Tag Archives: CBC Radio

Homeless Companions

From St. Thomas Dog Blog, Sept. 4, 2013. Reposted in honour of US Memorial Day and Harold Palmquist, a US veteran who is biking across the country with his dog to raise money for homeless vets and their pets.

homeless man and dog in phone booth RO_B_new_Bucharest_apartment-photo-Miehs-wikicommonsPlease God, I have never had to beg on the street and I’ve never been homeless.  I don’t know how I’d look after myself, let alone a dog or cat. But people do; they survive on the streets of even the coldest cities, and many do so with a pet.

I have had to carefully parcel out funds so that rent was paid and my cat and I had something to eat. A student promotion credit card was our lifesaver, if a month’s supply of money ran out before the days did. The cat and I ate some odd meals – whatever I could find in the limited food section of Woolworth’s. Grocery stores did not accept credit cards then. Fortunately for us, those times were not frequent.

Amazon link for A Street Cat Named Bob
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For some people and their animals, it’s a more regular occurrence. Today, on CBC Radio’s The Current (sorry, story no longer available), the stories of some people perhaps marginalized by society but not by their companion animals. James Bowen, whose cat helped him out as a busker and now as an author. As he said, thanks to Bob the cat, he now pays income tax. A woman whose cat keeps her off crack. A woman in Edmonton who started a pet food bank, with donation bins in pet stores and a system for getting the food to those who need it. And a University of Colorado sociologist who has talked to homeless pet owners and written a book called My Dog Always Eats First.

Amazon link for My Dog Always Eats First: Homeless people and their animals
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That book’s author, Dr. Leslie Irvine, talks about homelessness being a “master status” in our society. That means that it overrides all other statuses that a person holds. Those may be “ascribed” such as gender or ethnicity or “achieved” such as profession or educational level. Whether a holder of an advanced degree or a high school dropout, a person sleeping in a doorway is seen only as ‘homeless person’. And you’re not likely to even think to ask what else a panhandler is as you drop your change in his or her cup.

But there is another master status, I think, that people ascribe to themselves:  that of “pet owner”. As one, I will go over and talk to a “homeless person” if he or she is accompanied by pet. I see the animal and want to make contact with him or her, and therefore the person as well. This is not to suggest that homeless people should get pets in order to improve their chances on the street.

Accommodating people and their service or pet animals has caused real problems for many shelters trying to be inclusive. Dog fights, fleas, provision for people with allergies and abandonment of animals in the shelter are some that I remember from a radio documentary I heard a few years ago (sorry, can’t find a link).

Dog in animal shelter in Washington, Iowa, Nhandler WikicommonsBut for many of us, homeless and homed, our pets are solace and friendship, providing someone else for us to think about and care for. And every dog, cat or guinea pig living happily with their person on the street is one less unwanted animal needing rescue or dying from neglect.

Apples to Apples

TV writer David Shore was on CBC Radio’s q (formerly Q) today. He was introduced as battle creek cbs by David Shorecreator of House and Battle Creek, writer on Due South and originally from London Ont.

He described Battle Creek as premised on male friendship. Then they discussed male friends or frenemies in House. House? Wilson’s friendship with House was a big part of the show, but not vital to it. Not like the relationship between the lead characters in Battle Creek.

Battle Creek is a ‘fish out of water’ buddy cop show about a quirky partnership between a morally upright FBI agent and a cynical Battle Creek, Michigan cop. Due South was a ‘fish out of water’ buddy cop show about a quirky partnership between a morally upright Mountie and a cynical Chicago cop. I waited for that comparison. Didn’t happen.

Amazon link for Due South
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Watching the first episode of Battle Creek, I thought, wow, this is Due South twenty years later with two Americans. I like the show, just as I liked Due South.

A CTV series, Due South was a cult hit in the US for CBS. Stereotypes of the Canadian worldview versus American was the appeal but also a drawback to going beyond “cult” to “mainstream”. Battle Creek, with colliding American worldviews, will not have that problem.

