Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A farewell to NHL players in 2014

By Tom Hawthorn

From the brightest star in Jean Béliveau to a one-game goalie like Joe Junkin, several former Canadian-born NHL players were among the fallen in 2014. Here are their obituaries, originally published on my Benched blog:

Don Ward
Journeyman defenceman enjoyed a long career in the Western Hockey League after having cups of coffee in the NHL with the Boston Bruins and Chicago Black Hawks:

Joe Junkin
Goalie's NHL career lasted seven minutes, 56 seconds:

Danny McLeod
Decorated wartime hero, driving force behind the creation of what is now Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS), McLeod later worked as the NHL's supervisor of officials:

Keith Allen
Never scored a goal as a player, but built the expansion Philadelphia Flyers into Stanley Cup winners:

Doug Mohns
Diesel spent 22 seasons in the NHL on five different clubs, yet never had his name engraved on the Stanley Cup:

Jack Stoddard
Tall player known as The Octopus for his reach, Stoddard was first NHLer to defy superstition by wearing sweater No. 13 for an entire season:

Doug Jarrett
Hard-hitting defenceman was known as the Chairman of the Boards:

Joe Bell
He lost three years of his career fighting Nazis instead of NHL rivals:

Ron Murphy
Stalwart left-winger got his name on the Stanley Cup after he retired:

Chuck Scherza
Rugged bruiser scored six goals in 36 wartime games:

Lionel Heinrich
Defenceman scored one goal in 35 games with Boston Bruins:

Jim Mikol
Lantern-jawed forward played briefly for Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers in the 1960s:

Edgar Laprade
Stylish New York Rangers forward was a hockey Gandhi:

Ross Lonsberry
Checking forward won two Stanley Cups with Philadelphia Flyers:

Ralph Nattrass
Bruising defenceman played good defence on bad Chicago Black Hawks teams:

Brian Marchinko
An original member of the expansion New York Islanders:

Larry Zeidel
Tough player known as The Rock endured anti-Semitic barbs on ice:

Guy Trottier
Tiny forward nicknamed The Mouse:

Carol Vadnais
Defenceman twice got his name on the Stanley Cup, played in six All-Star Games in 17-season career:

Milan Marcetta
Journeyman minor leaguer was playoff call-up on 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs:

Wally Hergesheimer
New York Rangers sniper slowed by broken leg:

Len Ronson
Forward whose wrist shot earned him nickname The Rifleman played in 18 NHL games with New York Rangers and Oakland Seals:

Pat Quinn
Big Irishman played nine seasons on blue-line for Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Atlanta Flames, later had success as coach and general manager, winning Olympic gold in 2002:

Murray Oliver
Stylish playmaker scored 274 goals over 16 NHL seasons:

Gilles Tremblay
Two-way player won four Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens:

Jean Béliveau
Le Gros Bill. Ten Stanley Cups as a player, another seven as an executive, all with the Montreal Canadiens. Five hundred and seven career goals. Grace personified:

Connie Dion
Winning goalie in most lopsided NHL game ever played — a 15-0 victory for Detroit over Rangers:

Bob Solinger
Scored 10 goals in 99 NHL games:

Eddie Kachur
A stocky forward with the Chicago Black Hawks:

André Gill
Québec goalie recorded a shutout for Boston Bruins in his NHL debut, but was soon back in the minors:

Germain Gagnon
Québec forward slogged through minors for a decade before playing for Montreal Canadiens, New York islanders, Chicago Black Hawks and Kansas City Scouts:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Born again Blue Jay

The Toronto Blue Jays obtained Micheal Saunders in a trade with the Seattle Mariners. Saunders becomes the second player from Victoria, B.C., to play for the Blue Jays. Here's a feature article from 1997 about Steve Sinclair's revived effort to get to the major leagues. He made his big-league debut with the Blue Jays in 1998.

