Love Me Tender

Love Me Tender

I recently saw “Elvis”; the movie by Baz Luhrmann. I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy it because I’ve been such a big Elvis fan my whole life. No one can really be that good. There is nothing worse than watching someone trying to capture the unattainable. Sitting through over two hours of a bad impersonation. I’ve got to say this movie surprised me. As it went along, I settled into the gloss of it all, and began to let go of the idea that Austin Butler doesn’t look like Elvis. No one looks like Elvis. Something incredible happened though. Despite this, by the end of the movie, I couldn’t tell if I was watching the actor or the real Elvis. He had managed to capture his magic, his persona, his electrical energy, his combustable sexuality and his dancing The dancing and singing is incredible. Elvis was the music. Every cell of his body vibrated with each song. I don’t think he thought about how he was moving. He just moved. Somehow Austin Butler nailed it. I highly recommend it for anyone who has loved Elvis.

This brings me to another Elvis. When I was growing up in the 1970’s there was a kid who started impersonating Elvis in the Subway stations in Toronto. He was 16 years old in 1970 and his name is Mike McTaggert. Later he would become “Subway Elvis”. I was too young to see him perform, and didn’t live downtown, but I’d heard about him from baby sitters and older relatives. One day my mum took my sister and I to the Canadian National Exhibition and we rode the Subway. I was 8 years old. The train screeched into the station and the packed cars spewed its passengers onto the platform where a sweaty guy with jet black hair wailed ” You ain’t nothing but a hound dog!” He was twitching and thrashing with his guitar and a massive group of people surrounded him and danced along. I was mesmerized. I had never witnessed anything so wild. My mum was laughing saying ” It’s young Elvis. My sister wanted a candy floss so I was dragged away but I never forgot seeing him

Subway Elvis – 1970

A few years later, in the summer, I went over to my friends apartment, which was exciting because I didn’t know anyone that lived in a big towering building like this, with elevators, a swimming pool and a gym. I was 11 years old. We played in her room for awhile trying to ditch her 6 year old sister but she was sticking to us like glue. Eventually the talk moved onto my encounter on the platform that one day with Subway Elvis. Now everyone knew who he was. There was a pause and then my friend told me that, none other than Michel McTaggert, lived in her building! We went down to the lobby and read the occupants names. We saw his apartment number and proceeded to go up to the 15th floor. We nervously lined up in the hallway in front of his door and eventually got the nerve up to knock. An older woman came and opened the door. It was Subway’s mum. We sheepishly said, “Is Subway home?” She smiled and said that Subway was down at the swimming pool but would be back in a little bit. We hung our heads and said thank you. I was devastated because I wanted to see him up close and personal. We got onto the elevator to head back up to her apartment and as our elevator door was closing the one opposite us opened to reveal a tall man with wet, jet black hair flipping it out of his eyes. He had a towel wrapped around his waist and a white robe with the collar turned up. He didn’t notice us as our door closed immediately. We started squealing and went back to her apartment waiting an agonizing fifteen minutes before we hopped back on the elevator up to the 15th floor. Once again we stood nervously in front of his door and knocked. We heard footsteps and suddenly the door was flung open. We stood there gasping for air. He was dressed in a black shirt with white stars on the lapels. He had on black slacks and black leather boots. He sneered a smile at us.

“Are you Subway?”, we asked. “Well, yes…. yes I am. Do you wanna come in?” We giggled and came into the apartment. It was a normal looking place with family photos on tables and little miniature dog statues amongst a display of fancy tea cups. There were floral paintings on the walls and it smelled like cookies. Subway told us to sit on the couch and we lined up quietly.

“How about a song or two?” We said, yes please, and he went to grab his guitar. He swaggered back in wielding his acoustic.

His mother yelled out from the kitchen, “Subway”… she called him Subway…. “play that song I love so much; when you walk through a storm”.

“Ahhhhh…. I”m not playing that! Mind your own business!” I was hoping he’d play Hound dog because it was my favourite. He started strumming and then wailed, “Since my baby left me! I found a new place to dwell…..” Heartbreak Hotel wasn’t exactly what we wanted but we sat quietly and clapped when he finished. He sounded so much like Elvis. His mum came in the living room and put a plate of cookies on the table for us and we all took one. Subway looked a little peeved but he shoved a cookie down anyway.

“OK girls… one more song. ” He started plucking slowly and started singing “love me tender, love me sweet, never let me go.” His lip was twitching and the 6 year old started to laugh. She couldn’t help it. We all started giggling in hysterics. I tried to hold it in and my eyes started watering. I have to give him credit for continuing on and leaning in to each and everyone of us doing his most sincere and best Elvis. When he finished we clapped again and then stood up.

He escorted us to the door and said, “Thank you …. thank you very much.”

We tore into the hallway screaming. It was the funniest thing we’d ever seen and it was torture sitting there when he was so serious, giving his all to these little goofy girls. What a nice man… or boy I guess.

It doesn’t end there. Subway upgraded to having a full band and playing in clubs around the city, so on my 25th birthday, I declared that I wanted to spend it with a bunch of screaming girls watching our favourite Elvis. We put on our best duds and headed out to sing along with the King of the impersonators. He didn’t disappoint and did his best to pull off some fancy foot work will reaching a hand to the sky, dropping down on one knee, sweat pouring off of him. He was into the jump suit phase. I never did see the real Elvis but thanks to Mike McTaggert I saw someone that looked nothing like him but sounded an awful lot like him. It was enough for me. I don’t know what happened to him and I imagine he doesn’t perform anymore. He must be in his mid 70’s by now, far out living his hero. I was at a show once with my in-laws, and partner, who are all musicians. It was a big show around Christmas. My father in law suddenly said , “Hey we should get Subway Elvis down here to do some songs!” We all thought that was an amazing idea. He called Mike and Mike hummed and hawed and said he didn’t have a car and couldn’t make it… we looked at each and said, if only there was some form of transportation he could take.



I had to leave home because my father wanted me to become a legal secretary after I graduated high school. I had never met anyone with that ambition. My father was of the ‘Mad Men” generation where you had a bar in your office and women in tight sweaters, and tight skirts in heels, sitting at little tiny desks pressing intercom buttons, “There’s a call for you sir”. Occasionally they would sashay into the office with more coffee and phone messages.

Why would he want me to be that?? Why not be the freaking lawyer??? ( not that I’d want that job either.)

In high school I went to parties and drank beer and smoked pot and crushed on boys who didn’t know my name. I had no ambition. I didn’t care about marks or subjects. I only cared about music and movies. That’s all. I snuck out of bed at night in my parents home to watch old Elvis Presley movies. I was in love with him. I was also in love with Paul McCartney; neither of whom would ever cross my path.

My first big concert was The Faces with Rod Stewart. They were fantastically wild with great musicianship; probably drunk, and yes, I fell in love with Rod Stewart that night. He was gritty and glamorous at the same time. Long scarves caressing the tops of his jeans with a little bit of exposed belly as he threw his microphone stand high into the rafters and it twirled like a cheer leaders baton. That love lasted for as long as he was with The Faces. I stopped loving him when he decided to go solo in leopard tights and dyed blonde hair and bad makeup. “Do you think I’m Sexy?” No. I don’t. I never stopped loving Elvis or Paul McCartney though.

I sang in a really bad band called “Image” and we played cover tunes at high school dances. I got my hair permed and somehow it came out in the shape of a triangle; not unlike Rosanne Rosannnadanna. It was hideous and I wore a hat for months until it finally relaxed and grew out. I smoked cigarettes and drank rye and ginger. It was very popular. To this day I cannot tolerate the smell of rye because my throat automatically closes. I must have puked up enough rye to fill the Mississippi River.

I was not a child of the fifties but a product of the sixties and a teenager in the ’70’s. I couldn’t have been farther removed from my parents. They had no idea who I was.

In college I extended my cigarette smoking to the classroom. I had the coolest professor on campus who sported a blonde afro and taught his class in an orange shagged conversation pit. The school was built in the early 1960’s. He smoked endless cigarettes and sipped coffee and so did I. He talked about recorded audio and its techniques in a very conversational way that was not exactly understandable to me; partly because I was an undiagnosed dyslexic, but I understood and embraced his enthusiasm. I was studying film and television and all things related.

