Friday, November 5, 2010


Memories Of A Hard Birth And Great Child

It is to be expected that the 39th anniversary of the Toronto Sun would pass almost unnoticed, except for those who bear the joys and scars of the birth blazed across our memories.
The newspaper itself seems to have mentioned it only in a dozen words. It's not surprising if you missed it because even the indomitable John Cosway, steward of the interesting "Toronto Sun Family blog" missed the tiny mention in the Sun, and TheCos misses few things about the newspaper whose miraculous start revolutionized tabloid publishing in Canada and confounded the supposed experts.
I say it's not surprising because the Sun media brass seem determined to make life difficult for the Sun survivors as they repudiate the fun and irreverence that reverberated from the Sun pages in its early years. There is also a tension between the Day Oners and early loyalists with those who still work there. They're not shy about saying they're tired about all the crap about the good old days and what glories there used to be because they're working there
and the old farts aren't, and they're producing a good newspaper despite the handicap of Pierre Karl Peladeau and his sycophants.
I suspect the tension is only natural because I'm sure in all the newspapers with a glorious past that there is a feeling among young staffers that the old timers still hanging around or yarning have exaggerated the good and forgotten the bad.
Peter Worthington, who writes as many columns as he breathes, and Andy Donato, the artist, cartoonist, golfer and story teller (particularly about his score and how he just won the Iron Man Tournament at his Hunt Club, not bad for a guy who's 83) and I gather each year to celebrate those tempestuous early days.
We don't spend much time on the shrinking of the Sun, whether we're talking staff or the work space which is now a closet on the second floor of the six-storey building that flourished during our better days when we were one of the largest newspapers in the country and marked the anniversary warmly with columns from the usual suspects.
We spend a lot of time telling stories. Of course we do. We've been doing it for our entire lives. I suspect Worthington, the army brat, started with the soldiers when he was a kid at Camp
Borden, and Donato was probably the class clown. (I was always more shy.)
We talk about the lean days. Donato had an $80-a-month apartment while he waited for his house in Bramalea to be finished. The landlady was paranoid about his electricity usage. He discovered his oven didn't work because there were no fuses. So he put some in. A few days later the oven didn't work again. He found the landlord had snuck in and loosened the fuses. He was happy to tell her he was moving out.
Worthington and his wife, the formidable Yvonne Crittenden, always talk about their family while Andy and I try to get a word in edgewise about our kids. Of course the Worthingtons have a son-in-law, David Frum, who appears on TV shows like Stephen Colbert's, which I guess tops the Downing blogs and tweets.
There was a twist to our latest Sun anniversary celebration because Worthington was only hours away from treatment because his chest had been leaking blood. Worthington's adventures with his heart's plumbing are familiar topics with friends and readers (and they've won awards too.) This spawned a lot of gallow's humour, as you can imagine, but also a certain admiration for a tough chap who must be at least a decade older than Donato.
The Worthingtons brought guests, the famous artist, George McLean, who has 90 wonderful wildlife paintings featured in a book that was launched just hours before our dinner at Tommaso's Trattoria on Eastern Ave. (A great unpretentious spot for a party.) And it quickly became obvious why Peter likes McLean, and his wife, Helen, because not only is he a great painter, he's an even tougher irreverent talker than Peter. We killed a lot of sacred cows.
Of course we're going to do it again next year, on the Sun's 40th anniversary. And we're inviting all Day Oners and their families who often had to pitch in too, and not just because we seldom made it home.
And the original directors, some of whom would be capable of paying for the party themselves, and have enough left over for the national debt.
We will call it Doug's Party after the beloved first publisher and soul of the early Sun. Doug Creighton was famous for his entertaining. The highlight was when he rented SkyDome ( I forget its new name) and told the Sun's Trudy Eagan and SkyDome's Dave Garrick to spare no expense to honour our 20th anniversary. So in moved a circus and they even let off fireworks inside for the first time. (The Jays and Argos continue what the Sun pioneered.)
We also will have 20-year veterans (or Bono and Les Pyette would kill me) but the details would be up to a committee which would include Eagan, Donato (who with Peter is still at the Sun,) Tom MacMillan and great organizers like Tom. Part of the ticket price would go to Doug's causes like fighting Parkinson and helping Variety Village.
To heck with letting another Sun anniversary pass with just a few words. The Day Oners were there when we launched The Little Paper That Grew into a huge newspaper chain that can yet be salvaged. And we want to celebrate that. Just don't let Peter and Andy get theirs hands on the mike.

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