By Tom Hawthorn
Victoria Times Colonist
September 28, 1997

Not so long ago, Steve Sinclair had called it quits, had hung 'em up, had stepped down from the pitcher's mound for good, had seen his childhood dream go to that big bullpen in the sky. He had languished in the Toronto Blue Jays system for five yearsand the closest he got to the bigs was listening to Buck Martinez on TSN. He had had enough and came home to Victoria at age 24 to go to school, to get a job, to become a grownup.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Fans flock to meet a part of NHL's holy trinity

By Tom Hawthorn

Special to the Globe and Mail
November 7, 2005

Monday, December 1, 2014

Watching movies the old way

By Tom Hawthorn
Boulevard Magazine
December, 2014

Each yuletide, a smallish Christmas tree took up a corner of the living room in our apartment. All magazines but one were removed from the top of the end table to make way for a cardboard crèche. 
On winter evenings, our family quartet gathered around the warm, black-and-white glow of a cathode-ray tube to watch holiday specials.

The weekly TV Guide, hidden behind the crèche, was studied as carefully as holy text for the three shows my sister and I absolutely could not miss. These would be broadcast but once during the season and we were determined to view them.

We watched “Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” with unforgettable narration by movie monster Boris Karloff.

We watched “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” a stop-motion animation with Burl Ives narration. One of the characters was a prospector named Yukon Cornelius and since the Yukon was in Canada it was easy to believe Santa's Workshop indeed could be found elsewhere in the Great White North.
We watched “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with the sad-sack hero finding the true meaning of Christmas not in the commercialization of the holiday. The soundtrack was a revelation in a household favouring Elvis, as the Vince Guaraldi Trio's jazzy score remains as Christmassy to me as any carol.

The telecast specials offered a 30-minute reprieve for our parents from our constant requests for a Chatty Cathy™, an Easy-Bake Oven™, Battling Tops™, and Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots™ (“My block is knocked off!” “But you can press it back on again!”). Cindy Lou Who and all the Whos down in Whoville could make do without presents, but the redemptive holiday message of the specials was lost on two kids as greedy as any other.

By the time my own children were born, the shows were broadcast several times (including as early as November). Christmas movies were available on VHS tape and, later, on DVDs, while the soundtracks were on compact disks, technologies beyond imagination when those specials were first aired in the mid-1960s.

Many families maintain holiday viewing traditions, whether “A Christmas Carol” with Alastair Sim, or “A Christmas Story” featuring Ralphie's pursuit of a Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot Range Model BB gun with which he might put his eye out.

Rob Nesbitt, 46, a self-described traditionalist, watches “It's a Wonderful Life,” though he also holds an annual party with friends while screening “Bad Santa” with Billy Bob Thornton. Nesbitt's childhood favourites includes Charlie Brown's scrawny tree and the teacher's voice a sad trombone.
“It's got such a sweet centre, but it's not cloying and it's not clichéd,” Nesbitt said.

Christmas is an important season for Nesbitt, as it is for many other proprietors of small businesses in Victoria. He is a co-owner of Pic-A-Flic Video, the Cook Street Village landmark, where the holidays will be marked with a large display of movies with a holiday theme. The bottom shelves are dedicated to alternative holiday selections, including the likes of “Fubar” and “Die Hard,” the action movie that has become a classic in some circles as Bruce Willis takes on terrorists on Christmas Eve.

The seasonal offerings are among 48,000 titles stocked at the store, which is the region's largest and a survivor in an entertainment business decimated by online services such as iTunes, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. We got Netflix earlier this year and the convenience cannot be matched, though the selection remains limited and the suggestions based on previous viewings are an embarrassment, if not insulting.

“How are we doing? We're doing unbelievably well,” Nesbitt said, “because every other store in the world is closing, and we're not.”

To browse a shelf at Pic-A-Flic is to immerse in the history of cinema. The blockbuster is equal to the cult offering, the Bing Crosby classic “Going My Way” sharing space with my CanCon fave “Goin' Down the Road.” (The store's online catalogue describes the stars of the latter as “two hosers.”) 

Talking movies with the store's staff is like having a one-on-one with the late Roger Ebert. Recently, John Threlfall of the University of Victoria curated a selection of movies featuring time travel. That's beyond what's on offer from online streaming services.

