Actor, voice talent, member of Dr. Bundolo’s Pandemonium Medicine Show, husband, step-father. Born Sept. 7, 1931, in Vancouver, died June 2, 2013, after suffering from dementia for almost four years, aged 81.
In spite of his achievements as a professional actor and voice talent, one of Bill’s greatest claims to fame was that he was born and raised in Vancouver. For his 65th birthday, friends surprised him with a “This is Your Life, Bill Buck” bus tour. Starting at his birthplace, St. Paul’s Hospital, the bus visited every house and school and most of his places of work in the city. Residents of the small homes on narrow East End streets were rather surprised when the big Greyhound Bus stopped to point out their address. And Bill was at the microphone the whole way regaling us, in his best announcer voice, with childhood stories.
The tour included the CBC building at the corner of Georgia and Granville streets where Bill spent much of his career, performing in radio plays, television commercials, and acting as the straight man in CBC’s very funny Dr. Bundolo’s Pandemonium Medicine Show, which was produced live for radio before an audience at the University of British Columbia. For many years after it was off the air, he was stopped on the street by former audience members who asked, “Didn’t you used to be Dr. Bundolo?”
The bus also passed the offices of Yellow Cab where, like many actors of the time, Bill worked part-time. But unlike many of his colleagues, he bought in and ended up owning two cabs – investments that paid off well when he wanted to buy his first apartment.
The tour was not able to visit the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in England, where Bill received his formal training, but credit was given to that part in his life as the bus passed the Queen Elizabeth and Playhouse theatres, where he performed in roles such as Alonso in The Tempest. While his presentation was flawless as Alonso, the costume mistress had to dress him in two or three pairs of tights to beef up his spindly legs. Alas, to no avail. When two of his Dr. Bundolo colleagues went to see the play, they were overheard saying, “Why did they cast Alonso with someone who has such skinny chicken legs?” The response was, “I guess they needed the eggs!” Bill was always the straight man for his pals.
The bus didn’t make it out to UBC, where Bill was employed to read text books onto tape for visually impaired or blind students. Nor to the small chapel attached to the Vancouver School of Theology where, at the age of 52, Bill became a husband for the first time, marrying Pauline Armstrong, and the step-father of 13-year-old Dianne. His friends were amazed that he would take on the raging hormones of a teenager, and the pre-menopausal symptoms of a new wife. At one point, I told him, “Don’t worry, in five years this will all be over and life will become normal,” and he said, “I have no idea what normal looks like!”
In 2008, Bill and I moved to Abbotsford, B.C., to be close to that now-grown daughter, her husband and two great kids. The following year he was diagnosed with dementia. He died on June 2, 2013, after losing his fabulous voice, great sense of humour and recognition of his many friends and loving family members.
Pauline Buck is Bill’s wife.