GZOWSKI email@example.com_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2006-03-27 published
Pat PATTERSON, Broadcaster And Writer (1921-2005)
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation pioneer hosted Trans-Canada Matinee, launched Polka Dot Door and wrote umpteen documentaries, plays and musicals but always turned down accolades
By Sabitri GHOSH, Special to The Globe and Mail, Page S9
Kingston -- Even in the form of a disembodied voice, Pat PATTERSON turned heads. Her firm yet supple contralto, one Canadian Broadcasting Corporation listener wrote, was "the most beautiful speaking voice" she had ever heard. Furthermore, said the fan letter, Ms. PATTERSON's show Trans-Canada Matinee "has helped me raise my children, kept me informed on world affairs, and acquainted me with the little but interesting people in the world -- and always with a chuckle." Added the Sturgeon Falls, Ontario, writer: "Your audience has always felt that Matinee was you, Pat."
For Ms. PATTERSON, there was no higher compliment. As striking in person as her radio voice insinuated, the prolific broadcaster, author and composer wanted her work to speak for her; she was merely the transmitter. "She was very retiring and very unassuming," said her partner, Sheila GILBERT. " Her attitude was, 'I don't want anything. No fuss, no muss.' "
In later years, she recoiled from public attention, even failing to show up at the 1986 Gemini Awards to pick up the John Drainie Award for lifetime achievement in broadcasting. Orphaned amid the festivities, the plaque was eventually retrieved from a garbage bin (so the story goes) and delivered in private.
The lifetime it celebrated was rarely discussed by Ms. PATTERSON. All she would reveal of her early years was her birthplace, Victoria, and the fact she earned a licentiate in voice and violin. A precocious only child, she co-wrote her high school's anthem with next-door neighbour Lucy BERTON, a sister of writer-historian Pierre BERTON. At 21, she joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and drove ambulances in Britain for the Red Cross. Returning to Canada in 1944, she moved to Toronto, where she hoped to have a career in advertising.
An agency man referred her to a friend, who referred her to another friend who worked at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. There, she landed jobs in the record library and continuity department.
"It was strictly the understudy in the wings department," Ms. PATTERSON told Peter GZOWSKI on a Morningside interview in 1986. "An announcer by the name of Frank Herbert was doing an afternoon concert hour, and I planned that program -- I planned the music and so on. One day, he was ill, and no one could be found to take his place. And the boss said, would I like to try it? So I did. And that was it: I was hooked."
In 1948, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation gave Ms. PATTERSON her own nationwide show, Pat's Music Room, half an hour of her diverse musical selections. She also lent her voice, programming skills and writing talents to a host of other network enterprises, prompting one columnist to dub her a "Jill of all trades."
When the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation joined the television revolution in 1952, the poised and telegenic Ms. PATTERSON led the charge. She often served as a pitchwoman for live-to-air commercials; writer June CALLWOOD remembered seeing her in one for electric stoves, "the kind that she just stands there and says she just loves her stove."
As Ms. PATTERSON's reputation grew, Ms. CALLWOOD's husband, Trent FRAYNE, was sent to interview her for Chatelaine. "You two would be great Friends," he told his wife. When the women met through a mutual friend, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Dorothy (Dodi) ROBB, they did indeed get along famously.
"We had the same sense of humour and the same ethics about behaviour she was a little more Victorian than I was, but we were both very proper women," Ms. CALLWOOD said.
When the still-single Ms. PATTERSON became pregnant and decided to raise her child herself, she turned to Ms. Callwood for support. "That was very unusual, to keep a baby in those days," Ms. Callwood said. "What people did was hide out and give the baby up for adoption, but she was not going to do that. At the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which was more broad-minded than most places, it was still a bit of a shocker."
Through resourceful time management and the help of close Friends, Ms. PATTERSON managed to rear her son, David, while working on three radio and two television shows at the same time. It was a remarkable feat that she divulged to no one but the most trusted of intimates.
She found sanctuary, as well as creative satisfaction, in her profession. "You sit in that booth and you are quite private," said fellow Canadian Broadcasting Corporation employee Liz FAWKES, who befriended the older woman and later babysat her son.
In the pinnacle of her Canadian Broadcasting Corporation career, Ms. PATTERSON was chosen to host Trans-Canada Matinee in 1961. Aimed at a daytime audience of women -- even as that audience's perceptions of itself and its role were shifting -- the public-affairs program offered interviews with the likes of W.H. Auden, George Balanchine, and Laurence Olivier.
