WHITTAKER o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-05-24 published
He ran O'Keefe Centre in its prime
Former accountant was an innovator: He booked a show using surtitles and a play about an interracial romance
By Carol COOPER Special to The Globe and Mail Saturday, May 24, 2003 - Page F10
Late one spring night in 1963, a phone call awoke Hugh WALKER, the first managing director and president of Toronto's O'Keefe Centre for the Performing Arts. A police officer wanted to know if "we had a mad Russian called Nuri-something dancing at the O'Keefe Centre," Mr. WALKER wrote in his book, The O'Keefe Centre: Thirty Years of Theatre History.
After the opening performance of Marguerite and Armand, in which he starred with Dame Margot FONTEYN, Rudolph NUREYEV had danced up the centre of Yonge Street, attempting headstands on cars as he went. Police intervened in the interest of Mr. NUREYEV's safety, but after a scuffle, the dancer landed in jail for causing a disturbance.
Endlessly kind, courtly and patient, Mr. WALKER notified the Royal Ballet with whom Mr. NUREYEV was performing, and the dancer was released.
Mr. WALKER, the man who smoothed the way for the stars appearing at the O'Keefe as overseer of its operations and who had previously supervised its construction, has died at the age of 93.
O'Keefe Centre, now named the Hummingbird Centre, opened on October 1, 1960, with the first performance of Camelot in the country's first Broadway musical. The show starred Richard BURTON, Julie ANDREWS and Robert GOULET and played to a glittering crowd.
In The Toronto Star, Gordon SINCLAIR wrote: "A salaam to Hugh WALKER for bringing the O'Keefe Centre home on time after 30 months of strain on his patience, nerves and humour."
Mr. WALKER had, in fact, developed an ulcer during the centre's construction, and the strain didn't end with its opening. Shortly after the curtain, his wife, Shirley, smelled smoke. It turned out to be a burning escalator motor, and after the fire was extinguished, Mary JOLLIFFE, the centre's publicist, ran to a hotel across the street for air freshener. The audience came out at intermission none the wiser.
It took royalty to solve another problem. At the time, temperance sentiment remained strong in Toronto, and teetotallers criticized the fact the O'Keefe was funded by, and named for, a brewery.
Mr. WALKER set about to gain acceptance for the centre. Learning that the Queen was visiting Canada in June of 1959, he convinced her aides that she should stop briefly at the construction site and view a model of the building.
Before an audience of arts patrons and the press, the Queen inspected the model and showed such an interest that she overstayed her schedule, delaying the start of the Queen's Plate, her next stop, by half an hour.
Mr. WALKER didn't know that the Queen or the O'Keefe would be in his future when he became executive assistant to Canadian Breweries and Argus Corp. owner E. P. TAILOR/TAYLOR in 1955.
It was only after his hiring that he learned that Mr. TAILOR/TAYLOR had responded to a challenge made by Nathan PHILLIPS, then mayor of Toronto, for industry to build a desperately needed performing arts theatre in the city. For the project, Mr. TAILOR/TAYLOR gave $12-million and the services of his new assistant.
With the slogan "To bring the best of live entertainment to the greatest number of people at the lowest possible prices," the 3, 211-seat multipurpose theatre, designed by modernist architect Peter DICKINSON, quickly became a predominant Canadian venue, predating the Place des Arts in Montreal and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.
Pre-Broadway shows, musicals, ballets and plays from around the world came to the O'Keefe and it replaced Maple Leaf Gardens as the Toronto venue for the Metropolitan Opera. International stars such as Louis ARMSTRONG, Paul ANKA, Tom JONES, Diana ROSS and Harry BELAFONTE performed there.
During one of Mr. BELAFONTE's many performances at the centre, he experimented with a wireless mike. Accidentally, he tuned into the police frequency. "The O'Keefe audience had the unusual experience of listening in on a lot of police messages, while the police were able to enjoy hearing BELAFONTE sing Ma-til-da!," Mr. WALKER wrote.
