Sep 4, 2010

Back to School

As a youth, I disliked school intensely. It wasn’t the learning that was my problem, it was the institution and the other kids I had to deal with. They distracted me to the point where I lost my way with learning. 

Young kids aren’t always taught by their parents that school is for learning. Yes, kids must go to school, but for what?  Many children think it’s time to play, others learn to communicate, some learn to cause trouble, and others go just because they are told. I don’t remember being told that I was supposed to learn, but somehow I did. I learned to read and write; I learned geography, history and science; so I did learn the basics. The institution of school was prison to me. Yet, I learn that I liked the arts: music, theater, painting, and I almost joined the budding photography club. But I didn’t. 

In Canada I was moved around from school to school, as my father moved from Canadian town to town as a bank manager. After my parents divorced, my mother and I moved to England, and there we travelled from town to town trying to settle down. My education was in a shambles. I couldn’t concentrate.  I lost interest, inclination, and the other kids were a major distraction. I became a dreamer and I’d stare out the window a lot. I took to cross country running because I didn’t like the rough team sports of rugby or football (soccer). And on the cross country miles I’d dream and I’d scheme. About what, I don’t know. I couldn’t wait to leave school, and when I did, ironically I discovered the idea of adult learning.
When I think of all the night school courses, university and college extension courses, private courses, business courses, professional advancement courses, seminars, studied readings in art, science, philosophy, liberal arts, world politics, the millions of miles of international travel, and all the education and knowledge I have given myself since I left school, I look back on an extremely powerful and focused lifetime achievement in higher learning.  I may not have the highest university degree, but my acquired knowledge and awareness of the world are phenomenal.
This year, school came a calling again. I am now taking a course at teacher's college. It’s back to school to learn how to put together a curriculum to teach others. My aim is to help inspire young adults who have been left behind by the school system, as I was. Some haven’t found their inspiration for adult learning. Many have landed in jobs where there is no future, no satisfaction, no life. Many have turned to drugs or crime. Many have been indoctrinated into the complacency of too comfortable a life where everything is being done for them. They have become apathetic and unmotivated. They haven’t been able to find anything they really like to do or anything to grasp onto with their imagination, their passion or their interest. They get caught up in a trance of just “existing” and they find it hard to escape.
With a lifetime of working in the arts as a creative individual, I plan to teach creativity and innovation to help people find new ideas and bring them to life, to motivate an awareness that good choices will help build better lives. For me, helping people find and exercise their fundamental gift to humanity, of creativity, is a way of giving back to society. Society will be severely challenged in the next few years, there needs to be a population ready to channel their own ingenuity.
I will always be thankful for the schooling that I had, it happened at my pace, and it's a life long adventure.

May 30, 2010

Doctor Zhivago (favorite films)

