Winnipeg's Dancing Gabe

The Dec 22, 2007 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press had a story written by Gordon Sinclair a Wpg columnist. Dancing Gabe is a Winnipeg Icon. He basically entertains fans with a dance during the stoppage of play. He was an Icon at Wpg Jets games. As well as Manitoba Moose and Blue Bomber games. Dancing Gabe is also disabled. To those of us who love him find it unfortunate that Rider fans who attended the Grey Cup were seen calling him a retard. This was reported in the Free Press by Gordon Sinclair. Tillman should apologize to Dancing Gabe and to disabled fans across the country for this type of behaviour. I would like to know what Rider fans are going to do for an encore.

While I in no way condone the actions of these fans, I would appreciate it if you would not lump all Rider fans into this. There are these type of idiots in all groups. In no way would this reflect the attitude of the vast vast majority of Rider fans.

As a Rider fan though I would like to apologize to Dancing Gabe, and the people that love him.

chances are there were fans from every team that made comments, i know that not all fans do it and for those who did really need to look at themselves about how they act.
And Gabe is an icon, he is really wise about his music and the 3 major teams in winnipeg the goldeyes, bombers, and moose all give him season tickets and free jerseys in respect for him coming and trying to get the crowd going.

First, on behalf of football fans everywhere, allow me to provide the entire article, link included.
Then let me suggest we can all learn a few things from Dancing Gabe, including Mr. Housedog. I suggest when reading this article, don’t just read the sad beginning, but try to get to the uplifting ending.
As one football fan (who just happens to be a Rider fan) to another football fan, thanks Gabe for bringing some light to an otherwise all to dark world.

Maybe I’ll see you in Montreal next year.
And if any fan, Rider or otherwise gives you any grief, just laugh at them. You and I will get the joke.

[quote]Dancing Gabe, the man
Insight into the person behind the moves and ever-present smile

Sat Dec 22 2007

YOU just knew it was going to happen.
Last month an outpouring of generosity from Free Press readers allowed Dancing Gabe and his brother Rick Langlois to be in Toronto to cheer on the Bombers in the Grey Cup.

But, on a weekend when Gabe was constantly being stopped to have his photo taken by yet more Bomber fans, a Saskatchewan supporter began to taunt Winnipeg’s most celebrated cheerleader.

“Dancing Gabe,” the Roughrider fan bellowed. “What kind of name is Dancing Gabe?”

Rick described what the Rider fan looked like.
“He was a big, huge guy and he’d been drinking.”

"I just said, ‘Hey be careful what you say, buddy. You don’t know him.’

“And then he called him a retard.”

It didn’t end there, though…

  • z People have asked me who Dancing Gabe is.

What makes him dance?

Like most people, I only knew Gabe from watching his pompom-prancing performances at Jets and Bomber and Goldeyes games. And occasionally seeing him walk away alone towards a bus stop.

Gabe Langlois’ true identity is more complicated, of course.
Photo: see caption below for content

Gabe runs the Manitoba Marathon in 1987.
So when they returned from the Grey Cup I sat down alone with Rick Langlois and asked the question of who Gabe is in a more personal way.

“What was it like growing up with Gabe?”

Rick responded reflexively.

“Gabe didn’t talk until he was 10,” Rick said.

Yet, according to Rick and other members of the family, Gabe is almost a Rainman-like figure when it comes to sports knowledge.

He also is a gifted speller, which means the family with which he lives – his long-widowed mother Angela, sister Claudette and her nine-year-old son Ryan – never have to open a dictionary.

And, despite his awkward dancing style, he’s an athlete.

For years, Gabe ran the full Manitoba Marathon.

But it took him so long that Claudette finally suggested he scale it back to a more efficient half marathon.
Photo: see caption below for content

With trophies: back row, from left, Gabe, Mike and Rick; front row Gerry, Claudette and Rob.
Gabe is the kind of guy who buys everyone in the family a Christmas gift and even goes around dropping off Christmas cards to attractive young newspaper reporters he has never met and sportswriters he has.

All of this on his meager income.

He has a disability pension that pays him about $325 a month, and he works part-time at the St. Vital Y where he earns $80 a week.

Mind you, all he really cares to buy is his monthly bus pass.

You see, Gabe’s main currency in life is his cheerful nature.

Money doesn’t count much for Gabe.

Never has.

The Langlois clan were a working poor family from St. Vital, where the father, Louis, had a sandblasting and painting business and the mother, Angela, toiled in a sewing factory.

When she wasn’t having babies.
Photo: see caption below for content

Gabe, in 1989, in an autographed photo with Bombers Rod Hill, Matt Pearce and the Grey Cup.
She gave birth to six children, virtually one year after another.

Gabe was the third.

