Monday, 2 October 2017

Fall/winter 2017/18 open forum

Another season, another reason for Toronto Sun Family members to stay in touch.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

At 30 - Crime Flashback's Max Haines

On a sad note, we say farewell to Max Haines, the Toronto Sun's crime writer who turned murder and mayhem into an industry. Mike Strobel came out of retirement to pay homage to gentle Max, who died Sept. 30. Feel free to add your comments.

By Mike Strobel,

Death was Max Haines’ stock in trade. No one could write murder and mayhem like Max.

In his deft hands, death came alive — for 34 years, 28 books and 2,500 wildly popular Crime Flashback columns in the Sun.

Name the demise and Max wrote about it, with a twinkle and a wry touch: Decapitation, poison, strangling, shooting, stabbing, vats of acid, bludgeoning...

Max made murder fun, death droll.

But there is nothing fun or droll about progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). It is a rare, slow and incurable neurological scourge akin to Parkinson’s disease.

It claimed Max Haines, at age 86, in the wee hours of Saturday at his Etobicoke home.

There never was a newspaperman quite like him. A story-teller without peer.

Funny, but it all started with faulty pantyhose.

Max had sallied forth from Antigonish, Nova Scotia, to conquer the world of women’s undergarments. He set up shop in Toronto. Business was brisk — but brief. One fateful day, Max forgot to check the elastic waistbands on a big shipment of pantyhose leaving his factory.

Soon, a hue and cry arose from women across Canada — and Max looked around for a new career.
His passion was writing true crime stories and in 1972 he walked into the Sun newsroom with a sample, about iconic axe-murder suspect Lizzie Borden. It was the best $15 managing editor Ed Monteith ever spent.

Max, triumphant, returned to his car, where the lovely Marilyn and daughters Susan, Maureen and Eleanor were waiting.

“We all went out for ice cream,” Marilyn tells me Saturday, from her home, as the family gathers.

As any longtime Sun reader knows, Lizzie Borden was just the start. Over three decades, Max’s columns were gathered into books like Bothersome Bodies, Doctors Who Kill, Multiple Murderers II, and Celebrity Murders and Other Nefarious Deeds.

My favourite Max Haines fiends included the snake Bob James, who arranged for a rattler to bite his wife and Englishman John Haigh, who dissolved six victims in sulphuric acid and poured them in his back yard.
The heinous Mr. Haigh did not know gallstones are too gritty even for acid — an oversight that helped hang him.

I asked Max how to commit the perfect murder. (Hypothetically, of course.)

“Move to Texas,” he replied. “Everyone has a gun down there. The good wife always says, ‘Gee I thought it was an intruder and it was dark and I plugged him in the heart.”

“And in Texas, you need two kills to your credit before they take you seriously.”

Max retired in 2006, though Crime Flashback lived on in syndication. The Sun city desk still gets calls from readers demanding his return.

None of those calls, I’ll bet, was from Dennis Melvyn Howe, the presumed killer of Sharin’ Morningstar Keenan. The nine-year-old girl was found strangled in Howe’s rooming house on Brunswick Ave. in 1983, a case that shocked Toronto out of all innocence.

Max never gave up the hunt for Howe, who is now 77 if he’s still in our midst. Max chased lead after lead, kept a mug shot in his wallet and often revisited the case in his column.

“He’s my boogeyman,” Max told me.

Says Marilyn: “Max wanted to find that guy so badly.”

What sweet irony it would be if news of Haines’ death triggers a memory, or stirs a conscience, in someone out there.

What a fitting tribute to Max that would be.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Spring/summer 2017 open forum

Another season, another reason to stay in touch...

All of TSF's reliable tipsters have retired, been fired, been bought out or have sold out so feel free to enlighten us with TSF news that counts.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Open Forum - Fall/winter 2016 forum

The 45th anniversary of the Toronto Sun will be marked on Nov. 1, 2016. Have your say on the anniversary or any other Sun-related topic.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Memories of 333

Toronto Sun employees are packing their belongings for the move to Postmedia on March 25, ending 40-plus years of newspapering at 333 King St. E.

Sun employees moved from the Eclipse building into their new digs in May of 1975. At its peak, 333 had six floors of Sun employees, its own presses, a cafeteria and photo studio.

Current and former Toronto Sun employees who worked at 333 are invited to share their memories.

From Facebook

Errol Nazareth: I can't believe The Sun is moving out of 333. So many memories of working there are flooding back. I have to say this: Regardless what folks think of the paper - and I have criticized its stance on many issues many times - I was treated with complete respect when I worked there.

When Les Pyette hired me in the early 90s - thanks, Tom Godfrey - I was given an amazing opportunity ~ working as a general assignment reporter on weekends and writing what many have told me is that 'legendary Friday write about any artist I wanted and not once was I censored. And every news reporter I worked with was always ready to help me with a story if I needed it.

After being laid off, John Kryk brought me back to write the Friday column. And when I was desperately looking for work about 5 years back, Glen Garnett reached out to me and told me QMI Agency was looking for a writer.

I pass by 333 every day and it's going to take a while for the news to sink in. (Received) a fun plaque they gave me when I left. Jim Slotek...i'm looking at you!

