Albert Samuel Waxman, CM OOnt (March 2, 1935 – January 18, 2001) was a Canadian actor and director of over 1000 productions on radio, television, film, and stage. He is best known for his starring roles in the television series King of Kensington (CBC) and Cagney & Lacey (CBS).
Waxman was born in Toronto to Jewish immigrants from Poland. His parents operated and owned Melinda Lunch, a small restaurant. His father, Aaron Waxman, died when Al was nine.
Waxman's career began at the age of twelve on CBC Radio, but it was not until 1975, when he began playing the role of Larry King on CBC's King of Kensington, that he became a Canadian icon.
In the 1980 award-winning film Atlantic City starring Burt Lancaster, Waxman appeared as a rich cocaine buyer with a seemingly endless amount of cash.
During the 1980s, Waxman starred as the gruff but endearing Lt. Bert Samuels in the highly successful CBS television drama Cagney & Lacey.
During the 1990s, Waxman appeared in a variety of films and television shows, but began spending more time acting and directing in the theatre. In 1991, Al hosted Missing Treasures, a TV show which profiled missing children in Canada. He was also a founding member of the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television.
In 1997, he was awarded the best actor Gemini Award for his performance in the television film Net Worth.
Waxman also appeared at the Stratford Festival, beginning with his critically acclaimed performance as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman in 1997. He also directed The Diary of Anne Frank at the Stratford Festival in 2000. He was to return to Stratford for his highly anticipated portrayal of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice in 2001. In the wake of Waxman's death, one month before rehearsals were to begin, Paul Soles accepted the part of Shylock and the play was performed in honour of Waxman.
His last television role was as celestial Judge Othneil in Twice in a Lifetime. The last episode, on which he worked right up until the afternoon before his elective heart bypass surgery, was about a man, popular in his community, who needed routine bypass surgery, but died during the operation. Although some sections of the episode were rewritten, at the end of this final episode, Waxman's character is asked rhetorically "why do the good die young" to which he has no answer. He's then told "you were quite a warrior". His response – not merely the end of the episode, but one of Waxman's last lines ever recorded, and spoken with a smile – was: "I had my day".
Throughout his career, he responded to the need for his services in community work and was involved with charitable causes from coast to coast. He was a spokesperson for organizations such as United Appeal, United Jewish Appeal, Israel Bonds, Variety Club, the Muscular Dystrophy Telethons, and Big Brothers (for which he also became an honorary member). From June 1979 to June 1981, he was the National Campaign Chairman for the Canadian Cancer Society, and from 1988 to 1989, he was an official spokesperson for the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario. Together with his wife, Sara Waxman, he also created the Sara and Al Waxman Neo-Natal Unit at the Shaare Zedek Medical Centre in Jerusalem.
Al Waxman was accorded many tributes for his volunteer and philanthropic work. In 1978, he was honoured with the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal. In 1989, he was the recipient of the B'nai B'rith of Canada Humanitarian Award. In 1996, Waxman was inducted into the Order of Ontario and, in 1997, into the Order of Canada. In 1998, he was given the Earle Grey Award for lifetime achievement in Canadian television.
In 1999, he published a memoir That’s What I Am (ISBN 1-894121-26-0) which received a Canadian Jewish Book Award.
In 2016 Al Waxman was posthumously inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame as a Cineplex Legends Inductee for his enormous contribution to Canadian arts and culture as actor, director, producer, and consummate and integral supporter of the Canadian film industry and young aspiring artists emerging within it.
Waxman died in Toronto during heart surgery on January 18, 2001, at the age of 65.
Following his death, a statue of him, created by Ruth Abernethy, was erected in Kensington Market, the Toronto neighbourhood where King of Kensington takes place. The inscription in front of the statue reads "There's lots to do down the road, there's always more. Trust your gut instincts. In small matters trust your mind, but in the important decisions of life – trust your heart." In May 2014, the statue was vandalised with graffiti and resembled the Joker, a Batman villain. A relationship anarchy symbol was also on the statue's forehead. However, Abernethy said she doesn't take the vandalism personally. The statue was later cleaned and polished.
Musician Jaymz Bee of the Bee People (prior to his work with Look People, the Royal Jelly Orchestra, and various projects) was a founder of the Al Waxman Fan Club. The fan club began in 1984 following the heyday of the King of Kensington television show. Bee, his associates Clay Tyson (son of Ian & Sylvia), Bazl Salazar, Bruce J. Scott, and artist Max MacDonald, would host parties and write songs in honour of Waxman. They created a dance called "The Waxman Wiggle". Some Bee People song titles include: "Have Al Instead", "Al or Nothing", "UniversAl" and "Puff, The Waxman Poodle". While the fan club initially appeared to be a publicity stunt, this led to a long and successful association between Jaymz Bee and Al Waxman. Waxman attended some of the fan club events as organised by Bee, most of which raised money for charities such as the Canadian Cancer Foundation and Big Brother.
