Monday, 19 August 2013

Be the best that you can be.

I have been thinking about my own Dad a lot recently. He died fourteen years ago and I still miss him like crazy. When he passed I wondered why this had happened to him? He was only 54, a good man, he worked hard, had a laugh, loved his family and was true to his friends. Sometimes I wondered if he had just been too good for this world? - he had done his job too well in every aspect and maybe once you have achieved what you have been put here to do, you move on. 

I sometimes think the same about John Candy. 

I can spend hours, that turn into days trying to figure out why both of these men were taken so early. John worked hard that's for sure, during his career he was in over forty movies! Then there is also the TV work, Radio Kandy and Camp Candy, add to that co-owning and promoting the Toronto Argonauts. John wasn't just an actor and entrepreneur, he was a Husband and a Father. 

His wife, Rose, was his childhood sweetheart they had met when they were working in the same department store. During their life together, they had two beautiful children, Jennifer and Chris. When I interviewed Carl Reiner the first thing he said to me was,  he had never met a man more in love with his family. That struck such a cord with me, I think that is the highest compliment anyone could ever give. 

This week I interviewed Kevin Pollak, he was in Canadian Bacon with John, a film written, directed and produced by Michael Moore that was made in the fall of 1993. Kevin had lovely memories of John including a conversation they had one night when they were having a drink. John shared that he knew he wasn't long for this world, he was surprised he had lived this long. He also knew he had been criticised for doing some films that the critics didn't rate, but he said "yes" a lot as he needed to bankroll the money for his family - so that he could take care of them when he had gone. Several months later he passed away.

When my Dad found out he was terminally ill, he was more worried about us, his family, than anything else. He taught me how to check my car oil and how to change a electric plug. I didn't realise at the time but it was so I could do it when he was no longer around to do it for me. 

Both of these men were the best that they could be.

This world would be a much better place if they were both still in it. 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Big Issue

John Candy was a big man - fact. The more I research for my book, the sadder I am that people wouldn't let him forget it. 

My weight has always fluctuated, I have a relationship with food, I love it! I eat when I am angry, sad, happy, bored, in fact any occasion. I have no understanding of people who don't like food - it's our life source. When I was younger I was told that if I was a big as a house no man would ever want me... that really stuck with me and I have always had an issue with it whether I have been big or not (I now realise that when I was 3 stone lighter, I wasn't big at all). I once had an ex boyfriend tell me that I was too fat - well he should see me now, he would probably run for the hills - and to be fair he should, I would be standing there throwing things at him. I have always been a contradiction to myself. I used to eat to prove to those around me that people would like me regardless of how big I was. Then the coin in my head would flip and I would cry and worry that people would not accept or love me.  Luckily for me I have found a good man who likes me just as I am. I am still not comfortable in my own skin but I think that is more about worrying what other people think of me than anything else.

John Candy was no different to anyone else, he had insecurities and he had his way to comfort those. Maybe if everyone had dropped the issue, the issue wouldn't have been so big. Maybe not. Who knows? I know people will say it wasn't good for his health to be overweight, you can't deny that... but neither was the stress and worry and the comments that stuck with him about his weight - in fact I would argue that this did far more damage. 

Everyone loved John. He wasn't funny because he was fat, he was funny because he was funny!

Not only did he have to put up with the comments, they were also made in script on screen. He hated doing the mud wrestling scene in Stripes as he thought everyone was laughing at him for the wrong reasons. One reviewer referred to him as an "Elephant". Film critics can be so cruel. He didn't appreciate fat jokes. Just because someone pokes fun at themselves, shouldn't be a free passport for everyone else to do the same. The interviews I have been doing recently have revealed just how hurt John was.

John was a sensitive man. Imagine the one thing you hate most about yourself being highlighted by everyone else as a joke. He did lose weight several times but part of me wonders if his head was like mine - a constant battle of not giving a toss to it being the end of the world. 

