James’ Brand New Blog

The Tale Of London Town & Jack DiCarlo

- April 16th, 2014

Jack DiCarlo LFP_LDN20120803dr_jack2

Jack DiCarlo is retiring after 27 years as maitre d’ at Michael’s On The Thames in London, Ontario. Photo shot on Friday, August 3, 2012. DEREK RUTTAN/ The London Free Press /QMI AGENCY

Expect Jack DiCarlo to sing again . . . & soon.

JBNBlog doesn’t know a whole lot about a new play-in-being The Tale Of London Town . . . but it sounds like a fascinating excursion (lit & fig) through downtown in May. Among the stars is Jack DiCarlo — he will be singing again. Wow.

Here’s some background . . .

This performance starts at The Grand Theatre, 471 Richmond St.


Presented by FIXT POINT

May 8-17, 2014

The Tale of London Town is a live site-specific performance that tells the tale of downtown London as remembered by you. Weaving archives and live music with oral histories collected from interviews with residents, business owners and local heroes, this multi-media theatrical adventure will bring legendary London stories to the life!

Meet at The Grand Theatre Box office and take a trip with us downtown as we remember when everything was the best…or was it?

Maybe the best is yet to come…

(Dress for the weather. No bags. No latecomers.)

Created and Produced by FIXT POINT, with support from The Downtown London Association, The Grand Theatre, The Ontario Arts Council and The Canada Council for the Arts.

Here is former LFP colleague Alex Weber’s piece on Jack’s retirement (well, his first retirement) . . .

Section: News Page: A2
   Valentine’s Day is Jack DiCarlo’s favourite day of the year.
As the dining room of Michael’s on the Thames filled up with couples of all ages and stages of love, DiCarlo made sure their nights were filled with fine food, beautiful music and romance.
Known for serenading guests, DiCarlo’s favourite song to sing to couples on the day of love was the Dean Martin classic That’s Amore.
A few years ago he also had the responsibility of keeping five diamond engagement rings safe in his pocket and ready to go as nervous boyfriends anxiously awaited the right moment to propose.
It’s such special touches that made DiCarlo a beloved maitre d’ at Michael’s on the Thames.
It’s also why his longtime customers and co-workers are struggling to say goodbye as DiCarlo begins his retirement.
His last day at Michael’s on the Thames was July 31.
The 68-year-old’s career in the hospitality business has spanned decades.
He’s shared the company of legends such as Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Jane Fonda and Yul Brynner.
He’s worked in famous hotels such as the Savoy in London, England, the Ritz Carlton in Montreal and the Park Hotel in Zurich, Switzerland.
But his first job in London was sweeping hockey cards and chewing gum off the floor at the old O-Pee-Chee factory.
DiCarlo followed his two older brothers to London from Abruzzo, Italy, in 1963. DiCarlo, just 20 then, had studied hospitality in Italy.
Ten years later he opened his first restaurant, Savoir Faire in the old Holiday Inn on York St., where the London Convention Centre stands today.
“That’s where I started making the caesar salad I became famous for throughout the years,” DiCarlo said.
In 1975, he went to work at the Plaza, a hotel that stood where the Hilton is on King St. Next he opened the Wittington at the corner of York and Wellington, before opening another restaurant, La Riveira, at Waterloo and Horton in 1978.
“That’s where I really flourished,” DiCarlo said.
He put in 20-hour days making sure customers had all they needed, and it’s at La Riveira, where DiCarlo first began to serenade customers.
A Brazilian official visited the restaurant while in town to sign a big contract with a local manufacturer.
“He said, ‘You Italian? You got to sing for me.’ I had never sang in my life,” DiCarlo said.
He sang the traditional Italian tune Santa Lucia for the official, and serenading guests quickly became his trademark.
DiCarlo was the maitre d’ at Michael’s on the Thames since 1986 and created a deep and lasting impression in the hearts of his customers over the years.
“My clientele has followed me since I’ve been in London,” he said. He’s been there for couples’ first dates, engagements, and wedding anniversaries.
“Now I see their kids are in the same situation, just like their parents were way back when and it makes me feel so good.”
Though DiCarlo is sad to leave behind the legacy he’s created at Michael’s, he says he’s leaving the restaurant in good hands. Many of the people he works with have been with him for decades and understand his dining philosophy.
“I’m such a people person,” DiCarlo said. “I always want to create for the customer something unique — something to remember.”

Becky Shaw. Rose Bowl. Yay.

- April 15th, 2014

Becky Shaw Rose Bowl

Becky Shaw on Friday night at the Rose Bowl . . . courtesy of Wilma van  Berkel 

Still hoping to add to our LFP coverage of the 2014 London Kiwanis music fest champ Becky Shaw, 19, and a Western Don Wright music faculty undergrad. Guitar hero Becky sent along this fine photo taken by her teacher, Wilma van Berkel.  A great moment . . . for a quick quiz, how many guitarists have won the Rose Bowl? Can you name them? Celeb judges are not sure themselves & are waiting to be impressed.





