Having Fun with Frank Westcott
In May 2010, inside the cavernous studio where the CBC's hit show Dragon's Den is taped, Access Copyright affiliate Frank Westcott was waiting.
CBC executives were scrutinizing the set as the show producer assigned to Westcott was explaining what he was going to pitch to the show's five investors: Jim Treliving, Arlene Dickinson, Kevin O'Leary, W. Brett Wilson and Robert Herjavec.
Westcott was going to seek $25,000 for a 33% share in fourteen years worth of unpublished manuscripts and songs that were situated on a bar stool. One of those songs was "The Butt Song." It's what made him stand out at his audition that April and had the CBC calling him to tape a segment for the show. He turned them down three times before saying yes.
The executives wanted to hear "The Butt Song" for themselves. True to form, Westcott - acoustic guitar in hand -- started to sing.
I look in my mirror / It's too much for one guy / And what do I see / My butt, my butt, looking at me / Big butt, little butt, wiggily butt, and jiggily butt
For his pitch to the dragons, he sang the song-including a special verse dedicated to the CBC-and another which chronicled a love affair between a cat and a dog. The dragons quickly grilled him about his work and why he needed "dragon dollars." He confessed the work was unpublished and he needed the money to get it polished into a manuscript to send out to publishers.
The "I'm Out"'s came in quick succession. Westcott left empty-handed.
Westcott's appearance aired during the fifth season of Dragon's Den on January 19.
On TV, Westcott seemed to be having a Willy Loman moment: a last, desperate pitch to sell years of work. The reality is far more suited to the let's-have-some-fun mentality that Westcott brings to his work as a writer, poet, singer and entertainer.
"I watched the show since its inception and I really enjoyed it," explains Westcott, who lives in Loretto, Ontario. "I got on their email feed and got an email announcing auditions. I checked the dates and there was one in Toronto and I was free. I thought I'd go down and just have fun at the CBC."
"I knew the girls from my audition enjoyed one particular song, "The Butt Song," and when they called, that's what they wanted."
"I really didn't have a product," Westcott explains. "When I went to the audition, they asked how much money do you want. I just said, 'oh, a dollar,' and they said 'you can't do that'. So we talked about it and said 'oh well, what the hell, what about $25,000'. I was truly doing it for fun. I just wanted to see what it was like."
On the episode where Westcott appears, it seems as if the dragons can't wait for him to leave. What actually happened was far different in an online clip posted by the CBC.
"The dragons truly enjoyed what I was doing. You can just see it in their faces," said Westcott. "In fact, when I was leaving, as [show host] Dianne Buckner was doing a post-shoot interview, she said, 'Frank, you charmed them'."
Westcott loves to charm through his work. He regularly performs and sings, in addition to being a writer and a poet.
"I like being on stage," said Westcott. "There's many out there who don't and others who do. I do. It's just the way I'm built. It's the performer part of me."
Recently, Westcott was honoured as the first place co-winner of the Exile/Gloria Vanderbilt Short Fiction Award for his story The Poet.
The award has deep meaning for Westcott. It is sponsored by socialite Gloria Vanderbilt and the award finalists were published in an anthology by Exile Publishing.
"I was in grade four when I knew that I wanted to be a writer," explains Westcott. "My teacher used to read to us and I really loved that. I'm not sure if he read this out loud, he may have, but it was a story by Morley Callaghan, Luke Baldwin's Vow, about a collie dog. I remember when I was experiencing the story that I was in awe that a human being could create such wonder. I knew then that part of what I wanted to become was a writer. Leap forward to today to the Exile/Gloria Vanderbilt Award that I was co-first winner of. The ceremony was in conjunction with Exile Publishing which is owned by Barry Callaghan and the publisher is Michael Callaghan."
"Michael is Morley's grandson and Barry is Morley's son so talk about a neat kind of connection. It's just heartwarming in a way."
"The impetus for the award is Gloria Vanderbilt's son Carter Vanderbilt Cooper who committed suicide back in 1988. He was a young writer, he loved publishing, that whole scene. The impetus for her establishing this award was in memory of her son."
Westcott concludes: "It's the biggest honour that I have ever experienced and I feel a deep duty to carry it with integrity for the rest of my days."