SCTV’S lov­able hosers get bronze-statue treat­ment

Mcken­zie broth­ers find a per­ma­nent home in the city where they were born

Calgary Herald - - CITY + REGION - FISH GRIWKOWSKY fgri­wkowsky@post­media.com Twitter: @fisheye­fo­toon

ED­MON­TON Of all char­ac­ters, it fig­ures these two hose­heads would have trou­ble with two-me­tre so­cial dis­tanc­ing dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­demic.

But af­ter years in the mak­ing, life-size bronze stat­ues of SCTV’S in­sep­a­ra­ble Bob and Doug Mcken­zie ap­peared on 103 Street and 103 Av­enue Tuesday night un­der a gen­tle snow, wear­ing tuques and jeans and clutch­ing open stub­bies — what we Canucks used to call short beer bot­tles back in the day, eh.

The lively and beau­ti­ful colour-patina statue is a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort be­tween ac­com­plished Ed­mon­ton sculp­tor Ritchie Velthuis, the non-profit SCTV Mon­u­ment Com­mit­tee, Cal­gary’s Bron­zart Casting and ac­tors Rick Mo­ra­nis and Dave Thomas, who had sug­ges­tions dur­ing the en­tire process.

“The only thing that was stip­u­lated is they wanted to be in­volved and have a voice,” said Velthuis, who had to oth­er­wise keep the pro­ject se­cret from the pub­lic for years be­fore it fi­nally found a place Tuesday night, a block south of John Weaver’s trans­planted Gret­zky statue, an­other mon­u­ment to Ed­mon­ton’s past.

Thomas him­self noted, “Bob and Doug were born in Ed­mon­ton over 40 years ago. Ed­mon­ton is the per­fect place for these stat­ues be­cause now we’re frozen stiff all year round, eh!”

He added, “I am in Los An­ge­les and Rick is in New York City — prob­a­bly the two worst places any­body could be right now.”

The lov­ably id­i­otic broth­ers Mcken­zie were the cre­ation of the two ac­tors, fea­tured in re­cur­ring, of­ten im­pro­vised Great White North skits on SCTV. Full name Sec­ond City Tele­vi­sion, the show ran on and off from 1976 to 1984 with an evolv­ing cast that launched the ca­reers of so many iconic co­me­di­ans, in­clud­ing Harold Ramis, John Candy, Joe Fla­herty, An­drea Martin, Martin Short and Schitt’s Creek’s Cather­ine O’hara and Eu­gene Levy.

First shot in Toronto, in 1980 the al­ready-can­celled SCTV re­launched in cheaper Ed­mon­ton with the help of lo­cal broad­caster Charles Al­lard, owner of Al­lar­com and CITV. The show would move back to Toronto and on to NBC and earn mul­ti­ple Em­mys.

But Bob and Doug be­came an in­ter­na­tional sen­sa­tion in their own right, in­clud­ing star­ring in fea­ture-length com­edy Strange Brew, a hit al­bum guest-star­ring Rush’s Geddy Lee, even hav­ing their own comic strip, which ran in the Ed­mon­ton Sun.

“Rick and I were both sur­prised and hon­oured at these stat­ues of the Mcken­zie broth­ers,” said Thomas. “De­spite the time that has passed, we both hold dear the mem­o­ries of work­ing at the ITV Stu­dios on Al­lard Way North­west with the rest of the cast and the Ed­mon­ton folks who worked be­hind the scenes on the SCTV show with us.

“We all be­came life­long friends, and share a lot of mem­o­ries. So, in that way, these stat­ues re­ally memo­ri­al­ize that ex­pe­ri­ence and the folks from Ed­mon­ton and the other cast mem­bers of SCTV who worked on the show.”

Velthuis, who calls the mon­u­ment his ca­reer high­light, was hired by the com­mit­tee and be­gan work in earnest in 2017, first carv­ing Sty­ro­foam on a me­tal ar­ma­ture from smaller mod­els of a num­ber of SCTV char­ac­ters, in­clud­ing Martin’s Edith Prick­ley and Candy’s Johnny Larue. “Be­cause of my snow-sculpt­ing back­ground I chose to carve them in a fairly de­tailed fash­ion, know­ing I’d be ad­just­ing a lot along the way.”

