Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Happy Birthday Mr Candy

Dear John

Well another year has passed and you are still as missed and remembered as ever. I've lit a candle for you today and I will be raising a glass later.

There are so many awesome John Candy tributes on social media today, it always warms my cockles to see just how much you are celebrated and honored.

John, you should have been 67, instead you are 43 always.

Love to you and thanks for everything,

Tracey xx

PS I usually do an update around now for those waiting on the book, it usually says it's coming along great but slow etc, I have decided not to do that this year, instead I'm just getting on with it (stop talking about it and get the book finished I hear you shout!). So sorry for the delay guys, I had another major surgery in August and chronic illness is slowing me as always. But in the words of the late Tom Petty, I won't back down x

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Cool Runnings Isn't a Racist Film - an open letter to Gary at the Wales Arts Review.

So before I get into this, it's probably best to let you have a look at an article, writer, Gary Raymond, posted last week for the Wales Arts Review, Some Notes On Blackface

Many of my friends from around the world will not of heard this story, however if you are in the UK you may have seen the local press coverage. It's kind of ironic that the classic 90's film was originally written under the working title of 'Blue Maaga' - meaning 'serious trouble' in Jamaican. As the UK Bank Holiday just passed, four Cool Runnings fans wanting to pay tribute to their favorite film, on a carnival float in Aberaeron, Wales, have found themselves in exactly that, blue maaga! Dressing up in the famous green, black and yellow colors of the Jamaican flag, they have managed to cause controversy by wearing make up to make themselves appear black. Some have instantly hailed the imitators as racist and as a result they are possibly facing criminal charges.

Gary is right, 'black face' is not acceptable. Since realising this the four fans have apologised to the original Jamaican bobsleigh team and also made a donation to their team funds.

It's good that issues like this are talked about, I think these guys hadn't realized the enormity of their actions and certainly hadn't meant to offend anyone. I was interested in what Rawle D Lewis who played Junior in Cool Runnings thought about this story;

Lewis said "This is unfortunate. I don't think these guys had any malicious intentions. This was probably a childhood movie they grew up watching. They simply wanted to portray characters they idolized growing up. Unfortunately black face conjures up a horrific and painful time in history for people of color. I truly don't believe that their display was one of mockery. The black face thing just triggers a lot of people in a negative way. It's a lot like hanging a Buddhist swastika from the rear view mirror of your car. People tend to think Nazi not Buddhism".

Lewis added "The only crime is that none of these fools look convincingly black or Jamaican!".

So hopefully some of us have learnt a lesson, 'black face' is not OK, people still make mistakes, it's good to educate not vilify.

But Gary doesn't leave his article there... he goes on to say that Cool Runnings is actually a racist film. I'm sorry what?

"But let’s just get something out in the open. Cool Runnings is a racist movie. The racist blackface carnival float was paying tribute to a racist movie. If ever you are having trouble figuring out where you stand on the Aberaeron controversy, run that sentence through your mind. If you still don’t think there was anything wrong with it, you’re a racist."

Erm no Gary, Cool Runnings isn't a racist movie and I'm not a racist for thinking that. 

"A group of friends, portrayed as black stereotypes throughout, each of them parochial, idiotic, lazy, sexually animalistic, products of an endemic island drug-culture, are catapulted to Olympic glorious failure by washed-up white guy John Candy. As a comedy the movie does not miss an opportunity to deal out gags based on the racial stereotypes that have been pushed around the world for centuries by… wait for it… Blackface."

Change 'parochial, idiotic, lazy, sexually animalistic, products of an endemic island drug culture' to four guys with a range of backgrounds, all tenacious enough to train and enter for a Winter Olympic sport when they come from a small Caribbean island that never sees snow (that's the joke and also the brilliance). Derice is hardworking and respectful, Sanka fun and dedicated, Junior is sweet from a privileged background, Yuul is hard and focused. No one takes drugs in the film, there are no drug references what-so-ever. Likewise they do not come over as sexually animalistic. It's Disney film!

