Each year end, as I approach my Boxing Day birthday, I’m reminded of all the wonderful things I’ve experienced throughout the year and my life as a whole. For instance, this year I’ll be thinking about my 2 months back home in Australia traveling to all the towns and outback outposts I had only dreamed about as a kid – Alice Springs, Darwin and Broome. Now I can add the town of Winton in Queensland as my new favourite spot in Australia.
Much like a Facebook memory popping up each morning, today I suddenly remembered an encounter on the Toronto subway back in the 90s that put a smile on my face and made me feel like a big time celebrity. Back in the mid-80s, there was a popular yet silly game show called “Jackpot” where multiple players attempted to solve riddles and win cash. I was asked to be on the show along with other interesting people from all walks of life. At the start of each show – we taped an entire week’s worth of shows in one day – one of the contestants would jump up out of his/her seat and yell “Jackpot”. We were each told to bring 5 different tops to wear, changing prior to each episode taping so it looked like 5 different days. Apparently only one contestant did that – me.
The director instructed the cameramen to focus on me as I would be the only person jumping up and yelling Jackpot; I wore a variety of sweaters, each fitting my then-curvy bod perfectly. Imagine Suzanne Summers as Chrissy from Three’s Company jumping up and jiggling – that was me! Back in the 80s, there were no concerns about young women being exploited for their looks or physical attributes and, of course, we all bought into it anyway. I ended up winning a little less than a thousand dollars on the show, which was a lot back then; I could go buy a whole bunch of new sweaters for that amount…LOL
Skip ahead to the late 90s and I was riding on the Bloor-Danforth line of Toronto’s subway system one day. I noticed a young man staring at me – I ignored him and dropped my eyes so as not to make eye-contact with him. He moved towards me…oh dear, I hope he’s not some sort of masher or perv. He got up close then said “you’re the Jackpot girl, aren’t you?” What? “Sorry, I don’t mean to be rude but you ARE the Jackpot girl…from the tv show, right?” I felt slightly embarrassed and not sure what he wanted…an autograph or maybe he wants me to jump up and down and yell Jackpot for him. “Yeeeees” I answered cautiously. “Did you know that Jackpot is very popular on Canadian Forces tv? My brother is stationed in Germany and he told me how all the guys replay the Canadian TV shows over and over again as it reminds them of home. They loved it when you jumped up and down…” I think he suddenly realized what he said and stopped, looking rather sheepishly at me and blushing bright crimson. “Oh how wonderful,” I replied, not wanting to hurt his feelings or draw attention to the obvious sexual implications – he must have been all of 20 or 21. “ummm…my brother sent us photos of his buddies all watching the tv and you’re on the screen doing your jump up….” I nodded and smiled. Then he said something I will never forget: “You’re big in Baden-Baden!”
So now, whenever I’m feeling down or lacking respect from others, I remember that encounter – no matter how small and insignificant I may feel here in Toronto, I know I’m a big star in Baden-Baden…and just maybe I’m still jumping up and down for a new generation of military folks in reruns on Forces TV?
MERRY CHRISTMAS to all our military men and women serving overseas – wish I had a video of the show but consider yourselves being Jackpot’d.
Not my episodes but this will give you an idea of how cheesy it was!
Starting April 1st, YOU can vote your favourite Canadian comedian into the CANADIAN COMEDY HALL OF FAME...but you must become a Member first. Visit www.canadiancomedyhall.com and for a special lifetime membership fee of $25, you will have voting rights to ensure your favourite “Performers” are added to the Hall’s list of great comedic artists. “Voting is set to open as of April 1st for this year’s group of inductees into the Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame,” says Founder and Exec. Director Tim Progosh, “and we hope everyone across the country will become members so they can cast their votes for their favourite performers named on the impressive list of nominees.” Voting runs until May 24th. “After 2 years of Covid lockdowns, restrictions and lack of live entertainment, Canada needs a damn good laugh”, continued Progosh, “so we’re proud that the Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame celebrates the country’s funniest comedians, creative professionals as well as great artists from the past whose legacies paved the way for today’s comedy stars.” Those stars voted into the Hall this year will be announced July 1st, followed by a formal presentation event later in the year.
Here are just a few of this year’s nominees…Learn more about the previous inductees and plans for the future of the Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame by following social media (all linked on the website) and visiting www.canadiancomedyhall.com
On behalf of the Board and Nominating Committee for the Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame, I’m pleased to announce this year’s inductees featuring legends of Canadian comedy in three categories: Legacy, Creator and Performer.
First off, nominated as performers (10 to be voted in): Norm MacDonald (pictured), Mike MacDonald, the cast of SCTV, the cast of CODCO (pictured), Steve Smith, Rose Oulette, Catherine O’Hara (pictured), Mort Sahl, Elvira Kurt, Michael J. Fox (pictured), Al Waxman (pictured), Phil Hartman, Leslie Nielsen, David Steinberg and Dan Aykroyd.The Creators nominees include (5 to be voted in): Mark Breslin/Yuk Yuks (pictured), Sandra Faire, Keith Johnstone/Loose Moose Theatre, Robert Gravel and Yvon Leduc/La Ligue Nationale d’Improvisation (pictured), Ivan Reitman (pictured), Andy Nulman/Bruce Hills of Just For Laughs Festival, Jo-Anna Downey – Comedian/Open Mic impresario, Andrew Alexander/The Second City and Lorne Michaelsand as Legacy inductees (2 to be acclaimed): Oliver Guimond, Mordecai Richler, The Happy Gang, the cast of Wayne & Shuster (pictured), Beatrice Lillie and silent film director and founder of the Keystone Cops Mack Sennett (pictured).The inductees will be announced on July 1st with a formal live ceremony to be announced later.
