Organic Performer

Calvin Smith performs in Cats in San Francisco, summer 2012.

Organic Performer

By Kyle Hanson McKee

When entering Sundance Natural Foods, it is unlikely that cashier Calvin Smith would reveal his involvement with royalty, global performances, and prestigious academia upon first impression.

Smith, 51-year-old from Washington, Ga. has been working at Sundance Natural Foods in Eugene, Oregon for two years, but his life accomplishments and future plans reveal an astounding career in artistry, singing, acting, and design.

To briefly epitomize his success in one event, on Thanksgiving Day ten years ago during a ceremony at Cambridge University, Prince Philip was so moved by the eloquent baritone voice of Smith singing the United States national anthem that he leaped to his feet upon the start of the song.  The entire crowd rushed to their feet in response. A standing ovation began before the song was even over.  Smith considers this moment as the most meaningful of his entire life. His voice emotionally affected a future king to the point of physical response, proving his voice to be influential and passionate.  His experience at Cambridge, where he received a Masters of Philosophy in Art History and Architecture, is only one part of his many accomplishments.

The residents of Amazon absorb Smith’s inviting beacon of warm and familiar energy as he greets them while entering the neighborhood staple of Sundance. He remembers and converses with all who shop there, making individuals feel extraordinary. Smith’s flamboyant spirit, friendly demeanor, and genuine interest towards costumers and coworkers allows people to instantly connect, listen and laugh with his witty conversations over the cash register counter.

Colette Leveque, Smith’s coworker at Sundance said, “His smile is lingering, and he adds a personality to the store.” Smith is a well-known character of the area. He is known for his subtle observances that make costumers feel unique, such as commenting on how much he “loves your shoes” despite a checkout counter separating him from customers’ feet.  He gives positive energy towards everyday tasks that many people would consider mundane. He makes swiping a credit card into a jolly performance.  His presence and interactions with his community, even as he extravagantly grabs a five-dollar-bill in exchange for quinoa, gives a touch of drama and enjoyable presentation to every aspect of his life.

Smith has performed in front of renowned audiences containing people such as Academy award winner Isaac Hayes, Audrey Hepburn, Morgan Fairchild, Cary Grant, the Queen of England, the Queen of Norway, Prince Charles and Prince Philip. Smith has been all around the world singing, dancing, and acting in large-scale productions. His first musical on Broadway was Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in 1986. He toured the country performing. This traveling show business routine became his career for the next 25-years. He also acted in Peter Pan, Cats, and many more.

After a certain point, Smith hit the wall in terms of traveling performances. The instability of living in short term apartments city by city stopped being fun. He was sick of trying ridiculously hard for directors to notice him. Smith said, “When you’re 30 years old, you want a cat! I was sick of being an enthusiastic gypsy, I got tired of auditioning, and trying to get another show, another gig, another show….it never ends.” After years of effort, travel, performance and finally exhaustion, he did not need to go back anymore so he “cut the umbilical cord to show business.”

Smith decided it was time to go back to school to finish his degree in American Architecture and Design at the University of Georgia. Here he used his performance and artistry knowledge to excel. He learned how to carry his voice as a young baritone while simultaneously learning the epitome of American design. His love to vocalize coincided with his love for style, and he excelled. He was accepted to study for a term at Oxford University on a full scholarship for his appreciation and talent with his music.

His gateway to royalty began after completing his degree from the University of Georgia when he was accepted into the masters program at Cambridge. Cambridge was the fantasy world he had always wanted to be involved with. People discussed politics, arts, literature, and arithmetic, over mahogany tables in classical rooms lit by a chandeliers. Smith considers this time to be “the treasure of my life”. He graduated with a Masters of Philosophy of Art and Architecture. After such a luxurious period of life, one must wonder how he ended up at a grocery store.

A fib-filled misunderstanding was the original cause for his Eugene arrival two years ago. Smith had a 12-year relationship with a former resident. This man originally told Smith he wanted him to move out here to co-own a bed and breakfast near a winery in the Willamette Valley. This elaborate plan was a lie; an untruthful method used to coax Smith to move to the west because of this man’s personal loneliness. Smith got a job at Sundance while he waited for the bed and breakfast plan to fall into place. This plan never happened.

This job at the Sundance is more of a placeholder than anything for Smith. He loves being able to interact with the intelligent Oregon population, but he is only using this job to pay for life expenses as he makes arrangements for the next step in his life; moving to Toronto to play a lead role in the Phantom of the Opera in Summer 2013.

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