Eric Peterson and Street Legal

Listening today, hoping the discussion would move to the shows about which male friendship would be really applicable, I thought of a Street-LegalQ interview with Canadian actor Eric Peterson. The host introduced him as a star of CTV’s Corner Gas, the musical Billy Bishop Goes to War and CBC’s 1980s Street Legal. He talked eloquently about the importance of exploring Canadian culture in Canadian entertainment. Corner Gas and the story of Canadian WWI pilot Billy Bishop were the examples. Why not Street Legal?

LA Law dvd Amazon link
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Canadian-made, -set and -aired, Street Legal started just months after NBC’s LA Law. Both centred on law firms – big deals, backstabbing, sex and intrigue. LA Law‘s was big and
glitzy, Street Legal‘s was Toronto storefront office scale. Canadian, eh? I waited to hear what Mr. Peterson would say about Canadian and American takes on the same dramatic premise. Didn’t happen.

Both q and Q’s interviews led straight to Street Legal and Due South: apples to apples comparisons. If q/Q have no staff familiar with old Canadian television shows, please contact me. I’ll be your “old codger” if you can’t find one in the CBC building.

Coronation Street 50th

Ena Sharples and Alf Roberts displays at museum Coronation Street 50thCoronation Street began due to a government mandate for home-grown television programming. A Canadian producer at Granada, the late Harry Elton, knew the popularity and longevity of American soaps and their production cost-effectiveness. He met a young writer at Granada, Tony Warren, who knew the stories and people of the North. Neither of them imagined their show would become part of the very fabric of the country. But it has.

The biggest thrill in my 20 something years of fanship was going to Coronation Street to research British serials for a radio documentary (later a book) Other Worlds: Society Seen Through Soap Opera. I went to Manchester with an appointment with the Coronation Street publicist and nothing else. He showed me around the indoor sets and production facilities in the dedicated studio. He also took me on the Street itself for the taping of a scene with Mavis and Derek Wilton in their back garden.taping Coronation Street scene with Derek and Mavis WiltonI interviewed Carolyn Reynolds, then executive producer, writer Tom Eliot and Daran Little, then archivist of the show. I talked with actors Bill Tarmey and Elizabeth Dawn, and went to a location shoot at the high school that acted as the school attended by the McDonald twins at the time. In a trailer, I met Nicholas Cochrane who plays Andy McDonald and Judy Brooke, then Andy’s girlfriend Paula Maxwell. I talked to school kids who were thrilled to be extras in the scenes. Teachers and staff were proud of their involvement in Weatherfield history.

Manchester Tour

Coronation Street back door, old housesI also met the father of Coronation Street, Tony Warren. A half hour, maybe an hour I figured I’d have for our interview at Granada. But it turned into an entire, wonderful day with him, wandering the streets of Salford and into Manchester. We talked about the show and then about pretty much everything. His work as a novelist, the history and changes of Salford and Manchester, Newfoundland (where I lived) and Canada.

He took me to a pub in Manchester where there’s a beautiful stained glass window in the men’s room depicting a Grand Banks fisherman. He guarded the door so I could go in and look. We walked and talked until it was evening. He suggested a Chinese restaurant for dinner and phoned his partner to meet us there.

The restaurant was one that has been used in location shoots for Coronation Street and is a long-time favourite for many of the show’s actors. There are signed photos of Julie Goodyear and others on the walls and counter by the till. The meal was great and the conversation far-reaching and fun. It was a lovely day.

Street set tour, people in front of Rovers ReturnNear the end of my time in Manchester, I realized I’d yet to find an analyst – an outside ‘talking head’ to inform on the cultural and social significance of Coronation Street. I’d thought I could just go to Manchester University and throw a stick and hit at least one. With only a day to find someone, I phoned the social sciences main number and asked if there was anyone anywhere available to talk about Coronation Street. The secretary thought about it as I plugged change into the payphone to keep the connection.

