About the Author

Martin Hunter

Martin Hunter was born in Toronto. On his graduation from the University of Toronto he joined the Department of External Affairs, and later had a career in business before returning to his first love, the theatre. He served as artistic director of Hart House Theatre at U of T in the seventies. Active as a director and as a playwright, he has written for many magazines and produced a number of programs for CBC radio. His first book, Romancing the Bard, was published in 2001.

Books by this Author
Done Hunting

Done Hunting

A Memoir
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
More Info
Excerpt

LOLLING IN LOTUS LAND

 

Flying across the Rockies as the setting sun gilded their snow-capped peaks and landing at the Vancouver airport just as the lights began to come on all across the city, I felt the promise of new beginnings, new adventures. I took a taxi to the house that Laurier LaPierre was renting with some friends in English Bay and was welcomed with a shot of whisky and a quizzical grin.

“’Ow nice to see you, mon cher. You look sexier than evair.” He introduced his housemates: my friend Bill Glassco’s cousin Chris Price, and a pretty young boy of twenty-two named Kevin who was trying to recover from a recent breakup with his boyfriend. We tucked into some smoked salmon and then sat down to a splendid meal: lamb ragout and braised parsnips, followed by crème brûlée. I had forgotten what an accomplished cook Laurier was.

I had returned to Toronto after a round-the-world tour hoping to find work as a theatre director; it was what I had done for the previous ten years. But I found that working as a freelancer was not easy. Unless you were a promising kid with a pretty face, you were expected to have a theatre of your own so you could reciprocate by offering theatre directors a show in your space. Besides, after ten years at the university I was labelled an “academic” director, whatever that was supposed to mean.

Then I learned that Ryerson Community College, as it was then known, was looking for a new head of their theatre department. I was summoned to meet a panel, one of whose members was a former student with whom I had always gotten along well. He was very encouraging, and I thought the interview had gone well. A few weeks later I received a letter informing me that although they thought I was qualified, they had interviewed another applicant who had an Oxford degree, so of course I would understand that they considered him preferable.

I learned that Christopher Newton was leaving the Vancouver Playhouse to become the leader of the Shaw Festival, and the Playhouse was looking for a new artistic director. I sent in an application and received an enthusiastic reply explaining that the board would be very interested in meeting me. I decided to fly to Vancouver at my own expense to show my enthusiasm. Did I want to move to Vancouver? I had only the briefest acquaintance with the city, gained during a weekend on leave when I was a naval cadet back in the 1950s, but I had heard good things about the coastal city and had several friends and acquaintances there. It would be a chance to remake myself in a new environment and I was determined to grasp the opportunity.

The interview with the board members was courteous. The chairman was an Englishman with a neatly trimmed moustache, who peered at me over his half-glasses. There were two or three men in business suits and half a dozen women, all smartly dressed.

“Tell us a little bit about yourself,” said the chairman.

I explained that I had been a child actor, had played leading roles at university, and studied briefly at the LAMDA in London.

“Why did you come to Canada?” asked one of the women. She was a big woman, big hair, big lips, big breasts, and no doubt a big bum.

“I was born here.”

“So you’re a Canadian. How amusing.” A slight titter went around the table.

“From your résumé, you seem to have mainly directed classical texts. Shakespeare, Molière, the Greeks.”

“I’ve done a number of Canadian plays by James Reaney, Robertson Davies, Angus Braid . . .”

“Braid? Should we know him?”

“A very talented young writer. One of my former students.”

“Ah, a student.” Her breasts heaved as she turned to signal the chairman her dismissal of this minor accomplishment.

“Do you have any experience with musicals?”

“I turned a number of classical texts into musicals. Works by Brecht, Aristophanes, Wedekind . . .”

“Pardon my ignorance. Who is Wedekind?”

“An Austrian writer of the early twentieth century. He wrote the Lulu plays that formed the basis of the opera by Alban Berg.”

“Your interests seem rather esoteric, if you don’t mind me saying so,” volunteered a rather acid-faced woman in a pinstriped pantsuit. “What about comedy? Do you have any experience directing comedy? Audiences like to be amused.”

“I’ve directed comedies by Shakespeare, Garrick, Alexander Pope, Edward Albee.”

“What about Neil Simon?”

“Well, no . . .”

“Your experience strikes me as rather academic,” said one of the businessmen.

“I was working for a university.”

“Of course.”

I realized I was losing their interest. The interview went on for perhaps another ten minutes before the chairman thanked me and said they would be in touch. Then he shot his final salvo: “What a pity you’re not English.” I was not surprised that I didn’t get the job.

The next day I visited my friend Tony Bourne, who lived in a neat little apartment in English Bay. He had been in my year in Trinity and after failing first year three times had been told that he was not suited to academic study. He took a job in advertising in Montreal for a while and then drifted west where he settled with his mother, who lived in an apartment on the floor above him. Another friend described her as “a sweet English rose who had been insufficiently watered.” Mother and son dined together most evenings, though they no longer dressed for dinner as they had done when Tony’s father, who had been a colonel of the Shanghai police before the war, was still alive.

After dinner Tony sometimes went out on the town visiting gay bars, where he had an extensive acquaintance. He was not a serious drinker, but even so I could not understand where he got the money to do this. He did work several afternoons a week for an antique dealer, but I think his mother must have given him an allowance. As the widow of a British officer she would have had a meagre pension, but perhaps she had inherited some family money. After a typically English meal of overdone beef, boiled potatoes, and Brussels sprouts, Tony turned to me, “Carpe diem, carpe balls. Let’s head to the Castle.”

In the bar at the Castle Hotel, a long-time gay hangout, we encountered Tony’s friend Arthur, an enormous and genial Native Canadian. Tony confided later that Arthur was an aristocrat in whatever tribe he belonged to, where he had a rank roughly equivalent to the Duke of Edinburgh.

Arthur was a well-known figure in the Vancouver gay community. Two years earlier he had been crowned Empress of the Pacific Northwest at the annual drag ball. Tony, Arthur, and I were to spend several evenings together. Arthur was quick-witted but not malicious, and he pointed out a number of prominent Vancouver gays, commenting on their entertainment value and sexual endowment and proficiency. He suggested we round off the evening with a visit to the baths but we declined.

The next evening Chris Price and Laurier took me to hear their friend June Katz, a jazz singer at a local bistro. June was a New Yorker and a divorcee, a handsome woman with a smoky voice and a style reminiscent of Billie Holiday. She sang several standards; I particularly remember her rendition of “Don’t Smoke in Bed.” In between sets she came to our table, and we immediately clicked. We made a date to have lunch the next day in her house at Point Grey.

