Still going strong though stage opportunities are few for seniors
Geraldine Doucet never thought she’d live long enough to be an octogenarian. Her mother, father and younger brother all died prematurely and she is now the oldest living member of the Pisacano family.
She was on stage in all her glory last month at the Decarie Square Dollar Cinema, singing and dancing at her 80th birthday bash.
“Trust me,” she says. “Life begins at 80.”
Among older Montrealers, Doucet has been a fixture for nearly five decades. Appearing in numerous stage musicals and local television productions, she has belted out broadway tunes and danced her way into thousands of hearts. Although Geraldine got her start in showbiz during the 1950s, her career didn’t really take off until her husband, Roger Doucet who sang O Canada during Canadiens games at the Forum, died in 1981.
After her husband’s death from brain cancer, Doucet, who had put aside work as an entertainer to pursue a career in business, rediscovered her talent. “That’s when it opened up,” she says. She had met Roger in New York City, where they both attended the New York College of Music. While her career had always been secondary to his, she says her big break came “when he left me. I would rather have had him, but that’s the way God meant it to be.”
Geraldine was born in New York City’s Chelsea neighbourhood. “My mother had a wholesale/retail fish business there, and my father was a gambler,” she says. “He went to the track, he was a bookie and a good time charlie.” She became interested in showbiz because of her involvement in activities at the local church. “I was always in all the church plays, in the church choir.”
Doucet is best known for a series of stage musicals such as Nunsense, which played in Montreal at the now defunct La Diligence supper club on Décarie across from Blue Bonnets, and her participation in CTV Montreal’s long-running annual fundraiser for sick children, the Telethon of Stars. She appeared in a run of shows at the Centaur Theatre and the Saidye Bronfman Centre.
She also had success with her half-hour show, Geraldine, which ran for 39 weeks on CBC-Montreal.
Since 1999, Geraldine has been a “snowbird” who spends her winters in Florida. “From a health point of view, I think it was a really good move. From a career point of view it was a disaster,” she says. “Everything happens here. This is where the movies are made and you can’t fly back for an audition. The flight is $500 and then you don’t get the part.”
This year, she had a leading role in a short dramatic film called The Perfect Vacuum. The six-minute movie, produced with the assistance of a grant from a CTV Television foundation to promote Canadian talent, also stars Quebec vocalist Natalie Choquette.
“A lot of my scenes involve vacuum cleaning,” Geraldine says about the movie, which tells the story of a singer (Choquette) who decides not to perform again until there is world peace. “We dance with her while we help clean.”
Since 1994, Geraldine has been married to Ben Linds. In her spare time, she paints colourful canvases, many of which are displayed in their home in Côte St. Luc.
Geraldine’s new venture involves giving talks to seniors about their aspirations and how they could be achieved beyond the age of 80. Next summer she will start making the rounds of senior residences with this project.