by Marie Wilson

Night of Wonder

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Was the ghost of Frederico Fellini walking among us? Or had the carnival come to town? Bells tinkled, tea lights flickered, creatures lumbered and danced down a hillside. The air crackled with magic and wonder.

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Voices sang quietly, lazy notes from a clarinet wafted on the summer breeze. A big round glowing moon floated down the hill. Was Glinda stopping by to greet Fellini? The moon came to a stop and –

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– a shadow king appeared on its illuminated surface. A story was told in both English & Mandarin. It was acted out in silhouette behind the luminous sphere, while people in white prepared colourful lanterns off to one side.

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More people in white, lit by tiny red spotlights, moved rhythmically in a circle and began chanting. Now it seemed Ray Bradbury’s Dark Carnival had arrived in the park. Something wicked this way comes…

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Was that ET’s mom looming over the small crowd that had gathered to watch, ghostly white and expressionless? The chanting grew till it seemed a holy frenzy would ensue. Then all came to a hush & finally to a halt.  People & creatures bowed as applause erupted from the crowd. This had been a presentation of the Bain Arts Collective, a creative & questing group of artists, of which I am one.

Thanks to the many wonderful souls who made this a great event. And a special thanks to Aaron Schwartz for his support and for doing the post on the top photo here.


Hubbard Park

I submitted the name “Hubbard” for a new TO park then pestered everyone to vote for that name. And it won! Next I wrote an article for NOW magazine about the man for whom the park will be named: William Peyton Hubbard. That article earned me a nomination for a Heritage Toronto Award for Best Short Publication. There was some really worthy competition in that category – of particular note for me were Daniel Rotsztain’s drawings of all the Toronto libraries. Alas, neither I nor Daniel won the award. But, for my part, it was sweet just having won the Name Our Park contest (run by Councillor Paula Fletcher). Also sweet was bringing to light the remarkable history of Toronto’s first African-Canadian politician. Up until now, nothing has been named for the man in our city (save for a Hydro One award) & hardly anyone I talked to in my campaign for votes knew who he was.

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William Peyton Hubbard (above) in a portrait by W.A. Sherwood (City of Toronto Art Collections). Below, Hubbard mingles with the paper hoi-poloi on TO’s finest hoarding in a flyer I made for the “Vote for Hubbard” campaign. I handed these flyers out and posted them everywhere in my neighbourhood; I had to – the competition was fierce: Jack Layton Park was the other name in the running. Everyone knows and loves Layton, while few know Hubbard. More will now! And we look forward to Hubbard Park’s Official Opening on October 22, 2016 at 11 am.

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Marilyn & Mimosa

Marilyn had a good cool-off trick in The Seven Year Itch: she put her “undies in the icebox”. As good: put an iced bottle of bubbly between your thighs, as you sit on the patio in your sundress or shorts. Better than a cold compress to the head! Now pop the cork, squeeze some oranges & pour the fresh oj into a chilled flute, add the champagne. Kick back & let this sparkling mimosa tickle your innards.

Marilyn-Monroe-cocktailIn Part Two of The Gorgeous Girls, Wanda and Constance drink mimosas at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto, while figuring out what went wrong with Wanda’s relationship. Believe me, mimosas can help with your love life. Now go put your iced knickers on!

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Breaking Up Into Small Pieces

Yvonne’s hands glide over your body with a touch as smooth as velvet as she takes you deep into the relaxation provided by Lomi Lomi Hawaiian Temple Bodywork. Relax your muscles, open your heart, be transformed.

IMG_2363_phixrOver the course of two hours you’ll feel like you’re flying with frigate birds over the sea (whose sustained flight has inspired Lomi Lomi Flying Dance) or just floating in a world where there are no thoughts. Beautiful Hawaian music fills the room as Yvonne practices the ancient technique of Lomi Lomi, which means “breaking up into small pieces”.

“In other words Lomi Lomi breaks up old patterns in one’s life and presents an opportunity for new awareness and conscious choices for one’s life to move forward.” – from Yvonne’s website:alohalomi.com. Check it out: you’ll find testimonials, information, & a video of Yvonne in action, moving like an ocean breeze over a happy client.


Mimosas & Monroe

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Marilyn had a good cool-down trick in The Seven Year Itch – she put her “undies in the icebox”. As good: don a sundress, sit, put an iced bottle of bubbly between your thighs. Better than a cold compress to the head! Now pop the cork. Squeeze some oranges & pour the fresh OJ into a chilled flute, add the champagne. Kick back & let this sparkling mimosa tickle your innards.

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In Part Two of The Gorgeous Girls, Wanda and Constance drink mimosas at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto, while figuring out what went wrong with Wanda’s relationship. Believe me, mimosas can help with your love life. Now go put your iced knickers on!


