In 1993, Red Skelton and I were on a concert tour with a date in Calgary. Early one morning, Red suggested that since we were in Cowtown we should find a western wear shop and buy some gifts.
In the shop we met the owner and two other customers, Allen Sapp and his wife. Allen recognized Red immediately, came over and introduced his wife, telling her this is a "famous American movie star."
The four of us became fast friends. Allen grew up on a reserve near North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Red in a small town, Vincennes, Indiana.
For the vast difference in the cultures, they had amazingly similar stories about their childhoods. They were born in extremely difficult economic circumstances, but knew from the beginning they were meant to be artists. As a child, Allen would find a piece of wood, do a painting, then stand on the streets of North Battleford and try to sell it for $1. At the same age, Red would do a painting, stand on the streets of Vincennes trying to sell it for exactly $1.
Red's education was interrupted at age 10 when he left home to join a travelling medicine show. Allen never had the benefit of an education. He could neither read nor write. If he wanted to send a message on paper he would have someone print it and Allen would copy.
Shortly after Red died in 1997, I received an Allen Sapp painting. In the corner he printed, "To Tom, let us think of Red often. Allen Sapp."
Indeed we do, and we shall often think of Allen Sapp. Thank you both for the magnificent talents you shared with us.
The Red Skelton Show