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

So, about 80 die hard fans of the famously successful Canadian television series dueSouth travelled, as the chosen name of the 2012 RCW 139 Convention suggests, more or less, from a million miles to the Toronto Bloor-Yorkville Marriott Hotel to attend the fun filled weekend of 17th 19th August 2012.

My excitement had been building ever since, and probably before, the announcement that the get-together was a definite “Go”, though it was tinged from time to time with thoughts that it couldn’t possibly be as enjoyable as last time! I don’t know, maybe that was a fail safe valve that I gave myself so that I wasn’t actually disappointed because from the very first moment I stepped foot in Toronto I certainly didn’t feel let down in any way!! I mean what a good omen, the song playing when I stepped into the first elevator at the Sheraton Centre hotel on the way to my room for the first 2 nights was ‘American Woman’ by The Guess Who from the episode "Diefenbaker's Day Off" and it had even stopped raining and the sun came out as I left Pearson terminal 3!

The official unofficial start was Thursday evening (16th), but 4 hours after checking in on Wednesday I’d already had a couple of dueser visitors at the door and so it was to continue. The following afternoon I ambushed John & Stephane’s room with the display posters I’d carried over from the UK for the con and later met up with more duesers for some lunch, er yes, of course, in the infamous Spotted Dick, where else?! :D

You see, this, for me, is what dueSouth get togethers are all about; it’s not all about which guests will or will not appear it’s a lot to do with the friendships that you make and continue to nurture in the years in-between and of course continue to add to at each convention.

So, Day 0 The evening Distillery tour and dinner.

We were to meet either at the Distillery District itself or in the Marriott hotel lobby by 4pm sharp. Quite a crowd had gathered by the time I arrived along with Lauren & Katie, after being delayed on the subway, dragging my suitcase behind me as I was storing it in Lynne’s room overnight. It was so wonderful to see so many familiar faces again from previous years.

We took the subway as far as King and walked (briskly!), due east, to the old Gooderham & Worts Distillery, where we met up with a lot more duesers. Tom McCann was once again leading the tour around the Distillery’s dueSouth filming locations. He does this so well and brought back many magical memories of scenes filmed in this easily recognisable location with its cobbled alleys and green painted doors and window frames.

After a gentle wander around the various locations we entered the Mill Street Brewery Pub on Tankhouse Lane. It was no mean feat for them to seat us all in the same area but they managed it.  I have to say that I have never encountered so many staff on duty buzzing around tables as I did in that restaurant!

Day 1 Friday 17th

Registration began at 10am and after picking up my goodie bag, pulling on my delightful convention t-shirt, trading my dueSouth music card doubles to obtain a full set and admiring the enclosed souvenir program, official wolf license, 2 ‘fridge magnets, a Mark Smithbauer trading card, a From a Million Miles pen/highlighter, a rcw139 keyring, an unique Jay Semko concert ticket and a surprise Inuit herbal tea bag, I, along with Sonja and Mariellen set about sticking the postcards from duesers worldwide up on the wall. To make it look even better we also stuck some of the cards from past conventions around the edge; it looked quite impressive by the time we’d finished and Sonja planned a prize draw for all those who had sent a postcard this year. The winning name was announced on the final day.

The dueSouth Trading Post were also here again and were doing a brisk trade in all sorts of memorabilia, from water bottles to DVDs, t-shirts and bags. Well yes, as you’re asking, I bought a few t-shirts! Also here again today was Phil Grossmith, the amazing and delightful RCMP retired gentleman with a merchandise stall from the RCMP Veterans Assoc Canteen. I bought a t-shirt from him anyone see a trend developing here? And the lovely man offered to take my photo in front of all the postcards I’d been putting up.  

Up until around noon, we just chatted amongst ourselves until the official opening welcome in the ballroom or the big room as I always call it! Stephane, as chair, introduced his fellow committee members, John, Sarah and Katie, and said Brent would be with us later in the day.  Between then and the arrival of convention favourite Terry Russel RCMP we were kept entertained by an incredible dueSouth props exhibition put together by John, you can see what a selection he’d gathered in Malcolm’s photo collection at http://www.rcw139.org/album/index.html Katrin had also contributed  Paul’s Michael Dunne Passchendaele uniform which was amazing. In addition there was the Kit Kat competition run by the Babin family, I remember liking one of the dark chocolate variety but not being too impressed with the green tea one, a slide show of stills from the series and we watched, en masse, the dueSouth episodes Dead Guy Running and Vault. Always great to group watch episodes!

