Monday, October 7, 2019

CHAMPION IDEA MAN: TOM MacMILLAN



NEVER THOUGHT INSIDE ANY BOX

In the days of power and glory that was the Davis Government in the 1970s, Tom MacMillan stood head and shoulders above all the backroom players in ministers' offices.
I'm not sure when I became aware of him as a force behind the powerful provincial treasurer but it may be the day he was lounging at the big wooden table in the (illegal) bar just off the Legislature's press gallery and announced pleasantly that I was full of shit in my column that morning and gave such an impressive analysis of my errors that I used it the next day after subtracting the sarcasm.
And for nearly 50 years I listened to anything TeeMac had to say, other than any golf tips with his buddy Andy Donato, because not only did he always think outside the box, he could kick the crap  out of anyone who took refuge there.
He was agreeable with sharing his torrent of ideas that he had on every imaginable topic as he participated 120% in life.
I have read comments about his passing and think it should be made more obvious that he could be essential to any political party or club or newspaper if given an opening because his mind was so quick.
He wasn't a believer in bureaucracy with its forms, protocol and the way things were always done. It was a very minor thing, perhaps, but I've never forgot his mini rebellion when he tired of renting the Syd Silver tux on all the occasions where he had to represent his ministry and bought a tailored tux and saved the government money in the process. The auditor refused to pay but by some mysterious process the story was leaked.
He was the ideal committee man. I am sure that Saint Peter has already put him on the harp board because he was always at the head of the line when it came to committees for charities and reunions and where should we go for drinks.
The refreshing part of his volunteering was that he always did more than his share and was quick to harvest any suggestion from the rest of us if it wasn't too lame.
So if we were honouring the doctor for our informal club of friends, and Bernie Gosevitz loves to flaunt colourful socks (he does it with more class than the PM) and I suggested that we make that a  features of the fund-raising dinner, then TeeMac's committee would seize the idea and even Donato's invitation told all the men to flaunt really wild socks.
He could seize any gimmick, large or small, and incorporate it into the event, as fast as any trout rising for a lure.
The rejigged politically correct cliche is that behind every successful person stands a surprised spouse. I have found that behind every good leader in politics and business stands an assistant or two  capable of dealing with any situation from a crazy man in the reception lobby to a gift for the wife on the forgotten anniversary.
Behind Bill Davis as premier stood Clare Westcott, behind Paul Godfrey as Metro chairman stood John Kruger and Ray Biggart, and behind Doug Creighton as publisher and president were a handful of trouble shooters, especially TeeMac, no matter what his formal title.
Believe me, I studied the symbiotic relationships with more than casual interest having turned down being an assistant to Creighton and Godfrey because of the hectic life. But TeeMac thrived.
In the early Toronto Sun, a few of us were expected routinely to do myriad chores far outside our job description (not that there were job descriptions.)
Nothing quite captured the complicated relationships between Creighton and his key people better than the night that TeeMac as Albany Club president was presiding over the annual Sir John A. dinner at the club that is the Tory holy of holies.
Creighton had just had a brainstorm at dinner at his "club", Winstons, then one of the best and most famous restaurants in the country. So he sent for TeeMac to immediately take action. TeeMac explained that he was chairing a dinner that had several past PMs and premiers in attendance but Doug insisted. So TeeMac left the dinner, talked at length to Doug and then returned to a puzzled head table.
I sympathize with those labouring in the beleaguered Toronto newspaper market today when the old farts and Sun Day Oners reminisce about the knuckle wars between the Star and Tely and the glory days when a tabloid upstart of overworked journalists followed the Pied Pipers of Doug Creighton and Peter Worthington from stunt to scoop to adventure.
These are tough times for Toronto newspapers, but please forgive and allow the diminishing corp of old timers to boast about how great it used to be because it keeps us warm as the sun goes down. And we certainly are growing fewer with Tom MacMillan and others going on before us. Yet I am sure that he has advised Saint Peter that the Golden Gates would look a lot better if there was a Sun box just outside and each and every day the paper should get a little fatter.
Not that it ever could grow to match our nostalgia of the little paper that grew and grew and then ....







1 comment:

Sam Ion said...

This was wonderful John, you captured him magnificently. Thank you.