Aaarrrgghhh, matey! You need some pirate charm during Calgary’s coronavirus

Calgary man hopes to lift local spirits with pirate gig, matey!

Brian Spencer spreads good cheer to drivers and pedestrians passing through McKenzie Towne. BREE TRESOOR / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Brian Spencer’s portrayal of Jack Sparrow may be interpreted in many ways, but the end result is always the same: Smiles all around.

“To kids under ten, I’m just a pirate. To most, I’m Jack. And to the select few, I’m off my rocker,” he said.

Dressed as the unmistakable Disney pirate Jack Sparrow, Spencer is braving the streets near his home in McKenzie Lake, demonstrating that social distancing doesn’t put an end to fun.

“The character is random and perfect for a time like this when everyone is stuck at home and living in worry or fear,” said Spencer.

Spencer, a seasoned entertainer, has been honing his Jack Sparrow impression since the first Pirates of the Caribbean film was released in 2003.

“I have been doing impressions most of my life. Started singing and doing voices around the age of seven. So, when Pirates came out, I started doing Jack Sparrow,” he said.

Taking a cue from Johnny Depp himself

It wasn’t until last year that he decided to bring his talents to the Alberta Children’s Hospital, a stunt famously performed by Johnny Depp at the B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver in 2017.

“Being trapped in a hospital isn’t all that fun, so I wanted to make them smile, laugh and forget where they were for a while,” said Spencer.

“Unfortunately, after a few attempts to volunteer, the hospital was busy and never got back to me.”

Not one to accept defeat, Spencer found success taking his act to Calaway Park for the Calgary Expo, and later, to Heritage Park on Halloween.

When he isn’t busy being the friendly neighbourhood swashbuckler, Spencer runs a dayhome out of his house with his girlfriend, Ingrid, along with their two children.

“Ingrid thinks it’s hilarious. She loves that I go out and do this for people. My boy thinks it’s embarrassing,” said Spencer.

Spencer’s stepdaughter sometimes accompanies him on his walkabouts, even dressing up herself for the Calgary Expo.

“She loves the attention, and she likes that people let her in the pictures, too. It’s cute,” he said.

Doing it for the people

With COVID-19 looming over the country, Spencer believes that the biggest threat to people is the lack of clarity.

“People have mixed feelings and there are conflicting facts wherever you look, so to me, the biggest pandemic we are fighting isn’t COVID-19; it’s the fear and misinformation out there,” said Spencer.

“You can’t stress though – nobody gets anything done if all they do is stress. Just got to solve each problem as it comes.”

Spencer previously served as a volunteer firefighter for the Foothills Fire Department, but was forced to quit due to injuries. Still, Spencer continues to look for unique ways to give back to the community.

“I think that’s one of the main factors of why I’m doing this now. I care about people, always have,” he said.

Spencer said he admires essential workers that continue to put themselves at risk every day.

“Thank God for doctors, nurses and all hospital staff. I don’t think transit workers get the credit they deserve, either,” he said.

According to passerby Rebecca Lynn Mead, Spencer’s efforts are having their intended affect.

“It was an absolute treat to witness this pirate with a heart of gold prancing around the neighbourhood, just to generate some much-needed smiles,” she said.

“What a marvelous gem.”

As long as it generates smiles, Spencer will continue to grace the streets with his presence. He may even branch out to other neighbourhoods, with other costumes.

“I really want people to know that everything’s ok. We will get through. We can still be normal and have fun,” he said.

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