Another O'Keefe story concerned Carol CHANNING. When the performer appeared at the centre in Hello, Dolly, she needed to make a number of quick costume changes. Since there wasn't enough time for Ms. CHANNING to run backstage to her dressing room, the crew put up a roofless tent in the wings.
From the fly bridge, the stagehands looked down on Ms. CHANNING, remaining quiet while they watched her change. After her last performance, she looked up at them and said, "Well, boys, hope you've enjoyed the show. 'Bye now."
Other more critical events are associated with the O'Keefe. In 1964, while awaiting her divorce from Eddie FISHER, Elizabeth TAILOR/TAYLOR stayed with Richard BURTON while he starred in Sir John GIELGUD's production of Hamlet at the centre. One weekend between performances, the couple stole off to Montreal and married.
And in 1974, ballet dancer Mikhail BARYSHNIKOV arranged his defection from the Soviet Union at the centre.
During the early 1960s, the O'Keefe became home to the National Ballet of Canada and the Canadian Opera Company. In his book, Mr. WALKER credits the centre with allowing the companies' artistic growth.
Still, not everyone spoke so kindly about the O'Keefe. Many critics denounced its acoustics and less-than-intimate size.
For that, Mr. WALKER had a ready answer. In 1985, Herbert WHITTAKER, then The Globe and Mail's drama critic, wrote: "Against the fading chorus of these ancient complaints, I hear an echo, the rather quiet British tones of Hugh WALKER: 'We know it [O'Keefe Centre] is too large for legitimate theatre, Herbert, but think of all the things Toronto would have missed if E. P. TAILOR/TAYLOR hadn't built it when he did?' "
Born on March 2, 1910, in Scotland to Brigadier-General James Workman WALKER, who fought in the Middle East during the First World War, and Jane STEVENSON, Hugh Percy WALKER was the middle of three children. After earning a B.A. at Cambridge University, he became a chartered accountant.
Mr. WALKER worked with firms in London, Palestine, Quebec, Scotland and Michigan before being employed by Mr. TAILOR/TAYLOR.
Although a great lover of theatre, upon his appointment as the O'Keefe's managing director, Mr. WALKER had little experience with its business side. This led to some innocent faux pas, such as when he booked a photo shoot with the Camelot stars at 10 in the morning, impossibly early for actors. In response, Mr. BURTON exclaimed: "What, in the middle of the night?" Ms. JOLLIFFE said.
Still, director and theatre critic Mavor MOORE said Mr. WALKER dealt with difficulties well. "He was very smooth," Dr. MOORE said. "He was very expert at handling people and situations. He was a calm man."
Mr. WALKER trusted his staff, Ms. JOLLIFFE said. "He was willing to take direction from staff people who had already been in the business, and that was unusual."
And he was gracious and courteous. "He gave great dignity to the performing arts profession and he treated people wonderfully," Ms. JOLLIFFE said. "He was a perfect model of a former era of English gentlemen."
Known for his hospitality, Mr. WALKER always visited the stars in their dressing rooms before opening night and entertained them afterward at First Nighters' parties with Mrs. WALKER.
When the WALKERs took Leonard BERNSTEIN to the Rosedale Country Club, Mr. WALKER tolerated Mr. BERNSTEIN's sending back the wine three times, Ms. JOLLIFFE said.
Along with bringing in commercial performances from the United States and Britain, Mr. WALKER showed some daring in booking shows. In 1961, Kwamina, the story of a romantic relationship between a white woman and a black man, played the O'Keefe.
Acknowledging Toronto's Italian population, Mr. WALKER arranged for Rugantino, the biggest musical hit in Italian history, to play at the O'Keefe in 1963. It was the first foreign-language attraction in North America to use "surtitles," and although plagued with technical difficulties, it played to 60-per-cent capacity.
Things changed for Mr. WALKER and O'Keefe Centre in the late 1960s. Initially, the centre had been a subsidiary of the O'Keefe Brewing Co., owned by Canadian Breweries, and was never intended to make a profit. The company wrote off its operating losses and property taxes.
