RCW 139: Duesers' Day Off - A Dueser's Story

So it was finally here, my second Due South convention. I had no doubts that it would be as wonderful as the last one in 2008, but could it possibly be better? Well as my story unfolds you’ll discover that yes, RCW 139 2010 was an amazing convention which exceeded all my expectations and then some!

Ok, let’s begin at the beginning, Thursday evening, 4.45pm in the lobby of the Marriott hotel Bloor/Yorkville. This is where the early arrivals were to gather for the ‘Distillery Walkabout’. By the departure time of 5pm we had grown to a group of 15 or so and we all dutifully followed Stephane down into the depths of the subway for the ride as far as King and then walked 20 minutes east to the Distillery District where about 10 others were waiting for us, together with Brent and Tom, Katie’s dad, who led the tour.

It was already beginning to feel like a reunion as many familiar faces were among the group, and as we wandered the cobbled pathways and gazed down the alleyways you could almost see all those Due South scenes, which were filmed here, playing out once again.

Once the tour was complete we found somewhere able to accommodate us for something to eat as one large group in the courtyard of a delightful restaurant called Archeo - it was a magical atmosphere.

Friday 13th is not usually a good date and indeed the evening before we had been advised that instead of registration being from 10am it was now starting at 8.30am, so that was breakfast out then! We were assured it was for a good, if unspecified, reason. Thoughts of ‘I wonder if that means Paul Gross may be coming’ were, as best I could, and somewhat reluctantly pushed to the back of my mind, but the anticipation remained wriggling away in my brain.

As Sonja had asked me to set up the postcards sent from duesers around the world, I arrived at registration a little time before 8.30 collected my goodie bag and set about sticking the world map and postcards up on the event room wall. About halfway through my task I suddenly realised that like in 2008 we had Due South cards to trade in order to secure a full set, and as more duesers arrived trading was getting well underway, so I joined Doug, Walt, Nancy and a few others at the table. Luckily I was able to complete my set in double quick time and was able to get back to the postcards, which seemed to be taking an age to set up adjacent to the correct countries!

Also set up in the room was the Due South trading post, with lots of Due South goodies and I wasted no time as I purchased two ‘Bindlestitch’ t-shirts and an ‘Otter’ one.

10am was soon upon us and the official welcome to RCW got underway. Stephane formally introduced the organizing committee, Sarah, Brent, John and himself and ran through what was ahead, which guests had confirmed, who couldn’t make it, etc. By now my brain was in overdrive as Mr Gross had not been mentioned in any of the above categories but then, right at the end, came, “Oh, and Paul Gross will be here at 11am for a Q & A session - he can stay about an hour!” The announcement was greeted -  hmm, how shall I put this enthusiastically?!!

We all took a 10 minute break, during which time I bought yet another t-shirt which RCW had put together and one of the special RCW mugs which Nancy had brought.

While milling around the trading post again Steph pulled me aside and asked if I would be willing to get up and ask the first question, to get Paul talking (lol! is that usually a problem?! J) I agreed immediately and then realised that I had very little time to think up a reasonable question to start things off! Back in the Q&A room I set to writing down a question in my notebook, the more I read it over the worse it started to sound but there was no time to change it now as Paul is announced and comes striding into the room, smiling and waving at the rows of people welcoming him. He sat down and jokingly asked what we were doing in here as it was a lovely day outside and he was amazed to see us here. He soon said to go ahead and start asking him questions, so I jumped up to the microphone, introduced myself, thanked him for being here and launched into my question! “It’s been 15 years or so since Due South began, can you tell us some of the fond memories you have of the show, and do you still remember any of the lines from it?”

“Thank you kindly!” came the first reply. “Well that’s a really general question” says Paul talking right at me and he continues to do so as he answers the question with recollections of the show. Being totally mesmerised by his eyes staring at me I have absolutely no recollection of what else he said in answer to my question, but it was a fairly lengthy answer and I succeeded in my job of getting him talking! Questions followed thick and fast and the hour went very quickly.

As the last question was being answered, Stephane appeared at my side and whispered something like, “When we’re done here, follow me.”  “Okay” I said, a little baffled. So after Paul was thanked and presented with a selection RCW memorabilia and a scroll  and began making his way to the door at the back of the room, I made a quick exit from my seat and joined Steph, Paul and Penny in the hallway where Penny shook my hand and said it was good to meet me.

After lunch we had a jam packed afternoon of activities. The KitKat tasting competition with KitKats of all varieties being transported to RCW from all over the world, for example Britain, UAE, Japan, Canada, Belgium, there were 20 different varieties to make our choice from and the winner this year was a ginger ale one from Japan.

