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Review in The Georgia Straight

Backstage Vancouver, by Greg Potter and Red Robinson
By John Lekich


In the '70s, talk-show host Merv Griffin asked veteran crooner Jack Jones about his most terrifying moment in show business. Jones described an incident at a Vancouver supper club when a pistol-wielding lady of the evening fired a shot at her companion in the middle of a song. That story doesn't make it into the lavishly illustrated Backstage Vancouver: A Century of Entertainment Legends, but a similar one concerning Lou Rawls does. It brings to mind the late Joe Philliponi's comment on the checkered history of the Penthouse nightclub ("I ain't Rebecca and this ain't Sunnybrook Farm!"), just one of many great quotes in this delightfully informal cultural history by writer Greg Potter and radio icon Red Robinson.

For less than a round of cocktails, Backstage Vancouver delivers many of the choice stories we ink-stained wretches have been gossiping about for decades. Potter spans an entertainment arc that encompasses everything from the city's first opera house to Ben Affleck's recent encounter with local strippers. Along the way, he touches on topics that range from Errol Flynn's final curtain call at the city morgue to the shameful fact that Louis Armstrong was once refused a room at the Hotel Vancouver.

Whipping so much diverse information into shape is a daunting task ... this is an admirably smooth and well researched read.

In fact, the book is most impressive when it takes a double-barrelled approach to our rich cultural history, allowing locally based treasures like Robinson, Hugh Pickett, and Dal Richards to comment on their experiences with visiting celebrities. Who can resist Red reminiscing about taking Buddy Holly to the White Spot? Or Les Wiseman, that legendary chronicler of Vancouver's punk-rock scene, remembering an appearance by Iggy Pop at the Pender Ballroom? Not me.

Complete Review available at The Georgia Straight.