William Webster: actor in Amadeus (Soulpepper, from January 10)

I had open-heart surgery in July, and obviously the doctors had to crack me open to do it, so I have this great big beautiful scar on my chest. It’s about seven inches long and runs vertically from just below my Adam’s apple to above my diaphragm. I show the scar to everyone. I’m sure people are tired of seeing it by now.

I hadn’t had a physical in a few years and decided to get one. The X-ray technician noticed a spot on my heart. I thought: “Oh, here we go… the big C.” My GP sent me for an EKG, and they found I had an aneurysm in my aorta. Then they scheduled the surgery. I was supposed to go down to New York City with Soulpepper, but the doctor (everyone at Toronto General Hospital was fantastic) told me there was no way I could go.

I’m 75. When I walk down the street, I sometimes compare myself to people I see who I know are substantially younger than me. I have little aches and pains, but I don’t have a walker or cane. I’m doing okay.

I’m fine with nudity. I feel comfortable about my body. And this is about my scar, not the size of my penis. We’re born naked, and that’s how we’ll die, too. Why not celebrate it in between?

I did a play in the early 70s by Michael Hollingsworth called Clear Light in which there was a lot of nudity, and we were closed down by the morality squad. Things have changed. Also, when I was in my late 20s to early 30s, I did some life study modelling. 

I did King Lear a decade ago, and I’ll always remember this wonderful line in the play: “Poor naked wretches, whereso’er you are, that bide the pelting of this pitiless storm.”

This photo is about my scar, but it’s also to acknowledge the poor naked wretches out there who don’t have the good fortune I’ve had. The addicts, the drunks (I’m seven years sober), the impoverished. There’s so much to be grateful for.

This is a new adventure for me. Before the operation, I stood in front of a mirror looking at my chest, and I thought, “It’s never going to be the same again, is it? There’s going to be a scar here.” Then I thought, “That’s good. Because it’s going to save your life and give you a new valuation of your life. And so you’ll carry this around.”

I love my scar. It’s more authentic than a tattoo. 


See last year’s Body Issue here.

Stay In The Know with Now Toronto

Be the first to know about new and exclusive content