- with William Shatner, another Canadian, starring as Capt. James T. Kirk; Leonard Nimoy as the logical Mr. Spock, a pointy-eared Vulcan; and DeForest Kelley as the crusty Dr. Leonard H. (Bones) McCoy -- won only a modest audience at first. The series lasted just three seasons, two years short of the Enterprise's promised "five-year mission to explore strange new worlds."
The low-budget series allowed for strong characterizations, which in part explains Star Trek 's success in syndication. The series became a phenomenon, sparking an industry of collectables and conventions. Fans memorized large chunks of dialogue. Among the engineer's most repeated quotes: "The best diplomat that I know is a fully loaded phaser bank."
Mr. Doohan often failed to mask his antipathy for the star's hammy acting. The kindest praise he offers for Mr. Shatner in his autobiography is a grudging acknowledgment that one episode's performance was "pretty okay."
The Scotty character was not often the focus of plot twists, although in an episode titled The Changeling , Bones leans over the engineer's body to deliver the shocking line, "He's dead, Jim."
Happily, the engineer is revived before hour's end.
In The Trouble with Tribbles , perhaps the best-loved of all episodes, Scotty disobeys captain's orders and precipitates a bar brawl with Klingons. The episode concludes on a pun ad-libbed by Mr. Doohan, after he dispatches a growing horde of furry creatures to a Klingon ship. "I transported the whole kit 'n' caboodle into their engine room," he tells the captain, "where they'll be no tribble at all."
Cancellation left Mr. Doohan unemployed and, he feared, unemployable. He complained of being typecast to his dentist, who said, "Jimmy, you're going to be Scotty long after you're dead. If I were you, I'd go with the flow."
He did so, reprising his role as Scotty in seven films. In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home , the engineer attempts to give voice commands to a 20th-century computer, including speaking into a mouse. Audiences roared with laughter.
After surviving a massive heart attack in 1989, Mr. Doohan seemed ever more frail. He deferred questions about the rumoured deterioration of his health by quipping: "If I had Alzheimer's I think I'd remember."
What would be his final public appearance came last August at a five-day event in Los Angeles billed as "Beam me up, Scotty -- one last time." He posed in his wheelchair in front of his star along the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
James Doohan was born on March 3, 1920, in Vancouver. He died on Wednesday at home in Redmond, Wash., a lakeside suburb 30 kilometres east of Seattle. Alzheimer's disease was one of many afflictions he suffered, including diabetes, lung fibrosis and Parkinson's. He was 85. He leaves his wife, Wende Braunberger, and their three children, Eric, Thomas and five-year-old Sarah. He also leaves four adult children -- Larkin, Deirdre and twins Montgomery and Christopher -- from his 15-year marriage to Janet Young, which ended in divorce in 1964. A marriage to Anita Yagel in 1970 ended in divorce two years later. Space Services Inc., a Houston-based company, will send his ashes into space, as he requested.
Special to The Globe and Mail

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Frank White (1914-2015), worker and author

Frank White photographed at his Madeira Park home in 1990 by Stephen Osborne. BELOW: Working on a truck. Clayton Bailey photograph. BOTTOM: Photo by Jan Brink.


By Tom Hawthorn
The Globe and Mail
November 13, 2015

Frank White butchered hogs, delivered raw milk to dairies, hauled logs out of the woods, operated a waterworks, bit into the earth as an excavating contractor, and pumped gas at a station in a picturesque fishing village on the British Columbia coast.

Late in life, at age 99, he added bestselling author to his resumé with “Milk Spills and One-Log Loads” (Harbour, 2013), a thoroughly engaging memoir of his time as a pioneer trucker.
By the time he died on Oct. 18, at 101, he had a second title to his credit. with “That Went By Fast: My First Hundred Years.” He was thought to be the oldest active author in the province, if not the land.

The books resulted from a prize-winning autobiographical magazine article published in 1974. For nearly four decades, he wrote scattered notes to jog his memory, snippets of facts and details which read like found poetry.
After Mr. White reached his ninth decade, his son, the author and publisher Howard White, began tape recording his father's reminiscences, jogging the old man's memory with the lyric notes filled with haphazard punctuations and capitalizations — “Neighbor sawing wood at fence. We kids enjoy the noise and sawdust. … Cooking the small potatoes for the pigs, Breaking the windows. in the old house his father built.”

The son then transcribed the tapes, resulting in a 180,000-word manuscript. At first, the results disappointed the senior White.
“I can't believe a man's life can be made so small,” he complained.
The son read aloud the results to an audience of two — his father's second wife, the former New Yorker writer and one-time war correspondent Edith Iglauer, and their Filipina caregiver. Their approval convinced the subject his life was worthy of being shared.

The two volumes offer a rare glimpse into working-class life in a province where so many of those jobs have disappeared over the years. The elder White had lived so long his recollections of such things as logging with a winch known as a steam donkey crossed from the mundane to the historical.
Franklin Wetmore White was born three months before the outbreak of the First World War on May 9, 1914, to Jean Wetmore (née Carmichael) and Silas Franklin White. The family lived in Aldergrove in British Columbia's fertile Fraser Valley, although the boy was born just across the frontier at Sumas, Wash.

