MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE STUDIO...
INSIDE CBC IN PERSON
The satellite revolution could render the CBC obsolete — if it does, it’ll be the first thing that ever stopped the corporation’s staff proliferation (from 2,000 in 1950 to more than 9,000 today). From all these spielers and dealers, artists and chartists, we selected six who show the splendid diversity of the CBC type
THE AIR-CREW TYPE WHO COULDN’T HACK IT IN ADMIN.
IT’S A FINE THING to discover, a quarter-century later, a World War II pilot who might have just climbed out of a Lancaster. John Drewery is 44, looks 35 and acts 22. “I always imagine him with a white silk scarf around his throat,” says a colleague. Apart from the fact that he has been happily married to the same woman since 1950, Drewery is the archetypal TV reporter, as insouciant in Laos as at Ottawa’s National Press Club, where he demonstrates, over many rum-and-Cokes, a miserable inability to ingratiate himself with CBC brass.
“I couldn’t hack it in the administrative ranks,” he says. “The bureaucracy bothers me enough as it is. They have gone completely mad at the CBC with clerks and secretaries phoning at all hours to say you are two dollars over on expenses. But I’m hooked on daily news. It’s like flying. When I'm out in the blue chasing a story it makes up for all the irritations. I'd sooner do a term at Kingston Pen than at head office.”
Drewery is a utility man who reports to The National News from such hotspots as Vietnam's central highlands (his unit was overrun by Viet Cong a week after he pulled out). Biafra (“I'm pretty inured to war, but not to the suffering of people caught between two hammers”) and Nigeria. He also manages to find trouble at home, at least for himself. Assigned to cover Paul Hellyer during the Liberal convention, he accused the CBC of blatantly favoring Trudeau and asked to be taken off the story. Management called him irresponsible, immature.
“He was given a kangaroo court-martial in Toronto,” says a friend, “and apparently the silly ass wouldn't back down. He was suspended for 10 working days and put in eclipse around the newsroom for about three months.” Drewery sweated it out. “How can you be a reporter without the courage of your convictions,” he asks, “when every sentence you write is a decision?” Another CBC newsman is uncharitable: “It was just a grandstand play made in a fit of pique because he wasn't with Trudeau where the action was.”
Drewery has always sought out the action.
“I’m an ex-air-crew type,” he says. “Flew Lancs for the RAF in 101 Squadron.” (He won a Distinguished Flying Cross at 19.) After the war he picked up a journalism degree at Carleton and promptly rejoined the services. As a radio-TV officer for the army, he went to Korea in 1952 and spent several years making films there and in other places: Egypt, Indo-China, Germany. Still wearing a natty RAF mustache, he joined CBC News in 1961 and settled his family (now five children) in Ottawa.
Almost the first thing Drewery did in the Parliamentary Press Gallery was provoke John Diefenbaker to one of his celebrated put-downs. Drewery asked a question that Dief had just answered and was subjected to what seemed like an hour of glowering and jowl-wagging. Later, the then Prime Minister
asked him to come around to his office. He gave Drewery quite a nice little scoop about farm subsidies. The pair have been friends ever since.
Every once in a while Drewery thinks he’d like an easier job, especially when he’s in the tropics and the amoebic, recessive dysentery he picked up in Korea returns to plague him. At such times he thinks he'd like to teach electronic journalism, finish his novel or write plays (one based on his army experiences in Korea was named the best Canadian one-act play of 1961; another was produced at Ottawa’s Festival of the Performing Arts in 1963). But Drewery, out in the blue, soon forgets his troubles in the stimulus of the story chase.
"I'm just a newsman.” he says. “It's in the blood.”
TRINKA IN WONDERLAND WITH SNARLY AND THE ASP
IT’S NEWSPAPER tradition, based on at least a kernel of truth, that women who thrive in the grinding profession of daily - news processing are straight out of Malice in Wonderland: angular, shard-voiced creatures whose hearts of gold are tempered by heads of quartz. Which may be the reason why the TV medium, where manner is at least as important as substance, shies away from newswomen the way hippies avoid the fuzz.
At last count the CBC had only three female reporters (not to be confused with the numerous women employed in Public Affairs). The fairest of this trio — selected by a Maclean’s poll of one — was Catherine Janitch, who works out of the Metro Toronto newsroom and contributes occasional stories to The National News. Apart from being a competent and highly conscientious fact-grubber and feature-writer, Miss Janitch is pleasant to look at on-camera and has managed to preserve a certain 1968style femininity; encountering a closed door with a male colleague, she’ll wait 1/10th of a second or so before opening it herself.
A journalism graduate (Caíletón ’65) and self-declared drifter, she made it to the CBC via four newspapers and CFTO-TV in Toronto, where she sensed a certain reluctance to put her before the cameras. At the CBC she has covered everything from national political conventions to the swingle apartment scene. That she is appreciated around the masculine Metro newsroom is demonstrated by the nicknames staffers have contrived for each other: The Weasel, The Asp, Huff and Puffin’, Snarly, Bulgy . . . “The
best they’ve come up with so far for me," says Miss Janitch modestly, "is Trinka."