I was also going to bars as much as possible to hear live music blasting from huge speakers while sweaty singers twitched all over the stage… sometimes puking, in the case of Frankie Venom. I loved Teenage Head. They played my college and Frankie Venom climbed into the rafters of the cafeteria, hanging above the kids like a bat, while pasty, spotty nerds, in campus security uniforms, scrambled around below yelling into their walkie talkies all at once, “Alert! He’s in the raftors! Alert he’s in the rafters! Copy that!”

I loved The Ramones, The Velvet Underground, The New York Dolls and went downtown to Larry’s Hideaway where the bar smelled like B.O. and puke and beer. The washroom smelled like rancid semen. It was a dump but it booked the best punk bands at the time. Locals and imports. The Viletones, The Diodes, The Cramps, The Cult, Circle Jerks…. They were all fantastic. It was such a scene back then. I did not pogo. I stood on the sidelines watching kids bounce up and down and off of each other while I smoked, trying not to burn someone’s hair or torch a ripped tee-shirt. I gingerly stubbed out my butts on the cement floor with the pointy red toe of my mother’s curling boots that screamed punk to me and pissed off my mother.

I lived in a townhouse with eight other kids. We had a dark room in our closet and beer in our fridge. We stayed up all night listening to music when we weren’t out watching bands. I had an intellectual boyfriend with a large collection of albums that were placed in a specific order. This order only made sense to him since it involved the year produced, by whom, band name, label… etc. He introduced me to Harry Nilson and Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Louden Wainwright 111 and Marshall Crenshaw who penned a song called “Cynical Girl”, which I swear was written about me at the time. I was fortunate enough to get a part time job at “Records On Wheels”, which lead me to labels like Stiff Records and Elvis Costello and The Attractions, Nick Lowe, The Damned. It opened up a whole new scene of music for me.

There were only two times in my life where I was really effected by the death of an artist. The first was Elvis. He died on my sister’s birthday, August 16th, 1977. I was obsessed with him at that age. I even had his name written on my jeans like all good compulsive and obsessive teenagers. All of my friends knew how much I loved him. I was teased constantly but I held strong to my daydreams of being reborn into another lifetime where I was Elvis’s girlfriend. I was devastated when he died. I took my little AM radio to bed and I cried all night long listening to stations playing him over and over again, “Do you miss me tonight, are you sorry we drifted apart?”

The other; was the night John Lennon was shot. I was in my apartment at college and we were supposed to go out. I was still in my pink fuzzy onesie when the news broke. My room mates and I all turned on the television and to our horror found out he was dead. It didn’t seem possible. It does now…. because it’s been so long ago, but then… it was incomprehensible. How could a Beatle be dead? How could John never ever record again? His album “Double Fantasy” was just coming out. Other students started assembling in our apartment and we just sat in silence and cried. We would smoke some pot and chat and then go silent again. I will always remember the shock and horror and feeling that nothing would ever be the same. Music had died somehow that night.

But I was wrong.

As the years have passed I think about all the things that shaped my life and music has always defined the times for me. I wonder if on March 26, 1857 young people were devastated to hear the news that Beethoven had died? Probably took a couple of years for the news to reach them.

I remember when I heard the news that Kurt Cobain died and I think that hit close to a latter day generations John Lennon.

Who will define this generation musically?

Who is their Elvis and John Lennon?

2 responses to “ONE TWO THREE FOUR!”

  1. Anne Beadle Avatar
    Anne Beadle

    Love this – so many parallels to my own life especially musically. No love for Elvis but Paul McCartney will always be my favourite Beatle.


  2. Dimitri Avatar

    Lovely stories. Thanks for sharing! More please:-)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

2 responses to “ONE TWO THREE FOUR!”

  1. Anne Beadle Avatar
    Anne Beadle

    Love this – so many parallels to my own life especially musically. No love for Elvis but Paul McCartney will always be my favourite Beatle.


  2. Dimitri Avatar

    Lovely stories. Thanks for sharing! More please:-)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

2 responses to “ONE TWO THREE FOUR!”

  1. Anne Beadle Avatar
    Anne Beadle

    Love this – so many parallels to my own life especially musically. No love for Elvis but Paul McCartney will always be my favourite Beatle.


  2. Dimitri Avatar

    Lovely stories. Thanks for sharing! More please:-)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

The new world

The new world

I have not written anything in quite some time, mostly because there is not a lot happening.  My weekly zoom calls on the weekends have dwindled because the last few have been filled with long pauses and too many refills of whatever cocktail I’ve invented that day.    Life is different these days; being confined to our farm for months.  I feel fortunate that I live where I do because I’ve had the freedom to walk outside, through the woods and the pastures and not see a single person, unlike my friends in the city, who have been holed up in small apartments and houses that border neighbors on each side. 

Some of the things I miss the most are concerts with friends, dancing to live music, dinner parties and just hanging out a local pub.  It’s funny how we take so much for granted.

Wearing a mask has now become a normal thing for me and I won’t go into a public space without one.  Being aware of my personal space is heightened.  The equally and precisely spaced lines to enter grocery and liquor stores are straight out of science fiction movies; “Soilent Green is people!!!!”

I also enjoy traveling the world and I am not sure when I will be able to board a plane to the U.K. again, which is a favorite destination.

There are still things I am grateful for.   I am grateful for the technology that allows me to see my pal laying on her bed, covered in animals, talking about whether or not to let the grey hair take over…. Or whether she should pluck that pesky moustache. I am also grateful for the assistance we’ve received from the government to survive without fear of losing our home.  I am grateful that no one in my family has died from the virus.I am grateful for my amazing pets who are thrilled with the fact that we are home all the time.

As I prepare myself for going back to work,  I have some trepidations, and a bit of fear, but also excitement in getting back to a new normal.  I’ve missed the interactions with all the creative, smart and kind people that I work with.   I’ve missed working my brain.  Netflix can no longer satisfy me and I’ve reread most of my favourite books. 

I’ve made an appointment with my hair dresser and that is also scaring me.  I don’t know what direction to go… in terms of colour and cut.  After not having the luxury for so long, I am starting to embrace the obvious grey rootage that has grabbed the top of my head like a skeleton hand with long bony fingers.  I’ve googled different types of grey and hombre’s; starting very dark and ending in white wispy ends.  My colourist has always done whatever he wants even when I have brought in specific photos for him to duplicate on my head.  Luckily for me he is a genius and I have never walked out disappointed.  I dread the eye roll when I tell him I’m thinking of embracing the grey only because it seems to be the new “thing”. 

I’ve somehow walked a tight rope of long- haired hippy and chopped off punk cuts over the years.  When I am feeling really laid back I am into peasant dresses and long hair and when I am feeling more creative and aggressive I lean towards edgy hair that makes a statement. 

I’m just not sure where I am right now… hence the fear.  I wonder if there is a lazy and bored; “I can’t get my ass off of the couch”, look. 

As we slowly come back out of our houses I hope that it is done slowly and with caution.  If we simply jump back into the old way of doing things then we will all  be back in lock down.

Anyone who refuses to wear a mask and physically distance, because it is an infringement on their rights, should stop wearing seatbelts in cars and helmets on bikes because those are also rules set in place to save your life. 

I used to say that I don’t judge people but if you are that stupid then I am going to judge you.

When I think of my life so far I realize that I have not lived through two world wars like my parents and grandparents.  I have not lived through a great depression or prohibition but I will be able to say that I lived through the pandemic of 2020.  

Stay strong  and  play safe everyone. 



I could post my most influential albums over the years but everyone is doing that on Facebook.  A lot of musicians are offering live concerts to keep us entertained during this freak show but it just isn’t the same as going to a club or festival where you are in a throng of people who are all energized by the music; dancing and jumping with excitement where electricity is in the air;  instead it’s the smell of recently fried bacon, grilled cheese and farts while you are reclined on your sinking couch.   I watched amateurs offering up karaoke versions of their favourite songs.   This has led me to believe that everyone in the world has an ‘effing brilliant voice.  A wealth of untapped talent.  People who are too afraid to perform in front of a live audience; have jobs; kids, or simply shelved their dreams, are suddenly hosting live stream concerts, within the comforts of their own home, and are knocking it out of the park.  Of course, not everyone is brilliant, but I do enjoy seeing a middle-aged man belting out Tom Jones in his basement under a disco ball.  Now that is entertainment.   

