30 September 2010

Trudeau Redux: Compare and Contrast


John Lennon, Yoko Ono and Pierre Trudeau, Parliament Hill, 23 December 1969.
Chad Kroeger and Stephen Harper, 24 Sussex Drive, 11 April 2010.

Related post:

28 September 2010

Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Ladies' Man



I Never Promised You a Rose Garden:
A Study in Public Seduction
Michelle Le Grand and Allison Fay
Don Mills, ON: Greywood, 1972

It was ten years ago today that Pierre Trudeau died. Does he haunt us still? I suppose so, though his influence has diminished... as has the country's. Let's face it, the man never encountered a reception like this from last week:



Enough.


I Never Promised You a Rose Garden is a sequel of sorts – "a study in public seduction" from the same publisher that four years earlier told us "how pierre elliott trudeau seduced canada with the lights on". Readers of Private Eye will be familiar with the content: a photo with wacky word balloon. This one looks like it could have come from the magazine's 18 December 1970 issue (cliquer pour agrandir).


You get the idea. The picture sets the theme, mixing politics with personality, casting Trudeau as Casanova.


The pseudonymous authors, apparently "two very political and disillusioned housewives", pitch some pretty varied attempts at humour. At times they venture into sensitive territory...


... before descending into jokes one would not dare make today.


There are no knee slappers here, though political types will be interested in the photos, most of which I've not seen elsewhere. Thumbing through the thing I caught myself ignoring the captions, returning in time to catch this:

Poignant and prophetic, n'est ce pas?

Object and Access: A 64-page staple-bound paperback. Ten copies sit on university library shelves, with a further two at Library and Archives Canada and the Toronto Public Library. A half-dozen copies are listed online at between US$4 and US$10. One Winnipeg bookseller has pulled away from the pack, asking US$25 (and adds US$12.25 shipping when three bucks will more than cover it).

Fuddle duddle.

27 September 2010

21 September 2010

When Liberace Winks at Bobby Gimby



When Liberace Winks at Me
Bobby Gimby and Johnny Wayne
Toronto: BMI Canada, 1954

One day I'm arguing with a friend that earlier times weren't necessarily "more innocent times", the next I come across this sheet music in a local shop.

Gimby was the first musician I could name. His "Ca-na-da" took root in my four-year-old brain and, like all good commercial jingles, has proven to be a hardy perennial.

And make no mistake, "Ca-na-da" was a commercial jingle; something to sell the centennial.

"Respectfully dedicated to LIBERACE, America's favorite performer", "When Liberace Winks at Me" is just as catchy. I found it here in this "Liberace Medley". The song begins at 6:49, but you'll want to see the whole thing.


Dear "Fan Club President",
I'm dropping you this line,
I'm sorry to have to tell you
I really must resign.

I've found another idol,
He's as charming as can be,
I really can't describe
The strange effect he has on me

I start to shake,
I start to shiver,
Every fibre in me really starts to quiver.
It's a feeling very close to ecstacy.
That's what happens when Liberace winks at me.

You can't compare his charming manner
With an ordinary Jerry, Joe or Jim.
And when he sits there at the piana
No one can hold a candelabra to him.

I never work,
Just dilly dally,
Since I fell under the spell of this Svengally,
I just sit there spellbound facing my T.V.
That's what happens when Liberace winks at me.

I start to blush,
I start to stammer,
And my pulses start a pounding like a hammer.
I'm bewitched as any fool can plainly see.
That's what happens when Liberace winks at me.

It's really very, very simple,
'cause he makes me feel just like a royal queen.
And when he winks and shows that dimple,
I start to hug and kiss my television screen.

I go beserk,
I start to tingle,
And I'm so gosh darned glad that I'm still single.
When he drops that eyelid, I just shout WOE-EE!!
That's what happens when Liberace winks at me.

I start to whirl,
I'm getting dizzy,
I'm in a haze, I'm in a haze, I'm in a tizzy
I'm a victim of a strange new sorcery.
That's what happens when Liberace winks at me.
International readers and those too young to have been exposed to "Ca-na-da" may be interested in the clip below, which was shot one chilly spring day at Expo 67. A 48-year-old man in robes, dubbed "The Pied Piper of Canada", leading skipping schoolchildren in song...

Seems like a more innocent time.


