Like most of you, I have no aptitude for mathematics or the sciences. However, I am a lover of the brown liquors and I do a passable imitation of Ted Kennedy. And not that post Chappaquiddick, Kennedy either. It’s all chow-dah.
Today at, Kneel Before Rod, we’re going to begin the first in a semi, bi monthly, weekly segment in which we highlight one of the Canucks of yesteryear and see what they’ve been up to since they wore the giant whale….
The year was 2002. Vancouver was awash in, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” fever and Avril Lavigne’s song, Complicated became the anthem for urban youths ready to rebel against the status quo with clip on nose rings and black Chuck Taylors.
On the local sports scene, our boys in the blue and green had taken a 2-0 game lead in their first round playoff with the much favoured, Detroit Red Wings. Optimism was high as the Canucks skated onto home ice poised to take a stranglehold on the series.
The game started on equal footing, but at the 24.6 second mark of period two, Nicklas Lidstrom took an innocent slap shot from centre ice which sailed over the impotent catching hand of Dan Cloutier and into the Canuck’s net. The Wings won the game, but more importantly, they had taken back the series. The Red Wings went on to win the next 4 straight games, dispatching the Canucks from the post season.
It wasn’t long before pictures of Dan Cloutier showed up on the internet with a kaleidoscopic beach ball getting by him and into the net. Cloutier? Well, he went on to play in the NHL for a few more years, but he was never the same. More importantly, what happened to the beach ball?
I had a chance to catch up with, Pierre LaPlage during a layover in Houston. The following is an excerpt from his New York Times bestseller, Red, White, Blue, Yellow and Green Like Me – My Life and Times as a Beachball
“People say that the two best things about Paradise Waves, Florida is the day you leave. A working class suburb of Orlando, Paradise Waves is best known for making the personalized license plates found at theme park gift shops all over the U.S.”
It was here that, I spent my childhood years. The son of Polish immigrants, I always had a flair for the arts. While other kids were emulating the running style of the local High School quarterback, I spent my days floating in the family pool reading, Proust.”
Me: Pierre, it’s good to see you again. Catch us up a bit. What have you been doing since the 2002 season?
Pierre: Thanks, Steve. Well, currently, I’m on the last leg of touring with a, Spin Doctors tribute band. You know, I get up late, do some hot yoga, play 18 holes, and then I’m batted around by the crowd for a few hours. I can’t complain, I’m really enjoying the second half of my life.
Me: Is that your forte, Pierre?
Pierre: No, this is more of a lark. I was actually classically trained on the English stage. I studied under Olivier and was quite content doing, Hamlet or Ibsen 6 nights a week. Very, very terse material
Me: That’s such a departure from the Pierre we knew back in 2002. How on earth did you come to be associated with the Canucks?
Pierre: Ha, you know, like most things, it was pure happenstance; complete serendipity. I was in Vancouver for a good friend’s son’s Bar Mitzvah. Do you remember the movie, Victory? Well he was the soccer ball that Pele bicycle kicked into the net during the film’s climax. I was actually in the film, but my scene got cut out. The Director’s idea for a pool party didn’t’ flow with the continuity of a POW camp.
Anyways, that’s how we met, and we’ve been lifelong friends ever since. So, I was in Vancouver, and I was just exploring the city, you know, letting the wind roll me wherever I needed to go, and a rather sudden gust picked up under me and I was blown into a yard where I proceeded to get stuck in a tree.
Well, I must have been there for hours. Luckily, a couple of kids got me down with a stick, wiped me down with a damp rag and brought me inside. I thanked the kids and prepared to be on my way, but the Mom, a lovely woman, mind you, recognized me from a production of, Godspell, I had done years ago. She asked if I had ever modeled.
Now, I hadn’t heard that question in ages. I mean, I had done some rather tasteful nudes back in the 70’s and there was an especially progressive shoot I had done for, Toys R US, but this wasn’t certainly a vocation, you understand. Well, it turns out her husband was a disgruntled Canuck’s fan and had need for a beach ball. And the rest, as they say is l’histoire.
Me: Ha, fascinating. So, it was all done spur of the moment, no rehearsing, no premeditation?
