The John Davidson Show

40 years ago today, I was on The John Davidson Show.

Yes, me.

Yes, THAT John Davidson.

The John Davidson Show

“That’s incredible”, you’re thinking.

Yes I suppose it was, but not that show.

You know. The John Davidson Show. This one –

It woulda been mentioned in here. Well, I probably wasn’t mentioned, but that episode’s guest star Todd Bridges would have been.

TV Guide

Perhaps you’re wondering how I, Steve, happened to be interviewed by John Davidson on the John Davidson show, 40 years ago today.

Or perhaps you aren’t. Understandable.

S1Ep224. John’s guests are actors Danny Thomas and Todd Bridges, singer Bill Medley and Joan Embery of the San Diego Zoo. Highlights:Bill Medley sings “Hey Girl”.

It is our sincere hope that there is no video of John asking audience members trivia questions at the end of the show.

My 1981 Train Trip to California

So, OK. I was in California. Shortly after graduating from Waterloo, I took the train all the way from London to Los Angeles as part of swell grad present from my parents – A two week Amtrak pass. I headed first to Sacramento for the grand opening of the California Railroad Museum. That was great. A big pageant of music and locomotives.

Then, down to LA And beautiful downtown Burbank. I really wanted to see the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Stood in a long line for tickets. Eventually got to see his show that night. It was outstanding.

I got to take a tour of the NBC Studios, and while there, I actually met Gene Gene the Dancing Machine. As if this trip didn’t have enough highlights already.

Somewhere in there, somebody was desperately trying to get people to come to a taping of the John Davidson show, a daytime talk show that I think had been a replacement for Merv Griffin.

John was a singer of some repute, and also the host of “That’s Incredible.”

His daytime talk show, I was soon to learn, was not that incredible.

Well, the tickets were free, and I had time to kill before seeing Johnny Carson, so why not. Into the studio we went.

suddenly I’m in the audience

Now, when I saw the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, it was incredibly slick. They didn’t mess around. The band played right through the commercial break and the show picked right up again. No stopping. One take. Brilliant comedy. High production values. Carson, a total pro.

The John Davidson Show was not quite like that.

So, the show always started with John Davidson singing a song. He really was a good singer. And the day I was there, he announced to us ahead of time that he was going to do the Barry Manilow classic, “Copacabana.” Hey, this’ll be good. Descending some stairs. Fog machine. OK!

Show starts. Roll tape! Lights! Camera! Fog machine! Backing band! We are GO for Copacabana!

15 seconds later, song stops. Cut. John Davidson cannot remember the words. He confesses to the audience, off air, that he’s never heard this song before.

Srsly? Copacabana?

After a couple more takes, they have a complete version in the can somehow, and the show continues.

I’m sitting in the audience, halfway back on the aisle, looking at my watch, wondering how long this is going to go on, and when the Tonight Show taping that I really wanted to see starts.

(5:30. The tonight show taped at 5:30.)

Can I just add here that John Davidson struck me as an extremely nice guy, even if he couldn’t remember the words to “Copacabana”.

end of show trivia segment

So the show continues, mostly without incident, and they interview Todd Bridges, and it was getting towards the end of the episode And I suddenly remembered: Oh, doesn’t John Davidson ask audience members trivia questions at the end of show? And look at me, here on the aisle.

Here we go, final segment. Trivia time. Souvenir coffee cup prizes. John Davidson approaches a woman in the front row, and asks her a question. I don’t remember what it was, but he said the answer was wrong. Was it, though? (Foreshadowing.) He moves on to another contestant.

Now, I have seen a recording of this, recorded by pointing a Super-8 movie camera at the live TV broadcast.

Let me describe what happens, in an impartial observer kind of tone.

John Davidson looks around the audience for another trivia contestant, and makes a beeline for the nerdiest, geekiest-looking doofus in the crowd, and sticks out his microphone.

so of course I stand up.

the dorkiest thing I have ever said

He asked my name, and we have a pleasant little chat, and he asked me what I do, and I’m thinking that I just graduated from Waterloo with a particular degree and I’m not really sure what I do and I haven’t started my first job yet, but I blurt out “I’m a computer scientist.”

I really wish I could edit that part out.

Audience: “Ooooooh”.

40 years later, I’m still cringing about what a dork I must’ve looked like at that moment. On national TV no less.

