Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bonne Fete Jacques

It was Jacques' birthday a few days ago, he would be 55 like me. Jacques Couillard died of brain cancer 3 years ago. I only found out the day he died, Anne R. called to say she had a message about Jacques. I melted. I got Peter to phone back  because I was in my room unable to handle what Anne would say. The next few days were spent in a blur of sadness.

Jacques and I had lots of fun together back in the late 70's and 80's. I took a thousand pictures of our adventure and in Oct. 2011 I had an exhibit of our times together. Here is a glimpse.

To read more click here


I met Jacques in 1977 at Algonquin College in the film department. We were young, naive and   ready to have everything  in our brains turned around. What we learned first in film class was how to look at the world and then how to make movies.
Jacques wore designer jeans, talked about Louis Vuitton and when the Bee Gees came out with 'Staying Alive' he had us all dancing. Jacques and I became obsessed with writing to each other funny stories everyday and pinning them on the bulletin board at school.
With the freedom from our professors like, Peter Evanchuck, Vaclav Taborsky, Tony Lhotsky,
our middle class tendencies were evaporating to make way for a new boundless spirit.
In the mid-eighties, Jacques, Frank Cole and I starred in Peter Evanchuck’s feature film ‘Platinum’. It’s a story about a girl looking for a good man. The girl in the movie is not really bad and not really nice. She ends up alone in the end.
 In 2000, in an attempt to cross the Sahara desert alone for the second time and shooting another documentary, Frank Cole was murdered  near Timbuktu. His death remains a mystery.

Jacques Couillard, Frank Cole & Helene Lacelle -  Poster Photo for Peter Evanchuck's feature film 'Platinum' 1987

5 Baldwin
Five Baldwin Street in Toronto is now a Chinese restaurant. I’ve eaten there many times since and imagined myself sitting in the living room. But in 1980, Five Baldwin was a big old 4 bedroom house. Susan Mcmullen lived there with her adorable 2 year old twin daughters, Mica and Café. The first time Jacques visited me at the house,  Susan made Crêpes Suzette and we ate them sitting on my bed, all three of us laughing our heads off. Jacques would visit often. We taught the twins they’re first word, it was ‘poodle’.
For a while we had a New Guinea Hen living in our backyard until one day we saw it running down the street. Jacques and Susan remained friends long after I was out of the picture.
Jacques at a magazine stand in the Byward Market, Ottawa, 1981

Jacques and I loved to look at fashion magazines. We knew the names to all the designers, photographers and models. Combing through the piles of clothes in second hand stores looking for that designer gem was a full-time-pass-time. We would eventually find every
great designer label, "Who in the hell throws away a Thierry Mugler dress?"
Jacques looked great in clothes and he had tons of it. In 1981, Jacques, Peter Evanchuck,
Mailin Boppe and I rented office space above Lauzon Jewelers on Dalhousie Street and called
it, Hollywood's Hollywood. A huge space divided into 5 small offices and one main room.
We each had an office for our bedroom and Jacques used the 5th office for his closet.
We had a rabbit called Mr. Farris who would eventually eat anything that was made out of
leather or straw.


Jacques & Helene at the Kresge's Photo Booth on Rideau st, Ottawa, 1980

Kresge’s Photo Booth

Jacques and I did tons of walking around Ottawa. To spend hours looking, touching, analyzing shoes, fabric, mohair sweaters, the number of stairs to get to the 3rd floor of Giant Tiger, was all part of the big plan. The big plan being, we must interact with everything that crosses our path.
We loved the photo booth at Kresge's on Rideau st. The amazing thing is no one ever bothered us no matter what we brought in the booth.


