What's Your Story

Why I grew up believing my dad was the third hottest man in Canada

Corner Brook's Kerry Martin grew up listening to the story about the time that Chatelaine had crowned his dad one of Canada's best-looking men. But when he started poking, he found out his family legend wasn't quite what he'd been told.
Who wouldn't believe this Burt Reynolds lookalike was once nationally recognized for his good looks? Gerard "Stan" Martin sets the record straight for his adult son. (Martin family album)

Every family has its stories; folkloric tales that are passed down from generation to generation. These stories remind us who we are, and where we come from, but rarely do these fables make it to ears outside of the family.

This is a story that was passed down for decades about my dad — only this time he wasn't the one telling the story, and our family wasn't solely responsible for passing it around.

This is how my father became known as "the third hottest man in Canada."

The legend

I come from the beautiful town of Corner Brook, Newfoundland. A population of 20,000 storytellers, beautifully tucked into the Bay of Islands, where no two characters are alike.

Stan casually enjoys a Florida orange. (Ilga Leja)

My dad, Gerard "Stan" Martin, is one of those characters; a teller of colourful, grandiose tales, whose small town adventures are often larger than life.

In the mid 1980s, Stan was living in Corner Brook with his wife, daughter, and two sons. In an effort to pull a prank on him, one of his law school friends entered him into a contest to be named one of Chatelaine magazine's "ten hottest men."

About a month later, a copy of Chatelaine showed up on his doorstep. Several pages in, there was my dad, in a three-piece suit.

Stan cradles his first child, Maija. (Ilga Leja)

He was ranked number three, behind Pierre Elliott Trudeau and another man whose name could never be confirmed.

My dad was embarrassed, confused, and most likely a little flattered. But he vowed to never tell anybody this story. It was just too much.

This story, and several variations, have followed my dad around for almost half of his life.

Fast forward 30 years to today. Myself and my younger brother were born. I became a journalist and my sister became a lawyer, like my dad. We both ask questions for a living and obnoxiously refute the truth until we have all the evidence.

Naturally, we started fact-checking some of these family stories, and I sat down with the third hottest man in Canada for some due diligence.

The true story

Like father, like son. The author, Kerry Martin, hugs his dad. Stan turns 69 this year. (Martin family album)

I recently called my dad up on the phone and recorded our conversation. I recounted the legend as I'd heard it growing up, then asked him a simple question: "So dad, what really happened?" 

What follows is a condensed transcript of the true story. 

I got a call at my office from a woman, she said she was from the Newfoundland Herald, a province-wide publication. She said that I had been nominated for the title of "best-dressed man in Newfoundland," which I found funny, and didn't believe it for a second to be true. I sort of played along. She never did tell me how she got my name, but that someone had nominated me for the title.

My winning title changed with almost every person ... from the "sexiest man in Newfoundland," to "the most eligible bachelor in Canada," and then somehow "the third hottest man in the country." - Gerard 'Stan' Martin

She asked me where I got my great suits, I said my wife buys them for me, and I wear some of my father-in-law's old hand-me-down suits. Later I found out, he had won this same title years before, with the exact same suits.

After the interview ended, I forgot about it, and never mentioned it to anyone. I didn't even think about it until I went into court weeks later, and the article was posted on the bulletin board for everyone to see.

Stan, a lawyer by profession, is much more than just a "clothes tree". (Ilga Leja)

All I remember about seeing that article, is staring at it and saying out loud "Jesus ... Christ..." I was so embarrassed. I hated the limelight, and here I was in this magazine as a clothes tree.

And then, of course, the story went everywhere.

I was getting calls from my friends on the mainland and up-along, and my winning title changed with almost every person who called. From the "sexiest man in Newfoundland," to "the most eligible bachelor in Canada," and then somehow "the third hottest man in the country." Somehow I fell back two steps in my own lore!

This is not a situation where I went and bought 50 copies of the magazine and gave them out to friends. I contributed nothing. This story took on a life of its own, and kept popping up every few years.

I would say it's like any fish tale, it loses nothing in the telling. The fish never gets smaller, does it? The fish only gets bigger, and the circumstances are always more exotic and compelling. But normally, it's the fisherman who gets to tell the story. Newfoundlanders are such amazing storytellers, I'm not surprised this story took on such a life of its own.

I was so embarrassed. I hated the limelight, and here I was in this magazine as a clothes tree.- Gerard 'Stan' Martin

I asked my father what he thinks of the story now, 30 years later.

To this day, people swear they saw me in Chatelaine magazine in the '80s, so the title will probably be sticking around. Had I known this story would be popping back up again, I would have kept the original article.

A nation of fish tales

"The fish never gets smaller, does it?" Stan knows just how easily a 'fish tale' can get out of hand. (Ilga Leja)

Family lore is key to our national identity. Within the stories of a country carving out its name are millions of stories of heartbreak, triumph, disaster and miraculous encounters.

This story cemented my dad into so many people's minds as a heartthrob of national importance, and it's thanks to the rich, creative minds who found themselves in possession of this story.

Though the widespread versions are majorly false, the passionate embellishments show our love for the most human of national pastimes: entertaining one another with stories.

It's a simple passion we should never lose.

My father may view this title as his cross to bear, but I will always view it as that time a province of storytellers propelled Stan Martin to (almost) the top spot as "the third hottest man in Canada."

What's your story?  What defines Canada for you? Is there a time that you were proud to be Canadian, or perhaps a time you felt disappointed? Is there a place, person, or event in your life that sums up what being Canadian is to you? Visit cbc.ca/whatsyourstory.

About the Author

Kerry Martin

Kerry Martin is a writer, journalist, recreational softball player and radio programmer. A proud Newfoundlander and lover of the outdoors, Kerry now lives in Toronto with his partner Zoé, his four guitars and his two cats.

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