His father had an adventurous life, including a stint as a barnstorming prize fighter, who worked carnivals by taking on local farm boys and other tough guys. Once married and settled, he operated a butcher shop in which young Frank learned to slaughter hogs at a young age. The boy also sold magazine subscriptions door to door and became so adept a driving that he operated a truck for his father years before he could legally drive.

Many other jobs followed. He was an apprentice box-maker in British Columbia's bountiful Okanagan region, drove milk trucks, hauled freight, worked the woods as an independent, small-scale operator known as a gyppo logger.
“He was a working fool,” his son said. “He just worked and worked and worked. His whole life was about work.”
Known by his neighbours as a kindly and warm-hearted figure, he was also a voracious reader, though he mostly eschewed literature, preferring instead histories and obscure treatises on equipment and mechanical operations. For many years, he subscribed to Hansard, reading verbatim accounts of debates from the House of Commons in far-off Ottawa. These tended to occupy flat surfaces throughout his gas station, undoubtedly disappointing workers who used the men's room, where might be expected a more titillating publication.

Frank White hugs Edith Iglauer.
In 1939, Mr. White married Kathleen, known as Kay, Boley, a farmer's daughter with whom he had a successful union until her death in 1978. A few years later, while on a bus trip to New York City, he called on Ms. Iglauer, a widow who maintained homes in Manhattan and on British Columbia's Sunshine Coast. He told her he wanted to see the opera, about which he knew nothing other than it was one of her preferred entertainments. Theirs was a Green Acres relationship — he had spent years in logging camps with the manners to prove it, a self-described “bush ape,” while she travelled in the sophisticated milieu of the sorts who not only read the New Yorker, but produced it. He found in her a firecracker of enthusiasms for the arts, while she found in him a kindly, generous autodidact whose lack of formal education had not restricted an inquisitive mind. He had even built an early computer from designs in a magazine, using the machine to record the notes used in his memoirs.

Mr. White died at his home in Garden Bay, B.C. He leaves Ms. Iglauer, whom he married in 2006 after a long courtship; a daughter, Marilyn Plant; sons Don White and Howard White; six grandchildren; and, eight great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his first wife and by daughter Cynthia (Cindy) Wilson, who died in 2005. He was also predeceased by five siblings, including Wesley James White, a lance sergeant who was captured at Hong Kong and died of diphtheria in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in 1942.

While he rarely left British Columbia in his first 60 years, Mr. White travelled extensively afterwards. On a trip to India, he could not bring himself to hire pedicabs, seeing it as too exploitive a mode of transportation. One day in Delhi, though, he got lost and in desperation engaged a pedicab to return to his hotel. Mr. White insisted on exiting the pedicab at the foot of every hill; he also insisted on buying the driver a meal at the hotel. In turn, the driver invited Mr. White to join his family for dinner at their home, which turned out to be a spot on the sidewalk on which he dined on chicken and vegetables, the most memorable meal of his sojourn.

Leon Bibb (1922-2015), singer and civil rights activist

Leon Bibb raised his magnificent voice in support of civil rights.


By Tom Hawthorn
The Globe and Mail
November 2, 2015

One August morning in 1968, Leon Bibb awoke in a plush hotel room at the Bayshore Inn in Vancouver. He looked upon peaceful Lost Lagoon and the forest of Stanley Park. In the other direction, he marvelled at a working harbour with snowcapped mountains as a backdrop. The singer knew he had found his promised land.
He moved to the city two years later, abandoning a New York career in which he had played Greenwich Village coffeehouses as well as Lincoln Center; performed on Broadway as well as been host of a television variety show; sang at the inaugural Newport Folk festival as well as recorded more than a dozen albums for the Vanguard and Columbia labels, among others.

That so distinguished a performer — a classically trained lyric baritone, who moved easily into the tenor register; a brilliant guitarist; a stage performer who had received a Tony nomination while sharing a stage with James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson, who did not — chose Vancouver as his home did not go unnoticed by grateful citizens.
His death on Oct. 23 at 93 was preceded by many honours, including induction into the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame and investment into the prestigious Order of British Columbia.
Mr. Bibb had barely settled into his adopted city when he acquired the rights to “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris,” which had an unprecedented seven-month run at the Arts Club, a landmark event in the establishment of live theatre in Vancouver. He performed pop songs with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, while some of his stage shows were turned into acclaimed CBC television specials.

Those who heard Mr. Bibb sing in person never forgot it. Even in his 90s, his velvet voice could quiet a concert hall or a packed church. Gentle in demeanour, handsome like Harry Belafonte (a longtime friend), preternaturally youthful, Mr. Bibb was celebrated for honest, soulful renditions of even the most tired chestnuts. He was also praised for his lifelong advocacy of minority rights, a cause he furthered in Canada with a school program called “A Step Ahead,” designed and supported with his own money.