Trivia: "When Liberace Winks at Me" was one of several songs Gimby wrote with comedian Johnny Wayne (of Wayne and Schuster). The Canadian Encyclopedia tells us that they had their greatest success with something called "The Cricket Song" (1956) , recorded by Ray Bolger.

Q: How many times can I mention Bobby Gimby in one month?
A: Two.

18 September 2010

What About the Children?



Monday's post on Edith Lelean Groves was running long, so I never did get to the drawings that feature in her Everyday Children. Numbering thirty-five in total, they were one reason I'd bought the book in the first place.

Or maybe not.

I was more interested that they'd been selected by Arthur Lismer, and had been produced by the children who'd attended his Saturday class at the Art Gallery of Toronto.



(Those with a keen eye will spot The West Wind by Lismer's friend Tom Thompson.)

The pictures vary wildly and in terms of style and ability. Sadly, not one is credited.


Most have nothing to do with the poems they accompany. One of the few exceptions is this illustration, which appears to have been inspired by "My Upstairs Brother".



There are drawings of dogs, dolls, policemen and young toughs. Some are similar in terms of subject.


Art school survivors will see evidence of either a bad teacher ("Today, children, we will be drawing a girl struggling with a broken umbrella.") or classroom rivalry ("Watch as I put your picture to shame.").

Children, children, Mr Lismer likes both your drawings.

13 September 2010

Hurray for the Crippled Children's Bus!



Everyday Children
Edith Lelean Groves
Toronto: The Committee in Charge of the Edith L. Groves Memorial Fund for Underprivileged Children, 1932

Unearthed during a recent trip to Cambridge, the publisher, "the children of the Saturday classes, Art Gallery of Toronto" and the promise of a biographical sketch by eugenics advocate Helen MacMurchy, CBE, conspired to remove five dollars from my wallet.


Of Edith Lelean Groves, I knew nothing, but was soon set right by Dr MacMurchy, who provides a good amount of detail, beginning with an account of her subject's great-grandfather and his imprisonment during the Napoleonic Wars. I dare say Mrs Groves is a much more admirable figure. She devoted most of her 61 years to the education of children, particularly those we describe today as having "special needs". Nearly a century ago, Mrs Groves fought for their integration into Toronto's public school system. When she succeeded, she turned her attention to providing wheelchair ramps and transportation.


Transportation, Crippled Scholars. Alfred Pearson, 15 April 1926

City of Toronto Archives

Sadly, Mrs Graves wasn't nearly so remarkable as a poet. Everyday Children is everyday poetry. Typical of what was once foisted on young readers, the collection stresses the importance of good manners, study, respect for authority and healthy living:



Still, the reader who sticks with it will find "My Upstairs Brother", about a young girl's relationship with her bedridden older sibling: "His name is Welcome Jack and he's got a twisted back,/ His arms and legs don't seem to want to go." This is followed by "Mended", in which a girl's "queer little mis-shaped limb" is straightened through surgery. These poems and others dealing with "crippled" everyday children are no better, but they do provide interesting and uncommon glimpses of the time.



It's not at all surprising that Everyday Children is forgotten, but what of Mrs Groves? She has no entry in The Canadian Encyclopedia. There was once a school named in her honour, but no more – it's since been renamed Heydon Park Secondary School. Seems no one knows why.


Gray Coach Lines' Crippled Scholars' Service. Alfred Pearson, 20 December 1928.
City of Toronto Archives


Object: A well-bound hardcover printed on very thick paper. My copy lacks the dust jacket by Arthur Lismer – he of the Group of Seven – which the Introduction tells us depicts "little faces of 'Everyday Children' who smile... the result of his gifted pencil."

Access: Everyday Children can be found in seventeen of our universities. Public library users are stuck with a single reference copy housed somewhere in the stacks of the Toronto Public Library. It would seem that this collection of verse enjoyed only one printing. Used copies range from US$15 to US$25, the uppermost price fetching that elusive dust jacket.

11 September 2010

In Commemoration of Road Resurfacing



North Bay mayor Victor Fedell with Tony Clement, 7 September 2010

Minister of Industry Tony Clement was in North Bay this week, taking time from his busy schedule to unveil a commemorative plaque.

Something to honour the birthplace of Kenneth Thomson, 2nd Baron Thomson of Fleet? Perhaps a bit of ornamentation for the late Bobby Gimby's house? No, this plaque commemorates a programme, not a person.

