In case you’re wondering: no.
No, the reason Bill Brooks is putting to bed his longtime charity event in support of the battle against prostate cancer isn’t because he’s run out of ideas for the annual gala.
“No,” Brooks says emphatically. “No, the ideas keeps coming. The committee wanted to do the Sound of Music — the Bills Are Alive.
“So there’s no end of ideas, but I’m like, ‘No, no, I’m done.”
But not before one final blowout, with this year’s event taking place Friday night at Hotel Arts, with food, drinks, dancing and a silent auction.
And in keeping with the tradition of film- or show-themed events to encourage costumes worn by attendees, the final one has been dubbed The Billy Horror Picture show.
“Any chance I get to put on a garter belt and fishnets I’m there,” Brooks says before adding in self-mockery, “Yeah, right.”
It will join the 18 other events — lovingly and cheekily referred to as the “bum ball” — that have taken place over the past two decades and which he’s been the driving force behind, including Billy In Wonderland, Billy of Oz, Billy Poppins, Rock-a-Billy and Broadway Billy
“Billy, Billy, Billy. Oy, even I’m sick of me,” he says and laughs.
That, too, is not the reason that after this year’s almost sold-out gala — attendance will be capped at 800 people — the longtime society columnist for the Calgary Sun and Herald will be hanging up his many costumed personas for the prostate cancer cause.
The actual reason he’s calling it quits after what will be an imperfect number of 19 parties is because when all is said and done on Friday night, when things have come to a close, he’s hoping to have attained a somewhat more perfect number.
“We’re going into the 19th real close to $8 million,” Brooks says. “And for sure we will end up after Friday night with around $8.7 million, and with a little luck we might wind up with $8.8 million.
“So that resonates really well with me — to go out with that kind of a dollar under your belt is great.”
There’s also the more practical reason that several of the sponsorships that are attached to the event, including with longtime presenter Safeway, are up after this year. That, coupled with his desire to move his time and energies onto other things, signalled to him that perhaps it best to pull the plug before the big 2-0.
“The stars are aligning and as they say in showbiz, you always want to go out leaving the audience wanting more,” he says.
The wonderful and always-on man-about-town can also go out knowing that his party and his efforts have done an incredible amount of good and raised an impressive amount of funds in a much-needed area of medicine.
Having an uncle die of prostate cancer before reaching the age of 50 made Brooks gravitate towards the cause — one that one in seven men will experience in their lifetimes and which receives no government funding.
As a result of the Bill Brooks Prostate Cancer Benefit’s efforts, they’ve been able to help open the Prostate Cancer Centre at the Rockyview, help fund a half-dozen rapid access clinics here as well as getting on the road the Man Van, the only portable PSA testing bus of its kind in the country.
“Over the years since we opened the centre, thousands of men and their families have come through our doors,” he says, noting that prostate cancer is one of the most successfully treated forms of cancer when detected early.
“And can you imagine what would they do if it weren’t for the centre, like where would they go? It’s just really shocking to think what would happen to them?”
For that reason, Brooks says he will remain on the board as the chair of the fund development committee for the Prostate Cancer Centre “until the day I die.”
Still, he now plans to direct his efforts to another couple of causes, those that he sees as being a problem on the rise — that of affordable housing for seniors and the growing instances of those dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
“That’s a tsunami that’s going to hit big time and we’re so ill-prepared for that,” Brooks says.
“So that will be my next incarnation.”
Yes, some day maybe we will see this Bill alive with the sound of music.
The 19th Annual Bill Brooks Prostate Cancer Benefit takes place Friday at Hotel Arts. For tickets and information go to calgaryhealthtrust.ca.
Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.ca, and the co-host of the show Saved By the Bell, which airs Wednesdays from 4-6 p.m. on CJSW 90.9 FM. He likes beer. Buy him one. And contact him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 and email at firstname.lastname@example.org.