June’s other luncheon guest was her friend Emmanuelle Gattuso, an equally lively woman, who drove up in a rickety old Mercedes. We all drank martinis and ate lobster sandwiches. Emmanuelle reported that she had started dating a very rich man but wasn’t sure whether it was leading anywhere. June encouraged her to keep on; her own boyfriend was far from perfect, but she couldn’t imagine not having a man in her life. She was still on very good terms with her ex-husband. “He’s a sweetheart. I wish I was still in love with him, but what can you do? I just knew it was time to move on.”

After lunch, they suggested we go to Wreck Beach. We drove in the Mercedes to the UBC campus, parked, and went down a steep wooden stairway to the beach below. It turned out to be a nude beach, populated by people of all ages walking around in the buff. There were some very attractive young people but also people in their forties, fifties, and even sixties. We all shed our clothes and set out on a walk to admire the eye candy.

I found myself being ogled by a rather fleshy young woman in her twenties. I encouraged June and Emmanuelle to go off on a stroll on their own and the young woman came over and introduced herself as Melissa. She told me she was a student of anthropology and asked me if I had seen the museum of native artifacts on the university campus. When I replied in the negative, she offered to give me a tour the next afternoon. I was to meet her at the entrance at one o’clock. She gave me an appraising look and took off when she saw June and Emmanuelle coming back. “Good for you. You scored!” crowed June, with a knowing grimace.

The next afternoon I waited for Melissa. Outside the museum were tall totems, carved by the various tribes of the West Coast. I had seen totem poles at the museum in Toronto but they were encased in stairwells. Here they stood in the open air, majestic against a background of distant mountains and forests. I had a sense of the mystery of an ancient culture.

Melissa was a bit late, but when she showed up she took me inside the museum, which displayed the fantastic brightly painted masks the native people had carved to be used in their rituals. Melissa explained that they danced in these masks, which represented the spirit of the animals associated with the various tribes. Each tribe had a winter potlatch, a feast at which they gave each other gifts. The grander the gift, the greater the status of the giver. Unfortunately, this tradition led to the destruction of native society. With the coming of the white man, the chiefs aspired to give even more magnificent gifts: top hats, bathtubs, copper spittoons.

In order to afford these luxuries, they sent their women into the cities of Vancouver and Victoria to work as prostitutes. Many of them contracted diseases, which they brought home, which rapidly decimated the native population. The native societies, which had survived more or less intact until nearly the end of the nineteenth century, collapsed. Early in the twentieth century, the Canadian government banned the potlatches and confiscated many of the masks and other regalia associated with the ceremonies. They took them to Ottawa and sold many of them, reportedly for a few thousand dollars, to the Museum of Natural History in New York, where they can still be seen gathering dust in the basement, although the Canadian government kept some of the best items, which are now proudly displayed at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau.

I was fascinated by these expressive masks and painted boxes. I had always been interested in Aboriginal culture, beginning with the displays in the basement of the Royal Ontario Museum where, in glass cases, models of native communities were set up with mannequins clothed in fringed and beaded buckskin, squatting around fires or sewing leather leggings and moccasins. But this was another world altogether, a world that took shape in dense forests by the Pacific shore. These native people went to sea in huge war canoes and the museum actually had some early bits of film showing these activities.

As we lay together in her bed in her room in a campus residence, I asked Melissa if I could visit some of the native communities. She told me they still performed some of the ceremonies but because they had been banned it was hard for white men to gain access to them. However, she had been asked to accompany a small ship on an expedition up the channel between the mainland and Vancouver Island and possibly up to Haida country in the Queen Charlotte Islands. She and one of her fellow graduate students were to be the resident experts on the voyage. She would see if there was any chance that I could be included as a passenger.

A few days later, I took Tony and his mother to lunch at a restaurant at the Sylvia Hotel. This slightly faded establishment on the edge of Stanley Park was the choice of Mrs. Bourne, who recalled having tea there when she first came to Canada and was entertained by some other Englishwomen just before the outbreak of war in 1939. “Of course I had no idea what lay ahead, but I think my husband knew. He had arranged to ship some of our furniture out here because he thought we might be staying a bit longer than expected. I had wanted to bring Tony’s ayah with us, because of course he had spent more time with her than with me. I’m afraid we Englishwomen were rather frivolous. We played bridge three afternoons a week and dined out almost every night.”

“Mother was known as the Rose of Shanghai. And she actually met Mrs. Simpson.”

“Don’t be silly, Tony. She merely happened to be at the same hotel one night on the Bund. They had the best jazz band in the city. All Chinese. Your father and I loved to dance. And she was there with a couple of rather loud American men. Tycoons, I should imagine. We would certainly not have agreed to be introduced to her, even though it was before she got her hooks into that poor, deluded young man, the Prince of Wales. He broke his mother’s heart.”

“Wasn’t his mother the one who forced him to abdicate?”

“I really wouldn’t know, dear. We were off in the Pacific and terribly out of touch. My husband thought he should have been horse-whipped. If the old King was still alive, he would have been. But then the war came along, and thank God for George VI. Fortunately, we had taken long leave before the Japanese invaded China. Once war broke out, my husband went to Washington to work for the Embassy as a military attaché and I put you boys in school. You were very young, barely eight, but you would have been sent home to England in a year or so anyway. Probably to Marlborough. That was your father’s school. And I felt Robin would look out for you at Ridley.”

Robin was Tony’s brother, and Tony had lived much of his childhood in Robin’s shadow. Robin had excelled in games but although Tony made his mark as a gymnast and played the female lead in the school play, he did not become a prefect. Robin went on to the Royal Military College in Kingston, married the Commandant’s daughter, and eventually became a colonel. “His father was really quite proud of him, although of course he never let on,” Mrs. Bourne recalled. “I’m sure he would have done very well in England.”

The Bournes felt they were carrying on the best of English tradition in darkest Canada. Tony tried to emulate English social manners of the early twentieth century, where his relatives rode to hounds and danced the night away at debutante balls, although he had only once been to England, for two weeks.

“Dear Tony would have had compatible contemporaries in London who would have introduced him to the right sort of young people. Still, I’m so glad he has you as a friend. I understand you are staying with a television producer, Mr. LaPierre? Tony said he has seen him on the telly. I watch one soap opera every afternoon. Occasionally Tony and I watch it together, don’t we, my darling?”

“When I’m not working, Mummy.”

