Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Have yourselves a very Schemenge Christmas!

I would love to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported me with this project this year; Rhys, friends and family that have listened to me whittle on, those who have read my blog, liked my Facebook page, spread the word or given me their time to talk to me about their experience of being friends or working with John. Thank you!

This year I have had the huge honour of interviewing many people including leg-ends Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. Some of my favourite stories however have come from crew members - those who worked with John closely behind the scenes and had so much respect for the friendship and warmth they were shown by him.

Of course I can't mention John Candy and Christmas without mentioning Home Alone "Polka, polka, polka" (and I do have stories about that shoot) but I was wanting to give you another Christmas story...

Rick Lazzarini who built and controlled John's ears when he was playing Barf in Spaceballs gave me a lovely festive memory of John.

John and Rick. Copyright Rick Lazzarini 1986
"John called me;

'So, Rick, you're good with mechanical stuff, right?'

'Yeah, I think so!'

'Well, can you come on over to my office? I need you to build something for me…'

With everything he had done for me, the answer was: 'Of course!. No question.'

So I made my way to his Santa Monica office, where he greeted me warmly. 

'I got this thing for my son Christopher. I dunno how to put it together!'

It was a metal tractor, the pedal kind, nicely crafted, solid, but it needed assembly.  

'You got it!' I said, and immediately started in on putting it together. It was for a Christmas present, and right around the holidays, and so John put on some Christmas music. He asked: 

'Do you want some wine?'


So we chatted, drinking wine, he behind his desk with his feet up on it, me sitting cross-legged on the floor, putting Tab A into Slot B and aligning holes so screw C could thread in.

And so…we talked, joked, laughed, sipped, dished, cozy, the red tractor coming into shape as we shared and joshed and enjoyed each other's company. 

I haven't yet met another actor, much less a human being, with John's capacity to fill the people around him with such joy. God bless him. He was wonderful. I miss him so."

It's only the last few years I have been introduced to the many wonderful characters John played as part of SCTV. The Schemege Brothers are two characters created by John and Eugene Levy, they have a polka band and come from Leutonia. Christmas in Leutonia includes eggs, hats on trees, sock swapping and cabbage rolls and coffee (Mmm mmm good!). Please watch this clip to get you in the spirit and have yourselves a very Schemenge Christmas!

So eat, drink, be merry, love those around you and spare a thought for those not as fortunate. Next year I will aim to be a better person, I will aim to love people and life as much as John did.

Lots of love
Tracey x

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Value the people around you.

John loved people, he loved his friends, his family and would have done anything for them. I have heard numerous stories from his friends and colleagues about times when he supported them, looked out for them. From diving in when he saw an injustice to loaning money and a kind ear.

Last week I interviewed Tony Rosato who was originally directed by John when he was part of the Second City Touring Troupe. He was also given one of his first breaks by John and Joe Flaherty to become part of the SCTV cast which then lead him to Saturday Night Live and beyond. Tony told me stories of living next door to the Aykroyd's, becoming life long friends with John and the time John bailed him out big time. His generosity knew no bounds and yet he was a everyday kind of guy. A sweet story featuring the Aykroyd's love of fish which led to Tony and John setting up a huge tank with African Cychilds will be in the book, it stirred up images of young boys working together and being chuffed to bits with what they achieved. When I say boys - they weren't at the time - but I love their child-like hearts.

I asked Tony a stupid question, does he still miss John? Of course the answer was, without hesitation, "everyday".

John was also very considerate to those he did not know so well, showing simple acts of kindness. A couple of weeks ago Donna Meyer told me a story when John was filming Wagons East, a spoof western which was actually his last film (he passed away in Mexico whilst on location). "On Ash Wednesday, we were going to be shooting an hour or so out of town. He knew that most of the Mexican crew were Catholic and that with our very early morning calls and long days, most of them would not be able to get to church. So he made arrangements with the priest of the church he had been attending to travel out to where we were shooting to bless and give ashes to any of the crew members who wanted it. It was the most thoughtful thing I'd ever seen."

There are countless stories of John helping others - one in particular about an old neighbour of his who lost her husband, every year he would send her flowers and make sure that when the snow came her drive was cleared. He would eat out in restaurants - then help the kitchen staff in the back and help serve customers.
You never forget those that have been kind to you, that haven't judged you. Not everyone around John was like this, he got hurt by many, but it never stopped him from being true to himself and giving so freely.

He was the "real article". 

Researching and writing about John always inspires me to be a better person.

This week I have been shown kindness that I will never forget, thank you to those who gave it to me, I am truly blessed. x