DJ & Canadian Host of The Stories of Classic Rock Dies at 56

Stories and info about those no longer involved in the industry

DJ & Canadian Host of The Stories of Classic Rock Dies at 56

Postby jon » Tue Aug 12, 2014 5:52 pm

Passages: Local actor, radio host was a man of many talents
Paul Wainwright – Dec. 2, 1957 to July 15, 2014
By Samantha Beattie
Hamilton Spectator
August 10, 2014

Decked out in firefighter gear, radio host, actor and music enthusiast Paul Wainwright can't wait to climb into the fire truck. He sits down confidently in the driver's seat, cranks the engine and puts the truck into gear. Honking and waving, he does lap after lap of the parking lot.

This is the memory that comes to Leslee Vajda's mind when she's asked to remember her partner and best friend. It's the day in 2012 when Wainwright got his D-class licence and took her out for a spin in his favourite type of rig, a shiny red fire truck.

"Paul was the funniest man alive," said Vajda. "He could crack a joke in any situation, good or bad and he wasn't afraid to try something new."

Paul Wainwright, who at 56 died from a sudden heart attack July 15, was a local Hamilton celebrity in more ways than one.

From 2005 to 2012, he was the voice of Niagara's afternoon commute as host of the classic rock radio station GIANT FM. People liked to listen to Wainwright, who certainly had the gift for gab, said fellow GIANT FM host Brandon Wright.

"Paul knew how to talk to people and make them laugh," Wright said. "He was just a really good guy. He taught me everything he knew about the radio industry, all the ins and outs."

Wainwright also had extensive knowledge about musicians and over the span of his 25-year-plus radio career, interviewed the likes of Johnny Cash, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.

"My father taught me to love and appreciate music," said Wainwright's daughter Leanne O'Neill, 31.

Some of O'Neill's fondest childhood memories are of her and her dad dancing in the living room, rocking out to old records by the Rolling Stones, AC/DC or Van Morrison.

"He'd always say I was his Brown Eyed Girl," she said. "That was our song."

Wainwright was a radio announcer at Hamilton radio stations CKOC, CHAM and K-Lite from the mid-'80s until he landed the job at GIANT FM. In 2007, he also began hosting The Stories of Classic Rock on Badunga Radio in Los Angeles, where he'd replay monumental interviews with famous musicians.

On the side of his radio career, Wainwright pursued his other passion — acting.

He was most proud of his role as a pharmacist in the 2011 feature film Man on the Train starring Donald Sutherland and U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr.

"Donald Sutherland said I was splendid in Man on the Train," posted Wainwright on his LinkedIn profile.

In the early 2000s, Wainwright appeared in a number of commercials with a humorous man-of-authority persona. These included Bell Sympatio, Honey Bunches of Oats, Pizza Pops and Bud Lite.

In the 1990s, Wainwright got into the film industry by doing voice-overs and on-camera hosting for corporate videos. That's how he met his good friend Jim Unsworth, owner of Video-Prom Inc.

"Paul was a fine actor, very talented," Unsworth said. "If a friend pitched a film idea to him, he'd enthusiastically support and take part in it."

As a member of ACTRA and Directors Guild of Canada, Wainwright was serious about acting and throughout the last decade landed roles in the Border, 1-800-Missing, My Babysitter's a Vampire and Mr. Viral.

But in 2012, Wainwright hit a bit of a dead end. After leaving GIANT FM and having no major acting gigs lined up, he was unsure what to do next.

"I asked him, 'If you could do anything, what would it be?'" said Vajda. "He said he'd always wanted to be a truck driver, so that's what he went and did."

After he got a job at Simcoe Transportation and Logistics Exclusive Services, Wainwright drove a truck to Buffalo and back every day.

"He was absolutely listening to his classic rock favourites while he drove his truck," said O'Neill. "That job made him happy."

When it came down to it, Wainwright was most proud of his granddaughter, Avery O'Neill, who was born on April 18.

"When he met her, he was overwhelmed," remembers O'Neill. "He said, 'It's nice to meet someone who has never made a mistake in her life.'"
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