A Nervous Rush As Rock Stars Receive Order Of Canada

Jam!Showbiz, February 27, 1997

OTTAWA (CP) -- Rock 'n' roll did it for Rush, Frank Shuster made it with his droll wit and the King of Kensington got there after two decades on TV.

The Grammys, Genies or Junos it wasn't. How about the Order of Canada.

Try Geddy Lee, OC, on for size.

The bassist-singer and his fellow Rush-ites Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson were the first rockers to be given the medal of distinction in its 30-year history.

"I'm just going to wear it all the time and see if it gets me better tables at restaurants," the irreverent Lee, decked in a black suit and tie, said after a formal ceremony at Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor General where 43 Canadians were inducted Wednesday.

As the hip rock stars brushed cuff-links with philanthropists, scientists and business leaders in the regal ballroom, the trio was a long way from the dingy bars where they started out 25 years ago.

The honor was created in 1967 to recognize "significant achievement in important fields of human endeavor."

"It kind of touches you in a place that none of these other things do touch you," said Lee.

"It's not so much music related as your country saying thank you... something about our home country has kept us here and moments like this make you feel like you've made the right decision."

It was perhaps fitting that Rush, which has stayed put in Canada, was being decorated for its contribution on the same night as the Grammys where several Canadians were up for awards.

The Rush rockers said they were more nervous than they've ever when Gov. Gen. Romeo LeBlanc presented them with the Order.

"I'm just a musician in a band," said a humble Lifeson.

It's a distinction that some say is long overdue for the unofficial ambassadors of Canadian rock.

The band, which is currently taking a break from a tour promoting their latest release, Test for Echo, is noted for raising millions of dollars for charities.

The Order of Canada was also a long time coming for Shuster. He and his late partner, Johnny Wayne, started making people laugh after the Second World War.

"I don't know if Count Dracula ever wore anything like this," joked Shuster as he displayed his medal. "This is quite interesting."

He said the honor also belongs to Wayne, who died in 1990 at age 72.

Media mogul Roger Landry, publisher of Montreal's La Presse, and genetic researcher Charles Scriver, also of Montreal, were promoted to the order's highest level of companion.

Rush, Shuster, the late philanthropist Peter Bronfman and Arthur Labatt were among the 10 people decorated as officers, the second highest distinction.

Among the new members are actor Al Waxman, the King of Kensington in the former television series, Alan Abraham, the former lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia, William McKeag, former lieutenant-governor of Manitoba, Montreal police chief Jacques Duchesneau, and Gordon Penrose, the zany Dr. Zed of Owl and Chickadee magazines for children.