#37 – Hazel McCallion cannot sing.

One of the things my wife has noted over the years is that I seem to accumulate the acquaintance of some unusual people. This includes political people and, it should be obvious, politics produces some very unusual people. We are reminded of this by seeing my old friend Hazel McCallion the other night. Hazel has been mayor of the City of Mississauga for more than 30 years. What was most unusual about the event was that Hazel was doing a duet with television personality Regis Philbin.

When she and I first met, Hazel was mayor of Streetsville. I was connected with a company that wanted to build an assembly plant nearby. Our meeting had nothing to do with my interest in politics. I was simply there to further good relations for the company with the community. Hazel and I liked each other. I found her easy to work with. She found that I willingly accommodated her love of publicity. We were a good team.

Hazel has come a long way since then. The plant in Mississauga was in full swing when she became mayor of the much larger municipality of Mississauga in 1978. And she was no spring chicken then. I remember many fun times when I would give her a call to take part in some function or other and she would show up, chain of office at the ready, for the photographers I always had for her.

I expect she considered me a supporter as she made prodigious efforts to get me to move to Mississauga. Her blandishments failed though as I was too committed a Torontonian.

I could go on about the friendship but this is about Hazel and Regis Philbin. Regis is harder to explain than Hazel. He is not a friend. He was on stage at Casino Rama and in a weak moment I agreed to take my wife to his show. This was a political move on my part as I wanted to stay in her good graces. I have sometimes caught my wife watching Philbin’s daytime television thing with Kelly Ripa. If the show at Rama had featured Kelly Ripa, you could not have kept me away.

The biggest surprise when we took our seats for Philbin’s show, in that awful barn of an auditorium at Rama, was that there was a sizeable symphonic orchestra on the stage. I was not aware that Regis Philbin considers himself a singer. It turned out the orchestra was there because, as a singer, he needs all the help he can get. Later in the program, he brought out his wife Joy. She also fancies herself a singer. It is my humble opinion that singing does not run in the Philbin family.

But the treat for the evening was Hazel and Regis’ duet. To put it as politely as possible, the word ‘awful’ keeps coming to my mind. You can probably guess why. Here is a dapper 78-year old entertainer who sounds like he has post-nasal drip and is not much over five feet tall, singing along with an even shorter 88-year old politician. And they are doing this in front of a stage with a full-size orchestra playing their hearts out. His only comment on the effort was that he noted that the politician got more applause than he. It would have helped if he had practiced pronouncing “McCallion.” It rhymes with “scallion” Regis!

Shortly after the number with Hazel and while Regis was singing some ballad with his wife, we made our getaway. I thought of sticking around to say ‘hello’ to Hazel but it was obvious from the reception she got from the couple thousand people in the audience that she had many well-wishers there. While it might seem rude to some people that we left before the end of the show, it is sometimes necessary. One of the problems you often run into with free tickets for casino entertainment is that you get what you pay for.

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