“He explains what’s happening to me. I get rather muddled, you know. Tony does try to keep his end up, but it’s difficult for him. Fortunately, he has an eye for what’s really good. Not that most of the things in his shop are first rate. I don’t suppose there’s any chance that you could introduce him to your television friend? I’ve always thought Tony might do rather well in that field.”

I promised Mrs. Bourne I would see what I could do and she set off back to their apartment building a few blocks away.

Tony and I went for a walk along the seawall around Stanley Park. The great conifers towered above and the waves washed in just below the path. The air was heavy with the smell of the giant evergreens and the salty tang of the ocean. We paused at Second Beach. “If you follow that trail you’ll run into quite a few men cruising for sex, some of them quite young and handsome,” Tony said. “I’d go in with you, but you’d probably do better on your own.”

“Thanks for the tip, but I think I’ll pass.”

“Let’s go on then. There’s a little place where we could have tea.”

When I spoke to Laurier about Tony, he shrugged in his patented Gallic manner but agreed to a meeting. I offered to make dinner. Laurier had been a historian teaching at McGill when he decided to audition for CBC’s This Hour Has Seven Days. The program was a huge success. Canadians watched this Sunday night talk show in huge numbers and discussed it the next morning in a way that has rarely, if ever, attracted national attention before or since. Laurier was an enormous factor in its success with his outrageously confrontational style of questioning mitigated by his impish humour and Gallic charm. He and his co-hosts Patrick Watson and Dinah Christie had a symbiotic rapport that drove the show along as they interviewed some of the most prominent people in the country and tackled many of the major controversies of the day. Unaccountably, the CBC cancelled the show after only one season. It was said that the senior management thought the show too popular for a public broadcaster whose mandate was to treat events seriously. Or perhaps they were jealous of the instant popularity of the trio.

I had met Laurier when he became engaged to my friend Jo Armstrong. She was an upper-class young woman, a granddaughter of Edward Blake, an early leader of the federal Liberal party. Laurier was, in his own words, “a poor little habitant boy from la Beauce” whose parents were so impoverished that they handed him over to the Roman Catholic Church to bring up. He proved to be bright and his mentors steered him towards the priesthood. But he leaped over the wall, studied history, and after his marriage held a teaching position at McGill. He thoroughly enjoyed his newfound television celebrity, but at the same time his marriage was in trouble. Jo became aware that he was interested in young men. The couple went into counselling, but eventually Jo opted for divorce. Her mother told her, “My dear, in this family we don’t divorce,” to which Jo replied, “But Mother, Laurier is a homosexual.”

When This Hours Has Seven Days was not renewed, the producer, Darryl Duke, offered Laurier his own interview show in Vancouver. Encouraged by his then-lover Chris Price, Laurier decided to make a whole new life for himself on the west coast. He settled into Vancouver happily enough, quickly made friends, set up housekeeping with an entourage comprising a number of gay cohorts, and entertained a wide acquaintance and was in turn entertained by them. He was a very social being and flourished in this new environment.

On the appointed day of the dinner with Tony, I went to the market and got a nice piece of fresh tuna, which I baked with fennel and mushrooms, followed by an apricot and crème fraîche dessert. Laurier was impressed by my culinary skills but less impressed by Tony, who was out of his element and unusually tongue-tied. I was used to his bubbly babble but unable to get him to open up. I could see that nothing much was going to come of this encounter and indeed nothing did.

A few days later I went to visit one of my former students, Mark Diamond, who was running the drama program at Simon Fraser University. When I knew Mark as a student, he was living with a very handsome young woman, Arlene Perly, who would later marry Bob Rae, the politician. Mark now had a new lady friend who taught with him in his program. Mark showed me around his studio and introduced me to one of his classes. He suggested that I might like to give a master class, and I obliged with a vocal class I had taught a good many times before based on ideas I had absorbed from the composer R. Murray Schafer. The class went well and afterwards I met Mark’s technical director, who turned out to be the husband of Jennifer Mascall, the daughter of my actress friend Betty with whom I had worked in Toronto, and who gave me my first chance as a theatre director before her untimely death some years ago. I was invited to their house for dinner two nights later.

Mark strongly advised me to stay on in the evening to see a performance by a Quebec group, which he said was doing, frankly, the most imaginative work in the country. This seemed unlikely to me, but I agreed to remain on campus. The company presented a series of clever short pieces that combined mime, dance, and the spoken word. One piece I particularly remember involved a man and a woman who meet casually, become interested, circle each other tentatively, and, as they become infatuated, finally embrace, at which point their heads fall off. The company was Carbone 14 and its leader was Gilles Maheu. I would continue to follow their work in the next decade, and indeed they proved to be one of the most original troupes I have ever encountered.

My dinner with Jennifer Mascall was an extremely pleasant reunion. She had three young boys who were bright and extremely mannerly. I was charmed by them, and I told Jennifer I was certain her mother would have been extremely proud of her.

I learned that Jennifer was still dancing and, in fact, I attended a concert she gave a few evenings later. Her work seemed to me highly original. She was both lithe and graceful, a sort of elusive sprite. Her long red hair swept and swirled around her as she twisted and turned. Although it seemed to me that the theatre scene in Vancouver was rather more limited than in Toronto, I found that modern dance was burgeoning there, an impression reinforced when I revisited the west coast some years later.

On an afternoon soon after that, Tony took me to see the Japanese gardens on the UBC campus. He seemed unfazed by his rather unsuccessful encounter with Laurier. “My dear Caligula, television is not really my thing, you know. My genius is poetic. One day I shall be deservedly recognized.”

I returned to find the house empty except for young Kevin, who sat mournfully watching the television.

“How about a beer?”

“Why not? I need something to cheer me up.”

“Still pining for your ex?”

“I thought I’d get over it and move on. He phoned this afternoon to say he misses me.”

“Why don’t you get back together?”

“He’s married. He’s Vietnamese and his family guilted him into it. And now he’s going to be a father.”

“You need to get laid.”

“You’re right. I suppose I could go to the Fruit Loop. Would you come with me?”

“Sure.”

The Fruit Loop was an oval at the dead end of a street where male prostitutes hung out after dark. We set out on foot. The air was bracing and we moved along smartly. Two or three shadowy figures were standing about, their cigarettes glowing in the dark. We split up and I could see that before very long Kevin had connected with someone. They stood chatting for a minute and then took off down the street. I turned to go and was confronted by a young native boy.

“You ain’t leavin’?”

“I think so.”

“Can I come with you?”

“How old are you?’

“Eighteen.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“You don’t like young guys?’

