One Night in Bangkok
by Jim Slotek
(August 1, 2017 – Bangkok, Thailand) At the Amulet Market at this city’s Buddhist Khlong Thom centre, a young woman from Southern Ontario approaches an idle Jon Montgomery as he holds an umbrella over this head against the blazing 35 C heat.
“Excuse me,” she says. “Are you with The Amazing Race Canada?”
“No, I’m just a tourist, like you,” the show’s host says with a blank smile.
The camera crew might indicate otherwise, but she smiles with an, ‘I get it’ look and moves on. Montgomery doesn’t like lying, but we’re talking spoilers here. In Season 5, the leg of the race that took seven remaining teams of globe-trotting Canadians to Beijing and Bangkok happened in early May. The actual Bangkok episode airs on CTV tonight, August 1.
The previous season, in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnamese people didn’t know the crew was Canadian, but they recognized the logo of the show which has been franchised to several countries – including Vietnam.
“It’s really an international show and a homegrown phenomenon,” Montgomery says of the show (TARC is the number one Canadian-produced show in the country). We’ll be in Iqaluit and people are looking for us. They’ll say, ‘Are you doing the race right now?’ – ‘No, I’m not,’” Montgomery says. “Sometimes I’ll say I’m scouting.”
Five seasons of The Amazing Race Canada has been very good to the former Olympian, winner of the gold in the men’s skeleton event at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010. There is no obviously no professional skeleton league to graduate to after an Olympic career. And Montgomery’s only other previous marketable skill was auctioneering, specifically automobiles.
“Yep,” he says. “When my friends went to Corpus Christi and West Palm Beach and all the places you go to get shit-faced for a week, yours truly went to Mason City, Iowa, where the music died, where the plane took off with Buddy Holly and the boys. They left Clear Lake, which is where they were performing, and Mason City was where the airport was. But I went there to the Holiday Inn for a week to go to auction school.”
Montgomery was working at ADESA Auctions in Calgary when the skeleton bug took hold.
The sport also shaped Montgomery’s personal life when he met and married fellow skeleton athlete Darla Deschamps. Darla has been a fixture behind the scenes at The Amazing Race (I met her when I accompanied the show to India in Season 3). But that changed last August with the birth of the couple’s son Jaxon.
“At eight months, he’s starting to pick up warp speed. He might be ‘touched,’” Montgomery quips of his soon-to-turn-toddler. “Certainly, the way we’re wired does not bode well for him.
“But it’ll be a big deal,” he said on the eve of a month of globe-traveling and racing. “Usually my wife and I team up on the road at some point. This year, it’s not conducive to doing that with the little one.
“So yeah, I’m peace-ing out for a month. ‘Enjoy being a single parent for a while, honey. I’ll be traveling the lonely planet solo.’
“Actually, I have three partners on the road,” he adds. “Mark (Krupa, the soundman), Don (Spence, the cameraman) and Rob (Bruner, Montgomery’s director/writer). It’s a pretty tight-knit crew. But they’re not nearly as fun to snuggle up to at night as my wife. They’re a bit hairier.
“To prep, I have been traveling around town with a bag lunch and learning to reapply my makeup in the morning. On the road, I open up my suitcase in the morning, and the next bag of clothes will tell me the city I’m in, and that’s the outfit for that day.
“Somebody hands me a script, somebody hands me a bag of lunch and I get into a van. For a month, I make absolutely zero decisions for myself. I’m a husk of a man.”
A fringe benefit of The Amazing Race Canada is seeing, not just international destinations, but parts of Canada he’d probably never have seen otherwise.
“I don’t know what would have ever taken me to Iqaluit,” he says. “I don’t know what would have taken me to the Yukon. Maybe I’d have landed a speaking engagement in one of those places.”
Which is the other fall-back Montgomery now has. His ease in front of a camera or a crowd – and his readiness with a quip – has translated into a rest-of-the-year sideline.
“When I’m not doing the show, I do public speaking and charitable work. I auction for charities and stuff like that. My core business is public speaking.
“And everywhere I go, people ask me to bring the show to their town. That’s not my decision, obviously. But hey, I’m open to bribes. What have you got for me to take home for free?”
Jim Slotek is a longtime Toronto Sun columnist, movie critic, TV critic and comedy beat reporter who has interviewed thousands of celebrities. He’s been a scriptwriter for the NHL Awards, Gemini Awards and documentaries, and was nominated for a Gemini Award for comedy writing on a special. His writing also appears in Cineplex and Movie Entertainment magazines.