People are also constantly going outside and plugging in guitars to entertain their neighbors with the one riff they know; the intro to “A Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin.  I’m threatening to go sit out on my porch and play the spoons; unaccompanied for a few hours; over a speaker. 

Fortunately for me, I live in the country so I am not sandwiched in by idiots who don’t understand the meaning of social distancing.  It drives me nuts at the grocery store when someone enters my space ,during normal times , but it is dangerous right now, especially for them, and I’m not talking about the virus.  It is  because I took self defense 35 years ago.  I think you get my meaning.  Hands like fire… or was it concrete… anyway, I’m not someone to be crossed during an epidemic. 

I think the worst part of all of this is the boredom.  I have watched all of Netflix and I’m making my way through Amazon Prime and Crave.  My friends and I have done the Zoom meetings where we all drink fancy cocktails and pass out on our computers before the session ends.  I’ve also done the family Zoom get togethers, where we haven’t quite figured out the talking one at a time thing, and I am always transfixed on how hideous I look. 

Moving on to my hair.  I was delusional thinking my natural hair colour was blonde.  My natural hair colour is apparently grey.   I’ve been sporting red hair for a couple of years now and, it’s a tough one to maintain, especially during a lock down, thus letting my hair grow out is a bit of a luxury.  I don’t have that beautiful white or silver root-age, mine is more of the squeezed out Brillo Pad variety.  Part of me is gleeful to bring it on because my partner is now sporting a full grey beard.  He has the Covid play-offs beard and refuses to shave it.  So my revenge is to gradually turn into my mother.  I will, however, draw the line at the tight pin-curled perm that she embraced. On the beard/moustache front, I am determined to not pluck my facial hair in an effort to see who can grow a full on Burt Reynolds before this is over.

And lastly, moving onto drinking and eating.  When we first went into isolation I was determined to make a different cocktail every night.  I was doing so well I gave myself heart burn, waking up each night like a fire breathing dragon.  I decided I should switch to wine but when we started demolishing the king-size party bottle every night I knew we needed to take a break.  So, we switched to beer, and ,after a week and a half, I could no longer get my pants zipped up.   

I’m now comfortable in sleepwear all day long, but sometimes, I change to loungewear, which is fancier, but still stretchy.  A few days ago, I succumbed to the realization that “drying out” is probably a good idea and eating like I’m at a baseball game every night should also stop.

I’m moving into my Covid healthy phase which means eating veggies and clean meat and low sugar. If I can just get through one day. I have to quiet the voice in my head that says, “Who gives a shit, nobody is going to see you for months! Pass the bloody chips and that pitcher of Brown Cows!!”

Soon the weather will become warm enough to put in my garden and set up my pool and both of these things are obsessing my thoughts.    One gives me a return on my hard work with fresh vegetables, and the other satisfies my need to float.

I hope you are all managing in isolation and I know that mental health plays a large part in getting  through this bizarre futuristic science fiction bullshit.  Try not to lose your sense of humour and stay connected with people in any way you can.  There will come a day when you are hugging someone and thinking, “Deodorant might be a good idea.”

Stay safe everyone.  Big virtual hugs.  Thanks for reading.




We are in a very bizarre Science Fiction B Movie right now and the entire world has been cast.

Slowly, we realized that this virus was spreading as fast as the news could cover it.  Each country handling things in their own bumbling way… never actually having to deal with something like this in the modern world, we are all on a Petrie dish under a microscope.  There are a lot of reasons governments handle things differently; some are thinking the truth would cause panic and others are only interested in the economy tanking.

I feel fortunate to be in Canada cause my government is actually giving money to people who are unable to work right now and increasing bonuses for families with children.  They are also allowing self -employed individuals, like musicians and entertainers who are normally not allowed assistance, to receive it.  Banks are suspending mortgage payments and hopefully credit cards are suspending payments without penalties.  I’m not sure about that one yet.  Everyone who is not still working is in isolation.  The streets are empty and the grocery stores are starting to have specific short hours.

No matter where you are in the world you have probably noticed the insane rush to buy up all the toilet paper that exists on the planet.  This one confuses me because the virus does not cause diarrhea.  If we are in our houses so long that we run out of T.P.  then go out and buy some, like a normal day, or use a towel for god’s sake and wash it.  Go out and take a crap in the backyard, drag your ass on the grass like the dog and then baggie it.  Seeing people fighting over toilet paper is ridiculous.

Also, embrace the fact that if you are venturing out to buy necessary staples, you will see some of the most inventive home- made Hazmat Suits EVER;  which are mostly comprised of garbage bags and gaffer tape, rubber dish washing gloves and balaclavas, surgical masks,  or scarves tied around faces.  You just can’t buy comedy like that.    It is a feast for the eyes.

Try not to lose your sense of humor during all of this.  Yes, it is daunting to be locked in your house with your partner and children.  I’ve only been in the house for a short time with my partner and I already know that I should hide the axe.  It’s starting to feel a bit like The Shining and we are only shy of two weeks in isolation. I’ve been wearing the same clothes for four days now… they are called pajamas.

My mate in England said, “I used to cough to hide a fart and now I fart to hide a cough.”  I thought that was a good one.

The one positive thing I’m noticing is the incredible connection to people.  The absolute greatness of humanity at times like this.  People trying to help others in lock down around the world with jokes and stories and caring about those that are suffering from anxiety.

I have never been a huge fan of social media but honestly I am so grateful to be part of it now.

The out pouring of love is palpable.  I’ve been talking to people in England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Spain, Sri Lanka, Canada, America and just about everywhere you can think of.  I know that we will survive and my hope is that this changes our world.  It has already helped the planet in terms of shutting down factories and mass production and  taking cars off the road.  The pollution levels are down and animals are returning to places that they have not been due to humans over populating their space for years.  It is like Mother Nature has finally decided to punish her inhibitors because we have been such bad children and never listened to her pleas to change the way we do things. Now we are being forced to.

It is making people slow down and spend time at home with their loved ones.  I feel horrible for people that are separated and especially seniors who are in homes and in lock down and don’t understand why.  Its just awful.  I am so grateful for those health care workers on the front lines who are fearlessly returning to work every day in an effort to keep us safe and alive.  They are heroes. I am grateful for anyone who is still out there working. My job is not happening. My industry has shut down and all of my partners tours and shows have been canceled. It is a bit scary with no income but we will survive this. We know there are so many people out there in the same boat. Anxiety never helped anyone. Listen to good music and dance in your house; play music and watch some good movies and do anything that makes you relax.

Another friend of mine put things into perspective for me when he said, “Imagine our grandparents and parents being called off to war…leaving their families and knowing that they are putting their lives on the line and may never come home.  We are being asked to sit on our couches and watch Netflix.  We can get through this.”

So, I’m on the couch and working my way through Netflix, sipping on wine and occasionally checking in for updates on the news. 

Hanging out with my parrot and cat and goats is not a punishment.  Trying to keep my sanity and my sense of humor.  There are a ton of musicians streaming live shows on the internet so there is no lack of great entertainment. 

Please don’t be an idiot and make things worse by socializing and going to places where crowds of people could be congregating.  Take this seriously.  The world wouldn’t be shutting down if this were not serious.  If you think it is a conspiracy or a hoax then I feel sorry for you because that means you are not helping in containing this virus and will most likely get it and spread it to those that you love, so don’t be an A-Hole; please just stay home if you can.  If you follow the guidelines and still get the virus I hope that you have a speedy recovery and do not end up a victim. 

We are all in this together.  You are not alone wherever you are. 

Big hugs to anyone who needs one right now. 

Stay safe and healthy and this will all pass.


The Crown

The Crown

I never know what is going to inspire me fashion wise these days and sometimes I am surprised.

