Issue: 2016-11-09, PHOTO: wikimediacommons.com
Dave Broadfoot as Bobby Clobber
Once you reach a certain age and stage in life, it's no longer shocking to learn that some cherished celebrity from your youth has crossed the Great Divide.
If a movie star or blues singer you've admired for years passes away in their 80s or 90s, a common response is to say, "That's sad. But they had a good run. Thanks for the memories."
Over the years, I've learned to accept the dying of certain lights that once shone brilliantly in public. But a few days ago, one such passing brought a real lump to my throat.
The first time I saw the iconic Canadian funnyman, Dave Broadfoot, was during a tour of the musical-comedy revue, Spring Thaw, sometime in the 1960s. Later, I would get to know him much better through his delicious character profiles on CBC's Royal Canadian Air Farce.
Who could forget the hilariously-stunned Big Bobby Clobber, who clearly took too many pucks to the head without benefit of a helmet? Or the gauche, unnamed Honourable Member for Kicking Horse Pass?
Some comic premises never grow stale. One of these was the image of the hapless Sgt. Renfrew and his police dog, Cuddles, in their lonely log cabin on the 14th floor of Mountie headquarters.
Somewhere in each Renfrew sketch would come the unforgettable line, delivered with impeccable Broadfoot timing: "... When I regained consciousness."
No matter often I heard it, or how far ahead I anticipated it, that line cracked me up every time.
Arguably, Broadfoot was the quintessential 20th-century Canadian comic. He was cheeky without being gross (although I've seen him do corporate gigs with slightly more risqué material). His satire could be pointed, but was never mean-spirited.
With his lanky frame and slightly goofy smile, he came across as a guy you just had to love.
In 1980, perhaps '81, I got to see Broadfoot's gentle, genuine side up close, without the filter of scripted material or assumed characters.
He was in Calgary to headline the Stampede, but planned to spend a month in the area. When I saw a note on the CBC bulletin board that he wanted a small place to rent, I didn't hesitate.
My house was tiny, and slightly in shambles from renovation, but I offered it to him free, provided he wouldn't mind sharing for the first week and looking after my garden for the next three.
He was a considerate, delightful guest. Each morning, he would emerge from his room in gown and slippers, and modestly ask for feedback on something he'd written the night before.
For a week, it was like two pals in a log cabin at the top of Mountie headquarters.
Farewell, friend. Thanks for the memories. Keep smiling.