Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Remembering... Al Waxman

Growing up (as I did) watching sitcoms, there simply weren't a lot of Canadian options out there; fortunately, one of the few was also one of the best. King of Kensington ran on the CBC during what would be my formative years - 1975-80 - and for at least a decade after that in reruns. Then, as these things happen, it simply disappeared into the vast wasteland of syndication never, or so I thought, to be seen again...

PhotobucketSo imagine my surprise when, one random day, I happened to be browsing at my local purveyor of DVDs and what should fall into my hands but Season One! As with any childhood entertainments revisited in adulthood, seeing the episodes again was a revelation. Their gentle humanism, paired with the low-key leftie idealism of the times, focused on the travails of Canada's burgeoning immigrant communities and obviously had a big hand in shaping my eventual attitude towards new Canadians; the episodes should still be considered mandatory viewing for those who feel the last good immigrant was whatever relative of theirs pulled up stakes in the old country in search of a better life in the new.

The show starred Al Waxman, a much-beloved figure wherever he went; the show traded on his good-guy persona, and would never have been the success it was without him. Waxman, of course, went on to star in Cagney & Lacey, for which role many Americans will remember him still. (He also appeared in Louis Malle's 1980 film Atlantic City, and numerous other films besides.)

When Waxman died suddenly, on this day in 1991, the Canadian press was filled with tributes, as will happen; even more telling of his popularity is the monument to him erected at Bellevue Square Park in Toronto's Kensington Market, the neighbourhood in which he was born and later reigned as King.
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