The Board and Nominating Committee has also voted to acclaim writer and humourist StephenLeacock (pictured below)…and the legendary TV comedy producers Frank Peppiatt & John Aylesworth (pictured below) into the Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame. The vote was unanimous for Canada’s greatest humourist and the writing duo that dominated and changed television comedy in Canada. Every year the Board and the Nomination Committee has the ability to acclaim two Legacy acts into the Hall.In the words of Exec. Director and Founder of the Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame, Tim Progosh: From the very first political cartoons in the 1860’s through the two world wars, the advent of silent movies and the rise of television, Canadians have always been leaders in making people laugh and recognized for those achievements around the world. And from Board Member and comedian, now Director of Pembroke’s Festival Theatre, Rick Wharton: The wealth of comedy talent in Canada is just mind-blowing. As well, there are so many people behind the scenes who need to be recognized, too.
I encourage you all to join up for membership and learn more about the current and future plans for the Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame: www.canadiancomedyhall.com and follow them on Fcbk, Twtr and Instagram for weekly updates and news.
CONNIE BOYD is a Canadian magician, inventor, producer and director, with a background in dance, theatre and circus. She is known for physically demanding, artistic magic such as the “solo” guitar suspension (the World Magic Awards 1999) and an up-side-down straight jacket escape over a bed of nails (Shanghai Magic Festival 2012). Connie has appeared on television shows such as “Masters of Illusion,” “the Best Magic of Las Vegas” and the “World Magic Awards”. She launched her magic career in Las Vegas in 1987, eventually starring & headlining in production shows such as the Folies Bergère at the Tropicana Hotel, Jubilee at Bally’s and opening for celebrity headliners such as the recently departed comedian and TV star Louie Anderson. Connie was named Best Cabaret Magician in 1999 at the World Magic Awards in Los Angeles and the “Prix du Public” at the Grand Prix du Magique in Monte Carlo in 1996.In 2006, Connie was asked to consult on talent with a cruise company in Europe which led to a new career producing, mentoring and directing multiple shows on cruise lines internationally, casting female magicians as the lead performers. In June 2020, she created Magical Women, a YouTube channel dedicated to documenting some of the best women in magic in the world in all facets of magic. She writes a monthly Magical Women series for Vanish Magic magazine and has recently been featured in Genii magazine and MagicSeen in the UK. She also created a conference on Digital Transformation for Magic in 2020 for “United Magicians for the World”. More recently, she launched a new series on the YouTube channel called Blast from the Past which features vintage videos of female magicians from the past.
Being such a busy lady, I was thrilled to get a chance to chat with Connie and ask her about her amazing career and all the women in magic she has worked with or met. What a great conversation we had!
Connie, you’ve created a wonderful web portal showcasing women in magic from around the world and their incredible talents. What inspired you to generate this platform? Pre-pandemic, I was extremely busy and happy producing, directing and mentoring magic shows and talent. I was in Italy when the lockdown started there in March 2020. I had magicians on cruise ships returning to Italy from winter seasons in the Caribbean and South America. Contracts were cancelled and my talent were repatriated to their home countries on three different continents. My own magic shows were literally “frozen in time”, indefinitely on “ghost” cruise ships at sea in the Mediterranean.
For the first time in thirty plus years, I didn’t have any magic obligations or projects to complete. After much reflection, I realized that there wasn’t a source or resource anywhere in the world, dedicated to documenting and supporting women in magic. I decided to create the Magical Women project and the “Magical Women with Connie Boyd” YouTube Channel, dedicated to represent female magicians past and present. I started by reaching out to female magicians I knew and everyone was enthusiastic about the project and willing to participate. Being a credible woman with success in magic helped; I understood the challenges many of the world-class magicians encountered as women in unconventional careers and in under-represented groups. Thanks to the pandemic I had a rare opportunity to record talent that would not normally be readily available.
Tina Lenert, a fabulous magician and one of the first magicians I interviewed, provided an apt quote that summed up how I felt at the start: “life begins at the end of your comfort zone” (Neale Donald Walsch).
Most of us know all the famous men in magic from David Copperfield to Penn & Teller, Doug Henning, Siegfried & Roy, way back to Houdini, Blackstone and of course, The Amazing Randi – why don’t we hear more about the women? There must have been some great female artists over the past century? One of the accomplishments I’m most proud of is participating and collaborating on the VANISH International Magic Magazine’s special edition “Female Magicians through the Centuries” that was published in February 2021 as a FREE publication. The essay and photos were provided by Sébastien Bazou, the publisher of “ArteFake” an entertainment e-publication in France. VANISH’s publisher and editor is a great advocate of diversity and generously created the graphics, layout and free Special Edition. You can view it here: https://bit.ly/3BrqWQxAs you will note from the VANISH Special Edition women in magic have existed through time. It’s true that female magicians are still less than 2% of the magic community, but it’s important to note that the women who have committed to careers in magic are making a huge impact and statements that cannot be denied.
