Saturday, January 27, 2018

NIPPLES AND LBJ


THE RAUNCHY SIDE OF U.S. POLITICS

The National Post reminded us with a page on Lyndon Johnson on Jan. 27 of just how foul mouthed and oozing of sexual shenanigans the White House was decades before Donald Trump brought  his coarse preening, lies and daily cheating to the American presidency.
It also perked out of my memory one of the nicest power couples that Mary and I ever met in our travels. This occasionally took us to the International Press Institute annual conference packed with world names in politics and the media who spoke and performed, and then yarned into the wee hours as booze chased caution and slander suits.
Lucianne Goldberg, the author and literary agent,  stood out, just as she did in every arena from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to the bear pits of Washington to the casting couches of Hollywood. And her husband, Sidney, head of the NANA syndicate, was an agreeable host at the parties that formed around the couple after the sessions of IPI, the gathering of editors and national leaders crusading for freedom of the press and of expression. (The noted conservative critic, Jonah, is a son.)
If Nelson Mandela didn't come to us in Capetown, Bishop Tutu did, and Mandela saw us in Kyoto. If it wasn't the president of the host country to welcome us, it was the opposition leader who probably jailed the president by the time the next IPI conference was held in another troubled country.
And Lucianne knew every former VP and Secretary of State on the speakers' circuit.
To place her for those who remember her name but can't remember why, Lucianne persuaded her friend Linda Tripp to record her many conversations with Monica Lewinsky and to make sure the infamous dress survived from the legendary encounter with Bill Clinton. She was a central figure in that scandal,
just one of the notorious anecdotes in which Lucianne played, since she wandered through presidential campaigns for years after interning at the White House. So when she dropped the name of a famous politician over a drink, she usually gift wrapped it with salacious details.
When she gossiped about authors and movie stars, she did so with the assurance of someone who had sold her novel about high-priced call girls,  Madam Cleo's Girls, to Hollywood for just under $500,00. And she did it twice. (If anyone has a copy, please email me because my autographed one has frayed  after Mary loaned it to so many friends.
I remember many conversations with Lucianne over the sexual side of politics, not that my names matched hers.
There was mine about the provincial cabinet minister who died while having hot sex at the King Edward. The body was moved, by one of those aides who do those kind of chores, back to his suite at the Park Plaza so the widow back in the riding could report the next day how her husband had died peacefully in his sleep.  (I have never read about this incident.)
There was a reporter with a national rep working for me who was so drunk when he was trying to get back to his desk in the press gallery in the Parliament Buildings that he went in through a first-floor window. Since it was the middle of the night, it meant he landed inside on a couch on which reclined a politician and his aide, and they weren't sleeping.
There was a premier who cavorted at a far north lake with young Japanese acrobatic twins, which was the mildest of the gossip told me by an opposition leader. Indeed he starred in many stories.
Mild stuff compared to Lucianne's notebook of scandal. She knew, of course, all about the famous encounters of JFK, like in a broom closet in Macey's, but then Kennedy was quoted as saying if he didn't have intercourse every day, he got a migraine.
So I asked her about LBJ who always has fascinated me. How could such a coarse man - he was said to often scratch any part of his anatomy, including his balls, no matter where he was  - get such major  legislation as the Great Society through the Congress?
Lucianne said she was only 18 and riding up alone in an elevator with LBJ on one of those muggy  afternoons. (Before air conditioning, Washington was considered a tropical posting for British diplomats.)
She was wearing a flimsy blouse because of the heat. The President of the United States reached out and pinched both of her breasts because as POITUS explained briefly, "I really like to see titties stand up."
The 36th president didn't run again because of the unpopular Vietnam war, not because of the uncouth behaviour that revolted many around him. Things are changing in such areas, they hasten to assure us, but are they really when there are too many voters (and some Canadian voices raised approvingly too) who are willing to tolerate far more than LBJ's antics in the 60s just as long as they seem to get what they want from a leader who has cheated in everything from marriage and business to politics and decency.


Friday, December 29, 2017

THIS PRODUCT WILL KILL YOU WARNINGS


TALK ABOUT SILLY WARNINGS!