But, no matter. The show must go on. John Davidson hits me with a trivia question.

I don’t remember what the question was, but I got it right somehow, and the band played a little “Ta-da!” and John Davidson handed me a souvenir John Davidson show coffee mug.

I should’ve just sat down.

But, for some reason, egged on by the director, John Davidson kept asking me trivia questions.

I think he asked me six questions. And I got them all right, somehow.

The only one I remember is this.

John Davidson: “Where are Panama hats made?”
Me, recognizing a trick question: “They are not made in Panama, they’re made in Ecuador!”

Tada, another coffee mug.

panama hats

I don’t know why I knew that 40 years ago, but now that I’m a grown-up, I actually own a Panama hat and I can confirm this.

My Panama Hat

six mugs

Anyway, show is almost over. John Davidson thanks me, I sit down, with my set of six John Davidson show coffee mugs — And the Director is frantically signaling to John Davidson about something.

“What? She was right?” John Davidson says.

Remember the first contestant from about 47 paragraphs

“She gets a mug too”, he announces.

And then, this might be the highlight of my television career (and let me remind you, that includes leading band at the world beer games opening ceremony)

the best part

John Davidson turns to me and says:

“We’re out of mugs! Steve, can we have one of those back?”

And of course I turned one over. I still regret that I did not ask John Davidson a trivia question in return for the mug.

So that’s what I was doing 40 years ago today. My sincere thanks to John Davidson . That really was fun.


So you’ve still got those John Davidson Show coffee mugs, right?

Sadly, no. A few broke and the others eventually faded to pure white after multiple dishwashings.

I think I’ll order some more, somehow.

another epilogue

Hey, how about that –

John Davidson Liked My Tweet

What to do about the name “Ryerson Public School”? How about “Roger Penrose Elementary”?

Ryerson public school

update January 26 2022

The board decided to go with “Old North Public School.” Here’s the London Free Press article.

original post below.

I went to Ryerson Public School (kindergarten through grade 3), two blocks from home in London, Ontario. So did my siblings. And my mom. And many others in our Old North London family.

That’s not the only connection – my great-grandfather led the John Hayman and Sons Construction Company, who built Ryerson in 1916.

I didn’t know who “Ryerson” was at the time. It never came up. Nobody said anything about it that I can remember.

Now we all know a little more about Egerton Ryerson, who not only lobbied for public education in Ontario, but also was involved in the shameful legacy of the Residential School system.

It’s time to rename the school. You know what would be a perfect choice?

How about naming it after a young boy who

  • lived in London with his family during World War II;
  • was – probably – a classmate of my mother’s at the time;
  • learned basic arithmetic there
  • became one of the most famous mathematicians of the past 100 years, and
  • won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics (for “the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity”.)

Wait, what? A kid from Ryerson won the Nobel Prize in Physics?

How could you NOT rename it after someone like that?

Let’s call it Roger Penrose Elementary School. Let’s tile the floor with Penrose tiles – one of his discoveries of two tiles that can only tile the plane nonperiodically. (Us mathies get excited about things like that.) Here’s an example of a Penrose Tiling

440px Penrose Tiling Rhombi svg

And here’s Roger Penrose at Texas A&M where they’ve done the floor that way!

440px RogerPenroseTileTAMU2010

Those oddly patterned tiles might be tricky, but I know a construction company that would rise to the challenge.

p.s. I know you’ll all see it when your copy arrives on the doorstep, but I wrote a Letter to the Editor of my hometown paper, the London Free Press, about this. I would have written more, but their web form only allowed 500 characters.

London Free Press clipping.

People of Edmonton, I’ve got your back. Even if you don’t notice.

You might have heard that the Edmonton Football Team – until recently, the Edmonton Eskimos – has changed its name to the Edmonton Elks, and I like this change. It’s a great logo, it retains the historic “EE” abbreviation too.

Edmonton Elks logo

Plus Elks was actually the team name for a couple of years in the 1920s. Good choice!

The old name was unsustainable – you could argue, I suppose, about whether it was intended to honour the Inuit people, but it’s just not appropriate any more. I’m glad they changed it, and they did a great job with the big reveal this week. Check out the video!

Cleveland Indians. Atlanta Braves. Kansas City Chiefs. Washington “Football Team”. See? That was easy. They’re selling a ton of new merch. What’s holding you back?

i knew this would happen

here’s the thing: I knew this was going to happen. Six years ago, in fact.

