Part 36: East To East

"Memories of nearly 50 years in the Biz"

Part 36: East To East

Postby Brian Lord » Sun Feb 27, 2011 9:16 am

Brian Lord's Radio Stories
#36 From East To East

After time spent in both cities, one would have some difficulty believing that Montreal and Vancouver were in the same country. Language and attitude seem to be the defining factors. I think it's easier to get used to living in Vancouver than in Montreal--but that's because I was born and raised in British Columbia. To most 'far westerners' Montreal is a shock especially if you are alone but one get's used to it and then it's a hell of a town. Montrealers call Vancouver a 'postcard city' but the two seem to get along with each other better than either does with Toronto. Take businessmen. Toronto people who have business in Montreal stay overnight. Montreal people who have business in Toronto fly home that evening.

Okay, I worked for over a year in Montreal and grew to like it. But Steve Fonyo came along and did his one-legged walk from Newfoundland to Victoria and I was sent by CKGM back to the West Coast to cover his final two days. They were hectic, Fonyo had his 15 minutes of fame and the media had a hay-day. But it was Terry Fox who was the front-line hero--they both raised a lot of money for cancer research but the two young men were so different in so many ways...and through it all Fox is the name people remember. I'm not gonna sit here and berate somebody who hobbles thousands of miles with a prosthetic leg which had originally been someone else's dream but Fonyo was--in a way of speaking--a less agreeable guy for the job. (I met and interviewed him). Terry Fox was exactly the kind of person and showed the exact amount of humility to carry this gargantuan effort off. The fact that he was forced to quit half way home, created a true martyr and he deserved it. Fox is the man whom people commemorate at an annual tribute every year and is probably the best thing, (in public at least), that ever happened to Cancer Research in Canada. This rant of mine is for real. I was emotionally affected by Fox when he stopped walking and less affected by Steve Fonyo when he arrived in Victoria.

Matter of fact being out west again reminded me of how much I liked Vancouver and the province. as a whole. The beauty of a warm sunny day in Vancouver in May compared for the frigid but sparkling of night-life in Montreal won out. My friends were here and I partied for a couple of days, 'till there was no more to report about Fonyo, went back to Montreal became inebriated and was blown out of 'GM, obviously with good reason. They said I was good but undependable. That was the last time I was fired because of something including alcohol in the mix.

Back to Vancouver. I did a few weeks of 'days-off' shifts just as CHRX came into being with it's Classic Rock format. They had been CJOR, 600, an old Vancouver frequency long before most people today were born. The station's adult format had played itself out. Monty was gone, Cullen had left several years before, Red Robinson was back in Vancover at 'WX having done a stint in Portland, Oregon, only Vic Waters was a known-name--still pulling a talk show 9-Mid. And there was this guy from Sacramento, Cal Coleman who was doing three hours of DJ followed by another three hours operating Vic's open-line show. I had known him in the States and we had never been pals. But here we were at the same station and I did his slot one night a week. At the time I was running around with Val Mott and one evening, she and I had each drunk a skin-fill and I asked Cal Coleman, to hang on for another hour and I'd make it up to him in time or money later. "No way, man. No way. I been here since six and I'm goin' home..." and then started a lecture rap about how I was a dickhead prior to going on air (true--but not from him). I decked him. Through the studio glass Vic saw all this while winding up his show--grabbed a stack of LP's and sat down at the console--Val had done the news, badly, and Vic, being the pro that he was, just picked up the all-nighter.

John Robinson, the present manager had been out cruising and dropped into the station. (Car-phones had just been invented). Unbelievably, he took my side and gave Cal Coleman a dressing down for not jumping in when his replacement was not capable of broadcasting no matter what reason--right or wrong. Sort it out later. John told Cal to get on the air--let Vic split and said Brian would do his (Cal's) all-nighter tomorrow night. Then he laced into me for being in such a condition. But that was it. When I next saw Monty, he shook my hand. This guy, Cal Coleman, had never been accepted by the group at CJOR anyway and we all know radio stations are very fraternal..

I didn't care for this, "every-shift" thing and CKWX was looking for a weekend newsman. I applied and got the job. Somebody quit a month after I signed on so I had a full time job. Tanta Gupta was the News Director and I'm sure she had a hard time getting along with herself. She was smart but cruel. She slapped members of the crew on the head, ridiculed them in front of the whole newsroom, called them names and rarely was even mildly complementary. I don't think she'd have endured today with her "I'm the Queen and you're dog-shit" countenance. Scary Lady. When she left, a newsoom anchor named Jack Marion took her place and the shrew-like disposition of the place was gone with the wind. At the time I was dating Julie Brown, an anchor-hostess on 'WX's sister FM station. We were such a bad match that we even brought our battles into the station and when 'WX decided to downsize, I was the first newsman to go. Julie is now married to Tom Jeffries, a former DJ at another Vancouver frequency. They live happily and productively in business along with Julie's son Jared.

