We and all other animals are accustomed to a spectrum of emotions ranging widely from elation, to sadness or fear. Thankfully; secure, positive emotions rise back into place, or replace uncomfortable ones entirely. Season-wise, as in this very month, Manitoba weather adapts us to wearing swimsuits one day and covering our plants against frost two days later. However, it is mercifully rare to be jerked by fear, clashing with elation.
You know the difference between favouring certain artists and being a fan, don’t you? I, for example, love Conan O’Brien. Hearing and watching his comedy makes me feel great and I am a fan generally. When our beautiful orange & white kitten was born, who loves to make us laugh: we named him after Conan. This son to us is unfortunately missing and we pray for his return. This is the dearest connection to the comedian but I don’t know him. There is fandom and then there are childhood heroes at the top of them all.
Corey Hart is that inspiring, magical person whom I made it a mission in life to meet and did. He bowed out of the spotlight to raise his family and those who esteem him as highly as I do, continue to cherish his music catalogue and concert memories and hope he would eventually make more. Corey did stir-up activity in Montréal and Toronto around 2014: receiving a star on Canada’s Walk Of Fame and putting on a red carpet concert for his family that I could not afford to attend. I presumed he would include Winnipeg eventually, which he had not done since 1998 and was dismayed to learn this Montréal extravaganza was intended to be a farewell exception.
After lengths of time during which our mentor did not seem popular; there are always article-writers my age, who divulge that they are lifelong fans when they interview him. This is the kind of person Corey is, frequently remembering our faces and names. The triumph of our “Corey meeting stories” describes our level of fandom. To see Corey perform is to be blown away by his talent, the range of commercially familiar and other life-imprinting songs and it feels like a reunion with a friend. To hear him speak of his fans every time he is interviewed, it is clear our love is reciprocated by him.
When a friend alerted me that there would be a concert in Winnipeg: I cheered myself for hoping he would return to our city and make new music! He suffers from a back injury but his family was impressed by the applause that greeted him in 2014. A music industry person saw him play a song in a small setting recently and remarked on the star quality that is evident in Corey. This culminated in convincing him to tour Canada.
What would make his show in Winnipeg even more special is that my spouse of nineteen years, had not seen him. Good spouses are fans of what we love. Without having the history I do, it added to our anticipation that Ron was as excited as anyone could be. We fell in love, attending a ton of concerts and going to dances with friends. I give musicians my full attention, never getting up for the washroom or drinks and don’t mind where I sit; depending on the level of my fandom.
Because Corey Hart ranks the highest, my concert priority would be: seats as close as possible, definitely on the floor. I approach the stage as soon as it is permitted, or clear of security guards. I would try to catch Corey’s eye or shake his hand. I would buy a t-shirt and tour book. Given the dominance of electronic files nowadays, this was my first opportunity to buy his EP on compact disc. I was excited to share this with Ron and it was a much-wanted reunion with my childhood hero. I was solely nervous about the MTS Centre’s preference of smart phone e-tickets, which we do not have. There is a way to request actual tickets and we were anxious to settle that.
My Mom had been in the hospital for an infection and low energy. A nurse explained encouragingly that heart surgery a few years ago, merely makes her body work harder on disturbances to her health. She was home for a month, when her energy plummeted again. My Mom remarked about having pneumonia and was right. We visited her every time we were in Winnipeg and before we left town for the show that meant the world to us, we were warned the she was in the ICU. My youngest brother was coming from Toronto and the boys and our Dad were worried about my Mom. Ron & I are certain that Mom has much more time ahead of her. We reminded ourselves that people look terrible while they are unwell and that ICU just means intensive care.
I asked Mom if she thought she would overcome this and her face answered: yes. I asked if I should attend the concert and count on her being all right and she answered: yes. Our Mom would be okay but it was hard to keep confident, with my local brother not as sure. She wouldn’t go anywhere with her youngest son on the way at about midnight and his children coming the next week. I had ample time for the concert and our Mom would be there when I got back. It was more endurable to pray for my Mom and wait to be assured of her saved health, at the concert of my childhood hero.
Corey’s return to Winnipeg was a rare gift and more than savouring the thrill of it: I needed it to uplift me. A girl I met at the concert, who had a brother in a different ICQ, said the same and we hugged each other. Would you say the concert I had hoped for since 1998 was bad timing, or wouldn’t you say it served an important purpose?