“Sure but . . . anyway I’ve got no place to take you.”

“We could go to the baths.”

“I don’t know where they are.”

“I do.” He took my hand and began to drag me along. I didn’t really resist. The baths turned out to be only a few blocks away. We mounted to the second floor and the cashier gave the kid a knowing look. I paid for a room and a locker, the standard deal. We were admitted and went to our room.

“Let’s walk around a bit, first. I’ll show you the set-up.” We went down a corridor, past the sauna to the hot tub. Sitting in it like a porpoise was Arthur. He greeted me cheerfully.

“I knew I’d see you here sooner or later. I see you’re with Billy. My nephew. He’s a nice boy. Very sweet and gentle. Be good to him.”

We went back to our cubicle. Billy moved in and undressed me. Then he undressed himself. He was thin and delicate, with broad shoulders and a slim waist. He had a slight belly, a last bit of puppy fat. He lay down beside me and we snuggled together. Arthur was right; he was sweet and gentle. We kissed and held each other.

“You want to fuck me?”

“Not necessarily.”

“You can if you want to.”

“Let’s just see how it goes.”

We rubbed up against each other. We both came before we went to sleep. In the morning when I woke up, Billy was gone. I checked the pockets of my pants. I had deliberately left my wallet at home and only taken about fifty bucks with me. Billy had taken two bills and left me with a ten. Enough to get a cab back to the house.

I took Laurier and Chris to dinner and we went afterwards to hear June Katz sing. She was in good form and gave a selection of standards before coming to our table. “Hey, stranger,” she greeted me. “I thought I’d be hearing from you. You’d better come and have lunch with me tomorrow. I’m not much of a cook, so curb your expectations.”

“I’ll bring a bottle of wine.”

“Excellent.”

Chris had wandered away to talk to some young male acquaintance, and Laurier was watching him closely.

“He’s got a roving eye, that guy,” June commented.

“Don’t I know it.”

A tall young man came over to our table. It took me a moment to recognize David Sutherland, a former student and son of our neighbours in Rosedale. He was sporting a formidable moustache and his hair was much shorter than when he was a teenager. He greeted me enthusiastically and asked about Judy.

“She’s teaching, so she couldn’t come with me. What are you up to?” I asked.

“I finished my law degree. I’m with a small firm doing litigation. I think I may specialize in libel cases.”

“Is there much call for that?”

“More all the time. Come over to our table. I want you to meet my partner.”

He led me across the room and introduced me to a young woman who was in the last stages of pregnancy. “She’s due in a few days. This is our last evening out, probably for quite a while.”

“I’m resigned to breastfeeding and diapers but I’m not giving up my day job,” she said.

“What’s your day job?”

“I write for Maclean’s about events on the coast.”

“She’s a got a pretty sharp eye,” said David.

“All the better to keep track of you. He’s a bit of a Casanova,” she said. I knew that David had had a good many ladies. “I’m on to him. I know I can’t change him, but maybe I can slow him down.”

“You know I’ll always be true to you, babe.”

“In your fashion, as the lady says in the song.”

They bantered back and forth a bit before excusing themselves, explaining that they felt they should get a good night’s rest while they still could.

I went back to Laurier’s table. He informed me that Chris had gone off with his young friend. We stayed till the end of June’s next set and then I drove back to the house. Although it was Laurier’s car, he didn’t like to drive. He had given me a set of keys when I first arrived. Kevin informed me that Melissa had called and left me a message.

It was too late to call her back but I managed to get through to her the next morning. She told me that the cruise she had mentioned earlier was leaving in two days. She didn’t know whether there would be room for me, but I could call the man who was organizing it. His name was George Butterfield.

“I know George. He’s a good friend of my brother Bill.” She gave me a number and I called George, who greeted me enthusiastically. It turned out that Bill and his wife Dorothy were also going on the cruise. George explained that this was a trial run. He had found a small steamship that could sleep about thirty passengers. George ran a very upscale travel agency. If this expedition was a success, he envisioned using the ship to organize cruises in the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, even Indonesia and the islands off Vietnam. Because it was an experiment, he was only charging the passengers one thousand dollars apiece, meals and drinks included. I could have a small cabin to myself. I signed on immediately and was given instructions where to meet the ship in two days’ time.

My lunch with June consisted of chicken salad and a good deal of gossip. Emmanuelle’s old Mercedes had broken down and June had advised her to ask her rich boyfriend for a new one: “You owe it to yourself, kid, and it’s one way to find out if he’s really serious.” She then proceeded to analyze Laurier’s relationship with Chris. “I think Laurier was smitten with Chris because he’s good-looking and glamorous.”

“He does come from a prominent Anglo family in Quebec. As a poor little habitant boy, as he likes to call himself, Laurier would be impressed by that.”

“It fits. But Chris is losing interest. I can tell. Fortunately for Laurier, he’s landed a good job. I have a lot of gay friends. I’ve watched this scene over and over. The number of gay relationships that last even a couple of years is tiny. I’m saying this because I sense you’re flirting with joining the gay world. Watch your step, is my advice.”

“You divorced your husband.”

“We separated. We’re still close. We talk regularly about our boys. We even go out on a date occasionally.”

“But you have a boyfriend.”

“He’s a sweet guy but it’s not serious. He knows that. I needed some space, that’s all.”

“I guess I did too.”

“So you’ve got it. But be careful about what you throw away. How long do you expect to stay in Vancouver?”

“I haven’t set myself a time limit. I’m going on a cruise up the channel day after tomorrow.”

“You should set yourself a time limit after you get back. I’m serious.”

Two days later I went to the docks in mid-afternoon. George was waiting for me with a friendly grin. I was shown to my cabin, which brought back memories of my first crossing of the Atlantic in the mid-’50s and my time as a cadet on board a destroyer. I stowed my limited gear, reverting to the naval terminology I vaguely remembered, went up on deck and watched while the crew cast off. Several other passengers introduced themselves. Besides Bill and Dorothy, there was a couple that I knew from Toronto. Most of the others were Americans. We started to move through the calm waters of the channel. George assembled us for cocktails at about four-thirty. Introductions all round. It seemed like a friendly and genial group. Jeremy, a young photographer, was part of the group. His job was to make a record of the trip. He was extremely agile and kept climbing up onto the forecastle or lying down on the deck to shoot from a variety of angles.

