Prudence Emery was born in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, and now lives in Victoria, B.C.
Her youthful days in Nanaimo as a zoot suiter, rink rat, hot rodder and general all-round brat motivated her parents to banish her to various boarding schools and summer camps hoping that these environments would turn her into a well-behaved young lady.
However, you can’t kick your conditioning. Elements of Nanaimo Girl surfaced at various embarrassing moments during her adventurous life.
After graduating from Crofton House Private School in Vancouver, B.C., in 1954 and following two misspent years at UBC, Prudence worked as a secretary at the Naval base in Victoria to earn money to travel to Europe.
In 1957 she attended Chelsea School of Art in London, bought a motor scooter, worked as a barmaid, did temporary typing around the city, was Girl Friday, Saturday and Sunday for a screenwriter, learned a lot of Irish ballads in a pub in Ireland, worked for a travel agent, and as a caregiver. Returning to Canada in 1962 at age 25 (she’s now 83) and thinking she was so old, she decided that it was time to accomplish something. After teaching handicrafts to veterans at Shaughnessy Hospital in Vancouver for a summer, she took a year of teacher’s training in Victoria which she never used because she was a hopeless disciplinarian.
She then headed east to Toronto, worked as a “Scab” (strike breaker) as a proof reader on The Globe and Mail from 1965-66, (which published an article and illustration by her), managed a dress shop, ending up working at Expo 67 in Montreal where she set up tours for press and celebrities: Liberace, Twiggy, Hugh Hefner, the playwright Edward Albee, and 350 members of the Society of American Travel Writers.
In 1968 she returned to London for a month’s visit and stayed 5½ years. She was offered the job as Press and Public Relations Officer at the prestigious Savoy Hotel where champagne was a daily rite. While there she dealt with celebrities and politicians from Canada’s Prime Minister, Pierre-Elliott Trudeau, to British singer Petula Clark, musician Louis Armstrong, and actors such as Sir Laurence Olivier, Marlene Dietrich, Liza Minnelli, and Ginger Rogers among endless others. The press attaché had a farewell party in her honour at Canada House in 1973 before she returned to Toronto to launch Global Television network, the Metro Toronto Zoo, and work on her first film, which led to more than 100 other film productions which took her around the world.
She traversed vertiginous roads in China to work with panda bear cubs, went to Mexico where she knocked back tequila, to Hungary where she nibbled on Russian caviar, over to France for croissants and café au lait, Zimbabwe where she dodged elephants, South Africa to film leopards, and Morocco with camels as well as New York City and Chicago, to name a few international film locations outside her Toronto base.
She has worked with Sofia Loren, Julianne Moore, Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Ben Affleck, Viggo Mortensen, Jenifer Aniston, Jennifer Lopez, Robert Redford, Jeremy Irons, and the Olsen Twins among many others. Her roster of films includes ten directed by David Cronenberg. For a complete listing, check out her IMBD page.
Did we mention her extravagant love life and the fact that she was kissed by Paul McCartney?
In between films, while working alongside her long-time friend Krystyne Griffin, Prudence publicized the launch of the international Griffin Poetry Prize, worked in fashion publicity at Hazelton Lanes in Toronto, and was in charge of transport for a visit from trade union organizer Lech Walesa and his entourage before he became President of Poland.
In 2014, at age 78, she wrote and produced the short comedy Hattie’s Heist and most recently completed the children’s book Bertie and Felix, about an 8-year-old boy whose best friend is his pet dinosaur.
Toronto-based Cormorant Books has published Prudence’s memoirs in a book called Nanaimo Girl which was released in the Spring of 2020.