Celebrity is a funny thing in this country.
I was thinking about that a couple of weeks when the Governor General was in Prince Albert.
David Johnston seems like a terrific man. If you read his back story, he’s accomplished many, many things in his 71 years.
He’s been a top academic, chaired the inquiry into the Airbus affair, moderated federal leaders’ debates and also appeared on some public affairs shows.
In short, he’s been busy and he’s made an important contribution to this country even prior to becoming Governor General.
But that sure hasn’t made him a famous man.
I have developed what I consider to be a foolproof Canadian celebrity test. If you dressed a celebrity in a pair of jeans with a nondescript shirt or jacket and then plopped a baseball cap on their head, would they be recognized walking through the mall.
Wayne Gretzky? Yes.
Russell Peters? Yes.
Jann Arden? Yes.
(The test only works if you have in fact heard of the celebrity.)
Mr. Johnston seems like a lovely man, so I’m sure that we would chuckle and agree, pointing to the pair of stars prior to him in the role.
Adrienne Clarkson was a well-known journalist before she took office.
Michaélle Jean was also a broadcaster and journalist but was little known before capturing the imagination of many Canadians as she transformed the role of Governor General.
She had some things going for her that are unlikely to be duplicated in that job any time soon. First, she wore her heart on her sleeve. She wasn’t ashamed to roll a tear or perhaps even scold someone she didn’t agree with.
Second, she had a unique back story that resonated with people.
Third, she had that certain quality that makes people a star.
There’s an element to the Canadian personality that demands equality — and while admiring the truly famous among us — dislikes it when people are quick to call attention to themselves.
Some people have that quality, some don’t.
That’s why I always hate it if I’m referred to as a “celebrity” when I make appearances on behalf of the Daily Herald.
I’m not exactly calling for security to make my way through the screaming hordes of newspaper editor groupies on the way to my car each evening.
And as I wrote a few months ago, when I was asked to be the “celebrity runner” at the Summit Run, I guessed that meant the mayor and Donny Parenteau were busy.
I’m just a guy who sits in front of a Mac computer all day helping a group of hard-working people tell stories about Prince Albert.
You won’t find the royal jelly for stardom anywhere in that job description.
So while I’m happy to make time for community events, please don’t call me a celebrity. I prefer “The guy from the Herald.”
• • •
One of my favourite places in Prince Albert has become the E.A. Rawlinson Centre.
I was fortunate to get a tour recently from GM Darren McCaffery and marketing director Linda Jensen, which gave me an even greater appreciation of that beautiful facility.
I wish more of you had been there last Wednesday to see Royal Wood, a Canadian singer-songwriter who put on a terrific show.
I’ve seen a lot of concerts over the years — it’s a perk of a decade as a part-time music writer — but I’ve never been as blown away by a guy I knew nothing about. And that’s the beauty of who comes to the E.A. Rawlinson Centre.
U2 or Rolling Stones or Lady Gaga aren’t part of their concert series; instead, it’s quite often talented artists who aren’t as well known yet.
I’m afraid that I won’t see Little Miss Higgins and Deep Dark Woods on Wednesday — I’m a little tied up with the election — but I’m eager to see Jeffrey Straker on Oct. 28.
I’ve had his song Birchbark Canoe in my head for a month now so it will be nice to hear it live.
Give some of these acts a chance. The only way you’ll get the big ones is if you continue to support the small ones too.
• • •
Anyone who followed the three-part story on the Friday Night Lights campaign that appeared in the Daily Herald will probably understand why it became so personal for me.
A normal newspaper story is between 400 and 700 words; that one weighed in at nearly 4,500 words.
A week ago I spent nine hours at Pearson International Airport in Toronto waiting for a flight, which is a long story for another column. During that time, I finished transcribing in longhand the interviews that I had stored in my iPhone.
Then I began typing them into the iPhone and emailing them to myself. Somewhere in that process I realized that it would be best to let the people involved in the story move the narrative along with their quotes.
The result was very different than I would have guessed going in but I was happy with the final story.
I have some thank yous to send out.
Randy Emmerson and David Thorpe helped me immeasurably by laying out the story for me and providing me with contact information for most of the more than a dozen people I talked during the research stage. The people I called — including Randy Kugler, Lukas McConechy, Curt Hundeby, Rylan Michaluk, Jarret Devers and Noelle Broda — were fantastic and very accommodating.
But I want to send a special note of gratitude to Logan Usselman, the young man who was a constant companion to Max.
When I knew some of the more painful questions were coming up during the telephone interview, I told him not to answer if they made him uncomfortable.
It couldn’t have been easy for him but he answered them all. I thought that Logan’s obvious love for his late friend was the essence of the story.
Thank you Logan.
And finally, I tried to avoid the Clunie family on what I knew would be an emotional subject. I eventually had to call Rusty to get permission to use a photo and to ask for the picture of Max in his football uniform.
Rusty and Sharon were very accommodating and later sent me a lovely email.
I sincerely hope the story did Max justice.