Anslem Douglas

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The beautiful emerald green banner across the front of Bungalow No 4 at the Carib Brewery Compound, read "Congratulations Anslem on your achievement - From all of us at the Brewery", when the brewery celebrated Anslem Douglas' very recent success at the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards for his composition "Who Let The Dogs Out", last Thursday night.

Culture Minister, the Honourable Ganga Singh, and his junior Minister, Winston Peters, were on hand to recognise the handsome, six footer's achievement which the Minister referred to as " what is certainly a milestone for Trinidad and Tobago."

After being showered with gifts and accolades, Douglas humbly thanked all the people who had helped him along the way "and especially the background people who go unrecognised." But it was the remark which his wife Sharon would make each time he boarded a plane to fulfil an engagement, returning at times as long as three months later, that caused much laughter from the guests. She would say "Anslem this is not normal, people don't live like this, people don't live their lives when they don't see each other because people jump on a plane and come back three months later." Douglas' reply was "most normal people don't make dents" which certainly seems a truism in his case,

Sharon and Anslem first met ten years ago, and were both married at the time. "It was not the start of any great romance or love story" she says "we started off as friends." The couple eventually married three years ago and although she doesn't think it is the normal way to live, she is the first to admit "I pushed him. I buy his clothes and tell him I am going to make you so beautiful you are going to have to beat the women off with a stick."

Born in England to a Trinidadian mother, Bonnie Hector, and Guyanese father, Steve Hector, Sharon moved to Toronto, Canada, at age two; and then to Trinidad at about ten where she attended St Francois Girls College for a couple of years, before returning to Toronto and a life filled "with all sorts of things."

Her mother was the co-ordinator for Caribana in Toronto and used to bring bands from Trinidad. "But I wasn't too much into calypso, and my Mom said give it a chance come and see it, I said no thank you." Then Sharon went to Montreal with her mother and was invited to come and see this band called Atlantik. "I was totally mesmerised by these guys, the frontliners were Steve Sealy and Knolly Charles. After Montreal I told my Canadian friends 'you should see this Trinidad band, I saw them in Montreal and they are phenomenal.' So when they came to Caribana, I dragged all my friends to see this Atlantik band and they agreed with me I was right."

"Then my mother was going to judge Miami Carnival, and asked would I go. Well the Atlantik front line had changed, no longer was Knolly Charles in the front, it was Anslem. We just happened to be staying in the same hotel, and the band couldn't get a clothes iron" and says this most likeable woman "told this person, Anslem, to come and get an iron from us downstairs. The rest is history."

Sharon kept coming to Trinidad for Carnival, playing in bands, such as, Barbarossa, Minshall and Legends, and kept talking with Douglas but maintans "we were always friends, and I would bump into him at Carnivals all over the world."

Then Anslem was fired from Atlantik and called Sharon from Trinidad about it. "He knew my mother had connections and could get him work in Toronto, so I suggested he come to North America and start working as a soloist because he was always a band guy and really didn't know anything about being a soloist. I told him you were singing as an individual for Atlantik, why don't you come and Mom can get you a job on the Caribana island. He came to Toronto, worked for a while, went to New York and worked for a while, managing to keep himself above water."

Douglas eventually made his debut as a soloist in Montreal and continued with help from Frontline's Annmarie Placid and Sharon's mother doing little gigs all over the place, staying at calypsonian Crazy's sister's house, and managed to coast for the rest of that year. By this time Sharon's marriage to a Haitian husband was already broken up. "He couldn't deal with this Trinidad life, didn't know anything about Carnival, didn't approve of it, and I saw myself even though I was Canadian, gravitating towards the Trinidad way of life." "Anslem had pretty much ended with his wife. I really think it is because when he quit the Coast Guard and Atlantik fired him, he didn't know where to turn and had a connection which was me in Toronto. But he very quickly started sailing on his own. We started going out and the romance followed, and were finally married in 1998, the year of Who Let the Dogs Out."

The couple who have no children, returned to their Whitby, Ontario, home last Friday night, where Sharon works in the Toronto office of the advertising agency Oglivy & Mather as a traffic supervisor.

How does this very down-to-earth woman feel with everything going right for her husband and the attendant publicity? She is learning to deal with the long separations and knows that in order for him to be successful, he must continue looking good, sounding good, and being successful. "And if that means appearing to be a ladies' man that's fine with me. When people come for autographs, I stand back; for pictures, I say I will take the picture for you. I have learned gradually, it was not a total, total throw in. Because of Trinidad I learned to ride the waves as remember people there saw him as a superstar before his Who Let The Dogs Out. Then people start recognising you in the different Carnivals, and when we go to different restaurants in Toronto. He was in New York when the Mets baseball team started playing the song and it got totally outrageous; they would call me and I spoke to the media."

Anslem's next venture is attending a meeting with publishers, the people who take a song and work it so that they get it on commercials and get people to sing it. One of his publishers, Desmond Chiles, writes for Ricky Martin, Cher, Bon Jovi and others. "They are going to be meeting in Miami at something called a writers' camp where all the very talented, impressionable writers, get the artistes to start writing. They sit down and brainstorm, come up with could be one song, no songs or an entire album" explains Sharon, who sees it as "a phenomenal opportunity for her husband. They have asked him and that is great as he will be meeting writers, and stepping out of Trinidad for a while to actually write something beside calypso."

 


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