Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Ian re Paul

Paul King will get the party he wanted tomorrow night and there will no doubt be an endless stream of stories told about the late media legend.

Ian Harvey, freelance writer and former Toronto Sun vet, decided to share his Paul King story with TSF readers in an e-mail. Says Ian:

"I never really knew Paul to talk to him. Saw his byline, of course, in the Toronto Star. Had to chase it more times than I would have liked when he scooped us on some stories, notably, the piano man (whose first name escapes me, but his last name was) Drake and the princess he married and very quickly unmarried. Weird stuff.

Anyway, my celebrity sighting with Paul happened very early in my career. I had been hired by the Sun in December 1978 from the Scarborough Mirror, following Lorrie Goldstein to 333 King East. (and in turn followed soon by Jean Sonmor and Gord Walsh).

I started Jan. 1, 1979, and so by Nov. 10 that year, I was pretty much on my way to being a veteran, the newsroom being as young as it was and survival of the fittest and all that stuff.

It was a Saturday and I was working the day cop desk, which all GAs did because in those days there were only two cop deskers, Cal Millar and John Schenk.

It's 5:30 p.m. and close to quitting time when I hear a call from the Toronto Fire Department for a kid trapped on the escalator at the Sheraton Hotel.

Now in the month prior, we'd had an inquest into the death of a man who fell from the main floor to the basement from the balcony which surrounds those main escalators. So, of course, I'm off like a starter's pistol, screaming out of the newsroom on the trail of a story which would make my day, which so far had been rewriting major news reports and OPP traffic deaths - yer typical, boring weekend fare.

I'm 23 years old and full of it . . . piss and vinegar of course, not the stuff I'm full of now, which is a different colour.

I throw the 1978 Pontiac Sunbird into rubber-screeching mode, fly across town and park on the sidewalk in front of the esteemed hotel, grabbing my cameras - a beat up Canon AE-1 and an EF (bought used from Barry Gray) because we always had to shoot colour and black and white.

Inside, I get to the scene and the TFD guys are pulling this kid's foot from the escalator - his pants leg had got caught and he was shaken and bruised but not torn, so to speak. I approach and the TFD crew, realizing a photo-op when they see one, beckon me closer to shoot. And just as I do, these two local yokel security guards from the Sheraton decide I shouldn't be there and tried to muscle me away.

Na uh. Not going to happen. I lean forward and start shooting so they try to grab my arms, one each side of me, and then frog march me backwards outta there. Of course, I get a little miffed and vociferous. The AE is in my hands and as I spin around, the EF on my shoulder swings up and clocks one of them in the face. They take it as a punch and the next thing I'm on my back fighting with these guys.

Now, at 23, quite a few pounds lighter but a student of martial arts at the time, I wasn't about to go turtle so there were a few punches and kicks exchanged. But the next thing I know is that this guy is pulling the goons off me and flinging them to the side like some super hero.

Turns out it was Paul King. He was there for some unrelated reason and drifted over, I guess. I never did ask him why he was there.

I went back to the Sun, filed my pics and stories and went home. The cops showed up four hours later and I hid in the back bedroom until the legal beagles advised me to go downtown to 52 Division and then to St. Mikes to record the bruises.

Paul's quote, though, was priceless. Something like: "All I saw was this reporter on his back and these security guards wailing on him." Which kind of put the kibosh to their story that I was interfering with TFD and the "rescue."

Both the Sun and the Star carried stories. I was charged with assault. We counter charged them with assault.

The only other bookend to this story is that the next morning I was slated for 10-6 when I got a call from the city desk - I think it was Bob Vezina.

"Harvey? We need you in Mississauga right now," he says in that typical growl.

"Yeah, sure, but I have to go to 590 Jarvis and get my fingerprints and picture taken over last night's little thing."

"Okay, but then you get your ass out to Mississauga, the fucking city's on fire."

And indeed it was. Bill Sandbox Sandford's picture on the Sunday Sun front told the story and the rest is history, save for a couple of things.

I never got to say thanks to Paul for saving my ass. I know I got a couple of punches and kicks in, but given my prone position I was going to get a lot more than I dished out.

So, for the record, thanks Paul.

I know you were in your share of conflicts over the years and I'm glad our paths crossed. I would have done the same for you in the circumstance, and will for anyone in a similar jam in the years ahead - in your memory.

You were a heck of an adversary - and saviour."

Thanks for the e-mail Ian.

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