Just a quick E to let you all know that Michelle attended the Degrassi
Anniversary birthday bash at the CNE last night.
CTV’s etalk daily show had a crew on hand, so I’m guessing there might
coverage of the event this evening (Tuesday, September 30th.) The show
at 7 p.m. EST. Check your local TV listings for times in your area (as
say ,) and if you miss the show tonight, I believe CTV reruns it the
following morning (9 a.m.???)
Don’t expect to see much of Michelle though as “The Classic Cast” were
CBC, and CTV will be far more intertested in promoting their own hit
series, “Degrassi, the Next Generation.”
And what a hit ALL of the Degrassi shows have been … The original,
Of Degrassi,”(1980 – 85) “Degrassi Junior High,” (1987-1989) “Degrassi
High,” (1989-1992) “Degrassi Talks,”(1993/4?) “Degrassi, The Next
Generation,” (2001 – now and still going) and the movie, “School’s
At their peak, the original Degrassis were shown in 150 countries
the world and had an average weekly audience in the hundreds of
The new show recently turned into a hit south of the border, and has
many awards as the top youth TV series in North America.
And all the Degrassis put together make up the most successful
“franchise” in Canadian History.
Despite all of this, I had a hell of a time convincing Michelle to go
she suspected the audience would be there to see the kids in the new
Wow, was she ever wrong.
As soon as Joey, Snake, Caitlin, Spike and Ms. Avery (Michelle) walked
onto the stage, the audience went absolutely wild.
Fans held up banners and one group of girls stood on their seats
“Ms. Avery, We Love You!”
About half way through the show, teens began abandoning their seats and
sea of humanity washed towards the front of the stage.
Degrassi fans are fiercely loyal, and the cast of all the shows were
treated like rock stars.
After speeches from Degrassi creator, Linda Schuyler and a CTV
an open mike was passed down to the fans. A 15 minute Q&A followed,
which a giant cake was rolled out as the backdrop for a group photo.
As the various cast members went into their pose, the sea of flashes
the site into a war zone. It was an absolutely unreal scene, unlike
anything I’ve seen since the Beatles concert in 1965!
As the main show was ending, fans were told they could meet the cast
get autographs once the show was over.
Well, that announcement pretty much ended the show as fans STREAMED out
the stands to line up and meet their faves (if that word is still used
As the cast emerged from the bandshell, shrieks & screams went up from
fans that once again took me back to that long ago Beatles concert.
experienced “Beatlemania,” but I must say, I never expected to see
For the next two and a half hours, the Degrassi cast were besieged by
12 of the cast signed autographs in a covered “autograph tent” while
another half dozen walked the barricades shaking hands and signing
everything that was offered (almost .)
Michelle had expected to leave as soon as the show was over, but that
possibility quickly evaporated as fans were begging for autographs the
moment she appeared.
I have to tell you that I was moved to tears watching the shocked look
Michelle’s face as fans clamoured to meet her. She had NO idea how much
“Ms. Avery” is loved … but the fans sure made that clear to her last
Some moments I will remember forever …
* A crowd of 50 plus fans leaning against the security ropes as they
to get Michelle’s signature or shake her hand.
* Michelle ignoring Security and walking into the middle of the crowd
she could oblige a girl in a wheelchair who desperately wanted a
with her favourite teacher.
* The young mother with three small children who proudly told Michelle
her mother used to walk Michelle to school when she was a little kid. A
minutes later, I heard the woman call her Mom on the cell phone and
excitedly say, “I talked to her. She remembers you!”
* The girl who told Michelle, “You are the teacher I always hoped I
have. Thank you so much for being so nice … I feel I grew up with
* The man in his thirties who just HAD to have his picture taken with
greatest teacher in the world.”
* The excited group of fans who had driven 500 miles from New York
just to meet the cast.
* Michelle sitting in the middle of the old and new cast as she signed
autographs non-stop for more than an hour. She left the table twice,
claiming the fans were probably just asking for her autograph to be
… but both times, fans begged her to come back because they had
line for more than an hour to see her! (At one point, Michelle had gone
to get a bottle of water, but she was called right back when a pair of
begged to meet her.)
* I overheard one of the new Degrassi crew say, “Michelle sure is
lot of heat tonight.”
