Liona's Life Experiences

Liona sitting with a choir of children at the Toronto French School who sang three French folksongs used on her "The Return...to Canada with Love" album.

Liona sitting with a choir of children at the Toronto French School who sang three French folksongs used on her "The Return...to Canada with Love" album.

Random experiences …exciting, dangerous, sublime, scary, embarrassing, weird and wonderful that I have been fortunate to have had during my lifetime…so far!

Having the attention of all the leaders of the Western world when I performed at the G7 conference in 1981.  Sitting for half an hour at the dinner table between Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and President Ronald Reagan, across from Margaret Thatcher, andholding hands under the table with Pierre. 

Being conducted by John Williams (of Star Wars fame) playing the Albinoni Adagio and Vivaldi with the Boston Pops Orchestra. 

Being smuggled into the LA Courthouse to play a private concert for the sequestered O.J. Simpson jury and getting a standing ovation. 

Skinny dipping and canoeing with my boyfriend of eight years, Pierre Trudeau, at his country estate at Harrington Lake, Quebec. Sneaking past the press in a dark wig in order to meet up with Pierre without being recognized, and being smuggled out of Sussex Drive one morning under a pile of coats. 

Playing classical guitar at a glitzy party in Monte Carlo at 4 a.m. aboard Adnan Khashoggi’s luxury yacht, Nabila, that had just been christened that day. 

Several years later, being given the use of Nabila in Capri with my friend, renowned Canadian architect Arthur Erikson.

Surviving a hurricane in the Atlantic aboard an old Greek ocean liner, the S.S. Columbia when I was eight. 

Sleeping in Mick Jagger’s bed with my fiancée at the time, Joel, on the island of Mustique and jumping up and down on his huge trampoline. 

Skimming across the ocean at 5a.m. with the legendary Comandante Zero (the head of the Salvadorean “Sandinistas” who I had met in the first class airport lounge in Dallas, Texas) in a small Costa Rican fishing boat and later idling as hundreds of dolphins played around us. Spending the night in his rustic beach house. 

The day after playing a guitar concert in Kathmandu,Nepal, stalking on hands and knees with my mother in the middle of the night through the jungles in order to see a “tiger kill”, and riding elephants at Tiger Tops National Park. 

Performing in Windsor Castle for the Queen, Prince Philip, Queen Mother and many of their friends, playing with the Queen’s corgis. Having toast, marmalade and tea next morning with Prince Philip while the Queen’s bagpipes played outside. 

Being flown on a private jet from Manchester to London with Prince Philip at the controls, and sitting on the Her Majesty’s cushiony “loo”! 

Being taken by my Boeing engineer friend and guitar fan into Air Force One, the president’s private jet in Seattle and sitting in the pilot’s seat until a security guard seized my camera. 

Getting lost in the twists and turns of the Istanbul Bazaar in Turkey and unexpectedly coming face to face with my parents. 

Enjoying the happiest day of my life, a 1992 lavish Beverly Hills style wedding to John B. Simon at the Regent Beverly Hills Hotel and playing classical guitar in my wedding dress for the over 200 guests. 

Spending 2 hours speaking Spanish with Fidel Castro telling me stories on one steamy night in Havana. 

Canoeing for 2 weeks up the Missinaibi River and playing a guitar concert for the Cree natives in Moose Factory, James Bay. 

Staying in a delightful thatched roof cottage in Watership Down, the home of my friends singer/harpist and ex –nun Mary O’Hara and ex-priest Padraig O’Toole. 

Recording the music to the film “A Walk in the Clouds” with one of my film composer idols Maurice Jarre (Lawrence of Arabia/Doctor Zhivago) conducting me. 

Almost having a mid-air collision over Hong Kong after the CP Air pilots had invited me to join them in the cockpit as we left Bangkok. 

Helping David Gilmour (of Pink Floyd) learn my guitar piece “Persona” at his country estate in England, with producer Michael Kamen. 

Recording with Roger Whittaker singing my “Christmas Dreams” song in Reno, Nevada. 

Being searched and having our VW bus torn apart by the border guards in Laredo Texas, after living a year in Mexico. 

Hiking in the woods on Salt Spring Island with my dear friends the renowned artist Robert Bateman and his vivacious photographer wife Birgit. 

Riding a horse with my sister to the gathering of pilgrims by the river outside of San Miguel De Allende and staying up all night on Noche Buena and listening to drunken Mariachi bands. 

Recording an LP with Country Music legend, guitarist Chet Atkins at his home in Nashville. 

Skin diving through the coral reefs of Cozumel surrounded by brightly coloured parrot fish. 

Having Julio Iglesias sing his entire sound check for me alone in a Miami Beach hotel. 

