My Most Mesmerizing Mentor: Graeme Campbell

Today, January 18th, I raise a glass in memory to one of my earliest and most influential mentors, the highly-respected actor, Graeme Campbell, who passed away on this day in 1992. I was blessed to be taken under his wing as an actor at the age of 15. He was a kind, generous, and impressive man who nurtured my development as a creative artist.

We first met in rehearsals for the theatrical production of Treasure Island in 1972. I played cabin boy ‘Jim Hawkins’ and Graeme was the formidable one-legged ‘Long John Silver’, hobbling across the stage with his crutch and a squawking parrot on his shoulder. His performance inspired everyone who shared the stage with him. He raised the bar.

Meeting the right mentors is one of the most important steps in one’s life. Having that protective figure in your corner, someone with experience and authentic wisdom that you can trust, is a rare blessing.

Graeme was genuinely interested in my development as an actor. He listened to my concerns. He was enthusiastic about my goals and my life. He championed me. He taught me to believe in myself. I cherished our time together.

Meeting Governor General Roland Michener and his wife, with Graeme Campbell and Director Paddy Crean following the opening performance of Treasure Island at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Ontario. (That’s me on the left)

We performed together a year later in the musical, Camelot. Graeme was unforgettable in the role of ‘King Arthur.’ I played ‘Tom of Warwick,’ the young page who dreams of fighting for the Round Table. In the powerful closing moments of the play, Tom is knighted with the King’s legendary sword, Excalibur. Then, Arthur instructs him to circumvent the pending battle, run back to Camelot, and carry out his commands.

There are moments in one’s life that one never forgets. For me, it’s the unique and magical few minutes of this final scene. Night after night, show after show. It was mesmerizing. Our characters would disappear. There was no stage. There were no costumes. Graeme would look down, his eyes full of love, like a father speaking to the son he never had: “For as long as you live, you will remember what I, the King, tell you.”

Recounting it here, many decades later, brings a flood of emotions. Thank you, Graeme Campbell, for your mentorship. Thank you for teaching me about greatness. I have never forgotten your words.

Don’t let it be forgot
that once there was a spot
for one brief shining moment
that was known as Camelot.

Graeme Campbell (Nov. 30, 1940 - Jan. 18, 1992)