This coming weekend (February 11-12) is a very special one for Darlene and I and not because of Valentines Day approaching (everyday is Valentines in our life!). It is time for the annual Variety telethon in support of handicapped kids and their families in British Columbia, Canada. I can’t remember which was my first but my guess is early ’80’s and my wife and I have been part of the show since we met in 1991. Actually, the Valentines thing does come into play as the show is always around the 14th and they call the telethon a “Show of Hearts”. If they are accused of taking advantage of the hype surrounding yearly event, they certainly shouldn’t care since “Heart” is the resounding theme, but not of the romantic variety.
Originally called “The Variety Club Telethon”, the fundraiser is organized by Tent 37 aka the BC Chapter of Variety Club. Memebers of the tent have dwindelled over the years but support has done anything but. Thousands of volunteers, organized labour in particular, have given their time and resources all because of big hearts. Global television provides the crew and airwaves to yes, raise money, but also to entertain viewers in the tradition of Variety, the origins of the charity is known for it’s members being from theatre. The show has changed over the years from a huge “live” production including hundreds of BC performers and of course, “celebrities”. I can count some pretty special memories of my life occuring at Variety, one of the highlites getting to know Ray Charles. These days, the show is still “live” but instead of big names being in the house, they perform through video and instead of the Queen Elizabeth theatre that housed over two thousand, the intimate Red Robinson Theatre is the show’s home now and if you are wondering why all the emphasis on seemingly meaningless details, there is a meaning to me.
This week, I was listening to an interview on CBC radio’s “The Current” with Anna Maria Tremonte. I enjoy CBC as I enjoy current affairs so I listen often and I am very aware of the left-leaning bias of their reporting and usually let it go, but this interview bugged me. I won’t go into names and detail but prefer to comment on the tone.
Ms. Tremonte was interviewing a disgruntled Canadian playwright who was whining about how he chose to quit his job as writer in residence with a small Ontario theatre company because a play he wrote focused largely on his bias against the current Conservative government and more specifically, the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. He claims that government funding for the small theatre company was being jeopradized by his criticisms so chose to “fall on his sword” for the sake of the bigger picture. But he also wanted Canada to know the story and the interview morphed into an angry soliloquay of the death of independent theatre in Canada because of a government who can’t handle citicism.takes away your money if you do. Write or wrong, what struck me is the attitude that because they are “creative” and “cultural”, they deserve taxpayers money to live rather than the obvious alternative. When growing up without arms, my Dad used to say, “There ain’t no limo gonna show up at the back door to take you to life, boy. You’re going to have to walk and it’s going to be a long trip!”
Remember, I am artistic as well, playing music, not painting, and I understand the starving musician conceept and I truly believe that the government should provide funding to artistic and cultural initiatives, but this ‘Wha, Wha, Cry Baby Crap” makes me sick.
This weekend, we’ll be surrounded by ill and/or handicapped kids often battling for their lives. You have parents and siblings who through no fault of their own find themself thrown into the storm where everything stops for the sake of the ill. But what strikes me the most is the clear majority of these people hate to ask for anything and when they receive funding, their humility and greatfullness is inspiring.
So, since they don’t like to ask, I and all my dear friends and colleagues will spend the weekend doing just that…asking for help. Not because they expect it and certainly not because they ever planned to need it. They are real-life victims, real-life fighters and rea-life heroes, not a bunch of whiny cry-babies. Variety…theatre as it should be!