Running down 30 flights in a Tokyo hotel during a night time earthquake. 

Sitting in the darkened studio with Robert Redford, a guitar fan, feeling the callouses on my fingertips and waxing poetic about music as the sound track to “Quiz Show” was being scored. 

Making a music video in the garden with my precious shaded silver American shorthair cat, Muffin. 

Walking along the Great Wall of China carrying my classical guitar with my mother, Eileen. 

Surviving a cyclone off the coast of New Zealand aboard the Seaborne Pride. 

Swimming in the beautiful warm waters off the Turkish islands. 

Climbing down into the subterranean passages in the city of Guanajuato and seeing the famous mummies long before they were all encased in glass, gathering teeth from the floor. 

Playing in the Cairo Opera House, Egypt, and being hailed as “The new Segovia.” 

Giving a guitar concert in the world’s most southerly concert hall in Invercargill, New Zealand. 

Playing guitar in India along with amazing Sitar and Tabla players. 

Dining in Palm Beach’s romantic Brazilian Court with Lord Conrad Black, known for his immense vocabulary and acerbic wit, as he recounted his trials and tribulations at the hands of the U.S. prison system.

Playing at the opening of Deepak Chopra’s Wellness Center in California and disco dancing with him and Demi Moore. 

Listening to a private concert of steel bands playing classical music for me and my mother one late night in Port of Spain, Trinidad. 

Disco dancing with Rod Stewart, who was wearing a kilt, at a Malibu Xmas party at the home of billionaire John Paul Jones DeJoria. 

Exchanging many personal letters for over thirty years with Prince Philip, and corresponding with Dudley Moore and writer Isabel Allende.

Being invited to have a private afternoon tea with Prince Philip at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel in 2013.

Having dinner along with about 50 WPO members at the home of Madame Anwar Sadat in Cairo. 

Sitting four seats away from Michael Jackson at the TJ Martel Foundation dinner in NY. 

Hanging out one afternoon with Neil Diamond the day after his Toronto concert. 

Spending an evening discussing life and music with singer/songwriter Tom Chapin. 

Being given private classical guitar lessons by Maestro Andres Segovia, Alexandre Lagoya, Narcisco Yepes and Alirio Diaz.

Playing huge arenas all over North America as “opening act” for Gordon Lightfoot and having him sleep one night in my bed in Texas when our hotel had a blackout….but we never touched! 

Smuggling rubies and emeralds out of Burma to help a tour guide friend. 

Playing in the Kremlin on New Years eve, the very evening that the Soviet Union officially broke up, and watching the most spectacular fireworks I have ever seen. 

Climbing down to the bottom of Bryce Canyon in Arizona and hiking to the top of Beehive Mountain in Maine. 

Being hired to perform at Charlton Heston’s wedding anniversary in Los Angeles as he was a fan of my music.

Exploring the cavernous salt mine city below the city of Krakov, Poland. 

Eating spicy stir frys at midnight in the winding back streets of Singapore and drinking Singapore Slings in Raffles Hotel where Somerset Maugham wrote his famous stories. 

Taking a midnight rickshaw ride with my mother around Calcutta’s red light district, and floating along the Ganges in a wooden boat, being taken to a polo match in New Delhi by the Maharaja of Udaipur. 

Filming my music videos in San Miguel de Allende, Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Acapulco,Venice, Madrid, Costa Rica, Great Captain’s Island, Connecticut and Toronto.

Going though the Panama Canal at night, exploring Devil’s Island, cruising along the Amazon and flying over Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, on a Canadian military plane. 

Busking in Nice as a student and then taking the Orient Express to Paris. 

Getting a private tour of the infamous Belleview Hospital in downtown Kingston, Jamaica while searching for a long lost friend from Acapulco, Mexico. 

Having a private tour of Miguelito Malos’s collection of pre-Colombian art before he destroyed his entire collection and committed suicide. 

Living alone for 2 months in a French Chateau…Le Chateau de Montgermont that belonged to the Dubonnet family. 

Getting an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from the University of Toronto, my Alma Mater and giving the convocation speech. 

Shooting military rifles at Camp Borden, Ontario.

Having a choir of delightful Cuban children sing me “Guantanamera” on the grass outside the National Theatre in Havana. 

Playing at the hospice of Mother Teresa in Calcutta and later under a full moon in the courtyard for all the Sisters of Charity. 

Sneaking with my boyfriend onto the roof of the Bellas Artes in San Miguel de Allende during Siesta Hour and spying on the cloistered Carmelite nuns. 

Being lowered by my father into a steep crevasse in the Hockley Valley to retrieve skulls and bones of animals that had perished there. 

