Thursday, 25 July 2013

A story of determination - Cool Runnings

When I doubt that I can do this, I watch Cool Runnings. A Disney film based on the story of the Jamaican national bobsled team's debut in the 1988 Winter Olympics, Canada. If you haven't seen it I won't elaborate further - for God's sake go and watch it! The ultimate feel good movie, a brilliant illustration of just how far determination and fighting against the odds can get you.

I have been lucky enough to interview two of the actors playing the Jamaican Bobsled team, Malik Yoba (Yul Brenner)  and Rawle D Lewis (Junior Bevil). Nervous wasn't the word, luckily I had three huge Cool Runnings fans on hand for encouragement (thank you HBT, Sarah and Kerry-Lou).

Malik was very kind and encouraging and told me my book shouldn't just be about John Candy but about hope and helping others.

I think by the time I got to talk to Rawle I was even more nervous, I shouldn't have been. So far I think Rawle has been one of my top three favourite interviews. He is so sweet and funny and we talked for almost an hour - it was like I was talking to an old friend. He didn't just work with John Candy - he was a massive John Candy fan. He remembered every detail and really cherishes his memories of John. I felt a real affinity to Rawle, he was a joy to talk to, especially as he was telling me John Candy was everything I wanted him to be and more. 

Rawle gave me so many stories - you will have to read the book for all of them, however he did tell me how John had made them all CD's and given them gifts that he thought would help them with their characters. John Candy was renowned as being generous and thoughtful.
One of the things he gave Rawle was a song and a film by the same name.

Cool Runnings never fails to give me goose bumps, it makes me laugh and cry every time. John shines not just as a comedic talent but also as a dramatic actor.

Next time you feel low on confidence go and watch this movie, it will make you feel like you can move mountains.

"I'm feeling very Olympic today. How about you?"

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Searching for Aykroyd

When I started this whole project I wrote a wish list of people I would like to interview. Some had sadly already passed and some have passed over the last two years whilst I have been writing. There are some I have managed to interview, some who have politely declined and then there is Dan Aykroyd...

I still can't get to Aykroyd, I know that one day I will hear something even if it's just a no (a no is better than nothing).

I interviewed Ken Tipton who I will talk about later on in more detail. Ken met Candy on the set of  Planes Trains, when he was John Candy's stand in. Many years later he tracked John down and John became his mentor. In the process of getting to John he contacted Dawn Steel who said she would help Ken and she gave him her book - he was furious! He was expecting help not a book, then he read it. "They Can Kill You but They Can't Eat You". Ken recommended I read it, I did. It showed me the power of determination. If you can't get in the front door, go to the back door. If you can't get through the back door, go through the side door, can't get through the side door? then go through the window. So this has been the strategy for most of my research.

So when trying to get to Aykroyd I knew it was never going to be easy. I have interviewed Valri Bromfield (his old comedy partner), Dave Thomas who he worked closely with (including co-writing Spies Like Us) and Bruce McNall (Ex Owner of the LA Kings and ex Co-owner of Toronto Argonauts). Dave and Bruce said they would get word to him for me. I have written letters, Tweets, Facebook posts. Dan had even come over to the UK to promote his latest venture Crystal Head Vodka, I sent letters via the producer of the programme he was being interviewed on, a letter where he was doing a signing (my conscience would not allow me to take a sickie, I work for a chairty as the day job), nothing. Apparently he doesn't have email and I didn't think anyone was going to give me his mobile phone number.

I then started to think outside the box. Aykroyd is very spiritual he believes in telepathic transmission, so I thought it might be worth a try. I rallied some sceptical friends of mine to help and every night I would ask them to focus on Aykroyd and try and send him the message to contact me. Steve, El, Sarah and Bec thank you for humouring me. Steve even went that extra mile...


Well actually not nothing... he did Tweet about John Candy shortly after so maybe it had some effect!

