Canadian Artists Weigh In on Their Wildest Celebrity Encounters
Featuring stories from Arkells, Tegan and Sara, Carly Rae Jepson, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Metric, Tommy Chong and many more
Published Apr 07, 2020Nearly everybody's got a weird story about that one time they saw Shaquille O'Neal loitering on a street corner in England or witnessed John Cusack almost get knocked off his bike outside of the Vancouver Jazz Festival. [Editor's note — both of those things happened to me.] Naturally, many Canadian musicians have amazing stories of their celebrity encounters — which is why we've been asking them about it for decades, via our Questionnaire interview series.
We dipped into the Questionnaire archives and found some of our favourite celebrity encounter stories. They include numerous mentions of peeing next to celebrities in public washrooms, two different occasions of fawning over the cast members of Rushmore, and multiple encounters with KISS and Paris Hilton.
One of the first "what the fuck is my life?" moments with Schitt's Creek, I was in New York doing press and we were staying at the Waldorf Hotel, which is so fancy. There was a snowstorm outside, we'd just gone out for an incredible dinner and I was just getting into bed, and Dan Levy called me in my hotel room. I think he and Eugene had just taped for Seth Meyers or something like that, and he was like, "We're upstairs, we're gonna watch the taping. Come on up!" I put my clothes back on and go upstairs to the room number they gave me. It was on the top floor of the hotel, and I knock on the door and Martin Short answered the door, dressed in a full tuxedo and carrying a tray of champagne. He was like, "Annie! Welcome!" He was doing a Broadway show, and apparently he rents out the presidential suite when he's in town. So I sat in the presidential suite of the Waldorf Hotel with Eugene Levy and Martin Short, and watched Dan and Eugene on TV talking about the show that I was still spinning about being in, and drank champagne and listened to them talk about the good old days with John Candy and Gilda Radnor. That was a really surreal doozy of a celebrity encounter for me.
Wolf Parade's Dan Boeckner:
Josh Hartnett came to a Handsome Furs show in Minneapolis, because he's a Midwest guy. We played this great show, and after the show we walked over with some fans to the bar and sat down, and Hartnett came over and was talking about how much he liked the show. We ended up hanging out with him all night.
One thing that really struck me was that he grew up there, and he was there with a buddy of his from high school, just a regular-ass Minneapolis guy with a regular-ass job. His friend got absolutely annihilated, just stumble drunk, and Hartnett completely took care of him. At one point he was like, "Okay, my friend is really drunk, I apologize, I gotta go." He kind of carried him out of the bar and made sure he got home. He was just a stand-up dude.
Years later, I ended up meeting up with him in Salt Lake City because he was there shooting a movie and we were both at the same Beck show. Again, he came out to the bar with a bunch of people, and was just a wonderful presence. He's a really great dude. I don't know why I was so surprised he was so nice and down-to-Earth. I think I've met people who were potentially more famous or notable than Josh Hartnett, but I've never met anyone who's famous who is as nice.
I have this weird thing with Lionel Richie. It is so bizarre. We were in Iraq with War Child making this documentary years ago and they just loved Lionel Richie there. It was during the time of sanctions, and so people didn't really go out that much per se, and weren't drinking alcoholic beverages very openly. So we would go places and there would be a piano and two people sitting in the room and they'd say, "Do you know any Lionel Richie?" and I'd say, "Hell yeah I know Lionel Richie." And I can play anything Lionel Richie, so I'd play "Hello" or whatever. It became this running joke that Lionel Richie was like a national hero in Iraq. Then we landed and I was back in Toronto and I was on The Mike Bullard Show the first night we landed and when you get to these panel-style shows, you find out who is on the show with you that night. I look up on the wall and it was Lionel Richie. So I tell him that and he thought it was hilarious and then I tell the story on the show. And then I'll just bump into him in L.A. "It's me, Chantal, the Iraq girl," and he remembers. He is also truly the most consummate professional and celebrity. He is so charismatic and kind to everyone he meets. He's really got the showman thing down.
