She bills herself as “the most Canadian woman in the world”
Hamilton writer celebrates Canada’s ‘weirdos’
You would have to be a little warped to write a book on Canadian culture with an opening chapter devoted entirely to “The Littlest Hobo.”
Well Hamilton writer J.C. Villamere has done exactly that with her new book “Is Canada Even Real?”
As a matter of fact, the entire first 60 pages of the book contain nothing but odd facts about famous and not so-famous Canadian hobos — Sol, the hobo clown of TV Ontario’s “Parlez Vous;” Wilf Carter, the hobo balladeer of country music; and Rutger Hauer’s Canadian-made vigilante film “Hobo with a Shotgun.”
The subtitle of Villamere’s book is “How a nation built on hobos, beavers, weirdos and hip hop convinced the world to beliebe.”
It would have been easy for Villamere to celebrate our nation’s 150th birthday by staking a studied look at Canada’s traditional cultural icons — things like maple syrup and Mounties, Gordon Lightfoot and hockey, totem poles and inukshuks.
But no, that’s not Villamere’s style.
She’d rather focus on the musical theme for “Hinterland’s Who’s Who,” the Canadian Wildlife Service’s ridiculously dry public service ads that aired during the ’60s.
She would rather explain how Aubrey Graham morphed from Wheelchair Jimmy on “Degrassi: The Next Generation” into Drake, the world’s biggest hip-hop star.
“This country is crazy,” Villamere says over a pint at the Aberdeen Tavern, her favourite watering hole. “So much about Canada is absurd — our waterproof money, our unusually attractive prime minister. He was even in a boxing match with a senator. People all over the world ask, ‘Is Canada even real?’
“There’s even an online debate (on debate.org) that asks the question ‘If you die in Canada, do you die in real life?’ Currently 82 per cent of respondents say ‘no.’
She pauses and takes a sip of her beer, before issuing a seemingly endless stream of delightful Canadian trivia.
“Do you know that Bonhomme, the mascot snowman of the Quebec Winter Carnival, has his own LinkedIn page?” she says with incredulity.
Villamere is a 39-year-old writer and journalist, born in Arnprior near Ottawa, now living in Hamilton, very close to the Aberdeen Tavern, with her husband, Peter, and five-year-old daughter, Bea.
A two-time National Magazine Award winner, Villamere is a contributor to “ET Canada,” former senior editor for “Canadian Living” and social media director for “The Hockey News.”
In her spare time, she also publishes “Villamere, The Lowbrow Magazine of High-End CanCon.” Issue 3 is now available through her villamere.com website.
This country is crazy. So much about Canada is absurd. J.C. VILLAMERE
She bills herself as “the most Canadian woman in the world,” and takes pride in the fact that she won a 2007 CBC contest called “Bring Home the Stanley Cup.” The prize included being presented with the Cup by hockey star Mark Messier at her family’s hunting lodge in the Ottawa Valley.
Villamere says she learned how to drive a Ski-Doo at the age of eight and counts among her most prized possessions an autographed eightby-ten glossy of CBC Radio personality Shelagh Rogers.
“Is Canada Even Real?” published by Dundurn Press, is Villamere’s first book. She’s holding a book launch and reading Thursday, May 11, at 6 p.m. at the AGH Annex, 118 James St. N.
The book’s 20 chapters are chock full of bizarre trivia, organized like a game show into five sections called “Rounds” — the “bonus round” is on famous Canadian mascots, including Bonhomme.
Each chapter — a personal favourite is entitled “Sir John A. Macdonald: Founder of the ‘Go Home, Dad, You’re Drunk’ meme” — is accompanied by a quiz on the topic complete with zany, but true, answers.
Hamilton pop culture critic J.C. Villamere has a new book celebrating our country. It’s called “Is Canada Even Real?”
“Is Canada Even Real” by J.C. Villamere, Dundurn Press, $15.99