I just finished watching every episode of The Crown and the Queen does not. I think her rule for fashion has always been  “never offend”, unlike her sister Margaret who wore the most expensive and fashionable designs of the day.  Not having the scrutiny that her older sister had to tolerate, combined with a need to get out of the shadow of her sister, the Queen, she sought out the best and finest designs to make her stand out.  Her beehive hairdo’s with gorgeous feathery hats and mod  sunglasses captured a nation. I always thought that Princess Diana was the one who brought fashion to the Royals but I was wrong. She was not the first.

Princess Margaret
Princess Margaret in the Bahamas

Hair and makeup final touches on the set of The Crown

Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret on the set of The Crown

 Princess Diana brought an entirely new and fresh look to the palace.

Catherine Walker’s “Elvis dress” at the British Fashion Awards

Princess Diana captured the hearts of fashion designers everywhere.  Every girl wanted the Lady Di haircut.  Her sense of style and glamour was apparent in everything she did.   She was tall and thin and each outfit became an instant headline.

Bruce Oldfield silver lame dress at the Premiere of “A View To A Kill” 1985
Victor Edelstein gown for The White House visit 1985

It is sad to read later, that Diana literally starved herself so that she could look amazing in all those gowns. She was young and insecure and was desperate to make a good impression. Well… she did… but she would have anyway because of her determination to live an authentic life amongst an empire steeped in rules and traditions.

A beautiful soul and mum who seemed to be finally making her own way in the spotlight beyond the palace when her life was tragically cut short. Who knows how much more she would have accomplished.

Kate Middleton, her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge, is not shy when it comes to colour and fashion and has developed her own style.


I love love love this Gucci dress! It is perfect in my opinion. The flattering capped sleeves with the illusion of being off the shoulder in a soft pink and burgundy .

Elie Saab dress/ Phillip Treacy hat at the 2019 Royal Ascot

Not easy to pull off; the huge hat or royal fascinator, but I think Kate nails it with this whimsical blue polka dot dress and matching blue hat. It is a vintage look that I would not be surprised to see at the Kentucky Derby.

Oscar de la Renta

It takes confidence to wear this vibrant purple coat and Kate definitely has it. She also must have an amazing tailor or the coat was made for her. I don’t think I have ever had a coat fit as perfectly as this one does her.

Alexander McQueen on St. Paddy’s Day

I would say the fitted coat is her signature look. How many times have I lunged for my glass of wine in a fitted jacket or waist coat and exploded the arm pit? Too many. I bet she’s never done that.

If I were a member of the Royal family the paparazzi would have a field day with me running out in some crappy sweats and a ball cap probably in search of ice cream… I guess I’d just have to order someone to “GO GET ME A CONE!!! IMMEDIATELY!”

Finally, her Royal Highness; the Queen. Growing up as part of the Commonwealth I remember singing “God Save The Queen” at the start of every school day. Her portrait was always there in the school hallways and classrooms. I wasn’t sure exactly what she did but I did know that she was important and loved and part of my life as a Canadian. My grandparents were from the U.K. and most of my Aunts and Uncles were born there. My father and mother were both born in Canada. My father talked about the Queens’ address on Christmas day and how he wished we were able to see it. This was before computers and live streaming. I think I’ve learned a lot about the Royals just from watching the TV Series The Crown because I never actually took the time to read about the monarchy. My entire knowledge has come from the BBC. I wonder if the Queen watches the series and what she thinks of it. I have a suspicion that she wouldn’t be able to avoid the temptation. After all it is beautifully shot and the locations and sets are probably historically accurate and it makes a good waste of a night. I don’t think the Queens’ sense of fashion is horrible; she has also worn some spectacular gowns but she has a seriousness about her. Maybe the difference is that she just lets the gown wear her and she doesn’t “wear” the gown. All the others I’ve spoken about knew how to make the outfit work for them. Maybe it’s just that they want or wanted to be noticed and the Queen doesn’t need to do that to be noticed; after all, she is the Queen.

It must take a certain type of person to live off of the people in such opulence, and to do that for centuries, without feeling guilty, when the rest of the country struggles to make ends meet. There have been many opinions regarding this. “No future… no future for you”. The Sex Pistols But whether you are a royalist, and defend the monarchy through all things, or if you despise the archaic class difference and think they no longer serve a purpose; you have to admit the Queen is badass. She is over 90 years of age and still making appearances and doing charity work. That impresses me to no end. She is also still the boss and I love that.

We have our own Royal drama to contend with now that Harry has chosen to leave the Monarchy and become just a normal guy and … for the time being.. has moved to Canada with Megan and their child. I wish him the best. I also wonder if The Crown will continue in future seasons. How far will they go … maybe Megan can end up playing herself. She’s an actress.

God save the Queen.

Until next time….

Vortex Visuals

Vortex Visuals

I didn’t know what to expect in Sedona Arizona. My in-laws rented a spectacular Air ‘BnB for  a family trip, nestled amongst the mountains. It was in celebration of their 50 year marriage.  How is that possible without killing each other?  I’m only a little over half way there.  They are an incredible couple and I could only hope to be as happy as they are after 50 years together.   

Bruce and Margaret still hiking after 50 years of marriage

I knew that in Sedona there were amazing red rock formations and that it is considered a hiker’s wet dream.  Our Air BNB was surrounded by them. Every angle was a spectacular view.

Good morning!

I’m not a hiker but I like challenging myself and feeling like I’ve pushed myself physically… usually that involves picking up the pace from the couch to the fridge.   My husband’s family are avid climbers and hikers.   They are athletic and seek out opportunities to walk and climb and were determined to tackle the “Vortex” rocks like Bell Rock and Cathedral rock.     A vortex is an area where there is a palpable energy field . There is a circular magnetic pull that has twisted all the trees at the base of these rocks  so they look like licorice twizzlers. 

On one trip to a Vortex, I sat alone on a plateau and closed my eyes to meditate.  I’ve always been incapable of slowing my mind down enough to be successful at this, but for some reason, at the Vortex, I was able to simply sit and “be”.  It was surprising to open my eyes and check my watch and see that I had been there for an hour.  I was lost in my breath and the feeling of nothing…and everything at the same time and it was overwhelming.   

Tackling a Vortex climb is also not for the faint of heart.  I started climbing one but realized it was beyond my expertise and I did not have proper shoes so I conceded to the rock.  My sister in-law persevered and made it to the top, which impressed me to no end.  She said it was  terrifying at a couple of spots and she is a seasoned climber.  She also said the strange energy made her feel a little unstable.  I am fascinated with the reason for this magnetic pull and some New Ager’s believe it is from an alien force and fully expect the top of a Vortex to open up one day and an alien spaceship to fly out. 

Sedona is the birth place of “New Age”.  Everywhere you go in town there are shops selling crystals and meditation techniques and readings by psychics.  I couldn’t resist and had a rather lame reading ,which could have been applied to any woman of my age, but it was a fun way to spend an hour. 

We took a day trip to the ghost town called Jerome.  It hangs off the cliffs in central Arizona and was originally a mining town full of men, gambling and prostitutes.  When the mining industry there collapsed it was abandoned.  Eventually people wanted to preserve this town and its history and so they began a campaign to reclaim it as a  Historical site and tourist location and it worked.  Today you can walk the hillside streets that are home to various cafes and local artisans selling their creations. 

Ghost town of Jerome

There is a historic hotel called the Jerome Grand Hotel where you can pop in and have a cocktail. 

Jerome Grand Hotel

It was built in 1927 and was originally a Hospital.  It was sold in 1994 and reopened as a Hotel in 1996.  It is famously haunted and has been featured on some “Ghost Hunting” shows.  It has been structurally  maintained as the Art Deco Hotel it is and even has the original sliding cage elevator… which was also the location of the only known murder that took place.  It is suspected that , Claude Harvey, the Hospital maintenance man was murdered in April 1935, and his body slid behind the elevator shaft in order to make it look like an accident. 

There are many sightings of Claude in the hotel by guests and staff.  There are also sounds of children laughing and running up and down the hallways, the smell of baby powder, zinc oxide, flowers, dust, whiskey and coughing can be heard coming from empty rooms.  Especially on the 3rd floor you can hear hospital gurneys and wheels squeaking as this was the location of the operating room. 

We sat in the beautiful bar and sipped on Martinis and basked in its history.  I explored the main floor hallways but you are not allowed to go up to any of the floors unless you are a booked guest. 