When the movie Rushmore was premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, the band were all big fans of Wes Anderson's first movie, Bottle Rocket. We had a movie we were involved with in the festival the year before, so we were trying to get into the screening of Rushmore. We did somehow finagle our way in, probably thanks to Ed Robertson. So we saw the movie and loved it, and then met Wes Anderson and Owen and Luke Wilson after the showing. We talked to them for a minute and they invited us to their party at Bistro 990. But their party consisted of a tiny, little roped-off section of the balcony upstairs, which was the size of a hotel room. So it was Wes, Owen, Luke, their friend/lawyer, and the Barenaked Ladies. That was it. We started talking and Owen says, "Barenaked Ladies! I love you guys!" And that was cool, so we kept talking. Later he said, "What do you guys sound like?" And I was like, "What do you mean? I thought you loved us?" And he said, "Yeah, I see your video all the time when I work out at the gym, but the sound is always off, so I just see you guys running and I just love anything with people running." That was a pretty weird celebrity encounter.
Two years later, I was in a hotel bar in Los Angeles and we had the album coming out, so we were playing a gig that week. Luke Wilson was standing by the door of the bar, and so I walked up to him, thinking he wouldn't remember me, and said, "I just wanted to tell you that Bottle Rocket is one of my favourite movies." And he just looked at me and said, "We know each other, man! You have a new album coming out this week." And so I guess he knew who I was. He looked so hurt [laughs], but I never assumed he would know who I was.
Rachel McAdams came to one of my shows in L.A. one time and I mean it was awesome, but I was totally an idiot because I am a huge fan of her and I couldn't speak properly when I was trying to talk to her. So, I just ended up stuttering and being an idiot.
Maestro Fresh Wes:
I told Alice Cooper I'd bite his face off! He was scared. That's what I said in my song, "Last Waltz." [Cooper] has a song called "I'll Bite Your Face Off," so I told him I'd heard that one. He was shocked that I knew it.
The strangest and funniest would be riding in the back of a cab with my all-time sports hero, Kelly Gruber from the Toronto Blue Jays. We both had our sunglasses on upside down, I remember, and we were laughing hysterically. We had a couple too many [and] we were just singing tunes in the back of a cab. It was kind of crazy for me, because he's one of my biggest heroes. When we met, we were just two peas in a pod.
Simon: I complimented Maxwell on his army parka when we toured with him and six months later after only speaking to him once he bought me one. I called him to thank him, but also had to ask him to meet me at the store with the receipt, because it was the wrong size and I had to exchange it.
Milo: Playing Truth or Dare with Shania Twain in the Bahamas.
Sum 41's Deryck Whibley:
It was at a Grammy party, probably 2006-ish and it was in L.A., and I was with a few different people and I got introduced to… you know the guy Chris Daughtry? I was with Avril Lavigne at the time, we were married, and he got introduced to her, and he was like, "Hi, nice to meet you, I'm Chris." And then he came to me and he shook my hand and I said, "Hey, I'm Deryck." And he just goes, "Oh, thank you very much!" I was like, I didn't compliment you, I just said my name. He was so full of himself!
Arkells' Max Kerman:
On the podcast I mentioned, we met Shemar Moore. We interviewed him and he was hilarious, and he was also showing off his abs, hitting on our girlfriends, and wouldn't stop inviting them to his afterparty that night. Also, we took a trip to Memphis last summer and randomly ran into Drake's dad on the street, and there's a song called "Drake's Dad" on the new record that came from that.
Luke Doucet: Maybe 2004, I played the Grammy Awards with Sarah McLachlan; I was playing guitar. Afterwards we were sitting at one of the music label parties. Weird Al and Slash are heads together deep in conversation. And those two guys look identical — you take off Slash's hat, and "Weird Al" and Slash are like long-lost separated-at-birth identical twins.
I went into the bathroom and I'm standing at a urinal between Tony Bennett and Kim Thayil from Soundgarden and that was the third time in a week that I was standing at a urinal beside Kim Thayil and not all in Los Angeles. One of them was in Seattle, and then twice in two different places in L.A., just by coincidence. He gave me this look like, "Dude, I don't know if I should I be afraid or if I should call security?" and I'm like, "No, just ignore me."
Melissa McClelland: I shared an elevator with Dennis Rodman in New York. It was just the two of us standing there — he was in full basketball gear and I was just standing there with my guitar. We just nodded to each other and said hello. I am way too shy to approach anyone. I have been in the same vicinity of celebrities or people I admire and I would never even dream of walking up to them. I just kind of cower in a corner and try to catch a glimpse. But I was trapped on an elevator with Dennis Rodman.
