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
Sandi Nielsen
What a terrible loss of an extraordinary man. Kind, sweet, endearing, giving, loving, talented always with a smile and a joy for life. HIs positive energy was infectious and genuine. Never a day would you see him with a frown, always full of life and love. Such a loss to the acting community. God bless you Denis - you are loved and will always be missed. My thoughts to his family.
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Dave Deveau
I had the good fortune of working with Denis as his dramaturg on his latest show STRUCK! all about his recovery from a stroke a few years ago... But as anyone who has worked with Denis can attest, an amazing relationship developed - the man simply could not come in contact with people without making their lives richer, their burdens lighter. An infectious smile, a deliciously sinful tongue, a heart bigger heart I've never seen. You are deeply, passionately missed.
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Kathleen Duborg
Beautiful, magical, generous Denis...a great shining star...you will be missed.
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Chic Gibson
Denis,Denis,Denis, I really don't know what to say that hasn't already been said so beautifully. It was a honor to know you and be your friend, a brother in the real sense. The old saying you get more flies with honey, well you got more souls with humor, when its done with sincere honest senibility you gave to us on and off the stage that got us all to love you and want to be your friend. Sleep well my friend and know that you are loved and your spirit touched us all.
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Valerie Arntzen
When I was with Denis I always felt like we were 5 years old...we actually had to leave places because we were laughing hysterically and way too loudly! I will love you always my friend and will miss you terribly.
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Daniel Szabo
I am very saddened to hear of Denis' passing. My thoughts and prayers are with his family during this time. He is a man with a tremendous heart who gave so much of himself for others. It was a joy to see him perform...a very sad day indeed!!
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Sonny
So honoured to have gotten to know him. He grew to be a friend and I'm glad I got the chance to have a great conversation with him last month. He'll be missed.
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gunghaggis@yahoo.ca
Peace & Blessings to Dennis and his family.
Our paths crossed over the years, and he always always always had a smile... even when the computer he wanted to use at the Library computer lab wasn't working.
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Judith Marcuse
Denis was such a loving, generous and compassionate man... a really beautiful person who was a consummate professional and always a treat to work with in all kinds of settings.

I send condolences to his family and to all of us who will miss him so much.
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Doug Tuck
Denis always made me feel as if we were great friends, even though our paths rarely crossed. He oozed talent and radiated joy. I liked him so very much and I am so saddened by his passing.
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Matt Rossey
Sad to hear, I worked with him on some shows in Vancouver when I was doing stage and props. He definitely was an inspirational and uplifting person. Always had a smile on his face, even if he frowned. Peace, Love, and Happiness Denis, you affected many hearts with your warmth and love for life and people. Curtain Call
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Marc L'Esperance
I'm saddened by this news, and consider myself fortunate to have known and worked with both Denis and Chris. i hope they have found each other again in the ether..
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Diane Clairmont
Denis was a light that shone on everyone - the smile that just kept on giving! He brought joy, laughter and love to all who knew him both on and off stage. The heavens are brighter for his arrival. Love and condolences to Denis' family and friends.
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Siobhan
I am filled with sorrow for Denis' passing. I just can't believe he's gone. I will treasure the memories of all the years of brilliant work, stories, struggles but most especially the shared laughs (raunchy to delightful and all the in betweens). You were a treasure D! I will miss you dear one-so very much.
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Laura McDiarmid
My heart is broken to hear the sad news about Denis's passing. He was such a wonderful man - always smiling and spreading joy wherever he went. I was privileged to have known him for many years and call him a friend. My daughter was on Polka Dot Door a number of times when she was a child. We are both devastated. I last saw him at the Stanley Theatre in June for the Buddy Holly Story - as usual he came up to me and gave me a big hug. I will miss you soooo much Denis. Rest in Peace sweet angel, you have given us the greatest gift - yourself!!!
Sincere condolences to Denis's family. Sing with the angels darling.
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Kirsten Nash
I pressed the "like" button under the article then unpressed it...I don't "like" that Denis is gone. He was always so kind and gracious and almost 25 years ago, when I was telling him about an idea I had for a rock opera he said, "then write it...make it happen" and I did, twice, and what a journey his advice took me on. I will be eternally grateful for that and wonder how many people he must have touched the same way in his lifetime. We never know how our stories might end, but when they do, to be so loved and missed must be the ultimate mark of a life well-lived.
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Ruth Nichol
Denis, you are One of Kind....so kind., loving.sincere, gracious,funny. no other words right now, many to come....I saw a blue haze and veil all around you....it is Love...and that is Denis.
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Laura McDiarmid
My heart is saddened to know that Denis Simpson has passed. He was a wonderful man and I was privileged to have known him and called him friend for many years. I first met Denis when my daughter was on Polka Dot Door and throughout the years it was always a treat to see him and be in the presence of his fantastic smile and joie de vivre. My deepest condolences to Denis's family. I last saw Denis in June at the Stanley for the Buddy Holly Story - we shared a laugh and a hug and I will cherish that moment forever. Sing with the angels sweet prince - you will be missed. Tears in my eyes and a great big hole in my heart.
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Max Sample
Very saddened by this news, I grew up watching Denis and always was drawn to him for his friendliness. He'll be missed by many.
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Heather Ward
What a great loss for Canadian theatre, and for humanity. Denis was a beautiful soul, a warm, generous and open person with a huge infectious laugh. I'm so glad I had the chance to know him. We'll miss you.
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