Earlier, he braved threats of physical violence to join civil rights marchers in his native American South, also putting into jeopardy a career derailed for his having been blacklisted during the Red scare of the 1950s.

High cheekbones, smooth facial skin, and an exuberance belied his age. At the height of his career, one encyclopedia supposed he had been born in 1935, making him 34. He was in fact 47 at the time.
Charles Leon Arthello Bibb was born in Louisville, Ky., on Feb. 7, 1922, to Elizabeth (née McClaskey) and Leon Bibb, who worked for the post office. He was the second child and first son of what would be four children. Sonny, as he was known, grew up in what he would later describe to a Vancouver audience as “a segregated and racist city.”

He remembered first singing in church as a boy at about age four, encouraged by a great aunt to learn “Ev'ry Time I Feel the Spirit,” an African-American spiritual. After graduating from Central Colored High School, young Bibb enrolled at the Louisville Municipal College for Negroes, where he was a featured soloist with the glee club.

Following service in the U.S. Army during the Second World War, Mr. Bibb moved to New York for training as a singer and, later, as a guitarist. In 1946, he appeared on Broadway in “Annie Get Your Gun” with Ethel Merman in a run lasting 1,147 shows. He later had a role as Jim in a musical adaptation of “Huckleberry Finn” called “Livin’ the Life.” His performance in “A Hand Is On The Gate” earned Mr. Bibb a Tony nomination in 1967 for best featured actor in a musical, though the production lasted only 20 performances. (The prize went to Joel Grey for “Cabaret.”)

Early in his life, Mr. Bibb took as his model Paul Robeson, the superb bass-baritone singer, actor, athlete, author, and champion of working people and African-American civil rights. The men performed together and struck a fast friendship with Mr. Robeson named godfather in 1951 to Mr. Bibb's boy-girl fraternal twins.

As Mr. Robeson was harassed and blacklisted for being pro-Communist, Mr. Bibb also came under scrutiny for having sung at such benefit concerts as a tribute to Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Chicago boy murdered in Mississippi in 1955. For a time in the late 1950s, Mr. Bibb performed on stage and in the recording studio under the name Lee Charles.

In 1961, he signed and soon after renounced a statement commending the American Legion for being vigilant in rooting out Communists, a defiance of the blacklist that in the end had little effect on his popularity.

Mr. Bibb's smooth, soulful renditions of folk songs, English ballads, chain-gang chants, spirituals and gospel songs, not to mention Broadway show tunes, made him a popular guest on television variety programs. He appeared on The Tonight Show and the Merv Griffin Show, as well as the Ed Sullivan Show for which he made six live performances from 1959 until 1965. He also appeared regularly on ABC-TV on such programs as Hootenanny and Discovery ’64. In 1968, he sold the concept of a variety show featuring unknown and up-and-coming acts. Mr. Bibb served as host of “Someone New,” which aired on New York station WNBC.

Busy on stage and screen, he also maintained a steady schedule of recording, his releases on a variety of labels usually earning accolades. Billboard magazine praised the Vanguard single “Rocks and Gravel” (“sung with great spirit and gusto”), the album “Leon Bibb Sings” (“an excellent showcase for his versatile vocal talents”), and “Leon Bibb Sings Folks Songs” (“a sensitive and talented interpreter.”)

In 1963, he put his career on temporary hold to go to Mississippi to join civil-rights marches and voter registration drives. Two years later, he was in Alabama to perform for 25,000 marchers at the Alabama State Capitol building at the end of the Selma-to-Montgomery march. He appeared on stage with Mr. Belafonte, Joan Baez, the Canadian-born Oscar Brand, and Peter Yarrow and Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary.

Between those two events, he embarked on a 10-week performing tour of Europe with his family, ending with a whirlwind 24-day, 12-concert, five-city tour of the Soviet Union. “We were given the red carpet treatment,” he said, “and that is not meant facetiously.”

Mr. Bibb made his screen debut in Sidney Poitier's “For Love of Ivy” in 1968. He also appeared alongside Mr. Poitier the following year in the black revolutionary fantasy, “The Lost Man.”
It was while touring as the opening act to the comic Bill Cosby that Mr. Bibb made his first visit to Vancouver in the summer of 1968. Twenty-eight months later, his first marriage over, Mr. Bibb loaded up his possessions.

“I drove across the country from New York with my furniture in a big van and got to the border and thought that I could just come on in to Canada: Here I am,” he once told Holger Petersen, the broadcaster and record producer. The Canadian customs officer gave the singer two days to get his papers into order.

Vancouver in those days was still a rough-hewn, blue-collar port city with an operating cooperage just a few blocks from the downtown Orpheum Theatre, which itself barely escaped the wrecking ball. Mr. Bibb's first performances involved a two-part concert program at the University of British Columbia featuring blues and work songs, as well as anti-war ballads and the poems of Malcolm X. Even with tickets costing just 50 cents, barely half the ballroom was filled and Mr. Bibb could have been excused had he entertained doubts about his move.