Carly Rae Jepsen:
I've had a couple of strange ones, actually. I met Colin Firth in a movie rental shop in Canada one time.
The one that never happened. I had a big crush on Jet Li. He was reportedly in the lobby of the hotel where I was staying, but I was too star struck to go down and see. Then I figured out that mostly I like leaving my heroes up there on the screen.
Kids in the Hall's Scott Thompson:
Well, going to see a UFC fight with Laurence Fishburne certainly is up there. That was definitely one of my great celebrity evenings. I was there for all the wrong reasons. And he knew; he liked it. He asked me to go! When Laurence Fishburne asks you to go see a UFC championship fight, you go! And you sit in the front row — my God, I was so close I could smell them. It was crazy. There was a splash guard — for me. Yeah, that was an evening I'll never forget. It was in Toronto. The best part was that, at the end of the evening, they put up Laurence and me on the Jumbotron. And underneath Laurence it said like, "Laurence Fishburne — Matrix star" and then underneath me, nothing. Nothing. As if I was just his unidentified companion. In my own town; that's pretty humiliating. Canada, really? Nothing?
Taking a leak between Jon Bon Jovi and James Carville. And I'll give it to the Ragin' Cajun.
Kenny vs. Spenny:
Kenny: I met the Pope, which was pretty strange for me. It was the most fucked up, craziest thing ever. And Spenny's was when he met me.
Spenny: I dunno, David Carradine was pretty exciting.
Kenny: Oh my god, I saw the biggest celebrity in the Grand Hotel last night. There's a mirror in my bathroom.
Cloris Leachman slapped a sandwich out of my hand once.
Jack Nicholson. He'd been in a movie called The Last Detail, and he's spent a good part of one scene combing his hair. And I mentioned the fact, "You know, Jack, you have thin hair..." I just went on and on and he wasn't saying anything. I kept blabbing and blabbing, and I was stoned too. I ran out of stuff to say and he just walked [away] and left me.
The best one was the Constantines in about 2004 played a rally for Jack Layton and the NDP at Palais Royale. The Sadies played and stuff. We said we would do it if Jack Layton and Olivia Chow sang "Rockin' in the Free World" with us on stage. So they did, and someone just actually sent me the uncut video of that, which I thought was lost. We just look like a bunch of sketchy dudes on stage with a politician, but Jack Layton meant a lot to me and it was a really amazing thing to get to do and meet the two of them.
We met AC/DC and I couldn't believe how small they were. They were very, very tiny people, but all of them though, like it's a rule that if you're in AC/DC you have to be a certain height. I found that very strange, but completely understandable at the same time, and it made me question whether or perhaps my bandmates were too tall to be in our band. Maybe that's the answer to the other question: that the only way a bandmate could get kicked out is if he's too tall. Let's keep it all on the level.
Death from Above's Sebastien Grainger:
I was hanging out with a friend of mine and we were talking about weird shit that happens when you're in a band. There's so many stories that if I catalogued them properly I could really wow my family and friends or people that don't have any experience with the entertainment industry. I could regale them for a long time. But I'm not good at remembering these things. I should have a drawer in my mind that's just "cool stories for mom and dad" and you pull them out at dinner.
You see people all the time in L.A,, like the drummer from the Doors getting coffee. Weird shit. I saw Lisa Bonet at the grocery store the other night, who is the most fuckable Huxtable. The comedian Jon Daly does this bit called Bill Cosby Bukowski. It's Charles Bukowski speaking like Bill Cosby. It's really weird and he has a bit called [adopt a Bill Cosby voice] "Who is the most fuckable Huxtable?" and it's Denise. And I saw Denise at the grocery store.
Alexisonfire/City and Colour's Dallas Green:
I met Bryan Adams and he was really weird. Basically, I couldn't tell if he was mad at me or not. It was at the Junos a couple years ago. I got a weird vibe from him. I gave him my phone number, he asked me for my phone number and I haven't heard from him or talked to him since. I kind of like that I haven't seen him or heard from him, I don't think I want to. I want to leave it at where it was.
I met Bo Diddley in Halifax when he played here. My wife and I went backstage and I got to talk to him for half an hour. That was really cool. Then about four months later I was getting off a plane, coming home from Australia and he was there waiting for his wheelchair. He had been on the plane in first-class the whole time. So two Bo Diddley encounters in under six months, and then he died a few months later. Meeting a guy from the first wave of rock'n'roll is something I never thought I would do.