It was also great fun to be able to watch two episodes of Due South, ‘North’ and ‘All the Queen’s Horses’ with a room full of duesers.

By now it was nearly 5pm and the first formal get together, the ‘Meet and Greet’ was fast approaching. As in 2008, this was a small buffet of light snacks and hot and cold drinks, and delicious it was too.

Following on from this we welcomed back RCMP Const. Terry Russel. He was a big hit with attendees the last time and he was again this time around. His stories of life in the RCMP kept everyone spellbound. Without flinching, for an hour and a half, he answered questions from the very personal about his salary, pension and marriage, to details of training, the cases he’s been involved with, his time with the Musical Ride and special services guarding VIPs including Prime Ministers, Presidents and the Queen. And then, because time was running short because of Jay Semko’s impending arrival, this amazing man posed quickly in the hallway for those of us, and there were many, who wanted a photograph with him.

It’s now 8.30 ish and we’re all back in the ‘big’ room and in walks Jay Semko and as promised with his guitar. Somehow I think we are in for another treat. Jay talks easily about his time working on Due South. How he came to be involved in it, how originally he, Jack Lenz and John McCarthy put the incidental music to the various scenes oh this is ‘car’ music, this is ‘Dief’ music etc. While he talked he often picked up his guitar and played parts of very familiar tunes, demonstrating how the process worked. To finish he received one very special request. Would he play the Due South theme tune? A sharp intake of breath from me as he readily agreed to do so. We all sat there totally captivated as the familiar notes rang out and then he started to sing as well. An absolutely amazing rendition, hearing that song sung live by Jay Semko was both magical and moving.

It was now after 10pm, but Jay wasn’t finished yet! He stayed to sign autographs and pose for photos, happily chatting at length with everyone in line; I believe it was after 11.30pm before he left. An absolutely delightful and extraordinary man.

Saturday 14th    We were up fairly early again as it’s the group breakfast at the Patrician Grill, the setting for some scenes from Due South, most notably Victoria’s Secret. We journeyed via the subway again and walked the 10 minutes or so along King St E. Terry, the owner, is pleased to see us; his regular customers though looked a little confused by the sudden appearance of a crowd of enthusiastic Duesers! Everyone scrambles to fit in the booths, coffee is quickly served and Terry is here there and everywhere taking orders. I have the egg and bacon special, others choose pancakes with maple syrup, as Terry tells us he’s just back from London UK, where he’s been amazed by the number of people in the city and with the speed they walk, and he’s not been too impressed with the food/restaurants there! He continues up and down the restaurant retelling stories of the episodes filmed here. After everyone has paid up, we gather together outside with Terry for a group photo.

Arriving back at the convention room we await our next guests, and I notice the RCMP Veterans Association Canteen has set up their stall. I buy an RCMP baseball cap, I’m also given a pin badge commemorating the ‘Fallen Four’ mounties, who were slain 5 years ago in Alberta. (which, sadly, now I’m home I can’t find L)

At around 1pm Tom Melissis, Tony Craig, Catherine Bruhier and Camilla Scott enter together, Ramona Milano is stuck in the Toronto traffic but arrives soon afterwards to big hugs from her fellow cast members.

This Q&A panel is an absolute hoot from the beginning, with questions being asked as a group and to individuals. Funny stories keep flowing for nearly an hour and a half, with the camaraderie between these five evident throughout. It is very clear they had many happy memories of being part of this show.

As the session is coming to a close, John and a member of the hotel staff appear pushing a trolley holding an enormous cake. Tom’s birthday had been on Friday and also Debbie’s was on Sunday and Nancy’s on Monday so Tom asked the girls to join him in blowing out the candles before the cake was portioned up for everyone. It was extremely delicious too!

Afterwards came the autograph session with each guest happily signing and posing for photographs. Lovely Camilla was also selling her new cd which she also signed for those buying. Ramona and Catherine were seated at a table together and both looked very beautiful and as young as they were in their Due South days. Ramona was also convinced she had met me before but I’m sure I would have remembered if we had!

On the next table were the ‘duck boys’ Huey and Dewey, aka Tony and Tom. These guys are both facebook friends of mine and Tom knew me straight away “Fliss! How are you?!”  Tony was mortified that he hadn’t recognised me but flashed me an amazingly beautiful smile, and all was forgiven!

