Archive for the celebrity Category

Memories of A Stagehand #1

Posted in celebrity, Memories of a Stagehand with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 11, 2014 by theEARLofSWIRL

I worked for several years as a Stagehand, Sound Engineer, and Follow-Spot Operator at the Chatham Cultural Centre. More than a few celebrities came through and performed there; between them, and the multitude of inept amateurs, I’ve collected some amusing stories. Full credit is due to Mike LeBrain for his most excellent suggestion I tell them here, after a discussion on his amazin’ blog about concert contract riders.
#1“Only The Pure Of Heart”

Voulez-Vous Avec Moi Ce Soir

ERNIE “MR DRESSUP” COOMBS toured quite often in our area, and he was a joy to work for. Some children’s performers copped an attitude because they considered what they did a public service or “higher calling” (e.g. Sharon, Louis, & Bram) as if the table upon table of merch in the lobby didn’t show their real motives.  But not Ernie, he was down-to-earth and humble about his luck in being able to earn a good living doing what he enjoyed so much.

The first time he was scheduled when I was there, we were sternly lectured by the administrator about being polite, and neatly dressed in our new, official polo shirts. We practically stood at attention as an old station wagon, pulling a small trailer, rolled up to the door. Ernie and his son, who acted as road manager, climbed out and approached us. “You boys the crew? Pleasure to meet you!” Completely un-assuming in a plaid shirt and jeans, and puffing on a cigar. We started  emptying the trailer, only took a few minutes before we saw it; The Tickle Trunk! there it was, wrapped in an old blanket. Carried it in and placed it on the stage. Now, in his contract rider, he had specified that only “Clean-Shaven, Morally Upright Young Men” could directly handle his props. As the new guy, I had been the subject of much ribbing, that some type of “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” situation would occur. As if the trunk would pop open, sensing my impure thoughts, and I would melt into a waxy puddle.

“We just did a few shows in Quebec, so you could say it’s now the French Tickler Trunk !” Ernie said with a twinkle in his eye. We all laughed, and his son quipped  “We might have to get Casey to sing Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir  to convince it to open!”  While we continued setting up, it was explained to me that the reason for the oddly strict rider was to make sure, through the office grapevine, we were on our best behavior.  From years of touring, Mr Coombs knew what stagehands and roadies were like, and wanted his reputation protected.  He didn’t want the kids exposed to any swearing, or lewd t-shirts, or alcohol-and-other-substances on the breath of anyone perceived as working for him.  Thoroughly professional ethos;  NOTHING interfered with the show.  We booked Mr Dressup a few more times, and the ribald humor during set-up, over headsets during the show, and tear-down afterwards, got dirtier and dirtier. But no Mommies ever had a reason to complain.




Posted in celebrity, Electronic Musicians, music and art with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2014 by theEARLofSWIRL

We lost someone very special in Canadian Music this week. Jeff Plewman, A.K.A. NASH THE SLASH died, taking with him a uniqueness that deserved far greater acclaim in today’s sterile Beiber-ized pop landscape.


He was a HUGE influence on me, showing that a solo electronic performer could do so much alone and still ROCK; he broke the barrier of using (at the time despised) Drum Machines, he’d create a textured sound with a few devices that could serve as a shimmering backdrop for his Violin and Mandolin virtuosity, and using simple costume, light effects and slide shows, created an eerie environment that transported you along with his otherworldly music. He started his own Independent record label, and built a successful multi-album career, totally without any Government grants!! Only person to ever release a vinyl album (“Decomposing” –so clever) that could be played at any speed (‘tho playing at 16 r.p.m. only suitable for acid hangovers)

First saw him performing on NIGHTMUSIC, a 1970’s late-night TVOntario program that featured uniquely Canadian bands way WAY before MuchMusic. Alt-music fans of today have NO IDEA how special that was, in the days before remotes & 500 channel digital, sitting on the floor right up to the screen, with the sound down low so as not to ssssh! wake the family!!
In addition to playing with Cameron Hawkins as duo FM, NASH performed solo, musically interpreting the abstract art of his friends Rob Vanderhorst & Paul Till, and also doing a soundtrack to Salvador Dali’s 1928 film “Un Chien Andalou”
(also performed to special live screenings of that film at the ROXY theatre, and I still insist he originated performing live music to silent BW movies – he did “Metropolis” YEARS before QUEEN did) Through him and NIGHTMUSIC I discovered David Pritchard’s NOCTURNAL EARTHWORM STEW, a seminal Canadian electronica album, and another NIGHTMUSIC performer with SLASH . BTW; also saw Joe Hall & the Continental Drift on that show, another HUGELY under-appreciated Canadian act.

ImageA friend of mine had the special treat of seeing him play violin in early prog-rock band BREATHLESS at the Canadian National Exhibition way back in the early 70’s. After he did a solo, he tossed his violin in the air and had it explode, presaging the pyrotechnic performances that would be his trademark, long before many other acts would get the actual credit for (CURVED AIR e.g.). Chainsawing his instruments, a skull-shaped electric mandolin that spewed blood, and his “Invisible Man” costume helped me turn even the most die-hard metalhead into a fan.
Saw him many times at THE EDGE, another lost Canadian Musical Heritage landmark. I convinced a date that his Valentine’s Day Show counted as “romantic”, but was left to enjoy the show alone when it turned out to be projected images of the Valentine’s Day Massacre– alas, she never talked to me again. Later on, I worked at Sam the Record Scam’s warehouse with his lyricist John a.k.a. “Toby Dammit” and came to know his brother, who owned a Classical record store in London, but never got to meet him personally.


I won’t say “rest in peace Nash”…. because if there were ever anyone that would come back from the hereafter to haunt us with his incredible music, IT. WILL. BE. HIM.!!

Andy Warhol’s Curse

Posted in celebrity, digital economy, music and art, popular culture with tags , , , , on February 10, 2011 by theEARLofSWIRL

The EARL of SWIRL in the style of Andy Warhol“In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes”

Andy’s words were never interpreted as the threat they truly represented. Today we see the awful consequences of them – a narcissistic, oblivious popular culture that lifts banality onto a pedestal, while belittling and dismissing those with true ability. Video games that give the user a false sense of accomplishment, brainwashing them to believe they can instantly possess skills it takes years to acquire. Television programs that create a cult of personality around people whose only ‘talent’ is obnoxious behaviour, training viewers to accept lying, conniving, & gossip as desirable traits.

It is now considered a normal situation that talented performers can only achieve a brief, transitory fame by submitting to a degrading contest where they are pitted against other hopefuls,  harshly judged by vacuous has-beens,  only for the sake of getting the public to  ‘vote’ by 1-900-BLEED-ME-DRY phone. Why can’t their talent simply be presented for viewers to enjoy, instead of this disgusting roman circus?

The economic engine that once supported music by selling records to young people has been supplanted by ringtones and downloads, that deprive the artists, while enriching the multinational telecommunications industry. Vinyl records and CDs created jobs, and a physical commodity that could be held,  listened to , and APPRECIATED. Today’s stream of digital phantoms employs only computers, and can be programmed to vanish, leaving nothing behind.

“Reality Television is people who aren’t actors, saying things written by people who aren’t writers… it’s like an amateur production of nothing,  or a photo of a drawing of a hologram”~Dana Gould

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