Political Science

She transferred me to Political Science, saying “maybe Professor Philip Crookes can help.” I explained my situation to him. He said “I’m not a sociologist, but I can talk.” So another lovely few hours with a very intelligent, funny man and discussion which started with Coronation Street and extended to British and Canadian politics and the socio-economic life of the North of England.

Replica Rovers Return working pub at Granada tourThere is a Manchester and Salford apart from Coronation Street. There is a history and economy outside it. But the production studios at Granada are a major part of the economy and Coronation Street is engrained in its identity and existence. You can strike up a conversation with anyone and get a thoughtful opinion on the show. Whether they watch or not, it is a part of life. For those of us elsewhere, we feel a kinship with the cities even if we’ve never been there. We know its characters and places so well.

Meeting Jack Duckworth

In 1992 I went to Manchester to research Coronation Street for a CBC Radio Ideas documentary on British and American soaps.

Vera and Jack Duckworth in RoversAt Granada, I watched the taping of a scene on the street and interviewed writers, production people and cast members.  When I was told the names of two actors I was about to meet, I was struck dumb with awe and terror – Bill Tarmey and Elizabeth Dawn aka Jack and Vera Duckworth.  Like pretty much everyone who has watched during the past 30 odd years, for me, Jack and Vera were Coronation Street.

Vera DuckworthI went first into Elizabeth Dawn’s dressing room.  She and Bill had just finished their scenes for the day and she had to leave soon for a family function.  She was sitting in front of the mirror taking off her makeup when I kind of stumbled my way in the door.  “Sit down, dear, and don’t mind me.  We can talk while I do this.”  Instantly, I felt at home, felt like I was with someone I’d known a long time.  And I was in a way.  She was wonderful – not Vera, yet Vera.  She took off Vera’s makeup and put on her own.  She brushed out Vera’s hair into her own.  She looked Elizabeth Dawn in real lifedifferent.  We talked a long time, then she said she had to run.  She told me where Bill’s dressing room was and just to go on there when I was ready, then with a ‘ta-ra’ she was out the door.  Before I got everything picked up, she was back in laughing.  “I’ve got Vera’s coat on.”  She shucked off the familiar looking black cloth coat, grabbed another more stylish one, laughed, waved and was gone again.

Then to meet Jack.  My nerves came back.  Hand shaking, I knocked on his door and a familiar gruff voice told me to come in.  He too was Bill Tarmey 2010removing Jack and becoming Bill.  He leaned back in his chair and just talked.  He asked me a lot of questions, where I lived, what I did, about my family.  He told me about his family, pointing out who was who in the photographs around his dressing room.  It was nice.  He was an easy man to talk to.  So much so I would forget why I was there – to get him on tape talking about being Jack.

Amazon link for Bill Tarmey cd Incurably Romantic
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So he told me about Jack and him – how he came to be on the show, first as a short-term bad guy, then brought back as Jack when the writers created the Duckworths.  He told me about his career as an actor and primarily as a singer.  He said when the writers had Jack sing once – badly – he, Bill, found his singing gigs drop off and even bookings cancelled.  If that’s how Bill Tarmey sings, he laughed, they didn’t want him performing.

He wasn’t likely telling me anything he hadn’t told hundreds of interviewers before, but he made it seem personal.  Just him and me talking about stuff.  It wasn’t slick, like a performance piece, just good conversation.  He talked straightforwardly and was engaged in the discussion, talking and listening.

He reminded me of my father, as Jack Duckworth always has.  “Rough, tough and hard to Bill Tarmey, outside Rovers, upon retirementbluff” as my dad would say about himself.  That’s what Jack is like, with a lovely soft heart.  That too is what Bill Tarmey is like.  And my dad.  I can think of no higher compliment to any one of them than being compared to each other.  Bill, if you are reading this, you and Jack will be greatly missed.  I hope you have a wonderful retirement.  Cheers!

Amazon link for Bill Tarmey book on Jack DuckworthClick the image to left for an Amazon link to Bill Tarmey’s book on being Jack and the ‘Incurably Romantic’ image above for link to his music.