Part 34: Victoria - Boss-Boy Newsman

"Memories of nearly 50 years in the Biz"

Part 34: Victoria - Boss-Boy Newsman

Postby Brian Lord » Wed Dec 15, 2010 10:19 am

Brian Lord's Radio Stories #4
VICTORIA - Boss-Boy Newsman

Several years ago Time Magazine, writing about Expo '86 referred to Vancouver as the quietest city in North America. Well if Vancouver was quiet, Victoria was a sub-sonic hum. After Joe Chesney had finally thrown in the rag on me I teamed up with Steve Simpson who took me on at his Advertising Agency as an all around salesman, creative assistant, friend -- a job. We had some fun... Steve merged with Bob Shulman who owned his own agency in Montreal so the firm in BC became Simpson-Shulman. Vice versa in Montreal. I got to go back and visit Montreal for a few days and soon understood the reasoning of people who contended it was the best city in Canada. Being West-Coast born and bred I wasn't that impressed but I did love the ambiance. The French were different, a different race of Canadians. If you knew them, they were fun. If you didn't they were zombies...especially if you didn't speak French. At least that's how they struck me. Whatever, it was a departure from radio and an interesting time in my life because I'd finally began to put the bottle behind me and use what other people told me was talent.

One day I called my friend Bob McClelland who was Socred Premier Bill Bennett's Minister of Health and asked him if he'd consider using Simpson-Shulman as his advertising agency, that is if there was any need for advertising in the Health Ministry. I envisioned some kind of campaign but didn't know what -- however people should stay healthy. Bob was quiet on the telephone and then said "Look, I need an assistant over here but it's got nothing to do with advertising. Come on over and see me in the Parliament Buildings." Well now that was something. Politics bored hell out of me and especially Social Credit politics but what was I to do? I wasn't making much money with Steve, he was still in the growing stages, and I figured I'd just put more space between the industry I'd been weened on -- radio -- and see what it was that Bob had in mind. A week later I packed up and moved the 70 miles to Victoria.

I started off doing audio visual work. Photographic slides in a machine, married to another machine that changed the slides by way of an inaudible signal on a stereo cassette tape then projected them on a big screen. D'ja get all that? The second side of the tape was voice-over and I assembled the whole thing, took many of the photos and voiced it over a music bed. As a medium, A/V never really took off. It was cumbersome and besides video was a lot faster and the image moved. After a couple of months I had little to do in Bob's office.

I became interested in golf. A lot of afternoons were spent at that golf course in Saanich; I went from 120 to 90 in the course of a year so I played a lot of golf. I don't think anybody noticed I wasn't around the office after 3PM. Then Bob got transferred to Labour Minister and I got transferred out the door. It was actually a combination of a giant weekend bender which extended into sometime Wednesday that ended my career as an Administrative Assistant, that and the Ministry Switch. Thanks to the BC Government I'd learned to hit a golf ball in the low 90's.

I did not like being out of work, especially when I knew the reason lay squarely on my own head so I joined AA with a bunch of swell guys and we didn't do any drinking. As many of you are aware, staying dry is the main purpose behind Alcoholics Anonymous in the first place. Of course we still smoked weed and played golf and took up skiing until I ran out of money and had to find something that provided income. Radio. I called Dave Armstrong's station: CKDA in Victoria and asked for the newsroom. Now I'd been in this business since 1959 and this was the early 80's and I'd always pretty much stuck to DJ work but I had also read news and knew how to write and compose a newscast. I was hired on the spot because hours before my phone call the guy I replaced had thrown a snit-fit in the hall and was bum-rushed out the door after having a brutal fight with his girlfriend who worked in the copy department. I was 'DA's answer to Superman's Jimmy except I had a tape recorder instead of a camera.... a reporter in other words and I don't think I'd have lasted all that long except within four or five months the News Director up and quit and I applied for and got the job as head of the newsroom for CKDA and it's velvet-lined FM outlet, C-something.

The number one Station in Victoria which had a population in those days of 250 thousand, was C-FAX a copy of the phenomenally successful CKNW in Vancouver. Matter of fact C-FAX was managed by 'NW's ex boss, Mel Cooper, probably the best manager who ever worked in radio. I say that but most people I knew who had worked for Mel said the same thing. Besides I'd met him several times and had my own opinion. So my newsroom was up against a giant if that's an appropriate description of a radio station in a population base topped off at one-quarter million. I had a long talk with Dave Armstrong, soon after becoming news director. He invited me out on his boat over the weekend and we talked till three AM about how to present an alternative to C-FAX. Dave was nothing if not a character. He was five foot three, weighed close to 250, the farthest thing from a fan-mag cover boy to look at -- always chewing a big cigar, but smart.

