Countdown to LEXX: Remembering G….

Welcome to another one of my Blog Posts to promote or celebrate the official release of UNAUTHORIZED LEXX, From Here to the End of the Universe, Season Two, on March 31, 2020.  UNAUTHORIZED LEXX, Backstage at the Dark Zone, Season One, is already available as an ebook.

For the third season LEXX volume, there were only thirteen episodes, fifteen if you count the two versions of Rated: LEXX, and the production wasn’t nearly as chaotic or freewheeling as the first two series. So the book was going to be pretty sort. I decided to do biographies and character sketches of the key LEXX people.  This is a version of the Chapter I wrote for Lex Gigeroff.  I offer it up as a tribute to the man, no longer with us.

“On every television show, there’s one person who’s the heart, the emotional center. Every show has one, and it’s Brian, but Lex is right up there with him. He was the guy I really connected with when I was there. He was like a kid in a candy store. He was the one I got to give me a tour. He and Brian set the tone of the set.” Mark Asquith, who did the 2nd and 3rd season LEXX documentaries.

Lex Gigeroff was the sort of friendly hearty guy that’ll fix you with a merry twinkle in his eye, grin broadly, throw his arm around your shoulders as if you were his best friend, and tell you some long complicated but funny story as he reached down and felt around in your pockets looking for loose change.

He was just a fun guy.

And along with Brian Downey, he was the beating heart of the show.

This was the guy that gave his name to the show! And to Giggerotta! And the Gigashadow! Although he had only two solo writing credits, his shared credits with either or both Paul Donovan and Jeff Hirschfield, encompass roughly twenty-seven of the series episodes, and he’s credited as script editor for the entire fourth seasons episodes.

He appeared, in person and in voice through twenty roles in series, played the bound man and Divine Shadow in I Worship His Shadow, he played the musical Klaagyan in Eating Pattern, he played five roles in Lafftrack, appeared in His Shadow’s costume in Brigadoom, Doctor Rainbow in Tunnels, President Hufferton in Fluff Daddy, he has at least four voice roles in fourth series episodes. Often, he was the guy on set, fixing lines, solving problems, actively involved when Paul Donovan was doing producer stuff and Jeff Hirschfield was in Toronto.

His brother, Andre would play at least three roles in the series, and together the brothers would compose the music for Brigadoom.

Basic statistics. Born in Ottawa, with a brother, Andre who’s about a year older. They lived as urban kids in southern Ontario before the family pulled up stakes and moved to the small town of Yarmouth in Nova Scotia. According to Lex, there was some sort of mid life crisis thing going on, their parents were involved in arts or entertainment.

As Lex recalls, that was pretty traumatic. The week before, he’d gone to a David Bowie concert, all of a sudden he’s stuck out in the boonies where the main boy’s fun activity was strawing frogs. He didn’t take it well and admits to being a sort of a jerk. Charitably though, I can’t imagine any young man taking that kind of dislocation well, literally, the life you know is taken away from you, a knew life is plopped into your lap, you have no power over any of it, and somehow, someone expects you to say ‘thank you’ right away?

People aren’t made that way.

His brother Andre tells the story that when they were kids, their parents built a stage at their cottage, and he and his brother would put on shows for them and the neighbors. If they weren’t doing well enough, or screwed up, their parents would get on stage and finish it for them.

This is one of those childhood stories that you find yourself listening to with a kind of vertiginous crushing horror while the teller laughs indulgently at the fond memory. Somehow, this doesn’t seem to have been traumatic, or at least it wasn’t as traumatic as suddenly losing the opportunity to go to big name rock concerts for the rest of your youth.

Ah well, from something like that, you have to figure both Lex and Andre were doomed. They were either going into show business, or they were going to spend the rest of their lives in the dullest trades they could find, actuarial analysts or drill press operators, something like that. Lucky for the rest of us, they picked the arts.

