How Peter O’Toole Changed My Life Forever!

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“The theater was human speech as an art form. That is what, for me, makes acting such a worthwhile thing to do.” – The great Peter O’Toole

Peter O’Toole sauntered in staggering smelling of alcohol into Studio 267 in Toronto. He had been in town doing a play. It was a men’s boutique where I worked while going to school, getting tips on the fashion world, fabric’s and new designers. My friends father Albert Morton owned it. Having film stars or celebrities drop in, such as member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, coaches, those in music and film was not at all unusual. It was a great place to work, with great people, tailor’s (Nico who was Italian and always talked about sex and women,he would tell me how to pleasure women with a tie or a silk-puff from your breast pocket and Bernard who was Polish and had been a freedom fighter in World War II who would teach me the finer aspects of tailoring such as how much cuff to show, why one fabric was better for suits then others, and how to kill someone silently). It was for me like working in the closet of Jay Gatsby. I was given the nod by the manager to approach Peter O’Toole.  “Mr. O’Toole welcome to Studio 267, may I offer you a coffee or a tea?” was my opening line, and what a stupid line I thought the moment I delivered it to a man reeking of alcohol, “Are those my only two options”, replied O’Toole, “I could muster something stronger and serve it up in a coffee cup if you like”, I said, and at that moment we had a connection. Peter O’Toole never pressed the issue of a stronger drink, he really had very little time and was in need to a fine suit to wear for dinner. I got O’Toole into a blue, Zani fabric suit, told him all the great things about the fabric, that he could toss it on the floor and pick it up in the morning and wear it and it would still look sharp because the way it was woven. He seem to like that. Soon he was set, and commented “You seem to know your stuff”, “As you are exceptional at your trade Mr. O’Toole, we are at ours”. No one in the store brought up any of the films that he had been in, my personal favorites being naturally ‘Lawrence of Arabia‘, and ‘Becket‘. It was O’Toole who during the fitting offered up a glimpse into his world when he was told how light-weight the suit was that one could wear in winter or if you where dining with the King of Saudi Arabia (that just slipped out). It was then that Peter O’Toole told the tailors standing around him and myself that they had been in the desert for five day waiting for one shot. Each day he said David Lean the director of the film ‘Lawrence of Arabia‘ would look at the sky see all blue sky and refuse to shoot,as he wanted a cloud in the sky. “In the bloody desert, he wanted a cloud” said Peter O’Toole.

Peter O’Toole changed my life forever. He did not know it when he had walked into Studio 267, that I had read a book Seven Pillars of Wisdom an account of the experiences of British soldier T. E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”) and that his performance had impacted me in such a manner that I too like T.E.Lawrence, wanted to be a liaison between the Middle-East and the West.That is what movies and the actor who portrays a character can do to someone, somewhere in the world change their lives, by impacting them. It is why the craft of film-making is an art that can touch so many and leave a lasting imprint. So while working at the men’s store I wrote letters to Saudi Arabia, to the various billionaires telling them about the beauty of Canada, it’s technology, and vast natural resources, and why they should visit, and I would make certain that upon arrival they would meet the movers and shakers. All because of one film, and one actors performance. My letters soon found a home, and I got a call one day from somewhere in the world, it was not just any call it was from the office of the man who at the time was reputed to be the wealthiest man in the world,close to the King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the infamous Adnan Khashoggi. He empire spanned the world, with two yachts, four private jets, one a stretch DC.8. I was told that Mr. Khashoggi had agreed to meet with me, in New York.

I went to New York to meet the richest guy in the world,(this is the part, the phrase in a New York minute, is so apropo) as everything changed forever in a New York minute. Just be like Peter O’Toole, I said to myself, the world is a stage and we are all actors in it I reminded myself. It was going to be showtime, and I had to make a pitch, you were only going to get one shot.

When the time came to meet the man, Adnan Khashoggi, he gave me a tour of his place and while we talked, he also surprisingly walked me right into his walk-in=closet so I could have a look at all his shirts, suits and ties. I asked for permission, he gave it, and I touched the fabric, “Wow, Egyptian Cotton, very nice”, I said, he smiled. He took out a white Arabian thobe and gave it to me as a gift, invited me to come with him to visit a bespoke designer friend of his, Bijan Pakzad.  That afternoon Adnan dropped $250,000 on suits and shirts at Bijan.  I had not seen anything like that at Studio 267. Back at his apartment in Olympic Towers I was told to my delight that yes, he will visit Canada, but only on the condition that he receive a government invitation. That was the least of my worries, Toronto being Toronto, it’s a village, power is in the hands of a very few and I am sure someone at school would know someone. My trip was not over. That evening I was invited to come meet with Farrah Fawcett and thus began my road to Hollywood through the richest man in the world and Charlies Angel.

I did manage to get the government to invite Khashoggi thanks to Former Ontario Premier Bill Davis,the Khashoggi motorcade and entourage had a full police escort something only reserved for visiting government officials. I would end up traveling the world meeting everyone from King Juan Carlos, The King of Jordan, Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein,Andy Warhol, Donald Trump, Arron Spelling,Elizabeth Taylor,Gregory Peck, Mary Hart, and the list goes on… all because of Peter O’Toole, in the film Lawrence of Arabia. The relationship also began to be a matter for media attention good and bad, nevertheless life had changed.

Thank you Peter O’Toole for sharing so much of you on the screen and stage, that you inspired me to act on my dreams, and witness that in this world magic is real and dreams come true.
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