Friday, June 22, 2007

How I know Lynn Johnston

When I was in college in North Bay in 1984, we learned that Lynn Johnston, the cartoonist from For Better of For Worse, had recently moved to nearby Corbeil (pronounced kor-BEEL in those parts). Someone in my class knew exactly where, so I was dispatched with a TV crew to go to her house and try to get an interview.

We drove up to her house, and I got out of the van and knocked on her door. Sure enough, Lynn answered. I told her who I was and what I wanted. She commented that it was the first contact from local media in the six months or so that she had lived there. When she asked me when I wanted to do the interview, I commented that it wouldn't be fair to ask her to do it right away, but could we set a date. Lynn looked out the door at the college van with the crew in it and said "You have all the equipment in there, don't you?" I said yes, and she said "Oh, what the hell -- come on in."

We did an interview at her drawing board that lasted, if memory serves, about an hour. I still have the audio tape of it, in a box somewhere. She is the nicest, most down to earth person. There is absolutely nothing pretentious about her. She also gave us a tour of her very homey house, on the shore of Trout Lake. She showed us tapes of K-Mart commercials that were about to air, and mentioned that a TV series was in the works. She, her husband and kids had auditioned to be the voices of the Pattersons. The kids got the gig, but the producers didn't think Lynn and Rod were believable enough to be Ellie and John Patterson, the characters modelled after themselves.

I met her on a couple of other occasions, when I was working in radio in North Bay. I recall one time doing a live interview with her on our FM station's noon-hour talk show, that I just happened to be filling in as its host.

Fast forward about 15 years. December, 1999, I was in Sudbury to co-host a Christmas telethon that aired on TV right across Northeastern Ontario. The hotel where I stayed is attached to a shopping mall. On the Friday night, I took a stroll through the mall, and noticed that Lynn would be autographing her latest book -- "The Lives Behind The Lines..." the next morning at the Coles store. So I lined up that morning.

When it was my turn, I mentioned to Lynn that she might not remember me, but I had interviewed her when I was in college, the first interview she had done since moving to Corbeil. "I remember you," she said. "You came right up to my door, and had the equipment with you." I was almost floored. To think that this international celebrity who had probably done hundreds of interviews since that one, would remember! So she autographed my book "For Bob, who has the equipment!".

I have a framed photocopy of the page that I have proudly displayed in the five apartments I have occupied since that day.

Lynn also explained that she has to be careful how she autographs books. One time, a woman asked for an autograph for her husband for their anniversary. "Are you saving it for your anniversary, or is he getting it tonight?" Lynn asked. The lady said he'd be getting it that night, so Lynn signed the book "To George, who's getting it tonight." The woman was insulted, and insisted on getting another book.

Anyway, that's my Lynn Johnston story. I continue to read her comic strip every day.

By the way, right after getting the autograph, I called my parents, who knew I was a big Lynn Johnston fan. I told my Mom that I had bought the newest book. "Take it back!" she said. It turns out that she had just bought it for me for Christmas. Obviously, I couldn't take it back, so she did.

My Mom also enjoyed "For Better or For Worse", and had a hummingbird feeder at the cottage. One time, Lynn's weekend strip featured Michael Patterson helping a hummingbird that had accidentally gotten into the kitchen. He cradled it in a towel, got it back outside, then wrote in his journal something along the lines of "They say that once in your life, you get to hold a miracle in your hands. I just did." My Mom got the strip laminated and put it on the cottage fridge with magnets. It's still there, five years after Mom died.


Misster Kitty said...

Wow, not only one meeting but three! Amazing. And I'm not so surprised she is that nice, I mean look at her strip. My Mom is also a huge fan, who, like me and you reads every day.

What I like most is her strip is one on going story. Sure there are vignettes here and there, but the story follows a realistic time line, unlike so many others where the children of the strip remain children: Hi and Lois, Family Circus, Pasquale (sp) and on and on and on.

It seems like such a small thing, but I know what having a signed copy of a book means, especially when given the opportunity to actually meet and speak with the authors. I have a few different ones, one from Mordecai Richler, Bob Smith, Anne Rice, Jergen Gothe and a few others. I'll never part with any of those... worth volumes more than the paper they contain.

Her Autograph story reminds me of one I have with the singer Holly Cole. I'll put that up on my blog this weekend... stay tuned!

Maria said...

I have never met anyone as nice as Lynn Johnson she sound "simply fabulous"

I did however meet Dulph Lungren (russian dude who fought Rocky) on a KLM flight from Montreal to Amsterdam when I was 18. I was bumped to first class with a friend and there he was seated behind us!

We talked and talked and talked to him till I am sure he wanted to parachute off the damn plane. He dis-embarked in Amsterdam and we continued on to Greece without him!

Newsguy Bob said...

Maria: I'm sure Dolph still remembers you.
After all, it was only two or three years ago, right?

John Mielke Photography said...

See, now I wanna sign something for Lynn Johnston that reads: "For Lynn, I've looked at your strip."

I'm not proud of my dirty mind... believe me.


Maria said...

ywah that's right only 2-3 years ago. In my freakin' dreams.