Proceed 300 metres…

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I wouldn’t go so far as to call it child abuse, but forcing a boy to carry a frilly white pillow down the aisle while wearing a white dinner jacket, white short pants, and tall black socks was pushing it. The girls in my sister Karen’s wedding party didn’t get off much easier as they were draped in yards of flammable polyester that resembled my Aunt Marion’s shower curtain. But for me the supreme insult was the hatchet job on my head. Mr. Keeping, the town barber, was about 80 at this point and he was clearly slipping. If he could take a 3” chunk out of my bangs, imagine what he could do to an ear. On the other hand, Barbie, Laurie and the rest of the girls in the wedding party spent the morning at the best salon in town (Marie Jack’s) and they got to keep the tiny pink bows and a case of VO5.

That cute little flower girl (front right in photo) may have been “Barbie” back then, but she grew up to be “Barbara” and now some people call her “Barb”. You may know her as “Peggy” from Falcon Beach, “Gwen” from ER, “Gretchen” from Nash Bridges, “Lindy Olssen” from North of 60 (for which she received a Gemini nomination), or “Eleanor James” from the long-running TV series Neon Rider.

Today Barbara Tyson lives in Vancouver where she works steadily as a voice actor. She has a home studio in which she records radio and TV commercials, voice-overs for cartoons, and increasingly narration for video games, audio books and apps. In addition to the home studio she has a backyard casita (Spanish for ‘small house’) and she insisted that I stay in it during my time in Vancouver. For a scruffy backpacker, this is as good as it gets.

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On Thursday morning I accompanied Barb to a casting agent’s office where she auditioned for three separate jobs. I can’t divulge details of what I heard but if she lands one of these gigs, you’ll be hearing her no matter where you are in North America. I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise when we’re talking about the International voice of Nivea cosmetics and, ironically for someone named Tyson, the giant chicken processor Tyson Foods. You don’t get to speak for a company with $34 billion in sales without being damn good at what you do.

Life hasn’t always been this good for Barbara. She told me that she had $1.87 in her bank account on the day in 1987 when she landed the part of signer Dawn Rollo on Another World. But like most good news, it came with a catch.

“You start tomorrow at 5:00 a.m.,” said the agent. “And you have 40 pages of dialogue. Better get reading.”

After that, Barb took a limo to work every day.

These days Barb drives a BMW. But since we were planning to have a glass or five of wine with dinner last night, we took a cab to Vij’s on West 11th. We absolutely stuffed ourselves on eggplant in thick yogurt and garlic curry, braised beef short ribs with roasted okra, walnuts and jelly beans, and Vij’s house specialty, marinated lamb popsicles in fenugreek curry cream. Several hours later, a 20 block walk was out of the question.

Barb told the cabbie her address but when he drove straight through an intersection in which he should probably have turned, Barb subconsciously launched into her calm, measured, and pleasantly soothing GPS voice. “Turn left onto King Edward Avenue. Proceed 300 metres…”

I’m sure the cabbie didn’t find it that funny but I howled with laughter. It was the perfect end to another perfect evening in Vancouver.

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