SANTANA WALK OF FAME: "It was serendipity at its finest," says Bruce Bondesen. "I was sitting in my shop (Tulip Florist) prepping for a Saturday wedding, and I happened to look out the window, and said, 'My God, that's Carlos Santana!' " The Mexican-born American musician in his Jimi Hendrix T-shirt and ever-present fedora was heading to the music stores of Portage Avenue in search of music collectibles. "I grabbed my camera and caught up and said, 'Carlos, I heard Rod's band had to work extra hard after you opened up!' " The famous guitarist, who performed as part of a double bill with Rod Stewart at the MTS Centre Aug. 8, grinned and said quietly, "It's been a lot of fun!" said Bondesen. "Carlos is a soft-spoken, mild-spirited guy." Then the accommodating Santana handed Bondesen's camera to his bodyguard for a quick photo.
Tyler Augusto, over at Quest Musique, also had a close encounter with the guitar god. He says, "I started playing guitar when I was five and he was my idol and he just walked into the store. Santana said, 'Hey, you guys. I'm looking for a 1960s Strat, anything vintage.' He was just one of the nicest guys I ever met, very kind. He plays a '68 Strat, and a Paul Reed Smith on stage, and he looks for Fender Stratocasters, like (the one) he played at Woodstock." Over at St. John's Music, Scott Stevens, the guitar repair man, just happened to be working out front when he spotted the star: "He asked if I'd strum a chord for him. But then I had to go because I had customers who were hurrying to get their transactions done, so they could chase him. There was quite a little crowd with him by Portage and Valour Road."
INSIDES OUT: Chantel Marostica's controversial Queer and Present Danger show drew 400 people to a pair of performances at the Park Theatre last Wednesday evening. The popular Winnipeg comedian, who is opening for comedy superstar Russell Peters (the MTS Centre, Sept. 15) tells it like it is when describing her material. "My show is the story of my being a kid and coming out, my mood disorder, growing up queer and being bullied, and my suicide attempts," she says frankly.
Her multimedia performance art/comedy show included local comics onscreen playing different characters from her life, "including a molesting dentist, a cab driver and a bunch of lesbians at the gay bar," she says. Members of Winnipeg's entertainment scene, such as Lauren Cochrane, Amber Daniels, Melanie Dahling, Chad Anderson, Cory Falvo and Dana Smith made appearances. Rainbow Resource Centre brought its entire youth group. "They took selfies with me and so many people hugged me and said, 'That's what I'm also going though.' I had a suicide attempt very recently and then found out I was opening up for Russell Peters -- everything works out. Suicide is not the path you should go down. Shit turns to flowers."
It didn't turn out that way for Marostica's hero, Robin Williams, who took his life Aug 11. "I had written the show already -- and my hero died," she says sadly. "Robin touched every person with different movies and different characters. He meant something to everybody." The comedian says she totally understands why Williams performed when he was down. "Even if I'm really depressed," she says, "I have always gone to do my shows, because I could make other people happy when I couldn't be."
Marostica won the Russell Peters spot because she's one of the Manitoba finalists competing for Canada's Next Top Comic in Toronto on Sept. 25, along with Ben Walker and Dan Glasswick.
GOLD & SILVER: Choir singing competitions are huge in Europe and other parts of the world. Winnipeg's Prairie Voices, led by artistic director Vic Pankratz, recently won gold and silver medals at the World Choir Games in Riga, Latvia, in front of 14,000 appreciative fans. Due to space constraints, the 1,000 large choirs that competed could only send two representatives into the final event to accept medals. "It was like no other experience I will ever have in my life. I was so excited and overwhelmed with people cheering and yelling!" says Chelsey Young, who was inside accepting the gold award for Prairie Voices.
That meant the other 40 choir members were forced to wait outdoors. "The choir was outside our hotel on an ancient, narrow cobblestone street," Young says. When they found out they won gold, they went crazy. Being a choir, they began to sing. Soon wedding guests at a big party nearby inquired about the impromptu singalong. Then the revellers started asking for more songs, and soon the whole wedding tumbled out onto the street, including the bride and groom, who danced for everyone. "The choir sang the only song they knew close to their language, which was Muusica, an Estonian piece," says Young. "Then this guy asked if he could sing in front of us. He was terrible, couldn't carry a tune in a bucket." As quickly as they'd arrived, the wedding party then disappeared.
KEYSTONE PROVINCE COPS: Mounted city police have been charming Winnipeggers this summer, with Const. Sherry Blunden riding on Amaro and Const. Anna Proskurnik on Titus. The 12-year-old Percheron half-brothers are street-wise horses, unafraid of traffic or drunks. Says Blunden: "If there's people fighting, we ride right into the middle. If someone's in a parade going the wrong way, we put the person between us and escort them in the right direction." And what if somebody is lying down on the street? "Oh, that's a lot of fun," says Blunden wryly. Imagine being three sheets to the wind and looking into the faces of two giant horses. "We talk to them and if they need a safe place to stay for the night, we call a cruiser to take them to Martha (Main Street Project)." Nobody argues with the horses, as they stand 16 hands high and weigh 680 kilograms.
HELEN WHITE'S WILLIES: In the setting sun on the Winnipeg Art Gallery rooftop, red-hot jazz singer Helen White filled the air with favourites. Surprisingly, the English-born veteran performer confessed to the crowd at Live on the Rooftop to being terrified after her first few songs. No one would have guessed it. At the break, she confided she has sung everywhere and loves the WAG venue, but finds it "very big." The endless blue sky is the roof and her distance from the audience means she can't see their faces. Nevertheless, this funny, quirky lady did a fantastic job and people warmly embraced her. The all-star band changed instruments and sang, while White jumped in on piano and percussion. With the sun reflecting light off the Hudson's Bay building across Memorial Boulevard, it was a night to remember -- the last jazz offering of the summer series, which ends Aug. 25. Oh no, is summer ending so soon?
MANYFEST: The Downtown BIZ attracted a suspiciously big crowd of media types and politicians last Thursday to the Manyfest news conference at Broadway and Edmonton Street -- must have been the lure of free meal tickets for food trucks. Prior to the unveiling of the outdoor festival's Sept. 5-7 activities, Downtown BIZ board chairman Sachit Mehra, who's running for city council in St. Norbert, showed off his new "boring" politician's hairdo. "I told my hair stylist, 'Give me the most boring haircut you've got. Do I look trustable? No wild curls?' "
By contrast, Kathy Turner and John Ford mingled with the business types in their multi-coloured clown wigs and sparkling disco balls, promoting the Electric Donkey Run at Manyfest. BIZ event guru Jason Syvixay announced, in memory of Robin Williams, the Manyfest outdoor movie in Memorial Park will be Jumanji, which all ages can enjoy. "I really prefer Good Will Hunting, but it's R-rated," Syvixay says.
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