Terry arrived soon afterwards and was as enthralling as always with his tales of life in the RCMP, explaining the uniform, talking about his escapades in the line of duty and passing around his handcuffs which he kept a beady eye on before retrieving at the end of his talk! He stayed on afterwards for photographs and also attended our Meet and Greet get together, where we enjoyed a delightful table of fresh snacks and hot & cold drinks.

Next up was for me the highlight of the day. Jay Semko, a musical genius who provided a lot of the incidental music for dueSouth. He is also a very entertaining speaker and before his awesome acoustic set he regaled us with recollections of his life and of working on the series.  Jay has such an amazing musical talent, I feel so privileged to have been there listening to his songs (including again the dueSouth theme) and stories. I got a hug, a signed copy of his latest album Sending Love and a photo too. (Thank you Malcolm!)

Day 2 Saturday 18th

Breakfast at the Patrician Grill was the first order of the day. I’d arranged to meet Lynne and family in the hotel lobby and as we were early, 8:15am, we decided to go on ahead of the main group. After the subway ride to King we decided against hopping on a bus for the one stop ride and walked the short distance to the restaurant. Brent was already there and it wasn’t looking too busy yet. Terry was along to take our order quite quickly before the rest of the gang of breakfast duesers arrived at around 9am, and then it got quite hectic with some having to wait quite a while. In fact I think some were still being served as we all gathered outside for the group photo, (last year’s has pride of place hanging on the wall in the restaurant) and in case you are still keeping tabs on me, I bought a Patrician Grill t-shirt, or two!

We all had some free time now until the afternoon session, so I took the opportunity to go to The Bay store to search for a pair of 2012 Olympic mittens which my son had requested I buy. When I eventually found them I bought 4 pairs in all, well, makes a change from a t-shirt!

Back in the big room at the convention our first guest was stunt man Kevin Rushton. Even if you don’t know his name, he would be instantly recognisable to you as he had many supporting roles in the series including leaping from the row boat down the waterfall with Fraser in Burning Down the House. Good to hear about his life as a stunt artist, not so good to hear about all the injuries he’s suffered!

After a photo and autograph session with Kevin, next up were Tom Melissis, Catherine Bruhier and 2nd assisitant director on the show Michael Bowman. A fabulous Q& A session with some great stories and insight into the job of 2nd AD from Michael. In the middle of proceedings a large birthday cake appeared to celebrate the recent birthdays of, amongst others, Tom, Kevin, Debbie, Nancy, Doug B and Cori!  There was then a short break while we all lined up for a piece of said cake served personally by Tom Melissis. Very nice cake it was too!

I’m not sure when this happened, whether it was before or after the cake, but Tom called both Ramona (Frannie) and Tony (Huey) on his cellphone. Neither could attend in person due to other commitments but they and we were thrilled that they were able to talk to us all on the telephone. Unfortunately Catherine had to leave us after the cake but Tom and Michael continued and had many varied and entertaining tales for us, although I’m not sure if all were true, especially those from Mr Melissis! Tom and Michael were able to stay for photos and autographs and by now we only had a short time to change and prepare for the Gala dinner.

I was back lining up outside the big room for 7pm and when the doors opened went to sit at table # 5 with Stephanie, Debbie, Vanessa, Lauren and Cori. Michael, Tom, their partners and Tom’s 2 year old son Geoffrey Milo were also present and it wasn’t long before we were invited to the buffet table to choose from the delicious selection of food. Choices were nicely varied, I went for the braised chicken forrestier, some pan fried perogies, Yukon Gold mashed potato and some salads, followed by a selection of desserts; fresh European cakes and tortes and freshly brewed coffee.

When everyone had finished eating we watched an entertaining DVD, which Michael had brought along, of a collection of behind the scenes photos from the final year of dueSouth before we gathered for the customary group photo.

Day 3 Sunday 19th

Well, the last day of the convention; this weekend passed so quickly.