One of the wonderful elements I’ve discovered through the Magical Women project is the increasing number of female contemporary magicians. French magician Léa Kyle was the first female magician to place in the finals on “America’s Got Talent” last season and she’s currently headlining in Las Vegas. Venezuelan magician Dania Diaz was a finalist on “Spain’s got Talent” and was the first Latina female to reach the finals on “America’s Got Talent: the Champions” in 2019. Amanda Nepo is the youngest female magician at sixteen years old to fool Penn & Teller with magic that she invented. Australia’s Helen Coghlan is a four-time “Penn & Teller Fool Us, FOOLER”. The list goes on and on and it’s a truly exciting time for women in magic.
You have over 30years experience performing illusions and entertaining audiences with your prestidigitational skills – when did you first realize this was the career for you? I discovered magic in Las Vegas. In fact, I debuted my first magic act there in the late ‘80’s. My magic story is unorthodox. My professional background pre-magic was theatre and classical ballet, with aerial and juggling circus skills in the mix. I was performing in Las Vegas at the Riviera hotel in “SPLASH” with a juggling act when I discovered magic. I fell in love with the levitation magic of the headlining magician and puppeteer, Barclay Shaw. I studied and watched his mesmerizing performances nightly. Barclay was the catalyst for my magic career and it was he who suggested that I become a magician.Starting magic from zero wasn’t easy, but I discovered magic uses every skill I have and I’ve learned more. Good magic is a complete, theatrical artform, it taps into my creativity, physicality and artistic vision. I have been fortunate, able to invent magic and create magic effects that are specific to me and my skill sets. It’s challenging, it’s frustrating, but it’s also been a perfect fit. I was determined to succeed and it helped that I had exposure and access to some of the very best magicians and entertainers in the world.
You’ve interviewed and reviewed so many ladies of magic for your YouTube channel, magazines and blogs. Who are the outstanding magicians we should watch for now that theatres, casinos and clubs are opening up after Covid? There are SO many, I am pleased to report. Here’s the list that pops into my head: Léa Kyle, Daniz Diaz, Billy Kidd, Carisa Hendrix, Laura London, Alana, Helen Coghlan, Josephine Lee, Alexandra Duvivier, Amanda Nepo, LeRoya Sanford, Kayla Drescher, Krystyn Lambert, Tessa Evason, Katherine Mills, Anchal, Jen Kramer, Ekaterina and many, many more.Veteran magicians are also making a difference magically on and off stage with performances, philanthropic charities, mentoring and writing. This includes magicians such as Juliana Chen, Tina Lenert, Fay Presto, Julie Eng, Diana Zimmerman and Lisa Menna,
Magic overcomes all language barriers and appeals to all ages – what is your favourite audience composed of…families, grown ups, corporate shows? Since 2000, my magic shows have been on tour internationally on cruise ships, on television and in theatres. My favourite audience is a theatre full of a mix of families and adults; theatre and magic savvy and first timers. It’s a mix of people who wish to suspend disbelief and believe in magic for that moment in time and even those who wish to discredit it. The biggest reward is hearing the audible gasp when they react to your magic and performance. They can’t help themselves and respond with surprise, and that’s my favourite moment, always.Who has been your role model or favourite magician (male or female) over the years? First would be Barclay Shaw for helping me to discover magic, for never considering a woman couldn’t be a magician and for encouraging me to pursue magic. David Copperfield for his inspiring work and performances which encouraged me to work harder. Don Wayne, inspired me to create and to understand how to use magic techniques and the psychology behind the magic. Joanie Spina was brilliant on and off stage, she was instrumental to discovering who I was on stage and for staging many of my best acts. Recently, it’s Diana Zimmerman for her tireless support, encouragement and wisdom.
Without giving away any secrets, Connie, what has been your most astounding, amazing stunt…and, conversely, have you ever had anything go wrong? The number I most known for, that’s a signature piece, is a number I created called “Floating & Flying”. The magic is powerful as I am costumed in a simple leotard. In the midst of a classic floating ball magic act, I fly into the air to retrieve a floating ball over my head. This is a moment in my show that I receive the “magic gasp” I mention earlier.Has anything gone wrong? There have been many things, I have fallen into a band pit, been trapped in a trunk due to a missing key, forgotten my lines, forgotten which show I am performing, vaulted from a suspension on a rocking ship, spun like a top when a technician plugged a 110 volt prop into 220 volts, I’ve had the audience in hysterics with a urinating bunny and I’ve almost been snapped in half by a drunk volunteer.
What upcoming shows, videos, live tours do you have coming up for yourself? As the theatres and tours re-start there is great interest in a touring, all female magician magic show, I am very excited about that. At the moment there is a shortage of North American female illusionist performers. With my shows en route from Europe, I’m on the lookout for new up and coming talent to develop, cast and mentor. I’m currently working on a Magical Women coffee table book about contemporary Magical Women performing today. This is in conjunction to the research and monthly Magical Women articles I’ve created for VANISH International Magazine since August 2020. Lastly, I’ve created and am developing several magic routines to compliment my motivational speech about “finding the positives within negatives to reinvent yourself.”
