I seem to be saying goodbye to people I knew or worked with lately. Just the other day it was Donnelly Rhodes, and today I got the sad news that Bob Barclay has died at the age of 87. Not a bad run, but still too young for my taste.
Bob was the man who got me into the Director’s Guild, back before there even were district councils. I had made my first feature, “Skip Tracer”, and Bob invited me to a guild meeting. It was an easy sell.
I loved Bob. He always had a smile and a positive attitude. I’ll never forget one phrase he gave me, when he had been experiencing hard times and nothing was working for him. About his financial situation he said, “I’m running on surface tension.” That phrase alone should make him immortal.
In the old days, I served with Bob on the National Executive. This included the time during which the guild was developing the district councils. Bob, Grace Gilroy, Lew Lehman, John Board, and others whose names don’t come so readily to mind would sit around the table in the Toronto board room and hammer out constitutional questions. Bob was a smoker. We all were back then. I was a smoker who was trying to quit. I had been smoking a large pack of DuMaurier King Size every single day, but had managed to stay off them for a couple of months before our meeting. Bob smoked the same brand, in the same package. At one point in the meeting the discussion became animated. I looked down and there was a lit cigarette between my fingers. I had no awareness of taking it out of Bob’s pack and lighting it, but the next day I was smoking a pack a day again. So Bob’s influence on me was not always positive.
Those days of turning the air blue at the executive meetings are, thankfully, long gone.
Things have changed a lot in the industry. So much has changed. It’s a different world. Back then, the networks had money. Television had not yet fragmented into hundreds of channels, the Internet was not competing for advertising dollars, and the networks could afford to spend money on episodic shows, MOW’s (Movies of the Week made for television), and flying directors across the country to direct them. If there is such a thing as the good old days, those were them for me. But I wouldn’t go back. The world is so much more connected and interesting now.
Sometime in the late seventies my first wife and producer, Laara Dalen, and I purchased a house in Gibsons Landing, a ten bedroom mansion on the beach that the owners had set up as a bed and breakfast, but were now abandoning. Bob came to Vancouver and visited us. He said he was on his way to visit his son, Ben Barclay, in Gibsons Landing, and he pulled a B&B brochure out of his pocket to show us where he was going to stay. It was our new house, though we hadn’t yet made the move. Marina House.
“I’m sorry, Bob, but you can’t pay to stay there.” I told him. “You’ll have to be our guest.”
If I were a believer in woo, such a coincidence would impress me. As it is, it’s just a happy memory of funny moment with Bob Barclay.
We were friends. I regret that I never saw anything he directed. I know he was committed to his work, and proud of it. But I only knew him as a DGC executive member, a friend, and an advisor. So my appreciation is limited. One thing I can say – I never heard a bad word said about Bob Barclay.
He was a good man. I’m sorry he’s gone.