Sunday, October 1, 2017



I went from sharing a battered desk and ancient typewriter, if I was early to work, then to offices shared with assorted characters, finally to what was supposed to be elite space.
In my journalism career, my fellow workers were often more interesting than the people I covered. And the buildings never made the architecture magazines.
 Along the way, I shared closet cubicles with Max, Bono and Dunf. No need to use their full names for those who were with the Sun when it really shone, but for the rest of you: Max Haines, Mark Bonokoski and Gary Dunford.
They were as different as night and day and summer, but for me they had one grand redeeming feature besides being fascinating individuals with their quirks, history and charm.
They could be devastating with snippet observations on the paper,  our colleagues, the opposition and life in general.
Max has just died. So that gentle smile which concealed a mind churning with caustic comments is still. He wrote about murder so well, I wondered if I should be careful about my rum-and-coke in the countless parties that surrounded the Sun "personalities" in the sunny days. After all, he was a graceful gentleman but he really wasn't that crazy about authorities.
As a political columnist who realized that many people didn't really like the horse trading and backrooms of politics, I found it useful before writing to bounce my insider information off of Max or Dunf because their sarcastic reaction anchored me on the ground where politics was despised. (I exclude Bono  because exchanging insights with him was like pouring more gasoline on a flamethrower.)
One thing is clear from the reaction to Max's death from those who worked with him for so long. There is a friendly nostalgia about his columns and his life. You see, in the business of news, where the stars are often not stars to the lesser lights, Max was as popular with his colleagues as he was with the readers.
To think that it all happened because he fled the underwear business after he bought a batch of bad elastic and panties started falling down all over the country. That loss was a great gain for all of us who love murder stories even when the latest Murdoch mystery seems a trifle strained.
The irony about the strange space once used by Max, Dunf and me was that some computer experts took it over, actually shovelling my files into the garbage. That was when I knew my days were numbered as the Editor Emeritus writing the occasional column from retirement.
I told Bono that I was going to phone Dunf to tell him of the loss of our weird eyrie but he observed that Dunf may not have much humour about it since he had been called to Toronto for a meeting where they fired him. Couldn't they have done it by phone?
I savour those days. The funny lines of Dunf who hung the nickname of "tiny perfect worship" on the city's most popular mayor, David Crombie. The Sunday that appeared, a group of us were travelling with Premier William Davis, who was to get a transit award in Miami, and everyone, including the premier, was passing the column around and guffawing about the bit where the mayor got lost in the shag carpet.
Now Max has gone on to spin mysteries for Saint Peter, Dunf is living in the great piney woods near Hudson's Bay, and Bono has just entered the sacred precincts of the Canadian News Hall of Fame.
Good for him. He deserves it. And I know something about halls of fame, actually having run this one briefly but resigning when members kept trying to get their friends inducted. I've been on the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame and was head of city council's honours committee, all of which taught me that hall politics can be as weird as if the journalists were lawyers.
Yet the ultimate honour as every columnist knows is to have your fellow workers like your stuff and read your stuff and not indulge in the catty comments that surround pushy newcomers.
And I'm talking about real journalists, not the denizens of the world of fake news and trolls who pretend that anyone can write anything in social media and be as good as a real writer. Nope, folks, story tellers have been prized since caveman days, but to do it well takes skill and experience and talent, not just chutzpah.
The biggest fans of Max the story teller were the people who worked at the Toronto Sun. (Same with Bono and Dunf.) And there will be many sitting at his service who while they wait will recall their favourite piece.
There were many!
 The greatest accolade! Being liked by your peers!

1 comment:

Bono said...

Thanks John.
You did Max great justice here.