Composer Maurice Jarre’s music from Doctor Zhivago begins with subtle and quiet undertones, then it works its way through melodic crescendos of Russian inspired flavoring in an orchestral masterwork that shines the light on a simple theme: Lara's Theme. This is where my heart soars with memories of young love. Who hasn’t taken their girl to the movies?  She and I went just once, that I can remember. It was so long ago - 1966.  I was seventeen, but that one time not only captured my heart, but my imagination as a photographer of movies. Sadly, the love didn’t last. We were very young. But the passion of a great movie and great photography left an everlasting impression. I was a budding photographer at the time, and this film made me realize that I had entered the right profession.
Doctor Zhivago is an epic film set in an epic time: A tragic love story carried along by the turmoil of the Russian revolution. It could have been just another movie among the many. But it wasn’t. Zhivago stands out as the perfect epic, like Lawrence of Arabia a few years before and Bridge on the River Kwai before that. It was film maker David Lean at the prime of his creative life. Unlike most film makers, Lean knew how to tell a story for the big screen, scattering it with emotion, heartbreak, love and anticipation - filled with the cinematic nuance that everyday life holds for us all. It's a wide reaching adventure, boiled down to a heart breaking love story between two beautiful people. When we watch one of Lean’s films, we are poetically transported to an experience of place and time, with characters that live, breath and hurt. With Doctor Zhivago, we get involved as if we knew the characters personally. We experience the tragedy of war and marvel at the lyrical arrival of spring. We shiver through the cold Russian winter and feel the warmth and romance of falling in love. It’s an experience romantics will never forget.
All the film artists who worked along side Lean were just as magnificent in their work: Director of Photography Freddy Young, whose lighting compositions were so exquisite that they brought the art of photography into our lives like no other. Why couldn’t real life look so good? And the epic was all tied together with the wonderful symphonic score by Maurice Jarre. He writes a good tune, but captures our hearts and emotions with pure orchestral beauty. Young and Jarre both won individual Oscars, as did writer Robert Bolt, Designer John Box, Costume Designer Phyllis Dalton. Sadly neither the film, nor David Lean won an Oscar. But the legacy of this great artist lives on like no other.
For me, inspiration means so much when you observe the best. And perhaps, in some way, this film was part of my own destiny to find my own profession in film making rather than still photography. I can honestly say that I tried, throughout my own career, to live up to the wonderful imagery and style set by the great masters of my profession. My life's learning and work is a humble testament to their creativity. 
Recently, the Blu-ray High Definition version of Doctor Zhivago was released. Until now, I hadn’t seen it look as spectacular as when I first saw it in 1966. This HD version is a monumental tribute to the quality, longevity and restoration of this great masterpiece and the artists who created it. This was the first of the three best films from Director David Lean to be offered on Blu-ray. I am now anxiously awaiting the Blu-ray arrival of Lawrence of Arabia and Bridge on the River Kwai.

“Every time I presented a new theme to David, he rejected it and said that I could do better. ...  Then, one Friday, David told me to stop work, to stop thinking about the film or the music and go away for the weekend to the beach or mountains, to clear my brain and start afresh on the Monday. ... After those 2 days of clearing the brain, in one hour on Monday morning I had found Lara’s Theme ...”
- Maurice Jarre
“I've just begun to dare to think I perhaps am a bit of an artist.”
- David Lean
Pasha: I used to admire your poetry.
Zhivago: Thank you.
Pasha: I shouldn't admire it now. I should find it absurdly personal. Don't you agree? Feelings, insights, affections... it's suddenly trivial now.

May 21, 2010

And our heads will smash like eggs

Remember Lawrence of Arabia? It was great film of a great life. Thomas Edward Lawrence was a British Soldier at the time of World War One who, along with the British Army, helped the Arabs in Arabia take back their lands from the Ottoman Empire, also known today as the Turkish. They had ruled over the Arab lands for hundreds of years.
After the war, Lawrence shy’ed away from the limelight and lived in a small cottage in southern England. He worked at the local military camp and drove back and forth to work on his motor bike each day. One day as he was driving home for lunch he noticed a couple of boys about to cross his path. He swerved to avoid them and he was thrown from his bike, through the air, to land on his head on the roadway.
As you can imagine, his head was smashed like an egg and his brains were falling out when they found him. Back then people didn’t wear helmets. He was taken to a hospital where he died a week later. Had he lived, he would have been in a vegetative state with absolutely no real life at all. He died on May 19th, 1935, exactly 75 years ago. He was only 46.
One of the physicians who worked on Lawrence, an Australian named Doctor Hugh Cairns, took note of the injuries and realized that he could do something to help the needless loss of life he was witnessing for the many motorcycle riders in traffic accidents. He decided to help develop protective head-wear, and one of the first riding helmets was in response to the tragic death of T.E. Lawrence. The ultimate result of this tragedy was that many countries in the western world now make it a law to wear a helmet. In the city of Vancouver there is a law that requires you to always wear a helmet when you ride a bicycle.
We human beings are very fragile creatures; especially our brains. However, we don’t always use our brains when it comes to protecting ourselves.
Years ago I remember Actor Gary Busey playing singer Buddy Holly. Busey was renown for riding his motorbike around California without a helmet. He openly defied the helmet law and repeatedly said that it was an infringement on his freedom of choice. One day he crashed. He was bucked off from his bike and his head went smashing into a curb, opening his skull and causing severe brain damage. He was very lucky he didn’t die. But I don’t know if he really fully enjoys life as he once did.
Safety is especially important with our kids and the ones we love. We want to protect them from harm. There are many surveys to quote, but in Leeds, in the North of England, there was a study that said: 

Wearing a bicycle helmet has been shown to reduce serious head injuries by 85%. 
39% of deaths from cycling injuries occur in children under the age of 15.
Even a low speed fall on a bicycle path can cause a serious head injury.