Someday I’ll go back and stay there for a couple of nights.  It’s just such an amazing location and view and I like a place that is a bit spooky.

We ate some food in town at one of the bistros and walked around looking at some Mexican art.  I bought some Día de los Muertos statues.  There is also a great old-time candy store  so I purchased a bag of assorted candies that I remembered from my childhood.    It’s a good work -out to visit Jerome because the streets are so steep that walking through the town can bring on a sweat and a racing heart. 

old jail preserved as an art instillation

The other trip I would recommend is a visit to The Grand Canyon.  It’s not that far a drive from Sedona and it can be done in one day. 

Walking from the parking area along a path, you don’t expect for everything to  suddenly open up to this never-ending massive crater in the earth that has gigantic rock formations on either side.  It left me feeling like I was on a man-made science fiction set for a movie.  The red colour of the rocks and the way the sun bounced off of them was absolutely stunning.  There were spots where you could walk out onto a ridge and the whole world was beneath you.  Of course, I was wondering how many people had taken one pose too many and accidentally slipped off an edge.  It was exhilarating and terrifying and the entire time I was holding my breath.

The Grand Canyon

Besides the obvious hiking there are other things to do in Sedona. There is some delicious and authentic Mexican food and ,since we don’t really have that at home, I was excited to get eat some great food.  We also hit up a few charity shops and I found some cool, cheap, vintage clothing.  I bought a new hat and a lovely silver and turquoise horse necklace. There is an abundance of beautiful silver jewellery. Turquoise is also found in most jewellery shops. It is home to the Hopi, Navajo, Yavapai and Apache peoples, who are the original people of Arizona.

I would go back to Sedona any time and definitely stay at the same place.   Next time I’ll bring along some good hiking boots. Happy trails readers!

Queen of The Road

Queen of The Road

I had a recurring dream as a child.  I would be traveling around the country in my Barbie Dream Camper with my best friend, Cathy,  and our boyfriends…. At the time mine was Paul McCartney and her boyfriend was Donny Osmond.  I did not come from a family that vacationed.  We never went on trips except the occasional tag along with my father, who was a traveling salesman. I remember we once went to Blind River… vacation capitol of Ontario.

No offense to Blind River. 

I have always been into history and I love vintage and retro things. I bought my 1960 Pink Rambler after I had a car stolen. It was an incredible ride while it lasted. Eventually my beautiful car was mechanically beyond repair so it sits on my property.

Since I bought my farm house outside of the city I have plenty of space to accumulate old cars and trucks and campers to sit rusting on the lawn; the stereotypical right of passage for those that live in the country.  The property already had a stationary trailer so I painted it like a Diner and we’ve used it as a rehearsal space for bands and currently a pop up Vintage clothing shop. Even though the Rambler is not road worthy anymore, I call it “Art”. He will deteriorate and rust and I will become that person surrounded by beautiful rusting and twisted metal.

I decided to finally pursue my dream of owning a camper and began scouring all the buy and sell newspapers and online auctions.  I did this for five years and found nothing.  The trailers that were listed were too expensive, too far away,  or in need of a huge overhaul to have them road worthy.  I almost gave up but then a friend sent me a listing that was close by.  I went and looked at it and it needed a bit of work but had such potential that I bought it on the spot.

I hitched it up to my truck and towed it home where I would renovate and decorate the interior.  Thank god for my supportive father in law, Bruce, who, along with a buddy, put in all the necessary finishing touches to make sure it was leak proof and ready for painting.   My little trailer went from bland to wow. 

This is what it looked like before

This is what it looks like now

I’ve never been a tiny space person… or at least I didn’t think I was …until I began using my , little tennis ball of a trailer, as a living space for four months during the summer.

I was working on a television series in the city and no longer had an apartment so my trailer became my living space during the week and I only came home on the weekends.

It is amazing how we humans can acclimatize almost immediately.  I hung my nicer clothes on cupboard knobs and filled my sink with toiletries.  I had access to the office and studio at night, which had washrooms and a private shower.  All of my clothes were neatly folded on a top bunk… for the first week… and then I was a teenager again. I somehow managed. My Quaker parrot, Mr. Pickles, was living with me in the trailer, chatting away and acting like it was his giant bird cage.

Mr. Pickles taking over the trailer

The use of string lights and electric candles on timers made my space magical. I have a good size double bed in my trailer so it is comfortable to sleep.

When the set called a “wrap” at night everyone would be warming up their cars to head home and I simply sauntered across the parking lot to my tiny apartment. 

The thought of not being able to go home to the farm depressed me but once I entered my trailer and shut the door I felt like I was no longer at work.  It became my tiny apartment where I could sip wine and watch Netflix on my computer.  When the season ended and the work was done, I hitched my trailer up to my truck and returned home.  Now I could use my trailer for pleasure and not just work. 

My partner and I  attended a music festival that he was playing at and we stayed the night, parked beside a little stream.  Stepping out into the starry night filled with music; eventually, stumbling back into our dry and comfortable sanctuary to sleep was heaven.

The next day, kicking the door open;  hung over with curlers in my hair and a smoke clenched in my teeth…..   

OK that didn’t happen.

I was definitely hung over and feeling raunchy, but when I flash back to the days where I woke up in an over -heated tent with flies buzzing around my face and a rancid smell, this glamping experience is all the more fantastic.

I am definitely  too old to do the tent thing.  I love camping and the adventure of traveling to a different part of the country but I want to do it in style.  I want all the comforts when I throw open my door and experience nature.  I’m tired of staying in crappy little motels.

My little trailer has a gas stove, a sink with a water tank, a fridge and a microwave.  I’ve used the microwave and fridge but never the stove. 

The whole world beckons me… at least the world within driving distance. Maybe I will plan a trip to the desert or the ocean or the mountains; wherever I go I will be surrounded by vintage florals, snacks and some good wine and the new friends I will make.

You are never too old to realize a dream.

Maybe I ‘ll see you out there in my Barbie camper. Paul McCartney still is not my boyfriend but I’d rather have the trailer… no offense to Paul.

“I’m a gal of means by no means… Queen of the road”!

Thanks readers!

Havana – The Hotel Riveria!

Havana – The Hotel Riveria!

Imagine the year 1957. You are in Havana Cuba and heading out to the swinging Hotel Riviera to do a little gambling and see an act at the Copa Room. Tonight is the opening night at the club and the featured act is Ginger Rogers.

You arrive in your most glamorous outfit draped in furs and diamonds and pearls. Your date looks sharp in his shark skin suit. There, in the lobby, is the owner, Meyer Lansky greeting his guests as they drive up to the front where the spectacular fountain is lit up in the night.

The historical Hotel Riviera sits on the Malecon ocean front drive in Havana Cuba. It was built in 1957 as a posh resort and was owned by the notorious mobster Meyer Lansky. He spared no expense in his efforts to rival the Hotel Riviera in Las Vegas. Lansky hired two of Cuba’s formative artists, muralist Rolando Lopez Dirube and sculptor Florencio Gelabert.

When I first pulled up in front of The Riviera my heart sank because I had expected so much more, but then, there are a lot of things in Havana that only have a shadow of past glory.  Florencio Gelabert designed the white marble sculptures of an intertwined mermaid and swordfish that fronts the entrance and a large sculpture in the lobby , “Cuban Rhythm” that has a male and female dancer. The fountain, long dry ,sits baking in the sun, deteriorating and cracked.

Cuban Rhythm

Once inside the main lobby I felt like I stepped onto the set of Mad Men.

Every where I looked there was something else that caught my eye and I appreciate the completely unique creative force that was 1950’s design.

I’ve seen so many reproductions of starburst clocks but this was the real thing.

The original floating staircase was under construction and was off limits so I wasn’t able to see it but I am hopeful that they will be able to restore it to its original coolness.

The 3-D flying cranes art accented a wall leading into the circular bar.

The fancy rounded bar with a view

The days of glamorous couples sipping martinis and smoking cigarettes at the lively bar, with the incredible view, is now reduced to curious tourists, like myself, who love architecture and history. If I had my way I’d throw a party there with all of my friends and it would be cocktail dresses and suits that would harken back to a time where the Rat Pack could have strolled past with beautiful girls on each arm.