The dinner was excellent: a fish soup followed by boeuf en daube and gateau St. Honoré. It was accompanied by excellent French wines: Veuve Clicquot, Chablis, Pommard. George had imported a French chef for this expedition. He had made a specialty of bicycle tours of rural France. His clients cycled from one hostellerie or chateau to another; their baggage was driven separately so that it would be awaiting them when they arrived. One of his children would marry into a French family that owned vineyards in the Burgundy region, and eventually George and his wife Martha would acquire a flat in the walls of the city of Beaune in Burgundy.

There was a French couple on the tour. After dinner they wanted to have a couple of rubbers of bridge. The woman’s mother would join them but they needed a third. Reluctantly, I agreed to make up a fourth. My father, who was a crack bridge player, had tried to teach me the game. Invariably, after a hand or two, I would commit some stupid error and he would be in a rage. Unlike my father-in-law, also an excellent bridge player, he did not scream and shout, but regarded me with cold contempt. I had given up and had not played for some years. But I figured I could give them a passable game, and I could follow their French fairly well.

I knew that serious bridge players concentrated on their cards in silence, but these people talked incessantly and often decided to go back and replay another card. They were vivacious and obviously enjoying themselves. I soon began to share their enjoyment. I would play with them several evenings during the cruise.

Breakfast was allowed to extend over most of the morning. Some of the passengers got up early; other rarely appeared till noon. Some of the passengers were ready to start drinking as soon as the bar opened at eleven in the morning. Melissa and Jake, the other graduate student, gave lectures on the culture of the west coast tribes. We learned about their winter ceremonies, the identification of their various clans with certain specific animals (raven, bear, snake, and owl), the role of the shamans in consulting their ancestors, their tradition of placing the corpses of their dead in trees.

The second day, we visited a native reserve. The people were welcoming. They had prepared a feast for us: baked salmon and some sort of vegetables. It smelled delicious but tasted disgusting. However, we bravely downed it so as not to offend our hosts. We hoped they might dance for us but were told the dances were strictly a winter phenomenon and, in any case, they were wary of sharing their secrets with white men.

The next day we slowed down to pass an abandoned native village. Tall, weathered totem poles stood near the shore against a background of towering conifers. There was a desire on the part of some of our party to go swimming. I decided to join them. The water was freezing cold but we made our way to the shore and stood looking up at the totems. We amused ourselves by trying to identify the various creatures whose enigmatic faces looked down on us, impervious to our frivolous comments. Jake was able to correct some of our mistaken impressions. Back on board, Melissa joined me at the railing as we started to move on. “I thought you might visit me last night,” she said with a challenging grin.

It was the time of the Falklands War. One American expressed his indignation that the British had the temerity to try to hold onto these tiny islands off the coast of Argentina. “Don’t the fucking British know their empire is a thing of the past? I hope the Argentinos beat the pants off them and send them home in disgrace.” This called forth a heated response from some of the Canadians. Two or three of them sang “Rule, Britannia!” with great gusto. George suggested that we all sing our native anthems and lit into “The Marseillaise,” which the French passengers joined with enthusiasm. An Australian couple followed up with “Waltzing Matilda,” and the animosity dissolved into a somewhat boozy haze of camaraderie.

Late in the evening, I made my way to Melissa’s cabin and, finding the door unlocked, opened it to find Melissa in bed with Jake. “You could join us if you like.” I thought about it for a moment and then retreated. I went back to my own cabin to find Jeremy in my bunk with the cabin boy. “I was pretty sure you wouldn’t mind,” Jeremy grinned at me.

“I’ll leave you to it,” I said. I went up on deck and stood listening to the waves lapping against the sides of the boat. Except for that, there was complete silence. The stars shone brightly above me in the night sky. I remembered being on night watch as a cadet, the feeling of awe at the immensity of the ocean and the quiet of the universe as the planets revolved in their orbits.

On the final night of the cruise we decided to hold our own potlatch. Early in the day we were provided with coloured paper from which we constructed masks, some of them quite ingenious. In the late afternoon we gathered, sporting our paper creations. Some of the men had stripped down to their underpants. The women wore their choicest cocktail gowns. Much hooch was consumed. A buffet supper featured salmon and corn on the cob.

Jeremy produced bongo drums, and some of the men danced in what they imagined was the manner of native warriors. There was a good deal of shouting and laughter. When I finally retired to my cabin I found Melissa waiting for me. We climbed into my bunk together, but because of my alcoholic consumption, I wasn’t able to perform. The next day I had a crashing headache. I staggered ashore and headed for Laurier’s house, where I went to bed and slept for the best part of twenty-four hours.

A few weeks later I received a letter from George. He asked me to send him an additional cheque for five hundred dollars to cover the cost of all the liquor and wine we had consumed. He also informed me that the captain of the little steamship had said that although he had quite enjoyed our cruise, he never wanted to repeat the experience.

I came down to dinner the next night to find Laurier sitting disconsolately in the living room with a glass of Scotch. “You look rather morose,” I said. “What’s the matter?”

“Chris has gone off to Whistler with that kid.”

“It’s probably just for a fling.”

“I don’t think so.”

“You really love him?”

Laurier nodded.

“You’ll find somebody else.”

“I suppose so. That’s my future, always chasing after someone I can’t have.”

“You may find Mr. Right.”

“I should never have left Jo.”

“Maybe you could go back to her.”

“No, she has too much pride.”

“I guess you’re right.”

“For that matter, so have I. You should go back to Judy before it’s too late.”

I decided to go for a long walk. I thought about Laurier’s advice. I’d had fun in Vancouver but I hadn’t uncovered any prospects of work. And I did want to work. I had some good contacts here in Vancouver, but it was clear to me that I would have to move here in order to develop them. Probably Judy would move with me if I asked her to, but she had a career as a teacher in Toronto, where she was known and highly respected. With her limited academic qualifications, it might be hard for her to have a similar position in Vancouver. Did I really want to be on my own? I had never lived alone for more than a few months in my whole life. I found the prospect daunting — frightening, even.

I walked along and, without consciously knowing it, I found myself heading towards the Fruit Loop. In the shadows, I saw Billy. He looked up and saw me and started to move rapidly away. I called out to him, and he stopped but didn’t turn to look at me. I went over to him.

“You don’t remember me?”

“I thought you’d be mad at me.”

“Why? Because you took a few bills out of my wallet? You’d earned them.”

“I got to live somehow.”

“I know.”

“You was very nice to me.”

“You were very nice to me.”

“You want to go to the tubs again?”

I thought for a minute. “No.”

“Okay then.”

“Give me a hug.”

I felt his warm body pressed against mine. We stayed holding each other for maybe five minutes. I gave him twenty bucks and walked away.

The next day I had lunch with Tony.