Study after study around the world confirms that a head smash to the ground can and will most probably kill you. And most Canadian provinces have enacted laws for wearing helmets, except for our friends in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. They say: “The  law discourages recreational exercise during an era of record obesity.” 
So, they want to encourage us to live to a ripe old age by being thin, but watch us die with a simple smash to the head from not wearing a helmet. Obviously they don’t have any eggs  with which to show an example of a head smashing on a roadway. For if they did, they would wake up very quickly and change the law. 

Here are some serious numbers from the United States from The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: Bicycle deaths by Helmet use in 1998 - 2008.  It is not known if these injuries were head injuries:

Bicyclist deaths by helmet use, 1998-2008
No helmet use
Helmet use
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

The basic finding was that 91% of those killed were not wearing helmets. 

Our brains are very fragile. So why don’t we use them when it comes to personal safety? It’s astounding what we do: We don’t want to wear life jackets in boats or while white water rafting.  We want to send text messages or talk on our cell phone while driving. We don’t want to wear seat belts in a car or on an airplane. We go skiing in avalanche areas and hike where a mountain lion or a bear can eat us for lunch. And it goes on and on. We are really dangerous to ourselves.

As we all know, accidents aren’t planned, and there are many ways to have an accident. As with Lawrence, we can swerve to avoid an accident and be thrown from our bikes or bicycles. We can hit a pot hole with our front tire and go head first over the handlebar. We can slip on a wet surface and smash ourselves on the road, as I once did. It’s a dangerous world. A car can hit us and throw us thirty feet across the highway or we can innocently slip from our bicycle at a standing position and hit our head on the ground. In each case, if our un-protected head hits with any slight force, it could kill us. Our heads will smash like eggs. Yes, we really are very fragile.
But let me ask: What is the helmet law protecting us from? Well, the law is not just to protect us from ourselves, it also protects the public purse: Our tax-payers money. As one Judge recently said about the lack of life vests on an Alberta river, "We're not only trying to protect those people who are engaged in those activities, but also the police, fire, ambulance and other bylaw officers who are going in to rescue these people." 

The fact is, they don’t want to have to scrape our brains off the side walk, or pay for a needless brain operation or a smashed up cycling idiot for the rest of their lives at a public funded health facility. 

I had a motor bike when I was sixteen. I wore a helmet because the person who sold me the bike gave it to me. One rainy day, I almost slid under a car. If the car hadn’t skidded to a stop about six inches from my nose, and if I hadn’t been wearing my helmet when I banged my head on the road, I wouldn’t be here to tell you about it now. From that young age, I realized that I always needed to protect myself, because there are always accidents waiting to happen. "Safety First" has always been a good motto.

After Gary Busey recovered from his almost fatal crash, he was quoted as saying. “As adults, we should set an example for our children by wearing crash helmets.” 

T. E. Lawrence could have contributed much more to our world had he lived a much longer life. But we will never know.

Use caution, look after yourself, look after your loved ones and choose to live wisely with awareness.

