Monday, September 15, 2014

Ivan and the Kids

The children's shows at the Orpheum were legendary. It wasn't unusual for 5,000 kids to attend the Saturday shows in two shifts. Ivan would arrange to have short talks by the chief of the fire department or police force. Even the mayor would sometimes show up.

But the most favourite had to be Bambi.

“One of the kids’ favorite performers was Bambi, my little singing chihuahua dog,” Ivan recalled. “I’d discovered that when I would sing to Bambi he’d put his little head back, open his mouth wide, and wail—hardly complimentary, but funny! One day I took him out on stage with me at a matinee and we did a number for the kids. I sang Sweet Adeline, and Bambi went ‘aaaoooo.’ I sang ‘my Adeline,’ and Bambi went ‘aaaoooo.’ My turn: ‘You’re the flower of my heart . . .’ ‘Aaaoooo’—he was interrupting me now, ‘Sweet Adeliiiiiiine.’ The kids just ate it up!

“The act got so popular and got so much press coverage that MacLean’s Magazine decided to send a reporter out to do a story on it. They were to be there, reporter and photographer, on a certain Saturday morning and, believe me, I was excited. This was my big moment as an entertainer, too!

“When the day came, and our time came, all the stage lights were darkened, with only the spot on Bambi and me as we entered and trotted toward stage centre.

“The microphone rose up out of the floor, as usual, and as Bambi reached it he did something he’d never done before on stage—he raised his little leg and thoroughly dampened that mike! I nearly died! The place just went crazy, with 2,800 kids hooting and howling with laughter and the reporter got a story he hadn’t expected—nor had any of us. Talk about being upstaged!”

I want to thank the History of Metropolitan Vancouver website for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Cooper and Ackery

I promised to tell you about Ivan Ackery and Gary Cooper. And I am going to.

Ivan was fond of Cooper and the tall, lanky American liked the theatre manager. On at least five occasions, Cooper came to Vancouver and would call Ackery to get together for talk and drinks. Cooper wasn't as reserved as he appeared.

“The first afternoon Coop called on me,” Ivan recalled, “we went out and spent several hours in one of our local bootleggers exchanging philosophies of life and all those profound things one discusses in an afternoon at the bootleggers. We were joined by Mayor Hume and some fellows from the CBC. Gary was expected at the home of a socially prominent family, but he didn’t want to go."

“By the time we left the bootleggers to return to the theatre, it was time to start the feature. I decided, as was my habit, to first share with the audience the pleasure of a few moments with our visiting celebrity.
“Out onto the stage we waltzed—the stocky Bristolian and the lanky American, full of warmth and good humor. I apologized to our audience for the fact that we were both rather well toasted, and then Gary and I joked with each other and the audience for a few minutes. When we returned backstage, he put his finger beside his nose and in that inimitably mischievous way of his, with his eyes a-twinkle, he said, ‘Ivan—guess what? Your zipper’s undone.’ And, ye gods, he was right!”

That's not the end of the story though. One of the senior staff at the Orpheum was leaving that night and, as was custom, a farewell party was held for him or her. “and danced with every girl in the place, including the cleaning ladies whom he sought out for a turn around the lobby.

“Finally,” Ivan continues, “at 4:30 a.m. we meandered out onto Seymour Street, exhausted.” A city street-washing wagon was just then passing, and the driver recognized the actor. “Hello there, Mr. Cooper,” and Coop called out, “Which way are y’ goin’?”

“Down Granville Street,” he replied.

 “Could you give us a lift to the Hotel Vancouver?” Coop asked.

“You bet! Climb aboard!” And off they went aboard the water wagon.

I want to thank The History of Metropolitan Vancouver website for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ivan, WWII and Cary Grant

Then came World War II. Ivan worked hard to keep the citizens of Vancouver entertained at the Orpheum Theatre. Sometimes, he would put on huge military shows, “put on by as many as 350 soldiers, sailors, airmen and women at one time. The way they sang—and the audience with them—it was a stirring experience.”

Ackery was also a stickler for detail. If it were a slow night, he would instruct the usherettes to seat the people throughout the auditorium. “A lop-sided house looks terrible,” he said. When a new film opened, he would sit in the theatre for the first showing. Then he would have a discussion with the projectionist the running time and the volume of the sound. He might have suggested cutting a piece from the newsreel if the feature was too long

“If the feature was a drama, I might suggest an increase in the sound volume at just the right moment to give the heroine’s screams maximum effect . . . I emceed most of the shows myself, in the belief that the public enjoyed having their own manager, for the informal atmosphere that gave to the program.”

Ivan made many trips to Hollywood and New York to pick up awards for his promotional efforts. On these trips, he would associate with celebrities such as Gene Tierney, Michael Caine, Victor Jory, Alan Ladd, Elizabeth Taylor, Ethel Merman, Bob Hope, George Sanders, Jack Benny and so many others. However, he never felt quite comfortable around them, as I have said before.

There were some he was able to feel at home around though.

"One day [in 1947] we were going onto the set at RKO where The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer was being made, with Shirley Temple, Myrna Loy, Cary Grant, Rudy Vallee and Ray Collins. The P.R. man went over and told Mr. Grant that I’d said I was from Bristol and knew where his mother was. She’d run a store in Bristol for years, quite close to where my family lived. “He walked over to me and in that particularly rapid, clipped way of speaking he had, he said, ‘You from Bristol?’

“I replied, ‘O-o-oh, Mister,” in the Somersetshire accent that we both knew so well. ‘I was born right where you went to school.’ He’d attended the Merchant Venturer’s School, about a block away from my home. He’d been born Archie Leach in 1904. I met him several times after that, sometimes in Vancouver, and he was always a very pleasant fellow.”

Thanks goes to The History of Metropolitan Vancouver website for the information and the copy of the movie photo.

 Friday, I will tell you about Ivan and Gary Cooper. Until then, I hope you find the beauty around you.