The breakfast area is light and airy and leads out to the most fantastic pool I have ever seen.

When I walked outside and saw the magnificent three tiered diving platform I felt like I was in a Doris Day/ Rock Hudson movie. I just couldn’t take my eyes off of it and I desperately wanted to climb up and try a swan dive.

It sounds crazy but I got the same feeling when I was staring at the statue of David in Italy. Maybe that makes me a little weird but I was hypnotized by this structure.

The dining room inside the Hotel is equally breath taking in its over the top style. The murals on the walls were painted by the Cuban artist Rolando Lopez Dirube and they are a tropical explosion.

I promised myself that next time I visit Havana I will stay at The Riviera, at least for a couple of nights. I know the rooms are nothing special; a total let down, actually, but I want the experience of swimming, diving, dining in that crazy tropical restaurant, and going to the Copa. It’s still a cabaret with show girls and, not very impressive these days, but the interior is the same as it was when Ginger Rogers twirled her gams for a crowd of mobsters and gamblers.

entrance to the Copa Room

Even the elevators are cool looking.

If you love history, like I do, you will get a real joy out of seeing all of this original 1950’s cutting edge style. Of all the places I have been, Havana is one of the most interesting. You can’t put your arms around a memory… to quote Johnny Thunders… but you can touch it in Cuba. If you get the opportunity to visit please go. I don’t think you will be disappointed unless your idea of a vacation is 5 star luxury. You won’t find it there but you will find a city steeped in history that has not changed. You will find a people who are open and welcoming. I will always return and I will always love Cuba.

HAVANA – PART 2 – “Action”

HAVANA – PART 2 – “Action”

I woke up early the next day and was off in a mini van to the jungles to scout our first location. We picked a spot in Mayabeque Province, just outside of Havana. There were bamboo trees and thick vegetation and the deeper you went in the thicker it got. There was sugar cane that the crew cut and handed around. It looked like a stick and you chewed on it to find the sweetness inside.

In an open field we constructed a thatched hut which we would later burn to the ground. That’s the film business.

Day 1 of shooting and the actors and extras stood around in the blazing heat in vintage suits and we had very little water and no bathroom facilities. It was a nasty first day. Our Walkie Talkies didn’t show up either so the soft spoken Cubans were bombarded by the blasting voice of the Canadian 1st Assistant Director who was screaming for his cast to come to set. They were up on a hill in an old bus that was converted into a costume truck and couldn’t hear him… so he just kept yelling louder. It was culture shock for the mild mannered crew. They were not used to having someone so loud and aggressive.

a stunt actor talking about his part
Not quite the burning of Atlanta

As the sun fell behind the trees the jungle came alive with sounds and the constant buzzing of mosquitos that all seemed to be saying “we have malaria”. No matter how much mosquito repellent was applied they just kept swarming. The Cubans didn’t seem to take notice but the Canadians were squirming. Someone told me that if you rubbed dryer sheets on your skin and tied them to your waist the mosquitos wouldn’t bite you. I put that theory to the test. I was a mosquito buffet

Get me out of here!

Some of the happiest people I have ever met are Cubans. The crew that I had the pleasure of working with were completely professional. The grips were working with old equipment that was frequently catching things on fire. They would just grab a bucket and douse out the lighting “flags” and we would keep shooting.

Big Frank one of the Grips

The women were organizers of Extras and transportation. They were also our Hair and Makeup department and additional assistant directors.

Lilly our Cuban assistant director and the Extras casting assistant

I spent most of my time in the only proper truck that we had, which was the hair and makeup truck. There were only two dressing rooms for the entire cast. The extras changed in pop up tents and in an old bus. I didn’t have a work space so I sat in the makeup truck as the actors were being processed. That truck also had the only bathroom for the entire crew. It was rank after a day but the smell was covered up by vats of “Final Net” hair spray. I inhaled enough hair spray to torch my breath. I mean… loads of hair spray.

I brought a box of Kashi granola bars to Cuba and one day I took them to the makeup truck. I handed one to the Makeup Artist, Karen and she proceeded to take one bite and pass it on to the next person. I laughed and said, “no no stop! I have one for everyone!” They just looked at me and didn’t understand… they didn’t speak English so well and my Spanish was horrible… but the point being; they share everything. I have never met people who did not have ambitions to do better than the next person or have more than their neighbor. They have been raised to take care of each other and to share, unlike North America where the message is to do better, have more, display your wealth and success. And guess what? They seem so much happier than us.

Karen the Makeup Artist

Once we got out of the jungle I felt like I could handle anything else that came my way. We moved back into Havana and no longer had the long drives to and from work in the morning in over -cramped vans. The roads were horrible and it took forever to maneuver around deep ruts and holes. You also have to be aware that walking the streets in downtown Havana can be a bit treacherous. The sidewalks are paved but will all of a sudden open up into a 3 foot hole or crevice. I stepped into one while I was sight seeing and dropped down up to my hips because I wasn’t paying attention. There are also a lot of dogs on the streets. They aren’t necessarily strays. They could have homes but the owners just let them out all day long to search for food on the streets and let them back in when they return from work. I fed a lot of dogs scraps and sandwiches that I didn’t want. I realized at one point the crew wanted my sandwiches. I ended up giving my unwanted food to the people to take home to their families and scraps to the dogs. One day I had the usual full container of rice and mystery meat, that had been our meal every day for a month, and I could not stomach it anymore so I carefully put it down in front of one of the street dogs. He took one sniff and walked away. Made me a bit nervous.

You don’t go to Cuba for the food. A popular luncheon meat is kind of like bologna and the crew were grateful to have those sandwiches to take home. It made me think about how spoiled we all are when it comes to food and the amount of waste there is on film sets. I couldn’t find a good salad anywhere and I’m not sure how you would survive as a vegetarian in Cuba. Salads consisted of shredded cabbage with nothing on it. Surprisingly someone taught the Cubans how to make good pizza. I had an amazing cheese pizza in a pop up tent restaurant near the Hotel Nacional. It was in a wood fire oven and I could have eaten that every single day. I also had a really good Paella in a restaurant. It was spiced nicely and had shrimp and Logostina in traditional Spanish rice.

Shooting in the downtown area of Havana was a little crazy. Its a busy place and the streets are a bit narrow. You can walk along and someone on a balcony above the street will dump a bucket of dirty water down or worse, they’ve emptied their toilet, so you have to be careful not to get doused with something unpleasant. I dropped my walkie talkie in the gutter once and the girls yelled at me to not pick it up. One of the men came over with a plastic bag and retrieved it for me and sprayed it with disinfectant as the girls pointed at it and said, “poe poe”. Ewwww… I knew what that meant… its pretty universal.

The vintage looks on set were fantastic. The suits and dresses and shoes were all brought in from Canada and the cast looked amazing.

Wesley French the leading man

Honestly, once you are surrounded by a cast dressed in 1950’s suits and you are on the streets where all the cars are authentic for the period its hard not to believe you are back in time, until you glance to your left and see someone in lime green shorts and a Nike tee shirt. Fashion in Cuba is very flashy and colourful. The women love to show off their bodies and bright colours are in style. You see a lot of hot pink and oranges and yellows and anything neon. I think there are still a lot of tourists who bring along clothes to give away. I brought linen tops , tee shirts with logos, and silk dresses and gave them away to my friends on the crew. Everyone gave me something in return. I tried to refuse but they were insulted so I accepted the tokens of friendship. One older woman gave me a beautiful vintage shell bracelet. The Art Director gave me a tiny mariachi drum key chain. Someone else gave me a little red heart pendant. They have nothing and yet they insisted on giving me something. Such displays of love and affection were everywhere. I was there for Valentine’s Day and it was more popular than Christmas! It was such an event. All the women had special surprises planned for their boyfriends and husbands. There was not a cynical one in the bunch. It’s that Latin lover thing and it really is true. They take love very seriously. It was touching and charming and I felt a bit of a spoil sport for always rolling my eyes at the cliche celebration that was invented by Hallmark and Laure Secord. See? I can’t help myself.

