Famous actor 'just Leslie’ to local man | DrumhellerMail
Last updateFri, 19 Apr 2024 5pm

Famous actor 'just Leslie’ to local man


    While the world this week mourned for a screen legend that brought laughs to millions, a Drumheller man remembered a friend.

    Canadian-born actor Leslie Nielsen, who starred in such classic comedies as Airplane! and the Naked Gun series, died due to complications of pneumonia at the age of 84. He had appeared in more than 100 films and 1,500 television programs in a career that spanned six decades. While he was revered by many around the world, to Glenn Grey he was just Leslie.
    The two have known each other for years, and chummed together as teenagers on the south side of Edmonton. In fact they joined the Royal Canadian Air Force at the same time, right around their 17th birthdays. This is where the two sort of split. Grey trained as a pilot and Nielsen trained as aerial gunner.
    While the two drifted away from each other and began their careers, they remained in contact. Leslie went on to be a disc jockey in Calgary before heading to Toronto and then New York. Despite the distance, the friends would get together as often as they could.
    “He was just a regular guy, he wasn’t a movie star when he visited,” said Grey.
    He said the comedic persona of Nielsen most recognized on screen wasn’t what he was like on a personal level.
    “He was a good guy, you wouldn’t think he was a comedian, he wasn’t running around cracking jokes,” said Grey.
    He also adds, laughing, that Leslie was a ladies man. He was married four times, but the last time Grey and Nielsen got together, about two or three years ago, he was with wife Barbaree Earl Nielsen, a woman he described as the “love of his life.”
    Grey followed Nielsen’s career from afar, and said Nielsen worked hard to get where he was. He worked menial jobs before getting his big break.
    Interestingly enough, Grey has never seen his high school chum on the silver screen. Grey said he simply doesn’t go to movies.
    Later in Nielsen’s career, he had a job doing commercials for a Canadian bank, and this brought him north of the border to visit more often. On one of these visits Nielsen invited Grey and his wife Betty to Nielsen’s one-man show in Calgary. This was the first time Grey saw Nielsen perform, and he said he was quite impressed.
    So while movie fans remember Nielsen as Detective Frank Drebin, Dr. Barry Rumack from Airplane!, or even Captain Harrison in The Poseidon Adventure, Grey remembers him as just Leslie.

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