I also worked evenings with Dan Russell who has been a major sports broadcaster for years. We absolutely trashed each other but it was humour-- I sometimes wonder if throwing one's news-carts on the flour (rendering them out of order) or scotch taping one's head while he was broadcasting 'live' would stand up today. David Tate was forever playing Sinatra's "Witchcraft" which eventually drove people nuts and he had to be dealt with. There was a real clique at 'WX, most if not all are gone new, Jodie Robertson, Beth Leighton, Carrie Stephenson, Dave Tait, Chris Lincoln and several others including one of the funniest people I've every known... James Morrison... also Julie and I. We had a lot of weekend parties and they were a good crew both on air and off and I was a bit sorry They are of another era.

I also met and worked with two of the most talented announcers I'd ever heard and I admired them...still do: Campbell McCubbin and Kim Calloway. More about them in an upcoming chapter.

'WX was one of the first private multicast chains in Canada. There were stations from Vancouver all the way to the Maritimes with several frequencies along the way. The whole thing ran out of Vancouver by a guy named Tom Lucas (The Luker). He'd worked for me years ago in Langley but as he matured he made it good on CKLG. Like half the broadcasters in those days, Tom smoked marijuana but he was a super-smoker. You know, fires a doobie when he gets out of bed... throughout the day and late into the night. In fact I doubt I ever saw him straight. No-one knew the difference and few knew he smoked at all. Some folks are like that. It didn't seem to change his personality from whatever his real personality was.

One morning he said... "Lord come for a walk" and we shared a joint although I didn't like the idea of getting stoned...either on the air, and I had to start a news-run in about an hour... or at that time of day. Dope-smoke stinks. It has it's own aroma and it's hard to mask. So my 'walk" gave my clothing bit of, shall I say: scent? Jack Marion probably could have booted me but I think he smoked himself and decided to make the punishment a warning. I now realized while The Luker always smelt like he came from the Old Spice Lab.

After about four years at WX I applied and got a job at CJOR which had changed it's call letters to CHRX and played Classic Rock. Joe Leary was the morning man and a guy I knew from Victoria, Tom Mark was News Director.

Joe Leary had been the first Morning Man, along with, the Rocket, a 30 year old woman who was funny/sharp and a great air-partner...however she soon died of cancer. The news director was a guy named Tom Mark (extremely straight and very serious) did the FM news so consequently he never heard me on the air. Dave McCormick worked as FM-afternoon drive and it was good to be in the same station as Big Daddy after all these years especially because he taught me a lot about Country Music, altho' I'm not sure what that had to do with the newsroom. Leary had nothing against having fun with me over the air. Also on air at AM 600 was Samantha Vega who became one of my closest friends. We hung out, Sam and I and kept company with a lot of the fun-staff in those days.

I had confidence in this job and decided to change delivery. I had heard myself on a taped 'cast and I wasn't aware of how straight I sounded on a full blast rocker like CHRX. So I changed. I decided to do Rock and Roll News...match the music/programming as it were. I can't explain it very well but it was fast-paced, not as correct as it should have been in the grammar area, (shortcuts, the occasionally dropped "g"), much lighter in the follow up stories, but 'heavier' on delivery. And usually ended with kickers. Let's face it, Leary was running a late 60's/early 70's radio program and it didn't make sense for me to try and sound like Lowell Thomas.

Tom Mark and I were just a few inches from loggerheads most of the time...we both worked out of the same newsroom...and eventually his demeanor began to wear me down. Booze raised it's head again and I went to the station Manager, one of Jimmy Pattison's Golden Boys from somewhere who had taken over management. I told him my trouble and requested a dry-out spell for three weeks at the clinic. It was located just off Broadway and Victoria and although they never mentioned their success rate, I can imagine it was pretty low. There's an axiom that goes: ten percent of people who drink are alcoholics; ten percent of alcoholics join AA. Ten percent of AA members quit drinking for a year and ten percent of them quit for life. That is, one percent make it. Some drinkers quit through a program, some through an agenda as informal as AA, others at a ball-busting. It was agreed, by the new manager that I would go to a clinic at the stations expense. Greg Douglas was the senior Sports guy at CHRX and a good friend. He kept my job safe while I was away. Tom Mark tried to fire me but couldn't. The manager liked my sound so he sweet-talked Tom. Isn't that nice.

There had been a newsman from CKNW who had heard about a gig in Hong Kong. The pay plus a week's airfare-paid holiday once a year to your home town and the chance to work in a great big international radio station had grabbed him. I describe all this more extensively next time but this gentleman was a friend of Dave Tait's and Tait left Vancouver, followed a short time later by Chris Lincoln, a friend of mine and then I left town and started a mid-day anchor shift at Metro Broadcasting. Of all the radio experiences I'd been through, Hong Kong topped them all.
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Re: Part 36: East To East

Postby Neumann Sennheiser » Sun Feb 27, 2011 10:27 am

These pieces of memories and history just keep getting better with each installment Brian, can't wait to hear about Hong Kong.
"You don't know man! I was in radio man! I've seen things you wouldn't believe!"
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Re: Part 36: East To East

Postby Steve Sanderson » Sun Feb 27, 2011 11:00 am

Exactly...What Neumann Sennheiser said!! Keep the stories coming Brian!