I could scarcely get into it and checked my cell phone before and after every song, to reassure myself that my family had not phoned. I was aware of every song and loved them. I could tell that it was an extraordinarily great performance. Likely more spectacular and powerful than I had seen and heard Corey, since I was a little girl at the old Winnipeg Arena with friends on January 31, 1986. But I was not in Carolyn concert mode. I did not approach the stage, 18 rows up. We stopped for no souvenirs, after noting a big line. We had not seen a merchandise stand when we arrived. I would look into obtaining the shirt, tourbook, and EP some other way.
It was that rare crash of feelings: a happy place that sails my spirit over the moon, arriving when our family was in a state of fear about someone paramount to us. I felt the joy of Corey’s concert from a distance. Ron loves and cherishes my Mom but was able to enjoy it fully. I am grateful he is my eyes and ears, to relate how fantastic Corey was. People who used to scoff at his famous name, are impressed by his endearing spirit and human reach in person. Everyone could feel love flowing from him, which reached me too. One magical moment helped, an interlude of several songs and bonding anecdotes so dear to me, that I could focus 100%.
There was a small stage in the floor section, only a few rows behind Ron & I. You just had to jog a few steps to get to it, if you were ready and quick. When the ensemble took a break and a video was played, I warned Ron that Corey was heading to the small stage and that we needed to stand there! He is hesitant about these things but I brooked no hesitation. I could not waste any energy wishing he was there too. I needed Ron with me in my element, so we squeezed up to the thin row of people forming there and I got to the front! It goes without saying that Corey is a real human being and if we spent time together, I would treat him like a friend. But people and animals sharing energy is healing. The outpouring of verbal affection and music from this dear, magical person was palpable and personal. He has graced my life since I was 13 and I respond to him like a plant to sunlight. This is the treasure of a favourite singer and I need this boost.
It took the whole concert but I was renewed: including by a lady worried about her brother and a warm woman, who hugged away tears at the small round stage. They said they were sure it would turn out all right with my Mom. I thank both! The source of tears cleared out most of my fear, a release rather than anguish. Corey brought onstage a Daughter and wife, whose husband was a fan like me. He had died of cancer and they were attending this long-awaited concert return in his honour. Corey let them speak and I cried when the girl sang “Never Surrender” with Corey on piano. The melancholy ballad, the words “you can see light when it is dark”, Corey being steps away, Ron experiencing this moment behind me…. The most poignant help was the plain fact that their time with their loved-one was over. It dropped out the tears and fear.
I was worried but my Mom was alive for me to worry about! That reality has kept me strong through two years of missing our cherished cat, Conan O’Brien. That is hard but good news can come of that! The prayer for Mom was answered and I told her about the concert afterwards. Mark brought Timmy from the airport at about 1:00 AM, to whom Ron apparently raved about Corey Hart in the lounge. Timmy awoke Mom up jovially to announce his arrival and we let them visit one-on-one.
When the boys left, I was excited that Mom could speak. We chatted for hours! She was in high spirits. I eventually suggested letting her sleep and knew Ron was snoozing on the lounge’s couch. She was so keen to keep on chatting, we blew kisses at each other until I reached the lounge. I loved this moment and remind Mom of it.
Mom’s rehabilitation took 2½ months but she has been home two months! Dad brought her to celebrate the birthday of Conan’s sisters at our country home last month. Two weeks afterwards, I was elated to visit Mom with our garden food and flowers, at her apartment. It was her birthday and we were celebrating our answered prayer!
If I had had the relief of the Mom awakening with her beaming smiles ahead of time, Corey’s concert would have been a celebration. I would have matched the ecstatic energy with all my heart. But a performance of my favourite artist was a fortuitious way to spend frightened hours. Something the human Conan O’Brien said, kicked the right attitude into place.
Everyone remembers the “The Tonight Show” job he lost to Jay Leno in 2009. Conan showed the classiest side I had ever seen, making funny skits for weeks about having to leave. On the final show, he spoke seriously about hating cynicism. Rather be negative about the short duration: he said most people would feel blessed to have hosted “The Tonight Show” at all. Corey’s Winnipeg show kept me sane, gave me courage, and lifted my spirits. If he puts out a video, I will refresh my memory of how spectacularly it rocked.