What Gary (pictured with me) believed he should be doing was what he did best and that was rock and and he also needed go down town to hear Fred Turner sing “House Of The Rising Sun” to hear what he was talking about. There was only one problem, Fred was playing in a bar and Gary’s brother was a Mormon which meant that he could play in a bar, he couldn’t just go into one and hang out. Precisely at 10:00 PM Gary opened the fire escape door as Fred began to wail the Animals old standard and standing there listening in the parking lot was Randy Bachman. The legendary Bachman Turner Overdrive was born at that very moment.
I wonder what Pete Carroll’s opening words to the Seahawks were at training camp this year.
Just before the CKY reunion a few years ago I was thinking about some of the guys I used to work with so I got a hold of Warren Cosford and asked if he knew what had happened to Rick Hallson. I’d worked with Rick at CKY back when we were young board ops and knew at some point he had moved to Toronto and had worked with Warren at CHUM. All that Warren knew was that he had heard that Rick had some depression issues and had written a book about his unsuccessful attempt at suicide. Hearing about Rick’s situation got me thinking about one of the first times I’d ever even heard about depression.
When I was a kid I played football for The Transcona Nationals and was very excited about going back for our big 50th reunion where I would get to see all my old team mates again and find out what they all had been up to. Growing up in Transcona I was into two things, “Sports and Music” and each came with a completely different set of friends.
One of my real good friends was Bill Wakeman or “Bomba” as we all affectionately called him. (pictured beside me with some of our team mates at the TCI reunion in ’81 at Torrey Pines near La Jolla) Bomba actually was a friend on both on my sports side and my music side him being quite the dancer and all so we used to hang at dances and at all my gigs when I started playing with bands. Bill lived just down the street from me and at 14 was already into building his own cars. He bought all the parts he needed from junkyards using all the money he made as a pool shark and amazingly out of all that junk a car appeared. We used to drive that car up and down all the alleys keeping a sharp eye out of course for the cops but what could they do, they couldn’t take our drivers licenses away we didn’t have any.
As time goes by you start drifting apart from some of the guys you grew up with and because I’d turned into a radio gypsy and had moved all over the country I’d hardly been in touch with anybody so as I said I was really looking forward to catching up with them all. Bill surprisingly had become a teacher and I could hardly wait to hear how the hell that had happened. I got into town the day before the reunion and spent that evening hanging out with my longtime friend Jim Quail and Ermanno Barone who both looked great and appeared to be healthy enough to suit up again. Speaking of suiting up I was planning on doing a little of that myself by wearing my brand new Transcona Nationals jacket that Jim Quail had surprised me with as a gift a few years before. Wearing one of those at TCI back in the day was star status stuff when Bill Burdeyny was busy making us famous each week in the Transcona news. Somebody mentioned that they didn’t think Bomba was coming to the people because he wasn’t doing so well so I called him up to see what was wrong. He told me that he was depressed which I really hadn’t even heard about so I asked him what the hell was he depressed about and he said he didn’t know but he couldn’t even leave his house. earlier had told me that Bill wasn’t doing so well so I called to see if he was coming to the party. I had no idea what Bill was talking about and said … Bomba, you’re a National man, and The Transcona Nationals play hurt man so you get your ass to the reunion or I’ll come over there with a couple of the guys and drag you to it. The next night he actually showed up and I am so glad he did because he later told everyone that he had the time of his life. If Bill was depressed you sure couldn’t tell it that night because he was telling all the old stories, laughing, and hugging all the people he had lost contact with over the last couple of years. Unfortunately I wish this had a better ending but Bill died of a heart attack a few years ago year and his brother Fred who was with him on his last night told me that the last thing he was talking about before he passed was how special that night was to him. Bill (Bomba) Wakeman’s funeral was so big that you couldn’t get into the Church and a huge crowed was out in the street listening to the service on speakers. I just hope somehow Bill knew how many people loved him.
I only bring all this up because once again depression raised its ugly head a while ago when there was a reunion at CKRC in Winnipeg. My brother Reg had worked there when he was a kid and the GM Gary Miles had kinda made him and Billy Gorrie Co-PD’s because he wanted to start transitioning from the old “Guys And Gals” image to a much younger one. Billy whom I had met several times while visiting Reg was very bright and became one of the very few radio people who became successful without ever having to leave Winnipeg and even ended up owning his own radio stations there. Reg had heard that Billy was having some sort of issues but Billy claimed he was very excited about seeing Reg again as he was all the other CKRC “Guys and Gals” so he would see him at the reunion. Billy never showed! He later claimed that he had been out in the parking lot for over an hour in his car trying to work up the courage to go in but just couldn’t bring himself to do it.
Not too long after the CKRC reunion I got an eloquently written e mail from him as did others. You began to realize though as you read along that you were actually reading his obituary which Billy wrote shortly before taking his own life.
A couple of years ago I published a Blog about 3 friends of mine whom I found out suffered from depression. The Blog to some was controversial but others claimed that it was one of my more sensitive ones and nothing like my usual egotistical rants. All I know is that received more comments about this Blog than any other plus because of it I received a surprising e mail which inspired me to revisit the subject and also share the e mail.
I don’t know anything about depression and am always surprised when I hear that someone I know well has it because most sufferers hide it so well. After writing the Blog I started receiving comments like the one that I got from my good friend Gary Russell. Gary’s Father was a very successful businessman but according to Gary he also suffered from depression for most of his career and finally had to retire at an early age. Somehow though he found the strength to fight his way through it and even started a whole new career again when he moved to British Columbia.
