Mountain encounters: The many celebrity experiences of one 91-year-old Jasper resident
Sandy Robinson has come across many celebrities and now looks forward to The Bachelorette coming to Jasper
Albertans are buzzing with news that the popular TV show The Bachelorette will be filming for nine weeks in Jasper, Alta., and for one resident of the mountain town, the excitement brings back memories of celebrities who visited the picturesque Rockies.
This week, CBC News confirmed the mystery surrounding a 65-day booking at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge from a source familiar with the production, speaking on condition of anonymity.
However, reality show contestants pale in comparison to the stars Sandy Robinson met when the town hosted crews for movie and television classics like Rose Marie (1936), Country Beyond (1926) and The Emperor Waltz (1948).
Born in 1929, the 91-year-old — who claims to be Jasper's oldest resident — has spent his whole life in Jasper. When the stars came to town, he met them, took pictures with them and even partied with some of the cast.
He says The Bachelorette, which he hasn't ever watched, picked a good venue for the show.
"It's isolated," he said about the four-star Jasper Park Lodge overlooking Lac Beauvert. "It's out of town on the left there. And so they can close it down and keep people away if they have to, especially now with the COVID."
On Friday, Robinson engaged in a little name-dropping with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM as he related tales about his close encounters with the rich and famous.
The "blond bombshell" of Hollywood came to Jasper in 1953 for the filming of her western film River of No Return.
Robinson said he would occasionally go watch the shooting of the film. However, it was when he spotted her walking down the street one Sunday that he decided to ask for a picture.
"She said, sure," Robinson recalled. "But my friend was so shaky, the man that was walking with her said, 'Give me the camera,' and he took the picture.
"She wouldn't take off her dark glasses because I think she was not too bright that morning."
Robert F. Kennedy
American politician Robert F. Kennedy visited Jasper in 1966, with his wife Ethel and seven of their children.
Robinson said the family stayed at the Outlook Cabin (the luxurious accommodation where Prince Phillip and Queen Elizabeth II would stay 41 years later) but the visit was disrupted by near-constant harassment by press from around the world.
"The noise of the shutters clicking was getting to him and Bobby Kennedy came down and he said, 'Look, you guys get away from here. We're having a holiday. There's no interviews. So please stop,'" Robinson said.
Because Robinson also did some photography back in the day, he said he was sent in to take photos of the Kennedy family as part of the lodge's photo-op for the local paper.
"I took a picture of [Bobby and Ethel Kennedy] walking down the path and she looks like hell so they never did use it," he said.
James Stewart and Walter Brennan
James Stewart is an American actor known for his role as George Bailey in It's A Wonderful Life and a number of Alfred Hitchcock movies like Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much and Rope. Walter Brennan is also an American actor and singer known for his roles in My Darling Clementine and Sergeant York.
The two came to Jasper for the filming of The Far Country, a 1954 western romance.
Robinson said he drove a taxi during the filming of that movie and had driven Brennan and other members of the film to work.
"Mr. Walter Brennan was so funny, I'd have to stop the car — the tears were running down my face, I couldn't drive," he said.
Robinson also had lunch with Stewart on the set — "such a nice man, just wonderful to meet him" — and was even invited to a wrap party that took place at lodge's Point Cabin, where Stewart was staying.
Robinson said he was most excited about American singer and actor Bing Crosby, who came to Jasper to film 1948's The Emperor Waltz, a musical film about an American gramophone salesman in Austria.
"I used to go out and watch them filming and they didn't mind that at all," he said.
Robinson said they stayed at the Jasper Park Lodge and filming took place in the park.
He said Crosby loved Jasper so much, he visited a few times, especially to play golf.
Because Robinson's father knew the greenskeeper of the golf club, Crosby was even invited to their house.
"He looked in the kitchen and here's the dishes piled a mile high. And he yelled out, 'I've come to do the dishes,'" Robinson said.
"So he came in and he met my grandmother, coming from Ireland, was just delighted to have met Bing Crosby. One of the highlights of her life."