On many levels, Dennis Casey Park’s performance of “O Canada” at a Las Vegas Posse CFL game 25 years ago this week was seen as a horrendous failure. Park didn’t really know the tune and wound up singing it in a way that sounded like “O Christmas Tree,” and that led to him being regularly mocked both at the time and over the decades since, including appearances near the top of many “Anthem fail” lists. But that botched anthem wound up working out quite well for Park overall, as he told Ron Kantowski of The Las Vegas Review-Journal for a retrospective piece this week. First, though, here’s the video (featuring Park performing under the alias “Greg Bartholomew”):
That performance went viral even at the time, making headlines across the continent and leading to U.S. vice president Al Gore telling Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien “I was certainly glad to see that the U.S. football players reacted so strongly and better than the singer.” And it led to Park making an international apology tour, and performing “O Canada” again (and much better) at both a Hamilton Tiger-Cats CFL game and a Toronto Blue Jays MLB game. But the biggest benefit for him came later, as Kantowski writes:
Years later, after turning a gig at the Seoul Olympics into a successful career as a performer and producer in Asia, Park and a female friend went out to dinner in Shanghai, where they were joined by a Chinese couple.
“The guy kept staring at me and would avert his eyes,” Park recalled. “Finally he said, ‘Excuse me, can I ask a question? You anthem man?’”
The man said his father had worked in Toronto.
A couple of nights later, Park called the couple to ask if they would show him more of Shanghai. They weren’t a couple any longer. The woman, an executive at an advertising firm, agreed to show the American singer from Las Vegas the sights of Shanghai.
Today, affable Dennis Park and Xu Heng are husband and wife.
“A lot of great things happened to me because of this.”
Okay, now that’s just incredible, and it shows what a crazy world this can be. But hey, it’s good to hear that it worked out all right for Park in the end. It certainly ended much better for him than it did for the Posse, who went 5-13 in their inaugural season in 1994 and promptly folded afterwards.
[The Las Vegas Review-Journal; photo provided by Park to the RJ]