Monday, February 20, 2012

everybody wants something that will never give up...

We kept our tradition of having my sister stay over this past Family Day Weekend. This goes way beyond catching up over dinner - we decidedly make this event into a theme party. We are no strangers to the idea of over-board parties with our Michael Jackson Tribute Party a few years ago to last year's Yo Gabba Gabba Family Day Party. This year was starting to look like an inspirational dud when we were tossing around the idea of a Whitney Houston Memorial. But everything changed when word came through that Wheels from Degrassi had died (not lately - like 5 years ago!). Since the majority of people keeping up with this blog are from the U.S., I should explain who this is and what it means to not only me - but Canada!

Wheels was a main character from Degrassi - the original teen drama TV series airing in the late 80's & early 90's. He first started as Griff in Kids of Degrassi, then as Wheels straight through Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High. He was a reluctant cultural forefather of the overused term "Canadian Tuxedo". 
As one of the core group of Degrassi characters, his character's plot line revolves around the loss of his parents in a drinking and driving accident to never fully recover from the event. We watch his continued struggles and decline as he strains every friendship and relationship on the show. His plot was always the one that tugged at my heart-strings, as silly as that sounds. Luckily the VHS production and keyboard soundtrack take any depth of drama and unintentionally lighten it up. Growing up watching Degrassi was an experience that hold's a strong place in my coming-of-age years in high school. 

To say I was a fan of Degrassi is an understatement. It bordered on obsession in the 90's where my best friend and I related much our day-to-day high school lives to the characters on Degrassi. We'd hang out after school to watch the episodes on CBC for the 20th time, over and over again. My sister even got into it along with her high school friends. Before Degrassi was kitch, and anonymity was still capable because of the infancy of internet searches, we went to a Degrassi reunion in 1999 and our small convention made the front page of the Toronto Star (that's us doing the can can with 'Liz'). 
Then the flood-gates opened for a total "reunion" and renewed interest in catching up with the actors. A youth-geared talk show called Jonovision reunited many of the former cast where we attended the show and mingled all the actors.
We had a lot of fun in those years and I think our zealous fandom helped to convince CTV to relaunch the Degrassi franchise which continues to run to this day.

Fast forward to today, Katie and I celebrated our Wheels Wake Sunday night by taking out every Wheels-centric episode of Degrassi and giving them a good re-watch. To liven up the affair, I baked a cake and had Nuno make it into Wheel's tight-fitting light jeans. 
The shape in the pocket - that's a dime. A tribute to one of our favourite Degrassi High lines from Alison, "Wheels? His jeans are so tight you could read a date on a dime." 
We reminisced about our favourite Degrassi moments & growing up watching Degrassi over fries. Here I am in my Canadian Tuxedo at the Wheels Wake.
So I guess what we were actually quite surprised to conclude after re-watching the Wheels episodes was how his real life must not have been terribly different from the character he was portraying. Particularly painful to watch were the scenes of him on the street soaking wet in a phone booth calling everyone he knew attempting to find a place to stay for the night. To think he died while living in a group home in Hamilton - alone. Well, it truly makes me sad to think it came to that for him.

1 comment:

alicia said...

rest in peace wheels. i'm actually really depressed about this and only a slice of jeans cake will ease my suffering!

also, i went to school at centennial college in toronto aka degrassi high. it was pretty surreal!


aaaand my "please prove you're not a robot" word is "Lancaster's" and i just got home from two days in lancaster, pa. i'm scared.