Add to that his Dad died in his thirties from a heart attack, when John was just five years old. His Granddad had also passed away young from a heart condition so to him a young death seemed inevitable. John always thought he was on borrowed time - so he made sure he had a good time.

John was loved but from my research I don't think he any clue just how much and to me, that is more tragic than anything else I have learnt.

When Playboy asked the question “You, Sam Kinison, Rosanne Barr and Louie Anderson are all in the forefront of comedy. Is fat funny?” John gave the perfect reply “It’s as funny as midgets. It’s really in the eye of the beholder. Some choose to think that. I never dwell on it. I tend to look at people as people and not as tall, short, fat, skinny. Given the opportunity, I’m sure we would come up with a list of faults for everyone. We could find old people funny. People with big noses. People going bald. People with big ears. People with goiters. People who have face lifts. People who have perfect teeth. You could cut anybody up. Roseanne Barr is very funny, very talented. More power to her. Louie Anderson is funny. Sam Kinison is very talented. I think they’re talented no matter what they look like. I don’t judge people by how they look and I try not to hang out with people who do.”

When I look at the press today I despair, it seems everyone is far more concerned with how people look than what they are achieving or adding to the world. When did we all become so fickle?

John Candy had a huge appetite for love, life, his friends and his family, he also had a huge capacity to get hurt and yet he still put himself out there.

Yes John Candy was a big man, but his heart was bigger - as was his talent.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

"I still have to clean out the kitty litter every day..."

"The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man"- Charles Darwin

I always knew I was never going to find a side to John I didn't like, but I was particularly pleased when I found out that he shared his life with animals.

When starting to write this book I was working at one of the busiest animal hospitals in the UK, I don't think I have ever worked so hard for so little money in all my life. I loved it. My colleagues were intrigued, some more than others. Throughout the early days my biggest source of support came from Ceara. Ceara was amazing in herself, years ago she gave up the rat race and well paid job to follow her passion and help animals, she had worked in rescue and now veterinary. She had a massive animal family and was always willing to stick up for those who couldn't speak for themselves. She is one of those people I always hold in great regard, she also loved listening to my stories about John and Ceara believed in me - you need someone like this in the early days as most people laughed at the prospect of what I was trying to do. Head Nurse Lisa is also amazing, so strong and determined she has overcome such challenges in her life and is chasing her own dreams, she always believes anything is possible. Lisa gave me a chance when no one else would - I will always be very grateful.

People like this I consider to be "Bees". Many years ago when I was at Uni there was one lecture that stayed in my mind. We were taught that scientifically bees shouldn't be able to fly, their body mass is way too big for their wing span and no one could work out how they do it. However, no one had told the bees this so they just flew. So I try to base everything I do on being a Bee! If someone tells you that you can't do it don't listen, just do it.

Anyway I digress...

I loved learning about the beef cattle that John bought for his Toronto Farm - he couldn't bear what would happen to them so ended up with lots of pet cows. I love the fact they escaped and he had to round them up with golf carts - it sounds like it should have been a scene from one of his movies. Horses that he saved from the meat market that they couldn't ride. It was more of a petting zoo than a farm. They had cats and a dog called Keema. Keema he studied for his role of Barf in Spaceballs.

"I'm a Mog: half man, half dog. I'm my own best friend." 

When interviewing Karen Austin, his leading lady in Summer Rental she told me how everyone loved John, even the dog loved John!

Lonette McKee told me John had backed her in her irate letter to Universal Studios who were using tar to trap pigeons when they were filming Brewster's Millions.

I have many stories in the book of John sticking up for others who didn't have a voice or whose voice was not being heard.

There is nothing nicer than falling a little more in awe with the person you are writing about.

PS Don't tell anyone, although I live by this bee theory - I have one of my own. Bees can fly because they have really bad wind, the buzzing isn't from their wings. That's why you will see them fly up and down as they buzz ;)