Dancing till dawn with Billy Guinness and the Portanovas in the disco at their fantasy house Arabesque in Las Brisas, Acapulco, Mexico. 

Sharing a concert with Peter Ustinov who gave me silent giggles as he made crazy animal sounds from the wings while I was playing. 

Teaching piano and Spanish to a 10 year old girl in Paris to pay for my “chambre de bonne” on the eighth floor on Avenue Velasquez in the Parc Monceau. 

Dancing with Anthony Edwards who played Sebastian in “Brideshead Revisited” after he came to my UCLA Royce Hall concert. 

Getting to know actor Michael York and posing nude for his wife Patricia’s book, and insisting she destroy the negatives. 

Performing ten sold out shows in Germany with Tracy Chapman the week the Berlin Wall came down. 

Helping to raise millions of dollars for various charities over the years e.g. performing at the Kennedy Center for The American Cancer Society. 

Sitting with producer Mike Nichols and chatting with Henry Kissinger aboard the Air France Concorde flying at Mach 11. 

Landing in a blizzard in Nuuk, Greenland, in a Canadian military jet. Barely making it to the concert stage! 

Getting tossed around in a violent thunderstorm over San Jose and having the Cessna pilot start praying for God to save us. 

Losing an engine on the Concorde in mid Atlantic and having an emergency landing in New York. 

Having dinner in L.A. at the home of astronaut Buzz Aldrin who has walked on the moon. Having coffee with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield who sang on my song, “ Canada My Canada”.

Chatting with great actor Jeremy Irons at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and having him keep telling me how much he loved my hairstyle…ha ha. 

Sitting waiting for a plane in Heathrow Airport with Maggie Smith who said people kept thinking she was Vanessa Redgrave. 

Taking trains through the Rocky Mountains between Smithers and Terrace on a concert tour after a picturesque fresh snowfall. 

Camping with my parents and siblings beside a river in beautiful Zion Canyon, Utah. 

Staying in Morro Bay, California, at the home of fitness guru Jack Lalanne and his wife Elaine.

Being flown over the Gulf Islands by Tony Only and landing with lots of bumps in a field in his old Polish plane that eventually caused his death. 

Hanging out with famous Haida carver Bill Reid while he carved his massive sculpture for the Vancouver Airport in a studio in False Creek. 

Twice having tea at a Beverly Hills hotel with Leonard Cohen discussing music, poetry and Garcia Lorca. 

Learning to Skeet shoot at the rural estate of Power Corporation’s CEO Paul Desmarais in Quebec and sitting around a campfire watching the workers sing folksongs accompanied by spoons played on their knees. 

Meeting the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda in Paris a year before he died and having him draw me a flower in my book of his poetry. 

Walking around Pablo Neruda’s house in Isla Negra, on the Chilean coast. 

Playing on Garcia Lorca’s Spanish guitar in his house in Granada at the invitation of his grand niece.

Visiting Frederic Chopin's house on the island of Mallorca. Seeing the homes of Albinoni while filming a music video of his famous “Adagio” in Venice. 

Collecting shells on the beaches of Broadstairs and Wells-By-The-Sea in England and exploring caves with my parents and sister Vivien in Bilbao, in northern Spain. 

Camping in Arkansas amongst trees dripping with Spanish moss and escaping from some very dubious men. 

Avoiding being raped in a locked room in Paris by fabricating a story and then clinging onto a French policeman until the would-be assailant fled. 

Walking along the beaches of Malibu and Jupiter with my dear friend Olivia Newton-John and her various dogs. 

Eating kippers on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, with my girlfriend Dale. 

Staying in a lovely villa on the Greek island of Hydra and riding donkeys up the mountain to reach an ancient monastery

Doing a spiritual retreat in the Berkshires with New Age guru Andrew Cohen and in Orlando, Florida, giving a foot massage to one of my favourite Gurus, Dr.Wayne Dyer. 

Meeting Woody Allen at a James Bond premiere in New York. 

Being taken out to Michaels restaurant in Santa Monica by Dudley Moore who picked me up in his Rolls Royce and talked to me for hours about music. 

Chatting with Saudi Prince Bandar at the lavish apartment of Adnan Khassogi in New York and having him try to fix the sound system so he could play my LP. 

Eating “tangine” with our hands while sitting on the carpeted floor in the home of one of the Bluemen in the desert of Morocco. 

Hiding in Roger Moore’s car during the filming of “Moonraker” at the Chateau de Vaux Le Vicomte and later Roger driving me through the French countryside in his Rolls Royce with “Concierto de Aranjuez” playing full blast. 

Walking through the Palace of Aranjuez, Spain where the bells play Rodrigo’s “Adagio” and exploring the exquisite Moorish style Alhambra in Granada. 

