Beloved Canadian actor Denis Simpson passes away

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      Beloved Vancouver-based actor and singer Denis Simpson died suddenly today, two weeks shy of his 60th birthday. According to Bill Millerd, artistic managing director of the Arts Club Theatre Company, Simpson suffered a brain hemorrhage and passed away this morning surrounded by family in Toronto, where he was about to start rehearsals for A Year With Frog and Toad with the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People.

      The original bass singer of the a cappella group the Nylons, Simpson was a long-time host of the children’s television series Polka Dot Door, later hosting a cooking show on Channel M and appearing as the Live Eye Guy for City TV.

      He received a Jessie Award for his 1996 one-man show Denis Anyone? and directed the critically acclaimed 2009 Fringe show NGGRFG starring Berend McKenzie. Simpson was active in charitable work, in particular with HIV/AIDS organizations. His most recent Vancouver performance was this past May to July with the Arts Club Theatre in Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story.

      “He first performed for us in Ain’t Misbehavin’ in the late 1980s at the Revue Stage, and he was just electric,” Millerd recalled. “He would just take the audience into his embrace. Really, that was his personality. He embraced people and was one of those just very open, honest, performers....He was just one of those dynamic forces that suddenly are gone.”

      Millerd added: “You know how people always say 'Have a nice day'? He’s the kind of person that would say it and mean it. He would look at you with his eyes and he had a big smile and you felt good. You just felt better for knowing him as a person. There was nothing dishonest about him....He just had a tremendous amount of grace.”

      Millerd said the Arts Club is waiting for guidance from Simpson’s family and close friends before organizing a memorial.

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      125 Comments

      Barbara Anderson

      Oct 22, 2010 at 1:32pm

      We have all lost a beautiful and talented man. I was blessed to have known and worked with Denis. My condolences to his family and friends.

      Vicky Van

      Oct 22, 2010 at 1:52pm

      So sad to hear of his passing. He was a kind fellow whose creativity was inspiring.

      Lin Bennett

      Oct 22, 2010 at 1:55pm

      It was impossible to be in a room with Denis and not have a great time...even if you were complaining about something. Everything was part of the show ---and what shows he did! He lit up every stage he was ever on, or near. His "Viper" was legendary - and he was generous to those both onstage and off. We were hoping to see his Toronto performance - and now will have to just sit down with our great memories instead.

      Jay Brazeau

      Oct 22, 2010 at 2:13pm

      Another one of the greats has left. Another pillar of our community. It has truly been a devastating year for all of the artists in Canada. Denis was always the light in the storm. The first one who made you laugh when you were down. The one who's shoulder you could always lean on. And the funniest one in the pack. I can't even begin to remember the number of times I had to stuff a pillow in my mouth backstage to prevent the audience from hearing the guffaws. There are a few people in this world who would give you the shirt of your back but he is the only one I know who would do just that, button it up for your, fold your old shirt up for you to take home. He was a true journeyman. One of the old guys who had been around the block and was always willing to share his tricks with you. I will miss his chuckles and his smiles but I know that him and Chris are up there on a cloud somewhere laughing their asses off, How lucky they are. God Bless you Amigo. xo Jay

      Sibel Thrasher

      Oct 22, 2010 at 2:25pm

      My dearest friend will be missed and i know because he believed in his Angels he will have lot's of peace, love and happiness in his after life.His smile and light will always shine in all our hearts and will always bring warm
      feeling in our souls....love you my friend ..."ENJOY"

      Colin Smith

      Oct 22, 2010 at 3:04pm

      One of my first print interviews in Vancouver and he was so honest, sincere. Will never forget his generosity and kindheartedness. RIP Denis xo

      Jennifer Scott

      Oct 22, 2010 at 3:05pm

      A funnier, sweeter and more talented man never walked the face of this earth - he will be so missed in this world.
      I'll always remember sharing laughs with Denis and watching him interact with an audience - something very special to behold!

      Barb Snelgrove

      Oct 22, 2010 at 3:10pm

      I too was lucky to have known this incredible man and honoured to call him friend.
      I am glad our last words not so long ago were full of laughs and warm greetings, exactly like him.
      A warm and kind soul, Denis' legacy in Vancouver's Arts community will live on but his friendship will be sorely missed.

      sylvie anne arbutus lewis

      Oct 22, 2010 at 3:11pm

      God Bless, condolences to your dear family and friends at this sad time.
      You will be missed!

      Councillor Ellen Woodsworth

      Oct 22, 2010 at 3:24pm

      Dennis was an increble actor but also everywhere in the community. I saw him in the Buddy Holly show and then again he MC'd the Pride stage where we had a wonderfully funny connect.