Tuesday 1 November 2011

BJ Del Conte

Memories of the Toronto Sun - BJ Del Conte
I'm a Sun Day Oner.

Obviously, not as an employee - but as a reader. My mother would bring home British tabs from her co-workers, which I would voraciously consume, so this Toronto Star delivery boy was no stranger to a new, local and weird sized paper with screaming headlines and a snappy style of writing.

I saved the first Sun, but it's lost to history. I still have the first Sunday Sun.

In year two of the Sun's existence it created hockey cards - way bigger than standard issue. You cut a coupon out of the paper and redeemed it for hockey cards at the store where you got the paper.

I heard you could trade the cards down at the Eclipse White Wear building - near Farb's car wash and the King's Plate Open Kitchen (places I had read about in the paper) - so I went down on a couple of Saturday afternoons. 

Saw the staff banging away on steam-driven Underwoods and using orange crates as chairs and thought, "this doesn't look like the newsrooms I've seen in the movies".

(In my trading, I scored a beauty for free because the other person had never heard of "Robert Marvin Hull". Sucker.)

I really liked the paper and wanted to work there. Only took 14 years to make that happen.

It started with me working at the Winnipeg Sun (when it was owned by Quebecor and Toronto wasn't) and selling local stories to the Toronto Sun. They paid me and ran longer versions of the stories than Winnipeg did. (
Burton Cummings bopped by a beer bottle in a brawl at a Winnipeg 7-11 at 3 a.m. comes to mind).

When I would come to Toronto for a visit, I'd hang out in the Sun newsroom. One time I was treated to the awesome spectacle of Les (Pyette) jumping up and down on a newsroom desk shrieking hysterically because the Star got a scoop on the dead babies story at Sick Kids in its noon edition.

If memory serves, the Star used a screaming Sun style hed in 400 point type: "Babies Were Murdered". So much for the Star's sniffing dismissal of the Sun as a "trash tabloid".

I'm a Sun Day Oner in another respect: I may be the first and only person to get Godfly - the consummate politician and exemplar of self control - to absolutely lose it.

Mr. G and I weren't on the best of terms to begin with. Not long before I left in early '89, I was one of the people who was talking about bringing in a union. I called the Canadian Auto Workers. They relished the idea of organizing the anti-union Sun. Management found out, a meeting with Paul was held, commitments were made, co-conspirators were bought off and I left the paper.

Flash forward to '96 or '97. I was at Bloomberg Business News and covered the Sun's first-ever round of layoffs. At the press conference in the upstairs board room, I asked Godfrey why he fired people when he just spent $250K on an anniversary party a few days earlier. 

He totally lost it when I said "Fun party by the way". Trudy Eagan was so enraged she started to climb across the table to get at me and Godfrey pushed her back in the chair. He was literally spitting mad. It was all captured by the cameras and it looked great on the evening news.

I don't really recognize the Sun these days. Tiny stories that are basically rewritten press releases, fluffer nutters that I can't imagine anyone would care about, the tedious one trick pony/feather light attacks on the CBC and the mindless adoration/critique-free bum licking of Ford and Harper.

It was fun back in the day to kick the firepower heavy Star's ass. Doubt we'll see that sort of thing again.

I worked for pkp's father and I'm here to tell you: the apple fell very far from that family tree.

In my time at the Sun, I got to cover the Aryan Nations world summit in Idaho; looked for Elvis in Kalamazoo, MI, and covered the 10th anniversary of his death in Memphis; and chased
Ben Johnson's $250K Ferrari Testarossa with my $250 Chevy Citation. 

The Johnson story was published in a bogus edition of the Sun that was put in boxes around the Star and delivered to the newsroom to hide the fact the Sun had an exclusive interview with Johnson.

Also covered a bunch of crap that Godfly or his wife wanted in the paper.

I met a ton of lifelong friends, downed many a pint and wings at Crook's (especially on payday Thursday) and got paid to do stories I would've done for free.

BJ Del Conte

1 comment:

  1. Chevy Citation ... I thought you had a Pontiac Laurentian?

    Jack Simpson