Jarrod Thalheimer: The Art of Local Heroes
Bruce Springsteen tells a story about driving through a town he grew up in. He explains that he saw a five and ten cent store displaying several black velvet paintings in their front window. He was certain he recognized the one in the center, so he stopped, went in and asked the clerk about it. Her response to him was the genesis of a song Bruce eventually wrote called "Local Hero":
"So I asked the salesgirl "Who
was that man between the Doberman and Bruce Lee?"
While The Boss was likely contemplating the irony of his own mythic status when he asked about a velvet-rendered version of himself, he inadvertently provided an excellent definition for just what a local hero really is.
The Okanagan was and is home to many people of accomplishment but it's those that stand up, shake off the dust of our valley and go off to greater things that most often capture our collective imagination. Sure, we don't think much about them as they scratch and crawl their way to the top, but we are more than willing to applaud when they finally reach a level of accomplishment. We do this for two reasons: One, we are genuinely happy when one of our own succeeds and we are more than happy to acknowledge it. Second, and a little more self-servingly, we seek to gently lay a claim on some of their stardust. By reminding any and all that the now famous one actually came from the Okanagan, we are confident that this tiny little piece of reality allows us to claim some part of their success, whether we had anything to do with it or not, as our own.
So, in that vein here are two "local heroes" that went on to great things and who, once upon a time, "used to live here for a while."
PAUL JOHANSSON Actor/writer/directorPaul enjoyed high expectations early. He was a local star playing for the KSS basketball team and went on to All-Canadian status with the University of British Columbia. Paul played international basketball for two years. He toured to Korea in 1986 and to both Israel and Greece in 1987. At one point the NBA beckoned with a chance for Paul to play for the Atlanta Hawks, but he had other ideas.
While performing would lead to early and constant success as an actor, Johansson would eventually win an Emmy for his writing.
At first Paul was most often remembered locally as the handsome cowboy in a series of Lotto BC ads. This got him a reputation for being that sexy, burly guy that women swooned over. His starring role in a Diet Coke TV-commercial in 1997 cemented this "hunk" status once and for all.
Paul eventually made his Hollywood acting debut on the soap opera Santa Barbara and would go on to dozens and dozens of roles in TV series like Parker Lewis Can't Lose, Lonesome Dove: The Series, Beverly Hills 90210, Dharma & Greg, The Drew Carey Show, Ed Mcbains 87th Precinct and The District. He acted with Sally Field in Soapdish and most recently was seen on the big screen with Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone in Alpha Dog.
As a filmmaker, Paul wrote and directed a film short called Conversations in Limbo, which opened the Toronto Short Film Festival. It was also honored at the Nashville Independent Film Festival, eventually being picked up and aired by the Sundance Film Channel.
Paul's most notable achievement came with his decision to write and direct a film called The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie. It starred Gena Rowlands and James Caan and won Paul an Emmy in 2003 for best writing as well as a nomination for best direction.
Currently, Paul Johansson lives in Los Angeles and stars as Dan Scott in the TV series One Tree Hill. He has also directed at least three episodes of the show.
JASON MATLO Fashion designer
While some of Jason's early fame may have been tied to the fact that his family owned a video arcade during the eighties (which at the time obviously rendered all associated as hyper-cool), it was his own personal brand of style that made people sit up and take notice of him. Jason's family and friends knew all to well that he took clothes and fashion far more seriously than most.
Matlo's first big break came in 1998 when he was just out of school. He won the prestigious Smirnoff Designer of the Year Award and then continued on to represent Canada at the international fashion finals.
Jason continued honing his skills and showcasing his talent,
eventually acting as the art director of the Helen Lefeaux School of Fashion Design
in Vancouver. Consistent hard work along with his own creative
drive eventually lead to Matlo's being selected as one of three
up-and-coming designers, chosen from hundreds, to participate in a Life Network
reality series called Making It Big. Jason was forced to take time off from
his work at the fashion school, and from his own design business, to
participate. Even after acing the program and being chosen as the winning
designer in 2005, Matlo remained fo
In 2005 The Georgia Straight named Jason Matlo Vancouver's 'Fashion Designer of the Year' even though he'd never actually presented a complete collection there before. This very clearly indicated the scale and scope of the promise that was anticipated in Jason as an up-and-coming designer.
These days Jason Matlo lives and works in Vancouver where he creates and presents his designs to an international audience. His goal of setting nothing less than a benchmark for Canadian made ready-to-wear women's fashion is real and his plan to bring international recognition and accolades to his self-named line is assured.
Just back from a successful fashion trade show trip to New York City in November 2007, Jason presented his spring 2008 collection at The Modern in Gastown. He is fast becoming the go-to guy for creative, sophisticated and well-made ready-to-wear on the West Coast.
Do you know of any "Local Heroes" we should be writing about? Send your suggestions, along with as much information and details on them as you can, to firstname.lastname@example.org. They may appear in future issues Okanagan Arts.