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


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

In early 1985 Vancouver Magazine was working on a story on the new but most uncertain coach of the Vancouver Canucks, Bill LaForge. I used to terrorize associate editor, Don Stanley by telling him, "LaForge was fired today, didn't you know?" Since the Vancouver Magazine story had not yet gone to press he would worry about what to do with the story. But it was my joke. As punishment I was dispatched to go to Edmonton to photograph LaForge. The Canucks were playing there one weekend and it would promise to be an interesting game as LaForge was a hometown boy while the Edmonton Oilers with Wayne Gretzky would surely give him a very hot homecoming. And that is exactly what happened.

When I showed up at the game my friend CBC sports cameraman Mike Varga whisked me by all the red tape and had me share his booth by the ice. The man sitting on the bench on the other side of my glass was Wayne Gretzky. During one of the intervals (the Canucks were losing miserably) Varga took me to the huge van were one man directed all the cameramen of Hockey Night In Canada. A wall of the van contained multiple TV screens. When the game was renewed (Varga left me in the van) I watched one of the most difficult and perhaps exciting jobs I have ever seen. The director would go from one screen to another and he always seemed to know who had the puck. The job seemed more stressful than being a air traffic controller. I was never able to see a hockey game again without appreciating the difficulty and the resulting expertise of the CBC sports staff. Mike Varga proudly told me, when I mentioned this, "We are the best in the world." I was not yet a Canadian citizen but I was proud.

In 1983 I had photographed an extremely beautiful singer, Madeleine Morris in her home on 16th and Granville. I had convinced Les Wiseman who hated synth-pop bands, to write about Morris's band Moev. Morris had a style, a presence and the juiciest mouth I had ever seen. She was tiny and with her short hair and dark but Jewish profile she resembled Nefertiti hooked on cigarettes. I photographed her (above) with her pet rat. Of the rat she told us, "The ordinary rat, the ordinary bubonic plague rat, makes a great pet because you don't have to take them out for walkies."

Before I left I was introduced to Morris's charming mother. She was lively and I could see where Madeleine had inherited her feisty talent. Since I have never really been a hockey fan it meant nothing when Morris explained that her mother, Dolores had composed the theme music for Hockey Night In Canada. I am a Canadian citizen now but I can affirm (boast perhaps?) that I never saw an entire episode of the Beachcombers and I would not recognize Dolores's composition if you played it with others.

But I am upset on how the CBC bungled their relationship with Dolores Claman. Without knowing all the details perhaps the CBC was right. But I was happy to hear that CTV has settled with Claman and that the theme song will not be lost.

The CBC from its headquarters in Toronto is using the Vancouver technique called slow irrelevance. Witness how the Dal Grauer Substation on Burrard (next to what used to be called the BC Electric, then the BC Hydro and now the Electra building) is being slowly abandoned so that it will become invisible. When the wrecking balls come nobody will notice or care about this Vancouver architectural gem. The same happend to the Georgia Medical Dental Building, the original Eatons, and the second Vancouver Hotel. They all went down with almost no protest.

First take away the name of Vancouver from the CBC Vancouver Orchestra. Make it the national CBC Radio Orchestra. Then as a fate accompli inform us, the taxpayers, that the orchestra will be no more after November. For me many of the oldsters on CBC Radio 1 and 2 sounded a bit old, tired and bored. But at least they had attractive and gentle or calming voices. In spite of Shelagh Rogers's loudish laugh she does have a wonderful voice. Even her voice (or her mothers' who had an even better voice) could do no justice or impart any poetry to her replacement's name.

These oldsters have been replaced by people with fairly unattractive voices and I find it impossible to spell or pronounce their names. I suspect this is a conservative-getting-old rant on my part!

But I used to listen to Katherine Duncan's late night program on Radio 2,

"This is Katherine Duncan from Calgary," she would say with a magical voice that almost wanted me to inform wife Rosemary, "I divorce you, here and now, and I am off to romantic and exotic Calgary." Such was the power of Duncan's voice that she made Calgary seem like that exotic destination.

Another voice (erudite, too) was Peter Tonye's. While these two will be back on the radio I see the Vancouver irrelevance technique well at play. We oldsters (I am 65) just simply turn of the radio and listen to CDs in the car. I am not sure if the younger generation is all that excited about Grant Lawrence's podcasts or banal programs about what women will be wearing in the street next season. As the CBC sounds more and more like commercial radio, it will fade with the fortunes of other commercial radio stations. Commercial radio has ads. CBC Radio 1 has constant Jian Gomeshi ads. Is there a difference?

For me CBC radio has stood out with its uniqueness and not being part of the crowd. When the CBC finally goes off the air I will not care. Will others? Just this once I wish that Toronto had not learned Vancouver's irrelevance trick so quickly and so well.

The other side of the story?


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