Here’s how Trinka feels about working for the CBC: “It’s the best of places and the worst of places. It has the atmosphere of Saskatchewan. By that 1 mean that individuality is tolerated, even encouraged. Nobody is grey-flannel. If somebody is boring, he’s incredibly boring. There is more integrity, more responsibility than on any newspaper I ever worked on. Everybody takes the CBC mandate seriously. But you can't fulfill your potential at the CBC. It has all the faults of a government organization. The bureaucracy, the proliferation of management is incredible. We don’t even have a morgue of our own — we have to look things up in a central reference library used by everybody. Nobody criticizes our stuff. The only way to improve is by self-discipline. It's very hard, self-discipline."
THE FLACK KING WHO FACES HIDEOUS CRISES
HOT LINE! Every day or so in Cec Smith's teak-and-ochre Toronto office a loud, distinctive jangling will emanate from the phone, even if Cec happens to be on it. Then he will make a dive for the appropriate button on his call director.
“Smith here” — and the king of all the flacks is alert, ready for any contingency.
As director of Information Services (English), Smith is hooked to a hot line with 13 key CBC people in Toronto, including Eugene Hallman, the vice-president and general manager (English). A couple of seasons back when the Seven Days revolutionaries were flailing away at the CBC with egos like inflated pig bladders, it seemed to Smith that he and Hallman were on the hot line for five months straight. Since this colossal flap, calls have declined somewhat in frequency and magnitude.
'‘Of course you never know,” says Smith. “It might be a Public Affairs director informing me that a program is going to be pre-empted by a special. It might be any darn thing. 1 enjoy the suspense.”
Between hot-line interruptions Smith supervises 78 personnel whose duties include the dissemination of Kremlin (Toronto office) views on various policy matters, the writing and distribution of press releases on programs and puffs on CBC personalities (a rare challenge during the current lackluster season), the careful handling of more than 200,000 telephone calls and letters re-
ceived yearly by the CBC in Toronto (“Fe.vtival is a disgrace,” “Bring back Juliette"), and the setting up of CBC promotions.
Press parties are the specialty of one Mike Scott, who is known among the press corps as the fastest bottle-opener in the east. Scott, at the drop of a memo, plunges into the morass of Ontario liquor regulations and with miraculous speed emerges holding the proper license, permitting the CBC to pour more drinks with less fuss than any other organization in the province.
Liquor or. rather, the absence of it led to Cec Smith's latest headache. A former Canadian Press rewrite man, he relates well to newsmen and is philosophical about columnists’ outbursts. Sometimes, though, he gets to feeling a little dour. “You can’t second-guess the press,” he says, “except to the extent that you know they’ll knock you for something.”
This year, as a demonstration of frugality in keeping with program cutbacks, the corporation launched its fall schedule with a domestic wine-and-cheesc party for working newsmen only. Absent were the customary celebrities — Steve Douglas. Elvvy Yost, people like that — and the fetching CBC secretaries with trays of booze. It was a modest presentation with a great deal to be modest about. The press hated it. Columnists sniffed at the wine, sniped at the new programs and snapped at the poor old CBC.
“We couldn’t possibly win,” sighs Smith. “If we’d served imported wine we would have been damned for not buying Canadian.”
AMONG SUBSIDIZED ODDBALLS, AMAN FOR ALL SCENES
FOR EIGHT YEARS the CBC’s music and drama showcase, Festival, has been viewed with alarm, even loathing, by a considerable body of Canadians and their representatives in Ottawa. “Indecent, immoral and repulsive”; “arty CBC types indulging themselves in disgraceful fashion”; “queer ducks dancing around with some swans”; “subsidized oddballs on Jarvis Street”; “remove forthwith this ‘culture’ and ‘drama’ ”: these are not scraps of scrawled notes from viewers who like to stomp their feet to Don Messer’s fiddle, but the fulminations of senators and MPs as recorded in Hansard.
The subsidized oddballs hang out, actually, in a warren of offices over a tavern at Yonge and Gerrard Streets. They react to all this ill will with group solidarity and a certain sour offensiveness of their own. One will describe another (especially when he happens to be within voice range) as “a genius, of course.” Film-maker Paul Almond makes a Victorian show of “cutting” a jour-
nal ist who once wrote something he didn’t like about his actress wife. A sallow, pouting youth in a polka-dot shirt whose hair hangs down in ringlets says to a colleague that Alex Barris is the greatest CBC personality to come along since Mr. Fixit. They giggle shrilly. An artier-than-thou air undeniably prevails. Producer-director Rudi Dorn takes a look at two new U.S. series, The Outsider and The Name of the Game, and finds them “the same old rubbish. They wouldn’t be bought here. They wouldn’t be developed here. We never did anything that bad.”
