Wednesday, December 03, 2008

THE FIRST NOEL

There are many ways to herald the coming of Christmas.



For some, it is the arrival of the first pristine snowflake, perfectly formed and falling ever so gently through the crisp, dark Robert Frost night.



For others, it’s the first double homicide of the season, such as recently occurred in a nearby “Toys R Us” when two proud members of the lower classes decided to settle an argument between their respective girlfriends by opening fire on each other.



(Much has been made in the press about the fact that both of the now-dead shooters were Mexicans with criminal records a mile long, but I think this misses the point. Goodness knows I've had my hedge trimmed by countless hot blooded Latin boys over the years but I've come to learn it's not so much their "machismo" which gets them into trouble as it is their inability to properly accessorize an outfit; everybody knows you don't carry a loaded HANDGUN into a toy store after Labor Day.)



But for some of us, there is only one true sign of the arrival of the holiday season. That, of course, is when we see our first Stripper perform a routine to a dance remix of “Little Drummer Boy”. As he hoists himself up onto the festive red and green painted pole, sporting – and soon losing – his tinsel and garland g-string, a warm, tingling feeling rushes over us as we realize that yet, once again, Christmas time is here.



This year’s sighting, I am delighted to report, happened just before Thanksgiving, while I was in Montreal, Quebec to introduce two of my films – “ICE BLUES” -



- and “ON THE OTHER HAND DEATH” -





- in a double bill at the “image+nation” Film Festival held annually in Montreal, Quebec. I had not been back to Montreal since the now legendary shooting of “A Dennis the Menace Christmas”-



- some two years ago and while that particular adventure was, to put it mildly, a rather challenging experience, I have always had very fond memories of the place itself and, more so, the people in it and yearned to return under less frustrating circumstances.

And so after spending the past two weeks putting the finishing touches on my latest epics “Black Rain” and “Death Among Friends” – both of which look far better than two movies made in ten days apiece have a right to – I was delighted to be asked to travel back to this most “European” of North American cities.



I can safely report that nothing much has changed: the people are still incredibly attractive and effortlessly stylish (how they manage to toss a scarf over a jacket and manage to look like they’ve just fallen off the Milan runway is beyond even MY fashion literacy!); the taxi drivers will still talk one’s ear off about politics and the economy and how everything is turning to “merde”; and, most cultural relevant for those of us who enjoy a particular form of “cabaret”, there is always a fresh crop of French farm boys willing to take their clothes off for ten bucks a song.



In fact, from the moment I boarded the airplane in Vancouver, the entire experience was a positive one. Well, except for an odd moment in transit as one of the Flight Attendants apparently recognized me from one of my countless television appearances shilling for my art -

-

- one MUST promote one’s films or one doesn’t get to make many more of them - and gathering his cabin mates around my seat, then proceeded to gush about what a pleasure it was to have a “celebrity” like myself on board their plane.

Modesty prevailed, naturally, and I simply smiled graciously, telling them all what it pleasure it was for ME to be onboard such a well-run aircraft, staffed as it was with such a gracious and perceptive crew with such obvious good taste. Deep down, it must be admitted, I was more than a little flattered; not many of us “behind the scenes” types get recognized in public. The balloon was burst a few moments later, however, when I overheard one of the other passengers ask her seatmate “who is he?” and the fellow replied “I think he’s the guy from the Transporter movies.”

(This is a common misconception: for clarity's sake THIS is Jason Statham



and THIS is me.



But one can understand the confusion, of course.)

Fortunately the pilot chose that moment to start the plane’s descent, so I wasn’t then called upon to do the splits across the seat backs by way of demonstration, and the rest of the flight transpired without incident.

Upon landing, I was whisked across the Montreal night to a charming Bed and Breakfast, housed in a restored Victorian mansion nestled on a side street near the somewhat redundantly labeled “Gay Village”.



In a city with such a distinctly fluid approach to sexuality, rainbow flags, leather jockstraps and the like are perhaps a trifle unnecessary but they do seem to draw the tourists. Upon checking into my quaintly charming suite, however, I soon discovered that this particular establishment had been drawing the tourists with some special features of its own.

The Manager/Owners, a very pleasant couple of the “Bear” variety –



- a term of endearment in the homosexual community for, it must be admitted, gentlemen of a certain hirsute “avoirdupois” - had done everything possible to make my stay comfortable; fresh towels, fresh flowers, wonderful music, a delicious and fresh baked continental breakfast – all the things which make one feel they are truly “home away from home”.