Got my first heating pad the other day. No longer do I have to borrow antique varieties with electric cords as rigid as steel cables and the stiff pads with more edges than a toy box.
 I pulled it out of the gift package, savouring its suppleness and six settings including one that turns it off after two hours.
I beamed over this Sunbeam product ... and then I read the large enclosed sheet about "IMPORTANT SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS DO NOT DESTROY." There were 24 rules in large capital letters (anyone who has taken typography courses as I have is taught that 'all caps' reduces readability) but I suppose the lawyers who advise about how to reduce lawsuits over body harm from products have never studied print.
Rule #1 is to READ ALL INSTRUCTIONS. The last rule is SAVE THESE INSTRUCTIONS.
Wow! I can just imagine the lawyers having a victory dinner after billing HUGE SUMS  for these cautious rules which include, I imagine, since I lost interest after wading through the early warnings, what happens if you are hit by a dying satellite while using the pad or if you fall into a crack left by an earthquake.
Rule #2 is DO NOT USE WHILE SLEEPING.  Which certainly would eliminate much of my use over the years. I searched for an alarm in case I nodded off but there was none in the box.
Rule #4: Do not use on A PERSON WITH DIABETES, A PERSON WITH POOR BLOOD CIRCULATION...So that eliminates me and many of my friends and neighbours.
And on and on, from always unplugging the pad to doing a thorough examination of every last cm of pad and power cord before every use.
Just in case people really did throw away that sheet, the main rules were actually printed on the pad too so that diabetics would know that these pads were banned along with such chocolate joys as Turtles.
The reality is that anyone who has neuropathy(loss of nerve sensation in extremities) must be careful around all heat. But we don't slap warning labels on water tanks and many other devices to remind diabetics to take care they don't scorch or burn or even blister. Surely every one of us understands from childhood about the need to guard your skin from harm from excessive heat.
Ironically, one standard advice from doctors about discomfort or inflammation caused by neuropathy is to apply heat. But these lawyers say not with a Sunbeam pad. Find one that liability lawyers consider to be safe if used the sensible way, that is at a low setting unless you are monitoring alertly.
I realize the media are filled with stories about huge awards by juries for plaintiffs scalded by hot coffee in a restaurant, those who swallowed a foreign object in pop,  or were supposedly harmed physically by use of the product. There aren't as many stories about the many awards being quashed by higher courts, the judges there not as gullible as the juries in the courts beneath them who are quite willing to soak giant corporations.
Except enough settlements survive to spook the business world, particularly pharmaceutical giants, so that every ad in the media for the latest wonder drug comes with so many warnings about who shouldn't use the pill that there is hardly enough room to list the benefits.
The liability wars have certainly made their way to the main stages of politics. In the U.S., the Democrats are said to be  more supportive of plaintiffs and the liability lawyer industry than Republicans but no real reforms to limit excess awards have survived so this liability charade continues.
All the alarms, caveats, notifications and threats that now accompany even the simplest product, which range from the silly and obvious to the obscurely legalistic, mean that people like me don't even bother to read every word of the cover-your-ass language. So we might miss helpful suggestions.
Those medical ads on TV and in magazines have become more ludicrous than useful. You would think that only a 35-year-old person who has just passed a two-day physical at the Mayo Clinic should consider taking a new pill but they must be in an OR with a surgical team ready to spring into action if there is the slightest pause in breathing or heart beat.
Since I am kvetching about the child-like nature of these warnings, let me end with a child-like joke which is the oldest one I know about the legal profession. What do you call a group of lawyers at the bottom of the sea? A good start!