It was now a couple of hours until the Gala Dinner, so everyone went to get ready to be back down for 7pm. Tom, Catherine, and Ramona and her husband also attended and were first up to get their plates filled. A great selection of food, some totally different to what I’m used to in the UK, but lovely and tasty all the same. After everyone had eaten, Steph and John set up a video showing highlights of last and other years’ RCW conventions. In the middle of watching this we were interrupted by a fire alarm, but after checking with some of the hotel staff, Steph John and Brent were assured that it was something to do with the adjoining building which is linked to the hotel system, so there was no need to evacuate. The noise continued for some time so Steph abandoned his attempt at some presentations until the alarm stopped some 1015 minutes later.

Then came the group photo, Catherine had unfortunately had to leave us but Tom and Ramona were still there. Chairs and positions were arranged and I sat down where I was told, which happened to be bang in the middle with Tom it seems the poor guy can’t get away from me! Loads of photos were taken including a group which Ramona requested, of her with all the under 30s. It was such  a fun ending to another great day!

Sunday 15th As in 2008 first up today was the PG-L event, the event I was helping Sonja with. As she and Mariellen were delayed slightly travelling in from the outskirts of Toronto Nancy started things off with a cryptogram game. Prizes for this were some of the fabulous RCW mugs she had put together for the convention.

Not too long after Sonja and Mariellen arrived and we set about setting up the photo clues for the event, before getting everyone into teams. Some teams were very, very good, others not so good but everyone had a lot of fun matching up the clues to photos of Paul’s films and Due South episodes. For prizes Sonja had again made a number of wonderful tote bags of differing designs.

At 11am it was time for Mariellen, Sonja and me to set up our Scavenger Hunt table and we had rather a full table with all 40 items. There were five tables in all I think and it was soon time for the judging by the organizing committee. There was an impressive collection of stuff including a full sized double Mexican poncho modelled expertly by Barbara and Joy; a Country and Western song recorded by Lynne’s team on her Blackberry and a treasure map drawn on Doug B’s chest!

The judges had a great time listening to and reading out all the composed C&W lyrics about a train, a pickup and a donkey as they moved around each table allocating marks. After leaving to work out the winners they returned to give the result. The TO Raiders had come first. Yay! We retained our title from 2008 and were presented with goodie bags which included a fabulous RCW 139 number plate!

The scavenger hunt was quickly followed by Due South Jeopardy. This was a game full of laughs. I got invited onto a team at the last minute; we made it to the last two but lost it on the 2nd or 3rd tie break question!

Next up was the charity auction, and in walked Tom Melissis again along with little Geoffrey Milo asleep in his pushchair. He wasn’t asleep for long with all the noise and laughter so Tom spent a lot of his time trying to keep his son happy, which he was for the vast majority of the time. The little lad had a fine time playing on the floor with Kells and a few substitute Dueser mothers!

The auction soon got underway again and I managed to snag a Gunless poster and a photo of Benton and Dief which I’d watched Paul sign on Friday. There were around 30 lots including some nice scripts signed by Ramona, ‘North’ signed by David Marciano and Paul Gross and Victoria’s Secret which determined bidder Fiona finally won after some tough competition. All in all around Cdn$3000 was raised from the auction for the guests’ charities and the money will be divided between, SickKids Foundation, Touchstone Youth Centre and a humane society TBD.

All too soon it was time for Steph to give the closing speech and for everyone to say their very reluctant and lingering goodbyes to friends old and new. An incredible weekend had just flown by.

Tuesday 17th Yes, I know, this was all supposed to finish on Sunday but there had been rumours of a lunch meet-up with the Duesers still left in town and Tom Melissis, we just can’t get rid of this guy! Lol!! (Only kidding Tom, you’re the best J!)

And sure enough, after a few texts back and forth between some of us, on the RCW 139 facebook page on Monday is a message confirming a Tuesday 12.30 meet in the lobby! Martin and I wander down at 12.15 to find Lynne, Christian, Stephane, Stephanie, Barbara, Joy, Shelley, Debbie, Doug, Melanie and Katie already waiting and at 12.20 Tom Melissis wanders in. At 12.30 sharp, we step out of the hotel, cross Bloor St E and descend into the Spotted Dick pub! It’s fairly empty and we pull a few tables together and sit down, we notice we’re still missing John but he arrives soon after. It’s a great lunch with great company and lovely food, and as Tom put it, just like going to the pub after work with work mates. Tom is gracious enough to sign a few more RCW things, pose for more photos and chat away to everyone before it’s time for more goodbye hugs as finally we all go our separate ways.

This Dueser ‘family’ thing is truly awesome!

- Felicity/Fliss Pugh

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