Hospitality does have its limits, however, even with guests as open minded as I try to be, so when the more aggressively “friendly” of the two offered to not only massage me in the hot tub but subsequently help tuck me into bed after his boyfriend had left for the evening, I politely declined this “value added option” and briskly made my way back to my room where a beautiful antique chair served as a very effective wedge beneath the doorknob.

With subzero temperatures the norm at this time of year in Montreal, not to mention the kind of howling wind one normally associates with dog sleds and whale oil lamps, one finds one’s socializing kept rather to a minimum, if only to prevent getting severe frostbite on the walk from the front door to the cab, and this particular trip was no exception.

I did manage an evening of drinks and dinner at the glamorous Vogue Hotel with gifted actor/director – and old friend - Richard Dumont -



- also known in some circles as “The Black Prince” for reasons too arcane to relate. The bartender, obviously aware of my extreme sensitivity to the cold weather (probably because I kept shivering despite wearing two cashmere sweaters and a pair of insulated gloves in the lounge), poured the martinis generously; perhaps a trifle too much so. After a paltry three of these diabolical concoctions, Mr. Dumont and I found ourselves dialing unsuspecting friends on our cell phones to recite dialogue from a long ago mutually collaborated television series-



- eventually going so far as to sing the theme song of said show for our neighboring diners. While I don’t recall their actual reactions, I am SURE they must have been delighted.

The following night’s festival screening went extremely well as a small but enthusiastic – and quite vocal - crowd seemed delighted by both pictures. The “OutTV” sponsored martini party held entre’acte was certainly a hit -



- although to be honest I somewhat blasphemously filled my glass with water instead of vodka, still feeling the effects of the aforementioned evening’s debauchery, and added a couple of skewered martinis to complete the illusion. Nobody seems to have been the wiser, but it was all in vain anyway as my delightful festival hosts, Charlie and Katherine, insisted on treating me to a late night dinner in a sleek little boite called Le Continental where much wine was drunk and much laughter and animated discussions about President-Elect Barrack Obama ensued.

(We have studiously avoided mentioning the recent political campaign in these missives – wiser heads than ours prevail in that sort of conversation – but we must admit not just a sense of “relief” coming from the results but an actual, palpable feeling of “hope”. While we adore Mr. Obama and we certainly expect “magic” we will be quite satisfied with “wonder” - as in, “We wonder what the HELL the country was thinking when it elected that dullard George W. Bush TWICE!?!”.)

The following morning I slept rather late, unfortunately missing a much anticipated breakfast of dim sum which I had been looking forward to since arriving in the city, but made it to the airport in plenty of time to catch my flight back to Vancouver for a quick overnight stay before heading home to our desert paradise in the morning.

And while it must be said that the Bed and Breakfast experience had its charms – although I myself didn’t partake of all of them - if I have learned anything from this most recent trip to Montreal it is that I am very definitely a traveler of the “hotel” persuasion.

Amateur hydrotherapeutic massage and salacious bedtime entertainment certainly have their place, of course, but there is very little in life which can equal the 1000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, plush bathrobes and twenty four hour room service of a Fairmont Hotel.



Especially when, as I arrived and was whisked by an attentive and charming young man to my sumptuous suite on the Executive Floor -



- I discovered – as if they had read my mind - a perfectly chilled Belvedere Martini, up with a twist, awaiting my arrival.



Proffering the drink on a silver tray, he smiled and said: “A little something from us here at the Fairmont to celebrate the start of the Holiday Season, Mr. Oliver.”

I accepted the lovely gift with my usual grace and charm, not wanting to ruin the moment by telling him that, as far as I was concerned, the holidays had already arrived.



And they had been wearing a Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer thong.

14 Comments:

Blogger Rick Andreoli said...

Did you get a free drinks or just free penis (peanuts, I mean) from playing nice with the air people?

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Anonymous Angie said...

Huge congratulations on the screening of Strachey part 3 and 4 in Montreal, it is a shame they were pushed to the underground of HereTV movies-on-demand...I wish they had more acclaim like Thrid Man Out did. Both Third Man Out and Shock to the System have been on air in Poland, on a movie TV station. I was amazed, and as a Richard Stevenson fan, happy! All the best! Will there be any more Strachey movies? Even if it seems like the movies go by unnoticed, they don't, there is a lot of viewers out there. Personally, seeing Chain of Fools on screen directed by you would be a fest to the senses!
Cheers, Angie

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