“Helmet laws are for their protection. They may not like it, but their stupidity proves that wearing a helmet, especially on a long ride, is best for everybody. The helmet law's a good law and that's all there is to it.”
- Evel Knievel

“Get a bicycle.  You will not regret it if you live.”
- Mark Twain
“What do you call a cyclist who doesn't wear a helmet?  An organ donor.”
- David Perry

May 12, 2010

Transcendental Meditation

“So, where did you first hear of Transcendental Meditation?” she asked.
“Why, the Beatles, of course.” I replied.
This was how my introduction began to the Maharishi Yogi’s mind improving meditation. All my life I had heard about the practice of Transcendental Meditation, beginning with the Beatles and their 1968 journey to meet with the Maharishi in India. This was the best PR campaign he could ever have received, and the Maharishi took good advantage, spreading the word about TM and building his organization into a multi-million-dollar business, complete with universities devoted to World Peace. Like all well planned followings, Transcendental Meditation grew into something bigger, with a simple message: Anyone can find inner peace.
In my simple way, I had always found a way to pace myself throughout my busy life. I found corners during lunch hours to sit quietly or I’d drive to work an hour before I was needed, just to relax before the day. I’d take holidays in tranquil places after busy assignments, and I would have the office schedule me some down time to chill out after filming in a particular fun location: Perhaps Paris, Scotland, Nepal, Hawaii, Malaysia or San Francisco. I would take long walks and find spiritual places. I loved the great Cathedrals of Europe and the Buddhist Temples in Taiwan. Maybe it would be a quiet Mosque or an art gallery to sit near in a far away place. Much of my quiet time was beside the sea. I could sit and stare at the sea for hours, or I would hike around a lake or a farm. I remember how the high mountains, the Himalayas, Alps or the Rockies, grabbed at my imagination. Here, I would find a place to view the top of the world. I even found peace sitting in the window seat of a jetliner or beside a fireplace, or watching a candle. Then, there was the music: Beethoven, Bach, Schubert or Mendolsson all performed their magic to calm me down from my hectic life of a film maker.
However, when my busy schedule slowed down a few years ago, I started to lose my connection with my spiritual side; my peace with life, myself. Somehow the hustle of my world had kept me on the right track. I’m not one for organized religion, but I am very spiritual and I need that inward peace and guidance for contentment. Recently, I knew I had to find this part of me again. I remembered the Beatles and the Maharishi.
My questions were: How can I calm my active and restless brain? How can I bring an inner peace back to this, one time, contented soul? How can I find my way back to the relaxation I used to know instinctively?  
Last weekend, we joined a Transcendental Meditation class. It was a course introduction of four different classes on four days, comprising lecture, teaching and meditation. It’s not cheap, but I was willing to spend the money to try to regain my sense of “me.” Of course, the first thing I did was sign a paper that told me not to tell anyone how they teach TM or the method. But, I can write of my own personal experience and benefits. The strangest thing, I started off with thoughts that I knew I didn't live; a sort of false history swirling around. Somehow, I’ve experienced them through my first meditations, through dreams, while sleeping. It was somewhat disconcerting but I guess that’s what my new life of dreams and calmness  realizes: new thoughts, ideas and contemplations. This means, I’ll have to stay with the program, balance the experience and sort out what is real. So far, meditations are very peaceful; filled with colour and mind-wandering thoughts.
Ancient Indian Transcendental Meditation has been brought down from Guru to Guru for thousands of years. This method popularized by the Maharishi was handed down in teachings from his mentor Guru Dev. Since then, our world has been treated to this way of inner peace from the teachings that were set up in colleges and universities by the Mararishi. 
I’m looking to find the peace I have always known.  But, I also hope to find a new awareness of the world and my potential through this meditation.

"You don't have to be some sort of freak to meditate."
- John Lennon

"Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what hold you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom."
- Buddha

"Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in Eternal awareness or Pure consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging finitude in infinity. "
- Voltaire

"I went through two schools of acting but I learned more about acting from meditating and from my marshall arts teacher."
- Forrest Whitaker

"So transcendental meditation brings about transcendental consciousness, which is self-referral consciousness, the source of all intelligence."  
- Maharishi Mahesh

May 2, 2010

Don't go back to sleep (favorite poems)

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.
“No poet is more intimate than Rumi, no lover more crazed, no saint more innocent. An air of the supernatural gathered around him because he never lost this wild, extreme state of ecstasy.”-  Deepak Chopra

Apr 27, 2010

The Battle of York - this day in history

April 27th, 1813. Cannons thundered across the little town of York, and North America was at war with itself. Two new countries with citizens from the same families, same language.
Ask President Madison, the forth President of the United States, why he did it. He’d probably say that it was a golden opportunity to grab a continent while kicking the English out for good. And the English had their hands full across the ocean with a little Frenchman named Napoleon. So why not make a grab? But provoking neighbours to the north is never a good idea. Especially neighbours with their hands on the best Army and Navy in the world. So the War of 1812 became a hard driven war of battles and skirmishes that the United States had never bargained for with the British in their North American stronghold of Canada.