Sunday, December 24, 2017

THE CHRISTMAS OF MY DREAMS


I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THE SEASON

My sisters and I have many reasons to have dark thoughts in December but our nostalgia about the ghosts of Christmas past have always warmed our appreciation of Christmas present(s).
I was orphaned at 5 and the comfortable private school life as children of a prosperous doctor and future MP disappeared as we left the big city for a small town and religious grandparents who were Dutch stiff in their old age when they felt they had to look after us.
So we literally went to school in rags while the trust fund supported a missionary aunt in Nigeria since the watchdog over such money, Ontario's Official Guardian, was as incompetent as it was corrupt.
But the three Js, as we called ourselves, survived out of that mess because such is the power of the basic Christmas message that our humble family Christmas, where the turkey was actually the weakest Leghorn from the backyard pen, a very modest celebration aided by old-fashioned schooling and a tiny Baptist church on the hill, was something we remember with fondness mixed with only a little regret.
There have been many great Christmas days for me, even the one when I was an editor trapped in the office during a hostage taking and triple murder where I urged the police reporter on the scene to tell the police to hurry up and shoot the guy so I could get home to enjoy a little bit of the day with my sons.
Along the way, my evangelical roots vanished and I only darken a church door for carol sings, which I still love even as an unbeliever. Oh yes, I got trapped several Christmases ago when I took Mary to early mass and it was awkward to leave, even though I wanted to heckle the priest during his inept homily.
One of the joys of the early Sun was Doug Creighton's staff Christmas party because Doug was one of the great hosts (now a heavenly host) whether the guests were only few or 400.
John Cosway refers to this in a Facebook posting about his life in one of the great newsrooms of Canada.
(Cosway does a wonderful service for the Sunbeams who have moved on from that tabloid world in fertilizing our memories. I started work at a time when many jobs were for life and there were bowling and curling leagues to unite employees into a large and perhaps cantankerous family. There was no need for the Cosways to be the Boswells of the plants. That chapter in my life closed when the Telegram closed and 1,200 employees lost their jobs. Many never saw the guy at the next desk again. I went to the funeral of a critic who had been a Tely stalwart for 30 years and I was the only one there from that past.)
One of the features of Doug's Christmas parties was we all bellowed our carols as if our future at the paper depended on it. There was no excuse for atheists, drunks, Moslems or waiters. We all sang.
One afternoon at the Old Mill (yes Doug picked some great spots) we were singing Silent Night. Everybody knew the first verse, of course. But then only Bernie Gosevitz and me sang on with the other verses.
I said to Bernie that I knew the verses because I had sung in a choir but how did he, the respected Jewish doctor for the Sun, know the words? "I have a photographic memory," he said.
Ah, the joys of Christmas when even those from other religions, and great doubters like me, see nothing wrong or even remarkable about singing along in the queen of carols.
In an insightful piece in the Dec. 23 National Post, Robert Fulford writes about this nice social phenomena, that people like him, and he calls himself an unbeliever rather than card-carrying atheist, still can enjoy Christmas. He appreciates the value of Christianity even as he refuses to believe its dogma. "Our society has been given its moral principles by Christianity." He argues that Judeo-Christian traditions have provided the energy, intelligence and will to evolve democracy.
I have argued for years in many columns and blogs that I have no patience for any assault on Christmas because I realize it is Christ Mass, a religious celebration, but its basic message of peace on earth good will to all is one that surely every thinking person supports.
And if you don't, Merry Christmas anyway!











