Robert “Bob” Nasmith lived by his own rules. He was hard-boiled, yet soft in the centre. He had more friends and fewer enemies than anyone I’ve ever known. He was handsome, outrageous, unique, an entertainer. It could well be said that his greatest creation was himself.
Bob, who died yesterday from cancer, had a gift for gaining the confidence of others. He loved to gossip. Our reward for supplying him with secrets was fantastical embellishment.
Six years ago, when Bob was turning 70, he got cancer in his throat. He lost his taste buds and ability to swallow anything more structured than an oyster. (This to a man very fond of good food and wine.) To make matters worse, most days, he could barely use his voice to speak, or use his legs to drag his “weary ass” – as he would say – back to his room at the Cameron for a hard night’s sleep.
Thus began the most productive six years of Bob’s acting career.
It’s fitting that Bob’s final and most celebrated performances (in Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape) were at Theatre Passe Muraille. In the early winter of 1969 – the year after Passe Muraille was born at Rochdale College – Bob showed up with a scruffy beard, an old man’s topcoat, and toes sticking out of holes in the front of the tennis shoes he had been wearing outside in the snow. He’d just recently returned from a stint as an American Forces war photographer in Vietnam.