Not long after, he was stopped by police and questioned about a robbery, made a suspect solely for his skin colour. He eventually fought for and won an apology.

Despite the poor welcome, Mr. Bibb cemented his reputation in the city with “Jacques Brel,” performing with Ann Mortifee and others in a smash hit, which sold some 40,000 tickets, making patrons out of philistines.

He later toured Canada with singer Gail Nelson and pianist Stan Keen in a revue called “We Three.”
A show in which Mr. Bibb adopts a dandy's persona while offering a singing history of the blues was presented at the Orpheum in 1977. Ranging in setting from a Harlem nightclub to a New Orleans whorehouse, the show was adapted as “The Candyman” for broadcast on CBC television, earning a rave review in the Globe. A sequel, “Candyman's Gospel Show,” aired in 1979.

Mr. Bibb followed by writing a gospel cantata about the underground railroad. “One More Stop on the Freedom Train” premiered in Toronto in 1984, toured Ontario the following year, and was mounted in Vancouver during Expo 86.
A career highlight for Mr. Bibb involved the release of two recordings with his Grammy-nominated bluesman son with “A Family Affair” (2002) and “Praising Peace: A Tribute to Paul Robeson” (2006). Through the years, Mr. Bibb maintained a steady appearance on the performing calendar in his adopted city, whether singing at the annual folk music festival, or appearing at a benefit concert. As he did in his early days, he liked to put aside the amplification of a microphone, allowing his mellifluous voice to fill the space.

Mr. Bibb leaves twins Dorie Bibb Clay, of New York, and Eric Bibb, of Helsinki, Finland, and youngest daughter Amy Bibb-Ford, also of New York. He also leaves nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, as well as companion Christine Anton. He was predeceased by his siblings John Bibb, Harriett Porter and Edward Bibb.


What would be Mr. Bibb's final public performance took place at Government House, the vice-regal residence in Victoria, in February, 2014. He was singing as part of celebrations to mark B.C. Black History Month.

Stuart Hodgson (1924-2015), territorial commissioner

Stuart Hodgson (left) and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau flank young Justin Trudeau.

By Tom Hawthorn
The Globe and Mail
January 22, 2016

Stuart Hodgson dodged Nazi U-boats on frigid Arctic convoys before battling Communists within his union as he organized loggers on both coasts of Canada. Later in life, he built a distinguished career as a public servant, most notably serving as the first resident commissioner of the Northwest Territories.

A towering man with large, rough hands and a booming voice, he displayed a good-humoured enthusiasm that verged on the comical. The New Yorker writer Edith Iglauer once described him as a “supersalesman for the North (who) always talks in exclamation marks.” The Inuit knew the jolly, mustachioed commissioner as Umingmak — musk ox.
Mr. Hodgson, who has died at 91, was also a founding signatory of the New Democratic Party. Mentored by NDP Leader Tommy Douglas, he received his northern appointment from Liberal Prime Minister Lester Pearson, befriended his successor Pierre Trudeau, and, later still, served in several public administration roles in British Columbia with appointments from Social Credit Premier Bill Bennett.

Stories by and about Mr. Hodgson are legion, perhaps the best known involving the union leader being approached about becoming commissioner by Mr. Pearson.

“But I don't know that much about government,” Mr. Hodgson protested.

“That's why I'm sending you,” the prime minister replied.
The commissioner exercised one-man rule over a vast swath of the North American continent, a sparsely-populated expanse of 1.25 million square miles, a third of the Canadian land mass. His instructions were to begin a process leading to self-rule by northern residents.

His administration coincided with a growing rise of militancy among younger native leaders and the commissioner earned criticism for his authoritarian approach to governance. As commissioner, he was a force unto himself, combining the roles of premier and lieutenant governor, as well as legislative speaker. “I am the government,” he once told a reporter. At the same time, he insisted his every edict was issued with the interests of the territorial population in mind. “I have 34,000 bosses,” he once said.

Eager, gregarious, though unfamiliar with the Arctic except for his brief wartime experience, Mr. Hodgson was a superb choice for the transitional period. “I had gone north as a tourist, I suppose, looking for adventure and I returned home as someone who realized the enormous potential there,” he wrote in an unpublished memoir. He promoted tourism and mining, and established a civil service in the territory. He also found a lingering acrimony amongst northerners towards their southern rulers. The federal Department of Northern Affairs and Natural Resources, known as DNANR, was referred to by northern residents as the Department of No Action and No Results. The commissioner pushed the territory towards self-rule. In this role, he was on occasion referred to as one of the last fathers of Confederation.

In his years in the north, he befriended commoner and royalty alike, from hunters on the frozen tundra to Prince Charles, who invited Mr. Hodgson to his wedding to Lady Diana in 1981. “I've always looked upon him as a friend,” Mr. Hodgson told Angela Mangiacasale of the Globe. “To think of all the millions of people he must have met, it's nice to know he feels the same way.” In the end, Mr. Hodgson had to send his regrets, missing out on what became known as the wedding of the century.