Most of the news in Victoria revolved around the Provincial government. We had a representative in the Parliament buildings who covered that end so the idea was to broadcast News with a small "n". We carried anything important, had a guy in City hall, a super kid but ended up owing me a bunch of money years later when he was incarcerated in Bangkok's prison for possession of junk...the lesson I learned: don't always try and be a nice guy. The FM news was well covered by the old 'WX pro Ron Robinson and I hired some people who thought as I did: if you're not going to try and top a truly professional newsroom's ratings, at least give the audience something to entertain them. Many of you will understand that remark. Keep the delivery light, write with a bit of a flair, use a hook on occasion and don't forget to close with a kicker. It was fun. I did the AM shift and had a good man, bass-voiced "No-Jive" Clive Kitchener as PM Drive who sounded like he'd had to have his pants specially made, a main of white hair (premature) and a fetish for shoes. I had to send our chief reporter home one day 'cause his partner had dug real grooves all down his neck with her finger nails. "Go put on a turtle neck...wear it for a week, ya sausage". He and his lady could be expected to enjoy almost any mind-bending substance available. But he was a good reporter.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles had been on a state visit to Sacramento in California. They had flown over but then took their yacht Britannia up the coast to Victoria where they would pay a second formal visit, this time to British Columbia's capital. So I convened a meeting complete with two 24's of Beer which I conned from the Brewery rep as well as some homegrown and outlined how CKDA was gonna handle the Queen's visit. I had contacted the Royal's front man, a woman, I believe her name was Gwen, in Ottawa a few days before and invited her to dinner when she came west which she accepted. She told me all kinds of interesting stories, none of them juicy. She also told me what to expect, how to act in their company and blah blah, a pleasant evening. The newsmen and a couple of colour people I'd hired met in my office at around five AM, the yacht was due at seven AM. The whole premise was to keep it light. I had been invited to luncheon (not invited really: "commanded to attend" read the invitation) on board Britannia at noon. We would follow the Queen to a couple of spots that morning, the rest of the crew would take a lunch break and then head out to the Royals afternoon appearances. I didn't think anyone would mind if I took a small hit of acid to sharpen my tongue which it did and nobody noticed. We had a trouble free morning.

At the media luncheon we waited a half hour for the Royals to sort themselves out and then we traipsed into the large ballroom which ran amidships, were introduced first to the queen and then to the Prince by her side. I had been told how to bow which was little more than a nod of the head for a man and a slight curtsy for lady reporters. One does not "shake hands" with Queen Elizabeth; she holds out her right hand in the shape of a claw and you lightly match it with your hand. No squeezing. No "Hi Queen" -- one does not speak to her unless she speaks first. So I was introduced, Don my partner was introduced and we'd met the Queen. Big deal. Don was off like a shot into the large ballroom surrounded by small tables with glasses of scotch, gin and some other booze and mixers plus bowls of ice. I was true to my AA principles and besides everything was glowing nicely as far as I was concerned. Withing 15 minutes, Don was drunk. We stood in small groups around the room and the Queen circulated one way, Prince Philip the other. I positioned myself in a direct line that was being taken by her majesty and she approached us. Don, another guy from somewhere like Bella Coola and I waited patiently but just as she reached us Don blurted out, "Ya sure look nice t'day yer majesty".

So much for the queen always speaks first. Bella Coola made some remark on which she commented and then I said "I remember when you were a Princess and had just been married and were visiting Vancouver, Bill DuMoulon and I stood on mail boxes all along your route to get as many glimpses as possible." "Mmm" "I had a crush on you". And with that, the queen moved on to the next group. In all honesty it wasn't quite as bad as I like to make it sound...the queen actually smiled. Don managed to drink enough of the gallons of booze that were everywhere that he slipped and fell on his butt on the bottom rail of the gangplank which pretty much put him out of commission, thank God.

