(Editor’s note: This column is excerpted from Ray Smit’s new book, The Trouble With Tapioca available at Amazon.com.)
Early on in life my goal was to be famous. That way people would ask for my autograph.
When I was nine, I wanted to be a lead singer like Mick Jagger. Mom was very encouraging. In order to help me get just the right acoustics she’d put me in the recreation room at the far end of the house and close the door. The dog, always amiable, would sing along. The more I sang, the louder she got. When we reached a fever pitch, the neighbours would phone. I overheard them mentioning ‘animal cruelty’ and ‘noise pollution.’ Mom said it was nice of them to suggest such groovy names for my band.
Strangely, Mom and Dad decided a singing career wasn’t my destiny. But they did eventually buy me an acoustic guitar. Dad was adamant that it not be an electric because those awful, long haired Beatles played electric guitars. I guess he was into Dylan…
After my first lesson, the teacher decided I should play left-handed. I went home and told Dad that I was going to play just like Paul McCartney.
“You know, like the Beatles.”
“Oh no,” he said. “No Beatles. You tell Paul McCartney to find another student.”
“But Dad, Paul McCartney wouldn’t have come here anyway.”
“Unreliable hippies! Won’t even give lessons at home! No, you’ll take lessons at the conservatory!”
So, while my friends formed bands and played Hey Jude and Jumping Jack Flash, I learned the Pollywog Song and The Little Rabbit Dance. Despite scores of auditions, I wasn’t asked to join any rock bands. Professional jealousy I guess because no one can rock Miss Holly Had A Dolly like me.
A few years later, my friend Steve taught me a few simple Chuck Berry tunes. We joined the Sutton high school band and often played concerts at elementary schools from Jackson’s Point to Keswick. Having the biggest mouth, I got to emcee. Whenever we did Johnny B Goode, I’d ask, “Do you kids remember the fifties?”
And they’d all scream, “Yeah!”
Then I’d reply, “What a bunch of liars!” Because every one of those kids was born in the sixties. That always got a big laugh. Then I’d tell a few more jokes and we’d play some rock’n’roll.
Years later I learned that Jim Carrey lived in Jackson’s Point at exactly that time. Undoubtedly, he was in the audience for some if not all of my performances. He must have been so impressed by my jokes that it inspired him to become a comedian. Yes, in all humility, it was my humour that started Jim Carrey on the road to stardom! Without me he might have ended up as a Port Perry proctologist.
Anyway, after those shows the kids would rush the stage and ask their favourite performers for autographs. So it’s very likely I signed an autograph for Jim Carrey. He must have been thrilled! My quest for fame got sidetracked after high school but was resurrected when I got this newspaper column in 1999. One of the nicer benefits is that, every now and then, someone will recognize me. I asked my brother if he thought people would start asking me for my autograph.
“Only if it’s on a credit card receipt.”
“Look, Ray, how long has it been since someone asked for your autograph?”
“Thirty odd years. So what?”
“So this! Sic Transit Gloria. Fame is fleeting.”
I guess Jay was right. Fame doesn’t last. And I can live with that. After all, I’m a very modest kind of guy. I also take some solace that my protégé Jim Carrey has had some success too.
And I’m sure that whenever someone asks for his autograph, he thinks of me. And I guess that’s reward enough. So maybe the next time you feel an irresistible urge to ask for my autograph, contain yourself.
Ray Smit’s column appears every second Thursday in The NEWS. E-mail: