OK readers. Some time back I did a blog post in which I firmly stated I was the real Billy Parrott. I'm writing today to formally acknowledge that I am only one Billy Parrott. I am Billy Parrott, the librarian. I'd like to introduce you to the other Billy Parrott. He's the actor.
Mistaken identity was the subject of my original post. Most cases of mistaken identity are visual in nature and I recounted various incidents in which I was mistaken for other individuals.
"No thank you, I'm not Michael J. Fox."
"Lindsey Buckingham? Nice, but no."
"Eric Stoltz? Nice, but no."
"Cillian Murphy? Really?!"
Then there was Billy Parrott. The other Billy Parrott. The actor. Those incidents were different because they were based on name alone.
"Why yes, I am Billy Parrott. What? Who?! No, I'm only a librarian."
Social media being what it is makes it extremely easy, too easy some might say, to reconnect with people you knew in the fourth grade.
Pencil eraser eating Bernie! Where are you?!
It also allows you to easily reach out to people who are complete strangers.
How could we be strangers if we have the same name?
I decided to once and for all finally track down the other Billy Parrott.
So... this is strange. Billy Parrott. I know who you are. Do you know who I am?
I'm sorry, who did you say you were? Hahahaha! Of course, I know you. Not surprisingly, I first discovered you when I checked domain availability for our name and you were there, and about once every month or so, I think of you when someone asks if my email is '...@.com' and I say 'No, that's an artist librarian guy in New York'. I read your post referencing me a while ago. Funny, I had thought of contacting you as well.
As I stated in my previous blog post mentioning you, I've never met another Parrott I wasn't related to, much less one with the exact same name as me. I've received emails intended for you from your fans. I've had people ask if I was the actor. I can't imagine you getting the same kind of inquiries. But maybe. Has anyone ever asked you if you were the librarian?
Well, there’s still time.
I grew up in the deep south, with some time spent in Texas, some in Louisiana. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Toronto; areas like Scarborough, North York, North Toronto, and Etobicoke. My grandfather lived downtown by old Maple Leaf Gardens and we visited a lot so I kinda grew up there too. Plus my mom was in real estate at the time and took me out of public school in kindergarten up to third grade to go looking at houses all over the place. I know the city very well.
I’ve never been to Canada. I was supposed to be in Toronto at the end of May for a conference but opted instead to stay in New York City to attend some photography shows.
I highly recommend you visit at some point. It's a great city. I could show you around. Actually, if you did come up, after I could say, 'I showed myself a good time.' hahaha.
For me, the last name Parrott made for interesting classroom antics in elementary school. You know the obvious: "Polly want a cracker?" etc etc... Quite often the name Billy did too, but only in reference to the classic Tex Avery cartoon Billy Boy. You'd be surprised at how many elementary school children in the mid 1970s were aware of that cartoon. Did you endure similar harassment due to your name?
Absolutely. I would always say yes to the 'Polly want a cracker' line and follow with 'Make it salted!' which frankly, is a very unfunny come back line but I was seven so I'm giving myself a pass. My hockey jersey back in '82 had my name on the back in Velcro letters, 'cuz it was all about Velcro in the early '80s — shoes, binders, hockey jerseys... I remember classmates would laugh uproariously and rearrange the letters into Tarpott and Partrot and other combinations without all the letters.
Déjà vu. Have you ever done any research into the origins of our name?
I think it was French, back in the day.
I had an elementary school teacher who theorized that my ancestors were pirates. You know, a parrot on the shoulder.Yar. Or maybe a pirate who repeated everything he heard?
French pirates? Cool.
About 20 years ago the writer/director/artist Clive Barker said to me at an ABA convention, "Billy Parrott. Wow, that's a great name! I'm going to use it in a book." I don't think he ever did.
In any event, we probably grew up at the same time, collected the same junk, liked the same movies…
That would be funny if we somehow live in a parallel universe where we have all the same named people in it, just everyone is slightly different than their alternate person. Like, do you know a Dave?
Cue Twilight Zone music.
What were your hobbies growing up?