We filmed at night because it was so quiet. Havana does not have a crazy night life like you would expect. It is definitely not Miami. People go for long dinners and have drinks and then walk along the Malecon, which is the most popular social thing to do in Havana. I compare it to a boardwalk by the ocean where families and friends stroll along and there are musicians and teenagers sitting on the breaker walls entertaining each other. There are no drugs in Cuba but you do see people drinking. They also love to smoke their cigarettes. As the temperature drops and the wind picks up everyone disperses to their homes and it becomes quiet except for the taxis and cars that are still driving tourists back to their hotels. At the Hotel Nacional things are gearing up for a big show with dancers and a band and singers. Everyone will sit outside in wicker chairs and drink cocktails and smoke cigars. When I was there I saw the famous Buena Vista Social Club and it was a thrill for me to get to listen to them.

Once it is dark in the downtown area things wind down and the streets are empty except for our film crew, cast and extras. We lit up the streets and had some occasional curious onlookers but, for the most part, it was deserted.

Putting blood on the actors

We were shooting a scene one night where the army and the revolutionaries have a standoff. It was very late and the Extras hadn’t eaten. When a food truck with sandwiches finally arrived, after hours of waiting, they ran to the truck in a stampede. Each of them had weapons and they were not prop guns.. meaning plastic or fake.. these were real Cuban Army rifles and handguns. They just dropped them in the street and ran for that bologna.

An extra relaxing while waiting for his scene

When we were ready to film the scene the first line was “People lay down your arms”… instead it became “People lay down your sandwiches.”

There is a nice beach outside of Havana called Plays Santa Maria Del Mar. It is a public beach and has beach chairs and restaurants. There are a couple of hotels and you can have your dinner and drinks served right on the beach. The water was wavy and there was a bit of seaweed but it is a soft sandy, relaxing beach, and its a hot spot for families to cool off on a weekend

Straw hat bought on the street- Versace sunglasses

My next blog will feature the incredible Hotel Riviera. The famous mob run 1950’s casino and home of the Copa Room.

Now I’m going to make myself a pitcher of Mojitos…. and yes… I said pitcher.

Havana- Part 1

Havana- Part 1

Stepping onto the plane to go and work in Havana on a movie for 5 weeks was exciting and terrifying at the same time. I met a coworker, the Costume Designer, at the airport in Toronto and we boarded our plane. She had three large bags of vintage clothes she was bringing for the film. I had my enormous bag stuffed to the brim because I needed to survive for a month and I knew that snack bars and toiletries were scarce in Cuba. When we landed in Havana we experienced something straight out of “Midnight Express”. We were immediately pulled aside by security, once we snatched our bags off of the carousel. The Cuban guards were yelling at us in Spanish and pointing for us to go into a back area. Neither one of us spoke the language. They started opening our bags and going through everything. They kept saying to my coworker in English. “You cannot bring to gift… you must pay.” We kept saying we were working on a movie and none of the clothes were gifts. Of course we didn’t have our visas yet because we were told by production that we would acquire those once we actually came into the country to start work. It was scary and confusing. After two hours of being held in the back of the small airport I remembered I had printed out the crew list which had contact information for our Cuban Producer and some of the Cuban crew. I pulled it out and gave it to the guards. They looked at it and then snapped their fingers at us to repack and zip up our bags. I was so relieved. As I was zipping my bag, one of the border guards that had been yelling at us approached, with a huge smile on his face, and said quietly to me, “I want to be an actor.” It was so hilarious after our ordeal that I suddenly felt relaxed and had no animosity towards him. I gave him the universal thumbs up and we were allowed to exit. It was not the way I had wanted to be introduced to such an incredibly beautiful and complex city but it is one for the record books. It was night as we exited the building to meet our patient driver who had been waiting now for three hours for us. It was hot and muggy as we sped through the empty streets that had the smell of gasoline mixed with the salt of the sea. I thought maybe it was the old car we were driving in, but later, realized that this is the way Havana smells. There are so many old cars on the road it has created a smell of an automotive seniors center where cars cough and chug along with the help of young, innovative home mechanics, who will use anything to keep their original family cars on the road.

There is something to be said for a country that does not have a single MacDonald’s or Burger King.  It’s wonderful. Havana sits in a time warp.  Everything sort of stopped in 1959 or more aptly was reborn, depending on who you speak to.

The Cuban revolution, lead by Fidel Castro, began on the 26th day of July 1951. Within the last five years, President Obama famously visited Havana, in his efforts to finally mend relations between the US and Cuba, but since Trump has come to power, it all seems to have gone awry. It makes me sad since the people of Cuba are the happiest and kindest, most generous, people I have ever met and its history is like no other place I have been. Americans are missing so much by not being allowed to visit this complicated country, but then, the selfish side of me doesn’t want to share this amazing place. I do fear that once things open up it will destroy the innocence and beauty. I also know that the people deserve better but do not assume that everyone wants change. Some people are fearlessly loyal to their government and system and are also wary of what could happen if everything opens up. I think the smartest thing they have done in Cuba is to not allow anyone who is not Cuban to own property. If you are a foreigner you can only buy a home or estate in Cuba if you have a Cuban partner and the property has to be in that persons name.

There are signs everywhere signifying the Revolution. The Museum Of the Revolution is fascinating and is in the Palace in Old Havana. There are bullet holes in the marble walls as you go up the steps inside. You will also find many photos and tributes to Che Guevera.

“Ernesto “Che” Guevara was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, activist, guerrilla leader, diplomat and major figure of the Cuban Revolution, his stylized visage has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol of rebellion and global insignia in popular culture.”

This is a picture of my desk that I used at an old police station where we were shooting for a few days.

Hotel Nacional de Cuba

I could not believe our luck as we pulled up to the famous Hotel Nacional de Cuba, where Frank Sinatra honeymooned with Ava Gardner. Johnny Weissmuller, who played Tarzan in movies, used to famously dive from his third story room overlooking the Olympic size concrete swimming pool. 

 The hotel also entertained politicians like Winston Churchill and Jimmy Carter and actors like Tyrone Power, Errol Flynn, John Wayne, Marlon Brando, Rita Hayworth and Marlene Dietrich.  In December of 1946 the Hotel also hosted the famous  Havana Conference which was a summit of mobsters run by Lucky Luciano and attended by all the notorious mob bosses of the day and was recreated in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather Part II”.   This was going to be my home for the next five weeks and it was a dream come true.

The Tropicana, which is the nightclub at the Nacional,  had performers like Eartha Kit and Nat King Cole, who were not allowed to stay at the hotel, because they were black, but were hired to sing  to sold out audiences.    There is a bust honoring Nat King Cole today outside the Tropicana. 

I was thrilled to be in a place that is an Art Director’s dream come true.  The 1950’s are preserved in Havana.  The cars are meticulously taken care of but if you open the hood you see makeshift parts that have kept them running.  Wire coat hangers, spoons, forks or anything metal  is used.  They have not been able to get new parts for decades because of the sanctions against them from the United States.  There are some newer European cars but the majority of people can’t afford them so they have to keep their old American made cars running. You are not guaranteed ,that when you hire a car, it will make it to your destination without breaking down.

Out front of the Hotel Nacional de Cuba

The architecture in Havana is in a Baroque style but is also Cuban.  Open balcony’s with barred windows and huge rounded columns are common.   In the suburbs of Havana you find homes that were built in the 1940’s and 1950’s and are still decorated with original ‘50’s furniture.  The mornings are a symphony of roosters greeting the dawn.

The Malecon is along the coast of Havana and stretches for 8km.  It began construction in 1901 during temporary U.S. military rule.  It is a broad esplanade that has a seawall protecting the roadway from a ,sometimes, tumultuous sea.  It is also a social gathering area for people to walk  and sit and play music.  You can stroll along the sea wall into the area referred to as Old Havana. 

The Malecon

Old Havana is Cuba’s capitol and it is filled with vintage cars, enormous museums and cobble stoned, narrow streets ,with shops and open air restaurants. 

 There is lively music everywhere and some of the best Spanish guitar players you will see playing on a corner. After speaking to many musicians , the one thing I came away with was an intense sadness. Guitar players in Cuba can’t buy strings. Most of the guitars are still using ancient cat gut strings and if they break one then they are out of business as musicians.