AK Arts Academy kids rawk The Jacks

- April 14th, 2014


The triumphant opening Sunday night to the JRMA 2014 gala .. . Dan Tran, left, Robyn Crosby (making her stage debut, shaking that tambourine), her co-host Ajay Massey, centre, flanked by super-talented kids from the AK Arts Academy & show producer/Marcellus Wallace keyboardist & vocalist Alexandra Kane on stage at the London Music Hall . . . Photograph courtesy of Matt Weston

Alexandra Kane said she had a surprise to start the 2014 JRMA gala  . . . & there you see it . . . Marcellus Wallace (a top band by itself) with guest performers from the AK Arts Academy Alexandra runs . . . & co-host Robyn Crosby joining in the fun & funk. Yay.

There were so many moments on a magnificent evening, it will take a while for the goosebumps to receive & recollection in tranquility to take over . . . for now, congratulations to all the performers . . . on a night when London Music Hall of Famers John Noubarian & friends & Garth & Maud Hudson were on the show, you all did a terrific job of representing the diversity & excellence of the London music scene.

Plus . . . the cupcakes . . can’t forget the cupcakes. JBNBlog met one of the cupcake geniuses . . . but has forgotten the name.

Plus . . . London Jazz Orchestra . . . your trophy is safe with me & I will get it to you . . . when do you rehearse next?

Henry Grimes & Aurochs @Music Gallery. Yay!

- April 13th, 2014

Hentry Grimes bassHenry Grimes in an undated photograph by Hollis King . . .  courtesy of musicgallery.org

Starting off Sunday with Brilliant  Corners by Monk-Rollins-Roach-Henry-Pettiford . . . the 1956 composition was the opening work at the amazing solo concert by legendary jazz bassist Henry Grimes on Friday night at Toronto’s Music Gallery.

Magnificent . . . Grimes played bass, violin & recited some of his poems . . . his poems have a spiritual dimension as does his playing.

The violin is for shorter, sharp, abrupt pieces . . . the bass for long & beautiful explorations . . . the sound was terrific. Congrats to the Music Gallery & all involved for bringing Henry Grimes to Toronto. Yay.

Social notes . . . Henry’s wife, Margaret, said he would welcome the chance to return to the Guelph jazz fest where he played a few years back . . .  following the concert, Henry & Margaret were headed off to Fran’s (!) impressed by its reputation for serving late at night. They were continuing a conversation started at the Music Gallery with a York U jazz student who is researching the life of jazz bassist Steve Davis (he played on My Favourite Things among other Coltrane-on-Atlantic classics) . . .  in the car on the way back to London we played purchased-from-Margaret Profound Sound Trio’s Opus De Life which has Henry Grimes (bass, violin) & Andrew Cyrille (drums) & new-to-JBNBlog Paul Dunmall (tenor sax & bagpipes (!)) in a stormy session somewhere in the Albert Ayler ESP-Disk soundverse. Yay.

Two-thirds of Friday’s fine Toronto opening act Aurochs were in Muskox . . . a band JBNBlog heard at Museum London via a LOLA gig five years ago a little earlier this month.

Here’s what JBNBlog said then . . . “Muskox has a subtle, quietly chewing alt-chamber quality to it but can really rumble along too. Just like the excellent beast itself” . . .by contrast, Aurochs takes the jazz piano trio down a parallel & fascinating path.

The event turned into a CD launch for Aurochs . . . & their CD Rational Animals is waiting for its time with the Profound Sound trio & Monk etc. getting the basement air space right now.






Memories: Brendan Shanahan, NHL Draft Day, 1987

- April 10th, 2014

Brendan Shanahan 31952226

Brendan Shanahan of the Detroit Red Wings was in London and getting in some skating time at the Western Fair Sports Centre, Feb.1/05. A classic photograph from The Free Press & QMI Agency files.

As a Hab fan, JBNBlog can only wish his many friends in Leaf Nation the best as reports of class act & former London Knight Brendan Shanahan helming the franchised are rawkin the NHLverse 2nite.

There’s QMI Agency comment on Brendan Shanahan & the Leafs here on lfpress.com & with more details arriving as the night goes on.

Brendan Shanahan was an excellent player for the Knights, the franchise leader in the mid-1980s.

JBNBlog is a small footnote in the Shanahan saga based on 1987′s NHL entry draft day at Detroit on June 13  (says Wikipedia) . . . Brendan Shanahan went down to the draft in a classy car with Knights’ icon Don Brankley & LFP sports ace Jim Cressman (who kindly invited me) & probably someone else who was driving.

I was in awe & pretty quiet . . . Jim kidded me about that . . . Brankley had arranged for a Dylan Isle of Wight suit (yep, (c) Rolling Stone, that phrase) for Shanahan to wear. Eventually, I calmed down enough to chat a bit, likely about covering the Jays and Tigers for The Free Press. The star was v. calm & poised (Jim had already written the story saying he would be drafted second over-all by New Jersey) & intelligent.

Brendan Shanahan went on to a stellar NHL career & a post-playing turn in the NHL office . . . all of which should prepare him for whatever is needed to steer the Leafs to glory.

The Leafs have more talent than my Habs (true, true) . . . & now it looks as if they’ll have a calm, thoughtful & v. determined person to help lead the organization. Three cheers for “Shanny” (was that his nickname  back in the London day?) & all the best to the Leafs & their fans. Won’t even say long-suffering. Well. It just snuck in there.

Any, here’s a #ldnont hockey quiz. Who was picked No. 1 in the NHL draft that year, going ahead of No. 2 pick Shanahan? What is that player’s (admittedly rather distant) connection with London hockey & the Knights now?