Thursday, 10 July 2008

Joan & Posy

Joan Sutton Straus, a Toronto Sun Day Oner and former Lifestyle editor, writes about Posy Chisholm, a former Tely/Sun columnist who died Monday in Toronto General Hospital. She was in her 80s.

"For years, I spent a couple of months in England where the highlight of the morning newspaper readings was the obituary page," says Joan. "In England, they manage to tell the truth about those who died. In Canada and the U.S., we go all mealy mouthed, turning everyone into saints, which only makes them dull.

So, my memories of Posy:

Posy Boxer Chisholm Feick has died and, indeed, the world will be a duller place. I first met Posy more than 50 years ago. It was 1951. I was 19 and modelling in the fashion show of the Robert Simpson Company (later bought out by The Bay and I guess no longer in existence.) What fashion shows those were - clothes from Paris, so beautifully made that one could wear them inside out.

Posy was the commentator and I remember her for what she wore when she waltzed into the last fitting: A Dior coat in some kind of plaid, all cut in a circle. She was tiny, blonde and perfect - but she didn't always get the commentary right.

The fashion editor of the Telegram then was an incredible character named Lillian Foster. Lillian dressed like a bag lady, and she seemed to sleep through the fashion shows. But she missed nothing and in the middle of this particular showing she stood up and shouted from the audience, "Posy, that dress is not a Balmain, it is a Givenchy."

We became close friends in the 70s when she had moved back to Toronto as Bob Chisholm's wife. She was celebrated for her parties - more than once, I stood in the corner with Bob where he would ask me, "Do you know anyone here, because I don't."

Posy and Bob rented a house in Cuernavaca, where I was often a guest. At breakfast, Bob would ask, "how many for dinner," and Posy would reply, "Just us." At lunch, he would ask again, and she would say that so many people wanted to meet me, we were going to be 12 for dinner. At dinner, there might be 50 (not one of whom was interested in meeting me.)

Once, Bob was in the local square having a morning coffee when someone approached him and asked in the loud voice we tend to use to foreigners, "Do you speak English?" "I not only speak English," said Bob, "I was your host last night at dinner."

Brian Linehan was also a frequent house guest and one year he preceded me. So, when Posy introduced me to the Canadian ambassador to Mexico as "Canada's most important journalist," the ambassador answered, with a perfect straight face, "But Posy, that's what you told me about the man you introduced me to last week."

The person she was with, the party she was at, the country she was in: The best, the most perfect, the most important. We called them Posyisms. Most of the time, they were innocent - but not always - and they did get her into journalistic trouble.

At the Tely, she wrote that she was having lunch with the Duchess of Windsor, who was discussing her face lift. The Duchess sued the Telegram: Posy was in the same restaurant, but not at the same table.

When Bob Chisholm died, I persuaded Doug Creighton to let Posy write a column for the Sun, and we christened it Darlings because that was her favorite exclamation and Bob had written a book about consumers called The Darlings.

Alas, a column lifted from an airline magazine was passed on as hers and that was the end of her second print career.

As some of you may know, my husband is a Guggenheim and I was appointed to the board of The Peggy Guggenheim to represent the family. I was able to nominate Posy to the board - it was a perfect match, for her and the board.

One of her Posyisms brought an end to our friendship - but that doesn't cancel out all the good times we had together, her amazing capacity for joy, and the way she lit up the corners of every room she entered."

Thank you for your tribute to Posy, Joan.

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