Friends say Mike Bezzeg died doing what he loved: Giving back to friends in a time of need.
Canada’s first ‘VJ’, Mike Bezzeg, died in hospital on Monday from injuries received in a motor vehicle collision that happened on Sarcee Trail near his home on March 24. He was 66.
The crash happened while Bezzeg was driving home from dropping off food for a friend who was quarantined due to the COVID-19 virus.
Long-time friend Mary-Lynn Wardle of the band The Funeral Factory, which Bezzeg managed for years, reflected on Bezzeg’s persistent generosity, even during hard times.
“It’s very like Mike. He was forever giving up things for people. Bringing out albums, picking up things for people. He had a neighbour who was dying slowly, and Mike became essentially his caregiver, and saw him through to the end,” Wardle said.
“True to Mike’s form, he had taken some food over to a friend’s, and this happened on the way back. It doesn’t surprise that that’s what he was doing when this happened,” Wardle said.
‘How he pulled it together, I’ll never know.’
Bezzeg began building a platform for non-mainstream musicians in 1979 with his music cable show FM Moving Pictures.
At a time when Calgary was all but unknown to the outside music world and social media was decades away, cultivating a movement involving any music that wasn’t spoon fed to listeners on the radio was no easy feat.
“Think about it. Calgary in 1979 had under 500,000 people. There was nothing here. And you’re searching around thinking The Eagles just aren’t for me. Then you chance across this cable 10 channel that essentially saved people. How he pulled it together I’ll never know,” said Wardle.
‘Invisible community of fans’
After taking 35-year hiatus to raise his family, Bezzeg and longtime friend David Veitch started InnerView, a bi-weekly arts and music web interview series.
“Mike is an icon for many Calgarians. This was before MuchMusic, before MTV, before the Internet. It covered music that wasn’t readily available, and turned music lovers onto music they might not hear otherwise,” said Veitch.
“Those same individuals would gather in slums and realize, ‘Hey! You watch that show too? I love that show!’ Mike had an invisible community of fans,” said Veitch.
In his early years, Bezzeg interviewed rock legends like Iggy Pop and Bob Geldof, and is known for always putting his passion for music ahead of the profit.
“Mike was ground zero. And he did way better by us than we did by him,” said Wardle.
“Our friendship spans over 40 years, and it’s so cool that our friendship isn’t just based on nostalgia. We reconnected over the last few years, and we would get together and go for big walks and listen to new music. The spark was still there. He was a pretty amazing guy.”
Bezzeg’s family released a statement
Bezzeg is survived by his wife Odette and two children, Aja and Christian.
The family released a statement on Bezzeg’s passing.
“The family is overwhelmed by grief and loss, yes — and yet, we are also overwhelmed by the outpouring of affection from all of you for our beloved Mike,” read the statement from his brother Thom Bezzeg.
“The comments we’ve received, and those posted on social media, have provided all of us comfort during this most difficult time. It is a reminder of how special Mike was, and how deeply he was loved by people who knew, as well as countless more people whose lives he touched during his time on this Earth.”