“I’m going back to Toronto,” I told him.

“I’m not surprised. Maybe I should go back to Toronto too. Look for work.”

“I don’t think so. You’ve settled in here. This place suits you. And work doesn’t. Anyway, your mother depends on you.”

Tony sighed. “Death by the sea.”

We went for a walk along the seawall surrounding Stanley Park. The sun was shining and the sea was calm. We looked out across it at the mountains and then turned back. The dark forest beckoned. “It’s so beautiful here,” I said.

“I think I’ll just see who’s out cruising this afternoon.”

“Keep in touch,” I said.

Tony headed into the woods. I stood and watched until he disappeared. The next day I got on a plane and flew back to Toronto.

 

JOHNNY BANANAS

 

I fell in love with Italy even before I went there, through the pictures in the Books of Knowledge in my parents’ library. Michelangelo’s David, the Piazza San Marco, the Coliseum, and Botticelli’s Primavera were indelibly stamped in my brain long before I saw them during our visit to Italy with the kids in 1971. I returned to work at the university determined to learn the language. I discovered I could attend a class every morning at nine o’clock taught by a woman who was a fluent speaker. Although we did learn some grammar, the class was primarily conversational. The students were Italian-Canadians who either wanted a “bird” course or wished to improve their command of standard Italian, as most of them spoke dialects at home.

After two years, I had achieved a working command of the language and was determined to put it to the test. At the end of term I flew to Rome and looked up my friend Gilbert Reid in an old palazzo just off Via Condotti, where he held forth as cultural attaché to the Canadian Embassy. Every Canadian of any note who went to Rome passed through Gilbert’s hands, from Robertson Davies to Adrienne Clarkson, and he was on intimate terms with the Canadian contingent living in Rome, ranging from the photographer Roloff Beny to the socialite Sandra Labatt, who had married an Italian banker and lived a very stylish life consorting with contessas and principessas. We went to cocktail parties and enjoyed dinners at Gilbert’s favourite trattorias in piazzas where fountains splashed and strolling musicians serenaded us under the stars.

After a week I decided to rent a farmhouse belonging to Gilbert’s assistant Elena Solari on the outskirts of Orvieto, halfway between Rome and Florence. The old walled city sits on top of a hill and has not changed appreciably since the fifteenth century, when the cathedral was completed, its façade resplendent with black and white marble and carvings of biblical scenes, its interior chapels decorated with apocalyptic frescoes of the Last Judgment by Luca Signorelli. I walked the streets by day and dined at the many excellent restaurants by night. One of these was the tiny Trattoria dell’Orso, whose chef and owner was Gabriele, a short jolly man and a wonderful cook. Occasionally his mother helped him and his boyfriend, Ciro, in the kitchen and I was soon taking language lessons from his sister Rita. About the third time I had dinner at the Orso I was surprised to find how low my bill was. When I challenged Gabriele, he smiled and said, “Prezzo d’amico.”

From then on, I ate at Gabriele’s almost every evening and soon met other expatriates who lived in the city or nearby. There was a retired American doctor and his second wife, who had bought a rather decayed palazzo and were busy restoring it.

Every week they gave a reception for a few friends in their salotto, which was decorated with undistinguished but original fifteenth-century frescoes. We drank the crisp white wine of Orvieto while our hostess played the harp, and the talk ranged from the quality of antiques dealers in a nearby town, most of whom were said to be thieves, to Italian politics, which were treated by these chic foreigners with amused contempt. Neither the Italian Communists nor the neo-Fascists were to be taken seriously.

I had rented a little car on expeditions to see such local curiosities as the park of Bomarzo with its huge stone monsters and the Villa Lante with its fountains that could be activated by a secret foot pedal, a device invented by its original owner, a mischievous cardinal who delighted in giving his guests a sudden, unexpected soaking. Another time, I drove to the sea and walked along the beach. Uncertain of whom I might meet, I had locked my wallet in the car. I returned to find the car had been broken into, my wallet stolen, and for good measure the thief had flatted all my tires. It was almost impossible to steer but I made my way slowly to the nearest garage. The mechanics were amused but said I would have to leave the car with them overnight. I called Gabriele who left the supervision of his kitchen to his mother and came and picked me up.

The next day he drove me back to the garage, where I recovered my car. Gabriele insisted that the cost of the new tires should be covered by insurance. He got on the phone and negotiated with the rental company until he had convinced them. I had also lost my credit cards, and Gabriele phoned American Express and convinced them to deliver a new card to my farmhouse the next day. Gabriele informed me that the thieves had already racked up purchases to the tune of thirty thousand dollars at a jewellery store. Fortunately, I had phoned to report the loss of my card from the garage the day before and so I was not liable for these charges. Gabriele explained that the thieves had not actually bought the jewellery; they had a deal with the jeweller, and if they got away with their scam they would split the profits. “Dunque, mi amico, you are enjoy the full Italian experience.”

I returned to my job as director of Hart House Theatre determined to return to Italy on my next vacation, little imagining that my next encounter with Italian culture would happen in Toronto. I was auditioning actors for a production of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, a play with a very large cast. By the end of a week of seeing aspiring actors, I felt I had the makings of a good cast, although I was still missing a few key characters. At five o’clock on a Friday afternoon, two rather short young men appeared together on the stage. Damiano Pietropaolo did not give a very impressive audition but was obviously highly intelligent. He became my assistant director on the production and went on to direct several productions at the Drama Centre. His companion, Michael Macina, was immediately recognizable as a gifted actor. He had the edgy, nervous quality I had been hoping to find in someone to play the cynical Thersites. Both would become good friends.

Michael’s performance in that role was bold and outrageous. He created a sort of distorted mirror image of the scheming Ulysses of Rod Beattie. These two actors gave weight and depth to this tale of doomed love and inflated heroism. They both attracted the attention of critics and directors, which would propel them along creative paths they would pursue for the rest of their lives.

The following year, the committee of academics who selected the works to be produced at Hart House Theatre decreed that I should direct something by Aristophanes. I rejected Lysistrata as a one-joke play and instead decided to adapt The Frogs, a play which satirizes the work of various Athenian dramatists. I decided no one would get the ancient jokes and allusions, so I completely rewrote the text and set it in modern times, though following the structure of the original. The central characters are Hercules, Dionysus, and Xanthius, a slave. These I recast as a jock, a gay, and a lovesick girl. Instead of parodies of Greek plays we introduced send-ups of Michael Ondaatje’s The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Michel Tremblay’s Hosanna, and David French’s Newfoundland plays, then the hits of the Toronto alternative theatre scene. There were recurring scatological jokes and songs that parodied such standard tunes as “Begin the Beguine” and “Over the Rainbow.”