As a kid, I loved drawing and playing cards, board games. I collected comics, marbles, and hockey cards. I loved watching old movies on PBS whenever they were trying to raise money, which was always. What else? Sports, for sure. I was very active. Soccer and hockey, road hockey, field hockey, ice hockey. Yes, I'm Canadian.
I guess that's the stereotype. When I think of Canada I think of hockey and Rush.
I played soccer around 1st grade and enjoyed it. I played baseball in the 6th grade and was terrible. I was always obsessed with drawing and music and began spending all of my free time with pencils and power chords. I eventually got into libraries, but that’s another story.
I first became aware of you through IMDB. I thought to myself, “I know these movies! I’ve seen Lars and the Real Girl! I’ve heard of Degrassi Junior High!" At what point did you know you wanted to be an actor?
Funny, I don't know if I ever did. I was going to a school of the arts in grade five. I was a dance major.
Do 5th graders in Canada have to declare a major?!
Not normally. We had to do two minors, so I did music and art. I wasn't a drama student but I did take a mime class, and I was picked to go on Mr Dressup, a popular kids' show, with a handful of other kids to mime a story. Mr Dressup was like Mister Rogers but less creepy. That's how I started. I basically fell into it.
What was your first big break?
Not counting Mr Dressup, which was kinda given to me, the first thing I ever auditioned for was Vid Kids, probably the first kids' music video show around. We danced and sang to music. I was ten. The first acting audition after that was three years later, and that was probably my first real big break - a show called Degrassi Junior High. I played Shane McKay. Degrassi Junior High
That’s the show I get emails about! How many film and television shows have you appeared in?
I think I've done nearly 60 film and television shows. Plus loads of commercials, and countless auditions, of course.Lars and the Real GirlWhere do you live now?
I live in south Mississauga, close to Lake Ontario, bordering Toronto directly to the west. It makes up part of the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). I'm in downtown TO in 20 minutes with light traffic.
I recently moved from managing the Battery Park City branch to managing the Art and Picture Collections at the Mid-Manhattan Library. I'm married to a children's librarian and have two cats.
What are your cats' names?
Margaret, but we call her Maggie, and Juan Carlos Garcia Coltrane, but we call him Coltrane. He has a moustache.
I have a dog named Myles, a rescue from farm country outside the city. His formal name is Sir Myles Wagalot.
What does a day in the life of Billy Parrott entail?
My day is mainly real estate stuff, which is great. I love the variety. I mean, simple example, there are things I do every day (like look at houses) but no two days are ever the same ('cuz they're different houses), so it never gets stale. Writing contracts and solving problems that arise exercises the brain. A random audition here and there during the week is actually a return to normalcy for me, since I've been acting for (gulp) thirty years. What else? If it's winter, and the weekend, I coach minor hockey (10 year olds). I still play men's league hockey but the ice times can be crazy, like 6am on a Friday morning or 11pm on a Sunday night. I love food. All kinds. My current favorite is Vietnamese Pho Ga (Chicken noodle soup, but spicy and way better). I love wine.
I went to a tasting in Williamsburg recently where Kyle MacLachlan was pouring one of his own wines: 2008 Baby Bear Syrah. Very nice.
A little while ago, I had an opportunity to live in a camper van and tour Australian wine country for a month, just going from cellar door to cellar door, chatting and sipping. It was an awesome time! I love a cuppa hot English Breakfast in the morning. Coffee is good too but for me, warming up is always better with a hot hot tea.
I have coffee running through my veins. Caffeine is a hell of a drug.
What are some of your favorite films?
I've had so many favorite films over the years. As a kid, I loved The Maltese Falcon. I also loved Star Wars.
I grew up with Star Wars. I saw it seven times in the theaters throughout the summer of 1977.
Karate Kid was on the list when I was 12, Stand By Me, Lucas, most John Hughes stuff is pure classic. Gladiator comes to mind now, but ask me tomorrow, in a different mood, and I'll give you another five. The Usual Suspects for the writing. Shawshank Redemption, Zoolander, Old School, Elf... ARGHHH! Too many. Must. Stop.
What are some of your current favorite television shows?
