UPDATE: Following the cancellation of the Nov. 24 event, due to illness, it has been rescheduled. Legendary Vancouver deejay Red Robinson and author Robin Brunet will be visiting Langley to sign copies of the newly released biography, Red Robinson: The Last Deejay at Coles in Willowbrook Shopping Centre on Thursday, Dec. 1 at 1:30pm.
When Langley author Robin Brunet began work on his biography of legendary Vancouver disc jockey Red Robinson, Robinson presented him with boxes and boxes of newspaper clippings and told Brunet about half the stuff in them was wrong.
“The same damn stories, over and over again,” is how Robinson put it.
A lot of them were about Robinson’s brief encounters with the Beatles and Elvis during their Vancouver visits, events that Robinson did not want the book to dwell on.
“These were tiny moments in his life,” Brunet said.
There was a lot of other stuff to talk about and it can be read in The Last Deejay a book just released by Harbour Publishing.
For instance, there was the time the nervy young radio announcer managed to convince an entire city that a whale had beached itself.
Or his sojourn in the U.S., when Robinson found out that, even though he was a Canadian, he was subject to the military draft.
During basic training, he also discovered he was really good at being a soldier, but decided against a military career to return to the microphone.
And then there’s the story about how Robinson created one of the first boutique ad agencies on the West Coast, a story that may have inspired a key plot point on the television show Mad Men.
For Brunet, a transplanted easterner who arrived on the West Coast with little awareness of Robinson beyond his stint as television host of Red’s Classic Theatre, it was a fascinating look at the early days of broadcasting, before things got rule-bound and corporate.
Back then, a deejay could pull a stunt like the fake news of a whale being beached and still have a career.
“It was very much part of the times, which were a lot looser.” Brunet said.
“Very much seat-of-the-pants.”
The book describes how, as a child raised by a single mother, Robinson worked as a delivery boy to help support his family.
That work ethic has continued, with Robinson eventually becoming a part of the Expo 86 worlds fair in Vancouver, and the Legends of Rock’n’Roll, featuring big-name acts like Ray Charles, Roy Orbison, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and The Righteous Brothers.
A successful stage play, Red Rock Diner would be mounted about his time in the music business.
Through it all, Robinson has remained a gentlemanly presence, but not the sort to be trifled with, said Brunet.
“Red is old school,” Brunet said.
“He will not be pushed. He will resist.”
But he also picks his battles carefully.
So when the casino that named its theatre after Red decided to un-name it, Robinson refused to make a fuss.
While other people raised a ruckus, Robinson stayed mum and allowed the casino to continue displaying some of the artifacts from his considerable collection of music memorabilia.
Brunet said one unexpected benefit of getting to know the iconic Robinson has been the relationship that resulted.
“I’ve become genuine friends with Red,” Brunet said.
“We’re just buddies.”