When Mr. TAILOR/TAYLOR retired in 1966, directors of Canadian Breweries decided that they could not continue to pay the O'Keefe's high taxes. To resolve the situation, Metropolitan Toronto was given the centre in 1968.
A new and inexperienced board of directors brought a new way of doing things, and the centre's losses began to mount.
Mr. WALKER wrote that after the disastrous 1971-72 season, "what followed was not the happiest part of my 15 years at the O'Keefe Centre, and I would like to forget some of the things that happened."
In his final working years, Mr. WALKER dealt with both the centre's internal changes and rising competition from the Royal Alexandra Theatre, the St. Lawrence Centre and emerging alternative theatres.
After his retirement in 1975, he spent 10 years at the Guild of All Arts in Scarborough, Ontario, as the director of Guildwood Hall, curating former Guild Inn owner Spencer CLARK's historical architectural collection of artifacts, writing and illustrating a booklet on them, curating Mr. CLARK's art collection, making a film and lecturing.
He and his wife lived on the Guild's grounds for four years in the now-demolished Corycliff, where they hosted parties whose guests included many stars from the O'Keefe days.
Along with writing the O'Keefe Centre history while in his 80s, Mr. WALKER golfed.
Sue NIBLETT, who worked with him at the Guild, recalls seeing Mr. WALKER nattily attired in golf clothing and Wellingtons standing in two feet of snow driving balls into Lake Ontario.
"He had a love of life that I've never experienced or met in anybody before," Ms. NIBLETT said. "He didn't waste a day of his life as far as I could see."
Mr. WALKER died on May 2 and leaves daughters Katrina PARKER and ZoŽ ALEXANDER and two grandchildren. Another daughter, Sarah CHENIER/CHEN…, and his wife, Shirley, predeceased him.

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WHITTAKER o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-08-04 published
News editor was expert adventurer
Globe journalist was known for attention to detail, knife-sharp instincts and wit
By Luma MUHTADIE Monday, August 4, 2003 - Page R5
In The Globe and Mail newsroom, he was known as "Snapper."
Some say it was because Alan DAWSON could get to the heart of a story or make a headline decision in a snap. Others say it was because he demanded instant action from those around him. And a few refer to his getting a little "snappish" around deadline.
Whatever the take on his nickname, Mr. DAWSON was seen by all as a small and quirky, yet assertive newsman, with knife-sharp instincts, a keen attention to detail and a biting wit.
Mr. DAWSON died in his sleep last Sunday -- at the age of 86 two days after checking into Nanaimo General Hospital with undetected bronchial cancer.
During his 34-year tenure at The Globe, Mr. DAWSON worked his way up the chain of command from senior slot man, reigning over the editing process, to news editor and then assistant managing editor. During his last few years at The Globe he helped choose and implement the computer system that made The Globe the first Canadian newspaper to enter the technological age.
Mr. DAWSON is best remembered for his gifts as a news editor on the front lines.
"He had incredible instincts," said Clark DAVEY, who worked with Mr. DAWSON for 27 years at The Globe and Mail. "You could put a pile of stories in front of him and he'd pick out the four or five most important ones -- and he was right 99 per cent of the time," Mr. DAVEY said.
As deadline approached one evening in the 1960s, Mr. DAWSON picked up a review, written by the paper's drama critic Herbert WHITTAKER, of a production of Oklahoma! at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. Mr. WHITTAKER's first line was an admission that the musical had been revived so many times that there was nothing left to say. So Mr. DAWSON cut only the first sentence off and ran it to print.
When Mr. WHITTAKER saw his one-line review the following morning, he was livid.
But the phones started ringing and letters poured in, congratulating Mr. WHITTAKER for his witty criticism of the playhouse for overloading its bill with revivals.
