CHRONOLOGY

Benefit Concerts In Orilla


THEATRE PRODUCER LOOKS BACK
David Fanstone calls it quits after 22 years at Opera House
Posted By COLIN MCKIM, THE PACKET AND TIMES


In two decades of booking acts into the Orillia Opera House, David Fanstone has heard some unusual requests.
There was the portly Canadian songstress, travelling with a female companion, who required four roast chickens, cold and cut up, before bursting into song.
And the slinky, all-male vocal group that demanded six 40-ouncers of Corvoisier, Crown Royal, Drambuie and other premium brands of liquor.
One group of performers expected a hot, four-course meal to be catered to their crew of 13 between the sound check and the show.
But the strangest request came from legendary, Orillia born folksinger, Gordon Lightfoot, who asked for 20 hand towels in his performing contract.
The Nylons, who had performed a few weeks earlier, had used hand towels to wipe the sweat off their faces and necks before tossing them into the swaying crowd.
But that didn't seem to be Lightfoot's style, Fanstone thought at the time, his curiosity piqued.
Before the concert, Lightfoot and his band tuned up for an hour in one of the dressing rooms, said Fanstone.
"No one in the world ever tuned more than him."
And that's where the towels came in.
To ensure the instruments weren't jarred before the show, Lightfoot and his band had rolled the towels and taped them to the backs of moulded plastic chairs, sitting in a circle in the dressing room.
"I never saw anything like that," said Fanstone.
Persuading Lightfoot to play two concerts in Orillia in 1989 was the high point of his career as manager of the Opera House, says Fanstone, who has cut his ties with the historic theatre.
Previous managers had been trying for years, but Lightfoot had declined.
Fanstone can still remember the long lineup on a frigid February day when the tickets went on sale.
"It was insane. I had people so far out the door, I called a coffee truck."
By the end of the day there was so much cash in the box office, Fanstone asked for a police escort to the bank.
With the quick sellout, Lightfoot agreed to perform a second concert, which also sold out in a day.
Despite being visibly nervous in front of his hometown, Lightfoot put on terrific shows, said Fanstone.
"He had a really good time and loved the show. It was a really neat moment."