Monday, September 20, 2010

Elvis Is In the Building!

Well, he will be... Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday... four different concerts, one hugely entertaining experience!

Just in case there's any confusion - this is not actually Elvis. It's an incredible Elvis impersonator/tribute artist named Stephen Kabakos. But the show isn't just Stephen dressed in white jumpsuits and black leather jackets. He travels with a full band, back-up singers, and a seeming trunk full of scarves to hand out to the fans. I am so looking forward to this! And I hope you have your tickets, because there's one seat left for the Saturday night now (one!) and not many left for the other two evenings... still some good seats for the matinee show.

Plus, we are having three "Southern Comfort Suppers", before each of the evening performances, with a few of Elvis' favourite foods, including banana pudding - southern style. That means 'nilla wafers on the bottom, custard, fresh sliced bananas, topped with baked meringue. I lived in the US South for a few years - actually was living there when Elvis died - and fell in love with the crazy desserts they (used to) make there, including peanut butter pie, Lady Baltimore cake and banana pudding.

If you're interested in good home cookin' followed by great entertainment, please call our box office at 613.395.2100 or toll-free 1.877.312.1162 for more information and tickets.

So I have to tell you about living in northern Florida, practically Georgia, definitely deep south, the summer Elvis died. But I should preface my story by saying I'm an Elvis fan - I like most of his music, love his gospel singing, and certainly have enjoyed watcing his movies because they were fun bits of light entertainment - but I am not inclined by nature to be a FAN! - of anyone really; I think I'm just too Canadian for that. So the reaction of the world around me to the news that Elvis had died actually took me by surprise.

All the local tv and radio stations ran endless bulletins about the latest news. His music was played pretty much non-stop on most of the radio stations for the first few hours, even days, after his death. I knew grown women who cried buckets when they first heard, and again for weeks afterwards whenever his name came up. It was very personal for them.

I have to admit, at first I chuckled a little bit, but then I began to wonder if maybe I was missing the boat somehow. Not about Elvis himself, although he was a remarkable entertainer, and he was certainly going to be missed by a lot of people for the joy his work brought to them. No, I began to think that there was something special about the community that being a FAN! can create and make you part of. Certainly the people I knew or met who were most affected by his death seemed to gather great comfort from the stories and experiences they shared with other fans around them.

There have always been people in show business, in literature, in politics, even in journalism whom I have admired, but until that summer, I had never written a fan letter, never looked for a fan club to join. Never even looked to my group of personal friends to see if they shared any of my deep interests in certain people and their work. It was Elvis and his fans, the people who didn't know him except through his music, but who mourned his loss deeply and personally, who got me to thinking about being a better fan. Maybe not a FAN! - remember, I am very Canadian - but at least someone who wants to say thank you to those performers and others who have touched my life somehow.

That's when I started writing fan letters. Oh, not many of them, a few. And I missed some along the way. I never wrote to David Niven, not as an actor (although I do like his films) but as a writer - I adore his memoirs and his novel "Go Slowly, Come Back Quickly" - and then he died. And a couple of times, I've made phone calls. To broadcast journalists, especially when I was working as one, they were the easiest to do. And you'd be surprised how imporant those calls were.

Ned Potter, formerly of ABC News, did a story about farming which I thought was incredibly good. So I called ABC News in New York right then. Just picked up the phone and called. And he was there, in the newsroom! Someone else answered the phone first, and after I'd given my name & explained why I was calling - just to say congrats for a really well-done story - she put Ned on the phone. I could tell he was prepared to be defensive when he got on the line, but 10 seconds into my little spiel, he relaxed, and we had a great chat for 4 or 5 minutes, ending with his profuse thanks for calling with a compliment!

And that sort of cemented for me how imporant being a fan is, especially when you make the opportunity to tell the person whose work you admire about the way you feel. Now, I'm not recommended throwing yourself, or your underthings, at them on stage. But a nice note or card... some personal message... that's pretty cool. And it will be appreciated.

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