"The real question here is: why is it a comedy? Think of all the great sporting biopics and then pick out the comedies. I can’t think of one." 

Well originally Gary, it was going to be a serious film, it was floating round for years before it was taken up by Disney. But whilst we are talking of great sporting biopics that is a comedy - here is one, 'Eddie the Eagle'. I think we both know that Cool Runnings was only very loosely based on the original Jamacian bobsleigh team and the rest was Disney-fied.

"It is a comedy because those who conceived the movie thought the idea was primarily funny, and not a true story about achievement in the face of overwhelming odds."

Erm, well it might only be loosely based on a true story and a comedy, but I do believe it is totally about achievement in the face of overwhelming odds.

"By the end the audience is asked to believe that not only was the real life team a group of imbeciles who needed an alcoholic white guy to whip them into shape – to discipline them in both body and mind – but that there was some kind of glory in earning the begrudging respect of the Arian teams who convincingly beat them in competition. Hollywood it seems can rewrite as much history as it likes, but they couldn’t bring themselves to have the black guys win a medal. By the end of the movie the victory is in winning the respect of white people, not in having won anything else."

Woah, woah, woah sweet child of mine. Hang on a minute. These guys aren't portrayed as imbeciles and John Candy's character is not an alcoholic.  Do you know why John wanted to do Cool Runnings? Because he watched the original bobsleigh team in the Winter Olympics at Calgary and he thought their story was so amazing and inspirational that he wanted to be part of it. He took a pay cut. What pisses me off is that the writers have tried to justify in the story why John is the coach and why he was bigger than he used to be. Does it really matter? And being loosely based on the original story, they don't win a medal but they do impress everyone. In fact some of the crash footage in the film, is actual crash footage of the original bobsleigh team.

"But this is largely beside the point, as the movie is not really about the bobsled team at all. It is about the white guy. John Candy’s alcoholic wash up is the character who finds redemption, and who has the real glory in achieving his dream of gaining notoriety off the back of him civilising the savages. He also gains the respect of the Arians he is competing with, which is all he was really after. At the beginning of the film, you see, Candy’s character is so low he is essentially no better than a Jamaican. The film is about how he picks himself up in order to reinstate himself into white society. In terms of success off the hard work of black people, it’s up there with Mick Jagger’s prancing."

Am I on glue? OK this is a film about underdogs overcoming the odds, but John Candy is a bona fide movie star, he could have had a bigger presence in this film if he had wanted it but they kept the focus on the team because that is what the film was about. John Candy was a supporting role and he played a blinder, he enhanced the film, added to the relationship of the main characters all without dominating the movie. In the film the bobsled team convinced Irv (John's character) to help them, he really didn't want to, with the Disney story line, the team saved him, he helped them, it was a team effort. Where has this idea that Irv Blitzer is an alcoholic come from? Because in John's opening scene he is listening to the horse racing in a bar? Was he permanently drunk throughout the movie? Was he hiding bottles of spirits in cupboards, his coat, the bobsleigh - have I missed something here?

"I have always had a soft spot for Cool Runnings. As a twelve year old, my sister took me to the cinema to see it. I associate that film with that fond memory. I laughed. I laughed at it again the numerous times I saw it on television in subsequent years. And then one day, with the benefits of an education and what I like to think of as a critical mind, I saw the film for what it was. Does that mean when I was a child I was a racist? Well, it does, I’m afraid, albeit I could probably plead that I was both too young to have yet been educated about these things, and that I was an innocent member of a society that did and still does nurture racist attitudes. I grew up, read books, listened to brilliant people. I now recognise racism because I am less ignorant than I was when I was twelve."

Oh Gary, maybe I am ignorant? But honestly I think you've got it all wrong in terms of the film, did you watch it again before writing this article? Because I have it on in the background right now as I was worried I had missed something (and I must have watched this movie before like 40-50 times). The lead characters had to overcome adversity and animosity from their competitors. To me this story breaks down boundaries and is always a true inspiration, when I feel like I can't achieve something I watch this film and it makes me believe again, and before you start, that isn't because I think I am better than the lead characters, it's because I feel empowered by them.

