One person can make Grapes blush

EARL MCRAE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

Don Cherry, Canada's hottest movie name of the moment, takes pride in no one being able to pull the wool over his eyes in verbal confrontations. He can smell and destroy a sucker punch before it lands, or best it with a retaliatory blow if it does.

But the bellowing King of Gab will remember the one time the most unlikely person of all did him in, leaving him shocked, humbled, fumbling for a comeback.

Several years ago when Cherry was visiting his Centrepointe restaurant still in his name, I took him aside.

I had an idea for a book on Cherry, a Toronto publishing house liked it, my name for it was Don Cherry On Everything.

In other words, his edgy, no-holds-barred views on everything under the sun, not just hockey. Because he's never at a loss of controversial opinions on everything from A to Z, it'd be a fun and entertaining book.

He agreed.

"But not right now. There's been lotsa stuff written about me, other books, the TV stuff, I'm over-exposed as it is. Maybe down the road some day."

So, the book didn't happen.

Had it, one of the vignettes would have been his Don Cherry take on whether the Maudes of the world know best, their counselling not to be challenged.

I had an open-line radio sports show in Toronto back in the '80s and one night my in-studio guest was Cherry, a bombastic, politically incorrect, foppishly attired, icon of TV even then. When a mic is before him, and the cameras are on, that is. Cherry away from the spotlight is calmly-spoken, appealingly pleasant, afflicted by meaningful thoughts beyond sports, and no, "everythink" for "everything" is not an affectation, it's the real him.

And one reason why Cherry -- who Canadians voted the seventh Greatest Canadian in that CBC-TV program a couple of years ago -- will never be awarded the Order of Canada he deserves by the precious, platinum-tonged toffs who control the awards, and couldn't pull seventh Greatest Canadian, or even close, for themselves.

Anyway, we're doing the show and Cherry's at his ranting, raving best, sucking up the accolades from callers who loved him, napalming those that didn't, and then I said: "Line two. Joan. Joan you're on with Don Cherry."

"Hi Joan," barked Cherry. "Howya doin' kid?"

"First of all, I am not a kid," snapped Joan. "Secondly, I want to know why it is you're always so loud and obnoxious. You're so full of yourself. The way you talk to people. If I was your mother, I'd wash your mouth out with soap."

Cherry stammered to get a word in, Joan wouldn't let him. "Keep quiet and let me talk." Cherry shut up. "And those clothes you wear, you look ridiculous. You should be in the circus as a clown."

"Mom?" said Cherry. His eyes widened. "It's my mom. I know the voice. You're my mom, right?"

She laughed. Yes. It was mom. He said, meekly: "Mom. How did you get on here?" He blushed. What he didn't know is that I'd set him up. I'd phoned his mother earlier about calling the show as a surprise to her son and to have fun with him. Not as Maude, her real name; but Joan.

For the next 15 minutes after he learned it was his mom, Don Cherry reverted to mom's obedient little boy. Gentle as a lamb before the word and wisdom of mom.

"What was Don like as a child?" I asked his mom.

"He was actually quite shy," she said. "He was very respectful of others. He was very well-mannered and never a problem."

"Mom, what are you doing?" said Cherry with a laugh. "You're ruining my reputation."

Mom laughed back.

With moms of the world, everythink is fair in love and war.


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