Gord Bastian’s talent continues its community gift

Next Wednesday afternoon and Thursday evening hundreds of people will spend the night laughing and it’s all because of Gord Bastian.

Laughter is perhaps our most valuable emotion. We relax. We forget the ‘bad’ stuff that’s in our lives. Our judgement drops. The world is a wonderful place.

And so Gord’s gift continues as the staff and some students of Georgian College share their remarkable talent with the community. And they do it to help build revenue to support students whose financial resources are really strapped.

Gord Bastian started the Variety Show at Georgian College in 1992. A multi talented guy, loved by anyone who knew him, Gord was a support staff member of the Human Resources Departyment. He was also an accomplished pianist who stunned audiences with his ability to simply sit down and play. Brilliantly. He was also an enviable chef, a guy who taught in the hospitality and tourism program. And I knew Gord in the 60’s when he anchored a show at Kingston’s CKLC Radio and I anchored a page at the Kingston Whig Standard.

Gord’s generosity was everywhere! He played at gala openings for every Gryphon Theatre production. He provided the background music for dinner parties and art show launches. He cared about people and they cared about him.

When a downsize took Gord away from cooking to a more menial job at Georgian, Gord accepted it with wit and wisdom. Most of us would have applied a sour face and turned away.

That first Variety Show in 1992 coaxed onto the Gryphon Theatre stage so much hidden talent among college staff and students that the audience was amazed. Elaine Murray was part of that original show back in 1992 and now, in 2005, will produce the 13th show, dubbed Variety the 13th!

She first got involved with Gord because her work at Georgian was largely in the print shop which was right next to Shipping & Receiving. And that’s where Gord worked for awhile. ‘Gord loved students,’ she remembers. ‘He wanted to do something for the February blahs and a variety show seemed like just the thing.’

Giving the money to a student was a logical result, from Gord’s point of view, and in 13 years over $20,000 has been awarded to needy students who are eternally grateful. Books, rent, emergency help, food are where some of the money goes, while some also goes into a bursary for a first year student.

The award is now called the Gord Bastian Entrance Award and the winning student has to show financial need and needs to have a background in music and community giving. It’s priced at $1,000.

The funnier side of the show started when Elaine’s hold-nothing-back sister, Andrea took to the stage as Gord’s foil. As the introducer of most acts, and performs her own solo, Andrea (Georgian Alumni Officer) treads the stage in the most outrageous of outfits, throwing out barbs and quips that have the audience doubled over in laughter. And Elaine’s quiet creativity in the background ties it all together.

When Gord died very suddenly of heart failure in May, 1999, the show lost its soul. But, in Gord’s honour the staff at Georgian College continue to pull together laughter, music, song and dance. And we all are invited to laugh along with them.

The Murray sisters remember a few of the show themes… Lighter Side of Love, Las Vegas, Variety at Work, Georgian Stock, Hot-Hot-Hot!, Variety ABroad, Variety-eh?, and Variety X.

This year’s show, Feb 9 at 4 pm and Feb 10 at 7 pm, is dubbed Variety the 13th and will be entirely centred on phobias. I can only imagine Andrea’s 17 costume changes!

A core of Georgian’s devoted employees meets from September to February, designing and constructing sets, luring acts, getting volunteers to help as stage hands. Mareka Martin (Part Time Studies), Sue Deegan (Faculty), Cathy Neuss (Registrar’s Office), Micheline Starret (Orillia, Health Sciences), Kim Brent (SAC),. Christine Dawson (SAC) and Romy Boorman (SAC) serve on the team and you can bet they’re selling tickets with great enthusiasm this year. Caryll Howard does set design and mans ticket posts. And Bob Watson (theatre technician) makes the whole thing look and sound awesome.

There are lots of musical original songs, parodies, games, and skits that have been written with college life in mind. For instance, The Pompous Slugs is a take-off on the popular folk group, The Arrogant Worms. They practice all year long and help rewrite lyrics for other performers.

Gord always joked onstage when appropriate, but Andrea’s taken over both his and her roles completely. After all, at Variety Night, Gord Bastian is still there!

Thanks, Gord.