( Glad you got your Internet provider straightened out...I was starting to worry about you. )
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Re: Part 36: East To East

Postby hagopian » Sun Feb 27, 2011 1:22 pm

Jeez, the stories are great.

Day to day, we had a lot of fun.

Tom Lucas' lawyer on line two, for Mr. Lord. )(*Think it was BRUT)

A few of the lads around here can talk with alacrity about the CFUN Parking Lot.

Did I ever tell you about the time Russ McLoud, and I...oh, never mind.

Keep 'em coming, Brian.
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Re: Part 36: East To East

Postby Mike Cleaver » Sun Feb 27, 2011 5:28 pm

First mention I've seen about Cal Coleman since I worked with him at CKOV back in the '60s.
He couldn't have weighed more than 90 pounds soaking wet but had the "Voice of God."
At that time, Cal was addicted to the sauce and was usually super-inebriated every night.
Couple of stories, told before elsewhere.
He'd often come in at night and go into the production studio and re-cut commercials, intros, etc. that he thought were weak or lame.
Mostly, his versions were fine.
But one night, likely deeper into his cups than usual, he decided to re-cut the funeral announcements introduction.
Those announcements ran Monday to Friday at 12:10pm, immediately following the noon news.
They were sponsored by Day's Funeral Service, the largest "you stab 'em, we slab 'em" outfit in town.
Instead of solemn voicing over organ music, Cal decided to "pump it up" a bit.
He started out with booming tympani, then his voice, with lots of reverb, intoning" "HEADSTONE HEADLINES or who died, brought to you by the boys at Digger Day's Funeral Home."
All of these elements were on carts, which meant they were not checked before going to air, you popped them in the machines and pressed play.
I can't remember who was on the board the next day at noon but the "new and improved" intro went to air.
Somehow Cal survived that one, likely due to the fact that "Digger" was a bit of a joker himself but Cal eventually got fired during Regatta that year after Dave Dunn, the sales manager and the National Safeway rep had to step over his radio station jacket clothed body which was blocking the door to the Royal Anne Lounge.
CKOV had it's share of characters back in the day but Cal always got into trouble during his short stay there.
I never did find out what happened to him after that but reading Brian's latest entry, it's a bit less of a mystery now.
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Re: Part 36: East To East

Postby radiofan » Sun Feb 27, 2011 5:48 pm

Cal worked at CKVN in the summer of 1971 when John Sykes was PD. As usual, I don't think his stay there was too long, but he did manage to get his pic on a CKVN weekly survey once.

Next I heard of Cal was at CHQR in Calgary in 1984. Cal was hired to work Saturday and Sunday mornings, which he did for a few weeks. Week number 3, there's no Cal at 6AM, or 7AM etc.
The poor all night guy pulled a 12 hour shift that day. We never heard from Cal again. There was likely a cheque sitting on the reception desk for him for a time.

The next mention of Cal was in 1992 when his son called QR from Modesto, California wondering if anybody at the station knew of him or where he might be. I just ran across the guy's name and phone number the other day.

Sometime in the mid 90's I heard that Cal had died. Not sure if he was still in Calgary or Vancouver.

As I recall, he had a great set of pipes.
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.
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Re: Part 36: East To East

Postby CubbyCam » Sun Feb 27, 2011 6:18 pm

Nice to have Brian's great memories back on RadioWest, even as he gets closer to the present... and I begin to be a little nervous about my own past. :-) As for Cal Coleman, I worked with him in 1964/65/66 (somewhere in there) at CFAC in Calgary when we took the station from a middle of the road heritage station to an all out rocker. Great fun... and yeah... he was the same Cal back then...
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Re: Part 36: East To East

Postby cart_machine » Sat Mar 05, 2011 10:14 pm

Let me clarify something Brian mentioned about CHRX. I wasn't directly involved but had a pretty good seat at the proceedings.

Mr. Leary was not the first morning man at the station; the aforementioned Mr. Lucas was. And, more germane to the story, Brian was not the first morning newsman there. Someone else was. And someone else got displaced when Brian was brought in (I always understood it was not the news director's idea) and put in the news department.

There was only morning and afternoon drive news at CHRX. This meant the morning newsman had several hours remaining after his air shift. The news director decided that would be taken up beat reporting stories to run on FM. The first morning newsman had an aptitude for it.

Brian expressed his frustration and unhappiness a number of times to me about the situation (in addition, on more than one occasion, he emphatically enunciated how he felt I was being treated). I needn't get into specifics; you can read between the lines of Brian's story and probably figure out what was being said.

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