Wednesday, September 30, 2015

TMFW 108 - The Great One Babysits (and "Abandons") a Future #1 Artist



Like TMFW 89's story about young MC Hammer hanging out with Reggie Jackson, today's entry is a surprising pairing of famous singer and superstar athlete.  And it's a good reinforcement of the stereotype (referenced in this great Molson commercial) that all Canadians know one another.

Wayne Gretzky is the greatest hockey player of all time, and as such he was and is a giant star in Canada.  Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers were a dynasty in the 1980s, and while he was an Oiler he won 8 consecutive Hart Trophies as the NHL's Most Valuable Player.  So it was a huge shock when, just months after they won their 4th Stanley Cup, the Oilers traded Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings.  "The Trade" was a Big Big Deal for hockey, and is sufficiently famous that ESPN made a documentary about it as part of their 30 for 30 series.  That brings us to today's TMFW, which deals with the odd circumstances of how Gretzky heard and dealt with the news of the trade. 

As detailed in this extensive oral history of the trade from The Hockey News, Gretzky was semi-living in LA during the summer of 1988, as he had just married the actress Janet Jones.  But Gretzky and Jones did not yet have a house in LA, so he was staying at the home of the famous Canadian actor Alan Thicke.  (Thicke is a huge hockey fan and was at that time the star of Growing Pains, which was a top-10 show in the 1987-1988 season.) 

The night before the trade, Gretzky, Jones, and Gretzky's Oilers teammate Craig Simpson were all staying over at Thicke's house.  Thicke himself was on vacation in Norway with his oldest son Brennan, so Gretzky was babysitting Thicke's youngest: the 11-year-old Robin.  When he got word that evening that the trade would be announced the next day in Canada, Gretzky had to catch an early morning flight back to Edmonton, and he "abandoned" Robin to the care of Jones and Campbell.  They too were caught up in the trade news, and had to leave shortly thereafter.  As Alan Thicke recalled in a 2012 interview, "[Gretzky] got the call at about 9 p.m., and he was gone by 6 the next morning.  So we had to find a substitute nanny instantly..."

As TMFW readers surely know, young Robin overcame the trauma of being left by Wayne Gretzky and grew up to be an R&B singer.  His song "Blurred Lines" (pretty NSFW video) with Pharrell was a #1 hit in 14 countries and was inescapable for several weeks in the summer of 2013.

So there's your TMFW for today: the greatest hockey player ever babysat the skeevy guy who sang "Blurred Lines" on the day he was very famously traded. I love that.

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BONUS FACT:  Like the Justin Bieber story in TMFW 104, I've had this fact in my drafts folder for several months, waiting for a week where it made sense.  Needing a fact today, I wrote it up and went searching for a suitable bonus fact to tack on.  Frankly, I wasn't sure what would fit with a story of "famous celebrity used to babysit other famous celebrity."

I should have known that US Weekly would have me covered.  TMFW's dogged commitment to research allows me to share with you the slideshow "Celebrity Babysitters: Stars Who Babysat Other Celebs."  Among the list: Alice Cooper babysat Keanu Reeves, Michael Bolton babysat Paula Abdul, and Cher babysat (and was observed undresssing by!) Anthony Kiedis. Your day is now complete.

BONUS FACT 1.5:  While we are talking about my Bieber story, the Dredd soundtrack composer who is the subject of that entry said nice things about it on Facebook and Twitter last week.  That was way cool.

BONUS FACT 2:  Of the over 250 sets of brothers that played in the NHL, the highest scoring pair in league history (by a good margin) is Wayne Gretzky and his brother Brent.  For his part, Brent contributed 1 goal and 3 assists. 

BONUS FACT 2.5:  Here's an acknowledgement to know-it-all hockey fans that the father-son combo of Bobby and Brett Hull did slightly better if you count Bobby's Winnipeg days, as did the six-brother Sutter family.

BONUS FACT 3:  The iconic (to my generation, anyway) theme song to Growing Pains was performed by B.J. "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" Thomas and Jennifer "(I've Had) the Time of My Life" Warnes.

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