Gary’s story made me think back growing up around my Father and I never realized until now that he too may have been suffering from depression. Whatever he had was referred to a nervous disorder which was treated with nerve pills what ever the hell they were but all I remember about it all was that a lot of plans had to be cancelled because he was unable to participate in them and we had to be quiet according to my Mother because he was resting. I so wish I had better understood what was going on because my memories of him are unfortunately are clouded by disappointment and for that I am very sorry Dad, especially since this is Fathers Day. What I wouldn’t give to sit down with you now and try to make some sense of it all instead of remembering sad times like flying home for Christmas shortly after becoming a Program Director in Saskatoon. I was very excited about the the fact that my Dad was picking me up because according to all my teachers my future didn’t look too bright but here I was a Program Director and I’d just received my first raise which he would be the first to know. Instead it was my brother in law Ronnie who picked me up explaining once again that my Dad was once not feeling well. I wish I had known back then what he was going through because maybe we would have had a much better relationship. My Dad lived a Jekyll and Hyde existence which my Brother Reg claimed worsened after I had left home but my good friend Jim Quail would often say to me … It must be great living at your place because he always had him and others rolling in the aisles with his public persona.
Jed Duval commented after reading my Blog that our long time production whiz at WIBC TJ Byers also suffered with depression and eventually took his life and I now think that maybe a lot of our radio brothers whom we regarded as strange may have in fact been suffering from depression. I believe the more that we talk about it, write about it, argue about it, and bring it out of the darkness into the open, just maybe some skilled and qualified person will find a way we can deal with it.
My original Blog was about 3 guys from Winnipeg, Rick Hallson, Bill Wakeman and Billie Gorrie whom I had no idea were suffering from depression, they like my Father hid it well in public. A little while after writing that Blog I recieived an e mail from Rick Hallson who was until recently the only survivor of the three and even though he survived a suicide attempt he didn’t survive cigarettes.
Rick told me that when he worked at CHUM radio a mutual friend of ours, J Robert Wood would occasionally drive him home and as Rick would light up J Bob say … Those things are gonna kill you Rick. J Robert turned out to be right because I am sad to report that he is now gone, so in your memory Rick, I repost your e mail. RIP Brother!
I think the last time we talked was 1963 when Sandy Koufax won the MVP award in that years’ World Series. Maybe that’s going back a little far but it’s in the ballpark.I was directed to your website last night by Ken Porteous, an old CHUMer and lifelong friend. He found news of the death of Bill Gorrie. I am shocked and saddened to hear about Bill’s demise by suicide. Bill, Ken, and I were just three on a long list of Silver Heights Collegiate grads who were drawn to radio in the early sixties, primarily by the dynamic CKY talent with jocks such as Jimmy Darrin, J. Robert Wood, Chuck Dann and the amazing on-air execution. ‘KY was huge and working at the station for me, being barely 17, was a gift.
Bill Gorrie was kind, gentle, supportive, humorous, upbeat, flexible, honest, to name a few. That was my experience with him during the time I worked at CKRC. I guess that’s why I was so shocked at leaning about his suicide. That just doesn’t fit with what I knew of him, his character, his comfortable drive and his kindness toward others. But then, someone who lives with chronic depression lives two lives. One is hidden deep within while the other part struggles to live with a sense of normalcy. I know because I have lived that. I attempted suicide three years ago. I don’t know what Bill’s issues were but in my case, I carried my issues as far as I could–until August 28, 2008. My demons had won. I was completely surprised when I woke up 26 hours later and it was shortly after waking up, when I became somewhat lucid that I realized I was getting a second chance at life. Since then, I have used my experience and skills as a two-decade professional speaker to advocate for mental wellness and the rights of those who are affected by mental illness. (That’s a long way from executing a dynamic intro sitting on the edge of the jock chair in front of a mic in the control room.)
Could Bill have been swayed in the parking lot the night of the CKRC reunion party? No one will ever know. A couple of months after my suicide attempt and release from the psych ward, I became certified in suicide intervention so that I could better understand suicide and perhaps help others in crisis. One who deals with chronic depression feels shame and a sense of hopelessness, every day. It never leaves. There is no relief. Stigma is a huge issue. Stigma is embedded in our health care system—even within the silo of mental health. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. It’s there in all its ugliness. Bill’s pain is gone. May he rest in peace. What a shame. What a loss.
I did write a book about my experience with my suicide attempt. It sits in a folder on my computer. I’ve never sent it to a publisher for consideration. I’m not sure why but I had to write it for the sake of writing it. Please let me share a few lines from the book with you and your readers. “Within weeks of my release from the hospital after my suicide attempt, I attended a suicide survivors gathering. It’s an annual event staged for family and friends who have lost a loved one to suicide. Speakers addressed an audience of about 150, relating their personal stories: anguish, guilt, fear, hurt, anger, frustration, pain; stories that rang so loud it was deafening; Oh how they wish they could turn back the clock and perhaps change an outcome. As the ceremony continued, I became so profoundly aware of what I had done, as never before, and even in my survival, how I had hurt the people who loved and cared for me. I stood in a back corner of the room watching and listening to the stories one after another, trying to keep my crumbling composure in check. It was so hard to be there. As I walked away after the final prayer from the podium, I came to a decision to write my book. I need to write it for my own sake: fifty years of dealing with my personal demons had almost cost me my existence. It had to end. If telling my story helps even a single human being from taking that final step—suicide, then it is worth every word.”
Like so many others, I will remember Bill Gorrie.
Take care George.
Rick Hallson htp://www.richardhallson.net