Through my research I know that Aykroyd had given much of his time to the author Bob Woodward who wrote 'Wired', the John Belushi Biography. He gave hours of his time as did Belushi's wife Judy. When the book was published they were distraught and angry as their words had been twisted and taken out of context, painting the wrong picture. Once bitten, twice shy? More than likely, this was his good friend, can you imagine losing someone you love so dearly in such a tragic way? only then to have your memories of them skewed to suit the Author's purpose?

I don't blame anyone who doesn't want to talk to me about John Candy. I am a nobody... I think it is sweet that after all this time people are still cautious, they want to look after their friend. I might be a nobody but I am a good soul. I am writing this because I think it needs to be out there, people need to know more about John, they deserve to know more. I don't want to dig dirt and I'm certainly not writing it to make money. 

One day Aykroyd, one day... 

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Where to start...

So I decided I was going to write a book, that in itself is a start. There are many old interviews and articles about John but I wanted to give a real 360 view with interviews and information that had never been published before. I was so green, this was a daunting task.

A complete unknown I had no idea how I would get people to take me seriously. The great thing about some of the people who worked and were friends with John, is that they too were creatives and dreamers which really worked in my favour. Of course I have encountered many naysayers, but if nothing else I am tenancious.

Luckily, one of the first people I came accross during my research turned out to be not only an invaulable source of information, but also of support and encouragement. When John was at Neal McNeal High School he met Jonathan O'Mara, they hit it off straight away and soon became the best of friends. Jonathan has given me some lovely stories and insight about John at school, the jobs they did, road trips and Friday nights driving around town. This was two years ago and still today Jonny O and I are conversing and he helps me wherever he can. I often wonder if I hadn't found Jonathan would I have got any further? He has given me so much confidence, I will always be so grateful to him.

I can't wait to share his stories with you.

For now though, this is something that isn't in the book, but something Jonathan wrote when he lost his dear friend, this was published in the Toronto Star... 


Yesterday, you left. Without saying goodbye. I know I should have sought you out sooner, but with you being a movie star and being so busy and having a new circle of friends, I would have felt like an intruder.

Not that you would have made me feel that way. Just the opposite in fact.

I remember at our high school reunion, when you had just finished Splash and you were mobbed by a couple of hundred people looking for autographs, you smiled at everyone and signed every slip of paper handed to you. When you were finished, you looked tired.

I approached you tentatively since we had not seen each other for several years. Would success have spoiled my old friend? Not in the least.

Your gave me a big, heartfelt bear hug and shyly shook my wife's hand.

You introduced me to your friends, Joe Flaherty and Catherine O'Hara, whom I had known from SCTV programs. I was touched that they came along to support you in your "homecoming" performance for your old schoolmates, but then, you always attracted genuine people to you.

You disliked pretense and never showed any.

I remember you telling me that night that you were so nervous before you went on that you were almost physically ill.

Even then, when you were rocketing to success, you were humble and unsure of yourself. Didn't you know everyone loved you?

Remember in 1968‑1969 when we were inseparable? You worked in the pet department of the Towers store in Scarborough and I in a Becker's in the Scarborough boonies. After work, you would climb into your big car which you called "the White Knight" and would come to my work, perch on the end of the counter and help me close up. Then we would cruise around, listen to music and talk.
You were a sad young man then, John, in spite of your jovial, wisecracking exterior. I remember thinking how unusual it was for you to live in a bedroom in the basement while your mom lived upstairs. In all the times I came to your house, I think I only talked to your mom four or five times.

I know you missed your dad terribly. I couldn't understand losing a parent when only a child of 4. I guess that helped to make you the very sensitive person you were.

Remember the Donlands movie theatre? I think it's gone now, but it was only a stone's throw from your house. How you loved movies!

We would watch two or three showings of the same film some evenings. You seemed to lose yourself in them.

Did you ever seriously imagine that one day your face would be up there?