And finally,is there a magic school you would recommend for ladies who would love to pursue magic as a career? In Canada there’s the Canadian Association of Magicians (CAM) is a good start to find magic clubs near you: https://www.cammagic.org
Jeff McBride has the “McBride Magic and Mystery School”. Jeff’s wife Abigail is very hands on with the program and Jeff has mentored several female magicians. https://www.magicalwisdom.com
Any other news or information you’d like to share, Connie? Next month is Women’s History Month. If you have sources to post the link for the free VANISH Special Edition, “Female Magicians through the Centuries” that would be great to share. Also, the “Blast from the Past” playlist from our YouTube channel pays tribute to many vintage female performances.
Wow…I had no idea there was such a community out there for female illusionists. It was such a pleasure speaking with Connie and now I can’t wait to see one of her shows and experience the mystical world of magical women. Connie is busy packing her bags and gathering her fellow magical ladies together and taking to the road for more shows, post-Covid.
Last week, I read an interesting Fcbk post from Boyce & Hart (award-winning pop/rock songwriters) via The Monkees’ Fcbk account about a young indie band out of California covering one of the 60’s iconic hit-writers’ songs, (I’m not your) Stepping Stone which was originally recorded by Paul Revere and the Raiders but it was The Monkees who created magic with the tune. As many of you know, I’m a huge Monkees fan – I used to argue with my BFF at high school who was better, The Monkees or the Rolling Stones (LOL) – then in the 80’s I got to work press for the eastern Canadian leg of their original reunion tour (sans Mike Nesmith). Below, hanging with Davy Jones backstage pre-show in Toronto.Needless to say, I was intrigued by this groovy young band, the VELVET STARLINGS, and clicked thru to their cover version of “Stepping Stone”…WOW! Big juicy sound, great licks, fab vocals. Bravo, boys! I was hooked and said so by leaving a comment on the Boyce & Hart page who seemed to like my response. So when the songwriters of a classic pop song endorse your cover version, you must be pretty damn good. The band was founded by young lead singer, guitarist & organ player Christian Gisborne, brothers Foster Polling (drums) and Hudson Polling (bass), and new addition Ashton Minnich on second guitar. I wanted to make sure I shared news of my latest discovery with my music-lovin’ friends and industry colleagues so I reached out to the band who is participating in this year’s virtual version of Canadian Music Week and asked them a few questions….
Congratulations, lads, on your participation in this year’s CMW, even though it’s online only. How has Covid quarantining and travel bans affected your new album launch and reaching new audiences? We’ve actually finished 2 albums during Covid and we’re finally putting out our debut album “Technicolour Shakedown” this summer (to be distributed by AWAL/The Orchard in US.)! While Covid did put a damper on touring, it gave us the time we needed to really focus in on the music. We’ve started doing a lot more livestreams and such so that’s been pretty fun getting to connect with people mid-song, playing requested songs and what not.
Has the band participated in any online concerts or socially distanced events over the past year, and if so, how were you received by fans? Yes! We did a livestream benefitting Alexandria House, raising money for displaced women and children. It was super fun as we had to learn how to do multi-camera editing which ended up being the reason for our new extremely DIY music videos coming out this summer…haa haa! We’ve played a couple of socially-distanced local shows and they’ve been pretty fun, I think people are ready for live stuff to come back – just gotta get on that vaccine!How long have each of you been playing/performing? And do any of you have formal music training? Drummer Foster says: I started playing when I was about 12, and my brother, our bass player, Hudson started playing when he was about 10. We both took music classes at our middle school and high school, but we really started getting serious about music when we started playing in high school bands. That’s around the time we figured out that we really just liked playing rock n roll as opposed to the jazz and classical music we’d play in school. Lead singer, guitarist and keyboardist Christian(pictured below) says: I guess with music I took the same approach as Brian Wilson, McCartney and Lennon. I learned to play by ear for most part, found all of the chords in my Beatles songbook and just applied them to my own songwriting. I had heard that George Martin made sure Lennon & McCartney didn’t learn to read and write as he thought it would confine them creatively. I wanted to play organs and keyboards after hearing Alan Price (The Animals) & Ray Manzerek (The Doors) – those guys are huge influences.What drew you together as a band? Was it style, genre or simply the love of music creation? Christian: I met brothers Foster and Hudson at a Cage the Elephant show and we’ve been friends ever since. Ashton used to play in their band and now we’re all rocking out together. I think growing up in a time when everyone at school worships Drake and Post Malone definitely contributed to the ‘want’ to find other people who dig rock’n’roll and organic instruments. We all love the same bands and it all just somehow worked out.