Lex went to Dalhousie University, taking a Bachelors degree in Theatre, like he had a choice. He got involved in campus radio and then campus politics. He became Student Union President for one year, when he was the only candidate running with a sense of humour. Over in Fredericton, New Brunswick (the province next door to Halifax and Nova Scotia, where Lex was, I was involved in campus journalism, so I knew of him then).

So, here’s Lex G, actor, writer, man about town, living off of kraft dinner, and basically building a fine career as an obscure artist in an obscure coastal city. And let’s face it, he’s lucky, because Halifax is one of the few places in Canada where you can actually make a living doing that kind of thing.

Halifax isn’t a terribly big place. So actors take whatever comes their way they take. I met Geoff Herod who’d appeared as Brock in two episodes of Lexx (Gametown and Boomtown) and was now a tour guide dreaming of going to Toronto.

Lex was down that road, waiting tables, doing tour guide things, stuff like that. I remember him joking about doing a Pirate Tour. Occasionally a small part in a movie or a larger part in a play, campus radio, fringe festival shows, he did the whole struggling artist thing, but working steadily on a lot of small things that honed his skills and kept him interested.

Way back then, the big time was a radio sale to the CBC. Along the way, he got married and stayed happily married, and they had kids who are grew up perfectly well. Life was good, even if you weren’t knocking the world on its side.

Lex originally met Paul Donovan through campus radio. Back around 1988-1989, Lex was doing a radio comedy show called “The Nantucket Revue.” Anyway, he did a skit that was essentially HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, meeting David Byrne from the talking heads. Paul Donovan heard it, liked it, called up Lex and the two had coffee.

That was about it.

Great things did not come immediately out of that meeting.

It does make you think though. Later on, for the character the LEXX ship itself, Paul Donovan told Tom Gallant, the LEXX’s voice, he wanted something ‘turnipy’, basically, a personality free voice. Never tense, never upset, never interested, merely flat and even.

Something like HAL, when you think about it. Something like a stupid, motive-less, version of HAL with immense destructive power and blithely taking orders from an idiot. Was Paul Donovan’s attention attracted here, in part because he was thinking of something similar? Or did this inspire a little component of an idea for LEXX later on. Not even Paul may know for sure.

In any event, there was a small role in Paul Donovan’s Buried on Sunday in 1991 or 1992, as Sil (not the sex crazed Species girl, that’s Natasha Hentridge and a different movie), which seems to fit in with the whole keeping busy thing. He also appeared in Donovan’s Life With Billy.

Then, the summer of 1993, Lex did a one man show for the Halifax Fringe Festival, called the “Last Days of Brian Mulroney.”

A little backing up here is necessary for the uninitiated. A Fringe Festival is a theatre festival. Basically, some mid sized city sets aside a week or so and a half dozen stages, fifty or sixty small local and international theatre companies come in, and voila: Stage plays practically around the clock at movie theatre prices. It’s intense and intoxicating, an explosion of raw creativity on every front, a succession of live performances, pretty much anyone who’s got a dream and the entrance fee can take their shot at being a star.

Brian Mulroney on the other hand, can lay claim to being the most despised man in Canadian history. Prime Minister in the eighties, he’d ridden to power promising everything to everyone and won the largest majority in Canadian history with 240 seats out of 280. Once in power, however, he brought in Free Trade and NAFTA, did his best to dismantle the country, sold of Crown Corporations, created brand new taxes and ran up the deficit to record heights. Some journalists describe his regime as the most corrupt in Canadian history, although it would be years later before he was connected to anything. Mulroney confused leadership with making unpopular choices. After two terms in office, he left politics. But his taint by this time was so dark his handpicked successor, Kim Campbell was all but wiped out and reduced to 2 seats out of 290 or so in the next election. Nowadays, Mulroney quietly hides out in private life, secure in the knowledge that history will eventually vindicate him. Hasn’t happened yet.