I'm really interested in hearing everyone's view on this,

Peace be the journey x

PS for anyone presently effected by the hurricanes, my heart and thoughts go out to you, be safe x

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

When Someone Great Is Gone...

It doesn't matter who I've interviewed for the book, everyone told me how devastated they were when they heard the news their friend, John Candy, had passed away in 1994. Whether it was someone who had worked with John for a few months, an old teacher, or a lifelong friend, everyone was in shock and in incredible pain from the loss. You may wonder how someone who knew him a matter of weeks or months could be so upset, well some people just have that effect on others, love never really dies so if you love and care for them from day one, then you can hurt.

The last couple of months I haven't been able to work on the book that much, it has been a traumatic time and I haven't been able to get my head in the right place. I won't go into everything but one thing I will tell you about is my dear friend Jon Hall.

I first met Jon around 15 years ago, I  loved him from the moment I met him and whilst I was living in Liverpool he became one of my closest confidants. I worked with Jon over the years, sometimes he was mad at me, but he always loved me. He was my Liverpool safety net, if anything went wrong I knew I could always count on him. Jon loved music, people and entertaining, he was sensitive, got hurt a lot, always gave his friends a job if he could and was just the sweetest man you could meet, a lot like Mr Candy. Unfortunately just like Candy, Jon's heart wasn't great, we just didn't know it. Two months ago my friend went to bed and didn't get up.

My heart was literally in pieces when I was told the news, I didn't sleep for 48 hours. I was filled with confusion, hurt, regret, disbelief. My regret came from leaving Liverpool a few years ago, and although we had kept in touch I hadn't been back to see Jon yet, now it was too late and that killed me. I didn't understand how someone so full of life could be gone, just like that, it didn't seem possible. I have experienced a lot of loss in my time, but everyone I have lost has been old or terminally ill, there was a period of knowing what was coming, but with this, with Jon, I was completely side swiped, he was 39 years old for god's sake.

When I interviewed Dave Thomas about John Candy, he told me how Candy had lived the life of an 80 year old, he had packed that much in. Looking back the life of my friend Jon had been the same, he had traveled all over the world doing the work that he loved so much, he loved a lot, he fitted a lot in to his life, made his mark on he world and that is the only saving grace in all this.

When I first told Jon about writing the Candy book he was full of enthusiasm, he said I should make a documentary, he got so excited for me and his passion was infectious, as my friend Joe Shooman said, Jon's most used words were "why not?".

So I actually lost my very own John Candy, his name was Jon Hall and he was just superb.

I guess the point of this blog post is for me to address all of those people I have interviewed, I always sympthaised when you told me about the pain, I even cried along with some of you, but now I fully understand and I am so sorry.

To everyone else, please go and take the risks, see your friends (you never know when the last time will be), love as much as you possibly can and say "why not?", anything is possible if you want it to be.

John please look after my Jon, I have no doubt he will be back in someway shape or form to kick my ass, so I best get on with finishing the book.

Last week we also lost our funny and beautiful cat Florence, she loved to help me write (well sit on my lap and distract me), we miss her the world over, but again our life was richer for her being in it.

Sending love to you all and hope you are well,

Tracey x

When Someone Great is Gone - LCD Soundsystem

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Something else me and John have in common...

Rejection. John hated it, I hate it.

Lorne Michaels of Saturday Night Live once went to see John, Dave Thomas and a couple of the other Second City troupe members perform live, basically to suss them out for SNL. John had hoped Michaels would like their show but for whatever reason that night, probably down to nerves, they didn't do a great gig and as a result was told by Michaels "Not to give up the day job". Thomas shook it off but it hit John hard, really hard, he always wanted to be good at what he did and he saw this as a really messed up opportunity. Luckily for John, Michaels was wrong. At that time though it didn't stop the hurt and doubt in John's head, luckily he got over it and carried on, and well the rest is history.

This week I have been knocked for six. I keep telling myself no one has died, I have a roof over my head, food in my belly and love in my life, however, I feel like shit.

