Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Join me for lunch and I'll bowl you over

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I have a brilliant idea. Let's do lunch!

I even have a date in mind -- Nov. 8, which is next Thursday, the day of the third annual Empty Bowls Soup-er Lunch in support of Winnipeg Harvest.

I was thinking a few thousand of us could meet from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at ice level in the MTS Centre, slurp five different soups, munch on fancy breads and, best of all, spend our cash on raffle tickets for a chance to win one of about 40 awesome ceramic bowls autographed and decorated by a who's who of outstanding local personalities and international celebrities.

Did I mention I painted a bowl? Sorry, it must have slipped my mind. But, since you asked, for the third straight year I pushed the edge of the artistic envelope at Brush Fire Ceramic Studio on Corydon Avenue to create a work of art that rivals Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel in the sense it took me longer to paint.

Last year, my bowl was a painting of my two dogs. This year, I took a bold artistic leap and painted three dogs, because we recently inherited a small white mutt that resembles a cross between a makeup applicator and a throw pillow.

I didn't know what inspiring words to paint on the inside of my bowl, so I asked my buddy, Big Daddy Tazz, one of Canada's most popular comedians, for his opinion.

"My bowl has three dogs in it," I told Tazz. "What should I call it?"

Tazz frowned. "I think you should call it Three Dog Bowl," he grunted.

"You're a genius," I said.

"You're a blockhead," he replied.

For the record, on his giant pasta bowl, Tazz painted his trademark blue bicycle, along with the stirring words: "Embrace Your Inner Blue Bike!" I could explain that reference, but I don't think we have enough room.

The artistic point is, Tazz and I put our hearts into our bowls so you can put soup in them. Next, I asked my Buddha-like buddy why he puts so many hours into making a bowl for charity.

"It's always been a passion of mine to help those who need help," he told me. "People need Harvest all year round. It's not just Christmastime. And you never know when you are going to be in need yourself."

Then, in a sincere and humanitarian effort to fish for compliments, I asked Brush Fire owner Cassandra Smith whether my doggie bowl touched her heart or any other vital organ.

"It looks fantastic," Cassandra gushed. "Your dogs should be proud. I love dogs and I love food. It's a perfect combination."

Later, Chris Albi, Harvest's communications director, told me the food bank hopes more than 1,000 people descend on the MTS Centre next Thursday to take a bite out of hunger and try to win our hand-painted bowls.

Tickets are $10 at the door or through Ticketmaster and the raffle tickets are $10 for an arm's length, with all the cash going to help fight hunger in the city.

"There is hunger locally and we want to reach out to people to let them know there are hungry people in the city, and they might even live next door to them," Chris explained.

This year's bowl-making celebrities include: curling icon Jeff Stoughton; actor Oscar Nunez, a star of NBC's The Office; American cartoonist Bill Amend, famous for his FoxTrot comic strip; the Winnipeg Blue Bombers ("All of them," Chris blurted); music groups Great Big Sea and Maroon 5; legendary gymnast Nadia Comaneci; Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo ("Is he a big deal?" Chris asked); Regis and Kelly; and Duane Chapman (a.k.a. Dog the Bounty Hunter).

Every year, I force Chris to list the big-shot celebrities whose bowls are being raffled off, and every year she mentions a famous person she has obviously never heard of.

Last year, I made fun of her for not knowing Israel Idonije is a big star with the NFL's Chicago Bears.

This year, when she said country music legend Tommy Hunter, "Canada's Country Gentleman," had submitted a bowl, I saw my chance to pounce.

"I'm pretty sure Tommy Hunter is dead," I told her.

"Um, no he's not," Chris sniffed. "He is soooo alive."

Chris finally suggested I look it up on the Internet, which -- and here's a surprise -- proved Tommy Hunter is very much among the living.

Out of journalistic fairness, I promised Chris I'd mention my little gaffe. I also told her I'm relieved Tommy Hunter won't be attending Thursday's lunch.

Because I doubt he's dying to meet me.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 2, 2012 A2

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