Stuart Milton Hodgson was born in Vancouver on April 1, 1924, a second son for Mary Louisa (née Allen) and Allan Jay Hodgson, a labourer at plywood mills on the Fraser River. The boy, who would grow to a strapping 6-foot-2, began working in the mills at age 15, taking a full-time job when he quit high school after completing Grade 11.

With war waging around the globe, he joined the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve. He served as an anti-aircraft gunner aboard HMCS Monnow, a frigate which escorted a convoy to the Arctic port of Murmansk in the Soviet Union. Mr. Hodgson and another gunner were credited with shooting down a German combat plane off the Norwegian coast. At war's end, a boarding party from the frigate accepted the surrender of a German U-boat.
Mr. Hodgson returned to the West Coast and the mills, becoming an activist in the International Woodworkers of America. The enemy then was not so much the bosses but rival trade unionists seeking to affiliate the woodworkers with a Communist union. “A vicious fight,” he once described the struggle to Jamie Lamb of the Vancouver Sun. “Fist fights. Shotguns. That sort of thing.”
In 1951, he married Pearl Kereluk, a secretary originally from Hairy Hill, Alta., whom he had met when she asked him for a light for her cigarette.

Mr. Hodgson's faction prevailed and he became a prominent figure in British Columbia trade union circles. In 1959, he was dispatched to Newfoundland to support what became a bitter, bloody loggers' strike. The death of a policeman during a brawl in the town of Badger and the subsequent incendiary words of Premier Joey Smallwood provoked a mob to seek out Mr. Hodgson at his hotel in Grand Falls. The organizer arrived shortly ahead of the vigilantes only to find the innkeeper had tossed his possessions into the snow.

As Mr. Hodgson frantically tossed his clothes back into a suitcase, a passing cab driver asked what happened.
Fell on the ice, he explained, and the expletive suitcase popped open.
Mr. Hodgson took a seat in the cab, eager to make his escape.

The driver was in no hurry.
“There's a mob comin’ our way and the word is they're going to hang a guy,” the cabbie said in a Newfoundland brogue. “That ya might like to see it.”
The mob was spotted coming over a hill towards the hotel.
Mr. Hodgson, seeking to not betray his identity, not to mention his urgent desire to flee, politely asked if there was a way to avoid being caught in the jam.
As they drove down side streets, the driver asked what brought the stranger to town.
“I'm a shoe salesman,” he lied. “But, you know, business is bad. I'm having a hard time moving any product.”
“Well, there's a strike on,” the driver explained.

The cabbie later realized the identity of his passenger, whom he ordered out and left abandoned on the side of the highway. Mr. Hodgson and other union leaders eventually made their way to a deserted barracks at Gander airport where they hid for several days before seeking to leave the island. They tried to buy tickets on a flight to Ottawa, but the agent balked. “Not for you fellas,” he said.
Meanwhile, word got out about the union guys being at the airport and a small but noisy group pursued them through the concourse.

An alert Pan American Airways agent quickly got the men onto a trans-Atlantic flight that happened to be stopping in Gander to refuel.

Mr. Hodgson wound up sitting in the front of the plane, where he convinced a stewardess to leave him a bottle of Crown Royal. It was only once he was in the air that he realized he did not know his destination. He was never so happy as when he landed in New York.
An activist with the social democratic Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, Mr. Hodgson and his union played a central role in the creation of the NDP following the debacle of the 1958 federal election. But he soured on the new party after it failed to make a breakthrough in the subsequent campaign. He accepted a Liberal appointment to serve as a territorial commissioner. In 1967, as commissioner, he led two chartered propellor planes filled with bureaucrats and office furniture, as well as one civil servant's pet skunk, to the small mining town of Yellowknife, where the territory capital was established after decades of rule from far away Ottawa. The new government offices were temporarily located in a school, a curling rink and a bowling alley.

Mr. Hodgson's tenure coincided with times of great change in almost all aspects of life in the North. The commissioner appointed Abe Okpik to head Project Surname, restoring to the people traditional surnames that had been replaced by the federal government with a series of numbers placed on disks like dog tags. A distinctive polar bear-shaped license plate was adopted in 1970 as part of centennial celebrations for the territory. The inaugural Arctic Winter Games were held that year, a brainchild of Mr. Hodgson's after he despaired at the poor showing local athletes made when facing southern competition.

In 1975, he relinquished his authority to an elected council, an important evolution on the path towards self rule.
On April 16, 1979, Prince Charles journeyed to Yellowknife to officiate at the opening of the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, a $5-million museum and archive which served as a showpiece for Mr. Hodgson's desire to boost tourism. The commissioner had also commissioned American artist Arnold Friberg, known for his monumental set designs for Cecil B. DeMille's “The Ten Commandments,” to paint a life-sized portrait of the Prince.
Mr. Hodgson soon after left the north to serve as chairman of the International Joint Commission, which handles issues involving shared water boundaries with the United States. This was followed by a term at the helm of the BC Ferries and, later, as head of BC Transit. Mr. Hodgson then served as citizenship judge until his retirement in 2005.

