Wednesday, November 2, 2016



It's the night after All Hallows' Eve but the ghosts of half a century ago still dance in our memories of what was.
Our numbers are shrinking but not the warmth as the gnarled knot of Telegram and Sun survivors gather in our traditional salute to the death of the grand old lady of Melinda, The Toronto Telegram, on Oct. 30, 1971, and the surprising launch of the Toronto Sun two days later.
It is a weekend seared in my memory, and also with my friends in our anecdotage, as we gather to yarn and fib and drink great drafts of nostalgia.
It's suitable timing because Halloween, before Big Business stole it from the churches and trick-or-treaters, was the legendary time to contemplate mortality.
And I certainly felt mortal 45 years ago as I put out the final Tely. The building was empty except for the pressmen and me. I look up from my keyboard now at the flag of the Telegram that I ripped up off the front page form, along with the little FINAL bit, a name that would never be used again by the paper that had been a vital part of Toronto's history since 1876.
I remember carrying the metal name out of the empty newsroom as I wondered how I would support the new baby and two other sons and Mary.
Would the gamble by Doug Creighton and Peter Worthington work?  Or was my life as the bright young editor over and I would be forced to become a government flack?
That was 6,000 columns, 3,000 editorials and hundreds of blogs ago. So the Sun did shine on me.
I have written about our annual dinner over the years in, such as Donato's A Wonderful Pain In the Ass on Nov. 1, 2014, and Fighting Toronto's Sun Eclipse on Nov. 2, 2013.
And my talented colleagues at our dinner, like Joan Sutton Straus and Yvonne Crittenden Worthington, are informative posters of Facebook items just as they were provocative writers and columnists and personalities and friends.
Kathy Brooks didn't have a persona outside the newspapers but inside she was known for her great skills as the entertainment editor. Any good newspaper needs key Kathys no matter how many cantankerous stars they may have as columnists....or cartoonists.
Then there is Dianne Jackson, a gifted artist, and last and certainly least, her husband Andy Donato, a fine painter who whips up funny cartoons before playing another round of golf at his beloved Hunt Club where members must grumble about all his playing time.
I have so many graceful paintings by Dianne and lovely paintings and funny cartoons by Andy - most of them with insults about me - hanging on my walls that the joke is it could be called the Donato Gallery. (Admission any time providing you have a bottle of an aged Appleton or mellow Mount Gay.)
These days Andy makes up for all the rest of us in public production, intending to paint and cartoon for another few decades. Which means I can look forward to more torment since he has this serious misconception that I was difficult on him as the Editor supposedly approving his cartoons, and he is justified now in revenge.
This year I journeyed downtown to the York Club, because he indicated to me that our dinner was Sunday,  to find instead a silent stone mass, sort of like Andy's excuse.  I should have expected that because several years ago Mary and I ended up at the wrong restaurant following his directions.
A couple of years ago, we went to a pub because one of his relatives worked there and my credit card was compromised. Didn't cost me unlike the anniversary dinner when the restaurant put the charges for the Creightons and Worthingtons on my credit card and Worthington thought it was a great joke when I tried for a refund from him.
Now Peter loved those reunions. He showed up for one bleeding slightly from a hole in his chest after he checked himself out of TGH.
So what did we talk about? Mostly scandalous and libellous stuff and wonderful gossip. Nothing about the recent Suns or Posts or Godfrey. A lot about the old Tely. We passed largely on Clinton/Trump even though Yvonne would have insights since David Frum, the noted Republican writer, is married to her daughter, Danielle.
Nothing is more boring than taking potshots at the dismal clutch-and-grab of politicians now screwing up the entire world when you can talk about whether that photog really was sleeping with that girl on the Picture Desk.
I confess, and I bet Andy would too if he didn't know I had the same view, that the greatest part of these celebrations of the past is that you actually get a chance to tell your stories again to an appreciative audience.
After all, Mary and the sons tend to have eyes glazing before I reach my punchlines, although Mark once wrote a piece on me for the Sun at the suggestion of malicious editors that the family really didn't mind listening to my stories because they wanted to see how they turned out this time.
I probably have written that before (and Andy would say I always repeat myself) but there is nothing finer when you march on to the inevitable than gathering with old friends to remember the wars of survival when two other newspapers were determined to make you look like an idiot.
The Sun will shine forever, if only in my dreams.

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