I had appointed myself to cover the next stop on the Queen's itinerary. She was going to dedicate a bell at a big church not far from Victoria's inner harbour. It had been raining, I had a mic and a recorder (one of those old Sony's), a two-way hanging around my neck. The press scrum was in a corner of the churchyard and the Royals were late. So I called down to the newsroom on my two-way and asked the kid, Bill, if he knew what was keeping the queen. He said "Aw I don't know Brian, there was some report of a gun...." I don't know what else he said because all of a sudden 50 pairs of eyes were staring at me and 50 mouths all shouted "WHAT". I said "Bill repeat what you know. Do it succinctly and as positively as you can. Go" But Bill didn't come back on the line, it was "No Jive" Clive Kitchener who yelled "What's the freakin' buzz, man? There's nothin' wrong, Geez, the old bag's on her way" at which point the press scrum turned away and I walked to the curb and explained in a tightly controlled but noticeably intense voice "don't yell at me Clive I'm surrounded by the WORLD's press -- and Bill spouts "GUN", can you imagine....?" "Settle down, smoke a joint, no problem"... as the Royal limo rounded the corner. I was never more embarrassed in my life but then it was time to slough off such amateurish crap and give an intelligent report the newsroom could record. It took, I think three takes, I couldn't stop laughing.

In a couple of years I decided I wasn't going to spend my life in Victoria and scored a weekend gig at CFUN News and not long after that I was off to Montreal and CKGM's newsroom.
Brian Lord
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Re: Part 34: Victoria - Boss-Boy Newsman

Postby Steve Sanderson » Wed Dec 15, 2010 10:28 am

Great story Brian!.....So...You had a crush on the Queen??!!
Maybe the acid had something to do with that!!
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Re: Part 34: Victoria - Boss-Boy Newsman

Postby Neumann Sennheiser » Wed Dec 15, 2010 12:38 pm

Brian Lord wrote:...I positioned myself in a direct line that was being taken by her majesty and she approached us. Don, another guy from somewhere like Bella Coola and I waited patiently but just as she reached us Don blurted out, "Ya sure look nice t'day yer majesty".
...and then I said "I remember when you were a Princess and had just been married and were visiting Vancouver, Bill DuMoulon and I stood on mail boxes all along your route to get as many glimpses as possible." "Mmm" "I had a crush on you".

Reminds me of the urban legend tale of which my father told me (and I'm sure your Dad told his version as well).
Well, the story goes that, in years gone by, on one of his visits to Canada, the Duke of Edinburgh (husband of our most gracious Queen) was flown out into the bush to visit a logging camp. The visit included "dinner" (which, in good Canadian fashion, was of course at noon). When he had finished his main course, like a man well trained in proper table etiquette, he placed his knife and fork on his plate. The woman who cleared the table (she must have been the laundress brought in to do extra duty in the kitchen because the lumberjacks would not usually have someone waiting table for them), when she saw what the Duke had done, took his fork, set in on the table and, as she whisked away his plate, said, "Keep your fork, Duke. There's pie!"

In various versions, the location changes. Sometimes it's Fort Henry in Kingston, Ontario, other times it's the Gang Ranch up in the Chilcotin of B.C. but the main Royal player, Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, always remains the same.
"You don't know man! I was in radio man! I've seen things you wouldn't believe!"
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Re: Part 34: Victoria - Boss-Boy Newsman

Postby RationalKeith » Fri Feb 25, 2011 7:46 am

Well gosh, The Royales got broadened – exposed to “just folks” and to drunks. That can’t be all bad.
Fun FM

Yeah, I’ve even faded away from listening to Red Robinson on that radio station, whoever is actually running that show doesn’t choose good music.

For Oldies, also try KIXI 880 in Seattle, a mix of big band and smooth RnR.

But overall, isn’t it the music that counts? Something about m e l o d y tickles me.

(But there are many poor ideas, no one learns from history. I’m reminded of Pat O’Day saying that Merrilee Rush’s husband couldn’t grasp that O’Day wanted great records as the reason O’Day kept rejecting submissions from them – even after O’Day happily played Angel of the Morning, starting it on the road to being a hit, hubbie “didn’t get it”. Which reminds me of what a pop singer said years later in a broader context about why her husband was now ex: “I decided to surround myself with quality”.)
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Re: Part 34: Victoria - Boss-Boy Newsman

Postby hagopian » Sat Feb 26, 2011 11:04 am

Mel Cooper was the best boss I ever worked for.

Brian's stories are classic.

I couldn't stay away - radio is about to undergo a huge change :pepper:
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