He was invested in the Order of Canada in 1971 for his role in labour relations and as commissioner. Pearl Hodgson received the Order herself three years later for her volunteer work in the north. As well, Mr. Hodgson was made a commander in the Order of Dannebrog by Queen Margrethe of Denmark.

Mr. Hodgson died in Vancouver on Dec. 18. He leaves a son, a daughter, and five grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife.

In his time as commissioner, Mr. Hodgson tried to visit every hamlet in the territories at least once a year. The commissioner carried a rifle and sometimes a sidearm, but did not shoot game either for sport or sustenance. He was asked in one settlement why he did not hunt. It was reported he said his wartime exploits included shooting down the German plane. While most of the crew were rescued, one young man had died. For Mr. Hodgson that was enough death to last a lifetime.


Art Finley (1926-2015), broadcaster


Art Finley prepares to go on air at CKNW in Vancouver.

By Tom Hawthorn
The Globe and Mail
September 11, 2015

In a profession known for bombast, hyperbole and self-aggrandizement, radio talk-show host Art Finley stood out by relying on none of that.

The broadcaster displayed a witty yet probing technique in on-air interrogations, making him “the thinking man's host” in the opinion of Red Robinson, another well-known Vancouver radio personality.

Mr. Finley, who has died at 88, first made a name in San Francisco before coming north to Canada in 1968, the year after the Summer of Love, quickly becoming a star in an era when talk-radio dominated the Vancouver scene.

In a broadcast career lasting a half-century, the mellifluous host interviewed a Who's Who of celebrities and newsmakers including musicians (Joan Baez, James Brown, John Lennon), prime ministers (Pierre Trudeau, John Diefenbaker, Brian Mulroney), authors (Gore Vidal, Pierre Berton, Isaac Asimov), movie stars (Sophia Loren, Bette Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger), television stars (Leonard Nimoy, Andy Griffith, Bill Shatner), healers (Dr. Jonas Salk, Dr. Henry Heimlich, Dr. Gifford W. Jones), and such activists and rabble-rousers as Germaine Greer, Huey Newton, Cesar Chavez, Ralph Nader, and Dr. Henry Morgentaler.

He enjoyed a good laugh and had a wicked sense of humour himself, so took every opportunity to put on air such comedians as Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, George Carlin, Jonathan Winters, Lily Tomlin, Phyllis Diller, and Professor Irwin Corey, as well as members of the Monty Python troupe.

A voracious reader, the host said he gained an audience by listening objectively to the opinions expressed by call-in listeners and by not putting on airs with his guests.

“I am always myself,” he once said. “I talk exactly on the air the same way I do off the air — except for the words the (Federal Communications Commission) says you can't say. I'm honest. I put people at ease.”

As for those sitting across from his microphone, he had only two requirements. “The worst guest is a person who doesn't know his subject,” he said in a 1990 interview, “and talks slow.”

While he enjoyed a certain fame in British Columbia, his voice recognized by strangers even decades after he left the air, he made an indelible impression on a generation of Baby Boom children in the San Francisco Bay area as Mayor Art, the host of a live, after-school television program.
His own childhood began in the rolling Appalachian coal mountains of West Virginia. Arthur Irving Finger was born in Fairmont to Minnie (née Zindler) and Benjamin Sardon Finger, a clothing merchant, on Aug. 25, 1926. He had two older brothers born more than a decade earlier. On his walks home from school during the Depression, young Art scavenged small chunks of coal alongside the railway tracks running out of the Monongahela River valley.
After his father died of a heart attack in 1937, his widowed mother moved with the boy to Texas, where her family lived. While studying mechanical engineering at the University of Houston, he wrote a column in the student newspaper titled Finger-Tips in which he offered whimsical record reviews and notes on radio broadcasts. A bit of doggerel he wrote about the pronunciation of unfamiliar wartime place names was picked up by a syndicated columnist and reprinted in several daily newspapers around the United States. It read in part:

Scorn not the poor announcer
In exotic tongues enmeshed,
Who says, “We bombed Plo-es-ti,”
When we really bombed “plaw-YESHT.”

He lied about his age to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Corps in the waning days of the Second World War.
He was still an undergraduate when hired as a $36 per week radio announcer for station KXYZ. He held a variety of jobs at the station and took part in several zany stunts, including the sending aloft of silver-painted discs at the height of the UFO craze. By 1949, he was host and production manager of “Saturday at The Shamrock,” a weekly live broadcast on the national ABC network featured a big band performance from the ballroom of Houston's grandest hotel. It was during the show he had his first brush with meeting stars of stage and screen, and it was also where he met a hotel guest from New Jersey named Geraldine Molt, whom he almost immediately told he planned to marry. They did so eventually, though she insisted on a courtship lasting longer than his original 24-hour wooing.