Mr. DAWSON was also an adventurer outside the newsroom, with a passion for fishing and game hunting. As a news editor his pages often featured obscure articles on these hobbies, and he wrote a weekly hunting column for The Globe.
In a detailed, first-person account of an expedition in the Northwest Territories, published on September 25, 1959, Mr. DAWSON proudly described travelling "nearly 6,000 miles in one week by car, train, airliner, truck, bush plane, outboard skiff, musking buggy and on foot" to become "the first successful wild buffalo hunter of the 20th century."
Prior to that trip (and since 1893), the government had banned buffalo hunting because Canadian herds had dwindled almost to extinction. But a spill of thousands of animals from Wood Buffalo National Park into Fort Smith prompted authorities to sanction a hunting expedition for the first 10 people to apply.
"The opportunity came across the news desk, but he made sure he sent his own entry in before he ran the story in the paper," recalled his wife, Marilyn DAWSON, with a laugh.
One of Mr. DAWSON's prized possessions was a rifle crafted by his closest friend, Harry HICKEY, who owned Holman and Hickey Custom Gunsmith, a shop in Toronto, for 30 years.
"He knew guns inside out," his wife said, "And if someone misidentified a gun in a story, he would go ballistic."
Many readers derided him for describing his hunting techniques and successes. In a letter to the editor, one reader referred to Mr. DAWSON as "nothing more than a pasty-faced, beady-eyed killer."
Mr. DAWSON took the critique with a grain of salt and a smile. During a Halloween costume party for the newsroom that followed, he showed up in his hunting garb, toting a shotgun with a toy tiger dangling by its tail from the end of the barrel. He'd applied a pasty flour mixture to his face and sequins around his eyes.
"DAWSON's face was a sight to behold... the ultimate pasty-faced, beady-eyed killer had been created," recalled Wilfred SLATER, who worked alongside Mr. DAWSON on The Globe's copy desk for 25 years.
Alan DAWSON was born in Toronto on December 24, 1917, to S.B. and Anne Beatrice DAWSON. His father was publisher of The Stratford Beacon in Stratford, Ontario, before becoming badly injured in a vehicle accident. The family moved around a lot before returning to Toronto, where Mr. DAWSON graduated from Jarvis Collegiate.
Given the scarce employment opportunities in the Depression era, Mr. DAWSON hitched a ride on a series of freight trains heading to Northern Ontario, working in lumber camps during the day and sleeping in local jails to stay sheltered from the cold.
He returned to Toronto in 1936 and worked six days a week as a copy boy at The Toronto Daily Star, earning a dollar a day.
He remained at the Star until 1948, but it was a period broken by three years as a flight engineer with the Royal Canadian Air Force -- he carried out 31 raids over Germany with a crew that returned alive.
Mr. DAWSON came to The Globe in 1948, because they offered a dollar more per week and he needed the money to support his first wife and his son, Alan David DAWSON.
As an editor in 1963, he hired a young reporter in the women's department named Marilyn COOPER, who later became features editor. They married in 1970.
The two enjoyed many hobbies together. They bought an old farmhouse on a 10-acre plot north of Pickering, Ontario, and renovated it themselves; they took their dogs on long walks, and made regular trips to an old-fashioned fishing camp called Marathon in the Florida Keys. They also bought a recreational vehicle and drove around the continent from Newfoundland to Manitoba, Alaska to Colorado, each time following a different route.
"He was a type-A personality -- go, go, go," recalled his wife. "And when he retired he wanted to do something as well."
The couple eventually settled on Vancouver Island in 1994, and Mr. DAWSON went on his final fishing trip three years ago. Mr. DAWSON didn't want an elaborate funeral. He told his family he did not want to be buried because he was claustrophobic, opting for a private cremation with his ashes scattered along the water insisting the water be warm rather than cold.
His wife has decided to go on with the couple's yearly August roast-beef barbecue that the two had already planned for their Friends before Mr. DAWSON died. She says she'll do everything precisely the way he liked it -- with a special request to the butcher that the beef be hung for four to five weeks ahead of time so it's extra juicy and turned slowly on a rotisserie over charcoal on the special day.

