A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Charles Campbell, Schwannomas & An Elopement Garden Party
Sunday, September 09, 2007

When Rebecca asked me, "Why does Charles have that scar on his face?" I was hit by a barrage of emotion as I remembered a photograph I had taken of Charles Campbell in my living room in April of 1997.

Rebecca asked me this at the tail end of a lovely garden party at the house of Maja Grip and Jack MacDermot which celebrated their recent elopement. Many of our mutual friends were there including a "very tall and fit man with a bald head and a funny name you are going to like Rebecca, his name is Oraf." Paul and Audrey Grescoe were there and I always love to chat with them. The blood in their veins is a fifty fifty blend of blood and pressed magazine juice. We talked magazines, books, editors (specially Mac Parry).

The food was as good as home made food can get. Rebecca thinks Maja is a gourmet cook and I would not disagree with her. This was most evident in the end when Maja handed us little cones of lavender/honey and black pepper/lime ice cream. Jack and Maja's invite announced their party as a champagne tea (I would argue with Maja that Champagne had to be capitalized). Jack offered me some Spanish bubbly but I informed him that was not Champagne. He immediately corrected his error (those frugal Scots) and poured me some of the real thing.

But the best part of the party was seeing my granddaughters playing with Charles and Lainé's daughter Calla. There is something idyllic in seeing children (particularly little girls) play in a garden while oblivious of the presence of adults conversing amongst them with drinks in hand. It was what a late summer party should be. But I thought of Rebecca's question.

I would assert that half the photographs of artists, dancers, singers, politicians, environmentalists that are the bulk of my very large photo files came from Georgia Straight assignments when Charles Campbell was editor. Campbell went to political rallies, PR movie functions, theatre, ballet, etc. He was an editor (unique in our city) who had a real perception of the pulse of our city. Vancouver needs somebody like him. While he was editor I remember conversing with a depressed John Lekich. I told John, "Let's find a blond for you to write about and that I can photograph and you will feel better." We went to Campbell who looked at us a dubiously and then said, "Do it." We did.

Sometime in early 1997 Campbell noticed a loss of feeling in his face. He became worried and saw a doctor. After many tests they determined that he had a schwannoma , which is a tumor (almost always benign) afflicting the Schwann cells that make up the nerve sheath. This tumor was lodged behind Campbell's upper nose and between his eyes. To remove the tumor a surgeon had to enter Campbell's mouth and "scoop" the tumor out. This was an extremely dangerous operation.

Campbell showed up at my door wanting me to photograph his face before surgeons took it appart and, besides,(left unsaid but I understood) my pictures could be his last. After the successful operation the tumor was found to be cancerous. To date Campbell is just fine and able to smile at life even though his father recently died at age 96.

Perhaps it all has to do with seeing your daughter play in a garden party while surrounded by friends. Photograph of Calla, Lauren and Rebecca by Charles Campbell.

Addendum by Charles Campbell:

To remove the tumour the surgeon had to cleave his face open from his eye to his mouth, poke a hole in his cheekbone, go through his sinuses and scoop the tumour out of the middle of his head." They didn't do that in the first surgery, even though I was told they would; they went in under my lip so I wouldn't have a scar, but they did the full-on scar-leaving thing the second time.
Dad died last Sunday at 93.

And a further correction: Jack MacDermot states that as an Irishman he is not frugal about his Champagne. He further stated that he bought one real bottle of Champagne for me and that on the question of Scots and the Irish we Bolivians should know our geography better.


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