Behind The Scene On The Book Tour

By William Thomas

The people at McClelland Stewart (Random House) applied the full force of public relations behind my last book, “The Legend of Zippy Chippy”. However, it wasn’t until I saw the seven-page media schedule for Toronto that it actually sunk in. Here then is the seven-day summary of quirky asides from a very long book tour.

I drive through a snowstorm from Port Colborne to my rented condo near Toronto’s Rogers Centre where the lock box containing the key is frozen and I spend 20 minutes shivering on the sidewalk. Much like the horse I wrote about, I was not off to a great start.

Intimidated by CBC’s legendary Carol Off, I do a bad interview in which I lose my voice twice and then sound like I’m drowning in a mug of water. I tell Carol I’ve dined twice with her husband Linden MacIntyre and refer to him as a “sweet” man. Carol playfully came up with a half dozen adjectives she would use to describe her spouse … other than “sweet.”

Things get better with Jim Coyle at the “Toronto Star” whose elderly Irish father was a player of ponies. I’m reminded that my wee Irish mother, Margaret McLean used to secretly and illegally send money home to friends to purchase a ticket in the Irish Sweepstakes for her. The next day it’s the “National Post” with Joe O’Connor, the kind of guy who’s so engaging you’d probably say something you’ll regret. I don’t, but it still feels weird going into a studio and doing a video for a print newspaper. (See: http://nationalpost. com/news/canada/the-horse-that-won-bylosing-zippy-chippy-racings-famous-alsoran-celebrated-by-canadian-author)

Then it’s on to Craig Rintoul with the Canadian Press who opens with: “You seem to have cornered the market on losers. When does your book on the Toronto Maple Leafs come out?” Craig compliments me by telling me he read my book in the bathtub and the laughter created a lot of waves. I’m reminded of the book tour for The Dog Rules (Damn Near Everything!) in which Hamilton radio personality Bill Kelly said: “I keep all your books in the bathroom and read a chapter or so every time I go to the john. I hope you don’t mind?” I replied that I didn’t mind at all as long as the books come out with the same number of pages they had when they went in! Nobody deserves that kind of criticism.

On air with dressage rider Arlene Bynon of Sirius XM Radio, she starts by making the statement that: “As thoroughbred horses go, trainers always believe that they can change bad habits and erratic behaviour. True?” My response: “Yes, trainers and wives.” She loses her train of thought.

Walking the halls of CHCH looking at photos of great TV personalities of the recent past, I’m heartened that the station is still on air, chilled by the thought of the city of Hamilton without CHCH. Bob Cowan likes the book and we get along so well, we agree to meet again at Zippy Chippy Day, July 26 in Saratoga Springs, New York. (Maybe next year.)

At a media warehouse in Etobicoke, I walk into a cave-like studio to sit with “Square Off” hosts Mark Hebscher and Liz West. This being the last of the seven-day media circus, I’m tired and disoriented. “Ah, I can leave this sweater on or, I brought a blazer?”

They both look at each other oddly. As Liz rolls her eyes, Mark says: “This is radio.”

With a great comeback I said: “Oh, then I guess I can take the pancake makeup off as well?”

Still, that was not the worst moment of the week. The worst was leaving a note for the Portuguese cleaning lady upon checking out of my Toronto condo, explaining that all those brown stains on the white bath towels were pancake makeup. Honest, they were.

For comments and ideas, or a copy of The Legend of Zippy Chippy, go to www.williamthomas.ca