How Bruno Gerussi got to work

Actor Bruno Gerussi may be best known for his work on The Beachcombers, but he had a long career at CBC before that.

Actor was a whole lot more than Nick on The Beachcombers

The star of CBC-TV's The Beachcombers talks about the challenges of getting to the show's set in Gibsons, B.C. 1:55

Not many people get to work via float plane. 

Bruno Gerussi (centre), Robert Clothier (left) and Pat John pose on the set of The Beachcombers, which aired on CBC-TV from 1972 to 1991. (CBC Still Photo Collection/David Gray)

But Bruno Gerussi did — and it happened often enough that he could almost do the pilot's job for him.

Gerussi was the star of the long-running CBC-TV series The Beachcombers, a show concerning the challenges and triumphs of beachcomber Nick Adonidas. A Canadian of Greek origin, he made his living by salvaging stray logs in the waters of coastal B.C. 

Gerussi, who in real life was the son of Italian immigrants, was a guest on the late-night CBC talk show Canada After Dark on Oct. 2, 1978 and relayed a harrowing tale to host Paul Soles.

Where was Gibsons, anyway?

Bruno Gerussi and Jehan Benoit collaborate on veal scallopine on the CBC-TV show Take 30 in 1968. (CBC Archives/Take 30)

"From Vancouver it's 15 minutes by float plane to Gibsons, where we film," said Gerussi. "The minute you take off out of the Vancouver airport you can see where Gibsons is ... I got in, didn't recognize the pilot and he pulls out one of these maps that you get in gas stations!"

The pilot was experienced — just not at flying in the province. His previous assignment had been flying over the lakes of northern Manitoba.

"I said, 'what are you doing?' and the fella says, 'I'm looking for Gibsons!'" recalled Gerussi. "I said, 'gah, forget that — it's right over there!'"  

Gerussi trained as an actor and got his start in Stratford, Ont., at its annual Shakespeare festival in 1954. He appeared in many television dramas in the early years of CBC-TV and by 1962 was a leading player at Stratford.

The actor talks about his beard and the types of roles he likes to play on stage. 1:50
Veteran radio announcer Alan McFee (left) and Bruno Gerussi shared hosting duties on the radio show Gerussi! in 1967. (CBC Still Photo Collection/Robert Ragsdale)

Before The Beachcombers 

"I'm going to play Macduff in Macbeth and Ariel in The Tempest," Gerussi told the CBC's Alan Millar on the current affairs program 701 in 1962. But he said his biggest roles at the time were Peer Gynt in the Ibsen play of the same name and Romeo in the Shakespeare tragedy. 

In 1968, Gerussi appeared in the kitchen on the CBC show Take 30 to prepare an Italian specialty alongside celebrity chef Jehane Benoit. It foreshadowed a subsequent program of his own, Celebrity Cooks, which was not produced on CBC but aired on the network from 1975 to 1979.

Gerussi's skills also extended to an eponymous radio show: in 1967 he began a run as host of Gerussi!, which ended a year before The Beachcombers started in October 1972.