In Lex’s own words, “I basically wrote it as the last ten days of Hitler, with Mulroney instead. There he is trapped in his Bunker, Kim Campbell is taking over and he’s going to pieces. Half of it was true, and the other half was the most outrageous, despicable, appalling lies I could make up.”

Paul Donovan saw it, and seems to have been blown away. Practically that night, Gigeroff was working on Paint Cans, where he had a small role as Oliver, Chas Lawther’s assistant. The rest is history. Later, after Paint Cans was finished, and after Donovan had shot the Dark Zone demo, Lex Gigeroff came on Board the Dark Zone project that summer.

From that day, he was one of the core people in LEXX throughout its history, as a creator, writer, actor and as one of the production people. Let’s face it, he lent the ship and the series his name, although that seems to be more Paul Donovan’s mischievous sense of humour than Lex Gigeroff’s hubris.

Lex was one of the most outgoing of the writers and creative people involved in the show. During the first UnCon, where a handful of fans travelled to Halifax to pay tribute to the show, he and Brian Downey gave guided tours of the sets.

He’s personable, easygoing, and he treats the show as just a barrel of fun. It’s neat to talk to him about it, his eyes light up as he starts telling stories about this or that, and you really get the feeling that there’s a lot of genuine love for the material in there.

As a writer and performer, people around him describe him as a ‘wacky guy.’ He’s intensely political, highly opinionated, and he’s got the confidence and lack of self consciousness that will allow him to just walk out and do a riff in the middle of a party, or on a stage.

“I’ve known Lex Gigeroff for years,” John Dunsworth said. “I’ve always been a fan of his. I directed him, early eighties, in a show in Yarmouth, he was brilliant. One night, in the back of the theatre, I saw him rehearsing, he didn’t know I was there. I watched him for 20 minutes, I was fascinated. He’s amazingly gifted.”

As an actor, Lex Gigeroff was amazingly protean. Literally, he looked different every time you see him in a role. He was like Peter Sellers, there’s a plastic quality to him, a kind of featurelessness that allows him to go out and be anyone. Brian Downey is a gifted mimic, but behind it all, there’s Brian. Lex on the other hand has this vanishing away quality, to his impersonations, he doesn’t just do people, he is people. His brutal thug in I Worship His Shadow, Doctor Rainbow in Tunnels, the various robots in Lafftrack, his President Hufferton from Fluff Daddy, the various voices he’s done, all seem to be unrelated people. I even watched him do an interview on a DVD extra, and he didn’t look like himself there, it took me a minute to realize it was him. In terms of both on screen and voice over, I count him as appearing in approximately twenty different roles in LEXX’s movies and episodes.

Lex was principally known as a writer on the series. Oddly, he has only two solo writing credits in the four years of the show: Lafftrack and Girltown. The other twenty-seven writing credits, including all four movies, nine second season, six third season and eight the fourth season are shared with other writers. If you want the breakdown, it’s seventeen with Donovan, six including the movies as a threeway between himself Donovan and Hirschfield, and one apiece with each of the fourth season writers. Of course, these credits may be awarded somewhat arbitrarily, but Lex is a baseball fan, and baseball is all about breakdowns like this.

In the third season, Lex’s role as a writer seemed to shift a bit. The group dynamic of the first and second seasons had fallen apart with the departure of Hirschfield and the shift towards a tight, unified, extended story that seemed to be Donovan’s alone. Lex remained as a credited writer on the third season, but I have the impression that he principally acted as Donovan’s right hand, a sounding board for ideas, possibly inspiring a few, touching up or lightening the writing here and there. But to illustrate how the third season writing was weighted, Lex has solo credit for one episode, and split credits for five with Paul Donovan, compared to seven plus “Rated LEXX” as sole for Donovan.

In the fourth season, Lex’s role opened up substantially, and he became, in addition to a writer, the story editor. Essentially, he had expanded in his role as Donovan’s right hand on the series. Lex’s role, essentially, seems to have been to work with Donovan in Halifax on the incoming scripts from Hirschfield in Toronto, and from the new writers in England, to ensure they passed muster. He, or Donovan, or both, would have been keeping track of the arcs, inserting little arc plot points, and basically dealing with the day to day stuff.

