My Brushes With Fame

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Late last year, in another brush with fame, I mentioned that many years ago I worked at the Gift Shop of the Four Seasons Yorkville in Toronto. Although not as full of history as the Royal York Hotel, the Four Seasons had become the preferred location for a certain number of ‘celebrities’. Of the many ‘famous people’ who spent time there during my brief employ, my favourite has to be Kirk Douglas.

This was, of course, before his stroke. He was only in town for a brief stay; I don’t recall if it was a Film Festival or Award, but I doubt it was for a film project. Each evening he would stop buy to purchase some candy or gum and engage me in some banter; the horrendous amount of taxes on his purchase, the strange currency (Canada’s paper money is as colourful as any European country, but wisely cut to the same size as that of the USA), or whatever subject was the topic of the day. One particular evening he approached the counter and asked if we had the new issue of a specific publication (one that is often referred to as ‘grocery store check-out trash’). In keeping with his desire to be treated as the regular man he wasn’t, I pointed to the current issue of that publication; front and centre of the magazine rack.

He said “I can’t go pick that up; you must go and get it and bring it”. There was no question; I retrieved the top copy. He then said he needed me to go through it to find a picture of him; he had been told there was a picture of him and his ‘latest girlfriend’ and he needed to find out who it was. Upon finding the image in question, I folded the paper open to that page and casually dropped it on the counter. The entire time this was happening we had no other customers, but there was traffic in the hallway which I guess was of concern to him.

Although he has been remarried, he has not followed the Hollywood ‘tradition’ of more spouses than can be counted on one hand. In fact he recently celebrated the 55th anniversary of his second marriage. I could not tell if he was curious as to what gossip was out there, or if he was afraid of what might wait at home; his voice gave nothing away. Sad to say that as soon as he said “Thank you” and left, I dropped the paper under the counter, and did not think to make note of who his companion was in that photograph. Of all the people I served there, his is the story that sticks with me.

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