While playing around with the layout of The Lisp, I found an interview that I thought was done gone to the Interweb heavens. It was originally posted on my old blog and was my first interview ever. I'm so glad to find it and repost it here for you, along with a wee post script at the end.
"When Shirley Met Shaun"
It was supposed to be a "light dusting of snow" day, yet I'm slip-sliding up the street during what can only be the beginning of yet another Toronto snowstorm. I'm heading to the Bulldog Coffee Shop to meet up with Shaun Proulx, the host of The Shaun Proulx Show on ProudFM, the world's first GLBT commercial radio station.
By the time I reach the café, I look like an extra from The Poseidon Adventure. Hair ruined, pants soaking, make-up running. Thankfully, I've arrived a few minutes before Shaun so I have the opportunity to recreate something presentable rather than inspire a fight-or-flight instinct in him.
Shaun arrives, bundled from head to waist, but there's no mistaking him. At 6'4", with a super white smile and that familiar voice, he is an immediate presence. Being as handsome as he is helps, too. Now, for those that don't know, Shaun has many credits to his name. Author, editor, radio host, actor, film maker, activist and he is quite the community celebrity.
Before I get too far ahead, how about some back story? Shaun spent many fruitful years working in Finance, but eventually felt the need to step away. There were a few factors that contributed to his departure from the financial world and all signs were pointing Shaun towards an entirely different experience. "I had just turned 30...but it wasn't just that...I wanted to start exploring my creativity. So, I took a theatre course..." A potential professional "windfall" made him think, "When is this ever going to happen again in my life?" Next, he landed a role in a play three days after auditioning for it. Shaun says, "Theatre felt like home." As near as I can tell, that is a great sign!
"Many people mark their success by how much money they have or the things they can buy," says Shaun, "but I consider myself way more successful now." Shaun admits its been a tough road with personal and financial challenges, but without them, he wouldn't be where he is now. With so many hats to wear, 60 or 70 hour work weeks are the norm but they don't bother him. "I did those kind of hours in Finance, sometimes more."
Shaun was the co-founder, editor and contributor of GayGuideToronto, a website that truly brings together the different scenes and sub-cultures of our community. When I ask him about the splintering and "separateness" that exists within the Toronto gay community, he confidently believes, "we all have lots of things in common. There's just too much stigma surrounding all the different subcultures; we don't take the time to understand them and we judge them." By keeping involved with various scenes, Shaun is able to bring these issues to the foreground, sometimes sparking controversy, but more importantly, conversation.
Shaun has brought various issues out of the dark and thrust them into the collective conscience. No topic is taboo. Want to know more about crystal meth and its presence in the community; care to engage in a debate on the numerous facets of Bareback Porn? "I see your comments and I know who you are; I see his comments and I know who he is. I might also know that the two of you would never bother to have a conversation in real life, but online, you can."
In 2006, Shaun co-produced the award winning DecAids-Anything Is Possible, a behind the scenes documentary of the 20th anniversary of Fashion Cares, an annual fashion and music gala extravaganza in support of the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT).
Shaun's voice has been swirling on the airwaves since May of 2007. "I really pushed for this job. I really wanted it and I had to show them I could do it." For a week, Shaun worked the 10pm to 2am slot. "It was hard, but they wanted to see what I could do. I was so nervous. It's hard trying to fill a 3 minute gap, essentially talking to yourself. I was a wreck before I first went on." A supportive and comforting partner saw him through to Launch Day and on the eve of his debut, friends stood outside the radio station at Church and Wellesley Streets, the heart of Toronto's Gay Village, with a banner congratulating "Gay radio's next top model."
"I have the best friends on the planet!"
Shaun moved to the 7pm -10pm slot, and before the end of the summer, he was hosting the afternoon drive home with his new producer and sidekick, Mark Wigmore. If you have ever listened in during the show, you'll know that "Wigmore" is a great sport and is able to keep up the verbal volleyball with the quick wit- and tongue- of Proulx. Making the banter even more fun, is that Wigmore is straight. Oil and water? Lemon juice and milk? Rosie and Donald? No, these two mix quite well together. Sidebar: I was the final vote that sent mild mannered straighty Mark Wigmore to the tubs. As Shaun said on air, "another radio first!"
What's next for Shaun Proulx? "I'm not shy about wanting to do television. It would be the same type of format as the radio show. Current affairs, entertainment, celebrities. I'd love to do it with Mark. I like George Stroumboulopoulous' show. Kind of like that, but hopefully a little more risqué."
Earlier, I noticed the red string around his wrist. I didn't know I was going to, but decided to ask Shaun what he's gained from studying Kabbalah. "I've been involved for about two years now. Life rewards action...putting in what you want to get back, and for everyone to benefit."
And then we were done.
As I maneuvered the streets back to my car, I thought about what Shaun said about "Life rewards action" and it reminded me of something another famous Kabbalist once said:
"That consciousness is everything and that all things begin with a thought; that we are responsible for our own fate, we reap what we sow, we get what we give, we pull in what we put out....that's what I know for sure."
Maybe it really is that simple.
11 Questions with Shaun Proulx
(A blatant rip off from Vanity Fair's Proust questionnaire.)
*When are you the happiest?
When I'm pursuing my passions.
*What is your current state of mind or mood?
Grateful and excited.
*What are you most looking forward to in 2008?
Pride, Madonna's new CD and whatever mysteries lie ahead.
*What is the quality or trait you most admire?
*What is your greatest fear?
*Who are your heroes?
Oprah and Madonna.
*Which living person do you most despise?
George W. Bush and his whole entourage.
*What about you would surprise the people that know you?
I'm scared shitless more often than they would think.
*If you could change anything about yourself...?
To not worry about what other people think of me.
*What do you most value in your friends?
Loyalty, authenticity and the ability to stay up all night, with or without help.
*What's the one thing that if you don't get to do will be your greatest regret.
There's about half a dozen places in the world if I never see, I'd regret it.
If you would like to see someone or know someone who wants to be featured on The Lisp.... just email me: shirleyheezgay at gmail dot com.
Since the original post, Shaun has had some significant changes in his day to day.
Gay Guide Toronto and his Loose Lips blog has gone the way of the dodo, but never fear...Shaun says, "GGT 2.0 coming at you sooner than you think," having acquired 100% ownership of the site. In the meantime, you can catch up on all his goings-on at his new blog, H*I*M*B*O*. Also, Shaun wrote and published his last Cocktail Confessions, his regular dishy column at Xtra!, Canada's GLBT community paper. He's still writing for Xtra!, though. His new column debuted in the most recent issue; we saw him "Cavorting With The Stars" with the iconic Diahann Carroll! And of course, you can still hear him everyday from 3pm to 7pm on ProudFM!