I seem to recall that you didn't think you had much of a future. You were tormented by your weight to the extent that you went to Buffalo to sign up with the U.S. Marine Corps. You said that the training at Paris Island Boot Camp was so rigorous that you would lose all of your weight.

You also said that if you were shipped to Vietnam, you wouldn't care. "Que sera, sera." What will be, will be.

Well, I tagged along that weekend to try to dissuade you, but we ended up in the recruiting office all the same. If it were not for that football injury to your knee, they would have taken you. I was relieved they didn't, but you were very disappointed.

I have a photo of you from that weekend in Niagara Falls, Ont. You're smoking one of those damned Marlboros that you loved so much and are gazing wistfully across to the United States.

Did you know then that your destiny lay over there?

We learned from each other, as all friends do. I learned to give more of myself since you gave so freely. You would always spot me a dollar when I needed one or drive me somewhere when I needed a lift.

Do you remember my 18th birthday, when we were both working at the Neil McNeil High School dance? You should. I know I'll never forget it.

We were both dateless that night and I was particularly despondent since my girlfriend was babysitting and would not be with me at the dance.

You told me at about 8:30 that you had to run an errand. You didn't get back until after 10, but who did you have in tow? Lois, my girlfriend.

The two of you had cooked it up as a surprise and you had driven the 30 miles or so to pick her up for me. You also drove her back that evening. A guy could never have had a better pal!

After high school, you went to Centennial College, where my friend Willy Godfrey kept me up to date on your shenanigans. As time went on, we developed separate interests and, as so often happens, we slowly drifted apart. My father worked with your mother‑in‑law, or your wife Rosie's aunt, or some relation or other.

I was so happy to hear that you married and I got all the dope about your little daughter and son.

As I said, John, you had become famous and I did not want to intrude. I only saw you three times during your years of fame and the interludes were too brief.

I promised my children that I would take them to meet you sometime, but I never seemed to get around to it.

I wish now that I had tried harder.

I looked for you at two Argo games last season but you were not at those games. I guess it's too late now.

John and Jon, Niagara Falls, Canada. March, 1969
My heart goes out to your mother, your brother, Jim, your wife, Rosie, and your countless friends. Your legacy, John, is not only your huge volume of work, but is also your children, your friends, and the effect you have had and will continue to have on millions of people.

You have given the world a large measure of happiness and that is no small thing. I will miss you terribly but I will never forget you.

And, by the way John, say hello to Elvis for me will you?

Sleep well my friend.

God bless.

Jonathan O'Mara

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Two years after I started...

So for the last two years I have been writing a book, more specifically a biography about the mighty John Candy. I am still researching, interviewing and tapping away but my brother suggested I should start a blog about it, so here I am.

So why John Candy? I suffer from really bad depression. A couple of years ago it was affecting me really badly and in an attempt to take me to a happier place I started to watch films that I grew up with. Splash, Uncle Buck, Brewster's Millions... not only did it make me regress to a much nicer time it reminded me of my love for John Candy. I have always been a massive fan but knew very little about him. Thirsty to find out more about I scoured the internet for books written about him, there is in fact only one. I read the book in a day, as a fan it wasn't what I wanted - I won't go into that now though. I could not believe that this was it! There are great articles and fan sites, but surely he deserves more? So I got a crazy notion that maybe I could write the book?

I remember reading a piece by my friend Joe Shooman, he said he realised he could be a writer when he was on a plane reading an article someone had written, someone - a person. Joe was a person too, therefore why couldn't he write? and of course, he could! This gave me a similar realisation.

Making this decision felt like a calling from JC himself (just not the one most people expect!). It took me about a year for anyone to take me seriously. Now I am about 40,000 words in and have interviewed the likes of Dave Thomas, Valri Bromfield, Lonette McKee, Rawle D Lewis and Carl Reiner.

So that was a brief introduction. I am hoping to share snippets of the interviews I have conducted, keep this as a record of my journey and hopefully get some feedback.

One thing I do know, so far this process has been a joy.

John Candy is everything I wanted him to be and more.