Claire Bickley: I grew up in that newsroom, made lifelong friends and was blessed with colleagues and mentors who left an indelible mark in my life: Jeanie MacFarlane was my coach and rock from the day I began. It was my great, great fortune to work with Kathy Brooks. Before Jean Houghton I knew how to swear but not with style. Jerry Gladman, my extraordinary friend, I still hear your voice in my head.

I will always consider those years, those people and all of those adventures among the best years of my life. To every member of our Toronto Sun Family, every best wish on your path.

Ian Harvey: That's what I miss the most. I grew up there. I arrived as a 23 year old... got married, had kids, got divorced. The one constant were the people at 333. We fought, we argued, we laughed we partied and we worked and played hard.It was a wonderful time to be in the business. The sky seemed no limit. We went into the boards hard against the competition. We revelled in being the underdog.

How sad this industry has become but the bond between us remains.
Someone oughta study it for a Rotman School of Business case study.
I remember when Teachers or some other bankers bought into the paper, one of the things they said was they placed a value on the culture.

Pity that the bean counters eventually pissed that value away. 

John Fracassi: At my first job in the 1970s, i saw the end of the old fashioned presses and the introduction of the compugraphic. It was the end of one era. The sale of the Sun and the massive layoffs that ensued, was the end of another era.

This is sad because those who will continue this business of newspaper work will never experience the exhilaration, the excitement, the thrills, the fighting, the arguing, the ingenuity displayed by the people who wrote all those stories, took all those photos, put out all those wonderful newspapers (and sometimes scratching our heads wondering how we did it). 

We mark the end of an era. i am happy i was privileged to be there and experience it.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

At 30 in 2015

Toronto Sun
At 30 - 2015

Jennifer Gough, 63 – January 1

Randy Thompson, 62 - April 27

David Ellis, 70 – August 22

William “Bill” Duff, 68 - August 28

Pauline Mason, 68 – September 5

Audrey Levtov, 82 - November 19

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Sun casualties: 2016

Early in January, PM axed former Sun Media weekly What's Up Muskoka and Muskoka Magazine, published 10 times per year.

On Black Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, PM announced more cuts at Suns in Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton. At least one other paper saw cuts.

TSF forum posts:

None gone from Ottawa Citizen today, but 12 gone from the Ottawa Sun newsroom: Chris Hofley, Mike Sutherland-Shaw, Matt Day, Corey Larocque, Tony Spears, Shane Ross, Paul Rutherford, Don Wilcox, Danielle Dube, Keaton Robbins, Sam Cooley, Julienne Bay. Surviving in OttSun editorial because of seniority provided in the CBA: columnist Sue Sherring (go figure), reporter Jon Willing, photogs Tony Caldwell and Errol McGihon, reporter Aedan Helmer, sports guys Tim Baines, Bruce Garrioch and Don Brennan, ME Michelle Walters. Bets are the Sun will be shuttered on Friday, April 1 right after the Competition Bureau's influence ends.

2 mail room staff cut in Sarnia, 3 sales people are reported to have left for other employment. Part of the duplication now that Windsor is printing their products? Oh and someone mentioned print quality would be better in Windsor...apparently not.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The deal is done…/postmedia…/article23895298/

With fond memories of Doug, Peter, Don and others in the 62 or so Day Oners Club, we say farewell to one of North America's print media success stories gone awry thanks to corporate power plays, greed and mismanagement by new owners.

As others have said, those who were around to share in the glory years have memories - and stories - to last a lifetime. In my book, the Toronto Sun was an Ali, a Gretzky, a Pele, a Woods. Shooting stars to be remembered as one-of-a-kind experiences.

To know what the working environment on all six floors of 333 was pre-Quebecor is to know how much our shooting star has dimmed. In the end, we will always have SkyDome circa 1991 and warm memories of Christmas bonuses, profit sharing, stock options, sabbaticals, Blah days, anniversary parties etc.

To the survivors of the PM purchase, we wish you well. TSF will be here to relay new ownership moves. We can only hope PM will be gentle.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Free Sun book for TSFers

Julie Kirsh, our tireless master of the Toronto Sun library, has a deal for 200-plus TSFers - a free copy of Jean Sonmor's 1993 book The Little Paper That Grew.

"I have 200, maybe more," Julie says. They are free for the asking but have to be picked up at 333.

The best years of the Toronto Sun were 1971 through 1993 and this 408-page book includes mention of many of the Sun legends and their stories.

It was about to be published when Doug was ousted. He was gracious in rewriting his introduction: "When Jean Sonmor asked me to write an introduction to her 20 year history of the Toronto Sun, I had no idea that she would have to rewrite the last chapter to include my dismissal."

Rumour has it the remnants of the Little Paper That Grew will be moving out of 333 now that Sun Media has been sold to PM. If you do not have Jean's book, now is the time to pick up a mint condition copy.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

TSF: One million visits

The Toronto Sun Family blog, launched in 2006, has topped the one million visits mark, with almost two million page views.

That speaks volumes for the interest in the roots and early growth of the Toronto Sun and its siblings and the relentless Quebecor downsizing since 1999.

Most of the reliable tipsters who kept TSF informed of happenings at their Sun Media newspapers have been laid off or have moved on to other jobs.

A change in ownership this year will bring to an end the blog as a means of reporting Sun Media activities, but we will still have memories of the glory years to share.

Thanks a million for your interest in this blog.