My schedule's kinda whacky so I don't watch anything consistently right now, except maybe Mr. D, a comedy on CBC here in Canada. I'll watch The Good Wife or The Mentalist if it's on. I like the little kid on The Middle. I enjoy Game of Thrones but I still don't know who the heck everybody is.
I haven’t even started Game of Thrones. I don’t have cable so I download new episodes of shows like Mad Men and The Killing. And of course the Library has an amazing selection of DVDs.
I actually didn't have cable for a long while so I missed getting hooked to most of the current favorites which all seem to be on HBO here in Canada.
If I had your iPod/MP3 player/whatever and played songs randomly what would I likely hear?
I like quirky music. Flight of the Conchords is a favorite. I don't mind a lot of the current pop music, though it bums me out when they ruin a good song from radio overkill.
What was the first concert you attended?
The first concert I saw was in a tiny 20-person club in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a wonderful city on the east coast of Canada. I was 14. We had flown in to promote Degrassi and the publicist got us tickets to Billy Bragg because she totally loved him. We were so close, I could touch his guitar. Man, he was intense. He was playing so hard, he'd have two strings left by the end of each set. He swapped out guitars three times. Great first experience.
What are some of your favorite books?
I've always been a sci-fantasy fan. Naturally, it started with The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings as a kid. Non-fiction for me tends to lean to motivational books, Think and Grow Rich and such like that. I went through a phase in my early twenties where biographies were interesting. Sammy Davis, Steve McQueen come to mind, but it's been so long the details have faded.
Publishing books based on shows has always been a popular trend. The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer and the autobiography of Dale Cooper come to mind. There was also a series of X-Files books that sent Mulder and Scully on new cases. Were there any Degrassi books?
Yes, indeed, there were a series of books written about the Degrassi characters. The "Shane" book chronicles his adventures between grades on summer vacation. The book series, I think there were six in total, worked well at the time as it encouraged kids who were die-hard fans of the TV show to get into reading. Local libraries would host Degrassi sessions, teachers would play episodes and then discuss the topics and issues raised with the students (teen pregnancy, drugs, abuse, etc). The books were independent of the show, but allowed the kids to follow the characters through the more personal journey of reading the related book. Quite a complimentary one-two punch, and yet totally different sensory experiences for them.
What are your earliest memories of books?
All my earliest memories of books revolve around my grandfather. He introduced me to books on magic and card tricks, chess and checkers and backgammon; a lot of them were way old, out of print and bought at yard sales for a quarter. He really instilled a fascination with learning, a love of books and it stuck with me. About four years ago my grandfather passed away and it was my task to go in and sort through all his books. He must've had 5000 of them, no joke, on any category you can imagine. It took a long time to go through them, as you could imagine. We separated the ones we wanted to keep, and then looked to donate the rest to a charity. The unfortunate part was that no one, NO ONE wanted to take the remaining books. Totally readable, just slightly dated. I asked the two book specialists that we had come in to evaluate his collection why this was. They simply said no one reads old books anymore. Everything is online or current.
I hear you. Libraries deal with the issues of print and digital content every single day. Technology provides an ease of access to a virtually unlimited amount of information, but there will always be a place for the printed word. There is a convenience to eBooks but there is something about holding an actual book. Libraries will always be a place where people can find both.
I try very much to stay connected to the analog world. I write notes with a pen on paper. I have a self-winding mechanical watch. I have a Polaroid camera, but it’s getting harder and harder to find film. I have a stack of LPs and records, but I no longer have a record player. My phone has about 7000 songs on it. I use it to take pictures. I sometimes find it hard to remember how I got along without it.
My grandfather used to keep his books hidden in a box under lock and key, they were so precious to him. That's all he had. Now, as much as we've made such incredible technological progress, there are so many other options for us to fill our time with, I wonder if we are becoming disconnected from the tangible in this rush to embrace the virtual. To this day, I love the smell of old books. It still brings back great memories of him and growing up.
That is a perfect conclusion: old books and great memories.
It was nice to finally hear about the other Billy Parrott! I'll have to keep up with you on Facebook and Twitter. I’ll get the first round if you ever find yourself in New York City.
I might have to take you up on that. Pleasure chatting with you.