If there’s such a thing as an appropriate way to die, Alan Thicke experienced it when he passed away Tuesday in Burbank, California. He suffered a heart attack while playing pick-up hockey with his son Carter. I got to know Alan back in the 80s when he was a writer on a number of Anne Murray TV specials, and I’ve never met a bigger hockey fan, which, considering the number of hockey nuts I know, is saying something.
I particularly remember when he and another writer (possibly his brother Todd, but I ’m not sure) were writing a song that ended up being called Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Play Hockey, (a parody on Ed Bruce’s country hit, Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up To Be Cowboys), for a TV special that Anne did in connection with the Quebec winter carnival. They were working on an earlier version titled Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Goalies. I’d been called in for two reasons: first, Alan, and Anne’s manager, Leonard Rambeau, both knew I was an old goalie and thought I might have something to contribute (I didn’t); and secondly, I would have to decide whether we were willing to pay Ed Bruce’s publishers what they wanted for the rights to use the original melody (I did).
Alan was born in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, and moved to Elliot Lake as a youngster, where he lived until finishing high school and then attending the University of Western Ontario in London. When I met him his family was living in Brampton. His birth name was Alan Willis Jeffrey, but he took his stepfather’s surname when his mother remarried after a divorce.
When it comes to breadth of achievement, his career in the world of entertainment may well be unparalleled. He starred in many of his own TV shows, including talk shows, game shows, variety shows, and sitcoms. His actual appearances on other TV shows are far too numerous to mention. In addition to Anne’s TV specials, I was able to find 263 other TV episodes on which he is listed as a writer (including the Tommy Hunter Show), and 14 on which he is listed as a producer. I also found 19 soundtrack credits. He appeared in more than 20 movies. He wrote the theme music for a number of TV shows including Different Strokes, The Facts of Life (which I think he also sang), and the original Wheel of Fortune theme. He also did a number of commercials and hosted a few award shows.
One aspect of Alan’s career that I particularly appreciated was that he always took great pride in proclaiming his Canadian roots.
We recently spent a couple of weeks in Italy, which changed a few of my geographical opinions. Up until our Italian trip I felt that Austria was the most beautiful country I’ve visited, but after spending a few days in Tuscany I’m not so sure anymore. I also thought that Prague was the most beautiful city I’ve been in, but Florence surpassed it. Similarly, Bangkok has been replaced by Venice as the most fascinating city I’ve been in; although I don’t know how anyone can live in that water-logged city. We also spent time in Milan and Rome, and made day trips to Verona, Padua, Ravenna, Ferrara and a couple of very interesting islands in the Venice lagoon.
Of course, we hit all the splendours, such as: Michelangelo’s statue of David; his Pieta; Leonardo daVinci’s last supper; the Vatican; and the major cathedrals in Milan, Venice and Florence.
I lost track of all the tombs of saints and other famous people we visited, but St. Anthony’s was a special thrill. St. Anthony is undoubtedly the saint to whom I’ve prayed most often, especially during the summertime as a young lad in Morell, P.E.I. Standing at his tomb I just had to again recite, “The ball is lost and can’t be found, please good St. Anthony look around.”
The food, as expected, was fantastic and the memories of three winery tours will not easily fade.
I wasn’t aware that the Italians had such a great sense of humour. I had to chuckle at the Italian bus drivers referring to the tens of thousands of reckless motor scooter drivers as “donors,” as in organ donors. I was also amused by the staff at our hotel in Milan referring to their elevators, which were manufactured by a company named Schindler, as Schindler’s lifts.
Has there ever been a more boring song than the 12 Days of Christmas? Well, maybe Wichita Lineman.