Saturday, December 23, 2017

TORONTO MAYORS I HAVE SURVIVED


MORE COMPLEX THAN A BARREL OF MONKEYS

Because of my trade as a journalist, I have known 19 Toronto mayors, some almost too well.
I don't include the city's first, William Lyon Mackenzie, because the ghost of the Firebrand only appeared to a colleague the night he wouldn't let me come along with him to sit in vigil in the rebel's Bond St. home.
Only one refused to give me or anyone else such basic personal details as their age. That was June Rowlands, who just died at 93. She's noted as Toronto's first woman mayor and had other famous firsts as a very competent female politician. Yet she was very much an old-fashioned lady about concealing her age.
We argued about it, and she confessed the reason had nothing to do with feminine vanity. In her family, she said, members lived a long time. They suffered late in life because of the way the world treated old people. Why she had a relative still working who was 95.
I now realize in my anecdotage that she had a point. Yet then I really didn't care that much but she was being mentioned as a possible Metro chairman, a position much more important than the mayor of Toronto before the city amalgamated. Her competition was Dennis Flynn, the Etobicoke mayor, who won, and Fergy Brown, the future York mayor. So it was two suburban Tories with good experience and fine war records against a downtown Grit alderman.
Since I had to find 11 columns every two weeks and filled in occasionally with editorials, I ran around  City Hall and Queen's Park like a hamster on a wheel. I was not bashful about hunting for info and developed unlikely but fruitful sources.
One was a junior city clerk with an encyclopedia knowledge of who was doing what to whom. It was Bill Price who confided it was going to be fun to watch the new Toronto Blue Jays try to play their first Sunday game because that was still illegal. After my column appeared, council had to pass a new bylaw and brought the city closer to a Sabbath more open than when they even took in the sidewalks.
So I went to Price with my riddle of this day about how I could find out Rowland's age without having to buy lunch for a clerk in birth records. Price said that was absolutely no problem because Rowlands had been in his elementary school class and he knew she was 60.
So I wrote about how interesting it was that the three candidates for Metro chairman all happened to be the same age.
Rowlands didn't find that coincidence justified my column and said so in language that I didn't think nice blonde wives from Rosedale knew.
There was a further cooling of relationships when she banned Salvation Army soldiers with their kettles from soliciting at Christmas time on Nathan Phillips Square because of their position against homosexuality. That encouraged activists who didn't give a damn about actually helping people to mutter complaints to aldermen about what the Salvation Army believed. Then she vetoed the Bare Naked Ladies from a Square appearance because of their name.
Any experienced journalist reveres the work of the Sally Ann. But not only had I watched them help the helpless without flaunting their religion as a reporter covering courts and police, my mother's family had been able to flee religious persecution because of their help. So I went after Rowlands with a vengeance and the Sally Ann made it back to the Square. Now, unfortunately,  the bells of the world's best charity have been silenced and their kettles diminished even at sensible stores that should know better, like Costco.
Rowlands was stubborn with her many causes like animal rights but at least she didn't attack me on the floor of council asking her colleagues to censor me, like Leslie Saunders, the mayor who was once the world's top Orangeman. My father had been his family doctor, he said, so why would I lie about him in print about some of his Orange views?
I did more drinking than fibbing with our mayors then because there was a much closer relationship between mayors and journalists before the explosion in media numbers stirred with the 24-hour news cycle and social media into fundamental changes to change political coverage at all levels.
I remember the day I drank with a mayor all afternoon until he pleaded with me to come home so his wife wouldn't yell at him for being late for his own birthday party.
I remember the mayor who wanted me to be present for a meeting with the hospital CEO he hated because he was afraid they would get into a fist fight.
 When I got married in 1961, city council adjourned briefly to a committee room and Mayor Nathan Phillips presented me with a movie camera. Later I wrote his memoirs. Phil Givens, later the mayor, congratulated me and came to the wedding. Don Summerville, later the mayor, took me off to a steam at the central Y and then to the free seats the senior politicians got for Leaf games. We did that regularly.
I'm not boasting, just stating how it was. What kept everyone honest was that both politicians and journalists watched each other like circling hawks to see who succumbed and sold out and who played the game in the public's interest.
In the end, we publicized all the relevant information, even the age of a feminist who had concealed it for all her adult life even through several election campaigns.










Friday, December 8, 2017

DON HAWKES ON HIS OWN TERMS


ONE OF THE GREAT UNPUBLISHED CARTOONISTS

Don Hawkes stood out from the knots of young strangers gathered for the first time 62 years ago outside a barracks structure called the Graphic Arts Building in a battered complex titled the Ryerson Institute of Technology.
Hawkes looked and sounded like a seasoned reporter from Fleet Street who vacationed in Paree. I was stunned months later to find this Brit among the budding journalists was actually a guy from Parkdale with better tweeds than me.
 I would have never anticipated then that he would bob in and out of my life for six decades, that I would hire him twice and be filled many times that with bouts of friendship and frustration as he marched determinedly to his own drummer.
We talked in our last call about when it all began that September morning. And that chat could have lasted an eternity as both of us were in happy anecdotage when all the slings and arrows could no longer sting and the politics of life that bothered him more than me had receded to tiny importance.
The curious gamesmanship of upper management, whether he was at Ryerson or the CBC or the Suns, bugged him so much that he was a determined non-player and it was up to me, armoured from my years of describing the antics of elected politicians, to be his guide and some times his protector.
It could be stormy when the executive floor was making silly demands, as Hawkes didn't always support my in-fighting. He confessed in print when I retired that he often felt like killing me.
I replied on John Cosway's Toronto Sun family blog that I had felt the same about him.
Doug Creighton, the founder of the Suns and its soul, called us the Bookends because both of us were bearded and burly. But the Bookends did produce some great editorials. Only insiders knew that some began with Hawkes with his special feel of words producing 6.5 inches of reasonable comment and then shouting next door to me to stir in some venom and vitriol.
Hawkes was a gentle warrior surrounded by semantic battle-axes. He was just too nice to slit throats.
My heavens he could be subtle in his opposition. I was waiting to see a surgeon when the nurse complained about the Sun not using the u in words like humour. I said it was general Canadian newspaper "style" (which has now changed.)
I asked Hawkes to write a column because I thought readers would be interested to find that it all began when type was set by hand and it saved time to skip letters. Hawkes produced a meaty commentary, but then, typically, said in the last sentence that he didn't agree with dropping the u, that it was stupid.
I found out by reading the paper that my associate editor had just fired another broadside into his ample friend who quite approved of dropkicking the u out of our language.
Hawkes left me to run the comment of the Ottawa Sun but then yearned to return to his hometown.
Except the brass balked. Finally I figured out that he should write directly to Creighton and appeal to him as the paterfamilias of the chain. He pleaded for help with the letter, which I then wrote. I thought it would appeal more to Creighton if he took a shot at Paul Godfrey in it, and for good measure, me too, as people blocking his return.
The letter didn't go well. I accidentally sent a draft via the chain's computer system to the Edmonton Sun and then begged the  editors there to destroy it without reading it. (Fat chance!) When Creighton got the letter, he decided to show it to Godfrey, who was quite annoyed and complained to me about what my school friend had said. I then confessed that I had actually written the attack on him and me as a device to encourage Creighton to come to Hawkes' aid.
It worked, although Creighton and Godfrey didn't invite me to any events for a few weeks. Hawkes returned, although he at first was forbidden to work for me.
It was such games that bugged Hawkes almost as much as the shenanigans at City Hall or the Legislature. He was a fine writer but his greater talent as a clever cartoonist was stifled by office politics so that they were viewed mainly by a network of friends. (Several originals grace the wall behind this keyboard.)
So now we say farewell to another renaissance stalwart of Canadian journalism - a writer, educator, artist and friend, a lover of cigars, dining and life. I recall a lunch at the elite restaurant at the King Eddy where I let him order the port afterwards because it had been a rough time in the opinion world. And that is why I know what a $35 glass of Taylor Fladgate tastes like.
Ah yes, you never were too sure what was going to happen next with Don Hawkes. A grand 83 years for the happy wordsmith from Parkdale,