Tobasco Club, Hull, Quebec, 1983, Debbie & Friend


"Nightclubbing oh isn't it wild". Ah the 80's.
We all jumped into cabs to go to Hull after Ottawa had gone to bed. Dressed up in found designer clothes or mixed matched vintage suits, our hair gelled, our guts full of Lafayette beer, with only one foot out of the cab you could already see the line-up of people at Tobasco going around the corner. With Jacques there was never any waiting in line.
In we go. The music hits you. Laval the dj is hot. Peter E. orders the first of many bottles of champagne.
Jacques gets on the floor and the ' D A N C E ' begins. Jacques was ' T H E ' dancer. Night after night, year after year, we danced and danced.
Daphne & Victor's Cafe, Jacques & Helene, Byward Market, Ottawa, 1984

Daphne & Victors

Well into our 20's Jacques and I spent hours in cafés, writing letters to each other, drawing, or writing funny lines for our greeting cards, thinking of new ways everyday to appease our manic need to have fun.
Walking from one café to another would involve a crippling inspection of store windows, people's hair and shoes, the color of sidewalks as
oppose to the color of parking lots, the shape of clouds in Ottawa as oppose to the shape of clouds in Toronto. We both agreed that the clouds in Ottawa were far superior.


Bohemian Cafe, Clarence Street, Ottawa, 1985

The Bohemian Café
The Bohemian Cafe had great café au lait and Jacques was liberal and generous with it.
People would wait in line just to sit in his section. On many nights, after Hull had shut down, we would cab back to the Boho and drink and talk till daylight.
We would call these late, long talks our 'Last Will & Testament'
"If I should die tonight this is how I feel about you at this moment..."
Jacques would always reveal way more than me. I thought it was brave of him to say so much. Me I didn't have the guts to say it all.


Cabbage Face,  Dalhousie Street, Ottawa, 1986
Frivolity and General Buffoonery
At the drop of a hat Jacques could drop to the ground anywhere anytime. He thrived for that moment. The moment being, all that he can bring to a piece of cabbage leaf or whatever. It would make me laugh and we would go on our way looking for a new 'anything' to play with.


Helene & Jacques, Chicago, Wrigley Field's, 1986 - 3rd base line


In 1986 Jacques and I went to Chicago. We stayed at the Belray Hotel on the corner of Belmont & Racine where the sign above the door said, 'Transients Welcome'. It costs $18.00 bucks a night and we loved it. The first thing we did was buy a 40 ounce bottle of rye and a 40 ounce bottle of vodka. We decided we would write a book together. Jacques would write one chapter and I would write the next. His character was called Vermont and I was Marina Banks. The story was more or less a version of our lives except the book characters had more money and were generally liked by more people.  We drank and wrote. We hung-out at the Berlin Club and Orbit Room. We went to Wrigley Field's to watch the Chicago Cubs, bought Cubby Cola's and ate hot dogs. We saw beautiful art at the museums.
We had a couple of fights late at night about who was the bravest and I think deep down inside we were probably the two scaredest people we knew.

Jacques on Clarence St. Ottawa, 1987
The Last Time I saw Jacques
Jacques and I stopped being buddies for many reasons. We were growing-up in separate ways and our 'boundless spirit' exhausted from all those ups and downs, came to an end.
The Last time I saw Jacques was in 2006 on Bank St. in Ottawa. We talked about old pals, his love of Europe and wine. I asked him if he still had the book we had started to write and all those letters I had written to him. He said he had thrown them all out. No need to hang on to them any more.
We talked like two people who would eventually run into each other again in five years.

You know, ask anyone who knew Jacques, like Brian B, Ann R, Carmen, Marc C, Peter E, Scott, Debbie, James, Joe A, Mindy, Mailin, Laval, Nadine, Big Mike, Mike, Michel, Kiki, André, Leslie, Trièste, Sue, TinTin, Ralf K, Stephen, Jean-Pierre, Marc L, Dennis, Susan M and the Twins, Frank K, his relatives, all the waiters, all the dancers, all the students in film class, they would all in a New York minute, remember something personal and funny about Jacques.

ps: if there's Grand Marnier in Heaven Jacques and Louis are sitting in nice leather chairs looking down at us
drinking and singing, "Enjoy yourself it's later than you think"

Opening night at Carmen Veranda's on Bank Street, Oct. 2011.  To read newspaper article click HERE

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