i'll never forget the face of al Waxman's agent when we arrived at her office.My friend Bazl and I were there because we had chosen the TV star as a national hero for our school project. But we were in our punk-rock phase at the time and the agent couldn't quite piece it all together. "You don't look like Al fans" she said, matter-of-factly.
"What does an Al fan look like?" I shot back.
When we first thought of Al while walking through the market, Bazl and I tried comparing him to other Canadian big names; we called it the Waxman Challenge. We pitted Bruno Gerussi's McCain frozen pizza commercials against Waxman's Miracle Mart ads, and we liked Al's better. Our initial interest was mere cheekiness. But something about his bio and the earnestness of his charity work piqued our nascent consciences, and the Al Waxman Fan Club was born.
Our first mission was to win over skeptical classmates at Inglenook Community High School, something we accomplished by recruiting Clay (son of Ian and Sylvia) Tyson to help us write songs about the round-faced actor. Soon we were playing them at the Beverley Tavern's open stage.
We called our new "Fisher-Price punk band" the Bee People and we were accepted in a way I can only call beyond irony. Once again, Al had broken the barriers.
We decided to invite all the leaders of our national political parties to join the AWFC. Ed Broadbent agreed in writing, and John Turner called me out of class to congratulate me on picking such a great Canadian to admire. I'm still waiting for an answer from Mulroney.
Within six months we had almost a thousand card-carrying members, almost all of whom many would say did not look like Al Waxman fans.
We hosted Waxman Weekends at various homes and clubs, and on many occasions Al would actually join us.
We threw a party for him on his 50th birthday at DJ's Tavern in the Hydro building, where 300 freaky-looking people (mostly OCA students and their friends) toasted him.
On my birthday in 1984 at the Masonic Temple, Al -- just named Honorary Big Brother for Life -- joined the Bee People, the Rheostatics, Victory Hits and the Polka Roo to raise money for Big Brothers and wandered the room shaking hands with Iggy Pop look-alikes. Al was never condescending.
Some may say he became a cliche on the cocktail party circuit ("Al Waxman would go to the opening of an envelope," some would joke), but no one complained. In fact, if he didn't show up to a social event people would stand around talking about him and wondering where he was.
The club started as an ironic joke on a Canadian sitcom star, but it sure didn't stay that way. We saw the way Al deepened his craft, especially in the past five years.
He was, we came to realize, a man with immense talent and an even bigger heart.
Last year I celebrated my birthday at the Windsor Arms. Party guests included Robin Black and his Inter Galactic Rock Stars, Eugene "son of Star Trek" Roddenberry, Melleny Melody and a slew of other great musicians, artists and movie people.
Al Waxman was one of my first guests. It would be our last memorable moment.
A friend who had met Al on numerous occasions moved in to join us. Al turned to him as sincerely as I've ever seen him and said, "How are you doing?" My friend was beside himself. The King was talking to him like an old pal!
"Great, Al. I'm doing just great!" he answered enthusiastically.
Al leaned over to him with a big smile and a twinkle in his eye and said, "Can you do me a favour? Could you please get me a Diet Coke?"
He often joked in the media about us. He said he liked us and thought we were good kids, but he always thought we were up to something. He was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Many years later he realized -- as we finally had -- that there was no other shoe.
The AWFC Queen West Waxman Wake will be held at the Cameron House tonight (Thursday, January 25) at 6 pm. 408 Queen West. 416-703-0811.