Face was his, but voice belonged to another

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, March 9, 2005

The other day I was beside myself.

I mean, there's this guy who walks into Java Jamboree and the staff actually hand him my own personalized cup – the very cup café owners Les and Ottilia Jaworski have emblazoned with the words "Coffee With Warren".

Then this guy steps outside just in time to be greeted by Anglican rector Greg Clark, who addresses him as "Warren" and proceeds to introduce him as such to a newcomer in town, telling her all about me.

When I finally cross the parking lot and catch up to this guy, friends see us standing together and shriek. And when I examine our reflection in the coffee shop window, I see why: We look like twins!

I don't have a twin!

What was this? A case of identity theft?

But let me step back in time a couple of hours.

That Thursday noon hour was our monthly 50+ lunch at St. Mary's Church in Cochrane. My wife, Mary Anna, who coordinates the lunches, had arranged for parishioner Debbie Vandelaar to be the featured speaker for the day and to demonstrate her craft.

Debbie's a topnotch motion picture make-up artist with many credits to her name. Perhaps you saw the recent television airing of Crazy Canucks? Debbie was the key make-up artist for this story of Canada's legendary men's alpine ski team that took the world by storm in the 1970s.

With over 20 years in the profession, she has traded new faces for old with such companies as Paramount, Disney, 20th Century Fox, CBC, BBC, and NBC. The list of actors she has worked on includes Colm Feore, George Fox, Graham Greene, Catherine O'Hara, and Vanessa Redgrave's daughter Joely Richardson. She's even done her magic on Barenaked Ladies.

Which brings us back to our 50+ lunch, where Debbie did her magic also on the bare naked pate of clean-shaven Fred Monk, pastor of St. Mary's.

Father Fred's arrival on the scene as Debbie's model was a delightful surprise for all of us there, but nowhere near the surprise that was in store for us in his choice of what he would become.

Debbie spread out her tools-of-the-trade, selected a full white beard, and attached it to Father Fred's chin.

I couldn't resist suggesting he was beginning to look like the Hutterite gentleman I buy vegetables from at the farmers' market, but others suggested he was beginning to look more like a biker, noting his black T-shirt.

Amidst some hilarious banter between the two of them, Debbie applied next a salt-and-pepper mustache. I thought to myself: She's really good; that looks as real as the mustache I see in the mirror every morning.

Some of the other luncheon folks were beginning to gasp about now. But me? I guess I was a bit slow on the draw.

It wasn't until Debbie placed a meticulously prepared long white wig with widow's peak on Father Fred and invited Mary Anna to come up and braid it that I finally realized I'd been had.

They had conspired to make Father Fred into me.

A little more makeup to cover up the wig's netting, and Debbie's hour of magic was complete, Father Fred was a new man, and I was dumbfounded.


Father Fred Monk being made up by Debbie Vandelaar. In mirror, taking picture: Warren Harbeck.

After photos, Father Fred donned my multicolored jacket and together we drove around town for a bit. I later learned that several of the townsfolk who saw us couldn't figure out who was driving, me or my "brother."

There was one dead give-away, however. We went over to Bentleys Books, just down from Java, and while I stayed by the car, Father Fred stepped inside and was welcomed by owner Mary Lou Davis. As soon as he opened his mouth, our good friend Mary Lou sensed something was amiss: the face was mine, but the voice belonged to another – her pastor.

As it turns out, Debbie had approached Father Fred some weeks ago at the gym where they work out and asked him if he'd be her guinea pig for the luncheon event. He agreed on condition that she make him look like me – to be kept top secret.

The rest is history, except for a nasty rumour that it's my turn next – to be made into a Father Fred look-alike! You know: Hair today, gone tomorrow?

Hmmm . . .

© 2005 Warren Harbeck

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