There’s nothing like the arrival and accolades of famous people to make a place seem special.
Offshore oil riches, pace-setting GDP growth and a white-hot real estate boom are mere footnotes on the economic ledger when compared to the social impact of having a movie star of Russell Crowe’s stature visit our humble shores.
Now, we even need our own local paparazzi.
People in Toronto and New York may be accustomed to seeing the rich and famous stroll among them, but on the edges of the country and on the fringes of civilization, such events take on a bigger significance. It says, “We’re interesting.”
In the 1980s, I knew a guy in Yellowknife, N.W.T., who took a novel approach to the regular visits North of 60 by prime ministers, princes, popes and other personalities.
He owned a children’s Garfield the Cat camera. His hobby was using it to take pictures of notable visitors.
If he got the chance, he would ask his subjects to pose for a portrait.
When they saw his Garfield the Cat camera, they always laughed and said yes.
His collection included, among others, the likes of John Turner, Joe Clark, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, Pope John Paul II, CBC superstar Peter Gzowski and actress Margot Kidder (Lois Lane in “Superman”).
The Garfield the Cat camera brought a unique and amusing perspective to the situation, mocking the arrogant — and erroneous — assumption that culture and vitality are found only in big cities.
Stand on the frozen surface of Great Slave Lake as dog teams run past, or sit on the rocks overlooking Conception Bay while whale tails rise out of the water as humpbacks dive to chase caplin, and you realize, “You’re not in Toronto anymore.”
Going for gold
Crowe was merely the biggest name in town this week. Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae and interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel dropped by the Royal St. John’s Regatta.
Maybe federal leaders shouldn’t qualify in a “fame on parade” tally, because they’re “working,” and always have local MPs stuck to them like fridge magnets.
Far more impressive was “Republic of Doyle” actress Lynda Boyd, who rowed in the Regatta, rather than merely strolling and trolling for votes.
It is a rare Vancouverite who will willingly extol the beauty and virtue of any place other than Lotusland, but Boyd has obviously developed a deep fondness for Newfoundland, and not just because the cult-like popularity of “Republic” has brought her fame and acclaim.
But someone — a director, a producer, perhaps even Allan Hawco Himself — should tell Boyd to stop referring to herself as a come-from-away.
She works here.
She is — and this isn’t chauvinism, merely an objective statement of the obvious — stunning enough to easily pass as a Newfoundlander.
It was interesting that Crowe told The Telegram this week that — after his acting stint on “Republic of Doyle” and concert performances at the LSPU Hall with Great Big Sea’s Alan Doyle and others — he and his wife and their two boys plan to spend some time seeing the sights around St. John’s.
This, from a guy who could vacation at a villa in Italy. (Of course, for all we know, they might do that, too.)
Down at the Portugal Cove wharf the other day, I was chatting with a couple from Virginia.
He had been in the U.S. navy and was stationed at Argentia in the 1950s.
They had a connection to Newfoundland, and have been here several times.
It’s more beautiful than even Alaska or Hawaii, she said.
“You like Newfoundland more than Hawaii?” I asked.
“Oh, yes,” she said.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.