Beloved Canadian actor Denis Simpson passes away

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.

Comments (125) Add New Comment
Barbara Anderson
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.
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Vicky Van
So sad to hear of his passing. He was a kind fellow whose creativity was inspiring.
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Lin Bennett
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.
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Jay Brazeau
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
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Sibel Thrasher
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"
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Colin Smith
One of my first print interviews in Vancouver and he was so honest, sincere. Will never forget his generosity and kindheartedness. RIP Denis xo
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Jennifer Scott
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!
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Barb Snelgrove
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.
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sylvie anne arbutus lewis
God Bless, condolences to your dear family and friends at this sad time.
You will be missed!
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Councillor Ellen Woodsworth
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.
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James3D
Its hard to accept this sad news. We crossed paths two weeks ago and as always Denis was his usual, wonderful, uplifting self. We will miss you lighting up everyone with your smile and generous spirit Denis. You made this world a better place.
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Mark Tibando
Working on Shows with Denis in them is among the fondest memories I have of working in theatre. He was simply one beautiful human being!
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Ian Boothby
A kind, funny and incredibly talented man. He made things so much better by being here. I'm sad but so glad to have met and worked with him. Inspiring, joyful, a genuinely good guy. We were lucky to have had the time with him that we did. Thanks Denis.
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Kim Barsanti
Rest in Peace my friend. The laughter and joy that you brought to so very many will be remembered with fondness and a profound sadness.
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Camyar Chai
My encounters with Dennis were far in between but his positive and beautiful spirit have made a profound impact. God Speed you beautiful man ...
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Kim Barsanti
Rest in Peace my friend. Thank you for all you have given to this world. Your laughter and joy will be remembered by so very many with huge fondness and a profound sadness.
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Jen Allard
My children loved Denis and Polkadot Door and have grown up loving music of all kinds. Thank you for sharing your wonderful talent with us. Our condolences to his family at this time of sadness and grief. God bless you.
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Bob Sung
Saddened to hear of Dennis's passing.
Throughout the years, I've met Dennis and was pleased to have worked with him on numerous occasions. Always a good word, alway a sincere way about him. He will be truly missed
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Rand Webber
My family and I are devastated at this sad news. We will miss Denis terribly, and cherish our memories of him always. Our hearts go out to all his family and friends.
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John Wright
A beautiful human; an incredible loss. I am at a loss for words. Rest peacefully Denis.
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