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Events [ 1981 ] June

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On June 19, 1981 Celine Dion took part for the very first time in her career on a TV show. She appeared at the "Michel Jasmin Show", hosted by Michel Jasmin and aired on Télé-Métropole channel in Quebec, Canada. Celine´s manager Rene Angelil arrived very early with Celine and her mother. He introduced them to Jasmin himself, Rene-Pierre Beaudry, Pierre Sainte-Marie, the director, the floor manager, the cameramen, the make-up girl, the hair stylist and so forth. Celine was terribly nervous. During rehearsals, she couldn´t bring herself to look at the wide, cold eye of the camera that stared at her mercilessly. "You´ve got to dive right in", Rene told her. "Don´t look at the monitor. Look at the camera. Act like your mother´s watching you through it, she´s on the other side of it. She´s listening to you, and she loves you". Celine felt like he was asking her to jump off a cliff. She was afraid of forgetting the words to the song, and afraid her voice would break. For good luck, she wanted to knock on wood, but there wasn´t any in the studio. She spotted a briar pipe in an ashtray, and she touched that. But once she started singing, her nervousness disappeared. She looked straight into the camera, knowing that through it, at least one million people were watching and listening to her. And they liked what they heard. For a fleeting, marvelous moment, she was completely happy. Several times, she let her eyes come to rest on the studio audience. In the dark hall, she saw her mother, father, brothers and sisters, who were watching her adoringly. She felt as if they were singing along with her. She finished with a broad smile. The floor manager gave the audience the "applause" signal. But on her way to the armchair and the little table where Michel Jasmin awaited her, her stage fright returned. She knew how to sing. But when it came to answering questions from a professional interviewer - that was another kettle of fish. She didn´t know what to say. Her shyness made her sound brusque and arrogant. Jasmin innocently asked her if she´d ever taken singing lessons; she answered no. "Would you like to do that?" he asked. She looked at him in astonishment, as if to say that she didn't need any. She said, "No", and shrugged her shoulders. Then she said she was from suburban Repentigny, and not the country town of Charlemagne, a place no one knew. Angelil was watching the show from the control room, and his first thought was that people in Charlemagne who knew the Dions wouldn´t be happy. Fortunately, Michel Jasmin helped set the record straight. After the recording, the entire Dion family crammed into the living room of their house to watch the show. Celine was still nervous. She hated looking at herself. She didn´t like her face: her teeth stuck out too far, her eyebrows were too thick, her nose was too big. She hated her accent and the sound of her voice when she answered Michel Jasmins questions. On that same show, fate had assembled a wide variety of guests. There was Fernand Gignac (the owner of the briar pipe), singer Bruce Huard, who´d starred for the defunct group the Sultans and had given it up when he discovered God, and there was also Rodger Brulotte, public relations director for the Montreal Expos baseball team. After Celine had sung, Brulotte told Angelil how wonderful he thought she was. Thinking fast, Angelil asked him whether he thought Celine could sing the national anthem at an upcoming Montreal Expos game. In reference about this first TV appearance, Celine has said "My mother made me a pink dress that was cinched at the waist, with puffed sleeves. Three days, or rather, three nights of work. My sister found silk stockings the same color pink, but no matter how hard we looked, even in the big department stores on the rue Sainte-Catherine, we were never able to find matching shoes. Finally, Maman took an old pair of sandals and dyed them pink. Manon did my hair and makeup, which she´d done a hundred times before, just for fun. My mother, Rene, and I got to the studio at least two hours before the show was taped. Jasmin introduced me to the audience, I was stand¬ing in the shadows, shaking. Rene was behind me, his head very close to mine. And he said: "Go ahead, show them you´re the best". It was like diving into empty space. I couldn´t see anything. I walked onstage as if everything were about to collapse around me. But as usual, as soon as I started to sing, my stage fright disappeared. I felt really good. I  stared right at the camera, aware that, through it, at least a million people were watching and listening to me. From time to time, I looked at the audience filling the studio. In the shadows I could see my father, my mother, my brothers with their wives, my sisters with their husbands, all watching me, loving me. And at times, I felt as if they were all singing in chorus with me. As soon as the song ended, my fear returned fast and furious. Singing I knew. It was as natural as breathing. But answering the questions of a TV host, that was another challenge. Suddenly I realized I had nothing to talk about other than my love of singing. And that I wanted to do it all my life. Nothing else. It seemed a little too short to me. Jasmin mentioned my age, thirteen, and said my mother and brother had written the song I´d sung. He congratulated me warmly, complimenting me on my voice and politely asking if I planned to take singing lessons. I appeared astonished by the question and answered it rather abruptly, as if it were obvious that I didn´t need any lessons. I don´t know why I answered like that" (from an extract of the book "My Story, My Dream"). For Rene Angelil, this television appearance launched Celine´s career, even though it hadn´t gone very well. Celine had sung well - that much was true - and she´d demonstrated that she had an extraordinary voice. But in the charm and openness department, she had a long way to go.
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