But it wasn’t long after he was born on Jan. 29, 1963 that his mother knew that little Gabe wasn’t like the first two, Mike and Rick.

“He would sleep and eat and that was about it,” she recalled.

Quite the opposite of the “terror” Gabe became around the house once he began walking and taking.

Back then, he was more into demolition than dancing.

“Tell me about when I was a terror,” Gabe likes to ask his mother now.

Rick, who’s a year older, says Gabe’s condition was never really diagnosed, but his mother talks about him being autistic.

By the time Gabe was three, there were five children aged six and under in the house. And Angela was hospitalized for three weeks with pneumonia.
Her doctor arranged for Gabe’s placement in St. Amant Centre, an institution usually reserved for severely mentally handicapped children.

But St. Amant couldn’t handle the little terror either.

At six he was placed in the Manitoba School in Portage la Prairie, where the family tried to visit him regularly. But that home for the mentally handicapped wasn’t a fit either.

And one winter day, when he was 10, Gabe went missing on an outing to the Portage train station. It was nearly midnight before the youngster was located following the train tracks home, presumably.

“He was frozen,” his mother said. “They said he wouldn’t have lasted much longer.”

Gabe spent the next month in hospital.

Angela Langlois insisted on taking her son home after that.

Subsequently, though, she was persuaded by a nun she knew to enroll him at Notre Dame de Lourdes, where a nearby farm family had agreed to foster him.

It was a turning point for Gabe.
The nun, Sister Georgette Pantel, taught him reading, writing and arithmetic. And the school library, and books in them, became Gabe’s sanctuary.

Now he was 12 and ready to rejoin the family forever.

“I thought I could take him home,” Angela said. “His terror days were finished.”

Back in Winnipeg, a public school in Norwood refused to take him.

But the parochial school Christ the King happily, even gratefully, embraced Gabe as a gift to the school.

Angela Langlois remembers her children coming home and telling her what the principal had announced to the other students before Gabe arrived.

“She said they all had to help him out if he didn’t know something. She told them how blessed they were to have Gabe.”

Eventually he went on to a special program at Glenlawn Collegiate.

His reception at the high school was less welcoming, at least at times.
At Glenlawn, big brothers Mike and Rick were around to look after him, but there was one time when they noticed that Gabe wasn’t his cheerful self.

When they asked him what was wrong, Gabe began crying.

One of the other students had been stealing Gabe’s lunch money for weeks. Mike and Rick took care of the thief and the recovery of the lunch money.

Gabe, the kid who didn’t talk for 10 years, who endured so much in institutions in which he didn’t belong, graduated from Glenlawn.

He took Rick as his grad date.

Gabe danced all night with every girl who would join him.

It was the first time Rick had seen Gabe dance.

Little did Rick know where it would take both Gabe, and him.

In Toronto on Grey Cup weekend, the word “retard” was still ringing in Rick’s ears.

Seething with anger, Rick felt as if he was about to do something almost as stupid with his fists as the hulking, drunken Saskatchewan fan had done with his mouth.

But Gabe stopped him.

“Gabe said, ‘Leave him alone Rick. Leave him alone. Don’t worry. It doesn’t bother me.’”

Rick froze momentarily.

“That was the first time I’d heard Gabe actually say something like that,” Rick said.

As it turned out, Rick and Gabe didn’t need to get involved.
“A couple of young Bomber fans grabbed the guy,” Rick recalled. “And one guy said to me, ‘Keep going, we’ll explain this.’”

The two brothers were halfway up an escalator when Rick looked back. The Bomber fans were still talking to the Saskatchewan fan.

Whose head was hanging in shame.

“There are people out there who don’t have a clue,” Rick told me.

In any event, what mattered most to Rick that Grey Cup weekend was the look in Gabe’s eyes.

“It was the greatest thing that ever happened to him.”

Perhaps that’s because, in terms of the moment, it was like the wedding Gabe may never have, and the first-born he will never hold.

And in a way, the trip to the Winnipeg-Saskatchewan Grey Cup that Free Press readers and WestJet and The Fairmont gave Gabe was our Christmas gift to him.

For his being the gift he is to Winnipeg, all year long.
As for what makes Dancing Gabe Dance, that’s easy.

Joy, of course.

He dances for joy.

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thanks for posting this arius. its the things in life such as this that make u respect so much more.

Thanks very much for posting that article. Very good one.

There are idiots in Toronto, there are idiots in Winnipeg, there are idiots in Regina. I've come to realize that one can't paint a group or community based on the actions of a few. (I'll make an exception for the Hell's Angels of course. The guy who runs their website keeps trying to tell me they are mostly fine upstanding family men with a few bad apples. Now those are people to whom "retard" applies.)

In his younger days 'Ol Gabe really cut a rug. More people wanted a picture taken with Gabe than the players. Goes to show what a little heart and soul can do.