Method Man bummed weed of me but I gave him a oregano.
Big Sugar's Gordie Johnson:
Tie: Goldie Hawn grabbing my pregnant wife's belly at a party in New York. Getting a kiss on my birthday from both Liv Tyler and Kate Hudson.
Fucked Up's Damian Abraham:
We played a show once in New York and I looked out in the crowd and saw Jeffrey Wright moshing. Not really the type of thing I normally see.
The Dears' Murray Lightburn:
I haven't met many celebrities. I can think of the time I met Kevin Shields in London, after a gig many years ago. I remember meeting him and just being overcome that he was at our gig and we were standing in front of each other. I remember being so drunk that I was speechless. I didn't have anything to say except "I love you," or something like that. Then I hugged him. It was really weird.
Dave: We got an email last week from one of the Jonas Brothers, I think it was John ― is there a John Jonas? He emailed our record label and said that he wanted to meet us because we were his favourite band. We were in London and he was in London, and yeah ― apparently we're his favourite band. That was strange.
Patrick: Paris Hilton came to one of our shows for one song. She came in with like, five bouncers around her and some of her friends, right in the middle of the club, got up on a couch, watched "Needy Girl," and then left.
I met Tim McGraw at a Bill Clinton birthday party in Washington. He hugged me from behind and they took a picture. The next day the National Enquirer contacted me and offered to pay me money if I said I was his mistress.
My strangest one is likely my most well known one, with Pamela Anderson. She and I co-hosted the Juno Awards together a few years ago. The day before the broadcast, we had a floor director tell us, "Look, in the history of the telecast, we've never come in under time but we have to prepare for that slim chance. Would you two be comfortable, in the extremely unlikely case that this happens, just improvising together?" We didn't really discuss it because award shows always go long. Lo and behold, wouldn't you know it, we went short. So we were both like deer in headlights and didn't know what to do and she kinda went bananas with "the Pam Show." She turned to me and said, "You're so cute," ran her hand across my face, kissed me, and then grabbed my head and put my whole head in between her breasts. I was kinda stunned but over the course of the previous days, Pam and I struck up a bit of a rapport and hung out so it wasn't maybe as weird as it could've been, but it was on live television. I remember just looking in the camera and falling into a stunned silence. It's kind of an amazing moment and memory, only because she's one of the most famous people ever, a cultural icon. I'll be able to tell the grandkids some day that I had a very strange encounter with that woman.
The New Pornographers' A.C. Newman:
My most surreal celebrity encounter was, in my first band Superconductor, we played in L.A. in the mid-'90s. We were playing with some Japanese band, I think Machine Gun TV. We were playing in this really tiny place and I didn't think anybody was there to see us. After we played, in between bands, "Mongoloid" by Devo was playing. This guy walks over to me and says, "I really enjoyed your set." I shook his hand and said "Thank you" and I realized that it was Mark Mothersbaugh from Devo. It seemed so bizarre! I thought, "Am I thinking you're the guy from Devo because 'Mongoloid' by Devo is playing?" And I was kind of stunned into silence, that kind of "thank you... mis-ter!" And then we parted ways and I had to go to my bandmates and go, "Hey, that guy over there? Is that the guy from Devo?" And they said, "Yes." And I thought "Man! I wish I had said something to him!"
Broken Social Scene's Brendan Canning:
Nothing too strange, meeting Conan O'Brien. But stranger though, if I can be the celebrity, I guess playing a show in Florida, and having someone give me their phone number and playing a show in Philadelphia five days later and seeing her in the front row. That sort of freaked me out a little bit. And then there was a note waiting for me at the bus. That did freak me out a bit.
Gus Van Sant came to a show I was playing with Final Fantasy in Portland, Oregon. I was pretty surprised when I heard he was coming. He was there because Owen is doing a score for a movie of his, but I managed to awkwardly ask him about Europe. I went to Europe for the first time after that tour, so I was asking him what it was like and hustled him one of my albums.
I was in a private box at the Super Bowl one year. Its a private box thats shared by the people who have performed at the halftime show. In the box are KISS and Cher and someone else weird, I dont remember who it was. And in walks Martha Stewart. I was sitting beside Cher, and someone sitting beside me leans in and says "I hear she likes big black dick. And Cher says, "Yeah sure, on a bed of greens with squid sauce." I swear to god that happened.