“Netflix is an algorithm, it's not people,” Nesbitt said.

I'd feel bereft if the curtain ever dropped on Pic-A-Flic, as important in its way to cultural life in Victoria as Munro's Books. So, this holiday season I'm going to rent a stack of movies and support a local business. Think of it as an early new year's resolution.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

'At 90, all your sins are forgiven'

George Seldes outlasts his critics

Friday, August 1, 2014

Master attends to a dying technology

Jes Vowles shows off a Hermes portable. Photo by Deddeda White.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Paul Horn, musician (1930-2014)

By Tom Hawthorn
The Globe and Mail
July 26, 2014

A jazz musician's search for spiritual enlightenment led him to an ashram in India, where he befriended the Beatles. When a plan to film the band fell through, Paul Horn traveled to Agra, where he played his flute within the echoing majesty of the Taj Mahal.

The resulting recording was intended originally for friends. Instead, his label released it as a long-playing record. “Inside” has sold one million copies, boosting a new genre of music and gaining for Mr. Horn a reputation as a founding father of New Age music.

Mr. Horn, who has died, aged 84, moved to British Columbia in 1970, by which time the acclaimed jazz musician had begun melding his experience with Transcendental Meditation into his performances. An advocate of gentle bearing, he spoke often of the benefits of meditation, performing at countless benefit concerts for nonprofit groups.

He toured both China and the Soviet Union at a time when the leadership of both countries was suspicious of jazz as a subversive force. He followed the Taj Mahal recording with similar performances at other sacred sites.

Mr. Horn's years on the West Coast are best captured by an image from the early 1970s, as he sits cross-legged on a rug, playing flute for a captive male orca named Haida. The whale is said to have shown greater spirit following sessions with the musician.

Mr. Horn's interest in the spiritual led to his exploring a serene, mellow and meditative sound. Even a jazz purist intending to scoff could become immersed in the warm, contemplative groove conjured by superior musicianship.

Mr. Horn indulged music writers less interested in his spiritual quest than tales of an earlier dissolute jazz life in New York and Los Angeles, where he recorded with the likes of Duke Ellington, Stan Getz, Nat King Cole, Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, a longtime friend.

Paul Joseph Horn was born in New York City on March 17, 1930, to Frances (née Sper) and Jack Horn, a wholesale liquor salesman. Before her marriage, Miss Sper had been a Jazz Age singer and an in-house pianist for Irving Berlin. For two years before her marriage, she appeared on a weekly dinnertime radio program in New York. She also had several songs released on record. Her husband preferred Gilbert and Sullivan.

Paul played piano at age 4, clarinet at 10, saxophone at 12, and the flute at 19. The parents encouraged their only child's musical obsession. “People don't expect it from a jazz musician,” he once told a filmmaker, “but I had a good home life.” After moving from his childhood home in Mount Vernon, N.Y., to Washington, D.C., young Mr. Horn attended local jazz clubs as an underaged performer. He earned a bachelor's degree in music, majoring in clarinet, at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio, where his daily regimen included five to eight hours of practice. He followed with a master's degree from the Manhattan School of Music.
Three years of military service was spent playing the flute in the U.S. Army Field Band. While stationed at Fort Meade, Md., he sat in with a local Cuban big band in nearby Washington, an opportunity to improvise on flute backed by Latin rhythms.

Horn's mother, Frances Sper, was a Jazz Age vocalist.
The composers Eddie Sauter and Bill Finegan invited the young player into their Sauter-Finegan big band, an innovative ensemble incorporating such unusual instruments as the kazoo. Within a year, Mr. Horn left to join the Los Angeles-based Chico Hamilton Quintet. One of his first gigs with the group was opening for Billie Holiday at New York's Carnegie Hall in November, 1956.

The Hamilton group featured in the 1957 Hollywood movie “Sweet Smell of Success” and Mr. Horn revived his friendship with the actor Tony Curtis later on- and off-screen during the filming of the similarly jazz-themed movies “The Rat Race” (1963) and “Wild and Wonderful” (1964).