Lex was also the writer on the set, or as he put it to me, “Yeah, I’m everybody’s bitch.”

Donovan couldn’t be everywhere at once, so Lex was almost continually seconded to set to take care of writing and script issues as they arose.

“The first draft is the vision,” Jeff Hirschfield explains, “and the fifth draft is just the necessities of production. You wanted a forest, we’ve got one potted plant, you had him leaping through the trees, but you’ve got to rewrite him rubbing up against one plant. I was happy to be not doing those rewrites, where the set has only one door, or the actor is twenty years younger than you’ve written. Suddenly its Lex’s problem, and he does it very well. But it’s not the fun part.”

Given this, simply calling him a writer, or listing his episode credits, doesn’t adequately explain what Lex was doing in the third and fourth seasons. Rather, he seems to have become deeply, deeply involved in the production process, working hands on with Paul Donovan, Alison Outhit, David Coole and the directors to try and make sure everything went smoothly. He was effectively one of Paul’s most trusted creative lieutenants, perhaps the most important one left. He was the guy that handled major script crises as with Girltown and Viva LEXX Vegas.

Perhaps through his involvement with the production process, he was drawn into post-production, including editing and sound mixes, and may have simply made his various voice roles an easy, almost inevitable step. I can imagine him being literally on site. Anyone who thinks of writing as easy or straightforward or glamorous should probably take a look at what Lex went through. This was a guy who worked hard for a living.

Mark Laing described him as “an insane, twisted, individual, an absolute wild madman… Who somehow manages to maintain a stable home loving home life with a wife and two beautiful children.”

This seems to be the key to Lex’s personality. For all the wildness, for all the anarchy and irreverance, beyond his love for the bizarre and his quest to go over the top; beneath it all, at the centre of the hurricane, there’s an eye of rational calm, a core or island of stability that keeps everything under control. This isn’t to say that there are two halves, I think the rational elements fuel the wilder side. No matter how manic he might seem, there’s a steady eye that doesn’t miss much.

Consider this joke, he once took a lot of glee in repeating for me:

“Okay,” he goes, his eyes sparkling, he’s grinning “Kai walks into the situation comedy, and they try to get him to play the TV game, and he goes ‘the dead are not funny.’”

“So then Kai goes into the medical show, and the same thing happens again, and he goes, ‘the dead are not dramatic.’

“So then Kai goes onto the Children’s show, and there are balloons all over the place, and he goes, ‘the dead are not…’ and he stops, and Kai says….,”

And here comes the punch line…

You know, I used to like balloons as a child.’”

Gigeroff is sitting there, waiting for me to burst out laughing. Meanwhile, for a change, I’m the one thinking about easing towards the inviting, but oh so distant, exit.

Another time, he told me this elaborate story about how he’d gotten Rutger Hauer all excited over this great new ending he’d come up with for Eating Pattern, letting it out bit by bit, to Hauer’s mounting enthusiasm, until he finally revealed it was the end of Blade Runner. There was such infectious glee, in relating that story.

But there you go, that’s how his humor worked. He built it like a house of cards, each step leading to the next, becoming larger and more elaborate, until he’s got this towering edifice ready to deliver the punchline. Or perhaps a better way of describing it would be leading you by a rope down a pleasant garden path until you turn that last corner and come face to face with the slaughterhouse. Its effective.

“Lex is lighter in tone than Paul,” Asquith notes. “One of the things about Paul was the people he surrounded himself with…. They spin his vision, adding lightness to it. Lex is very gregarious. Strangely, Lex’s scripts to me were never the weirdest. They seemed to be solid conventional storytelling. Those three guys, the sense you got was that they’d just go out to a bar and just jam, and then one of them is charged with going back and writing the episode. But its been worked out. That was the sense I always had.”

