Rockabilly legend Ronnie Hawkins recently called on old friends Robbie Robertson, Kris Kristofferson and David Foster, and new friends Tragically Hip and Wide Mouth Mason to join him on an upcoming album. The 66-year-old Arkansas native, who settled in Canada 40 years ago, is known for using his back-up band, The Hawks, as a training ground for young musicians: that is where members of The Band got their start. Now, Hawkins is considering a country-wide tour with a new pack of Hawks— and is whipping them into shape with concerts in Toronto. This time, The Hawks—including his son, I Robin, and daugh! ter Leah—are all f seasoned musicians 1 who left their own jjj bands to play with ^ the honkeytonk legend. Still, Hawkins will put them through what Robertson calls “Ronnie Hawkins’ Boot Camp School of Music.” “It ain’t for sissies,” says Hawkins. “But if you’re working six days a week and practising five, you’re going to get good at your craft. If you ain’t good enough in a couple of years, you better learn computers.”
Salacious southern scribe
Best-selling author E. Lynn Hams was a computer salesman for 13 years—but finally got tired of living a lie. “I had mosdy white, all male customers and they wanted a good of boy,” says the charismatic bisexual Arkansas native. “I had to make up an existence, talk about my girlfriend.” After some therapy sessions to overcome depression, Harris decided he wanted to write “about the daily struggles of people who are both black and gay.”
In 1991, Harris self-published his first book,
Invisible Life. He would try to sell his books at beauty parlors and from the back of his car at African-American trade shows and gay events. “The gay press didn’t think it was gay enough,” says the fortysomething author, “and the black publishers
wouldn’t touch it.” Eventually, Harris got a lucrative publishing deal: his last six books, which often have a salacious edge, have sold close to two million copies, appealing to black and white, gay and straight audiences. His latest, Nota Day Goes By, will be released in paperback in June. A new novel, Any Way the Wind Blows, is due in July.
Harris, who lives in Chicago with his male partner of seven years, is now a bona fide celebrity in the African-American community, and recently was a presenter at the NAACP Image Award. But he vividly remembers earlier years. “Now, there are crowds and people waiting in lines to see me,” he says. “But at the beginning, I’d be there for hours and no one would come up. People would ask me what the book was about, I’d tell them, and they would walk away. I cringe at the memory.”
This Wheeler on fire
CTV Newsnet broadcaster Kate Wheeler would have been happy with a life behind the scenes. In 1984, Wheeler, now 39, was stabbed in a Toronto mall by a stranger who was later deemed criminally insane. She suffered a punctured liver and wounds in a thigh and arm. Her story was made into a City TV five-part series, The Kate Wheeler Story:
Diary of a Victim, which flagged flaws in the justice system’s treatment of victims of violence. “At that time, victims had to wait „ about three years for compen| sation,” says Wheeler. “Now, ? people get up-front money for | psychological help or plastic 5 surgery.” B
After the series, City TV of-
fered Wheeler an on-air job—
which she declined. After a few more offers, she gave in. In 1988, Wheeler moved to CFTO, where she has been an anchor for 11 years. Last month, she moved to CTV’s national broadcast.
Wheeler, who lives just outside Toronto with her husband and two young daughters, refers to the stabbing as “old news.” Still, she recognizes its impact: “Every cloud has a silver lining. I have a few battle scars, but it launched a whole new career for me—one I completely adore.”
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