Ottawa doctor releases new CD, with NAC concert March 7
Ron Weiss is the foremost practitioner of vasectomies in Ottawa. Indeed, he may be the all-time champion.
“I know that I do more vasectomies than anyone in the Western world,” he says. Soon, he will be celebrating his 50,000th such surgery in the usual way: the recipient not only becomes sterile, but also receives a special lollipop comprised of a condom on a stick with a smiley face.
“There’s that whole nudge-nudge-wink-wink thing that people do around vasectomy,” Weiss says. “But they love to have fun with it.”
Weiss is also a musician, a singer-songwriter who this month is releasing an ambitious album, called “Arrow & Heart”, which will be inaugurated with a concert at the National Arts Centre. Despite his heroic number of vasectomies, the album has a modest 10 cuts.
Such lines aren’t new around Weiss’s Glebe office — “I’ve been doing this long enough that I’ve heard all the jokes,” he says — but this time there’s (ahem) a vas deferens. “Arrow & Heart” represents the culmination of 40 years of musical dreams, with a few decades off to become a doctor.
Weiss was a high-school dropout in Toronto who dedicated his time to learning the classical guitar and classical piano. His ambition was to attend the Berklee School of Music in Boston.
But one day in 1977, he visited a friend in Montreal and met a woman named Debbie. It was love at first sight.
“My jaw just dropped,” Weiss says. “I was mute. In the next two weeks, I just fell head over heels in love.” His plans all changed. He wouldn’t return to Vancouver. He wouldn’t become a musician because that wasn’t a reliable way of supporting a family. (After he and Debbie Halton-Weiss had their third child, Weiss then got a vasectomy himself.)
He took night courses to finish high school, and was accepted to the University of Ottawa. He studied medicine there.
His career in vasectomies began almost by chance.
“My first child was born in September of first-year medicine, my second of three children was born in December of fourth-year medicine, so I graduated with two children and I didn’t have the luxury of pursuing a specialty beyond family medicine.”
He added vasectomies to his practice. A breakthrough occurred with the discovery of “no-scalpel vasectomies” by a Chinese urologist named Dr. Shunqiang Li. Eventually, Weiss dropped his family practice and made a career of helping prevent unwanted pregnancies. An Ottawa magazine once dubbed him “the Gretzky of vasectomies,” presumably because he helped so many men score.
His musical career was on hold — for one thing, he couldn’t make too much noise with young children at home — until 20 years ago, when Debbie went on a March of the Living trip to Poland and Israel. Before she left, she gave him a gift of $400 to buy a guitar.
“I remember taking it home the first day. I just sat on the back step and wrote this instrumental song like nothing. And then other stuff just kept pouring out, mostly instrumental at first, and then I started writing stuff with words. The process over the last 20 years started there.”
He formed a group, the Doc Weiss Band, which played clubs around town. He finally went to Berklee — taking an online course — to learn songwriting. He even made an album, but he says it wasn’t good enough.
“I realized some of the crap I was writing and realized what I could do to improve,” he says.
He hired folksinger Lynn Miles as a tutor. A year and a half ago, he wrote a birthday song for his wife and assembled a band to play it with him at her party. The musicians, led by saxophone player Brian Asselin, encouraged him to make a CD.
For the past year, Weiss has been doing surgeries in the morning — 14 vasectomies before lunch — and going to the studio to work until suppertime. (Along with “Arrow & Heart”, he has also recorded an EP of three instrumental tunes that is being released only digitally.)
At 61, he continues to work as a doctor, but — inspired by the music of such artists as James Taylor — he’s finally achieving his original goal.
“It’s like I arrested my development in my early 20s and came back to it,” he says. “I’m a 23-year-old musician in a 61-year-old’s body. The stuff that I write would probably be popular in the ’70s or ’80s, but it’s not what you hear on the radio today. I think I write some great stuff and I think the album is wonderful.
“My audience is limited, and that’s just the way it is.”
Ron Weiss and an eight-piece band will play Wednesday, March 7, at 7:30 p.m. at the NAC Fourth Stage. Tickets are $25 and available through Ticketmaster.