He signed with Dot Records in 1957, the year the label released his debut album, “House of Horn,” on which he played flute, alto flute, alto sax, clarinet and piccolo.

A valued session man, Mr. Horn joined the likes of vibraphonist Cal Tjader in the studio for the recording of “Latin for Lovers.” He also formed the Paul Horn Group, which was followed by the Paul Horn Quintet, all the while maintaining a hectic concert and recording schedule. Deeply influenced by his friend Miles Davis, Mr. Horn adopted a calmer, more reflective modal jazz.

“Miles knows how to wait,” Mr. Horn once said. “He doesn't make notes unless he has something to say. Then he speaks true, and he sings out.”

Mr. Davis recommended Mr. Horn to Columbia Records. The flutist was pleased to have been allowed three full days in the studio without interference from his producer, a rare freedom for which he thanked the man, Mr. Horn once told the Victoria music writer Mike Devlin. The producer replied that he had received a telephone call from Miles. “Paul's recording today,” he said. “Don't fuck with him.”
The resulting LP, “The Sound of Paul Horn” (1961), earned a four-star review from Billboard magazine.

The flautist was the subject of a 26-minute, black-and-white television documentary, “The Story of a Jazz Musician,” produced by David Wolper which aired on CBS in 1962. By this time, he had separated from his wife, Yvonne (née Jordan), sharing with her the raising of their sons, Marlen and Robin. The quintet is shown playing a Horn composition, “Count Your Change,” at Shelly's Manne-Hole club in Los Angeles.

Already a jazz figure of note, Mr. Horn began to develop a mass audience with his performance on the record “Jazz Suite on the Mass Texts,” which earned Argentine composer Lalo Schifrin a Grammy. (The album earned another Grammy for best cover photography.) A review in Life magazine hailed the flautist as the star of the recording. “His varied pipes flood out a torrent of late-progressive arabesques in a kind of confession-without-words,” the critic Carter Harman wrote in 1965.

That same year, Mr. Horn scored and wrote a jaunty theme song for a television revival of the Three Stooges featuring cartoons. The music was the highlight of an otherwise ill-considered project.

After being asked to join a recording session by the sitar player Ravi Shankar, Mr. Horn decided to travel to India to study its music. Besides, his marriage was in disarray and he had tired of a “plastic lifestyle” in Los Angeles, including “smoky nightclubs, late-night hours, marijuana and a heart-breaking affair with a beautiful actress.” He saw himself heading down a dead-end street at the end of which would be a wall against which he would meet his death. he once said.

Leaving in December, 1966, he spent several months as a devotee of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, eventually becoming a Transcendental Meditation instructor himself. Mr. Horn also recorded two albums with Shankar's students, “In India” and “Paul Horn in Kashmir.” (These would later be reissued in a collection titled, “Cosmic Consciousness,” one of the Maharishi's catchphrases.)
The musician returned to America a different man, eschewing drugs in favour of contemplation. Not all of his friends or even band mates were able to cope.

“The bass player was most put off by my not indulging anymore,” Mr. Horn told Vancouver Province reporter Damian Inwood in 1990. “It's hard to know what's holding a friendship together, what's the glue. In that case, it was the dope.

“Sometimes people feel when someone else is changed, they don't know what that means. Since I was so changed when I came back from India, I think a lot of it was based on fear — like, 'Who's Paul now, what's going on with this guy?' ”

Mr. Horn returned to India in 1968 intending to film a documentary on the Maharishi. He was at the ashram on an escarpment above the Ganges across the river from Rishikesh during the famous visit by the Beatles, who were joined by the Scottish singer Donovan, Mike Love of the Beach Boys, the actress Mia Farrow and her sister, Prudence, among others. The planned film was never completed, but Mr. Horn did have a state-of-the-art tape recorder on hand when he decided to visit the Taj Mahal with sound engineer John Archer.