April 27th, was a battle; a skirmish at the quiet little Capital of Upper Canada, York.
American troops sailed by frigate and landed by long boat along the North Shore of Lake Ontario. They then marched along the shore toward the town and Fort York. In the scuffle that ensued, the Commander of the British Garrison at Fort York ordered a retreat, meaning, “Get out of town, fast. The Americans are coming.” But before they marched, or ran out of town, he left orders to blow-up the gun powder stone-house at the Fort. 
As American Soldiers and Marines advanced on the Fort, the gunpowder blew and rocks from the ammunition stone-house flew in all directions, showering rocks, carnage and mayhem, killing many- including American Brigadier General Zebulon Pike, who incidentally, Pikes Peak Mountain in Colorado is named after.
The Americans were so angry at the loss of troops and good officers that when they entered the little town, they sacked the place and burned down the Government House; the Capital.
Of course sometime later in retaliation for torching Canada’s Capital, the British marched on Washington, D.C., and burned the President's Mansion. To quickly cover the blacken scars, it was decided that the mansion should be painted white and from there after it became known as the White House.
All this because of the burning of the little town of York.
The War of 1812 and 1813 claimed too many lives and spread across both nations, ending at the Battle of New Orleans. Neither country lost territory in the war and Canada was saved.

The United States and Canada eventually became the best of friends, and President Madison? Well, he became an American hero, but not for the war of 1812. In most history books it’s a forgotten war because the USA were defeated in their expansionist ambitions. But Madison went on to forge the United States Constitution and today he’s remembered for that.
But what happened to that little town of York? Well, today it’s known to the world as the City of Toronto: A native Indian name meaning meeting place.
Toronto is Canada's largest city and is still host to invading Americans each year. But now, in peace, on vacation.

"I believe that in four weeks from the time a declaration of war is heard on our frontier, the whole of Upper Canada and a part of Lower Canada will be in our power."
- Representative John C. Calhoun

Run Lola Run (favorite films)

I recently re-watched the German "Art house" film "Run Lola Run." 
From the opening credits where a swinging pendulum sets the pace, we hear a clock ticking, the beat of the music starts, and this movie never stops with its frenetic and frantic pace. It's a visual cacophony of different and exciting images that run at you around every corner to build in your brain faster and faster until the end of the movie. Phew. Then your heart is still racing from the experience and you want to see it again. 
Run Lola Run is three films in one. Yet, it's the same film time and time again. But it's vastly different in that only the characters are the same. The story hits you repeatedly and builds without repetition. Each time Lola runs past someone on the street, you learn something new; sometimes funny and perhaps quirky about that person, and all within a few seconds, so that by the end of the film, it has been a complete encounter. 
The basic story is that she is running to stop her boy friend from committing a crime. I'm sure I lost pounds just watching this girl run. She's beautiful and compelling. She's also hip and fit with red hair flying in the wind. A tight blue top reveals a white bra underneath, and her tight green pants flair at the bottom over black boots; definitely not running shoes. 
This is a film like no other. It's so original that I would recommend it to literally anybody who is willing to suspend his or her belief in a linear world. 
Run Lola Run is in German with subtitles, but you hardly need to read much dialogue before the images tell you the story. 

Written and Directed by Tom Tykwer

Starring: Franka Potente as Lola and Moritz Bleibtreu as Manni her boyfriend

"The secret is just to keep moving."
-Franka Potente

Critic Quote:
"It delivers everything great foreign films should - action, sex, compelling characters, clever filmmaking, it's unpretentious (a requirement for me) and it has a story you can follow. I can't rave about this film enough - this is passionate filmmaking at it's best. One of the best foreign films, heck, one of the best films I have seen."
- Chris Gore

Mar 28, 2010

Thanks Billy Bishop or whoever you were.