Being an oldie, I am truly impressed with your musical influences from the 60’s – legendary artists such as The Stones, Hendrix, Zeppelin, Iron Maiden…even Humble Pie! Did you each discover these groups via your parents (or grandparents)? And what appealed most to you about the rock/R&B grooves? Foster: We just love rock’n’roll. The energy of playing music in a room or outdoors and getting a reaction out of the audience is really what we love to see each time we play, and we work hard to try and squeeze it out of an audience at each concert. Of course, this has a lot to do with what music we were introduced to when we were younger. Growing up during the garage rock revival was huge for us, listening to all these killer bands like The White Stripes or Jet really kickstarted our love of the energy that rock n roll gives off. From that point, you start to really get into it and research who influenced who, and then you just go down the rabbit hole from there.I discovered Velvet Starlings thanks to a Boyce & Hart/Monkees Facebook shout-out …you covered their “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone”. Why this song…what did you hear in it that prompted you to cover it with your own style? Stepping Stone is such a bad-ass moment in their discography. We were gonna try and do Valleri but the solo just rips too hard and I couldn’t figure it out..haa haa. That’s so sick that you worked with them for their reunion tour! Seeing The Monkees live would be the dream – I saw Mickey Dolenz play Pleasant Valley Sunday and Last Train to Clarksville at a mini local festival in Laurel Canyon and just that blew my mind.
Thanks, guys, any messages for your new fans in Canada and around the world? We’re big fans of Canadian rock’n’roll. Arcade Fire, DFA1979, Mac Demarco. The New Pornographers was actually the last show I went to right before Covid. We’re hoping to make it up to Canada some day…hopefully in 2022. Toronto & Montreal are on our list of places to rock. We really appreciate Steven Dagenais & Robert Singerman for including us on this year’s CMW line up. The funny thing is we were supposed to be in Toronto in 2020 for CMW & Indie Week, but due to Covid they were postponed along with our official SXSW conference slot and our UK tour. We look forward to getting back out there again playing to a live audience.
Good luck with CMW, fellas – check out news of the Velvet Starlings and other great artists at www.cmw.net (online May 18-21) and I encourage you to visit VS’s own website for more music videos & band news as well as social media links www.velvetstarlings.com
Big thanks to Roger Gisborne, Owner/CEO Sound x 3 Records and Gemma Downes, Label Mgr/A&R/Artist Development at Sound x 3 Music UK for their kind assistance with writing this blog. Band photos courtesy: Skyler Barberio
I remember the night of the Oscars many years ago when one of Canada’s leading TV networks sent beautiful Toronto comedienne CARLA COLLINS down to L.A. to cover the red carpet arrivals and do interviews with the stars. OMG, I’ll never forget that vision of her in a bizarre, wild orange sparkly frock tossing out bon mots and kudos to the stars, drawing them into her microphone and asking them hysterical questions about their nominated roles, their lives and loves…and whatever else came into her head – a wacky stream of consciousness. She was brilliant! Totally unafraid to meet to BIG named stars head-on, kinder than Joan Rivers but just as “intimate” with her enquiries, Carla charmed everyone that night and I knew it was only a matter of time that she herself would walk among the showbiz giants…on 6″ stilettos and with even bigger hair!
Working her magic in west coast comedy clubs, hosting corporate events & awards nights, special guesting at swanky soirees – years later Carla has forged a successful comedy career as well as becoming a best-selling author, launched a brilliant interactive program that merges laughter with meditation and yoga principles, and now back on home turf in Canada, she’s hosting a brand new webcast series (which should go live with a studio audience once Covid quarantining is over) staged at the legendary El Mocambo nightclub in downtown Toronto.
I recently caught up with my fellow blonde goddess and posed a few scintillating questions I thought my readers would enjoy….It’s been a long time since your first stand-up gig at The Rivoli in Toronto – do you remember your excitement or fears when you first set foot on the stage? And did you think it would lead to such a successful career in comedy for you? For the longest time I was absolutely terrified of doing stand-up and had a crushing nerve problem where I couldn’t even eat for days leading up to going on stage. I only dabbled in comedy a couple of times a year when I was working fulltime on TV and radio. Although comedy was my first love, I was terrified before every show. Now I could jump up and do 45 minutes at a garage sale! I can’t wait to make people laugh and I certainly never imagined it would become my greatest high and healthiest escape. Like every other comedian right now, I’m practically doing a tight 5 in the Whole Foods parking lot against everyone’s will. The Rivoli was the mecca of comedy – I’m so sad to hear it has closed and so honoured to have had the opportunity to perform there a few times.
Your stand-up comedy has attracted a huge following in the States and whenever you’ve come home to Canada for special appearances you pack the theatres – do you find any difference in the audiences? Audiences can vary a little from place to place, city to city. If I were to make a general, sweeping, certain to offend someone observation it’s that US audiences tend to be a tad more effusive and more prone to standing ovations and Canadian audiences seem to prefer more intellectual humour at times. Having said that, depending on the town or region, that statement can be totally flipped. At the moment I would kill for any type of audience, even though my Chihuahua, three kittens and UPS driver have been a great crowd during lockdown.