Pierre: Oh God, no! We did it one shoot and I was eating Kosher brisket one hour later.
Me: Did you know at the time what you were doing? Were you thinking, “Wow, I’m making history here.”
Pierre: Not at all. It was a favour for some people that were more than kind to a wayward beach ball. I had no idea what it even meant until months later when I was on the road touring with a off Broadway production of CATS.
Me: When did you find out?
Pierre: Well, I was in Toronto, and me and some of the other cast members were unwinding at a local Pub and we were just chatting in a booth when these free drinks kept arriving at the table. Now, I’m all too familiar with the largesse of my fans. To this day, I make a healthy living at Comic-Con taking pictures and what not as the original ball that Elliot rolls into the garage in E.T. Ha, during my thinner days. Well. So the drinks kept coming, and finally some beautiful lass approached the table and asks me to sign her picture; and there it was. I would have taken her back home, had I not done a dinner theatre production of, The Crucible with one of her implants. We’d been an item back in the, Studio 54 days, so no love lost there.
Pierre quit the theatre, found a local agent and began touring Canada, as “the ball.” Pierre was enjoying his new found celebrity as mentioned in this excerpt from his book:
As soon as we touched down in a new city, it was a non-stop party. My assistant was responsible for pouring 25 year old Scotch in my blow hole and she never disappointed. One morning in Winnipeg, I woke up with two women, some tennis balls we’d met the night before and a bocce ball there on a student visa. I didn’t even know their names. There I was, living every guy’s fantasy, and I couldn’t even remember it…
Unfortunately, for Pierre, soon other Photoshopped images and internet clips would begin to surface, and like so many that experience the pinnacles of fame, he was about to feel the fall to the bottom.
Me: Pierre, when did you know it was starting to get away from you, when was the ride beginning to slow down?
Pierre: It was the fall of 2004 and I was sitting in my apartment, I had just gotten a call from my agent, I’d been bumped from the centre square on Hollywood Squares, because of a .gif of Ken Hitchcock morphing into Mayor McCheese. I just couldn’t compete with that. I knew then, that things were beginning to unravel. People began to call me a “one hit wonder” and I was replaced on the touring circuit by the fireball that was made to look like it was coming out of John Tortorella’s mouth.
With his fame waning, his earnings all but depleted, Pierre decided to grasp for the brass ring once more, and tried to insert himself into the glove of Moises Alou during the NLCS series best known for the Steve Bartman incident. It was a colossal failure. Pierre was now broke, unemployable and even worse, had become hooked on purified air in order to keep him inflated.
There was a failed mismatched roommate sitcom with the baseball that went through Bill Buckner’s legs that didn’t get picked up, and a severely panned country western album. In this excerpt from his book Pierre has sunken to rock bottom.
It was after playing the part of the volley ball in the gay porn version of Top Gun: volleyball scene that a broken, Pierre’s life took a dark, twisted turn.
“… as I was getting dressed, I caught myself in the hotel mirror. I was a phantom of my former self. The purified air had drawn out my colurs, and my once deep voice, was mow a hiss. I had it all, I was a God among backyard playthings, and now here I was turning tricks in a seedy hotel room in Miami. I felt so dirty, so violated, my mouth hole was chapped and bleeding. I needed help. I needed a release. I tried several times. The wind just blew me off the bridge and even my attempts at deflating had gone for not. I needed help…. I needed help….”
And help did come. Years earlier, Pierre had met Wilson, the Volleyball during an appearance on, The Tonight Show. They’d hit it off, and kept in contact over the years. During a chance meeting at an airport in Cleveland, the two good friends became reacquainted and have been inseparable ever since.
Me: Today, you’re happily committed to Wilson, you’re clean and sober, you’ve got a successful career, and you’re about to become a father for the first time. Would you change anything? Any regrets?
Pierre: You know, Steve. I’d like to say, I do have regrets, but everything happens for a reason, and I wouldn’t be the person I am without going through all the trials I did. I’m happy. I’m happy.
Pierre LaPlage’s book “Red, White, Blue, Yellow and Green Like Me – My Life and Times as a Beachball is on sale currently…
You can follow me on Twitter @SteveintheKT . Look for my exciting one on one with the banana that got thrown at Wayne Simmonds.