“Ever trust your future to a drunken conversation in a bar?”
That was a line from a brilliant play we just saw, “Billy Bishop Goes to War,” about Canadian, World War One flying ace William A. Bishop. 
The line hit home, because when I was 19 years old, I did trust my future to a conversation in a bar. Drunken or not, I’m not sure. It was in 1968. My family and I had recently moved half way around the globe from England to Vancouver. We had been looking for a local pub, (there’s one on every corner in England) but we didn’t find one near our new Vancouver home. However, we did find a Royal Canadian Legion. My mother had been in the English services, so we joined.
One evening, after a long day of working at a job I wasn’t particularly enjoying, my mother and I went for a beer at the legion to discuss our situation. Since moving to Vancouver a few months earlier, neither of us were finding the work we aspired to, or wanted. I had apprenticed and had been a photographer in England, and I was looking for a job in the profession where I could build a career. I just wasn’t finding it in Vancouver.
During the evening of beers and conversation, I was introduced to a Toronto man who was visiting Vancouver on business. We talked about the world and business, and he told me of how some people use other people for connections to get ahead in the world. Modern day networking. So I asked the question: “Do you know anyone in the photography or film business in Toronto?” He proceeded to tell me about a friend of his who worked at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Jobs for photographers and cameramen were posted on the jobs board all the time. He suggested that I take a trip to Toronto, talk to his friend and look at the board.
Following another family chat, I found myself on a flight bound for Toronto, and it wasn’t long before I was chatting with this man’s friend at the CBC.  “Yes.” he told me, there are were many jobs in my profession, and that I should go and register at the CBC employment office. 
With my background, education and training, it wasn’t long before I was accepted at the CBC in a foot-in-the-door job as an office junior.  It took me another two years to finally find my way around the CBC and land the career of a lifetime; first as an assistant cameraman on TV dramas and documentaries, later as a cinematographer.  They sent me around the world filming at the far reaches of humanity, and to the great capitals where I participated in the high life. I also became the youngest Director of Photography on major CBC TV dramas. When I was 36, I left the CBC to become a freelance director of photography and director, until I side-stepped the profession to start my own production business in 2002.
“Ever trust your future to a drunken conversation in a bar?” That line from “Billy Bishop Goes to War” was very much about my experience. I did trust my future to a conversation in a bar when I was 19 years old, and strangely, the Royal Canadian Legion where my life was changed, was the Billy Bishop Branch 176 in Kitsilano Beach, Vancouver.
I never saw that man again, but I knew what it was all about when I read the following saying: 
“People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.  
When someone enters your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have.  They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually.  They may seem like a godsend; and they are.  They are there for the reason you need them to be.  Then, without any wrong doing on either part, you may never see this person again.  What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled;  their work is done.  
When people come into your life for a SEASON, it is because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn.  They may bring you an experience, or make you laugh.  They may teach you something you have never done.  They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.  Believe it!  It is real!  But, only for a season.
LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons; those things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation.  Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person/people (anyway);  and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.  It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.”

Mar 22, 2010

It's the Circle of Life, Davy.

I was sad to hear of the death of actor, winemaker, real-estate tycoon Fess Parker this past week. As an actor, he played a hero of mine back in the 1950s, and I expect many Boomers will remember him, not for being an actor, which he did exceptionally well, but for embodying the spirit of a movie hero and icon; Davy Crockett.

Which reminds me of a recent experience that reinforced the Circle of Life for me. This is when something, instigated many years before, can come back around to tap you on the shoulder later in life. Well, I had one of those experiences about three years back, and it was instigated by the 1955 Walt Disney movie, "Davy Crockett."

In 1955, I was a boy of six. We lived in Montreal and the fad that was circulating North America at the time was based on the film and the TV series: “Davy Crockett – King of the Wild Frontier.”

