Tuesday, October 23, 2012



I wasn't surprised to hear that apparently a police woman acted as a decoy in the westend to capture a man who was molesting women.
It's the traditional way to snare a pervert.  Even journalists have tried to do it.
Back in the mists of my memory, I worked for the Toronto Telegram, which proved daily that it was one of the best large newspapers in the country when it went toe-to-toe, and edition to edition, against the Toronto Star.
Yes the Globe was around, and it occasionally showed flashes of being as competitive as the Star-Tely feud, but it was the Star we wanted to drive into a swamp.
The same swamp where it was rumoured that the Globe threw its papers in order to keep its circulation up in its home city where it was a bad third.
Back in the mists, there was some jerk sexually assaulting women in the westend where the blocks are very long and very dark at night.
Sad to say, this was before the Metro Police employed female constables. Actually, the first were just used to direct pedestrian traffic across Queen St. between Eaton's and Simpsons, and then the cop brass finally broke down and used women as real cops.
The cops were having no luck in stopping these assaults, mainly because they didn't have any females  to use as decoys.
So one night at the old Tely at Bay and Melinda, when news was really slow, Doug Stuebing, a gravel-voiced Night Editor, decided to take news creation into his own hands, and maybe even catch a bad guy in the process.
Stuebing had been a major in the second world war and still played baseball and hockey with reserves who were half his age. He had been nimble enough to be considered for quarterback at U of T., that is back when they actually had real football teams. So he may have looked like a little sack of laundry but he was no patsy.
Now Stuebing had a clutch of daughters, and his wife, Eileen, who bossed him around, used him as a dressmaker's dummy when she was pinning dresses together.  It was rumoured, but not to his face, that he could make a pretty frock himself. So he wasn't exactly a rookie when it came to wearing dresses. Heels, however, were another matter.
Stuebing put on one of the nicest dresses in the family closets, crammed his feet into the high heels, put on a terrible wig and a worse hat, and then teetered down a long block in the westend. Ray McFadden, also a veteran, was assigned as the photographer to drive Stuebing to the possible crime scene and to be useful as a witness, maybe even a bodyguard..
McFadden parked around the corner at the end of the block but could still see Stuebing limping along. He had a two-way radio connecting him back to the office where we all buzzed with excitement and lewd comments about how much luck our boss was going to have.
I'm sure the veteran police reporter, Bert Petlock, who I used to fill in for when he gave in to his hypochondria, told some cops what we were doing and that they thought it was a really dumb idea about which they would officially deny having any knowledge. But the Tely was the Tely and cops really didn't want to pick a fight with a big aggressive newspaper. And in those days, there was a closer relationship between cops and reporters.
So Stuebing is walking erratically , moving from pool of light into the shadows to the next pool from the streetlights. And then a car slowed to the curb and a man yelled out: " Hey sweetie, where are you going so late at night? Lt me give you a ride?"
Stuebing looked over and decided that the predator would not be saying anything to warn his victims about his presence before he attacked. So he ignored him and kept trying to walk.
The driver persisted. And McFadden  was telling us in the old battered office that Doug had a live one.
Stuebing kept walking. The driver kept trying to lure him into the car.
Finally Stuebing, convinced this guy was just cruising for some action, and couldn't be the man who had been attacking women for weeks, told him in his voice destroyed by cigarettes to beat it, to fuck off.
The driver said: "Oh, so you're one of those queers. I'll fix you, you sick bastard."
He jumped out and Stuebing in those stupid shoes tried to run away. But a heel caught and turned and he fell, the furious driver on top of him.
McFadden screamed into the mike that "Doug's being attacked. Call the cops." So we called the cops and all the Tely guys on duty jumped into  cars and roared off to the rescue.
Stuebing is face down with the driver flailing away, an awkward position to defend yourself when your dress has ridden up around your neck. But he is still nimble despite being much older than the attacker, so no real damage had been done by the time  the rescuing cavalry arrived, led by McFadden swinging his Speed Graphic like it was a scythe. And the big box frame and steel knobs of the  Graphic was not something you wanted shoved in your face. McFadden and I later shared an apartment and I learned that under the debonair exterior, that charmed the ladies, burned an anger that I wouldn't want to face in a fight.
So McFadden and Stuebing probably could have cooled the situation by themselved. But the cops arrived like a cavalry charge, because they were monitoring from a deniable distance, and then the Tely troops came roaring up. delighted at this break in routine.
The driver had so many people grabbing at him that he was suspended in the air. And then he almost went into shock. He went from yelling at some honey on a quiet street to being furious at being "tricked" by some cross-dresser to being used as a punching bag by what seemed an enormous crowd of cops, reporters and photographers..
It was determined that he was not the sexual predator who was arrested later, without the help of the Tely.  I can't swear to it but no assault charge was laid mainly because there were embarrassing aspects to the whole affair for everyone.
All the rowdy Tely staffers concluded afterwards was that the next time we tried to trap some predator, and get a Page One Exclusive that would drive them nuts at the Star, we should wear running shoes.
And then we went across the street to the Cork Room where after a few drinks, we figured we had made all of Toronto safer for women of all ages.
Many years later, I wonder what happened to this rowdy wonderful side of Toronto newspaper competition when a Night Editor would put on a dress to serve as sexual bait and fistfights with the guys from the other newspapers were not unusual.

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