Friday, 21 December 2007

Forum: Len Fortune

Len Fortune, a Toronto Sun graphics vet whose middle name is "Magic," helped make countless Sun fronts shine before taking a buyout in March.

In a Christmas greeting e-mail to TSF, Len also provides insight into the mechanics of creating some of those memorable front pages.

Len, who is sorely missed at 333 King Street East, writes:

"Season's greetings,

I haven't the foggiest who was responsible for the "Bastard" headline that highlighted the front page of the 9/11 Toronto Sun, but I'm almost certain that same headline was used during Desert Storm - 1991 - possibly when Saddam was pictured parading a boy hostage before cameras.

And I am also certain that it was Peter Brewster - most likely encouraged by Les Pyette - who boldly proclaimed the Iraqi dictator a "Bastard" on the front page. Maybe the Sun library can verify my claim.

Your enquiry about the choice of the Page One photo on December 9, 1980, front that informed Torontonians rock legend John Lennon was shot dead the night before, was put forth by me.

Peter O'Sullivan (not sure of his title at the time) was almost swayed by the rim to illustrate the tragedy with a John Lennon photo ala his psychedelic days. I was fortunate to convince Peter that the album cover of Double Fantasy, which I had in my locker, was the perfect fit.

The album cover depicted John and Yoko outside of the Dakota building where he was killed, but the most striking feature of the cover photo was it depicted a John Lennon who had underwent a 360 degree change in appearance - he had transformed his looks back into the Beatle image of the early '60s, clean shaved with the mopped-top hair.

O'Sullivan, a brilliant tabloid journalist, accepted my argument.

The best part of that Page One page was that it adhered to a simple design that I introduced in November of 1979 - the "Trudeau Quits" front.

The genesis of that design was initiated by Pyette (probably the best Canadian tabloid editor ever) who was always trying to get an edge on the competition. Les asked me to design something unique for the possibility of Pierre Trudeau stepping down. That request in retrospect was special remembering that in the '70s, I was the manager of the Colour Department.

Andy Donato, the best of the best, dropped out type on photos quite regularly on the Showcase and TV covers, but because of time constraints and the medieval technology, no one even considered doing the same for a news front.

To make a long story short, Trudeau finally quit and the Sun went with my front page design of one big image of Pierre and the words "Trudeau Quits" knocked out of the photo - a first for the Sun. The same front ran on another occasion, but that's another story.

Ed Monteith - managing editor at the time - and I were at the presses for the Trudeau run. His exact words as he picked up a copy of the historic paper were - "It looks like fucking MacLean's Magazine." That simple design has been a template in the Sun's design repertoire for nearly three decades.

I loved Ed. We'll never see his likes again. He always had a special way with words. When I was appointed AME photo in 1983, he didn't hold back when he told me I was a bad choice, and if it was up to him, I wouldn't have been promoted. All this amidst a congratulatory handshake.

And if someone asks who made the choice of front page for the George Harrison front page announcing his death, that was me too.

That black and white photo was also unique: Finding a photo of Harrison front and centre of the other three Beatles was rare, but I managed to come across one. Thomas Williams, an imaging wizard, hand-coloured Harrison leaving John, Paul and Ringo in their original black and white form - it was an amazing affect.

The headline "The World Gently Weeps" - courtesy of John Kyrk.

One last mention of the John Lennon front. There were two replates: The initial front carried a bathing beauty as main art. I'm guessing it ran three or four columns by 10 inches; it was replated with a smaller version of the girl and the news that Lennon was shot; the final replate was the poster page with the headline "John Lennon Shot Dead" and the kicker "New York cops holding 'local screwball' in slaying."

Sorry for being long-winded, but that's the way it was.

Toronto Sun Family, cherish this wonderful time of the year.

Loving myself,

Len Fortune"

Len, thank you for your Christmas greetings and for the insider info on the creation of those memorable Sun fronts.

Merry Christmas and all the best in 2008.

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