CANADIANS YOU SHOULD KNOW

CANADIANS YOU SHOULD KNOW

June 1 1969
CANADIANS YOU SHOULD KNOW

CANADIANS YOU SHOULD KNOW

June 1 1969

CANADIANS YOU SHOULD KNOW

The poet who rented a billboard to write graffiti

When the idea hit him, Mike Segal remembers, “it was like being fulfilled.” Segal, 21, lives in a North Toronto suburb, attends York University and — more to the point — writes poetry. “I was fed up,” he says, “with readings where 22 poets inflict 22 poems on a bored audience.” Why not, he wondered one day, display my poems on a billboard? With money borrowed from friends he walked into the E. L. Ruddy sign company and plunked down $150. Within a week, on a billboard a block north of Toronto’s bustling Bloor-andYonge intersection, a display of lines from several Segal poems stood out like type on the page of some giant tome. "One day I noticed a guy there writing it all down. I asked why and he said, Tm from Buffalo, and this could never

happen there.' ” So fulfilled did Segal feel by it all that he mounted a second message a few weeks later. This time it was “diagrammatic poetry” (see cut) — disjointed words and drawings (“birth of Laurel and Hardy” — “soda fountain” — “transit schedule”) which pleases Segal because “I like randomness better than planning.” Now, $250 in debt for the sign work, he’s hoping for a Canada Council grant to get going on forms of poetic expression that would make billboards seem tame. “I want to paint words on a herd of cattle, then let them wander about in a field, and film that result. I want to paint the first thousand words from Webster’s on helium balloons and let them go. I'd like to float a poem in a lake — make the letters from polyurethane and paint them in Day-Glo colors." Clearly, those billboards were only the beginning. As Segal sums it up, a trifle redundantly: “I got bored writing poems in neat lines down a page.”

The man who plays Perry Mason for the CRTC

As the new Canadian Radio-Television Commission moves grimly around the country with its license-revoking guillotine in tow, broadcasters big and small are learning there’s no sense trying to bluff at poker with the tribunal. Once Melville M. Goldberg has finished with them all their cards will be face up on the table anyway. Goldberg is the commission’s 44-year-old legal counsel and probably its most fascinating personality. At a typically drab CRTC session he stands out like Groucho Marx at a home-and-school meeting — scattering outrageous puns like birdshot, quoting casually from Shakespeare, ad - libbing one-liners, playing shamelessly to the gallery. “You’ve got to relieve the monotony somehow,” says Goldberg. “Nobody could go through all those repetitious briefs straightfaced and hope to retain his sanity. Anyway, it’s fun, and &s long as it’s fun I imagine I’ll stay with it.” His flair for theatrics is not accidental. He once had a small part in a radio drama and since moving to Ottawa from his native Toronto has performed regularly for the Ottawa Little Theatre. But applicants daren’t write Goldberg off as simply a grandstander. He can use his sense of humor like a machete, hacking his way through the jungle of evasion, obfuscation and technological jargon that characterizes commission hearings. “Goldberg pursues points like a Perry Mason,” says one bruised broadcaster. “He has a well-honed skill at finding holes in presentations. When he turns to the chairman, Pierre Juneau, and says, T think that’s about all,’ you can be sure it really is about all.”

The huckster who’s hooked on James Joyce

By day, Harry Pollock, 48, is a flamboyant, gregarious huckster. By night, he ascends into the rarefied world of James Joyce. Though he never went beyond high school. Pollock is an authority on the Irish novelist (Ulysses, Finnegans Wake), lecturing in universities, corresponding with such Joyce enthusiasts as playwright Samuel Beckett, presiding over Toronto’s James Joyce Society, which he founded (among its members: Marshall McLuhan), and adapting passages of Ulysses for the stage. This month, Pollock’s dramatization of Joyce’s life, Night Boat from Dublin, is being performed at the Second International Joyce Symposium in Dublin, with Pollock directing. Meanwhile, CBC Radio will document Joyce’s life with interviews Pollock has taped, mostly in Europe, with old Joyce acquaintances. Pollock discovered Joyce’s work 25 years ago out of lowbrow curiosity. Honeymooning in New York, he bought a copy of Ulysses — then banned in Canada — to read its sexy passages. Soon he was deeply engrossed, identifying with the hero, Leopold Bloom. “I used to walk like him and mumble like him. I guess I was Bloom — except for those sexual hangups of his.” What’s so special about Joyce, who died three years before Pollock discovered him? “He’s still the most contemporary writer of our age. He’s a mind-expander.” Pollock figures his own mind has plenty of room yet for Joycean expansion: he intends to spend the rest of his life figuring out the multiple layers of meaning in Finnegans Wake.