* As the evening wore on, some of the “Classic Cast” members gave up
chairs and walked the security ropes, 5 deep with fans, in the darkened
rear. At one point, I saw Michelle and her “favourite student” Stacie
“Caitlin” Mistysyn working the crowd side by side. The two petite women
just about the same height and it was so touching seeing these two old
friends together again (As a matter of fact, Michelle, Stacie and
“Spike” Stepto are so close in diminutive height that I had to ask them
there was some kind of height requirement, way back, when they were
* Another symbolic moment took place when Degrassi Creator, Linda
joined in. I looked up and saw Linda and Michelle greeting the fans
side, and I suddenly remembered that the character of Ms. Avery was
on Linda (who used to be a real teacher before she turned TV Producer.)
Linda is a lot taller than Michelle, but the two move with the same
graceful elegance, carry themselves with the same self-assurance, and
fast-breaking smiles that put their fans at ease in a second. Life and
working side by side in the dark. Another moving moment.
Two final moments, inexorably linked …
* One of the groups of bright eyed girls – gathered in a cluster around
Michelle to have their picture taken with Ms. Avery – walked right past
as they left. One girl excitedly told the other, “she’s so nice. did
see she put her arm right around me?” Her friend thought about this for
beat then said, “Well, maybe she really is a lesbian.” The first girl
looked up in shock, at which point the other girls, who couldn’t keep a
straight face any longer, broke up laughing.
(Note: this is a reference to the infamous “Rumour Has It” episode
by the BBC} in which Caitlin thinks she may be a lesbian because she
Ms. Avery so much.)
* On the other hand … there was an extremely “butch-looking” teenage
who stood back, away from the others, until she could get Ms. Avery to
herself. The girl finally walked up, shyly asked for a picture, and –
Michelle said yes – quickly handed her camera to a Security Guard. The
took the shot, the girl said “thank you,” then quickly walked away. But
she walked past me, I was shocked to see tears just streaming down the
girl’s face. Rumour Has It may have been a joke for some fans, but for
others, the open and frank discussion of homosexuality must have been a
defining moment in their lives. That’s a lesson I won’t quickly forget.
The line of fans finally came to an end around 10 o’clock and the
cast said their goodbyes and headed out.
Michelle’s back was in so much pain on the way home to Cedarville, that
had to lie stretched out on the rear seat so she could stand it.
And she was very quiet back there … lost in thought … analyzing
everything (if I know her .)
Hopefully, she now has some idea of what I’ve been telling her for
… that she did what she set out to do all those years ago.
“I want Ms. Avery to be my dream teacher – the teacher I always hoped
find, but never did.” That’s what she told me when she got the job on
“little Sunday afternoon teen show” – 19 years ago – way back in 86.
“If I can touch just one life … If I can make just one person realize
much potential they have, I’ll be happy.”
That’s what she said.
Well, after last night, my little partner should be one very happy
And after the disasters of the past 18 months … car crashes …
series … Michelle’s surgery … I can tell you that It has never been
more wonderful to see that big old smile flash across her face again.
Thanks so much to Kathryn Ellis for getting Michelle invited, to
Cowan for making it happen, and to our neighbour, Bryon McMilan who
us gas money so we could get there.
What a life …
Only in Canada.
Love and hugs to you all.
Cheers till next time,
PS For this of you in and around Toronto … Michelle has also been
to attend the official launch of Kathryn Ellis’ new book, “Degrassi
Generations,” at the Indigo Book Store just north of Yonge and Eglinton
Friday, September 9th, around 6:30 p.m.
PPS: I guess I should also take this opportunity to invite everyone to
Tiger Boys (& Girl) Air days, coming up on the weekend of September
17/18th. This annual get together at Guelph Air Park (located on
#7, on the eastern edge of Guelph) is the weekend when all our friends
flying and otherwise – gather for a few days of flying, star-gazing and
just plain-socializing. We usually have 60 – 100 aircraft fly in
on the Saturday morning,) and we hop rides all weekend long in the
Boys antique aircraft. This year we’ll have a 1935 E-2 Taylor Cub, a
Thruxton Jackaroo, TWO WW2 Tiger Moths, and various other assorted
aircraft on the go. If you want to go up for a flight, we ask only that
contribute to the (high) cost of avgas … $25.00 to $30.00 should do
On Saturday evening, we have a “Star Party” (weather permitting) with
telescopes set up for views of the heavens. This year, Mars will
be the star of the show. Our “big day” is Saturday. If the weather’s
we’ll fly Sunday. If the weather’s good, we’ll fly all weekend. This
will be our biggest ever … so if you’re in the area, feel free to
by for a visit … and maybe a flight in one of the rarest antique
in the world.