About six weeks ago I had an email from a senior editor of a large publishing company in New York, saying they were a massive fan of John Candy, they had heard about my project and they wanted to chat on the phone. Now for a long time I had resigned myself to self publishing but this interest gave me a real shot in the arm, did I dare to dream? We spoke for around half an hour on the phone and I really liked this person, they were truly a fan of John's and that made me feel extremely comfortable with them. I sent them some work, they enjoyed it and agreed to sign a non disclosure agreement to read more, luckily my lovely friend and lawyer, Bill Govier jumped into action (thanks Bill), the NDA was signed and I sent more of my work. I waited and waited (well for as long as I could, I have no patience whatsoever), I had been told by other published friends that the editor would have to take it to an editorial meeting basically where Sales and Marketing look at the work and decide whether it's something they could sell. So this week I heard back, a very sweet rejection email stating that I shouldn't give up, they continued to enjoy my pages, they want a copy of it when it's finished, but it is basically a love letter to John and there is not enough nuance. Sigh. Thing is I did dream, I dreamt I was about to get a very experienced and well established editor and publishing house on board, that they would help me do John justice and that I could refund all the people who have pledged on crowdfunder. So guys it's back to the old plan and I am really sorry, I wish I was better, but I figure John is good enough for the both of us.

I'm now licking my wounds and acknowledging I need a much thicker skin, just like John I will carry on and hope I get a fraction of the success he did, mainly so I know I have done a good job for him. So I guess the message from this blog is, it's OK to dream, it's OK to feel sad when things don't work out but it's not OK to give up, so I'm down but never out.

Lots of love to you all and thanks for all your support as always

Tracey xx

PS John later featured on three episodes of SNL as a guest, he turned down the opportunity to become a regular on season six of the show in favor of staying on SCTV. Touche John, touche.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Dear John (2017)

Dear John, 

well 4th March has rolled around again, 23 years since you left us and yet, you are still as present as ever. 

Ottawa has just made 12th February officially 'John Candy day', Bill Murray is still mentioning you in his acceptance speeches, there are nods to you in the latest Ghostbusters movie, a podcast called 'Popcorn with Candy' (a dedicated show going through each of your films in chronological order), the internet is a constant hive of articles remembering you or talking about one of your characters or movies, and your kids... well your kids must make you so proud. Every time one of your old classics is replayed on the TV, one only has to take to Twitter to see how much the world still misses and loves you. Facebook pages and groups such as American Light and Fixture - Shower Curtain Ring Division, dedicated website johncandy.com, people sharing their own memories, I could go on. 

The book, well I have to apologise, last year (and the year before), was pretty damn shitty. Chronic illness, among other things, makes everything go slower, however two surgeries later my power is creeping back up and although I am running on around 50-70% most of the time, I can live and function with that. 

Once again John you have got me through a very dark time.  Before each surgery I instructed my boyfriend, Rhys, that if anything happened he was to find the means to get the book finished and released - that was the most important thing. I believe my first words to the nurse as I came round morphine drugged was "Do you like John Candy?, I'm writing a book about him", before I drifted off again, so you and the book have been constantly on my mind. Well I'm working on finishing the book right now, whilst editing I noticed it was a little light on your heritage, so I have gone down a rabbit hole and I'm presently in England, 1801.  I won't go that far back in the book, but to see where you have come from is fascinating. 

So John, I am sending my love to you, your family, friends and fans, and today I will celebrate your everlasting life. You Sir, are the real article. 

Love and thanks as always, 
A very grateful, 

Tracey x

Thursday, 12 January 2017

RIP Tony Rosato, John will be thrilled to see you x

So yesterday I heard the really sad news that Tony Rosato passed away at the age of 62. 

I was lucky enough to have interviewed Tony for 'Searching for Candy' and although we only ever shared an hour on the phone I fell in love with him instantly. He was a very kind, sweet and supportive man. 

