Wednesday, May 02, 2007

In Memoriam Erik Kristian "Eeki" Mantere 1949-2007

On April 30th, 2007 we received some shocking and sad news about the passing of Eeki Mantere, better known as Viktor Kalborrek of the Finnish musical group Hullujussi and Kari Grandi of TV commercial fame for those little Grandi ready to drink juice cartons that come with a straw in a plastic wrapper glued to one side.

Now I didn't have the pleasure nor the privilege of growing up listening to this style of humorous music. I only learned of Eeki and the rest of the band after I had moved to Finland in 1990. I saw more of him in the Grandi commercials at first than I had heard of him in his music.

Hän on kaikkien janoisten sankari, aikamme legenda: Kari... Grandi!

Later I would see him perform on several TV shows. One of these was BumtsiBum hosted by Marco Bjurström. This was an episode filmed in 2001 with guests Riitta Havukainen and her character of Hansu and her partner Eija Vilpas in character of Pirre. Eeki was his usual Viktor Kalborrek with bright white teeth and tightly curled handle-bar mustache decked out in a blinding white suit. Viktor's partner was Heimo Holopainen or better known as Frank Pappa, also of the group Hullujussi. My first encounter with Frank Pappa was when he had his own TV show "Frank Pappa Show" and later "Frank Pappa Late Show." This came about after the first year I had been living in Finland. Okay, so I didn't understand hardly any Finnish at that time but I enjoyed the show all the same. Frank could play a mean upright bass!

We had purchased a CD in 2003 by Hullujussi entitled "Bingo Bulvania". My family and I enjoy listening to it as well as singing along with some of the songs while we are in the car either on our way up to our cottage or coming back. Of course our favorite is always "Bingo Bango Bongo" and "Tyttö Lilla Nakkikioskilla".

I had the honor of meeting Eeki a little over a year ago when we attended my brother-in-law's daughter's baptism in Vihti. You see Eeki is the father of my brother-in-law's wife. They are Sampo Haapaniemi and Marleena Mantere. Sampo plays drums with the Finnish band called Egotrippi. Well the grandparents, parents and siblings were there as well as the cousins.

When I first entered the home of my father-in-law at the time of the baptismal I saw Eeki standing in the middle of the living room floor. He was much shorter than I imagined him to be and not as skinny as I had seen him on TV. His teeth weren't bright white and he didn't sport that handle-bar mustache nor the thick, black eyebrows. He was dressed in black and had a ponytail. At first glance he reminded me of the actor Steven Seagal!

After some time I found the courage to actually speak to the man. Eeki's son, Miro, was also there with his wife and kids. It was via Miro that the conversation with Eeki opened. We spoke about how big a family he had. He had been married twice and had two more sons, Emil & Emppu, close in age to my own two boys, Nicholas and Alexander. They hit it off just fine and hung out together most of the day.
During the ceremony Eeki read the Grandparent's poem. I remember it being so neat hearing Eeki reading the names of my children in this poem. After all his two grandkids via Sampo and Marleena are half-first cousins to my boys. His singing voice was supurb as well when all sang along with the priest.

I took a few photos of Eeki and his large family that day. One special photo is of him holding his precious granddaughter, Marikki, just after she had been fed. He was singing to her very softly. The moment required to be captured on film or in this case digitially.

After the ceremony everyone sat down to eat. I watched Eeki from time to time and whenever he passed me he would give me that Viktor Kalborrek look and smile and say something in English. He seemed to always mutter something about Rock 'n' Roll and would have some gesture to go along with it.

When everyone began to leave I had hoped to be able to say good-bye to Eeki and tell him how much of a pleasure and honor it was for me to meet him after all of these years. I stood in the hallway so that all that went out had to pass by me. When Eeki approached he just kept looking straight ahead. I thought to myself should I say something or not? Just when I was about to let it be and go find my family, Eeki made a quick, quarter spin turn in a crouching, almost ducking, position and with his arm halfway extended and pointed his finger and me and said in a low, quick voice, " It was nice to meet you." At that moment I could see Viktor Kalborrek in his face. I told him it was a pleasure to meet him and hoped that we would be able to so again in the future. We had talked about the possibility of him and his two youngest sons attending my son's birthday party the following year, which will be in the middle of this month.

After they all had left I went up to Marleena and told her how much I enjoyed her father. He was a real nice guy and hilarious. He was the same in real life as he was on TV.

It saddens me that we may never get to meet again. He has a legacy and that will continue to live on in the hearts of those who grew up with him and those who are yet to come.

Good-bye Eeki and may you entertain the angels of heaven as you had so many here in Finland.

My sincere condolences to the entire Mantere family and especially to my sister/brother-in-law, Marleena & Sampo and your family.

1 comment:

Jemayá said...

How nice to read about Eeki - he was very sympathetic on tv, great to read about your meeting with him! How precious these pictures must be to his family now!