Some guys have all the luck.
I know, ‘cause I’m one of them.
In 1990 I had the good fortune to be hired as a professional babysitter for a truly wide and varied collection of CBC Television shows.
One of them was a weekly series called CODCO, an amazing comedy ensemble headed by Greg Malone & Tommy Sexton, ably abetted by Andy Jones, Cathy Jones and Mary Walsh. It was the first time I’d ever worked with of them, Happily it would not be the last.
Greg Malone, whose on-camera impression of Barbara Frum made her more famous than her brilliant stints on The Journal ever could, had the razor wit and uncommonly musical sense of language that I would later learn to define as characteristics of the true Newfoundland personality.
Greg used both those gifts to create some wonderfully memorable moments on CODCO, and uses them again, to great advantage, in his new memoir published by Knopf Canada, You Better Watch Out.
Is it funny? Of course. It’s Greg Malone. Who else could tell the story of Danny Williams, the future premier, sourly playing St. Bernadette in an all-boys’ play, with Greg barely concealing his joy in performing as her “chatty sister”?
But there’s so much more to it, including his unabashedly romantic account of his father’s first encounter with his mother.
“Sometimes on warm summer evenings, Dad and his buddies would climb Springdale Street to Charlton Street and the Bee Hive Store, where the owner, an Englishman named Arthur B. Walker, made superb homemade ice cream and sold the best bonbons and Turkish delight. They were hungry for it all, but these sugar plums were not the visions that had brought them there. They had come for the unexpectedly perfect sight of Vera Walker, the owner’s daughter, with her fine features, her thick, dark blonde hair clipped back and her exotic hazel eyes that seemed always ready to laugh. She was tall and moved with an easy, lively manner. They watched her scoop out vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream as she danced around the little shop of confections and entertained them with anecdotes about her customers. Vera, the Goddess of Goodies, laughing at them and ladling out Turkish delights.
“Of course, Vera was entirely aware of her beauty and charms. She dressed in the latest fashion, posed for pictures like a movie star and laughed at the results. They were bedazzled, smitten by this English witch. Oh, those cool Protestant girls from Prince of Wales College. They were exactly the forbidden fruit that a tortured Catholic boy from St. Bon’s longed for. Dad and the boys were secretly converted. The Bee Hive became their shrine. Observances were frequent and well attended, but not always successful. Vera was not in regular attendance on the main altar of the shrine. Usually there was just the girl minding the shop, hired help without any of the secret charms that had drawn them. So dazzling was the goddess Vera that it was many moons before these savages were even aware of the younger sister.
“Ada was barely fifteen and her full head of rich, caramel-coloured curls fell on her shoulders framing a gentle, smooth face with full cheeks and classical features. Like her older sister, she too was quick to laugh, but her hazel eyes, though full of humour like Vera’s, looked out on the world with more caution, and there was even a trace of sadness in the corners of those perfect, dreamy eyes. There was a vulnerability to her look that provoked in males between the ages of fifteen and fifty an overwhelming desire to protect and a passion to possess such mysterious and fragile treasures.”
As life would have it, Greg’s father will meet Greg’s future mother Ada not at The Bee Hive but on Bell Island, where he goes to compete in a track meet.
“She was dressed up like a movie star when I saw her,” said Dad, “in a fancy satin outfit with a jacket and bows and gloves and a fancy hat. And then she had the face and the figure to match it. You couldn’t miss her. It was like she just appeared in front of me. I still can hardly describe it today.”
No need to describe it today, as long as son Greg is around.
TOMORROW: Joan Rivers & The Donald.