Thu | Jun 4, 2020

Ity’s birthday gift

Published:Tuesday | December 10, 2019 | 12:00 AMMarcia Rowe/Gleaner Writer
Kevin Heath
Karen Ellis refers to her husband as the best thing that ever happened to her.
Kathy Grant
Owen ‘Blakka’ Ellis (left) and Aston Ellis.
Ian ‘Ity’ Ellis and Aunt Atlis cut the cake at his 50th birthday celebration.
Alton ‘Fancy Cat’ Hardware giving a toast to Ity.

There are many ways in which Ian ‘Ity’ Ellis could have celebrated his 50th birthday. But for this significant milestone on Friday, he used his golden jubilee celebration to raise funds for the Westmoreland-based Clifton Boys’ Home, which was destroyed by fire in January 2017.

“It is the spirit of giving in the season of giving,” Ellis told The Gleaner. He said he learned about the plight of the home from friend Janet Sylvester after voicing interest in assisting particularly a home with boys, his area of interest. After investigation, he and his family journeyed to Westmoreland. Having met the boys, he decided that on his birthday, he would raise funds for them.

And so, Charity & Cheer – 1 Ticket = 1 Future Leader was held at Knutsford Court hotel, St Andrew, marked by a bellyful of laughter and high-energy performances from friends.

In the audience was Colin Hitchman, director of the boys’ home. He gave an update on the building and expressed gratitude to the comedian-turned-philanthropist who had reached out to help the 61-year-old home for boys.

Ian’s older brother, Owen ‘Blakka’ Ellis, who was master of ceremony, lauded him for using his birthday in such a spirited manner. Along with sharing anecdotes of their childhood and beyond, Blakka’s opening witty remarks also were the precursor to the toasts and comedic acts that followed.

Strong friendships

The primary toasters were Kathy Grant and Alton ‘Fancy Cat’ Hardware. Both have worked with Ity. Grant said her 15-year relationship with the motivational speaker has resulted in her loyalty to Ellis International.

Hardware said their relationship began on the football field over 30 years ago. Despite being a hit as a stand-up comedian duo, they do have differences. One is that he, Fancy Cat, likes to “keep malice” but not his friend and brother for life.

In the open-toast section, the Rev Mark Lewis said he has known Ian for 34 years and baptised him and the members of his family. Comedian Boasy Boy Floyd thanked Ellis for inspiring him. Toasts were also given by Rondel Positive and Ryan Mark. But the most emotive one came from Karen Ellis, Ian’s wife of over two decades.

Often behind the scenes, Karen said: “He’s the best thing that happened to me, and we are living our best life.” She reinforced her sentiments with a rendition of Gladys Knight’s The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.

Featured performer Leighton Smith was relentless with his satire on Ruel Reid and PEP; and Kevin Heath represented well in his dual role as comedian and singer. Kevin Downswell brought the guests to their feet with songs such as Goodbye World, while Ity’s cousin, Noel Ellis, journeyed down memory lane with a medley of songs from his late father, Alton Ellis’ collection. The Silver Bird Steel Pan Orchestra gave the event a refreshing flavour.

Ian Ellis was meticulous and witty in his vote of thanks.