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Last Friday, the unveiling of Infiniti’s Eau Rouge concept car was held at posh Loungeworks 130 West in Vancouver. Actor/director Jason Priestley (of 90210, Call Me Fitz fame) was on hand to chat with Globe and Mail columnist David Ebner.

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With the beautiful Eau Rouge Concept roped off in the corner of the lounge, guests mingled over cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and food stations while Jason chatted and posed for photos.

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The Eau Rouge Concept is inspired by Infiniti’s connection with its F1 Red Bull racing component. Design is a big part of this car, aiming to set it apart from German automakers with a unique, innovative style.

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And in case you’re wondering what the former Beverly Hills, 90210 star has to do with the world of auto racing:

– Priestley’s an avid race car enthusiast;
– Rallied a Toyota Celica All-Trac ST185 in the SCCA Pro Rally Series during the early to mid-1990’s;
– He’s provided commentary and interviews of racers for ABC TV’s coverage of IndyCar racing;
– In 1999, he participated in the first Gumball 3000 rally, driving a Lotus Esprit V-8.

David and Jason sat down at the intimate stage to talk about Jason’s career and what brought him to where he is today. The passion for rally racing began during the actor’s Beverly Hills, 90210 days. While it did take some time learning to navigate a rally car, by year’s end, he and a partner began winning rally stages.

David Ebner of Globe and Mail with Jason Priestley

One thing led to another, as they so often do, and before long, Toyota’s Les Unger took notice of Jason in the California rally series, offering to build him a race car. Jason drove to LA suburb El Segundo where Les offered him a factory ride from Toyota. Priestley raced for a few years with Toyota, and had the good fortune of the show’s producers allowing him time away from the set to cultivate his growing passion for racing.

Ford followed suit, offering a Cobra-R, the budget to built it out, and to race their cars. I can only imagine the sweet combination of being on a hit TV show while excelling at a passionate hobby. And then came the Kentucky Speedway crash of 2002. During warmup, another racer had blown their motor, leaving debris on the track. Maintenance cleaned it up, putting down a chemical agent (Quick Dry) to dry out the leftover grease. Jason lost adhesion when the chemical hadn’t dried properly due to humid conditions that day. He landed at U of Kentucky’s Medical Center, with three skull fractures, a Class 3 concussion, broken back and broken bones in both feet.

David Ebner of Globe and Mail with Jason Priestley

He describes the medical team having had to remove his eyeball and reconstruct his skull, then put back the eyeball; a very long, painful recovery followed. Jason pondered the entire episode of his life: “You go through moments wondering whether you WILL recover.” He found the experience a great lesson in human resilience, overcoming disaster by putting one foot in front of the other.

Luckily, a cognitive therapist helped regain Jason’s memory by printing out old scripts from the show, and going over them with the young actor, helping him back on the road to acting. He still loves racing and has raced since, although these days, he relishes time spent with his wife and two kids, not wanting to miss out on their formative years.

When asked about the move from Vancouver to LA, Jason said that it was the easiest transition of his life. He then went on to discuss some of the shenanigans that went down with former roommate Brad Pitt, and dished up a bit about working on the set of America’s most iconic teen series.

David Ebner of Globe and Mail with Jason Priestley

“The initial crush of fame when the show caught on in the second season was unexpected and frenetic, at times hard to manage.” The insane attention of young female fans led David to ask Jason why he thought that 90210 connected with audiences the way it had.

90210 was the first show in that generation to speak to young people, in America anyway. Other programming at that time was adult-oriented. 90210 resonated within the 14-to-17 year-old demographic straight away. Critics didn’t understand a show made for 15 year-old girls.”

The show was fun to be on, but seriously, after a 12-hour day, they all went home. As far as Jason’s recently-penned memoir? He felt the need to be honest, and yes, there’s lots of gossip, but in the end, he’s put out a book that he can be proud of, not afraid to show the good and the ugly.

David Ebner of Globe and Mail with Jason Priestley

During the Q&A session that followed, I asked him about his role in Fitz. He had to fight to get that role and convince a lot of people that he was right for it.

“There’s a big piece of Richard Fitzpatrick in me…and let’s be honest, in all of us.”

I could go on about his stories, but I’ll leave you to uncover the juicy bits. I have two SIGNED copies of his book to give away, perfect for a summer read.

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You can enter for a chance to win by 1) liking Vancouverscape on Facebook or 2) following Vancouverscape on Twitter and retweeting the following:

I’ve entered for a chance to win Jason Priestley’s signed memoir courtesy of @InfinitiCanada and @Vancouverscape http://ow.ly/xdQxM

*Contest open to Vancouver residents only (both winners must be able to meet me on the Westside to claim their signed book).

Congrats to both Nicole and Bonnie, winners of Jason’s signed memoir!

After the interview, the Vancouver-born, easily-approachable Jason posed with guests as he personalized copies of his memoir, out since May 6.

Priestley is also an avid wine collector who co-hosts syndicated program Hollywood & Vines with wine personality Terry David Mulligan. As well as being on the board of BC’s Black Hills Estate Winery (whose wines were poured during the evening), Jason and his family also own the Terrace Beach Resort in Vancouver Island’s Ucluelet.

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