While serving in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, he helped establish military radio stations in Newfoundland. After completing his service, he spent two years in New York before moving to California to become a producer and performer on the “Tooneytown” children's show for KOVR-TV in Stockton. His wife came up with the concept — he would be Mayor Art and the children on the show would be his council. She fashioned for him a long-tailed morning coat and a top hat. An official at the station decided his venerable family name did not fit a kiddie show and he settled on the professional name Art Finley.
The show, which soon moved to KRON-TV in San Francisco, aired live for two hours from 4 to 6 p.m. on weekdays. He introduced cartoons and offered a news program for children. He was aided by a hand-puppet named Ring-A-Ding, a wisecracking cuckoo-clock bird.

In the fashion of the day, the host also did double-duty as pitchman, and Mayor Art was a fast-talking purveyor of Fudgees snack cakes, Buitoni macaroni, and fruit drinks (“It hasta be Shasta”).

Absurd, goofy and always kindly, Mayor Art became known for such catchphrases as “A glass of milk and a how-do-you-do?,” which he spoke after announced the next day's school lunch menu. Cartoon segments were heralded by Mayor Art leading bleachers of children in shouting, “Blooey! Blooey!” He ended each show with a hearty, “I'll be seeing you (pause) subsequently.”

The children's show ended in 1966, after which he briefly played host to a low-budget afternoon call-in game show for adults. He also handled a call-in show on radio station KSFO and, beginning in 1962, had a daily cartoon published in the San Francisco Chronicle. The “Art's Gallery” cartoon featured an elaborate and detailed woodcut illustration from a 19th-century magazine with an anachronistic caption. The result — a medieval knight on horseback looking over his shoulder with the caption, “Is that cop still following us?” — was more wry than knee-slapping. The one-panel cartoon ran in the Chronicle for two decades and was syndicated to newspapers in Canada and the United States.

In 1967, Mr. Finley and his wife became involved in an oddball caper involving a breakaway British colony. The residents of the Caribbean island of Anguilla, population 6,000, declared they wanted no further association with the nearby islands of St. Kitts and Nevis. An independent republic was declared and confirmed in a referendum by a vote of 1,739 to 4.

The leaders rejected large sums from developers, instead seeking small donations from individuals to support the island. The San Francisco couple helped create the Anguilla Trust Fund in which honorary citizenships and passports were issued for donations of $100 US. (Among the donators was Linus Pauling, the scientist and humanitarian.) The idealistic hope was Anguilla would be a bastion of peace and popular democracy in a world torn by strife. In the end, the republic failed, but the island did become a separate British overseas territory.

Mr. Finley was hired by Vancouver radio station CHQM in 1968. He soon after jumped to CKNW, a ratings juggernaut in news and current affairs, including a stellar lineup of talk-show hosts, the king of whom was Jack Webster, a gruff, acerbic, no-nonsense Glaswegian known as The Mouth That Roared. The newcomer's comparably laid-back style — “a mellow-tone voice with the octaval range of a slide trombone to wrap us in the warmest strains of rational charm,” in the words of Lee Bacchus of the Vancouver Sun — set him apart from the microphone maulers.

After Mr. Webster was lured away to rival station CJOR for a reported contract of $110,000 per year, Mr. Finley replaced him in the coveted 6:30 to 8 p.m. slot.

He returned to San Francisco to handle a call-in show for KGO in 1974, returning to Vancouver and a spot on CJOR in 1981. After five years, he hopscotched the continent with WNIS in Norfolk, Va., and XRA in San Diego, Calif., before becoming host of the popular “Nightbeat” show with KCBS in San Francisco.

He retired to Victoria, B.C., from where he and his wife travelled the world. They were holidaying in Buenos Aires in 2006 when Geraldine Finger died suddenly of a heart attack on her 77th birthday. He then moved to Vancouver.

Those who knew him away from the camera and microphone claim he was the same person off air as on, a joking, high-spirited figure who, when shopping at a bargain store promising “every item $1,” imagined making a public-address announcement of “Price cheque on aisle nine.”

“If I have unknowingly offended somebody, I apologize,” he once said. “If I have knowingly offended somebody, give me a chance and I'll do it again.”

Mr. Finley died on Aug. 7 after suffering a heart attack while on a stroll in his Vancouver neighbourhood. He leaves son Jeff Finger and daughters Julie Emerson and Suzanne Noel-Bentley. He was predeceased by his wife of 56 years and two brothers.


In 2002, he donated a reel-to-reel tape and 141 audiocassettes to the University of British Columbia Library. The donation includes 100 radio interviews, ranging from cradle (Dr. Benjamin Spock) to grave (Dr. Jack Kevorkian). Available for future researchers, you might say the world has not heard the last of Mr. Finley.

Art Finlay as Mayor Art was a staple of children's television in San Francisco.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Parrot Lady joins choir invisible


Wendy Huntbatch operated a parrot refuge at Coombs, B.C. (Deddeda White photograph)

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
March 7, 2016
One morning in 1995, Wendy Huntbatch discovered four beloved birds had been plucked from her aviary.

