From our first meeting in 1985 until his tragic and unexpected passing (the day after what we never suspected would be our last photo shoot together), Andrew and I shared a lot of history, from the best to the worst. With Rush, we had toured together all over North America, South America, and Europe, and Andrew and I also spent a lot of “family time” in our various homes in Toronto and Los Angeles, at the MacNaughtan cottage on Georgian Bay, and at ours in Quebec. Andrew’s path first crossed mine when we both lived in Toronto, and continued when we both lived in Los Angeles—in my case, entirely because of Andrew.
But to begin at the beginning . . .
Andrew’s photographs first caught my eye in 1985, when I was assembling material for the tourbook to accompany Rush’s Power Windows tour. At that time the band didn’t employ any exclusive photographers, so Pegi Cecconi at our office sent me a big pile of submissions from numerous people—mainly plastic pages of slides, in those days.
Andrew’s live shots really stood out from the rest; they were more vivid, somehow—highlighting both the drama of the rock stage and the personalities of the players. That was an unusual quality, and I chose several of his images for the book.
In later years, Andrew became the band’s near-exclusive photographer, in concert, formal portraits, and documenting our rehearsals and recording sessions. He even served (suffered) as our personal assistant for two tours, Presto and Roll the Bones. As other assistants we have employed over the years would agree—were they not bound by strict confidentiality agreements—it was not a glamorous or easy job.
Throughout that turbulent time, all of us remained friends. Though Andrew was something of a self-confessed neurotic, he had a terrific sense of humor, and like me, he could laugh himself into helplessness—especially over the antics of Alex, who Geddy and I have long described as “the funniest man in the world.”
It was Andrew who bestowed on me the enduring nickname “Bubba.” (I like to think because he considered me the “anti-Bubba,” but I will never be sure.) He is thus commemorated by my website departments, Bubba’s Book Club and Bubba’s Bar ’n’ Grill.
As for Andrew’s own nicknames, Alex, Geddy, and I, and the crew guys, first called him “Tony Randall,” and “Dr. Smith” (from the old TV show Lost in Space), but finally settled on “Zulu.” Perhaps because he was the “anti-Zulu.” As those earlier nicknames suggest, another of Andrew’s self-confessed qualities was his extreme “whiteness.” I used to joke that making dinner for him was always easy: meat, potatoes, and over-cooked vegetables.
While Andrew worked and traveled with us back then, whenever any of us asked him to do something, it was prefaced by a quietly melodramatic address in his direction, “Oh . . . Zulu . . .”
By the late ’90s, when I was lost in my own sorrows and traveling aimlessly by motorcycle all over North America, Andrew had moved to Los Angeles. He kept in touch with me, and urged me to come there and “have fun.” That didn’t seem very likely to me, and I was resistant, but I finally agreed. That October I steered my motorcycle to the Sunset Marquis in West Hollywood for a short stay.
And you know, I did have fun—hanging around with Andrew, his roommate Will, his Jack Russell terrier Bob (one of the most characterful and agreeable dogs I have ever known), and meeting new friends like John Kastner, Dave Foley, and Matt Stone. On that visit and others, we had some long, funny nights at Dave’s house in the Hollywood Hills, wits well refreshed and—it seemed to us—dazzling.
Andrew and I attended the South Park Halloween party, him as an SAS officer and me as “Mandy the English biker chick.” Andrew cut a slightly better figure as a soldier than I did as a leather-clad, foam-enhanced drag queen, seven feet tall under a gigantic blonde bouffant, with lavish, lurid makeup by John’s girlfriend, Nicole—but I was definitely more imposing. Grown men wept.
In those days, Andrew and I often talked on the phone from wherever I wandered, and shared our sorrows and anxieties. Typically, Andrew was determined to find a “match” for this crusty old widower. When my motorcycle had carried me back across the continent yet again, to pause in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Andrew sent me a few test Polaroids of a photo assistant he had been working with—a pretty dark-haired girl named Carrie. Again, I was reluctant, gruffly telling him, “not interested”—but finally I made my meandering way west again, and stopped for a while in Los Angeles.
One day Andrew, Bob, and I were hiking along a trail overlooking the Pacific, when suddenly we were startled to see a rattlesnake stretched across the path—right in front of Bob. Andrew courageously kept Bob away—far, far away—while I chased off the snake by tossing a few rocks in its direction.
Andrew arranged a double-date with Carrie, me, and someone he was seeing for only the second time. So it was a strange, somewhat uncomfortable evening. A few days later, Andrew and Bob led Carrie and me on a hike along that same Pacific trail. There were no rattlesnakes this time, and Carrie and I talked easily, but a few days later I was riding away again. Then I found myself circling back toward Los Angeles “accidentally,” and I met Carrie in Laguna Beach for our first date alone.
It was there I saw her across the proverbial crowded room, and fell. That was in late 1999, and the following September, Andrew was an usher at our wedding in Santa Barbara, and gave a sweet speech as our “benefactor.”
Just around that time, Andrew’s new partner, Alex Privitera, joined the family—completing a “happy ever after” suite. To Carrie and me, Andrew and Alex became “our favorite gay couple,” sharing fun times in Toronto, Los Angeles, London, Quebec, Georgian Bay, and an unforgettable New Year’s Eve in Palm Springs. They also often entertained Carrie in Toronto when I was recording or rehearsing there. In May, 2010, Andrew captured a radiantly-lit portrait series of Carrie and Olivia, at ten months old—another memory to keep always, and look at on our wall every day.
Andrew and Alex had an unusually close and enduring relationship, and together they created a delightful and welcoming home in Toronto full of exquisite works of art—one of Andrew’s greatest passions.
And apart from the personal memories, it is his own art that will endure. Not long before his untimely passing, Andrew published a book of fine-art photographs titled Grace, based on his travels in East Africa. (Like a fair portion of his work in recent years, it was done to benefit others—Andrew contributed generously to worthy causes like the Casey House hospice and Art Gives Hope.)
In addition, his portraits and live shots of nearly every major Canadian performer of the past twenty-five years will be viewed forever—a rich national archive of our arts and entertainment history.
Many will feel fortunate to have known Andrew, and perhaps myself more than most—introducing me to Carrie was a life-changing gift. But even long after all of us who knew Andrew are gone, his name, his unique creative “eye,” and his beautiful and perceptive images will live on.
[Andrew’s generosity can be continued at: www.artgiveshope.ca]