I registered the Twitter account @EdmontonElks in 2015,just in case. The team had been using @Esks for their account, and seeing as how I’m a kind, considerate CFL fan, who wants the best for the league, and who knows that people sometimes hold useful Twitter names for unreasonable ransom, I wanted to make sure it would be available.

I fully intended to turn this @EdmontonElks account over to the team, if they decided to become the Elks; if they’d gone for Energy or Empire or one of the other suggestions, no problem, I’d just forget about @EdmontonElks.

Last summer the rumblings began that the team might change its name. I sent an email, offering @EdmontonElks to them.

Heard nothing.

This week they changed the team name, and for a while were still using @EdmFootballTeam on Twitter. I sent another note to the team president. Hey, you can have this account for free, no strings attached.

More crickets.

But the @EdmontonElks account was getting the occasional misdirected tweet from people who thought @EdmontonElks really was the team account.

Then – a couple of hours after the grand name unveiling – the team unveiled their new twitter identity: they had secured @Elks and that was their Twitter handle going forward. I don’t know who had that one before. The Elks Club, maybe? I bet they had to pay somebody for that name. Short, memorable Twitter handles are tough to come by.

I’ve still heard nothing – and @Elks is certainly a better account name than @EdmontonElks, so perhaps they don’t need it. But the offer still stands. Edmonton Elks, you can have this twitter account just for the asking. Otherwise, I guess I’ll just let it sit there, unused.

oddly enough, I had another edmonton twitter sports account

Incidentally at one point, a decade ago, Edmonton was bidding for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, and I noticed they had registered @Edmonton2022 on Twitter and the domain name.

But – the city abandoned the bid and refocused on 2026. So guess who happened to register @Edmonton2026 and This time, though, I did manage to transfer the twitter handle and the domain to the City of Edmonton, again, no strings attached.

People of Edmonton, I’ve got your back.

Elks, if you want that twitter account, just ask. (And if you wanted to send me a hat, I wouldn’t say no. Geez, the antlers. You could really make awesome hats.)

Edmonton 2022 logo

Canada/USA Border Trivia

The border between Ontario and the USA is 2,760 km long, from the Ontario/Quebec/New York end in the east to the Ontario/Manitoba/Minnesota end in the west.

2,760 km.

How much of that is over water, and how much over land? Well, let’s see. from East to West we’ve got

  • the St. Lawrence River
  • Lake Ontario
  • the Niagara River
  • Lake Erie
  • the Detroit River
  • Lake St. Clair
  • the St. Clair River
  • Lake Huron
  • the Whatever it is River in Sault Ste. Marie – excuse me, that’d be the “Saint Mary River”
  • Lake Superior

And then an amazingly convoluted 880 km route, initially following the Pigeon River between Ontario and Minnesota, extends all the way to the Northwest Angle.

Seriously you should look at how convoluted that route is. The 1789 Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War, defined the border.

The St. Lawrence/Great Lakes part was pretty easy – let’s just go right up the middle, let’s give all of Lake Michigan to the Americans but we only get half of Lake Ontario for some reason – but the route westward from Lake Superior must have been harder to define. Fortunately there were well-known routes that the voyageurs in their canoes had previously established.

But is it really all water?

Amazingly, no, it isn’t all water.

land borders between Ontario and Minnesota

I know of at least three spots where Ontario and the USA share a land border. Two of them are in northwest Ontario, where there is a brief portage between one lake and another. Here’s one.


There’s another one up there. Go find it.

But how about this third one

land border between Ontario and New York State

I suspect most people think the border at Niagara Falls zips right down the middle of the Horseshoe Falls – but it doesn’t. It cuts REALLY close to Goat Island on the American side. 99% of the Horseshoe Falls is in Canada but if you look really closely at the border line itself …

Niagara Falls

See it? Right there at the base of the falls on the US side? The border cuts through a few of the rocks piled at the bottom of the falls, and assuming those are dry, THAT is a land border between Ontario and New York.

Good luck crossing at that point though.

while we’re at it

Everybody knows that if you go south out of Detroit, you get to Windsor.

Fewer people realize just how far Ontario stretches in a North – South direction.

There are places in Southern Ontario that are south of places in California, and there are places in Northern Ontario that are north of places in Alaska.