First there was the song:

Born on a mountain top in Tennessee,
Greenest state in the land of the free.
Raised in the woods so he knew every tree,
Killed him a B’ar (bear) when he was only three.
Davy, Davy Crockett King of the Wild Frontier.

We all learned the words and everyone in my school wanted to be Davy Crockett, with a raccoon-skin hat, buckskin clothes and the blunderbuss rifle. Even the kids in the neighborhood dressed like him, but I had my eyes set on something different. Every day when my mother walked me to school in Ville Saint-Laurent, the suburb where we lived, we would pass a certain shop and the only thing in the shop window was a puppet; a marionette of Davy Crockett hanging for all to see. Everyday I would stare at this marionette with it’s little coon-skin hat and buckskin clothes and a small, plastic guitar. I loved the idea of show business. Yes, even back then. This puppet was for me.

However, real life began to over take our family, as my parents were splitting up. And not long after, my Mother sent me to live in England with my grandparents. All was strange and I really didn’t know my grandparents. But that soon changed. When I opened my suitcase, can you imagine my eyes when I saw the Davy Crockett puppet my mother had bought for me?

"Who's that?" my grandfather asked.
"Davy," I replied.
And I started to sing the song.

“Born on a mountain top in Tennessee.
Greenest state in the land of the free.
Raised in the woods so he knew every tree,
Killed him a B’ar (bear) when he was only three.
Davy, Davy Crockett King of the Wild Frontier. “

My grandfather stopped me, “Bar?” he said.
“He killed him a bar? Does that mean he was drinking at a bar at the age of three?”
“I think it means he killed a bear,” I replied.
“Killed a bear? At three? Bear, bar. Silly Americans,” he said.

Now, jump forward fifty-two years into the future, to 2007, when I lived in Studio City, California. I was invited to a business luncheon where the Association of Fundraising Professionals were having their annual National Philanthropy Day. I go to many business luncheons, so this was another rubber-chicken lunch for me. As a matter of fact, it was at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, so the chicken had bounced many times on the way to my plate.

I was trying to stomach eating when the Master of Ceremonies started to talk about himself. His name was Bill Hayes. He was a TV soap opera actor. But then he talked about his early career and this sparked my interest. He was a young session singer and musician in Hollywood back in 1955, and during a recording session, a producer raced into the studio and said:

“Hey, Bill, please record this song. No one else wants to record it and it may become a hit. It’s for Disney.”

He did record it (one take) and it became a huge hit. The name of the song was “Davy Crockett - King of the Wild Frontier”.

Well, I was in awe of Bill Hayes. I remembered the song our whole Montreal neighborhood had sung, and I went up to him at the end of the program and shook his hand.

“Mr Hayes,” I said. “I just want to thank you for being such a significant part of my life as a kid.”

I told him that I tried to teach my English grandparents to sing his song, and that he had made quite the impression on me. He was very gracious. But I did notice him looking at me as if to say, "You don’t look much younger than me."

When I got home that night, I reached into an old storage case and dug out my Davy Crockett marrionette/puppet. He has been my mascot all my life. I sat him on my desk top and the weathered, old doll began to play the song that I had sung as a six year old. Those words that Bill Hayes had sung back in 1955, introducing Fess Parker as Davy Crockett.

“Born on a mountain top in Tennessee.
Greenest state in the land of the free.
Raised in the woods so he knew every tree,
Killed him a B’ar (bear) when he was only three.
Davy, Davy Crockett King of the Wild Frontier. “

Sometimes the “Circle of Life” comes right back to pat you on the back fifty years on, to say, “Hello, old friend, remember me?”

I'm sure the death of Actor Fess Parker this week was a sad moment for all of us Baby Boomers whose lives touched that era of Davy Crockett so intimately, those many years ago.

“Davy was an interesting thing to live with.”
- Fess Parker

"Fame is like a shaved pig with a greased tail, and it is only after it has slipped through the hands of some thousands, that some fellow, by mere chance, holds on to it."
- Davy Crockett

"Never let the facts get in the way of telling a good story."
- Walt Disney