Michael Macina, though short of stature, was a beautiful young man and he proved a dashing partner for Barbara Stewart, who played the frustrated young woman in their romantic encounters. He also proved a natural comic, and his impersonations of Richard Monette as Hosanna, Nick Mancuso as Billy the Kid, and Pierre Trudeau were accurate and hilarious. The show was panned by critics and academics alike, but the student audience seemed to enjoy it.

That summer Michael worked with me as an instructor in my Youtheatre workshops. He was popular with the kids, especially the young women, and I began to realize that Michael, undeterred by his stature, was an enthusiastic womanizer. He decided not to continue his academic studies and I lost touch with him for a few years, though I heard that he had become very involved with avant-garde theatre in Paris and Montreal. He read Artaud and Brecht and became a disciple of Grotowski, all the fashionable dramatic theorists of the day.

One day he called me and suggested we have lunch. We quickly demolished a bottle of Chianti before he told me that he had written a play about his grandfather, who had operated a fruit stand — or, in what was known in Toronto’s Little Italy as Italese, fruttistenda — on Bay Street in the ’20s. I read it and was surprised that it showed little or no evidence of the influence of the critics and practitioners whose ideas he had been so keen to absorb. It was an episodic, realistic chronicle of the ups and downs of a family spanning some forty years. I thought it had real possibilities if he was prepared to do some cutting and reworking to strengthen the storyline from the arrival of immigrants in Toronto early in the twentieth century to their gradual assimilation into their adopted city. I agreed to work on the script with Michael and to direct a production of the play — and so began my career as a theatrical producer.

The play, Johnny Bananas, is set in “The Ward,” the section of Toronto bound by Bay, Spadina, King, and Dundas. It was a part of the city I knew intimately as I walked its streets every summer for four years working as a messenger boy delivering paper samples to the many printers in the area. That was in the ’40s and the old houses and office buildings had changed little since the beginning of the last century. There were gypsy fortune tellers on Queen Street, peddlers drove horse-drawn carts collecting junk, Orthodox Jews with beards and prayer shawls walked home with live chickens bought from the neighbourhood shochet, and across from our warehouse there was a steam bath which was actually a brothel; on a warm day the whores would sometimes sit in the windows, waiting for some truck driver to pay them a visit on his lunch hour.

I wanted to catch some of this remembered atmosphere in my production, and my actors responded to my stories by coming up with inventive detail. Michael’s language had a raw, idiosyncratic energy that came partly from the characters’ attempts to express themselves in their newly acquired language. I wanted the short scenes to flow into one another. There was no set, just a few pieces of furniture and a hand-drawn cart that Reed Needles built for us. We improvised street scenes as we worked on the piece but the finished script remained very much Michael’s creation.

It was obvious to me that Michael should play the protagonist, Johnny, himself. The opening scenes, in which there was a lot of Italian, were initially problematic. Michael had become fluent in French but as a third-generation Canadian he had little or no Italian. I called in Damiano, who was born in Calabria and was familiar with not only the elegant Tuscan of the well-educated, but also the southern dialect that these people would have spoken. Damiano corrected Michael’s dialogue and also coached him until he was satisfied with his pronunciation and use of distinctive Italian gestures.

I decided that the cast should be made up entirely of actors with an Italian background. They wouldn’t have to be concerned with acting Italian; they would be Italian. I cast Damiano as Johnny’s father and his wife, Mariella, as his mother. Damiano brought in his friend Celestino and his son Paolo. He also found us Tonia Serrao, a warm and sympathetic actress who played Johnny’s long-suffering wife. We found two beautiful young actors, Darlene Mignacco and Frank Pellegrino, to round out the family. The only member who was not of Italian decent was Angelo Rizacos, whose family was Greek but who proved a quick study and picked up the lingo rapidly.

There was one Anglo character in the script, a politician who befriended Johnny. This role was played by Rod Beattie, who was on hiatus from the Stratford company. One night during rehearsal, I was surprised to see a woman sitting quietly at the back of the room. It was Martha Henry. I soon learned that Rod Beattie was courting her. Their relationship blossomed and before long led to marriage.

It was a very amiable company. I had worked with about half of the actors before and they accepted my direction without serious reservations. I occasionally gave them instructions in Italian and they were tolerant of this little show of vanity on my part. In one scene, young Paolo, who was about eleven years old, was supposed to get in bed with one of the actresses. He refused to do this. I recall Rod Beattie saying to him, “Young man, the day will come when you will regret not taking advantage of this opportunity.” We rehearsed mostly in the evenings, as most of my actors worked during the day. After about six weeks, we were ready to put the show in front of an audience.

On opening night, the actors assembled. At fifteen minutes before the curtain was to go up the stage manager came to me in a panic. Where was Michael? She had phoned his house and received no answer. I then phoned his mother who had no idea where he was. What could we do? Could I go on in his place?

In fact, I knew the script fairly well. At that stage of my life I had a pretty good memory. Indeed, I had once gone on in place of David Gardner as Lopakhin in The Cherry Orchard when he cut his big toe off with an electric lawnmower. Of course I couldn’t fit into Michael’s costume, although I could probably wear his battered fedora. I was sitting in a dressing room trying to psych myself up for the ordeal ahead at about three minutes to curtain when Michael walked in. He was completely unapologetic. He had decided he needed a nap before the show. It had not occurred to him that he might have let the stage manager know. I couldn’t help suspecting that Michael had planned the whole thing as an attention-getting device. I knew by now that there was a perverse streak in his nature. He gave a splendid performance that night: caustic, arrogant and ultimately pathetic. A performance rooted in his own complex and stubborn character.

The play attracted an enthusiastic public not entirely composed of Italian-Canadians, though they formed a substantial part of our audience, and word of mouth was an important factor in our success, as we had virtually no advertising budget. At the end of the run we were invited to do several performances at the Centro Colombo, the spacious and elegant Italian club on St. Clair Avenue West. We had a brief down period and then remounted the play at the old Courthouse Theatre on Adelaide Street. At the end of the run I realized I had lost about ten thousand dollars on the production. Michael vowed to repay me or at least split the loss. I didn’t imagine he would be able to do this, and of course it didn’t happen.