The next stage was sculpt­ing a mix of pow­dered foundry clay, paraf­fin wax and pe­tro­leum jelly.

“Be­cause of their cos­tum­ing, be­cause their stance, they’re re­ally iden­ti­fi­able re­ally quickly. I com­pared it to the first ren­di­tions of The Simp­sons. You can see them, but they’re not there yet. When I ask for a cri­tique I re­ally want it.”

It’s here Mo­ra­nis and Thomas first had in­put. “Their big­gest con­cern when they saw the ma­que­tte was with the like­ness — when you’re work­ing on a 14-inch fig­ure there’s only so much de­tail.

“I think peo­ple think artists are just su­per sen­si­tive. I was su­per hon­oured. They were very di­rect with some of their ob­ser­va­tions, and I think there was some con­cern I would be of­fended,” he said, laugh­ing. “I wasn’t of­fended at all. It helped me.”

Af­ter six months of in­tense work, the fig­ures were ready to go to the foundry.

“Each fig­ure was around 10 small pieces. It’s a fairly com­plex and com­pli­cated mould, just be­cause of the seated po­si­tion, hands in front of hands, that kind of thing.”

Velthuis thanked the team at Bron­zart Casting Ltd., who also pro­duced Richard Tosczak’s new life … new be­gin­nings in Hawre­lak Park. “They don’t call them­selves artists, but they truly are.”

Next, a patina was sprayed on, heat-treated, “baked on,” ex­plained Velthuis. “Ev­ery bronze has a patina. Even if it’s just patina of what we call a bronze colour — it’s still a paint, an enamel.”

Fi­nally wax was ap­plied. “It has to hap­pen ev­ery two years or it will start to erode,” he said with parental con­cern for what he re­peat­edly calls “the Boys.”

At one point the fig­ures had painted bod­ies and tuques — but with mon­u­men­tal bronze faces. “In bright sun­light it has a golden hue, but at night­time, well …”

The ac­tors had con­cerns, and Velthuis painted the faces to match the clothes. “They’ve seen the fi­nal prod­uct and are su­per happy.”

Thomas joked, “Geez, when we look at these stat­ues it’s hard to be­lieve we’re that old, eh! Of course, look­ing in a mir­ror tells an­other story.”

Velthuis sees the statue as a mo­ment of joy in a dark time. The ac­tors were to be in Ed­mon­ton for an un­veil­ing Fri­day, but, well, you’ve perhaps heard of the COVID-19 pan­demic? Thomas con­firmed, “For ob­vi­ous rea­sons that has now been post­poned.

“As soon as travel is al­lowed,” promised the ac­tor, now 70, “we will re­turn to Ed­mon­ton to see these stat­ues in per­son.

“Of course, by then, the birds of Ed­mon­ton will have made their con­tri­bu­tion to our like­nesses, mak­ing us look more like we ac­tu­ally do in per­son.”

“I’m su­per proud of it,” the 59-year-old artist said. “I’m welling up right now.

“That’s the bit­ter­sweet, an­ti­cli­mac­tic part. It’s such an in­ter­ac­tive piece, peo­ple are go­ing to want to crawl all over it. I guess they could sit two me­tres away from each other.

“Bob and Doug spoke to Cana­dian cul­ture so pro­foundly, so elo­quently in such a re­lat­able way. And there’s folk­lore about them work­ing here, stories that prob­a­bly aren’t even half-true. But they left a mark.

“I’m an artist cre­at­ing artists, and that was just awesome.”

In the first snowy hours of the stat­ues’ lives on our streets, no one was cel­e­brat­ing, there would be no crowd. But some­one did anony­mously leave boxes of Kraft Din­ner in the hosers’ laps.

Plead­ing the fifth, Velthuis laughed, “Of­fer­ings to ‘the Boys,’ I guess.”

Beauty, eh.

Geez, when we look at these stat­ues it’s hard to be­lieve we’re that old, eh! Of course, look­ing in a mir­ror tells an­other story.

Years in the mak­ing, Ed­mon­ton sculp­tor Ritchie Velthuis’ painted bronze stat­ues of SCTV’S Bob and Doug Mcken­zie ar­rived without fan­fare Tuesday night south of Rogers Place.

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