1) Wally Crouter died in his sleep this week at the age of ninety-two. Many of you will have never heard of him, but Wally was probably the most successful radio broadcaster in Canadian history. His broadcasting career spanned more than half a century, of which he spent exactly fifty years, from November 1, 1946 to November 1, 1996, as the morning man on CFRB in Toronto. The morning drive, as it has come to be known, is the most demanding of all shifts in radio; so Wally’s tenure borders on the supernatural. Not only was he the most listened to morning man in Toronto, but for a time actually had the largest morning radio audience in North America. From 1974 to 1990 I made 1,282 “appearances” on Wally’s show. The vast majority of those were taped commentaries, but I was often live in the studio with him. For a couple of years during that time, Don Harron, in his Charlie Farquharson persona, also did taped commentaries on Wally’s show, and sometimes Don and I would be live with Wally talking about the top news stories of the day; on occasion we’d be joined by the legendary newsman, Jack Dennett. Being live on air with those three broadcasting giants was one of the highlights of my career. Wally had the best sense of timing of any broadcaster I’ve ever worked with and had an uncanny knack of connecting with his entire audience, whether young, middle-aged, old, male or female. There’s a certain irony that Wally died in his sleep. During his CFRB heyday he was a legendary man-about-town, sometimes going on the air after being out and about all night. There’ll never be another like him.
2) Marco Muzzo, the twenty-nine-year-old scion of a billionaire family who, while driving drunk and speeding, ran a stop sign and killed three young children and their grandfather, was sentenced to ten years in prison. With the allowance for time already served the sentence is really nine years and four months. Most legal experts predict that he will be out in three years or less. Not even a year per death just doesn’t seem right.
3) It’s hard to imagine a worse family tragedy than that which befell Jean Lapierre’s family last Tuesday. Lapierre and his wife, his two brothers and one of his two sisters died in the crash of a chartered plane just moments away from the runway on the Magdalen Islands. They were on their way to their father’s funeral! Early speculation is that bad weather was the likely cause of the crash. Mr. Lapierre was the youngest federal cabinet minister in Canadian history. After leaving politics he became a political analyst; I think the best in the country. He was original, fearless, insightful, fluently articulate in both English and French, and even though he’d been a Liberal cabinet minister his analysis was always fair and balanced. Jean Lapierre was probably the most famous person to ever come from the Magdalen Islands. He’ll be sorely missed.
4) The Lapierre tragedy reminded me of a trip I made to the Magdalen Islands, almost exactly fifty-four years ago. I was an accounting student with H. R. Doane & Co. in Charlottetown, PEI, and the most junior member of a team of three that flew over for about three days of work. Gordon Williams, a senior partner in the firm, and Mark Ladner, a future partner, were the other two. Our flights weren’t affected by weather, but our stay certainly was. Shortly after we arrived a raging blizzard hit and prevented us from leaving for over a week. There was literally nothing to do for five or six days except sit in the lobby of our small hotel or remain in our rooms. The only TV was a 12-inch black and white model in either the lobby or the dining room; I can’t remember which. There was only one channel, which broadcast in French and always on a snowy screen. The closest any of us came to being bilingual was Mark, who knew about thirty words of French. But on Saturday night as we were watching the Montreal Canadiens playing Chicago on the one miserable channel he made all three of us pariahs in the hotel by merrily and loudly cheering for the Black Hawks. The shots of alcool followed by beer chasers may have had something to do with his unfortunate performance. Anyway, the upshot of the trip was that by the time we finally got a flight out we weren’t even speaking to each other.