Bee attended Waxman's funeral and, with his fan club, held a wake in Toronto on January 25, 2001. They had a New Orleans-style funeral march with a jazz band and paraded from The Cameron House to Kensington Market where they recorded his hit TV theme song with Vezi Tayyeb at Kensington Sound. The AWFC boasted over 1,000 card carrying members and, while the bulk of members were from Toronto, some were as far away as Japan and Africa. President Bee received a terse reply from Buckingham Palace notifying him that the Queen does not "join a fan club". Al Waxman realized over the years that this organization, while appearing tongue-in-cheek, was a group of bona fide fans who enjoyed celebrating "the King of Canada". Members of the now dormant AWFC can still be seen wandering through Kensington Market to shake the hand of the Al Waxman statue that resides there.
- 1959: Sun In My Eyes
- 1961: The Hired Gun
- 1962: The War Lover as Prien: Crew of 'The Body'
- 1963: The Victors as 'The Squad' Member
- 1964: Man in the Middle as Cpll. Zimmerman
- 1967: Do Not Fold, Staple, Spindle, or Mutilate
- 1968: Isabel as Herb
- 1970: The Last Act of Martin Weston
- 1971: The Crowd Inside as Director
- 1972: When Michael Calls as Sheriff Hap Washbrook
- 1972: The Sloane Affair as Hogan
- 1974: Child Under a Leaf as Storekeeper
- 1974: Sunday in the Country as Sergeant
- 1974: The Heatwave Lasted Four Days as Harry
- 1974: A Star Is Lost! as Inspector Bruno
- 1975: My Pleasure is my Business
- 1976: The Clown Murders as Police Sergeant
- 1979: Wild Horse Hank as Jay Connors
- 1980: Atlantic City as Alfie
- 1980: Double Negative as Dellassandro
- 1981: Heavy Metal as Rudnick (segment "Harry Canyon") (voice)
- 1981: Tulips as Bert Irving
- 1982: Class of 1984 as Detective Stewiski
- 1983: Spasms as Warren Crowley
- 1986: Meatballs III: Summer Job as Peter
- 1988: Switching Channels as Berger
- 1988: Malarek as Stern
- 1989: Collision Course as Dingman
- 1989: Millennium as Dr. Brindle
- 1989: Mob Story as Sam
- 1991: Scream of Stone as Stephen
- 1991: The Hitman as Marco Luganni
- 1991: White Light
- 1991: I Still Dream of Jeannie as Gen. Wescott
- 1992: Quiet Killer as Mayor Andy Carmichael
- 1992: Live Wire as James Garvey
- 1992: The Diamond Fleece
- 1994: Operation Golden Phoenix as Chief Gordon
- 1994: Death Junction as Captain Jenkow
- 1995: Iron Eagle on the Attack as Maj. Gen. Brad Kettle
- 1995: Net Worth as Jack Adams
- 1996: Gotti as Bruce Cutler
- 1996: Bogus as School Principal
- 1996: Holiday Affair (TV movie) as Mr. Corley
- 1997: The Assignment as Carl Mickens - CIA
- 1997: Critical Care as Sheldon Hatchett (a Lawyer)
- 1998: At the End of the Day: The Sue Rodriguez Story as John Hofsess
- 1999: A Saintly Switch as Coach Beasily
- 1999: Summer's End as Grandpa Trapnell
- 1999: The Hurricane as Warden
- 2000: The Thin Blue Lie as Art Zugler
- 2001: Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows as Louis B. Mayer (released posthumously)
- 2001: What Makes a Family as Frank Cataldi (released posthumously)
- 1975–1980: King of Kensington as Larry King
- 1981: Circus International
- 1981–1988: Cagney & Lacey as Lt. Bert Samuels
- 1990–1991: Missing Treasures
- 1997: Simply Wine and Cheese
- 1999–2001: Twice in a Lifetime as Judge Othniel / Judge Jepthah / M.C.
- 1965: For the People as Berkowitz
- 1969: Adventures in Rainbow Country
- 1979, 1983–1984: The Littlest Hobo as Vic Carrano / Vernie Davis
- 1985: Night Heat
- 1986: Philip Marlowe, Private Eye as Trimmer Waltz
- 1988: My Secret Identity
- 1988: Street Legal as Judge John R. Caldwell
- 1988: Alfred Hitchcock Presents as Dale Linseman
- 1989: Hard Time on Planet Earth
- 1989: Murder, She Wrote as Carl Wilson
- 1993: Sweating Bullets as Brennan
- 1994-1998: Due South as Nicholas Van Zandt / Vince Leggett
- 1995-????: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
- 1998: Twitch City as Bum
- 1998–2000: Power Play