As I approached our favourite coffee shop table I noticed that Paddy again had his crinkled piece of paper in front of him, which reminded me that he said last week he had more questions about my career.
Not even deigning to say hello, Paddy launched right into it, “Ready for my follow-up questions?”
“Hello, Paddy, nice to see you, too,” I gibed. But seeing he was ignoring it, I said, “sure.”
“Let’s start with something we didn’t really talk about,” he started. “You played Junior B hockey in Toronto and Senior A in the Maritimes, right?”
“Yes, but surely you’re not suggesting I had a hockey career,” I protested.
“No,” he agreed, “but I have a question. Did you play with or against any guys who made the NHL?”
“I did,” I told him. “In Junior I played with Barry Ashby, who went on to play with the Philadelphia Flyers, and against Dave Keon, Gerry Cheevers and Dennis DeJordy, all of whom had great NHL careers. I’m sure there were others that I didn’t notice at the time, but those four were memorable.”
“What about in Charlottetown?”
“I played with Billy MacMillan.”
“OK,” Paddy consulted his notes and went on, “you were involved in the entertainment business for about thirty years, right?”
“Right,” I agreed.
“Who do you think was the best country male singer ever?”
“Easy,” I said, “Marty Robbins, by a country mile; pun intended.”
“I thought Johnny Cash was your favourite, not Mary Robbins.”
“He was, but he wasn’t as good a singer as Marty Robbins,” I explained. “Cash had the most distinctive sound of any country artist, and had an incredible influence on artists from all genres. He’s in both the country and rock and roll halls of fame.”
“How about male pop singer?” he then asked.
“That’s easy too; Frank Sinatra.”
“Any entertainers you didn’t like?”
“Dozens,” I assured him.
“No point going there I guess,” Paddy rightly observed.
“Who was the best accountant you ever dealt with?” he went on.
“My former Coopers & Lybrand partner, David Timbrell,” I told him. “Not only was he the cleverest income tax practitioner I knew, he was often the go-to guy on accounting and auditing problems.”
“Best negotiator?” was his next query.
“Another of my Coopers & Lybrand partners, Ed Marchant.”
“What set him apart?” Paddy asked.
“A number of things,” I explained. “He was completely unflappable, never showing any emotion. He was always well-prepared. And he taught me the most important negotiating lesson I ever learned.”
“Which was,” Paddy impatiently prodded as I paused to take a sip of coffee.
“That the first thing to find out in a negotiation is whom you can trust,” I told him.
“Best lawyer?” he went on.
“Dave Matheson,” I said. “Dave is the ideal role model for young people interested in law as a profession. His talent, judgement, integrity and empathy are all unsurpassed.”
“What about CEOs?” Paddy asked.
I had to ponder a bit before replying, “The late Wilf Lewitt. As CEO of MDS, a public company, he led a diverse owner-management team that included doctors, scientists, and the former head of the Redemptorist order of priests. And during his tenure, MDS was the envy of Bay Street.”
Paddy switched back to hockey. “You were heavily involved in hockey for a long time, and I know, because I’ve heard you say it many times, that you think Bobby Orr was the best hockey player ever. Why?” he challenged.
“Because he was, at the same time, both the best offensive player and the best defensive player in the NHL. No other player can lay claim to that. Also, he could do everything, and he could do it all at top speed.”
“Do you think Paul Henderson should be in the Hall of Fame?” was his next question.
“Without question,” I averred. “When my late friend, Frank Selke Jr., was on the Hall’s selection committee I challenged him about this. Frank said the committee didn’t think Paul’s overall career numbers supported his inclusion. I asked Frank which was the key word in the phrase ‘Hall of Fame.’ He acknowledged it was ‘fame.’ I then asked him how many hockey players were more internationally famous than Paul Henderson. He didn’t answer. And he just snarled at me when I pointed out that Vladislav Tretiak, the goalie Henderson scored his famous three winning goals on, is in the Hall.”
“Were there any memorable moments in your writing career?”
“Three,” I answered. “Winning a national business writing award; being requested by Readers Digest to do an article for them; and being told by Martin Goodman, the publisher of the Toronto Star, that I’d set a record for the number of readers’ letters -- all negative I should add -- about an article I wrote for them.
“What in the name of heaven did you say in the article?” Paddy incredulously asked.
“I wrote a spoof on hunting in which I said that anyone who got shot being mistaken for a moose was better off dead anyway.”
“I can see why some people wouldn’t like that,” Paddy said, even though he had to stifle a chuckle.
“What about broadcasting highlights?”
“Interviewing John Dean....”
“The Watergate guy?” Paddy interrupted.
“Yes,” I said, then went on, “also interviewing the Russian spy and defector Igor Gouzenko, and doing a regular show called Let’s Discuss It with broadcast legends Betty Kennedy, Gordon Sinclair, and Bob Hesketh.”
“That’s it,” Paddy said as he got up and left.
“Thank God,” I sighed to myself.