The Infrastructure Canada website informs:
Between 2006 and 2009, the city of North Bay received over $8.2 million through the federal Gas Tax Fund, which has been used to widen lanes, install new traffic signals, replace sidewalks and provide safer parking on some of North Bay’s most widely used roads.
Intrigued? There's more:
Asphalt resurfacing of various streets - $2,273,876 in GTF funding to complete asphalt resurfacing of more than 15 city streets between 2006 and 2009.

Worthington Street Bridge - $150,000 in GTF funding toward the new concrete water crossing structure, drainage improvements, road realignment and road resurfacing.
But why go on, you'll want to visit the site yourself.

"The Government of Canada is proud to commemorate such important improvements to the City of North Bay’s roads and bridges," crowed the Honourable Minister. And so, the plaque was unveiled, and future generations will learn how it was that the right turn lane on Algonquin Avenue came into being.

The celebration of upkeep and upgrade comes as work begins on a more worthwhile plaque, this one to commemorate the life of A.J.M. Smith. Like last year's memorial to John Glassco, it will be installed in the chapel of Montreal's St James the Apostle Anglican Church.

No Gas Tax money for this project, I'm afraid - funding will rely entirely on family, friends and admirers of the poet. Anyone interested can write for more information through the email link on my profile page.

Minister Clement can be contacted at 1-866-375-TONY.

08 September 2010

A Long Lost Song of the Sea?



Sailors don’t care,
Sailors don’t care
Whether she’s dark
Or whether she’s fair!
As long as her lily-white bottom is bare
Sailors don’t care!
I caught myself singing this ditty while going through some paperwork last night.

Better at my desk than in church.

Ribald? You bet! But my real interest lies in the song's connection to American author Edwin Lanham's debut novel Sailors Don't Care (1929), first published in Paris by Contact Editions. The author and his publisher, Robert McAlmon, had contradictory stories as to the origins of the title – each credited the other – though it's probable that they drew from our own John Glassco. Then a teenager, the Montreal poet had learned the song aboard the Canadian Traveller, the ship that in 1928 carried him across the Atlantic to his Montparnassean adventures. Fourteen years later, Glassco wrote McAlmon, reminding him that the title "was taken from Captain Miller's (no relation to Henry) song in the second chapter of those abortive memoirs of mine ... both you and Ed read it, I know."

The lyrics to Captain Miller's song are found in John Glassco's papers at Library and Archives Canada... and, it seems, nowhere else.

Andrew Draskóy, of Shanties & Sea Songs, tells me that "'sailors don’t care' was a common saying around that time in its sense of sailors aren't picky." I note that the phrase also gave title to two American films, the first released the year before Lanham’s book was published. However, what I find particularly interesting is its appearance in the Victor Schertzinger/Johnny Mercer song "The Fleet's In", from the 1942 film of the same name. Its use is... well... fleeting. You'll hear the words just after the two minute mark:
She may be dark or fair,
But sailors don't care...



I wonder, was Johnny Mercer also familiar with Captain Miller's song?

Trivia: Really, isn't everything about this post trivial? That said, it's worth noting that Sailors Don't Care was published twice. The less ribald 1930 Jonathan Cape edition, pictured above, will set you back US$1000. The truly wealthy might consider the most desirable copy of the dirtier first edition. Inscribed by Lanham to McAlmon's partner in publishing William Carlos Williams, it goes for a mere US$2250.

Reliant upon his siblings, McAlmon died in near-poverty in 1956. At the time, Lanham was living a hand to mouth existence as a writer of mystery novels.

06 September 2010

04 September 2010

The Homoerotic A.E. van Vogt



Astounding Science Fiction
October 1948


Empire of the Atom
Chicago: Shasta, 1957


Siege of the Unseen
New York: Ace, 1959


Earth's Last Fortress
New York: Ace, 1960


The Twisted Men
New York: Ace, 1964

01 September 2010

SF, Not S/M



The House that Stood Still
A.E. van Vogt
Toronto: Harlequin, 1952

A few pages into The House that Stood Still, Allison Stephens, lawyer for Arthur Tannahill, stumbles upon a drama being played out in one of his client's many buildings:
Nine men and four women were standing in various tensed positions. One of the women, an amazingly good-looking blonde, had been stripped to the waist; her ankles and wrists were tied with thin ropes to the chair in which she sat sideways. There were bloody welts on her tanned back, and a whip lay on the floor.
Spicy stuff, it's little wonder that Harlequin exploited the scene for its cover. American publisher Beacon went even farther with the revised 1960 edition, replacing the original title with something more suggestive.


