Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Kate Shapero Family Connections, Glenn Gould 2 Comments

During the 1950’s and 60’s Glenn Gould would retreat to the family cottage in Uptergrove, Ontario.

In the nearby town of Orillia, there was a Chinese Restaurant called The Shangdi-La, otherwise known locally as “The Shang”. It was on the main street of Orillia, called Mississauga Street which leads down to the Lake. Almost every evening Glenn would make the ten minute drive from the cottage to the restaurant for dinner. He would arrive there about five o’clock with a copy of the Toronto Telegram newspaper under his arm. The owner who was named Jim Seto would seat Glenn at the back of the restaurant at his usual table. Often, after Glenn became famous, Jim would play Glenn’s records in the restaurant, showcasing their local star. Glenn would often ‘mime’ the piano as the music was playing.

When we interviewed Bill Seto, Jim’s son, who served Glenn at this time, he fondly recounted his memories of Glenn at The Shang. Glenn’s usual meal included about six dinner rolls accompanied by half a pound of butter, a steak with mashed potatoes, daily vegetable, and tea with cream! For dessert Glenn would always enjoy a piece of coconut cream pie. He would spend about two hours dinning and would read the entire paper from front to back. Glenn was always very polite and valued his privacy while he dined, and all of the staff respected this.

Bill Seto recounted that one evening a local doctor, who was also an amateur pianist, while dining in the restaurant noticed Mr Gould sitting at the back booth. He approached Bill and asked if he could be introduced to Glenn. Bill sheepishly enquired of Glenn if this would be agreeable to bring the local doctor over for him to meet. Glenn’s reply was, “no Bill, I don’t want to meet him – I don’t know him”. He was adamant that he absolutely did not want to meet this man. No doubt the doctor was very disappointed.

Bill said that he always worried about Glenn’s health, because of his unhealthy eating habits. Most Gould devotees know Glenn’s diet to consist mainly of scrambled eggs, but this story illustrates the little known fact that earlier in his life he was indeed a meat eater, and loved cream in his tea!

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About the Author

Kate Shapero

I am an avid classical music listener, Lover and Collector of Antiques, Environmentalist, Animal Lover, and Have a Passion For All Things Glenn Gould.

Comments 2

  1. Hello, Kate,

    I just read my first blog by you and really like it. Thank you for writing about Glenn at The Shang. The dinner was probably Glenn’s actual breakfast, because wasn’t he a notorious night owl? I can imagine him coming in to The Shang kind of rumpled and smelling of sleep, eating that huge meal, then going home for a walk followed by hours and hours of playing, late into the night. Those notes drifting into the sky, merging with stars, our Glenn making masterpiece after masterpiece all alone in the night. And then those late night conversations when he’d call his friends and talk and talk — wouldn’t I love to stay up all night listening to Glenn Gould talk about anything and everything? sigh.

    All best,
    Phoebe

  2. Hello Kate,
    I am a sort of new gouldian, because I got to know Glenn Gould fairy recently.
    I am a piano teacher and have been known a lot of famous pianists.
    Of course I have heard about Glenn in 70’s when I was a little kid but didn’t pay attention too much.
    I used to hate playing Bach because they were just too difficult to master.
    They are still hard to play well!
    Now I am teaching and playing piano more than ever, I found Glenn Gould and his music, all about his unique personality. I am fascinated by everything about him. This is just fantastic way to get to know him better and I will be looking forward to finding more about Glenn Gould!

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