Friday, February 21, 2014

Farewell -- and thank you -- to a friend

Sad news to wake up to this morning: the passing of my old friend, Rodd Crandall -- known to the public as Peter Clemente. He was my mentor at CKPG Radio/TV in Prince George, where I worked in 1981. As a newscaster, his delivery could make you laugh or make you cry, and as assistant news director, he led by example: encouraging, cajoling, teaching; always giving. He set a standard and it was one you wanted to meet -- not because he might tear you a new one if you didn't (which he never would, anyway), but because you knew it was a standard worth achieving.

Thanks in large part to his mentoring, I made it to the big time, landing at C-FUN in 1982. "There's one phrase that says it all for me, as far as C-FUN is concerned," he said, "and I want you to nail it!" His voice dropped into his best Dick Smyth/CHUM impression. "'WEST COAST WEATHER!'" Shortly after I started at C-FUN, I brought him an aircheck of one of my newscasts, and I could swear there was a bit of a tear in his eye when he heard me go into the weather forecast with that signature line. (It didn't hurt that C-FUN's equalization was boosted on the low end, so that I sounded like I was 6'4" and built like Ken Dryden.)

He got his shot at the big time in 1984, just after I'd moved to Victoria. Before that, he and Joanne came to Vancouver a couple of times, and on one of these trips, he demanded I take him to The Penthouse. Yes, the strip joint on Seymour Street that's still grinding away, literally and figuratively. But he wasn't there to see the girls: Rodd wanted to see the legendary club and the people who hung out there; and overarching all of that, he wanted to see the owner, Joe Philliponi. He was just as legendary for his many years of involvement with the nightlife and all the, um, stuff that you would associate with nightlife, Vancouver and a strip club.

So most of our attention was fixed on the bar and the coterie of "Damon Runyon types" who were perched on their stools. Suddenly, Rodd's eyes lit up. "There he is!" he hissed.

In the middle of the group, as though holding court, was a thick-set man in a sport-jacket and tie. The Great One, himself. At one point, he got up from his stool and walked towards the office -- coming right past our table.

"Hiya, Joe!" Rodd called out.

Joe clapped him on the shoulder. "Hey - how ya doin'?" and he went on into his office.

"He touched me!" Rodd hissed at me. "He patted me on the shoulder!"

I wonder if Rodd ever cleaned that jacket.

It wasn't long after that, in that same office, that Joe met his end during a botched robbery attempt. 

When I told Rodd I was going to Vancouver, he was philsophical. "That's my job," he sighed, "getting people ready and pushing them out the door." Up until the early 90s, small- and medium-market stations were regarded as a farm system for major-market operations, and I'm sure many news directors felt like minor league baseball managers. But Rodd played an even more important role in my life, being one of about a dozen or so people who spoke Christ into my life. I was 25 and knew everything, including the "knowledge" that Christians were goofs who couldn't think for themselves and that the Bible was out of step with the times. Rodd didn't preach at me, but occasionally would inject a word or an observation into our conversations that made me stop and think -- or at least wonder, "why exactly was I rejecting it?". Eventually, it all sank in: I was the one who wasn't thinking ... and what we really needed was to bring the times in step with the Bible.

Rodd's passing also reminds me that "someday" doesn't come. I returned to the Vancouver area around the time that he retired due to the health issues that eventually took him far too soon. We made plans to go for lunch, but I had to cancel at the last minute. We said we'd do it soon. That was eight years ago. Then they moved back to Prince George and we said we'd get together again "someday".

... ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life?
It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.
-- James 4:14-15 (KJV).

I can say with certainty that I know where I should see Rodd next. Lord willing, I'll be there, too.

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