Monday, December 6, 2021


The cliche goes that behind every great man stands a great woman. A variation was that some times there was a surprised woman. It certainly wasn't true here.
Too many of us have forgotten in the nostalgia about the Toronto Sun celebrating its 50 years of battles in a tough newspaper town that the wonderful charming brilliance of its founder Doug Creighton was rooted in the smiling support of a wife who was often the smartest in the room. 
Marilyn moved easily through the decades, from the 1950s and 1960s when the lanky police reporter was liable to show up at any hour with a bum or the Leaf captain to the heady years of PMs and movie stars courting the attention of a husband who rode his great personality to power.
Too often obituaries when an old friend dies are filled with personal anecdotes rather than how remarkable they were. I recall a funeral at Beth Tzedec when my neighbour said as yet another speaker droned on about their past that what he really wanted to hear was stories about the guy in the casket. Since he was Phil Roth, the billionaire developer, and the dearly departed was Phil Givens, who had come to my wedding before he was MP, MPP and mayor, I never try to forget to remember the accomplishments along with the anecdotes. And there were certainly many of those with 40 years of friendship between the Creighton and Downing families before the music died. 
After all, Marilyn had a life filled with peaks that would startle a biographer and she rode its crests with the calm shrewdness of the VON nurse she had been before the three sons and the glamour. 
Their marriage had humble roots and the early good stuff for their many parties came from a leading pawnbroker that was one of Doug's myriad contacts such as the police chief calling to chat and give him scoops that made the Star wince and had him climb the editorial ladder to the top positions.
We remember the chief calling to tell Doug to stick around for a good story and then he went out and shot himself.
Marilyn climbed each rung with him after the early years had prepared her for just about anything, which happened on a regular basis. The bungalow in central Etobicoke saw such strange sights as a hungover reporter wading though the snow in his long underwear to get the house number so the cab could take him to an early shift.
Doug let Marilyn explain that to the neighbours. As he did when Toby, the rambunctious family dog, grabbed a roast off the barbecue of a cottage neighbour who just happened to be a Supreme Court justice.
Things like that happened regularly to the Creightons because things like that happened routinely at the Telegram. Damon Runyonesque reporters populated the newsroom. It was like a set for Guys and Dolls but mixed in with the bizarre like a dusty diving suit sitting in a closet were reporters who had been the first into Hitler's bunker or had discovered the great Chubb impact crater in Quebec or watched Oswald get shot.
And then Doug took over in a blaze of setting sun which helped us birth the Sun with 62 survivors. But the 1,200 we left behind when the Tely died left their mark.
Some of our Tely stunts would shock the woke editors of today who think that this 24-hour news cycle is the cream of modern journalism. And Doug was the ringmaster in a style that later built the Sun.
I remember interviewing a Mafia snitch who cooked me lunch while he explained why they used a funeral home in Niagara Falls because they could bury victims under the deceased in big coffins. Then that "family" decided to sue Maclean's because they could probably make more money than the Tely would pay. Then Doug sent a reporter to dig up a backyard in Phoenix because we were told of a likely Mafia burial (but not Hoffa) And we plotted all this as Marilyn served up sandwiches as if we were discussing a soap opera.
It has been 60 years of marriage for Mary and me. Now too often we have to pause for golden memories of fast friends who have gone before. Marilyn could be tough with a keen view of all around her. But she had a gracious appreciation of the important things in life, like family and friends. It enriched us all.  
And she set an example. Doug had several months of silent fury with me because I dared to go to Moscow when Mary was having a minor operation. You just didn't do that with your bride. It was Marilyn who helped sooth the peace, as she so often did in the hurly burly,  the chaos of news in the big city.



Joan Sutton Straus said...

Perfect John. Thank you.

Angel17 said...

Such a nice read thank you John for posting this nice blog.