Actor Winston Rekert — who delighted Vancouver audiences on stage at the Arts Club Theatre and global audiences as the star of Neon Rider and Adderly — died early Friday of cancer at the age of 63.
Born and raised in Vancouver, Rekert got his start at the Arts Club with a single line, “Did anyone order a taxi?” in a production of Hot L Baltimore. Rekert took that taxi to stardom, soon becoming one of the country’s best-known actors.
“Memories of his work will live on,” Arts Club artistic managing director Bill Millerd told The Sun. “Winston was a ‘natural’ actor who followed his instincts.
“He spoke from his heart and was always honest on stage. He was gruff and could be menacing, but if a moment didn’t feel right, he couldn’t do it. His work with Susan Wright in a couple of shows in the early days at Seymour Street and with Janet Wright in The Sea Horse speaks to his singular talent.”
Beyond his talent Rekert was also known for his sense of humour.
“Winston did have a terrific sense of humour,” recalls Millerd. “After the last performance of The Sea Horse with Janet Wright at the Granville Island Stage they took their dressing room chairs and launched them into False Creek in front of the lounge.”
Blessed with leading-man looks, Rekert became a national phenomenon when he starred as the title character in the acclaimed coroner series, Adderly which ran on CBS between 1986 and 1989.
When Adderly was cancelled he and his childhood friend Danny Virtue began pitching a TV movie called Dude that was described as “Fame goes Outward Bound.” Dude became Neon Rider which ran from 1990 to 1995 with Rekert starring as Michael Terry, a psychologist who takes troubled teens out of the big city (Vancouver) and tries to sort out their problems back at the ranch (in Mission). Through the show he became involved with a variety of youth groups and was named the national spokesman for Youth at Risk.
Last April, Winston received the Sam Payne Lifetime Achievement Award from the Union of B.C. Performers to recognize his outstanding body of work.
Rekert began acting at age 12 in an amateur production of Amahl and the Night Visitors. After high school, Rekert spent a year working in a logging camp, then took a year off to try his hand at acting and soon found himself on stage at the Arts Club and onscreen on The Beachcombers.
In the 1970s, Rekert made the pilgrimage to Toronto landing leading roles in American and Canadian productions, and collecting a Gemini Award for Best Performance by a Lead Actor in a Continuing Dramatic Role for the TV Series Adderly in 1987. He collected a second Gemini for Best Performance by an Actor in a Guest Role in a Dramatic Series for TV’s Blue Murder in 2003.
Rekert guest starred in many of the best-known shows shot in B.C. including Cold Squad, Supernatural, Stargate SG-1 and Battlestar Galactica. His movie career included roles in films such as Agnes of God.
As news spread that Rekert had succumbed to cancer, the Facebook pages of Vancouver actors were covered with tributes, many thanking him for his generosity or for providing them with their first big break.
Actress and director Colleen Winton wrote, “Aside from his long list of credits as an actor, he did such a service to this community with the creation of the series Neon Rider. A real treasure. He will be missed.”
RECKERT, Winston (Winston A. Reckert)
Born: 7/10/1949, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Died: 9/14/2012, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Winston Beckert’s westerns – actor:
Lonesome Dove: The Series (TV) – 1995 (Sheriff Clint Maitland)
Angel and the Badman (TV) – 2009 (Sam)
Goodnight for Justice (TV) – 2011 (Frank LeGrange)