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WHITTON o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-01-25 published
Died This Day -- Charlotte WHITTON, 1975
Saturday, January 25, 2003, Page F11
Social worker, politician, feminist born at Renfrew, Ontario, on March 8, 1896; from 1920 to 1941, director and driving force behind the Canadian Council on Child Welfare; crusaded relentlessly for professional standards in the care of juvenile immigrants and neglected children; during the Depression, regarded as expert on federal unemployment relief policy; in 1941, championed women's equality; in 1951, flamboyant and outspoken manner earned election as Canada's first woman mayor; in 1964, defeated; continued as an alderman until retirement in 1972.

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WHITTON o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-02-24 published
Muriel (ADAM/ADAMS) FLEXMAN
By Bruce FLEXMAN Monday, February 24, 2003 - Page A14
Mother, grandmother, journalist, woman's editor. Born August 25, 1912, in Toronto. Died November 30, 2002 in Collingwood, Ontario, of natural causes, aged 90.
Amid a family of high achievers, Muriel was often heard to proclaim that she had a PhD in Life. And that is what she imparted to her family and grand-families. She had an interesting life with an extraordinary blend of experiences that contributed to her "doctorate."
While most of her life was spent in Ontario, she spent her youth and formative years in Calgary and never lost her western roots. Deprived of a strong family unit by the departure of her father and early death of her mother, she worked tirelessly to create a strong bond for her own family.
After graduation from high school, Muriel developed her self-confidence by taking a job as a bank teller before moving to her real vocation observing people and events with insight, a critical eye, a strong sense of humour and a splash of colour. This was her gift as a reporter.
A defining moment in her life occurred when Canadian Press Newswire Services selected Muriel, a female news reporter, to cover the historic Royal Visit of King George 6th and the Queen Mother in 1939. As the youngest member of the media entourage, she travelled on the royal train across Canada, filing stories and developing a tremendous admiration and lifelong bond with the Queen Mother.
Muriel's keen interest in the Queen Mother endured. She attended a reunion with the Queen Mother in 1989 on the 50th anniversary of the Royal Tour. On the Queen Mother's death last year, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation-Television featured Muriel as one of the few living persons who could still relate (at the age of 89) the magic of the 1939 Royal Tour and bring it alive for all of us.
After the Royal Tour, a young Major Kenneth FLEXMAN (her devoted husband) and Muriel put newspaper aspirations on hold as they proceeded to create a family of five children: Bruce, Nora, Nancy, Barbara and Keith. Few of us today can appreciate the challenges of raising a young family during the war years. My father was away at war for five years and returned for only one brief visit to augment the family. During the war, my mother moved the family from coast to coast -- a common experience of the day as women sought out family and scarce support systems.
With war's end came stability as my father's military career played out in Ottawa; the children flourished in the stimulating atmosphere of the nation's capital. Muriel was active in the Mothercare Society, Girl Guides and was an ardent supporter of Charlotte WHITTON, the first woman to be elected mayor of Ottawa.
When my father retired, my mother returned to her love of the newspaper world and launched her second career as the woman's editor of the Ottawa Citizen. She continued to bring her keen instincts and life observations to an even wider audience through her writing.
Retirement allowed my mother and father to travel and expand their life experiences. In many cases, travel was an excuse to keep an eye on one or another child who had sojourned to some far-off place. My father in 1988 died while they were in Majorca and the Canary Islands, celebrating their 49th wedding anniversary.
Like the Queen Mother, my mother brought a zest to life that she shared in abundance with her readers, her children and her grandchildren. In later years, as her body and mind slowed, she never stopped the life-lectures that helped guide the course of our lives.
While professor Muriel FLEXMAN, self-proclaimed PhD (Life) will not be delivering any more formal lectures on her favourite topics of character, integrity and family, we are all blessed to have been touched by her life.
Bruce is Muriel's son.

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