Have you had any really weird experiences while doing your shows? Any men’s underwear thrown on stage, mothers claiming you seduced their sons or maybe some ugly streakers? One time in Long Beach, California, a very drunken woman slurred and heckled throughout my set. That wouldn’t be remotely unusual except for the fact that I was performing at an AA meeting and the Ziplock bag full of vodka that fell out of her purse was frowned upon by the organizers. Last year in Calgary a former hockey player and his girlfriend bought me many, many drinks after I headlined a show. I had to excuse myself and retire to my room as I was beyond tipsy only to find a $1,500 tip in my purse! I was a bit of a legend the following night as the other comedians and wait staff had witnessed the event. Pretty sure I naively escaped an Albertan three-way!In one of your many film appearances, the diamond heist adventure Bitch Slap, you got to work with both Hercules (Kevin Sorbo) and Xena (Lucy Lawless) – how was that experience and did you manage to score any super powers of your own? Well I was only in one scene so I didn’t get to work with either one on set. I did meet Kevin at the premiere and I already knew Lucy through a mutual friend. She’s absolute perfection and is one of my girl crushes. Pretty sure everyone adores Xena/Lucy. The only super power I emerged with was my ability to overact even in the tiniest of roles and my ability to kill off husbands. Metaphorically.A few years ago, you created a fun online chat show, Carla Collins Comes Clean, set in your actual bathtub where you told us about all sorts of hilarious things that happened to you. How did you come up with the crazy concept and did you ever invite any special guests to the tub? We had so much fun doing that web series and we still have a season 2 that needs to find its way out into the wild. It was directed by Tom Moser who has won multiple Emmys in animation. My then producer, Penny Edminston, and I thought it would be funny for me to just rant away in a bathtub as that is my natural habitat and form of cheap therapy. I would straight up be doing prison time if I wasn’t allowed to take baths. We were tickled by the twist ending of reversing the camera and showing some poor pizza delivery man, nun, B list celebrity, etc… fully-dressed in the tub with me and forced to hear my bullshit. There is interest in remaking the show this coming year so expect to see more of me, as it were. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
I’m interested to learn about how you’re exploring your spiritual side by launching the innovative Comedic Meditation program, hosted online now (thanks, Covid you bitch!). Please tell me about the healing effects of humour and how you have merged guided meditations with laughs and smiles. Currently, Comedic Meditation is my favourite child! I think I have often combined my love of comedy and spirituality including performing stand-up at the Kabbalah Center in LA and my humorous self-help book “Angels, Vampires and Douche Bags”. I’ve been spiritual all my life and have practiced yoga and meditated for almost 20 years now. Everyone in Los Angeles claims to be a guru and I just wanted to take the intimidation, preciousness and woo woo out of meditation. It’s simply focusing on your breath. The marriage isn’t as unconventional as it may seem at first. Starting off with 20 to 30 minutes of stand-up allows everyone to release endorphins and get out of their own heads and both meditation and laughter produce the same gamma brainwave. People are finding that they are able to relax more deeply and more quickly after some giggles (and sometimes a few drinks) Also, although no one thinks Zoom comedy shows are ideal, the meditation portion may work even better delivered online as people can relax comfortably in their own home without feeling judged and without having to drive home…or wear pants. I’ve been fortunate to do a few corporate comedic meditations this month for a few organizations which I loved. Thanks to several sponsors like our title sponsor, The Michael Stuart Webb Team, you can sample a show right now at no cost by visiting www.comedicmeditation.com Figure we all need to chuckle and chill during these mad times.More recently, you returned to the stage here in Toronto at the legendary El Mocambo nightclub presenting a unique talkshow-style webcast called Carla Collins Rox the Elmo – do tell…how did this happen and who will you be chatting with? Pretty sure masks and podcasts have both become mandatory! I had a wonderful experience playing the Elmo for two shows in September during that brief but glorious window when venues were quasi-open. I had quarantined with Elmo Owner and former Dragon’s Den star Michael Wekerle and his family and we became fast friends. Michael Stuart Webb (whom I refer to as my gay fiancé!) and I had already partnered on Comedic Meditation and he was launching his new media group so the three of us joined forces to produce a pandemic panacea podcast/web series. Carla Collins Rox the Elmo is the perfect three-way of comedy, music and spirituality where mental health meets metal health with the iconic venue as the beautiful backdrop.We just wrapped season one with some exceptional guests partaking in no-holds barred, intimate interviews. Many also treat us to mini concerts you won’t see anywhere else. Season one includes candid chats with actor Dean McDermott, Canadian music icon Gowan, comedian Kenny Robinson (pictured above, with Carla), Olympic skating queen Elizabeth Manley, recording legend Kim Mitchell, singer/songwriter Gordon Deppe, the list goes on. Naturally there’s a lot of laughter and great music but also a lot of raw emotion and honesty. I’m very proud of this show and hope everyone will check it out on my YouTube channel and/or iTunes and Spotify.The Covid lock-down, isolation and quarantining has not dampened your sense of humour and certainly hasn’t curtailed your creativity. How many webisodes are you planning at the Elmo and then what’s next for Carla Collins? Any more books in the works? We’re planning more webisodes in the new year when we are able and I’m also going to release a new comedy album from my two shows in the fall at the El Mocambo (maybe even a TV special!). I am working on a new book: the world’s first motivational/self-help coffee book featuring the beautiful fashion designs and photography of my dear friend Jorge Del Busto called Stairs: A 30 Day Step by Step Guide to being Fab AF. It features various photos of me on a staircase with some hilarious and hopefully helpful hints of being even more fabulous than you already are 😊 I’ve been billing myself as the world’s most immature mature model. Funny fact: I was just signed to a modelling agency in LA. Now I’ll be spending the entire holiday season phoning up my exes and letting them know that they didn’t know it, but they were bangin’ a model!Carla, is there anything else you’d like to add, any shout-outs or messages to your fans? Just wanna send everyone lots of love and laughs right now. Stay safe and healthy. If you can, during lockdown, adopt a pet. Or an accent.