Tony was Italian, but grew up in Ontario, and as a child he was neighbors to Dan and Peter Aykroyd, he actually went to High School with Peter. When Tony was considering going to University in Toronto, he saw Peter perform at Second City and Peter suggested he should go into comedy. Tony ended up in the SC joining group, this is how he met John. John was there at times to help train the group and stepped in as Show Director for a while, he and Tony hit it off instantly and became lifelong friends.

Tony told me "As a director he (John) was very giving, very profound in his direction, he would always know exactly what the problem was and how to fix it. He was very gentle as a Director, very supportive he would make you feel very good about yourself whilst you were also getting ideas from him on how you could improve your performance. So he didn’t take you confidence away, but bolstered your confidence,  he kept it simple and within reach so we knew what to do. He was very free with us.

"As a friend he was very protective, very loyal, very gentle, always kidding and a little bit cheeky, but always supportive."

Later John and Catherine O'Hara pushed for Tony to become part of the Second City Toronto's main troupe and also John and Joe Flaherty got him onto SCTV.  

In 1981 Tony went to Saturday Night Live for a season and from there was in a lot of TV Series and Movies as well as being the voice of Luigi in Mario Bros. 

2005 was a sadder time as Tony struggled with his mental health and his family broke up. Once better he went back to work and I am glad to report over the last few months was in a very loving relationship and appeared to be very happy. 

Talking to Tony was like talking to an old friend and his love for John was palpable, yesterday when I heard the news it hurt, I know I didn't really know Tony but some people are special and the world seems a nicer place for them being in it. 

My heart goes out to Tony's family, Second City Toronto, his agent Larry Goldhar, his friends and his girlfriend, Tanya, who brought so much love and happiness into his life. 

RIP Tony, John will be thrilled to see you. 


Sunday, 1 January 2017

2016 - A year of transition

Well, what a year it has been! Firstly Happy New Year to you all, may your life be filled with love and hope in 2017 and every year to come after that.

So 2016 seemed to be a year of transition for so many, for some it's been a good year and others very challenging, house moves, new babies, loss of loved ones, health challenges, job changes, break ups and get together's. Some have even transitioned off this mortal coil, not just icons but old friends, my heart especially goes out to all those innocents that have been victims of war. In tribute let us live life more fully and be kind to everyone.

For me, this was the year I was definitely going to get the book out, fulfill the crowdfunder, hopefully make John proud. That is until my body decided to declare war on it'self and chronic illness took hold. Luckily a few months ago I had surgery which has made me feel a hell of a lot better (thank you NHS), however I still seem to be running between 40-65% (depending on the day) but getting better all the time. So my body put me on my ass and the book stalled a little, back on track now with a release date in mind (I daren't say it out loud in case illness hears and decides to postpone me further), so although very frustrating, 2016 has been a year of healing and has hopefully prepared me for a good 2017. 

I would like to thank everyone that has sent me well wishes and messages of support, to everyone who contributed to the crowdfunder and have been so patient and understanding, you are magic and I am so very grateful.

One icon we lost merely days ago was the most beautiful inside and out, Carrie Fisher. As well as being everyone's favorite princess, Carrie was  funny, bright, a mental health advocate, author, dog lover and all round good egg. I had tried to interview her for the book but I never got past her gatekeepers. I would have loved to have heard about working with John on The Blues Brothers and one of my favorite Candy sketches Roy's Food Repair

RIP Carrie you did a wonderful job and will be missed terribly, but John will be thrilled to see you.

This year I have also battled increasing anxiety, something that John struggled with in later life and spoke about quite openly in interviews. It is wonderful in 2016 that we had people like Carrie to speak out about mental health, there are still so many walls to knock down, but it did make me think how courageous of John to speak out in the early 90's, how many people he must have helped when it really was a taboo subject back then.

So my new years resolution is the same as it is every year, to be more like John.

Best of luck to us all and sending you huge amounts of love as always,

Trace xx

PS has anyone else gone off food over Christmas? It's never happened to me before but maybe aversion therapy of eating beyond myself may also help me shed a few pounds in 2017 - stranger things have happened, right?