In an elevator in New York, I met Aaliyah. She looked like an alien, she had this really crazy aura to her. She was a very, very, very soft person. I was actually a little bit star-struck because of who she was, not even because of the music, but because of what came out of her. I didn't say anything! She said hi and tried to make conversation with me, but I didn't really say anything because I was basically judging myself because I wasn't really into the music, but the person impressed me, and that sort of confused me.
In 1993, the Evaporators played the Highwood Music Festival in Alberta and Tommy Chong was the MC. I really, really, really wanted to do an interview with him, and Tommy Chong was just standing around. I asked the rest of the guys in the band if I should do an interview with him and they were like "Naw, just leave him alone." But it's the Chongster! I used to go to his house in West Vancouver and trick or treat every year on Halloween, but he was never home! But here he is now we gotta talk to the Chongster! Later we sat down in the beer tent, drinking a beer, and then as I looked up (kinda depressed about the whole thing), to my amazement and horror Tommy Chong walked right over to the table and asked if he could sit down with us. We said "sure" and asked him if we could turn the video camera on and ask him some questions, and it turned out to be one of the best interviews I've ever done.
Metric's Emily Haines:
Oh my god, there are so many. First of all, there was this period of time in England where everyone thought I was Winona Ryder, and Id have arguments with people whod get really mad when I said I wasn't. Jared Leto came to a bunch of our shows in Los Angeles and was apparently courting me, but I didn't notice, which is really too bad. But his band is really bad.
Another amusing celebrity moment was when we got flown into Miami to play a [John Kerry] benefit thing before the [2004 U.S.] election, and we got put up in a really nice hotel. We were all really hung over, and Josh and Jimmy were swimming in the pool, and when they came up, Paris Hilton was right in front of them, and they both screamed. Thats one of my favourite memories. And I got hit on by Ethan Hawke, but so has everyone else.
I've met so many goddamn celebrities. I think it had to of been when I met [Absolutely Fabulous's] Joanna Lumley and she said, "I love your website." Just the thought of her on a computer, going to a web site was funny to me.
Peeing beside Sting at the Ivor Novello Awards in London.
Making a library card for John Ralston Saul.
Jay Ferguson: I'm standing in a coat check line next to Big Daddy Kane while someone mistakens me for Beck as I'm watching John Cale sit alone at a table tapping his fingers.
Chris Murphy: We toured with Redd Kross in 1997 and they brought this precocious 17-year-old kid along who was in a band that were signed to Geffen and he was such a little brat but I loved him. A few years later I went to see a movie called Rushmore while I was on tour in D.C. and the lead was this kid Jason Schwartzman. I didn't even put it together until later that he had been that bratty kid. I adored Rushmore and I've become friends with Jason.
Andrew Scott: I've had way better brushes with normal people — celebrity is such a let down, for both sides.
Patrick Pentland: A bronze Ronald McDonald sitting on a bronze park bench. Not much of a talker.
I sold bagels to the Fonz. And I have a signed photograph of Olivia Newton-John in which she endorses my marriage.
I never really met too many famous people. 112, but those guys were a bunch of cocky assholes. Keith Murray, he was pretty cool, he just wanted to get high all the time. Canadians, Choclair, cool as fuck. Rascalz, I got to chill with Red 1, Misfit, Dedos, Zebrock, Kemo, Mr. Attic from the Grassroots and DJ Serious when I was on tour with them, real down to earth cats.
Halloween night in Calgary. Well into the evening, I see someone stumbling towards me dressed as Scotty Bowman. Turns out the Red Wings are in town playing the Flames. I don't know why sports celebs get me excited ? Bob Gainey was at our show in L.A. Whooee!
Tegan and Sara:
Riding a rollercoaster at the CNE with Chrissie Hynde and Eddie Vedder.
D.O.A.'s Joe Keithley:
One time D.O.A. played with X at the Starwood in L.A. In attendance were Gene Simmons of KISS, Danny Partridge and David Lee Roth. Our roadie Bob Montgomery got a drunken David Lee in a headlock and made him do a number of his famous screams.
White Lung's Mish Way:
What's a celebrity?