Shooting my “Best Of” album cover with renowned photographer Robert Vavra in the fields of Andalucia, Spain, with a herd of wild horses who came to listen to me play guitar, but made my heart pound. 

Getting a private tour of the battlements of Malta by one of the Knights of Malta. 

Spending an idyllic week in Boqueron, Puerto Rico, with the local fishermen after escaping from a classical guitar festival in San Juan. 

Recording the waves on a beautiful romantic beach in the British Virgin Islands to use as sound effects for my “Seven Journeys” CD. 

Wandering around Buenos Aires with my husband at the time, Jack Simon, and taking a tango lesson at midnight. 

Walking in the fog around Grand Bank, Newfoundland, and eating lobster in the tiny French fishing communities of San Pierre and Miquelon. 

Watching penguins nesting in the rocks in Ushuaia in Patagonia at the southern tip of Argentina. 

Playing at the Istanbul Music Festival in 100 degree temperature onstage and being whisked around the city by my guide, Typhoon. 

Chatting to Dustin Hoffman and Richard Harris at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. 

Seeing Richard Burton perform Hamlet at the O’Keefe Centre in Toronto when I was a teenager. 

Watching Margot Fonteyn and my ballet idol Rudolph Nureyev on stage and then being invited into his dressing room, and years later having dinner with him and friends Bill and Monica Stevens. 

Meeting Manos Hadjidakis the renowned composer of “Never on Sunday” at his house in Athens. 

Being photographed and sleeping in the house of famed photographer Roloff Beny in Rome. 

Evacuating our Malibu house in the middle of the night during a terrible wildfire. 

Winning the Canadian National Music competition in Trois-Rivieres , Quebec, winning five Juno Awards and five Guitar Player magazine Polls. 

Dancing the role of The Queen of Hearts in my ballet school’s production of “La Boutique Fantasque”. 

Representing Canada in Thessaloniki, Greece, at the Cultural Capitol of Europe festival and playing aboard an icebreaker at “Canada Week”, in Bemuda. 

Having my concert hall catch on fire in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

Being fed far too many sherries with Jose Ramirez and family after buying his prize guitar in Madrid. 

Having the NHK TV station whisk me around Tokyo filming a TV special, and watching instrument makers of shamisens…and to my horror learning they used the skins of dogs and cats. Playing with the Tokyo Philharmonic. 

Walking around the fortifications of Dubrovnik with Srdjan Givoje and having a thunderstorm encounter with Djelo Jusic, Croatia’s most revered classical composer. 

Spending 13 hours locked in the dressing room with Dynasty star Linda Evans in Glasgow, Scotland, and sharing the stage with Sir Andrew Davis for a Royal Command Performance. 

Starting to play “Oh Canada” on Catherine the Great’s piano in the Kremlin and lying on her bed when the guards weren't looking. 

Riding in a Troika over the snow in Moscow and being taken on a horse drawn carriage ride through the snowy woods in Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada. 

Being thrown out of a choir when I was 8 years old and being told I couldn’t sing. 

Riding a camel across the sand dunes in Morocco and then another camel across the silent desert to the pyramids one night in Giza, Egypt. 

Taking a riverboat up the Nile to Aswan and listening to a choir of Nubian children. 

Giving a private concert for the King and Queen of Spain, playing on my new Yamaha guitar and hoping they would not ask the name of the luthier! 

Receiving a fan letter from President Jimmy Carter and taking photos with President Ronald Reagan. 

Playing at “Jamfest” then spending an afternoon at the beach with Pierre Trudeau and his three boys in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. 

Seeing Mount Everest high up in the Himalayas after giving a concert in Nepal. 

Being rescued by a family of Hutterites during a violent thunderstorm in Alberta. 

Meeting the world renowned plastic surgeon Ivo Pitanguy one late night after my concert in Rio de Janeiro after he had sewn back the foot of the Canadian consul, John Bell, after a propeller accident. 

Being conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, and recording with the English Chamber Orchestra while making my “Baroque Favorites” album in London. 

Watching a polo match (complete with elephants dressed in gold finery) in the Royal box as guest of HRH the Maharana of Udaipur in New Delhi, India. 

Sipping hot drinks in one noisy, canon-smoke filled evening with the legendary composer Henri Mancini and his wife Ginny as they re-enacted for the World President’s Organization, the noisy Battle of Waterloo in a field in Belgium, and later listening to a classical concert in their beautiful Bel Air home.

Crashing to the cement floor in my Palm Beach Florida garage, breaking my shoulder and knee and spending a month in hospital, after being airlifted in a Lear Jet back to Toronto.