Yes. You read the title right; this story involves a celebrity. One of my favourite musical artists is a guy named William Fitzsimmons. He’s a tall guy with a killer beard and a disarmingly whispery acoustic style. Most people I show videos to say, “Wow, that’s not what I was expecting that guy to sound like.”
Both of his parents are blind, and he worked in the mental health profession for about ten years before recording music. He’s a serious songwriter. He’s the guy who’s sidesplittingly funny and then launches into some of the most beautifully heartbreaking songs you’ve ever heard.
Fitzsimmons is not a hugely known artist. He’s an acquired taste. When people become fans of him it’s like they’ve discovered a rare jewel. It’s nice that he’s not a big name and it’s fun to covet such an amazing artist. When I found out that one of my best friends was very into his music, it was one of the things we initially bonded over.
Fitzsimmons always plays tiny venues; he loves to interact with his audience. He always jumps off the stage for his last song and stands in the middle of the crowd, surrounded by fans, just belting it out.&
He always sticks around and tells fans to come say hi, and he stays until he’s said hello, posed for pictures and signed autographs for everyone who wants one. He doesn’t just say hi either, he makes a point to talk to you.
That entire preamble was necessary for the crux of my story. Fitzsimmons plays in Toronto pretty much every time he goes on tour. The first time I knew he was in town after I’d been turned onto his music, I was mildly devastated that he was playing on the third floor of a historic-site-turned-concert-venue and there was no way I’d be able to be there. My friend went, and took pictures for me and I just thought: Next time.
A year later, he came through again and he was playing at an accessible venue. I jumped at the chance to go. After the show my friend and I stuck around to meet him. I told him how happy I was just to be there; last time he was at an inaccessible venue that I couldn’t get into. He looked at me and said, “Are you f***ing kidding me? Where was that?”
I told him I couldn’t remember and he said “I’m going to find out where that was and I promise you, I’ll never play that venue again. Did you know both my parents are blind? It’s crazy how many things are implemented to ‘help’ that don’t help at all. They have elevators everywhere –except, apparently where my last show was- but they have no brail signage; so what are my parents supposed to do to find those elevators? Hug the walls until they find what feel like elevator doors? It’s insane. I’m so sorry, sweetheart. I’m going to find out where that was and make sure I don’t go back there. If you want to be at my shows, you should be. I want you to be able to come.”
William Fitzsimmons is a very unique artist who stays incredibly grounded. He remains connected to and eternally grateful for his fans, so when he told me he’d make sure not to go to an inaccessible venue, I wholeheartedly believed him. I was actually extremely touched by our entire conversation.
Last year, I had the opportunity to see him a second time. Different venue than the first time I saw him, but still accessible. I couldn’t help but smile to myself and think that just maybe, out of the thousands of fans he meets, he remembered his conversation with me.
I stuck around again to say hello. When he saw me, he cocked hid head slightly, smiled and said, “I’ve met you before. Forgive me, I don’t remember your name –but I met you last year. You’re here! I’m so glad you’re here! You got in! You made it! Aw, it’s lovely to see you.”
William Fitzsimmons has no idea how much I love him. I’m grateful to him for so many things that go beyond his music and artistry. He is a wonderful human being. It is very humbling to see someone in the public eye, that you admire, recognize barriers and make an effort to effect change, even if it is in a very small way. It’s the littler things that mean the most.
Layla Guse Salah