Noir Universe

Disillusionment & paranoia descended on the American Dream in the 40s just as the titular characters in The Killers descend on the Swede as he lay in the shadows awaiting his fate. The Killers (1946) was directed by Robert Siodmak, one of a handful of German emigre directors that brought expressionism to Hollywood to add to the black & white rain-soaked visuals that came to be known as “film noir”. Based on a Hemingway story (1927) of the same name, which is also thought to be the inspiration for Nighthawks (1942), the iconic painting by Edward Hopper, The Killers delivers the existential goods that defined the postwar noir sensibility.

One finds many such nighthawks & diners in the noir landscape; they go hand in hand with the bleak outlook of their cynical heroes & disaffected anti-heroes. As the Swede (Burt Lancaster) says in the opening sequence of The Killers: “I did something wrong…once.” That’s all it takes to doom an otherwise good man, his downfall often aided by a bad woman (Ava Gardner in this case), who’s just trying to stay alive in a hostile man’s world. It’s a story audiences couldn’t get enough of as they grappled with the wide-spread angst & despair following & preceding two wars (WW2 & Cold).


A Beautiful Dog

Kelly was an Irish Setter & a master at finding lost balls in the grass. When she died at age 14 her owner brought her ball stash to Withrow Dog Park to share. He put a photo of Kelly (see below) in the box with a note telling us to enjoy what she had enjoyed for so many years.

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Nixie was very excited about all these toys on offer. She couldn’t decide which ball to choose but once a selection was made she had great fun with it. She then returned it to the box and took another. And so on. Kelly’s thoughtful owner continues (at the time of writing) to enjoy & care for Kelly’s longtime companion, Seamus, another Irish Setter. Both beautiful dogs.

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Champagne & Imperfection

“Trouble in Paradise” is a Lubitsch rom-com made in pre-code Hollywood that drips with sexual innuendo & gorgeous jewelry. Herbert Marshall plays a charming thief & Kay Francis is the rich & alluring lady he intends to rob.

Marshall lost part of a leg in WW1. He had a wooden replacement & never walked much in his pictures. Francis couldn’t say her “r”s, so in her movies she avoided words with that letter (with help from screenwriters). In “Trouble in Paradise” she floats elegantly around all her dialogue with the exception of “ruined reputation”. Marshall delivers his lines with characteristic elan whilst lounging about the glorious Art Deco set. This was a Hollywood of perfect men and flawless women.

Those with “afflictions” had to hide them. There were a few exceptions: Lionel Barrymore was in a wheelchair in real life & it worked for his many cinematic character roles (e.g. Mr. Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life”); Sammy Davis Jr. had a glass eye but it seemed to add to his elfin charm; Jack Elam had “wide eyes”, meaning the iris in his left eye was skewed to the outside, giving him a wacko badass look, perfect for the many villains he played.

And then there was Harold Russell. Russell lost both his hands while serving in the army during WW2. He was not an actor but got cast to play the young war vet in “The Best Years of our Lives” (1946) then won two Oscars for his moving & believable portrait.

As for “Trouble in Paradise”, by 1935 the Production Code was being enforced, & TiP was considered much too racy for reissue. It was not seen again until 1968, the same year Kay Francis died. It’s interesting to note that she left the bulk of her million-dollar estate to an organization that trains guide dogs for the blind.


Suzanne Pleshette

She was the Queen of Mean; I was the hotel maid she berated. I met Suzanne Pleshette on the set of QoM, where we talked mostly about acting. Striding into holding one day during the shooting of “Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean”,  Pleshette noticed a book lying on a table & asked (in that inimitable smoke & whiskey voice): “Who’s reading Meisner?”

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“Me,” I responded & so our conversations began. Sanford Meisner (“On Acting”) had been her teacher and they’d appeared in at least one play together. She told me he was a great teacher but a lousy actor. (pictured below: Pleshette as Helmsley)

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She also told me about a friend of hers, a gifted actress, who’d taken time away from show biz to have a couple of kids but was now trying to get back on the boards. Her comeback was proving difficult. This echoed my own situation (except perhaps for the “gifted” part) & Suzanne’s sharing seemed an omen. I stopped trying so hard to be a professional actor after that & became a writer instead (no less difficult but at least I was at home more).

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I saw The Birds (’63) again recently and was delighted by the apparent ease with which Pleshette played her scenes. Playing second banana to the cool blonde lead (as almost all brunettes in Hitch’s oeuvre do), she shone as schoolteacher & jilted lover, Annie Hayworth. Sandy Meisner may have taught her a thing or two about acting but I’m sure it was all in aid of discovering & sharpening her natural inborn talent.


Dr. R. J. Black D.V.S.

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In operation since 1911, with big front doors for letting horses enter (and what appear to be stables in the back), Dr Black’s Veternarian Hospital has no equine clientele these days but helps out plenty of domestic pets. (Check that dog checking me as I take the snap.)

IMG_2529_phixr-3On Queen East in Leslieville (at Carlaw), Dr. Black’s is just across the street from The Bone House, a good place to get your dog a treat, and right next to Mercury Espresso Bar, for the human treat.