Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Hidden talents

The Toronto Sun has had its share of hidden talent since 1971 - talent that eventually surfaced, much to the surprise of fellow employees.

Readers would have been deprived of a wide range of words without those talents being allowed to blossom, everything from rose gardens to the life and times of Shaky Lady.

Here are a few who were given the freedom to explore new avenues:

Bob Vezina
Toronto Sun newsroom newcomers in the 1980s probably summed up Bob Vezina, the city editor, as a grouchy s.o.b. and the guy to tolerate if they were going to survive.

But when you got to know Bob, you discovered he was mostly all bark and little bite and that he spent his leisurely hours cultivating his prized rose garden.

Who knew the veteran editor had a columnist streak in him? But he did. As retirement approached, he turned to the keyboards and blossomed as a popular Sun gardening columnist.

Mike Strobel
Back in the days when Mike had hair and a Toronto Sun desk job in management, the newsroom was a better place. He was approachable, good-natured and fit in at the Sun like a glove.

But in the post-Doug Creighton years, changes in management numbers created a turning point for some in management positions. Decisions had to be made and Mike made his.

Who knew Mike Strobel had a future as a popular, offbeat columnist? But he did and Sun readers have been treated to years of the Shaky Lady and other assorted characters.

Dean McNulty
Dean McNulty was a nose-to-the-grindstone Toronto Sun editor who worked his way up to assistant city editor. Another of the many people who were a joy to work with in the newsroom.

Of all of the jobs in a newsroom, the city desk is up there on the stress meter, with deadlines and reporters to deal with daily. Health issues arose and a decision was to be made.

Who knew Dean McNulty would move over to the sports department and become a popular motor sport writer, covering major races in North America?

Pam Davies
Cameras have never been allowed in Ontario courtrooms, but the Toronto Sun has never needed them with sketch artist Pam Davis on staff. She could outdraw anyone in court.

Pam has often been on call for last-minute sketches of suspects appearing in courtrooms on serious charges. She has captured the likeness of the most infamous for three decades.

Who knew Pam was more than an sketch pad artist? She can also write and is now writing full-page columns on art in the Sunday Sun's ENT section.

Al Shanoff
Toronto Sun readers knew little of Al Shanoff in the first 30 years of his association with the tabloid. He was a vital, behind the scenes lawyer on call day and night.

Al saved Sun Media millions over the years by keeping libel from reaching the papers and defending the chain when taken to court over content. But all good things . . .

Who knew Al Shanoff would retire as a lawyer, but quickly return as an op-ed columnist? A lawyer who can write for the Sun masses? Yes, indeed. He is now on our "must read" list.

Sun readers would have been deprived of volumes of quality writing had editors, artists and lawyers been told to stick to their primary jobs.

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