The lawman some Montrealers love to hate

Every revolution needs its heroes — and at least one thoroughly hateful villain. In Montreal, antiestablishmentarians have found a made-to-order villain in 48-year-old Jean-Paul Gilbert, who, as Director (chief) of the city’s 4,000man police force, has inevitably been the man-in-the-middle during the city’s recent confrontations with hippies, students and separatists. Gilbert’s image among some of his critics, based more on what he says than what he does, is roughly that of a Gestapo chief under restraint, for he has an instinct for phrases that enrage Leftists, civil libertarians and much of the press. After last year’s St. JeanBaptiste Day demonstrations, he asserted that separatists were usually “less of a problem than those dirty, pot-smoking hippies,” and displayed a photo of one “hippie-beatnik’s” arsenal, including a IV2-foot bullwhip, two knives and a set of brass knuckles. (Commented the Montreal Star: “Those aren’t the kind of accessories carried by the hippies we know. Some of them can’t even afford beads.”) Last summer, after the Civil Liberties Action Committee was formed, Gilbert denounced it as “extremely hostile toward accepted norms of society.” (Next day, the Star pointedly observed: “We need the police to protect us from crime; but we need the law to protect us from the police.”) Last November, when

foreign agitators joined a Montreal rally to protest the war in Vietnam, Gilbert denounced the Immigration Department for letting “Red-eyed rabble-rousers” into the country. Fortunately for Montreal’s malcontents, Gilbert’s harsh words are seldom matched by harsh action. Late in March, his force skillfully routed antiEnglish demonstrators marching on McGill University, inflicting scarcely a scratch in what could have easily become a bloodbath. Earlier, during the infamous riot inside Sir George Williams University, Gilbert’s gendarmes made arrests while stoically ignoring insults and violence. Then, even the hypercritical Star made a special point of lauding Gilbert’s men for “admirable restraint under provocation.”

The reformer who fights City Hall-and wins

Ask 30-year-old Bryan Knight why he works so hard for the so-called “little people” of Montreal’s slum districts and he’ll explain, “I’ve always been full of anger about injustice.” The injustice that angers him most is the kind he finds in a decaying core of the city; impoverished families too bewildered by the machinery of big-city administration to know how to assert their rights. It’s been a familiar pattern to Knight since his boyhood in the slums' of London, and when he reached college age in Montreal his zeal to improve slum conditions carried him through to an MA degree at McGill’s School of Social Work. Ever since, while employed by three different community agencies, he’s stayed angry. The Montreal Establishment first felt the effects of his wrath in 1966, when the city began expropriation for urban renewal of a downtown slum called Little Burgundy. City-hall workers 'asked its lifelong residents, “Where do you want to go?” They had no answers. “Then Knight arrived,” one resident remembers. “For six months he prodded, poked, explained and encouraged. He got people to meetings, found chairmen, secretaries, treasurers. He showed them how to write letters. He proved to them they had rights.” As a result, the citizens’ committee got higher compensation from the city, hammered out a satisfactory rent scale for the new units, and will share control of the $11-million project when it’s finished. Now, executive co-ordinator of Park Extension Community Corporation, Knight is showing the people of a seedy north Montreal area that they can have decent parks, better schools, proper recreational facilities, a chance to learn skilled trades. These are the only ways Knight knows of curing urban decay. “There are no blueprints for the future,” he explains. “But when you see the way things are, you just have to do something.” □