Published Mar 26, 2020Mike Bezzeg — a Calgary native recognized as Canada's first VJ before the launch of MTV or MuchMusic — has died. Bezzeg died in hospital Tuesday (March 24) following a motor vehicle accident near his home, returning from delivering groceries to a friend in quarantine due to COVID-19. He was 66.
"The family is overwhelmed by grief and loss, yes — and yet, we are also overwhelmed by the outpouring of affection from all of you for our beloved Mike," a statement from Bezzeg's brother, Thom, reads. "The comments we've received, and those posted on social media, have provided all of us comfort during this most difficult time. It is a reminder of how special Mike was, and how deeply he was loved by people who knew, as well as countless more people whose lives he touched during his time on this Earth."
Bezzeg was known best as the host of FM Moving Pictures, a music program centred on artists outside of the mainstream that aired on Calgary local access cable from 1979 to 1984.
A host of archival show clips Bezzeg uploaded to YouTube show how FM Moving Pictures was a precursor to MuchMusic and MTV. The VHS rips find him cooking with Nash the Slash, getting Iggy Pop and Nash to interview one another, and in conversation with late Calgary arts writer James Muretich.
As longtime friend Mary-Lynn Wardle recalled to LiveWire Calgary, "Calgary in 1979 had under 500,000 people. There was nothing here. And you're searching around thinking the Eagles just aren't for me. Then you chance across this cable 10 channel that essentially saved people. How [Mike] pulled it together I'll never know."
Recently, Bezzeg had returned to arts coverage with bi-weekly web series dubbed InnerView. Founded with friend David Veitch, InnerView finds Bezzeg in conversation with Art Bergmann, Oscar Lopez, Ohama, comedian Cory Mack, swimmer Mark Tewksbury and more. The show's first 10-episode season had concluded last week.
"Mike is an icon for many Calgarians," Veitch explained to LiveWire Calgary. "This was before MuchMusic, before MTV, before the Internet. [FM Moving Pictures] covered music that wasn't readily available, and turned music lovers onto music they might not hear otherwise."
"Those same individuals would gather in slums and realize, 'Hey! You watch that show too? I love that show!' Mike had an invisible community of fans."
In paying tribute to Bezzeg on social media, Calgary pop-punks Chixdiggit recalled how FM Moving Pictures "showed us suburban Calgary kids the first music videos we ever got to see," and how Bezzeg "saw Late 70's Calgary...as a place that had just as much potential as anywhere else."
Bezzeg is survived by his wife Odette and two children, Aja and Christian. A GoFundMe has been created on behalf of the family for financial support.