I first met Mike O’Brien in the fall of 1986, as we and about 30 others were lounging around the offices of the University of Alberta student newspaper, The Gateway, waiting to be assigned to our billets at a Western Region Canadian University Press weekend conference. I was with the U of R paper, The Carillon, he was the co-editor-in-chief of the University of Victoria student weekly, The Martlet. In the collection of freaks, gay rights activists, punks, poseurs, anarchists, and social misfits that student newspapers attract like hay bales to cattle, O’Brien stood out, wearing relatively short hair and a button down shirt, and keeping his own counsel, except occasionally talking to a thin blonde woman who was the other Martlet co-editor. He looked like Bob Newhart wandering into the middle of the dance floor at a Siouxsie and the Banshees concert.
Until the cancer that took his life May 24 arrived in his life a few years ago, and he undertook the ensuing treatments that caused his hair to fall out, he looked the same in The Gateway office as he did later in life. When he appeared as liquor vendor/insurance salesman Wes Humboldt on Corner Gas’s third episode (the one where Oscar stages a grand national freakout because Wes won’t give him his deposit back for an empty case of old stubby beer bottles), it looked as though Mike found his groove. Continue reading “Mike O’Brien –30–”