Proust Q 5.0 January 2010: Meet Harry Klein

January 11, 2010
Harry Klein courtesy of thekleinshine.com

Harry Klein courtesy of thekleinshine.com

I mostly know Harry, this month’s subject in the Proust Questionnaire 5.0 (What’s this? There’s a  note at the end, but don’t rush off just yet.), as the husband of my friend Suzanne. She described him as, among many other things, a guy whose business was shining people’s shoes, here in Montreal and anywhere else — conventions, trade shows and the like. That intrigued me. What a classic kind of job. I was curious. I met Harry briefly a couple of times, but got the best glimpse when I attended a weekend matinee play with Harry and Suzanne here in Montreal, access to which required we wade through a street festival. I can honestly say I have never met a more joyful, curious and engaging person. I have yet to see Harry in action, but from what I’ve seen, he shines shoes in part at least because to get close enough to strangers simply to make them feel good. Not a bad vice.

Before you check out his answers, click here to view a video at Urbania.ca that Gabriel Allard-Gagnon and Guillaume Monette made after spending the day with “le meilleur cireur du monde” (the best shoe shiner in the world).

Since we are conducting this interview via email, the world is ours for the inventing. If, as I some day hope, money is no object, in what city and establishment would you like this interview to be taking place? An outdoor cafe on Rodeo Drive.

Who and what would you be wearing? I would be wearing a dark (probably black) two-piece Giorgio Armani suit with a three-button jacket, a Hugo Boss Emil White shirt worn outside of my pants. Along with a black pair of Allen Edmond or Hugo Boss dark blue leather laced shoes, while sporting an English-fashion multicoloured plaid cap. A pair of mid-calf Marcoliani Pima Cotton Elba fancy stripe dress socks, either light yellow or Atlantis blue.

And, most importantly, what would we be drinking? I would be drinking a Virgin Mary on ice. I am afraid I can not decide what you would be drinking. However, I can tell you with certainty that the drinks would be on me.

Okay then. What are the qualities you most admire in others? Perseverance, innovativeness, determination, creativity, originality, courage, honesty, passion, and patience.

What do you like most about yourself? I am kind and caring and I perservere.

Least? I am too sensitive, too insecure, too short-tempered, too temperamental, too hard on myself, too often broke!

What is your greatest achievement? Founder of The Harry Klein Shoe Shine company.

What is your present state of mind? Frustrated, Elated, Aggravated, Berated, Outdated. It’s not easy being me.

Where and when are you happiest?

  1. When I am on contract SHINING at a corporate or private event / cocktail party. Making guests laugh and feel good and look good.
  2. When our adorable cat Sunny is cuddled into the crook of my neck while his big brother Freddie is curled up against me in a contorted position, half rabbit, half kitten, and their wonderful sounds of blissfulness massage my heart.
  3. When I am at my PC being serenaded by Joe Dasin’s L’ete Indien or Dan Bigras and Eric Lapointe’s song Un Homme ca pleure aussi, or by Santana’s Samba_Pa_Ti or Pelchat’s Je ne t’aime plus. Music, Music, Music, carrying me away.

What is your first memory? Sorry, I have been trying for 59 years to forget it!

What, currently, do you most love doing? Working on innovative ways to sell my fresh new entertainment/marketing concept and also the art-deco chrome KleinShine Shoe Shine Chairs, I design, build and sell.

What was your worst job? Shining shoes in a men’s hair salon at the ripe age of 53. I had not experienced that much abuse since I do not remember when.

Your favourite colour? I love the colour of a bright orangy sunrise but I don’t think I would wear a pair of pants in that colour. I love the colour of Cognac shoes but I would not wear them myself. I love bright colours. It all depends upon my mood, how the planets are lined up on any given day.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? NIRVANA , of course.

Of misery? A life with no communication, no love, no books, no music, no laughter, no sunrise, no sunshine, no affection, no rewards, no dreams, no passion, no children, no hope, no peace.

If not yourself, who or what would you be? I would be a philanthropist. Restoring hope in the hearts of the helpless

Where would you like to live? Wherever there is a bay view window where I could watch the soft fat snow flakes falling, or the blowing blizzard storm wrapping it’s grip around everything in its sight, or watching a deer grazing peacefully in my garden, or watching the waves crashing against the rocks, or watching lovers walking along hand in hand.

What is your favourite journey? I can’t really say that one was better or more memorable than another. They were all special in their on way.

What is your favourite or most memorable meal and when is the last time you indulged? My most memorable meal was enjoyed in 1985 in Trattoria Trestevere Restaurant. That was my very first date with my then girlfriend Suzanne, who is today, my wife and wonderful friend of 25 years.

Name the person who influenced you most and how. … Name the film/song/book/art that influenced you most and why? I am afraid I am not, nor have I ever been, influenced by anyone. Sadly enough, I dance to the beat of my own drum.

In this or any time, which real-life figure(s) do you most admire? Oscar Schindler

Who is your favourite fictional hero? Davy Crockett, King of The Wild Frontier.

What fault can you most easily forgive? Forgetfulness.

What fault can you not forgive? Lying.

What is your motto? We SHINE in More Ways Than One ®

How would you hope to die? Of course I would like to die quietly in my sleep. But not before writing my own eulogy where I would thank all my dear friends and family for their continued support and encouragement throughout my life. Hence, for helping to make my life exciting, loving and happy.

Any last words? It was fun. Thanks for including me.

You can find Harry Klein at his stand, at 1250 Rene Levesque Blvd W., in the lobby of the building formerly known as The IBM Tower, across from The Sheraton. If you’re not in Montreal, you can find him on his website, and on Twitter.


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