Like Donovan, Gigeroff is very much a citizen of Halifax/Dartmouth. Perhaps more so. He grew up, was educated there, he walked the streets, hung out in the bars and pubs, married and raised his family there. Unlike Hirschfield who moves easily between Toronto and Winnipeg and Edmonton, Lex always felt kind of rooted. This is a place where he fits in, where he can walk down the streets and tell you the stories, some of them historical, some of them personal, behind every other tree and building.

In later years, he moved to the city of Fredericton. I’m not sure what he was doing out there. Teaching. Fredericton, is the capital city of New Brunswick, a sleepy friendly provincial town of its own, not entirely unlike Halifax.

In between LEXX series, he’d done an MST3K type comedy series called “El Mundo Del Lundo.’ He also appeared in Liocracy, both for Salter Street.

After LEXX, in 2002, he did a number of voices for an animated series called Oliver’s Adventures.

In 2003, he was involved in post Salter-Street children’s series ‘The Adventures of the Aftermath Crew’ as a writer or producer, along with several other LEXX people, notably Willie Stevenson and Ian Bibbey. It seemed to revolve around a group of high school kids running a pirate radio station in the basement of the school after math class. I don’t know much about it. I’d like to think that maybe he drew on his experiences with campus radio.

He and Brian Downey appeared as Cardinals in the Paul Donovan’s Renaissance era drama, The Conclave in 2006. Lex played the Russian Cardinal, a swarthy bearded cossack of a man, once again disappearing chameleon like into a new identity.

In 2009/2010, he did a 2D animated series called “I’m a Dinosaur” which syndicated to 40 countries. It doesn’t look like he was ever involved again in anything of the scale of LEXX. But he was active in short films, animated projects, right up until 2011.

On December 26, 2011, he passed away from a heart attack. The IMDB lists two posthumous acting credits for Skate Proof, and The Other Side of Charley.

I was never a friend of Lex Gigeroff’s. Before Lex, I knew him from student politics, from campus radio, and I’d seen him in Paul Donovan’s films, but he was just one of those people that are in the background of the world.

When I got interested in LEXX he got more prominent, and when I visited Halifax, I got to meet him a few times, I interviewed him a few times, spoke on the phone, exchanged emails. He was generous with his time, he was thoughtful and considerate. He got me stoned once, out by the Dartmouth ferry, as he pointed out Landmarks for the Halifax Explosion. But I didn’t really meet his family, never went to his house. We weren’t close. I’m not the sort of person who gets close to people.

But I remember going to Halifax for the first LEXX UnCon, a semi-formal gathering of fans. We’d all gathered at a pool hall for an impromptu party. Lex was there, and I watched him, as he made his way to each one of us, each one of the fans, sitting down with us, asking us about who we were, just chatting. I watched him do that for every person there. He went out of his way to make each person feel special, and it wasn’t an act, it wasn’t a game. It was just him being caring and decent. I think he was that way with everyone.

His death came as a shock. He was still young by any measure. And even if we weren’t really friends, I knew him well enough to admire both his talent and his fundamental goodness. I am glad that we have LEXX to remember him by, that the series can stand in part as a monument and a legacy.

But I think the world is a sadder place, without him.

2 thoughts on “Countdown to LEXX: Remembering G….”

  1. I love Lexx, so I´m missing Lex… heart and soul and name giver of my favourite series…
    Lexx has aged beautifully, and it´s still entrancing… it´s based on a philosophical foundation but this is complemented by all sorts of horny and weird fantasies that do not take themselves seriously. It´s clever. But also sexy and grotesque at the same time. Which is close together anyway. Lot of Lexx stuff became memes, part of pop culture today.
    Lexx unites philosophy and madness, it’s forever cool.

    Lex, hope we will meet when we all wake up at Water, at Uncon Town.

    Reply
  2. Thanks for this and I concur on your closing statement, though I can actually say I know for certain it is. Peace

    Reply

Leave a comment