The pilfered parrots included three macaws and a green Amazon with a short tail and yellow nape named Apollo. The RCMP said the birds were worth $10,000, but as far as Ms. Huntbatch was concerned each was priceless.

“It's like having your child stolen,” she said at the time.

A public plea for their return attracted the attention of distressed parrot owners who could no longer care for their own birds and who saw in Ms. Huntbatch an opportunity. Soon, she was caring for 15 birds. More birds kept coming and the cause of nursing injured parrots back to health became her calling, dominating her life until her death from cancer last month. She was 70.

A tireless advocate, Ms. Huntbatch sought to educate the public on the unsuitability of parrots as household pets. She campaigned against the breeding of the birds for profit and was a fearless and outspoken critic of those bird-brained humans, notably gangsters and other lowlifes, who thought owning an exotic bird made them as dashing as a pirate.

She founded the World Parrot Refuge, a grand name for a roadside attraction built on scrub land on Vancouver Island.

The refuge is home to a dazzling array of birds, including some whose magnificent plumage is described in their name, such as Congo African greys, blue and gold macaws, Mexican red-headed amazons, green-winged macaws, orange-winged amazons, blue-front amazons, scarlet macaws, hyacinth macaws, and citron-crested cockatoos, as well as Australian kings, umbrella cockatoos, eclectus parrots, triton cockatoos, and military macaws, among others.

As loud as their colours, the cacophony of so many birds in an enclosed space, even one measuring 23,000-square-feet, is such that many of the refuge's 10,000 annual visitors choose to wear ear plugs.
The founder often solicited donations for her refuge, which was also supported by admission tickets, donations, an on-site thrift store, and proceeds from an adjacent 8,000-plant lavender farm. The facility has also received provincial government grants. It costs about $500,000 per year to keep the birds in nuts, seeds, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, and fresh fruit and vegetables, including broccoli.

A thin woman with a flighty air, Ms. Huntbatch displayed a birdlike quickness as she darted about the sanctuary, which included space allowing the birds to stretch their wings in flight. Many of the animals surrendered to the refuge arrive sick, or suffering from self-mutilation, a behaviour the founder attributed to the cruelty of having been kept in cages.
“Parrots have an extremely high intelligence and intelligent human beings can't be stuck in a prison,” she told the Abbotsford Times newspaper in 2004.

The parrots at the refuge are neither for sale nor adoption, although supporters are encouraged to contribute funds for the maintenance of specific birds as part of an online “virtual adoption” program. Needless to say, her flock grew in size over the passing years.

Born in Wolverhampton, England, on Sept. 1, 1945, the penultimate day of the Second World War, Wendy Norma Seabridge was the daughter of a homemaker and a mechanical engineer. She was concerned with animal welfare from an early age. She married and bore a son before emigrating to Canada in the mid-1970s.

She wound up living in the Fraser Valley east of Vancouver, where she served as branch president of the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the municipality of Mission.

In 2004, by which time she was caring for 400 parrots in a facility in Abbotsford, her flock was threatened by the possibility of a government-ordered cull to curtail an outbreak of avian influenza. 

She halted public tours and ordered visitors to change clothes and shoes when on site.

“We were like a sitting duck when that happened,” said Horst Neumann, her common-law partner and refuge co-founder.

The couple decided to abandon the Fraser Valley, home to many commercial poultry farms, for Vancouver Island. They sought a property on the Saanich Peninsula north of Victoria to be close to other tourist attractions such as Butterfly World and Butchart Gardens, but were unable to find a suitable location. They settled on a 22-acre property on the old highway that runs through Coombs, a community of about 1,400 people about 150 kilometres north of Victoria.

The refuge has not been without controversy. In 2006, her non-profit group faced a $13,000 tax bill from Revenue Canada for unpaid employee deductions. She tried to pay the bill by remortgaging the property, only to be rebuffed by her lender.
“They ask, 'What are you going to do with the money?' and you say are going to donate it to charity,” she told the Nanaimo Daily News.
In the end, supporters donated funds to cover the outstanding bill.

The refuge was also home to ferrel rabbits relocated from the University of Victoria after overrunning the campus. Alas, some of the rabbits escaped into an adjacent farmer's field to dine on grass and hay. The farmer shot 30 of them.

More recently, some disgruntled former employees alleged mistreatment of birds, although the manager of cruelty investigations for the SPCA said they spotted no problems at the refuge.

Through the turmoil and the never-ceasing demands for fundraising, Ms. Huntbatch also struggled with health problems following a diagnosis of cervical cancer more than four years ago.

Ms. Huntbatch died on Feb. 3, hours after being moved by ambulance from her home to a hospice in nearby Parksville. She leaves Mr. Neumann, her partner of 22 years, and a son, Justin Huntbatch. She also leaves a pandemonium of parrots numbering more than 700 birds.