 . 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

BAFFLED BY FACEBOOK


OLD FARTS AND THE INTERNET

I was baffled by algorithms long before the Internet came along to stupefy me again.
It wasn't enough for the maths of high school to curdle my brain to such an extent that I had to take all sorts of extra courses to limp into and then through two universities.
Now I am left to wonder just how Facebook works because some of my contributions are lionized, many more disappear into the ether,  and then there are those people whose every phrase haunts my queues for weeks and I know everything about them from the rug they're selling to how they cooked their roast to the latest operation on their bunions.
 I never get the same roll call of items when I want to, then the good stuff only seems to appear once. I never know quite what to expect when I come face to face with Facebook
My three sons view me with a mix of sympathy and disdain when it comes to computers and trying to cope with the Internet.
Since they're computer experts, all I have in response is to remind them who paid for their education. I also point out that 99% of those past 60 are often baffled by the latest wonders of the electronic world.
They inform me haughtily that algorithms, those calculation processes, rule Facebook and the Internet. Even the investment world.  BNN and the business pages inform me that due to mathematicians locked up in Bay St. basements, there are algorithms surfacing daily to give new advantages in a lightning-fast trading world where I am always left paying more and getting less after the big boys riding their superior algorithms have ravaged the stock.
All I know is that algorithms don't favour this Downing and that I will continue to lean on whatever son dares to answer the phone for help, like when the printer balks at my computer or the computer freezes or I can't even make a reply on Facebook without appearing to screw it up.
Like the other day.
An old friend told us on Facebook that she had just made a few mistakes in her mini-essay and maybe it was time for her because of age to hang up the keyboard. Then some time later she repeated an item about a preening anti-Semitic bumper sticker.
I wrote her that one shouldn't be worried about typos or spelling mistakes on Facebook or anywhere else because I had been taught as a kid that the person who corrects your spelling or usage or pronunciation is making a bigger social gaffe than you. It's the idea, the thought, that counts, not how it is dressed semantically.
Except due to the way Facebook works for amateurs like me, my contribution drifted under the listing about the awful bumper sticker, not the one about being worried about making mistakes in typing a contribution. So it became a weird justification for that foul message. And she replied snarkily.
Sylvia Sutherland, a regular on Facebook, just asked for friends not to send her chain letters or stuff that is supposed to be forwarded to others. For once I knew that, having been warned months ago by one of my sons that this is one of the tricks of the myriad computer fraudsters. I am scrupulous about what I open and what I forward because as I wrote on Facebook the other day, police and various authorities can't cope now with all the hacking and computer scams inflicted on us.
There is no need for anyone to send me an explanation of how Facebook works. My sons have tried. All I know is that, thank heavens, occasionally the good stuff like Dick Loek's pictures of his morning boardwalk saunter do last a few days, and not just the crap from people whom I have never heard of  and never wish to hear from again.
Oh yes, spare me those cardboard birthday greetings which are as loving as kissing a donkey. And supposed friends repeating ads about condos and shows. What's friendly about that?  You should ask yourself a question before you tell us on Facebook. Would it interest your spouse or even one of those superior young people who actually know how algorithms work? Or are you just showing off?






