Look at Me Now, Dad

Look at Me Now, Dad

From Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul

Look at Me Now, Dad

You tend to hit where you aim, so aim high!

Bob Templeton

It started when I was in high school. Growing up in the small town of Palmerston, Ontario, I had a dream: to work in television.

My parents had a little Stedman’s store, so we were definitely not fancy people. When I was in grade twelve, I went to a guidance counsellor who told me I could be a nurse, a teacher or a hairdresser. I thought they were all great careers, but I knew I really I wanted to work in television. I was too embarrassed to tell my counsellor, however, or anyone for that matter—except my parents. To me, it sounded like a dream that could never come true.

Thankfully, my parents had raised me and my siblings to have a lot of confidence. Both my parents, but especially my dad, often said, “You can do anything you want to do.” My dad believed in total equality, and he was particularly supportive of the girls in the family. He was my steady rock—always there for me. With his help and encouragement, I applied to the radio and television arts program at Ryerson in Toronto. I was ecstatic when I was accepted. I really loved the program and worked hard— and I was named the most outstanding graduate of 1969.

Just by getting into Ryerson and graduating at the top of the class I was already living my dream. I began to think that maybe the dream could come true. After I graduated, I worked for Bell Canada for a while, writing and producing commercials. I soon decided, however, that what I really wanted was to be on camera.

I went to the CBC and CTV and applied for a job. They both said the same thing: “We love your education, but you don’t have any experience. Come back when you get some!” And I kept saying, “How can I get this experience? I’ve been busy getting an education.” They both turned me down.

Luckily, Global Television had just started broadcasting in Canada that year. I thought to myself: I’m new and they’re new. I don’t know a soul there, so if I’m going to get to know one person at Global, it might as well be the president. It really boiled down to how badly did I want a job, and what was I willing to do? I found out who the president was and decided to call him cold. What could I lose? I was scared, but I knew deep down inside that this was what I wanted. When I called my dad and told him my plan, he said, “Good, Faye. That’s exactly what you should do.”

With my heart just about pounding out of my body, I called up the president of Global Television, spoke to his secretary and asked if I could speak to Mr. Slaight. She said sure! Suddenly Mr. Slaight was on the phone. I had practised what I was going to say. I had focused on and visualized my goal. I said, “I’ve heard that your studio facilities are amazing. I could come at eleven o’clock on Tuesday or eleven o’clock on Wednesday for a tour. What would suit you better?” I caught him totally off guard. He stuttered a bit, then picked a day. When I hung up, I was scared but elated.

At 11 o’clock on the appointed day, I arrived at the studio. Mr. Slaight took me around and introduced me to everybody. They must have thought I was someone very important—but I was just a girl from a small town of only seventeen hundred people. I had picked eleven o’clock on purpose, because I thought Mr. Slaight might invite me to lunch. Sure enough, after the tour he said, “Are you free for lunch?” Of course, I accepted.

We went to lunch at The Inn on the Park. When we sat down, he looked and me and said, “What do you want?” He sounded a little angry and frustrated—but very curious.

“All I want is a chance,” I said. “I just want a chance. If something on camera comes up at Global—I don’t care what—I want a chance to audition. I just want you to know my face, so that when my resume comes in you can put a face to it. That’s all I’m asking.”

I didn’t know whether I’d ever hear from him again, but three months later, his secretary called. “Mr. Slaight wants to know if you’d like to come and audition for a new game show,” she said. And I answered, “Sure I’ll come!”

When I arrived at the station, I went right into an audition for a new show called Wintario. Fred Davis, who was Mr. Canadian Television to me, was there along with various high-level management from the Ontario Lottery Corporation. They were looking for a certain chemistry between Fred and me, and had to make sure we would work well together on camera.

Everything went beautifully. Fred and I hit it off right away. I didn’t realize it until the next day, but they had hired me on the spot—but nobody told me! When I went back to the studio the following day, for what I thought was another reading, I was instead handed an airline ticket to Sault Ste. Marie to do the very first Wintario show. No one even told me officially that I had the job, but I had the job!

The next week Fred and I did the first Wintario show in Sault Ste. Marie. I was nervous. What if I make a mistake? What if I forget where I am? This was live TV, and I didn’t want to make a fool of myself. And I was still in awe of Fred Davis. When I began to walk out on stage, however, and the negative thoughts entered my head. I replaced the negative thoughts with positive ones: This is going to be the best show ever, I told myself. You are going to just shine!

My positive thinking worked. It was a good show, Fred and I were great together, and I began to realize that night just how wonderful a man he really was. Fred has since passed away, but he was a great friend for many years.

At that time, 85 percent of Ontario households bought lottery tickets, so on Thursday nights, everyone tuned in to the show. With the proceeds of the lottery, Wintario helped build community centres, arenas and art galleries. And the people in small towns throughout Ontario just loved us.

During that first show, I thought of my parents at home watching, and said to myself, Look at me now, Dad! My parents later came to any shows nearby, but that first show in Sault Ste. Marie was just too far.

That was the beginning of the weekly travelling show that Fred and I did for the next twenty-two years. Altogether, I did 660 shows.

During the early years of Wintario, I also hosted a talk show and had about twenty commercials running at the same time. I had a lot of TV coverage. My dad would often say, “Faye, I knew all along you had this in you.”

When people came into his store he would ask, “So, did you watch Wintario last night? Did you see my daughter?” He talked to everybody about me being on television. I would hear about this from my mother, who is more quietly proud of me. When my parents went to Florida, dad would say, “I see you have Ontario license plates on your car. Do you watch Wintario? Well, that’s my daughter!” That’s how proud he was.

From Wintario, everything happened for me. I did a talk show at Global, I hosted the National Santa Claus Parade for fifteen years, I did hundreds of television commercials, a number of movies, training videos, travel shows and a business show. And everything came from finding the courage back in 1975 to make that one phone call.

Faye Dance
Etobicoke, Ontario

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