The man behind Victoria's legendary Smile Show could be downright impetuous.
The late, great Gerry Gosley liked to open his show by lowering himself from the rafters onto the McPherson Playhouse's stage. He'd perch on a throne, wearing a Queen Victoria outfit.
Afterwards, Gosley would spin around to reveal Union Jack boxers and a pair of thin legs.
To be lowered, he was attached to a 200-pound counterweight. After one such descent, Gosley, in a snitty mood, abruptly stood up without warning. This gave his sons, Tim and Anton, no time to apply the brake. The empty throne rocketed heavenwards.
The weights plummeted down about 40 feet, smashing into a fly rail.
This, in turn, enraged the theatre technical director, who'd witnessed the debacle. Heated words were exchanged. Meanwhile, a century's worth of dust - dislodged by the impact - descended from the fly grid like a soft snow.
"My brother and I were kind of wilting in the corners," Tim Gosley, 58, recalled this week.
Gerry Gosley died in 1996, aged 81. He had retired from the Smile Show - a variety romp of British-music-hall-influenced skits and dances - in 1981 after 29 years. It was an institution in this city. Victorians loved it. It set attendance records at the McPherson in the summer, a feat local troupes still struggle to replicate.
Now Tim Gosley has resurrected the Smile Show, albeit in miniature form. The last of two performances is tonight.
Expect spirited renditions of Knees Up Mother Brown, I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts and Gerry's own creation, Fight to Keep Victoria British. Tim calls the one-hour tribute a "mini revival."
It happens in his home theatre on Fairfield Road, which holds just 45 people (the McPherson holds 800). The cast includes original Smile Show member Brenda Jagdis, Tim, his wife Petra KixmÃ¶ller-Gosley and their children Jeromy, 16, and Naomi, 12.
Because Tim is a puppeteer - he played Basil Bear on the Canadian version of Sesame Street - there will be puppets. In his theatre, he showed me his version of his dad's Queen Victoria routine.
Tim sang a Smile Show favourite, Won't You Come Home Disraeli (a reference to the British prime minister), to the tune of Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey. He wore his father's original crown, but Queen Vicky's body is now a puppet.
Sounds weird, but it was pretty great, actually. Well, I guess you had to be there.
Tim still owns some of his dad's costumes, including a battered pearly king outfit. He'll wear some of these for tonight's show.
Asked if it felt funny to be performing in his late father's clothes, Tim choked up. Visiting the past triggers old memories. "I'm not crying as much as I was before," he said apologetically.
By all accounts, Gerry Gosley was a charming, charismatic, sometimes imperious fellow who acted as host, performer and writer for the Smile Show.
It had origins as Second World War entertainment, when Gosley was stationed at Patricia Bay with the Royal Air Force. During the Korean War, he served with Canadian Forces there, sending written dispatches to the Colonist newspaper.
Over the years, the Smile Show was performed at various venues, including Langham Court Theatre. There's a story, possibly apocryphal, that a vacationing, pre-movie-star Burt Reynolds once treaded Langham Court's boards in 1962 as part of a Smile Show.
Tim says he owns a signed photo of Reynolds who "did sing a song, from my understanding."
Tim also did the occasional turn in the old Smile Show. On his birthdays, he'd be enlisted to sing I'm Henery the Eighth I Am. But he and his brother mostly worked behind the scenes, building sets and props. When his father became enthused about a mirrored curtain in Las Vegas, Tim was instructed to make one for the Smile Show, laboriously cutting out hundreds of mirrored discs by hand.
In the 1960s, Tim was a typical teen who smoked pot and listened to the Beatles. A show offering cheesy British seaside-resort entertainment wasn't really his cup of Coke. He did have aspirations to be a serious actor. But not to be a Smile Show comedian.
"I wanted to be an artsy fartsy," he said. "So I thought it was pretty appalling."
It certainly wasn't the hippest show in town. Cast member Brenda Jagdis, 59, recalls dancing in a circle to Tony Orlando's Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree. One time, she appeared in a Playboy bunny costume. Guys dressed up as the Andrews Sisters for Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.
The cast boasted a few professionals, but it was mostly a community-theatre effort. Tim says the Smile Show's loosey-goosey amateur feel was part of its charm. When the show tried to go professional, "it sucked."
Gerry Gosley could be difficult if provoked. He liked other performers to wait on him at cast parties, declaring, "Poor Gerry doesn't have a drink!" When one newcomer (fresh out of drama school) refused, "he almost got kicked out of the show," Tim said.
As is typical of many young men, Tim's relationship with his father wasn't always smooth.
"When me and my father got hammered together, it was great. And then he'd say something completely different the next day. I'd think, 'Gee, I thought we completely got through this.' "
Yet today, Tim Gosley finds himself doing something he'd never imagined as a young man. He's reprising the old Smile Show, carefully crafting a theatrical love letter for his late father.
Today, he regards it all - the corny jokes, the Rule Britannia humour - with genuine affection.
"It's like, this is great," he said. "All these guys had all this fun doing my dad's show."
? On Friday there was limited seating for tonight's performance. Those interested must phone 250-598-7488 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve. Tickets are $8, $14 and $15.
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