Tuesday, November 7, 2017

KOFFLER WAS A GRAND TORONTONIAN


HIS INFLUENCE IS ENDLESS

Thanks in part to Murray Koffler, the Toronto when he died is much nicer than the city when he started half a century ago making a difference in pharmacy, philanthropy, business and the arts.
I will leave it to others to detail his grand successes in business and the huge contributions of the Kofflers to a rainbow of causes from the University of Toronto to fighting drug abuse and helping the helpless.
Believe me, this man was a mensch, that lovely Yiddish word for integrity and honour and caring for others.
He had to be because the city in the 1950s, when as a kid he was running the two drugstores left to the family by the early death of his father, still considered religion as an important issue when they judged you.
Don't be fooled by the fact that Toronto elected its first Jewish mayor in 1955 and that Nathan Phillips went on to serve for eight years. (Only Art Eggleton has served longer.) The election of Phillips in the Orange Protestant stronghold of Toronto was front page news in every newspaper in Canada.
As the ghostwriter of his book, Mayor Of All The People, I know Phillips often was under attack for his religion. And there were some who whispered his wife really wasn't Jewish. But he had several decades of council experience and the stout backing of John Bassett and his Telegram newspaper, an important force in urban politics, so he beat back a challenger who just happened to be a major Orangeman.
(Ironically, despite all the Roman Catholic voters, the first Catholic mayor since the city was incorporated in 1834 was Fred Beavis, appointed briefly in 1979, and then Eggleton, elected in 1980.)
So the Establishment in the 1950s and 1960s hunkered down on Bay Street didn't exactly rush to help this Jewish entrepreneur build the empires of the Four Seasons Hotels and Shoppers Drug Mart.
I had a ringside seat watching Koffler transform the city's art world from a stuffy pecksniffian one preserved in Victorian pretensions to one where a nude painting could be displayed boldly in the front yard of City Hall without shock waves cascading through the media.
The Toronto Outdoor Art Show has produced a history book (I contributed to it) of how it was started by Koffler around his modest motel on Jarvis St., the first Four Seasons Motor Hotel, after the Kofflers returned in 1960 from an outdoor art show in Manhattan to find that artists had been arrested for displaying their art on hoardings around old City Hall.
Then Koffler dreamed bigger and decided to move the show in front of the new City Hall in 1967  (Ironically, the Square is named after Phillips who as mayor routined thundered out in news stories against nude paintings at Hart House or for censoring George Gobel in the CNE Grandstand Show.)
The second irony is that Koffler enlisted me to help him run interference with City Council. I was in charge of entertainment and culture coverage in the Tely but earlier I had been one of those City Hall reporters getting Phillips to express great indignation about any racy entertainment.
The outdoor art show has gone on to become the largest in Canada and one of the largest annual affairs in the world. And those first nervous days when Koffler and I and other committee members like Jack Pollock and Alan Jarvis paced around watching the councillors wander around peering suspiciously at the art are long gone. By some miracle, there never was a major complaint, just a continuing battle to keep mass-produced shlock out of the show.
Years later, I headed a city council committee choosing people to receive various civic honours, the most important being several Orders of Merit. At a presentation at the start of a council meeting, Eggleton invited me on the dais to help him make the presentations.
Much to my satisfaction, several decades after Koffler first made his mark on his birthplace, we had chosen him to get the city's top award. He shook our hands and then whispered to me that he had wondered why he had finally got this honour after all these years and then saw I  headed the advisory committee.
I wished I could have done much more sooner.  It is because of civic champions like the Kofflers that our city has matured from a municipal Nervous Nellie into such an urban joy. It is unfortunate that Mel Lastman as the first mayor of the amalgamated city felt that he had to do away with such civic honours because he feared the good burghers of the suburbs like his North York would not feel comfortable with the annual ceremony.
The Koffler name on a Toronto public building is a familiar sight. But for me, one of his greatest  contributions comes quietly each summer around the reflecting pool when you can ponder art from landscapes to pornographic wonders and then wander down the street and have a cold draft.
Once upon a time, that would have been a civic miracle, from the art to the drink to the cafe, and certainly never on Sunday.