Watch for webisodes of Carla Collins Rox the Elmo now on YouTube!
It’s been a while since I took a spin around the galleries at Toronto’s ROM and as I’d been given a “golden ticket” to view the Treasures of a Desert Kingdom: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India (selected photos at end of blog) exhibition, I decided to capitalize on the all-access pass and take in some of my favourite displays, in particular the Etruscans (from whom I believe I am descended), the ancient Romans & Greeks, followed by the European 15th – 20th centuries for good measure. There were some exquisite jewellery displays of Etruscan baubles I’d never previously viewed – now I know from where I get my passion for carnelians & garnets…Moving thru the various centuries of ancient civilization, so many great photo opps presented themselves….The Athena Parthenos (above) is recreated here with a model worshiper (bottom right) to show the original scale of this magnificent Greek goddess statue. And I loved the Cypriot busts (below) – the laurel crowned fellow on the right looks like he’s just been told an off-colour joke!Through a set of doors and around a corner, I spied the “In the Age of Rembrandt” exhibition so I flashed my VIP pass and in I went…Such beauty and elegance…several Dutch masters painting during the same era as Rembrandt are featured and as you pass thru the exit of this gallery, you’re bade farewell by a pair of Rembrandt’s stunning portraits…I then proceeded into more recent centuries and viewed the room-scapes set up so visitors can get a taste of furnishings and lifestyles from the Tudors to the mid-20th century.Don’t you just love these mid-century modern chairs (above)? And haven’t we all had our bums in some of these seats, too?
Now back to the Indian exhibit – it closes Sept. 2nd and it’s well worth the museum entry fee just to see it. Stunning artworks, furnishings, royal jewellery & costumes…so much to admire and wonder at.Check out the Royal Ontario Museum’s website for hours & directions: www.rom.on.ca/en
Last night (Wed. Oct.17), Grammy-nominated and internationally acclaimed RON KORB delivered a sizzling show from the stage of Toronto’s Jazz Bistro, introducing tracks from his latest solo album, WORLD CAFE, showcasing Latin-themed original instrumentals. Ron was joined on stage by world-renowned musicians who also played on the album: Bill Bridges, Bill Evans, Steve Lucas and Larry Crowe, with special guests Hilario Duran (piano) and Joseph Macerollo (accordion).
That same day, nomination ballots for this year’s Grammy Awards were also distributed to academy members around the world and all fingers are crossed that Ron receives another Grammy nod like his previous album, Asia Beauty.
In World Café, Ron takes us to sunny Spain, the island of Cuba, and the alluring lands of South America where he merges a rhythm from one region with a melody inspired by another. World Café represents a meeting place where people from many cultures can intermingle, laugh and make friends in a relaxed space – much like his own multicultural Toronto where this album was recorded.The packed audience at Jazz Bistro swayed to the rhythms and there was a lot of chair dancin’ during the two sets; the show must have blown up on social media based on all the phone cameras held high to catch the action….like this beautiful accordion solo from Joseph Macerollo…
The evening was hosted by the always-charming Miss Ziggy Lorenc (Zoomer Media) who many in the crowd remembered from her Citytv days – Ziggy now hosts a nightly show during the week on Zoomer Radio AM640 called Stardust and Midnight Blue. Here she is (below, L) with friend Barbara (R) and on stage MC’ing the show.As for many of Ron’s albums, the cover and accompanying 24-pg full colour booklet was designed by his talented wife, Jade, seen here (below, R) with fans. This next brief video was hard to shoot – all I wanted to do was dance!! So please pardon my cha-cha-cha moves and enjoy another brief taste of World Café here:
Ron’s final set resulted in multiple encores and lots of CD sales with some audience members purchasing multiple copies as presents for friends and family! To learn more about Ron, listen to World Café and previous albums, visit www.ronkorb.com or you can download World Café from Spotify, iTunes or Amazon. Thank you for supporting Canadian musical artists.
