Billy Van

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This article is about the actor. For the musician, see Billy Van (musician).
Billy Van
Billy Van.jpg
Born William Allan Van Evera
1934
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Died 8 January 2003(2003-01-08) (age 68)
Occupation Actor, sketch comedian, singer
Years active 1950s–2000

William Allan Van Evera, (1934 – 8 January 2003), known by the stage name Billy Van, was a Canadian comedian, actor and singer.

Biography[edit]

Van was born in Toronto, Ontario and dropped out of Bloor Collegiate Institute in Grade 11 to pursue a career as an entertainer. Starting as a youth, he and his four brothers toured North America as a singing act called the Van Evera Brothers. After leaving his brothers and dropping "Evera" from his name, Van was initially known as a singer, leading The Billy Van Four and later The Billy Van Singers and making frequent appearances on Canadian variety television shows such as Fancy Free.[1] The single "I Miss You" / "The Last Sunrise" by the Billy Van Four, released on the Rodeo International label, peaked at number 29 on the CHUM Chart in Toronto in March 1961.[2]

As a comedian, Van first gained national attention in 1963 as a performer on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's late-night satire programme Nightcap. He threatened to quit the show after three seasons when the CBC wouldn't give him a requested raise from $400 to $500 an episode. At that time, a columnist in The Globe and Mail called Van "perhaps the most talented variety performer ever developed by the CBC."[3] After the dispute became public, the CBC capitulated and Van continued on the show for one final season. Van appeared in a six-part spinoff series, Flemingdon Park, based on a recurring Nightcap skit, that aired at the beginning of 1967. Nightcap was cancelled in May 1967.

Through the 1970s, Van was a regular member of the "home team" on the CHCH-TV charades series Party Game. In 1971, he began making The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, also for CHCH in Hamilton, Ontario. It is this show for which he is most well known, and it has subsequently developed a cult following. A total of 130 episodes were produced, with Van playing almost every lead character.[4] The characters included The Count (Count Frightenstein, for which he put on a faux Bela Lugosi-type voice); Grizelda the Ghastly Gourmet (an old witch with a cauldron who did a cooking show); The Wolfman, who, in an imitation of DJ Wolfman Jack would play records, and dance to them, while wearing a werewolf costume. (Actual rock classics from Sly and the Family Stone, the Archies or other bands of the era would then play in their entirety); The Librarian, an ancient bearded character who tried "to horrify you" with benign fairy tales from dusty old cobwebbed volumes, then would be disappointed when the unseen viewers were not horrified; Dr. Petvet, who would bring animals onto a set and tell about them (his catchphrase was "Pets are friends."); The Oracle, who would give astrological readings and answer fake letters from viewers while wearing a large headdress and speaking in a faux Peter Lorre voice; and many others.

Van was a regular performer on The Ray Stevens Show, The Ken Berry "Wow" Show, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, The Bobby Vinton Show, and the Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show, most of which were co-produced by Chris Bearde, who had been a writer-performer on Nightcap. Van also appeared in many commercials, including Colt 45 Malt Liquor commercials for 15 years, where he won a Clio Award in 1975.[5]

In 1982, he hosted TVOntario's Bits and Bytes, a show devoted to the usage of early (mostly 8-bit) personal computers, a role returned to 1991 in Bits in Bytes 2. Van also narrated the animated program Eureka!, which taught children about physics. Van also appeared occasionally in the Canadian TV show Bizarre, hosted by John Byner.

He had a triple heart bypass in 1998.[6]

Van supported the Canadian Comedy Awards with promotional appearances from the awards' inception in 2000.[7]

After first being diagnosed in December 2001, Van died of esophageal cancer at age 68 on 8 January 2003 at Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital.[6][8] He was survived by his wife Susan and two daughters, Tracy and Robyn, from a previous marriage.[7]

One of Van's brothers, Jack Van Evera, also became an actor and appeared on many Canadian television series such as The Forest Rangers and Adventures in Rainbow Country.

Discography[edit]

Billy Van Four[edit]

  • 1961: The Last Sunrise / I Miss You (Rodeo label, Canada)

Billy Van Singers[edit]

  • 1968: Polydor Presents The Billy Van Singers LP (Polydor)
  • 1969: "Fall In" A Fun Fashion Musical (DuPont Canada/Chelsea Records) on 1 track

Filmography[edit]

Television series[edit]

Television movies[edit]

Movies[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Billy Van Four To Be Regulars On Fancy Free". Retrieved 10 November 2009. 
  2. ^ Ron Hall, The Chum Chart Book: 1957-1983, 1984, p. 190.
  3. ^ "Thanks for nothing," Dennis Braithwaite, The Globe and Mail, 6 September 1966, p. 25.
  4. ^ "CH TV Hamilton History". Retrieved 29 January 2007. 
  5. ^ "Clio Awards". 
  6. ^ a b Sorenson, Chris (9 January 2003). "Billy Van was able to see funny side of Canadian TV ; Versatile comic dies at 68 after battle with cancer Returned home after '70s success on U.S. television". Toronto Star. p. A17. 
  7. ^ a b The Canadian Press (9 January 2003). "Veteran comic Billy Van dies of cancer at age 68". Sudbury Star. p. A8. 
  8. ^ Clark, Andrew (23 March 2005). "Inductee: Billy Van". CBC News. Retrieved 8 November 2009. 

External links[edit]