“I never heard anything so beautiful,” he wrote of standing beneath the white marble dome that surmounts the tomb. “Each tone hung suspended in space for 28 seconds and the acoustics are so perfect you couldn't tell when his voice stopped and the echo took over.”

The long span between blowing a note and its final decay demanded the flautist provide space for the echo, otherwise, he once explained, “the music would just have become a mess, a confusion of notes and sounds reverberating.”

Mr. Horn was teaching meditation at the University of California, Los Angeles when Epic Records asked if he had any new material. He forwarded the Taj Mahal tape, which Epic released in 1969, his 14th album, with the promotion: “Paul Horn's jazz fame is already great. But this makes it truly monumental.”

The haunting, atmospheric instrumental, running less than a half hour, found an audience where one had not previously been known to exist. Though it did not get radio air play, “Inside” did receive critical praise. “A cathedral-like depth and echo haunts his flute and the voice chants of a local caller,” Billboard noted in a 1969 review. “Horn spies mythical entities, moods, and musical meditations, using the Taj Mahal to add to the eerie beauty. A sleeper to watch.”

It was while touring with Donovan that Mr. Horn first visited Vancouver Island. In 1970, he loaded a van with his two sons and, joined by girlfriend Tryntje Bom, a Dutch-born fashion designer known in L.A. as Miss Bom Bom, headed north to Canada, where they settled in Victoria's leafy Gordon Head neighbourhood on an acre overlooking the sea.

He maintained a steady, album-per-year output, performing tirelessly. In 1973, he hosted 13 episodes of an eponymous variety program, which aired nationally on CTV. Meanwhile, he lent his name and musical talents to several causes, including the environmental group Greenpeace and its campaign to save whales. He was called in by Sealand of the Pacific, an aquarium in Victoria which has since closed, to play for Haida, a captive male said to be bereft after the death of his mate, Chimo. Mr. Horn performed Bach, an irish jig, and his own contemplative music. The musician and the lovelorn cetacean also appeared in “We Call Them Killers,” a 1972 National Film Board documentary.

Mr. Horn played regularly in Vancouver clubs such as Gassy Jack's and Oil Can Harry's. He often was an instructor at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, working with teenagers in summer jazz workshops.

The success of “Inside” (later retitled “Inside the Taj Mahal”) led Mr. Horn to create recordings in other sacred locales, including the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, and the Kazamieras Cathedral in Vilnius, Lithuania. He returned to record at the Taj Mahal in 1989. Mr. Horn made two tours of China and three to the Soviet Union, accompanied on the latter by his son, Robin, who served as drummer.

In 1974, the independent, Vancouver-based Mushroom label released a double album of material, including a 24-page booklet on his career. The package sold a quick 10,000 copies, an unprecedented figure in the industry, proof of a growing market for New Age material in the mid-1970s. He later founded his own Golden Flute label.

The Grammy Awards added a New Age category in 1986. Mr. Horn received nominations in 1987 for “Traveler” and in 1999 for “Inside Monument Valley” with R. Carlos Nakai.

Late in life, Mr. Horn married the South African-born singer and composer Ann Mortifee, an Order of Canada recipient whom he had first met during a taping of his television show. The couple collaborated on “In Love with the Mystery,” a 2010 release. They divided their time between his home in Tucson, Ariz., and hers on Cortes Island, B.C. They also owned a condominium in Vancouver, where Mr. Horn died on June 29 after a brief illness the nature of which the family has declined to reveal. He was 84. He leaves Ms. Mortifee, his two sons, a stepson and four grandchildren.

In 2009, Mr. Horn took part in a benefit concert for the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace, which promotes the Transcendental Meditation program. The show at Radio City Music Hall in New York included such musicians as Moby, Sheryl Crow, Eddie Vedder and Bettye LaVette. It also reunited Mr. Horn with Donovan, as well as the two surviving Beatles, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney, the four reprising the dreamy season they enjoyed together 41 years earlier in India.

Paul Horn with television guest Valdy.

From left: George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Shah Jahan, Donovan, Patti Harrison, John Lennon and Paul Horn at the ashram in Rishikesh in 1968.