What’s the Attraction with Canada?

Recently, and in some instances completely unwittingly, I’ve found myself inexplicably drawn to Canadian entertainers…you know…that country to the north of the United States that has yet to acknowledge that they are just watered-down Americans.

Now, before you start aiming the hoses filled with maple syrup, just hear me out.

You see Bryan Adams on my home page – I give the country its due. To be fair – and not as though it was significant when I was very young – my first true draw and interest in music came with my purchase of Montreal Itai guitarist’s Aldo Nova’s debut self-titled album when I was eleven years old. I picked it out of a bin at Target, not having any idea who he was or what was on the vinyl. I just liked the cover design and I thought his picture on the outer sleeve was sexy.

From that moment, I was weirdly and fascinatingly  hooked. Not that I went out and intentionally sought Canadians to entertain me, nor had I any desire or requirement to visit the country until I was…considerably older.

But I was young and impressionable and my curiosity continued when the Canadian penchant branched out to Edmonton Oilers’ Wayne Gretzky’s stick-swinging before the guy was even a household name.

My best friend in high school turned me on to Rush, a Toronto-based band that sucked me in with lead singer Geddy Lee discussing touques on Bob and Doug McKenzie’s (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas) mock SCTV Canadian talk show Great White North (which I also own on vinyl). ‘Take off, eh’. I grew into sincere appreciation and unfettered confidence that Neil Peart is – without a shred of doubt – the greatest percussionist that ever graced the cage. Period. After seeing the band’s ‘Snakes and Arrows’ tour in 2008 in Minneapolis (watching chickens being roasted in the broasters that were stage props), I stole the ‘Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road’ autobiography Neil had written from a friend who’d purchased the book at the concert.

My heart still remains with the guy, having lost his only child and common-law wife in such a short span of time had to have been calculatingly devastating.

And, Neil – bridge mix is my favorite chocolate, too. Come by and give me a ride on that BMW sometime.

I digress – read the book. It’s wonderful. I could only hope to have a fraction of the soul and depth and wisdom and insight that this man possesses.

The next acknowledgement is a four-way tie: I watched Keifer Sutherland portray the stiff, unsure but willing Catholic Cape Breton (Nova Scotia) boy, losing his virginity and fretting over his invalid sibling in the 1984 movie ‘The Bay Boy’. At a very innocent 17 years old that puffed-jowled, dishwater-blond star-in-the-making held my attention for a riveting run of 80s’ successes including Stand By Me, The Lost Boys, and Young Guns. Though Keifer was born in London, his father – Donald – earns a spot right next to him in the place of attractive and multi-talented Nova Scotian.

After all, who could possibly forget Donny bearing those adorable buns under the cable knit sweater after a romp with Karen Allen in the cult comedy classic ‘Animal House’?

Third in that tie comes Michael Wincott (and we’ll throw in his brother Jeff just for good measure) with that smoldering smoky rasping growl and brunette mop I first caught sight of in an episode of one of my favorite prime-time dramas, Miami Vice. Michael guest starred in the fourth season’s ninth episode entitled ‘Blood and Roses’, and continued such a high-profile career as sexy bad-ass with the role of Rochefort in the 1993 film ‘The Three Musketeers’ -also starring Keifer Sutherland; the gripping cult heart-breaker ‘The Crow’ as Detroit mob kingpin Top Dollar, and again most recently with Sutherland in ’24: Live Another Day’.

Rounding out that foursome – and I use that term gingerly with this actor – is Montreal French-Canadian Lothaire Bluteau. Not a readily-recognizable household name (and probably less so in the U.S.), I continue to vacillate on my take of his role choices, having first noticed him also in a cheesy 1986 episode of ‘Miami Vice’ where he plays a coke-snorting, attorney-murdering, French-Canadian thug. The guy covers the gambit of genres, and Americans may be most familiar with his cringe-worthy roles on TV dramas Law & Order, Missing, The Unit, NCIS, and ’24’ – again, with Keifer Sutherland. I truly enjoyed him in his recurring period drama portrayals in ‘The Tudors’ and most recently ‘Vikings’ where he gets the opportunity to exercise his strong linguistic muscles. But this man’s REAL power lies in his twisted, androgynous, bent characters that scale beyond reasonable taboo – the Nazi concentration camp gay enamored with fellow inmate Clive Owen in ‘Bent’. Check that one out for Ian McClellan and Mick Jagger. Very sweet, I thought; very touching.

Lothaire being a twig of about 5 foot nothing and maybe a buck ten, I find his lachrymosity exhausting and struggle to capture his ability to convince as a tough-guy mobster in the Nova Scotia-based series ‘Republic of Doyle’ as well as alongside faux-dominatrix Leelee Sobieski in ‘Walk All Over Me’. But the latter is darkly and subtly amusing in its role-blurring story. I’ve decided that this actor is so very sorely underrated and under-appreciated, but so very brilliant in choosing these particular under-the-radar roles that he nails to perfection. Likening him to Anthony Perkins in ‘Psycho’ is tapping only into a drip of a very deep well.

There there is Tom Cavanagh (Ottawa) from ‘Royal Pains’ and ‘Blue Bloods’ – tall, blue eyes, and cratered dimples – how could you not fall completely head over heels for this tall drink of goofiness?

Surely on my list would be the ethereally-voiced Celine Dion. Every bit the lady, she braves the illness of her long-time love, Rene, to face the masses in Las Vegas and give them her very best from the stage.

How about Gino Vanelli – hands down the most gorgeous Italian off mainland Europe, another Hermes hailing from Montreal. His day may have been in the ’70s with hits like ‘Livin’ Inside Myself’ but at 62, I would take that man in his ‘Wild Horses’ jeans any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Versatility abounds in the Nova Scotian native Shawn Doyle, another cohort of Sutherland’s in ’24’; rambling out a guttural mumble as a shady crook in ‘Republic of Doyle’, but hitting the mark as the reclusive and eccentric Russian chess master in Hulu’s ‘End Game’. What a shame it was they chose not to extend such an intriguing series. I hold baited breath to see Shawn in the next season of ‘House of Cards’ – this should be good.

Further down my list would include Jim Carrey (meh), Howie Mandel (when he had hair); but Mike Myers, William Shatner, Keanu Reeves, and Martin Short all deserve honorable mentions.

And in terms of the country’s landscape and general population I shared a property line with a married Toronto couple, shipped from the Canadian city by the Royal Bank of Canada to the capital city of St. Peter Port, Guernsey in the Channel Islands.  Nice as they were, I found them a bit…odd. I guess they were the first Canadians I’d officially encountered.

I’ve spent time in Montreal; an exquisite city I lament having little time to explore and enjoy other than stopping at Tom Horton’s for a sandwich. Being there on a work assignment just weeks before Christmas, I was fortunate enough to have enjoyed the beauty that decorations enhanced, though I spoke with no one other than additional Americans in the city for work purposes.

The Molson is good and I’d never turn away a Crown Royal & Coke.

Canadian bacon ranks right up there, but I have yet to summon up the courage to try Poutine…an adventure on which I’ve still to embark and one for which my gut would never forgive me.

So…what is it? Culture? Attitude? Them living under the rule of a Prime Minister and a queen, and us under a President?

Me being bored with Americans?

Maybe it’s the back bacon and the 2-4, eh?

Share with me your thoughts and YOUR favorite Canadian!