SCTV’S lovable hosers get bronze-statue treatment
Mckenzie brothers find a permanent home in the city where they were born
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.”
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.