I decided that anytime I visit Cuba I will bring along packs of strings.  I handed them out to the street musicians and saw grown men cry to get something  so essential to their careers. A tiny gesture that makes a huge difference in someones life.   Music is a huge part of their culture.  The talent you will see from a busker on the street is mind boggling.

Some badly placed maracas
Old Havana

Old Havana has a central area called Plaza de la Catredral which is named for the stunning Catredral de San Cristobol.   It is an open square in front of this Cuban Baroque cathedral where there are many outdoor cafes and restaurants to sit, have a coffee or a drink and have a bite to eat.    The square is also filled with music and colorful locals who are entertaining you or selling you something. 

You will also find line ups of retro cars from the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s.  All of these cars are for hire and some are just taxis.  You can get a taxi for 6 Cubanos , which is a Cuban currency that has a floating exchange rate. Its bizarre and it is the luck of the draw if you get a good rate.

The rates seem to correspond with the American Dollar but my Canadian dollar was never factored in and is worthless in Cuba. As a matter of fact you have to buy Cubanos when you land but you can also use your credit card in hotels and most places will take American money.

I went to the old Ernest Hemingway haunt La Florida, which, from the outside does not look that impressive but the interior is dark wood and elegance. A lively band plays at the front while they serve delicious Daiquiris, which was apparently Ernest’s drink of choice at the time.

La Floridita

You can sidle up to the bar beside the bronze statue of Ernest sitting in his favorite seat at the bar.

La Floridida
Having a Daiquiri with Hemingway

Cuba also has some of the finest rum in the world. And ,of course, everyone knows that the best cigars in the world are Cuban. One of my favorite drinks is the Mojito. It is rum, lime, soda water and sugar and mint. A delicious and refreshing drink for a hot day. I had my fare share over the month I was in Havana.

The art in Havana is also everywhere. There are original paintings hanging in the streets of Old Havana alongside the outdoor vintage market. You kind find everything from old typewriters, jewellery, cameras and books pre-revolution and post revolution. I think the prices have gone up recently because the Cubans are aware how precious some of these antiques are.

There are also many restaurants called Paladars. The government has allowed people to get a license to serve food in their homes. Some of them are in huge old mansions that are crumbling around you with a fading opulence of another time and place. Families of enormous wealth, at one time, now trying to survive, still living in the ancestral home with cracked Spanish floor tiles as a reminder of how things used to be.

I went to a Paladar in Old Havana and the food was delicious. It was logistina, which is a Caribbean lobster, with fragrant seasoned rice and free Mojitos. The tiny laneway beside the house was decorated with Christmas lights and flowers. It was hidden away and the man who owned it chased my friend and I down and begged us to follow him for a tasty and cheap meal. He just happened to show up at the right time because we were starving and ready to sit and eat. We could see the apron of his wife cooking our meal in the kitchen as we sipped on our Mojitos.

At the Paladar- hours before disaster struck

The food was amazing and we thanked them as we left with a full stomach. What I need to warn you about is the danger of having a drink with unpurified ice. We had at least three. This is exactly what happened to us. Hours later I was feeling a bit off. I managed to get back to the Hotel after work but entered to find my friend projectile vomiting across the room. I joined in! Then it was none stop fun for the entire night. I really don’t want to go into the gory details but we also plugged the toilet. I was so dehydrated my hands were cramping. The hotel maids came in the next morning and were horrified at the pasty white grub creatures they found and immediately called the Dr. who rushed over with injections for us both.

I have never been so sick. I would suggest asking your Dr., prior to going somewhere that may have bad drinking water, to give you a prescription in case you accidentally have bad ice like we did. You will be cured in 24 hours instead of going through the three days of torture that I went through. Oh well, live and learn, and the next time I visit I’ll be a little more cautious.

Some of the most beautiful, generous, happy and kind people that I have met in my life are Cubans. They share everything because they have very little. There is no jealousy or ambition to have more than your next door neighbor. I have seen this rarely. You see it everywhere in Havana.

In my next blog I will talk about Havana from a working perspective and the people of Havana. I also will explore one of the more fascinating historical hotels… The Riviera … which was owned by gangster Meyer Lansky and was built in 1957. It is a virtual time capsule of ’50’s design, art, furniture and cool. Stay tuned readers!



There has never been anything that has instilled such intense fear in me than the time leading up to my first colonoscopy.  I could not wrap my head around the fact that there was going to be a camera shoved up my arse, for approximately a mile, while I was only sedated.

It didn’t matter how many people told me, it was really nothing, and  that, I wouldn’t feel it,  I was simply overwhelmed with panic. 

As the days grew closer I was thinking of drastic measures to cancel or delay the procedure… forever… giving way to visions of myself accidently driving the truck off the road into a ditch on the way to my appointment or seeking out a friend whose baby was projectile vomiting with the flue because adults always catch that shit. 

I knew, however, that I was not going to get out of it.  The day before, as I was preparing to take the pre-procedure, poison-powder mixture, for “expelling” anything that might be lingering in the colon, I called the Dr.’s office to confirm that I would be showing up.

I was greeted by an odd recorded message. 

“The office is closed and will not reopen at this time.”

I was really confused.  Later that day I watched the news in complete disbelief to hear that the Dr. who was to perform the dreaded deed had been found MURDERED!!

Now, this is going to sound horrible, but, I actually felt  complete and total relief … followed by a horrible sense of guilt thinking that maybe I’d, unknowingly, made a deal with the devil when I had prayed for something……ANYTHING …. to stop my having to go to the clinic that day, which lead to a pang of fear, thinking I could actually become a suspect in the slaying.

This is how my insane mind works.  My usually lazy and dormant ego kicks in when something horrible happens and that voice in my head says, “You made this happen.”

Unfortunately, even murder, was not enough for me to avoid having my colonoscopy.

My appointment was rescheduled and, this time, instead of a half hour drive to the clinic, I would have a two-hour drive.  I decided that, I would no longer use my strong psychic powers to de-rail things,  given what happened to the last Dr. When the time arrived,  I drank the horrible concoctions the night before and spent a few hours in “my office”.  I had thought about driving into the city a day early and staying with friends, so I would be close to the clinic,  but who would do that??  I had to be in my own home sweating and pooping.

When we were babies pooping our pants gave us an immense sense of pleasure.  I remember cradling my nephew in my arms and saying to my sister, “Oh look he’s smiling at me!”  And she responded, stone faced, “He’s pooping.”

As adults we have all had the horrible “shart attack” and it is the most humiliating , embarrassing and awful moment.  My friend, Julia, told me her father used to say, “I just squitted.”  That made me laugh out loud.  The complete surprise at what you have done, combined with the task of hiding the paint ball splatter on your bum, as you dash into the nearest washroom is the worst.    Anyway, for me, it has happened in Mexico, Cambodia, Cuba and Greece.  The unpurified water is a killer.  Maybe I’ve had more incidents than the average person but, what can I say,  I like to travel and I’m too trusting.

On my two hour drive the following day to my appointment I was clenching… the whole time… I had not anticipated the likely hood of an accident prior to my arrival.  It was mortifying. 

With the two hour drive, I had to leave earlier than most so it made sense that my body might not be ready. 

Next time I will bring along an emergency change of clothes. 

Once I arrived they whisked me in right away.  That was such a relief because I was starving, , terrified, and a bit cranky. 

OK, here is the good part.  I told the nurses to give me the ultimate dose of sedative and they did.

I have no memory of anything other than waking up and letting a fart the length of the song “American Pie” and I am not kidding.    I was taken into the recovery area and placed behind curtains where I  proceeded to have “contests” with the other victims.  I believe I was the winner.

My poor partner arrived early to pick me up, and was in the waiting room of the unholy stench.

He said he had never experienced anything like it and next time he will be waiting for me outside in the car. 

I realise this post won’t be for everyone but, honestly, you will all have to experience this at some point in your life and I’m here to say, it’s really not bad at all.

I know… I know… you won’t believe me but I have another one coming up and the only thing I’m dreading is the night before because I won’t lie… that part sucks… but the actual colonoscopy is a piece of chocolate cake. 

Party on readers!