How long before folks who'd bought these books felt they'd been had? Sure, Beacon's pitch line, "I have come to pay my debt in the way I've discovered men prefer", features in the novel, but it's just about the hottest thing you'll find.*

The first third of The House that Stood Still reads like a noirish mystery. There's an encounter with a California cult, a groundskeeper is murdered, a woman is shot and an elevator operator is found stabbed to death. Stephens does his darndest to ward off an aggressive D.A. who seems intent on pinning at least one murder rap on Tannahill. But as the lawyer grows closer to Mistra Linett, the "amazingly good-looking blonde" he'd saved from further flogging, things get strange. Turns out she's hundreds of years old and that her swanky, ultra-modern apartment is really a spaceship. That whipping Stephens interrupted had to do with a disagreement over what to do in the event of an expected "atomic war". Should Mistra and her fellow Methuselahs try to prevent the conflict or relocate to their base on Mars? At the centre of all this is Tannahill's ancient radioactive house, which has somehow bestowed eternal life upon Mistra and the gang.

These revelations don't raise so much as an eyebrow with Stephens. A dim bulb, he's much more shocked by the murders than all that stuff about eternal life, imminent atomic war and a base on Mars... and I haven't even mentioned the ancient robot brain from another planet. This is not to say that Stephens isn't a thinker; he's forever thinking:
As they embraced, the thought came to Stephens: "Is she trying to buy my help with her body?" It was an idea he held only for a moment before dismissing it as irrelevant. In a way, it was true. But the fact was, temporarily at least, this woman was his without reservation. She was obviously caught up by love desire, and he was the fortunate recipient. He could even believe that she had not for years been stirred to such a response as she was making on him.

For a while, then, he had no thought, only awareness of the physical contact with her, and of a mounting feeling of excitement. Presently, he wondered, could a mortal man really love an immortal woman? Instantly, he didn't wish to think about that. This was now, not some future time when he would be grown older, and she still young and beautiful and eternally desirable. Here and now, this was an act of love between a virile man and a healthy woman, who, with every meeting, roved that they enjoyed each other immensely. It was pleasant to realize also that there had not yet been a prudish moment between them.

When they finally dressed...
How hot was that!

Our hero's greatest weakness is that for all his thinking he's incapable of reaching any real conclusions. As the novel progresses, Stephens is confronted by a growing list of events that he finds baffling. Though he moves with great purpose, breaking into private property, stealing documents and digging up graves, the lawyer is never able to figure out what the hell is going on... and neither can the reader.

The House that Stood Still is unintelligible. Blame lies, at least in part, with the original editor and all those who've followed. One simple example of the mess left behind: early in the novel, Stephens returns home and changes into his pajamas. Mistra, again in distress, appears at his door. Stephens helps her, returns to his bedroom, and changes into his pajamas. This error appears in the first edition, and is repeated right up to the most recent, published by Carroll & Graf in 1993. Back then van Vogt still had roughly seven more years to enjoy this mortal coil; it wasn't too late to whip things into shape.

I apologize for that last sentence.

Trivia: In 1976, Panther published an edition of The House that Stood Still under the title The Undercover Aliens. If anything, the cover is even more of a misrepresentation than those of Harlequin and Beacon.


I'll add here that the novel features no extraterrestrials.

Object and Access: The Harlequin House is the first paperback edition. None of the eight copies currently offered online is in particularly good shape; going by the descriptions, it's hard to figure out which of the bad lot is best. They range in price from US$10.95 to US$49.00. The American first - the true first - published in 1950 by Greenberg is more common. Decent copies start at US$24.50 and go all the way up to US$152. Condition does not account for the spread. The novel has undergone numerous reissues; copies can be had for as little as a dollar.

Personal note: Not being a sci fi guy, it wasn't until van Vogt's obituaries from ten years ago that I learned the man was Canadian. The writer lived in his home and native land until the age of 32, when he moved to California. I also admit that I had never heard of his birthplace, Edenburg, Manitoba. Here's an image of what it might look like from Mistra Lanett's spaceship apartment:


That's what I call a view!

* The actual line is "I've come to pay my debt... in the way I've discovered men prefer", but I'm no stickler.