girls long sleeve polo shirts Entertainment columnist Jim Slotek signs off
Tom Grunick (William Hurt): do you do when your real life exceeds your dreams? Altman (Albert Brooks): it to yourself. Broadcast News
I can actually claim to have exceeded all my dreams (I dream pretty big). But I had a sweet ride, doing what many consider a dream job.
As I say goodbye to this place for other opportunities, I realize my connection to the Toronto Sun is best measured not in years, but in events and adventures.
While still studying journalism at Ryerson University, I was hired as a proofreader in the orange bunker at 333 King St. E. And I was there catching typos when word came just as the presses were about to run that John Lennon had been killed outside The Dakota in New York City. The whole edition was torn up in minutes, and every available wire story and instant column was poured into a special edition. Every warm body was frantically busy.
It was the first time I felt the electricity and adrenaline that a newsroom was capable of (I already spent a summer as an intern at the much less fun Toronto Star an experience that made me question whether I wanted to do this for a living).
It almost impossible to describe the loony, chaotic chemistry that once fuelled the Sun. I speak from the experience of having typed a Paul Rimstead column dictated over the phone to me from Mexico. And somewhere in the Ottawa Valley, my soon to be pal Gary Dunford read my stuff and suggested me when the Sun went looking for a TV critic. I was hired by two great editors, George Anthony and Kathy Brooks, and I was back at the eccentric place where I spend most of my career.
And the adventures began. himself gave me a tour of an art installation made from cremated human remains (ashes that were left behind when he and his wife bought house that Jeannie built long after, I was one of four journalists invited on the set of the brand new Star Trek: The Next Generation, before any episode had aired. Our guides for the day were the hilarious Brent Spiner and Jonathan Frakes. At one point, Rob Bowman, director of the episode Where No One Has Gone Before, gave us holy hell for laughing so loudly while he was trying to film.
Break time, and lunch with the cast in the Paramount commissary. Across from me, Michael Dorn, in full Worf makeup (including turtle on my head was eating a spinach salad. Live gagh apparently was not on the menu that day.
And the captain chair? I sat in it.
One of the differences between print and digital journalism is that the former tended to be more personal. I was a Trekker, so Star Trek was mine. Comedy Store, and Bill Maher and Norm Macdonald an old friend from Ottawa at the Improv).
You had a beat. The editor asked you what you were covering, and it went in the paper. Now you have to convince them it get clicks. And what gets clicks? Superhero movies, Beyonce, sports and at this paper hard right politics.
Which is another change from print to digital. It can be fairly said that I didn always see eye to eye with the politics of this place. But at the same time, they were fine if you wanted to write something to the left of the day editorial. Even better if you and another columnist went toe to toe. Readers loved it.
And now? Online, so the current wisdom goes, it crucially important to always stay message. If you were to use the word in a non pejorative fashion, it would confuse people. They might walk into traffic.
More important than its conservatism was the fact that, in those days, you could actually like people you disagreed with. I don think there was a single political columnist on staff I didn regard fondly (I even played tennis occasionally with Peter Worthington). Readers, too, would soften up after getting off their chests what a clueless pinko I was. Some of them kept up correspondences with me for years.
A young reporter recently amazed me by running through her game plan for her life, job,
marriage, kids, at set ages. By comparison, my life seems like one big accident. All I knew when I was young was I didn want to wear a tie, and I didn want to punch a clock.
The one time I did wear a tie? When I was a zombie in Zack Snyder reboot of Dawn of the Dead.
I wanted something more than the typical set visit. So I convinced the unit publicist to have me hired as a zombie performer, which meant two hours in a makeup chair and 12 hours of filming. (I had to be hired properly, by ACTRA rules, and donated my day salary to Habitat for Humanity.)
It was a scene immediately after an explosion in a gun factory had knocked all the zombies on their backs. My job, all night, was to get up off the ground, surrounded by propane fuelled pyro and hungrily chase people. This was one of those zombie movies. (It reminded me of wind sprints in high school football practice.)
But before we could get started, zombie canon had to be consulted. I wore glasses, and Snyder and his AD decided that a zombies vision was regenerated by zombification.
So no glasses. At night. When I got up and blindly breathed hot breath on the neck of actor Michael Kelly, Snyder called, and said, in the movie! (I am, for a few seconds. the highlights kept on coming. They included:
A one on one interview with Angelina Jolie in her Paris hotel room (for the not so great movie The Tourist) that segued into an impromptu tour of her tattoos including longitude and latitude tats of every place her kids were either acquired or conceived.
Two straight years of following The Amazing Race Canada around, to India and Vietnam. My room in Cai Be had mosquito netting around the bed and noisy lizards on the walls. At the “wet market,” rats were for sale for deep frying.
Having my then 10 year old son sit in on an interview with Jackie Chan at Casa Loma during the Toronto filming of The Tuxedo.
Attending the Bangkok Film Festival and getting blown away by the closing gala, the world premiere of the action classic Ong Bak.
And watching the International Space Station under construction at the Marshall Space Centre in Huntsville, Ala. The city was hosting the 25th anniversary Trek Woodstock, with original castmembers William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig. (I eventually interviewed them all, and even have a soundfile of Nichelle Nichols singing the Trek theme to me over the phone.)
Marshall is where the astronauts are trained, and a heavily guide named Horace Bibb keyed on me immediately when he heard I was Canadian, going on and on enthusiastically about someone named Bundah! Budda Bundah this,
Budda Bundah that.