Jesse Collins, and then some.

A blog dedicated to those who would rather be at the cottage.

Updated to WordPress 3.2

Posted at prime fishing time on July 5, 2011

And loving it!

The new “Just write” feature is particularly inspired. Basically it strips the backend of any nonsense, and allows you to focus completely on your composition without any distraction. No tools, no sidebar, no nothing.

Moving your cursor to the top of your screen reveals the formatting bar. Genius.

Vintage Wine and Memories

Posted around lunchtime on February 1, 2010

Withnail: Monty used to act.
Monty: I’d hardly say that. It’s true I crept the boards in my youth, but I never had it in my blood, and that’s what so essential isn’t it? The theatrical zeal in the veins. Alas, I have little more that vintage wine and memories.

Somewhere in the ephemera of my collected life are boxes and envelopes containing the remnants of my public turn as an actor. I generally don’t think about them much, but occasions such as the 40th Anniversary of the St. Lawrence Centre inspire one to dig out the boxes. I happened to find a couple of nuggets in a file folder here at the office.

My first show at the Centre was in 1984: Privates on Parade. The following year I did Cecil Philip Taylor’s And A Nightingale Sang, but these shots are from the last show I did at the Centre in 1986, Talley & Son (A Tale Told) with Donald Davis. It was a thrill to work with such an experienced actor and an incredible cast.

But even better, it was the show that Carol McCartney came to see me in, and soon after we went on our first date … we’ve been together ever since.

That’s the value of these things, I guess. They put our lives into an historical context that—hopefully—makes us smile. This one sure does…

Talley and Son Playbill Cover
The original Playbill for the show.

Talley & Son Cast, Theatre Plus, Toronto 1986
The Cast – l to r: Jesse Collins, Ken James, Charmion King, Marcia Tratt, Donald Davis, David Ferry, Deborah Kipp, Cynthia Belleveau

Photo Credit Robert C. Ragsdale, f.r.p.s.

Jesse C
Jesse Collins as Timmy Talley

“Talley & Son (A Tale Told)” by Lanford Wilson, Theatre Plus Toronto 1986

Directed by Hutch Shandro; Artistic Director, Malcolm Black; Co-director, David Ferry

Photo Credit Robert C. Ragsdale, f.r.p.s.

Happy New Year, 2010!

Posted mid-morning on January 1, 2010

Well, it’s a poor excuse for a blog post, but I’ll take it. It’s been quite a year, and it looks like 2010 will be at least as busy if not busier. Resolutions? Well, I’m not a big one for making them, but I can say that there’s going to be a renewed commitment to getting healthier, eating healthier and ramping the fitness level up a notch or to. Business-wise, it’s going to be more of the same: doing only the things I’m passionate about alongside the people that make me happy to be around them. Simple as that.

Finn posing in front of the window

Finn's First New Year

We’ve just had a great visit to the North country, where the snow is hanging off the eaves like icing on a gingerbread house. It couldn’t be more gorgeous, although I’ve shoveled about two tons of snow.

And I’m off now to finish the job!

“Feeney, get out your book!”

Posted at prime fishing time on June 7, 2009

Well, we met the new addition to the family! In a beautiful stone farmhouse set in the South West of the province, we were picked by a pup whose name is now Ignatius Feeney. Here’s his first photo:


He’s an Irish Wheaten Terrier bred by Wayne & Susan Kemp of Marayne Wheatens in Drumbo. Their dogs are gorgeous and their approach to rearing and raising them is exactly in step with ours. Just a few weeks old, he’s still feisty and full of beans. Like his namesake, he has a ton of character.

Jack MacGowran

Jack MacGowran

Ignatius Feeney is the character that Jack MacGowran plays in John Ford’s The Quiet Man, Squire Danahar’s right-hand man.
The name is an homage to the concept of the faithful companion—which we have no doubt that this Feeney will become for our family. (Let’s forget for the moment that he bets against his master at the end of the film; that’s another story…)

So now we wait with anticipation until he’s old enough to make the journey to our house, and leave his mom Remy—an absolutely amazing example of a terrier. I could’ve taken Remy home, she was so welcoming and affectionate. It’s going to be nice to have a sidekick again.

Feeney (left) stands by his boss...

The Day the Music Died

Posted just before lunchtime on March 3, 2009

I absolutely make no guarantees that this post will remain up for any length of time. Whether it’s my own discomfort with being completely transparent on the internet (a function of age, perhaps) or just the overall embarrassment over the cheesiness of the clip, I’m just not sure if I want this thing out there for too long. But I do want to share it with some friends and family, along with the rather unique story that accompanies it, so here goes.

Even those among my friends that know that I began my career as a performer don’t necessarily know that I started as a singer. I had a some success in theatre circles in Toronto and some regional theatres, performing in musicals and industrial shows. The corporate shows took me all over the world through those early years, and introduced me to my incredible missus—but that truly is another story.

This one revolves around the Canadian-prototype of the National Idol syndrome: few know that the Americans stole the idea from us. It was called DuMaurier Search for Stars (the cigarette sponsorship provides some carbon-dating on the episode) and I was a semi-finalist in 1982, I think it was. And now is as good a time as any to take you down Memory Lane. Don’t miss the terrific Marty Robbins and Touch of Scent ads at the beginning. They really give it context.

DuMaurier Search for Stars 1982 from Jesse C. on Vimeo.

And now the Rest of the Story:

The video above depicts the first time I ever sang in front of an full orchestra. We shot it at the old CBC Studios on Mutual Street, where I would spend the next few years working on radio drama and comedy. But that day in the early eighties is remembered by players in town for much more than my cheesy performance. Here’s why.

I was singing two songs that day, and after rehearsing them both with the band, the sax player Bernie Pilch announced that he wasn’t feeling up to snuff and would sit out the first tune. While we recorded that fist song—another standard, As Time Goes By—he had a massive heart attack in the hallway at the CBC. He was taken away by ambulance but it was clear that they had not been able to revive him.

It was obvious to me that he had been a dear friend of all the players collected there that day; they had been playing live big band gigs at the CBC and elsewhere for many years. But the times were changing; this was the last days of big orchestras, the studios would soon be torn down and television would devolve from variety shows to reality shows, never to recover. In hindsight, Bernie Pilch’s passing that morning represented the beginning of the end.

I was a kid, and pretty nervous about the gig that day. I didn’t know what would happen next as people milled about the hallway, looking at their shoes, solemn and quiet. Finally, the pianist Garry Gross spoke up. He thought Bernie would want us to do the next tune, he said, and that was what we did. The ‘next tune’ was the version of I’ll Be Seeing You that is reproduced above. I usually smiled more when I sang it—but not that day. We did it one take, and I’ll never forget it.

When I haven't been fishing, I've been looking at these on the dial-up: