Sunday, 17 August 2008

30 - Elvis

The front page Toronto Sun headline 31 years ago today read: The King Dies.

Elvis Presley, a legend in his own time, had died at age 42 and for a generation of staffers at the Toronto Sun, it was much too soon.

The Toronto Sun was just shy of its sixth anniversary, but the feisty tabloid, with its Page 3 SUNshine Girls, columnist Paul Rimstead, cartoonist Andy Donato etc., was making waves.

Les Pyette, the city editor, was also an avid Elvis fan, so what went on in the Sun newsroom on Aug. 16, 1977, was both business and personal.

And the result was a memorable front page that has become a lasting Toronto Sun collectible.

TSF reached Les for a replay of the mood in the newsroom the day Elvis died and the team work that produced the fitting tribute to The King:

"I was city editor, just 32 years old. The news of Elvis dying hit like a ton of bricks. There were no real story meetings in those days, but I remember going into the managing editor's office - Ed Monteith, a great nuts-and-bolt newsman in his day - and urged Ed that Elvis should be the story of the day. He disagreed.

I went to the back shop and discussed the story with Kathy Brooks, the entertainment editor, and enlisted her help to convince Ed that it should be the line story. Ed trusted her judgment and said some mention would be on the front page.

I grabbed an album cover from home and asked the great Andy Donato to colour it. Andy, in his genius, four-flexed it and bingo! We had something that resembled a color picture of Elvis on the front. (All of the Sun front pages back then were in black and white.)

As the day wore on and radio - CFRB - and other stations, starting playing tributes to Elvis, it was then that Ed finally agreed to the death of Elvis being the line and with some urging from Donato, Brooks, myself and others, Ed wrote The King Dies.

Of course, it sold a ton of newspapers. It was the early days of the Toronto Sun and playing that story on the front in such a dramatic fashion blew away the Globe and Star and became a forerunner to many front pages in the years to come; best sales were a big headline and one huge picture.

For me, it was a personal triumph when word from our circulation department confirmed a sell-out. It was a great confidence booster.

And today, as I sit retired after 43 years in newspapers - 29 with the Sun chain - the only front page that hangs framed in my London home is that one . . . The King Dies.


Thanks for the replay, Les.

1 comment:

  1. As a Gen Xer born in 1977, I am amazed that (a) someone could be city editor at 32 years old and (b) someone had to argue for Elvis to be on the front page. Of course, maybe that was better.