With the ever-increasing popularity of web-based TV series and entertainment content (watch out cable tv providers, you’re days are numbered!), I’ve been following several young producers/directors/writers who have answered the siren call to create online films and serials. One such multi-tasker is CALEB OLIVIERI (pictured below in red in full directorial action) whose first series, UNAPOLOGY, offers tales from this city (Toronto), focusing on a number of families, singles, couples and how they navigate thru life and, in one case, the impact of early onset Alzheimer’s. Under the umbrella of his Wait, What? production company, Caleb has produced quality programming for multi-generational viewers showcased via the YouTube platform, and the first 6 episodes will officially be launched on Monday Sept. 10th with a cast and crew celebratory soiree during the height of Toronto Int’l Film Fest activities. Hopefully, members of the world’s entertainment media will drop by for a quick schmooze and meet Caleb and his enthusiastic production team. You can learn more via the series Fcbk page: www.facebook.com/unapologyseries
I recently spoke with Caleb to learn how Unapology came into being…
Caleb, what was the inspiration for the theme/storylines for UNAPOLOGY? The storyline(s) grew organically out of my own experiences … alternative living arrangement and employment situation. A close relative with early Alzheimer’s inspired me to write about the reality of living with the disease. From the lack of affordable housing to despicable and exploitative behaviours of some of my employers I didn’t have to dig deep to find the grist.
Being a young filmmaker, how difficult was it to raise funding, secure equipment and locations as well as attract good actors? Finding good actors in Toronto is easy enough and I was lucky enough to have some good connections with friends and colleagues with equipment and basically “free” use of locations. Fundraising on the other hand has always been a grind.With every film school grad pitching projects to major TV networks in Canada and the US, you created the series specifically for web-based content. Why/how did you decide on this route to take to make your presence known in the crowded TV production arena? Originally it was written and produced as a pilot for a 22 min. series but I broke it down into 6 mini episodes for online use. With a web series I’m much less confined by edicts from networks which are often limiting when it comes to content and structure. A web based series lets the viewer make up their own mind as to what they want to watch and when … a quick episode on the subway ride home … a visit to the loo?As writer & director (as well as producer), how difficult was it to change “hats” throughout the shoot? Did Caleb the producer ever have to give notes (or argue with) Caleb the director? Most of the time the writer and producer are at odds with one another because Caleb the producer can’t give Caleb the writer what he wants due to budget constraints. Caleb the director usually plays the middle man who tries to satisfy the needs of both the writer and producer without sacrificing the story or vision of the project.Did you study writing or production at university or film school, and if so how did you find that experience? I’ve worked in the industry for most of my life, mostly as an actor. I would have loved the opportunity to study writing for film and tv post secondary but the reality for most actors in Canada is you do a lot of pavement pounding, auditioning and co-ops and if you have to pay the rent, that leaves little time for school.
You have a special invitation-only party coming up during the Toronto Int’l Film Festival to officially launch the UNAPOLOGY online series – this must be exciting for you and your team. How important is it to attract international media & industry attention for your web-series and will you be promoting to online audiences outside of Canada? We are stoked to be able to promote our series during the upcoming TIFF season but more so to be simply promoting it finally. Any attention at this point is good attention for my crew and my cast, and while local attention would be great, finding an international audience is absolutely the way to go in 2018 onward.
Any advice to give other writers or producers wanting to create for online entertainment platforms? Be persistent, hold on to your vision and find your Fairy Web-Mother or Father…LOL
Check out Unapology’s YouTube promo videos here:
I strongly recommend watching this new series and thank you in advance for supporting emerging Canadian filmmakers and webTV producers. Congratulations to Caleb and his talented cast and crew.
Toronto’s URBAN GALLERY has become known for showcasing exciting and unique multi-media artworks in their monthly exhibitions, and for May, they present 4 outstanding photographers as part of this year’s Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival. In their “Women at Work” show, Urban features images of women going about their work-a-day lives, be it as horse grooms, boxers, ballerinas, mothers, fashionistas….and the photos are simply gorgeous.Dorothy Chiotti (below) is a horse-lover as well as photographer and her images of barn life illustrate the exhausting round-the-clock life of caring for our 4-legged friends. Apart from simply exhibiting her work here, Dorothy is donating 10% from sales of her work to Whispering Hearts Horse Rescue of Hagarsville so please choose your fave photo and know that your purchase will help support the great work Whispering Hearts does for abused and abandoned equines. Bravo, Dorothy!
And here are some of Dorothy’s photos…I next spoke with Wally Jay Parker – this is her very first time exhibiting her work publicly and she was so excited!
…and big CONGRATULATIONS as one of Wally Jay’s photos was the first to be sold at yesterday’s opening reception!! Digital & analogue photographer and collage artist Erin McGean joined me next for a quick chat…
…and two of her works were next to sell at the opening party. Congrats, Erin. Her family was there, too, and showed off their favourite picture of mum’s (bottom)The only male photographer in the show, Lyndon Wiebe, is a well traveled photographer as well as celebrity chef. Lyndon and 2 of his chef pals traveled the world for the popular “Chefs Run Wild” tv show. Lyndon is also the executive chef for Urban Source Catering (the gallery’s yummy caterer for all their opening receptions). Lyndon is bashful when it comes to video interviews but I managed to grab a few quick photos of him (below), including one of him with the subject of his charming ballerina photos.There were lots of family and friends who came out to show support for the artists and the gallery was humming with positive comments and kudos from all……even Erin and Dorothy exchanged artistic visions (below)KJ Mullins, publisher of NEWZ4U.ca (below left) checked in at the door with gallery hostess Kelly…yes, you’re on the guest list!“Women at Work” runs throughout May as part of the city-wide CONTACT fest so do come down and support your local photographic artists. Check the gallery’s website for hours & directions: www.urbangallery.ca