I was awake fairly early, Lauren called by and we went for breakfast at Timmies, just around the corner, at 8:15am. While we were there Erin came in for some take away breakfast and we all arrived back in time for the 9:30am start.

It was announced that Daniel Kash (Louis) was coming, which was a bit of a surprise as I’d heard reports that he didn’t really enjoy his time on dueSouth. Anyway he appeared quite happy to be with us and talked openly about his time on the series and what he has been up to since. Seems he didn’t always get on with everybody on dS and wanted a larger role. As that didn’t happen, he decided to leave. Somewhat oddly, I still enjoyed his session despite his negativity towards the show and he quite happily signed autographs and posed for photos after his session.

Next up was Jeopardy. I think I remember 5 teams. Stephanie, Vanessa, Debbie, Lynne, Lauren and I formed one and named ourselves the Duck Girls. We did quite well to begin with, had a dip in the middle and then came up to second in the final round. Despite one of the categories being Canadiana, I remember the winning team had absolutely no Canadians in it. Great fun!

It was now time for lunch, unless of course you had to set up your Scavenger hunt items.  Sonja, myself, Diane and Lynne formed our team, The Global Travellers and over the last month or so many emails and messages had been sent back and forth between us trying to organise our entry.  In the end we were very pleased with our table. Item highlights were Diane’s knitted pizza, bed and seaweed (you had to be there!) they were amazing, as was Lynne’s Likely Story and Sonja’s Deal items; I was rather pleased with my Bird in the Hand model too! Shaynie was another entrant and had put together an inspired book representing all the items. Unfortunately these were the only two teams to enter, such a shame as although time consuming, it’s such a fun thing to do.

As we didn’t have an actual slot in the day’s proceedings, in between all this some attendees were attempting the PG-L cipher event competition which Sonja had put together. Delighted to announce that the winners were Suzanne and Lynne who each won an amazing tote bag hand decorated by Sonja. Nancy had also put together a wordsearch and I saw quite a few of those being completed too.

We had another telephone guest shortly afterwards, Jim Bracchitta (Frankie Zuko) who was delighted to be chatting with us. It was a shame he couldn’t have been with us in person as he sounded quite a character and was very knowledgeable about the show.

A silent auction had been set up after lunch and now it was time for the auction proper we knew that because Tom Melissis had returned. ;D One lucky young lady was very happy to be invited by Tom to sit next to him for a short while as she had to leave early. Tom has made the  rcw139 auctioneer job his own and he was warmly welcomed back by us all this afternoon. Amongst the lots there were many scripts donated by Ramona, posters, handmade jewellery and  knitted goods, a pair of red longjohns, some of Tom’s personal photos from the show and two huge Private Lives displays, which have since been re-named by the winner, (who was not me! :D) Cardboard Paul and Cardboard Kim&Paul! Luckily she had brought her car and so could transport them home without too much trouble. Where to display them? Well that’s another story!

I bid on a few things and came away with the script for Say Amen which was actually the last episode of dueSouth filmed, one of Tom’s photos, the knitted scarf, headband and glove set made by Diane, a necklace and 2 bracelets made by Ellen and in the silent auction a beautiful set of note cards, produced from watercolour and pastel scenes, by Jane Herzog.

At the end of the auction Stephane announced that all the awesome convention posters up on the wall were for sale at $5 each and I think most people who wanted grabbed something. All too soon it was nearly over and time for the final wrap. Winners were announced, of the From a Million Miles photo competition, Erin pictured outside the NSW Mounted Police won with Lauren getting an honourable mention. I’m delighted to say that the Global Travellers table won the scavenger hunt and we were each presented with a goodie bag containing a great selection of items including a hat and an exclusive mug. Germany won the KitKat comp and Sonja announced the winner of the postcard competition who was Ellen McDade.

For the final goodbye we watched a fabulous compilation of Malcolm’s photos from the last 3 days’ events, followed by the final, final goodbye from Stephane and the committee conveying their warmest of thanks and farewells. It was all quite emotional and there were hugs and thank yous all round; three days of convention fun, frolic, and friendship was over and it took quite some time for everyone to admit it was actually time to leave the room!

Will there be another in 2014?

Duesers from a million miles live in hope!

- Fliss/Felicity

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RCW 139 is not affiliated with Due South or Entertainment One