Yet Dorn and others within the publicnetwork’s TV-drama department are now in the process of hauling in Festival's highflown image. “We’re trying to get a younger audience and a bigger audience,” says Dorn, who is involved with script development. “We’ve had a hard time reaching an audience at all. The show has tried to achieve artistic perfection under severe handicaps. The original thinking was to bring culture and the stage to remote villages in Canada. But the remote villagers never learned to appreciate it. Now we’re looking for modern subjects of some pertinence. We’re using stop tape and filmlike scripts with shorter scenes and juxtaposition instead of the old stage-oriented, artsy-craftsy style.”
So ingrained is this boondock image of Festival — somebody once described the show as a bearded ballet dancer quaffing tea from a firkin — that there’s a movement underfoot at the CBC to abolish its very name, substituting a series of individual specials. Cynics observe that the proposed name-dropping is immaterial, since Festival is shriveling under budget cutbacks and may soon disappear; perhaps 10 new plays are scheduled this season.
If this flagship series ever does become modestly popular, credit may well go to Dorn. No fan of the drawing-room comedies and ancient, preachy melodramas which — with occasional infusions of Gilbert and Sullivan, opera and ballet, Shakespeare and Shaw — marked its weekly, treacly progress through the early years, he has already exerted an incalculable influence.
Dorn moved into directing and writing plays from the unlikely base of set designing. The Vienna-born artist joined the CBC in 1952 and quickly became its man for all scenes, often making bad productions tolerable with his groupings of evocative and ingenious sets that could accommodate the many camera angles called for in live production. He seemed to lose interest with the advent of tape and turned to writing delicate fantasies and penetrating character studies, four of which were mounted by the CBC. In directing his first play himself, Dorn found still another métier. He has since directed eight more CBC productions.
The latest, The Write-Off, was scheduled to be telecast at the end of October and promised to open up a whole new area of operations for the groping Festival. A semidocumentary about the plight of a middleaged man who lost his job, the show used a hopefully hard-hitting series of interviews and dramatic flashes to tell its story. Which, as even a Don Messer fan would have to agree, is more involving than. say. still another production of The Pirates of Penzance.
HE STRIPPED GYPSY AND CUT SÉANCE DOWN TO SIZE
THERE’S A STORY that a Buffalo film editor, faced with the task of cutting 31 minutes from a Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movie, hit on the idea of removing the songs and dances. Apocryphal or not, it's a popular beef that most movie editors for television show no more finesse than a monkey with a meat cleaver.
The CBC, which has never quite outgrown the attitude that commercials are a necessary evil, and which has always respected art as well as artiness, is still engagingly careful not to hack up its films. John Nicolson, a 28-year-old Scot who recently succeeded John Kelly as editor of the public-network’s major Fridayand Saturday-night movies, so far has been as deft and conscientious.
Nicolson stripped Gypsy of two inferior
THE HAPPY MACEDONIAN WHO FOLLOWED LORNE GREENE
LEON MANGOFF IS a squat, chain-smoking Macedonian of 37 who became a CBC staff announcer last year. “I’m still 20 feet in the air,” he says. “I made it. The CBC has always been my goal. I can’t stand my voice myself, but it's distinctive. I'm not asking questions . . .”
A graduate of Lome Greene’s long-gone Academy of Radio Arts, Mangoff worked on a succession of small-town stations for years. Now he has felt the heady thrill of reading the 10 p.m. National News on CBC radio once delivered by the great Greene himself. That Greene's audience followed
songs for a saving of seven minutes, removed 16 minutes of cloudy dialogue from Seance on a Wet Afternoon — a palpable improvement—and cut Judgment at Nuremhurg in half at a dramatic sub-climax for a two-part screening. As well as making painless cuts, a good movie editor must find natural pauses in the action in which to drop the hair-tonic testimonials and softdrink fugues that pay for the show.
“You have to have a feeling for it,” says Nicolson, who does. A lifelong film buff who has dabbled in 8-millimeter home movies, he makes notations for suitable cuts during a private screening session early each week. He watches for travel sequences (“You can cut when somebody says he’s going somewhere and pick it up again when he gets there”), certain montages and subplots and chunks of extraneous dialogue.
On the CBC, commercials are inserted in clusters of two, sometimes separated by a five-second slide. The Saturday series. Great Movies, runs two-and-a-half hours and contains 16 minutes of commercial time. Friday-night films are pared to two hours and carry about 15 minutes of commercials — a recent and lamented increase of four minutes per show. Still, the private stations load their movies with up to 30 minutes of blurbs in bunches of three and four, the breaks coming closer and closer together as the film runs its jerky course.
“That’s just ter-r-rible,” says Nicolson in his soft Shetland Islands burr.
him over to the TV medium doesn’t bother Mangoff. For he does television, too.
As night man on CBLT, the public-network’s Toronto flagship station. Mangoff is a trained tonsil you hear between programs, intoning, “This is the CBC television network.” And on Saturday nights, when CBLT screens three late movies, he waits them out to read, off-camera, a brief report called Newscap to the last insomniacs comprising the TV audience.
“This concludes our transmission,” Mangoff says perfectly. “The time is now 5.51 a.m. This is Leon Mangoff bidding you a pleasant goodnight and good-morning.”
The last line is Mangoff's ad lib. “Nobody has ever told me to stop doing it,” he says. ★