W. Douglas McLeod
(1954 - 2012)
Wayne McLeod was a native of Vancouver, Canada. In nineteen ninety-two he moved to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where he began to write for the local English language daily, Vallarta Today. For several years, as the paper’s only reporter, Wayne wrote about everything under the sun. His most memorable work though had to be his “gossip column”, written under the penname, Stan Hunter. The column, though masterfully written, was a little hard to follow. In fact, it may have been the first and only surreal stream-of-consciousness gossip column in history.
Several years later, he became the paper’s editor, a post he held for over fifteen years. It was as the editor of Vallarta Today that Wayne came to be known, respected and loved by everyone. Whatever one’s image of a newspaper editor might be (crusty, hard-boiled, cynical, tyrannical), Wayne was the precise opposite.
Before coming to live in Mexico, Wayne had a varied career. He was particularly enamored of the world of show biz, working for the likes of singer Tom Jones, among others. But all the time he spent bouncing around Los Angles or his native Vancouver, a new life in Mexico was beckoning.
Upon meeting Wayne, the first thing people noticed was how good looking he was. Movie star handsome with a radio announcer’s beautiful baritone voice. It was only fitting then, that he would meet and spend the rest of his life with one of the most beautiful women in Vallarta, the talented clothing designer, Laura Lopez. When they first met, neither spoke the other’s language. But the bond was so strong, it didn’t matter. For twenty years they were the light of each other’s lives, and the best-looking couple in town.
Wayne’s three great passions in life were Laura, reading and helping others. It was as the editor of Vallarta Today that Wayne so selflessly helped just about anyone and everyone who asked. And there were a huge number of people asking! Nonetheless, displaying the patience and compassion of a saint, Wayne would hear every person out, and if it was within his power, grant their wish.
Most of the folks who came to Wayne were looking for help promoting their charity, or the play they were putting on, or some other type of community oriented project. To all of these folks, Wayne rarely said no. He was a one-man department of culture. Pretty much every community theatre company, every art gallery, every charity and a long line of small business owners trying to make a go of it in Puerto Vallarta, owe a huge debt of gratitude to Wayne.
The Puerto Vallarta International Film Festival was Wayne’s brainchild. Together with Robert Roselle they created the festival from scratch. It was successful for a few years, and then faded away due to a lack of support from the local authorities. In the beginning there were calls for Wayne to be the head of the film commission, but true to his modest nature, he preferred to remain in the background, providing ideas, support and encouragement, but taking no credit for his tremendous work.
When Wayne passed away, a memorial was held for him at Nacho Daddy’s, a popular Vallarta restaurant. As each person took their turn at the microphone, the same themes were sounded over and over. No one, including myself, could recall Wayne ever saying a bad word about another human being. When others were being critical of another person in his presence, Wayne would grow uncomfortable. He was just too nice to criticize others. “Nice” is an overused word. It’s meaning has become diluted to the point of meaninglessness. But nice, in the broadest sense, is precisely what Wayne was.
It never ceased to amaze me how many people would stop to say hello to Wayne on our walks around Vallarta. All kinds of people: The rich and the poor, Nationals and expats, men and women, the old and the young. This dazzling variety of folks who were attracted to Wayne was a direct reflection of his openness to them. Wayne was willing to give everyone a chance to speak their mind, to favor them with an encouraging smile, to make them laugh with one of his typically self-deprecating jokes.
It is not widely known, but throughout most of his tenure as editor of the Vallarta Today, Wayne had very little help. The budget for writers and reporters was essentially zero. There was one graphic artist, and there was Wayne. Together they put out a daily newspaper for about twelve years and a weekly for the last two or three. Wayne’s office was a small windowless cubbyhole. His salary was nothing to write home about. Yes, it was a living, but not a very good one. Wayne stayed on and on as the editor, because he loved being at the center of things, in a position to help people, to promote our local culture and to try to make life just a little more civilized.
All of us who knew him well would have loved to see him put his God-given talents to full use and finish that screenplay he was always talking about. And most of us would have liked to see him drink a little less, and quit smoking, of course—which might have blessed us with his presence a few years longer. On the other hand, for me personally, Wayne would not have been nearly so lovable without his little defects. Somehow they made all of his outstanding qualities shine all the more.
Wayne will be sorely missed by a community whose life would be a lot poorer had Mr. McLeod not graced this beautiful port, and helped to make it a better place to live.