I've been to many Bomber, Goldeye baseball and Moose hockey games over the years and there are just as many idiots at those games who just don't get it. If you're suggesting Tillman needs to apologize for some idiotic fans then so does Taman, Sam Katz from the Goldeyes and Mark Chipman from the Moose.

I have been to many Bomber, Moose, and Goldeye games. I have never seen anyone at those games make fun or call a disabled person names. Seen drunken idiots yes. But these drunks are yelling at players, not at disabled people. Tillman should apologize

Just because you have never seen them Doesn't mean it hasn't happened. I have been in many situations (games, bars, parks, concerts, etc) where people make these stupid comments. The only people that need to apologize are those people, not Tillman.

The onlyy reason you are saying anything is its because it was a Rider fan. Singular.

Feel free to hold your breath waiting for an apology from ET. Your colour will soon match that of your team.
I suggest you re-read the article in question and try to get into the spirit of what was written.
And if you pay close attention, you'll notice the reaction of your notorious Rider fan in the end.

There is certainly no need for Eric Tillman to apologize for the actions of one fan.
Anymore than I expect Taman to apologize for you...
It is sad that anyone ever acts in that fashion, but trying to tarnish all Rider fans with the actions of one individual runs contrary to the nature of the article in question.
Feel free to ask Gabe about what he thinks next time you see him.
I have a hunch he will not agree with you on this.

Housedog, while it is unfortunate that this incident happened, I don't for a minute believes it reflects the riders or the majority of their fans. I do believe what it clearly paints the picture of is a fan that was obviously drunk and who know likely feels very ashamed of himself who happened to be supporting Sask.

To equate that one fan as representing all of the sask fans is wrong. It is as bad as RW05 saying what he did about sask fans after the calgary game. Yes, when people drink they lose control and get foolish. Does that mean that is way they really are, some people would have you believe that. Personally, I think it show why mankind is at the top of the food chain, because somber most people would never be that foolish and know how to control themselves.

I think its pretty shameful to call someone having fun a name such as that.

On the other hand, if you're going to be a Dancin' Gabe at a football game I would think you would need some pretty thick skin.

What does making fun of disabled people by Rider fans having anything to do with RW05. This shows a pattern of the worst fans in Canada. The Manure incident. Supporting Tillman by throwing loonies on the field to pay for his fines. Now we have Rider fans making fun of disabled people.

A Rider fan...One...Singular...

Shall we lump all Bomber fans in with the likes of one (that'd be you, I guess) who likes to crap all over Rider fans just for the sake of doing so?

hey i don;t blame all rider fans at all. one guy had to much to drink and didn't know who he was talking and probably no idea what he said. For the vast majority rider fans are great people, i got to learn this first hand at last years labor day game. Most of them have fun and joke with bomber fans before totally ripping into to them.

Housedog, I fail to see why it should be Tillman to apologize. Several Rider fans have already apologized on behalf on that obnoxius fan. I too would like to add mine. I know and have known several individuals who would have been labelled "retards" 40 years ago. They are wonderful individuals and are no less worthy of our care and respect than any other person. It bothers me to see anyone ridiculed for any reason whether it be race, creed, colour, religion, physical attributes etc or even being a Bomber Fan (just kidding). I beleive that that article showed that once the Rider fan understood the situation, he was contrite and ashamed of his actions. I also applaud those Bomber fans for not starting a fight about but by talking and explaining. I'll bet the Dancin' Gabe had a new fan by the end of the game and that he came from Saskatchewan.

To me, it sounds like you are still a little bitter over not winning the GC and are looking for any reason to bash anything to do with the Riders. That is fine and I'd love to talk trash with you but let's keep it focused on football.

Lookin' forward to our rematches next year when I expect the Riders to get 4 points in the standings on 2 games with the BB.


What does making fun of disabled people by Rider fans having anything to do with RW05. This shows a pattern of the worst fans in Canada. The Manure incident. Supporting Tillman by throwing loonies on the field to pay for his fines. Now we have Rider fans making fun of disabled people.
There are a few choice words I could use to describe you at this point, Housedog, but between political correctness, forum rules and common courtesy, I won't use any of those. What I will say is that you hate Rider fans. Fair enough. It doesn't make you a very good person, but you are entitled. It is your funeral as they say. But you really should be ashamed of yourself for using the name of a guy like Dancin' Gabe to spread your muck and hate around. I find it very distasteful. Fortunately, I only think you personally are at fault, as it should be, not Bomber fans in general. And I really could care less if you apologize or not, but really do wish you would just cease and desist.

The only person that should apologize to Gabe is the guy who made the comment. Tillman is a great guy and runs a strong respectful team. He has no control over his fans.