Stephen Dafoe, Q&A
“I've started with the ukulele as I'm a big fan of the blues.”
Superman or Batman?
“Superman, hands down, although I enjoy Batman more. Superman is an alien, and by alien I mean an outsider who has adapted to his surroundings.”
Who would win in a fight?
“Batman would obviously win in a fight … Batman is always prepared.”
A lot of you know Stephen Dafoe, newsman. He's the guy you see taking pictures at every fire, crash and community event in Morinville – the man who's at every open house and town hall meeting, pounding away at his keyboard as if it has personally offended him.
But how many have seen him with his comic-fan hat on?
"I'm a huge geek, unabashedly," says the 50-year-old owner and operator of Morinvillenews.com, and he's a big fan of superhero comics.
"It throws back to an era where there was a clearer definition between right and wrong."
Dafoe wears a lot of hats, according to his wife, Bonnie Dinelle: Papa Steve, Magician Steve, Freemason Steve, Philanthropist Steve and more.
There's even Frustrated Steve.
"I don't think anyone here in Morinville has really seen him lose his temper," Dinelle says, "and it's kind of funny when he does."
He gets really quiet when he's angry, she explains, but when's he's frustrated, he throws a tantrum.
"Picture a little kid stomping his feet because [he] doesn't want to do this anymore," she says, mischievously. She has to laugh whenever she sees it happen, and that usually brings him back down to Earth.
"He's going to kill me for that, you know that, eh?" she adds, laughing.
Born in Belleville, Ont., Dafoe says he always wanted to be a reporter during high school.
"In the early grades, I wasn't the greatest of students," he recalls, sitting in his spartan downtown office – he skipped school and had little sense of direction. It was his Grade 11 creative writer teacher, a Mr. Dornell, who nudged him towards the written word.
But first he went into show business. Dropping out of school just a few months short of graduation, Dafoe decided to become the opening act for a local magician. That didn't last, so he traded in his wizard's hat for that of a salesman's for 20 years.
Magic made its triumphant return in around 1992 when Dafoe the Magic Guy took the stage full time as part of a comedy troupe, pulling rabbits and handkerchiefs from a hat.
This somehow got him a gig, around 1995, at Woobang Tower Land in South Korea, where he entertained thousands as part of a troupe of international performers.
"It was a really cool experience," he says.
He worked with Mexican acrobats, Soviet clowns and a Filipino rock band that played Metallica's Enter Sandman. He'd sit with them in a corner store some nights after a show, drinking beer, the conversation a mishmash of English, Mexican, Russian and Korean.
It was around this time at a community event in Ontario that he and Dinelle first met. Neither of them was interested in a relationship, Dinelle says – he was going on tour in three days, and she was freshly divorced – but they couldn't help checking each other out from across the room.
"Neither of us was looking," she jokes, "but it was nice scenery."
Eventually, Dinelle says her boss got fed up, dragged them together and told them to have a drink.
"That's how we met!"
They married after Dafoe came back from his tour.
Fed up with travel, Dafoe says he returned to sales in the mid-'90s, where he met a man who got him interested in the Freemasons. Joining the group, he learned a lot about its history, and ended up writing a book about the Knights Templar – one that became very popular with the release of The Da Vinci Code.
Having a lot of time on his hands in 2006, Dafoe got a job as a reporter for the Hinton Parklander.
Moving to Morinville, he took up reporting for the Morinville Mirror and the Sturgeon Light, both of which folded.
"I decided I didn't want to live in a town that had [just] one local newspaper," he says, so he started his own.
Starting a news blog triggered a transformation in Dafoe.
"I would hear week after week after week the things that needed to be done in the community," he says, particularly at council and Mason meetings, but he saw no one willing to stand up and take action.
Leaving the Masons, he decided to dedicate the time he used to spend with that group towards improving his community. He teamed up with some other residents to form The Art of Conversation – a group that has since organized election forums, concerts and wrestling events in Morinville. Funds for these events come from the profits of the print edition of his news site.
There's no altruism here, he insists.
"A strong community and a strong business community are in my best interest because, ultimately, they're my customers," he says.
He never was like this back in Ontario, Dinelle says.
"When we moved to Morinville, it was almost like a light went on for him," she says.
Dafoe is also active with the food bank, chamber of commerce, library board, Morinville Jets, and students (in the form of an upcoming scholarship fund).
"I've had a pretty good life," Dafoe says, when asked about his community involvement, and he feels he has a responsibility to help others.
"To me, the words 'I want' are best followed by 'to help,'" he says.
Dafoe's Morinville hat is locked firmly atop his head, and it doesn't seem like he plans on removing it any time soon.
"I often joke with Bonnie that next time I move, it's in a pine box!" he says.