The year before, I had gone to visit friends in Vancouver. While there I saw a performance of The Dresser with William Hutt and Robin Phillips. Bill was an old friend, having directed me as an undergraduate. Robin I had met when he was directing his company at the Grand Theatre in London, Ontario. Rod Beattie had given him a play I had written and he was considering producing it in his second season. But there wasn’t a second season. After the performance of The Dresser, I went backstage and greeted Bill. I suggested we might go for a drink. Bill gave me a wry smile and said, “Let’s have lunch tomorrow. Robin’s waiting for you in his dressing room.”

I knocked on the door and a voice asked me to go in. Robin was sitting, ostensibly removing his makeup. He was naked except for a very brief pair of briefs. He gave me a smile and we sat in silence for a moment. Robin was still young and handsome, and he had a very good body. I wondered if he was waiting for me to make the first move.

I thought about it for a minute and decided it would be a mistake to have a sexual liaison with Robin, however short-lived. Just as I had never been sexually involved with any of my students, I thought it foolish to take up with actors. I suggested we go for a drink and we did.

Robin and I stayed in touch after we both came back east and we met once or twice for dinner. He expressed an interest in seeing Johnny Bananas. I took him to see a performance and he was quite complimentary about the script, the direction, and some of the acting. He left after the intermission, which did not trouble me. I knew this was his usual custom. The word had got around backstage that Robin was in the audience, and the actors were disappointed that he did not stay to the end. Robin was still a name to conjure with and they must have hoped he might advance their careers. But by this time Robin no longer had a theatre of his own.

At the end of the run, as was my custom, we gave a cast party at our house on Sherbourne Street. Judy made one of her delicious casseroles and herbed bread. I made a salad and stocked up on Italian cheeses at the market: burrata, caprino, parmigiano-reggiano, pecorino, mozzarella di bufala, gorgonzola, and torta di mascarpone. There was much gossip and laughter as the cast sat on the floor in the living room in front of a roaring fire. Darlene presented me with several bottles of wine made by the families of cast members and said, “Martin, we’ve decided to make you an honorary Italian.”

I thought this would be the end of Johnny Bananas but I was wrong. A few years later, Damiano, now a CBC Radio producer, decided that the play could be adapted for radio. Michael and I worked on the script, recasting it into five fifteen-minute episodes to be broadcast on Morningside, the popular radio show hosted by Peter Gzowski. Tony Nardi played Johnny and R. H. Thomson took over the role originated by Rod Beattie. The play reached a much wider audience across the country and elicited favourable comments from the listening public.

Damiano asked Michael and I to sit with him in the control booth and we did. I watched with interest and picked up some useful clues about producing radio. Michael, however, looked haggard and preoccupied and fell asleep several times during the recording session. Afterwards Damiano said to me, “I hoped that both you and Michael would learn something. You made some good comments and suggestions but I don’t think Michael got much out of it. Too bad, he needs the work. I worry about him.”

Some months later, Michael phoned me and told me he was getting married. He asked me to be his best man. I was completely taken by surprise but quickly agreed. I met his bride-to-be, Dorothy, a blonde airline stewardess half a head taller than Michael. I liked her; she was stylish and intelligent, and I was happy to think that Michael was settling down and would have someone to help him pull together his talents and reshape his scattered life.

The wedding was non-religious, though I knew Michael had attended a Catholic boys’ school. Michael and I wore white dinner jackets, and the bride wore black, all quite deliberately unconventional. Both Michael and I made speeches, he mainly in French. Dorothy, as a stewardess, was fluent in French and no doubt this was part of her appeal to Michael. A good deal of champagne was consumed and the party went on until about three in the morning. Looking around the apartment where Michael and Dorothy were to set up housekeeping, I realized many of the guests were Michael’s former girlfriends. I’m sure they wished him well, for Michael, though strong-willed to the point of contrariness, had a good heart. But the marriage didn’t last long. I and other friends who visited them soon learned that Michael and Dorothy fought almost continuously when she was there, and when she wasn’t, Michael was drinking heavily.

Michael and I continued to have lunch every month or two. He had begun working with a small computer company. He had also met a producer who encouraged him to adapt Johnny Bananas for television.

Michael and I set to work and produced an outline and scripts for three half-hour episodes. We shopped them to the CBC without success. The timing was wrong; Canadian television was not yet ready for multiculturalism. We eventually realized our project was not going anywhere.

I saw less of Michael but we still occasionally met for lunch. Michael had lost his looks. His face was patchy. He was bald with a great fringe of long hair at the sides. He looked eccentric and a bit ridiculous. I learned he was living with a woman. When he suggested I might like to meet her, I readily agreed. We met in a bar one afternoon. They were both drunk and quarrelsome. I decided that our lunches, which always involved at least one bottle of wine, were probably not a good idea.

The next time we met for lunch, Michael was accompanied by his four-year-old daughter. She was a pretty little thing with a good deal of mischievous charm and entered into the conversation without hesitation. Michael told me that he had split up with her mother and that the daughter was living mainly with him. He limited himself to two glasses of wine and confessed that his doctor was concerned about the state of his liver. His face had a yellowish cast and his hair was almost white. He looked about seventy years old, although I knew he must only be in his early fifties.

We spent most of the afternoon together. He was his usual garrulous self, making not-very-funny jokes at which he laughed mirthlessly, uttering pronouncements about art and politics, running off on tangents. I was reminded how difficult it had always been to get him to stick to the subject, to centre down on whatever we were working on. He had always been full of ideas, many of which were impractical or irrelevant or both. His mind was like a butterfly, flitting from topic to topic, never settling anywhere. It was part of his charm and at the same time infuriating.

Some months later I was at the cottage when I received an email telling me Michael had died. I wondered what had happened to his daughter. I phoned his mother and learned she was looking after the girl. Apparently Michael had been looking for a donor so that he could have a liver transplant, but no one had offered to help him. Mrs. Macina said that some friends were planning a memorial for Michael, and I asked her to tell them to get in touch with me. But I heard no more. At least Michael had achieved one of his dreams: he wrote a play with a perfect role for himself and played it to the hilt.

close this panel
Dundurn Performing Arts Library Bundle — Theatre

Dundurn Performing Arts Library Bundle — Theatre

Broadway North / Let's Go to The Grand! / Once Upon a Time in Paradise / Passion to Dance / Sky Train / Romancing the Bard / Stardust and Shadows
edition:eBook
More Info
Romancing the Bard

Romancing the Bard

Stratford at Fifty
edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook
More Info
Still Hunting

Still Hunting

A Memoir
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
More Info
The Critic

The Critic

and Other Stories
edition:eBook
More Info
Show editions
close this panel

User Activity

more >
X
Contacting facebook
Please wait...