"If and when women achieve that mythical status they keep fussing about, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Matinee should deserve some of the credit," wrote Toronto Telegram columnist DuBarry CAMPEAU in 1968. "It is lively and literate and any woman or man listening to it will be both entertained and informed."
Though upset by the abrupt cancellation of Matinee in 1971, Ms. PATTERSON smoothly segued into children's entertainment, arguably the love of her professional life. In the 1950s and '60s, she had collaborated with Ms. ROBB on a children's musical fantasy, an after-school television program, and three children's musicals. Now, the partners set to work on a new children's program, The Polka Dot Door. Besides composing the buoyant theme song -- still hummed on schoolyards and playgrounds across Canada -- Ms. PATTERSON also co-wrote the first 60 shows. "She had a sense of play, she had a sense of fun," said Ms. CALLWOOD, citing these as the cues for Ms. PATTERSON's approach to writing for children.
In a 1973 interview, Ms. PATTERSON also spoke of her strong sense of responsibility. "I think we're so conditioned, so tuned into the fact we're writing for children, we have to take care." She wanted her plays and programs to act as "good influences," she said, "if not in a moral sense, at least in a getting-along sense."
Ms. PATTERSON's words and music were behind many of the most durable children's shows of the 1970s and '80s, including numerous Sharon, Lois and Bram specials and Fred Penner's Place. She also developed and hosted short-run Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio series, and wrote plays and documentaries for radio and television. Her proudest achievement -- a docudrama on the life of landscape painter and war artist David Milne, A Path of His Own, which she also narrated -- won seven Canadian Film and Television Awards in 1980.
A scrupulous craftswoman, she was a critic of her own work, too. In a 1990 letter, she asked the editors of The Encyclopedia of Music in Canada to drop all references to her musical Henry Green and the Mighty Machine, "as it had a very brief life, while the three musicals previously mentioned have continued to get productions after more than 20 years."
But real life allowed no such revisions. In the late 1980s, Ms. PATTERSON had a permanent falling-out with Ms. ROBB, which affected her personally as well as professionally. Even more devastating was her son's death in 1994 from cancer. "That was a disaster," said Ms. FAWKES. " You don't want your children to go before you."
Pat PATTERSON was born in Victoria on December 4, 1921, and died in Toronto on December 19, 2005, of cancer. She was 84. She leaves her partner, Sheila GILBERT.
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GZOWSKI firstname.lastname@example.org_county.toronto.toronto_star 2006-07-14 published
George BAIN, 86: Political columnist set standard
A must-read in Canada for nearly 40 years
Helped clarify muddle over 'fuddle duddle'
By Isabel TEOTONIO, Staff Reporter
For Canadian political junkies from the 1950s through the 1980s, George BAIN's newspaper column was a must-read.
Witty, urbane, and an incisive observer of Parliament Hill and Washington, BAIN's elegant prose and musings about politics and politicians informed and delighted readers for more than 40 years.
Remember "fuddle duddle," the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau's explanation of an expletive he directed to an opposition member of Parliament in the House of Commons? Thank BAIN for setting the record straight on it.
The rest of the Ottawa press gallery reported only that Trudeau "mouthed an obscenity" in the now-famous 1968 incident. In his Globe and Mail column, BAIN wrote that Trudeau told the member of Parliament to fuck off, and without the dashes -- the first time the word had ever been published in a Canadian newspaper.
BAIN, who also wrote for The Toronto Star, died in Halifax yesterday (May 14) at age 86. He had suffered from Alzheimer's disease.
"He wrote the most important column in Canada," said Val SEARS, a former Star reporter who worked with him. "He was the most stylish of the people writing about Canadian politics. His columns were often hilarious, which made him tremendously popular."
"George wrote with real wit and style," said Tim CREERY, a former Southam News and Montreal Star reporter who worked with him in Ottawa and Washington.
"He was clever and funny and not a guy who accepted the party line."
BAIN's column in the Globe set the standard to which political columnists aspired. He was considered the unofficial opposition in Ottawa and never cowered from pointing out when politicians' words didn't square with their actions.
Allan FOTHERINGHAM, who himself occupies a formidable place in Canadian journalism, once called him "the wittiest columnist ever to grace Ottawa."
When the late Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio giant Peter GZOWSKI was asked if he read BAIN, he responded, "Do Catholic priests read the Bible?"
BAIN's " Letters from Lilac, Saskatchewan.," were columns in which he created fictional prairie reactions to political events. The columns distilled his trademark humour and wit, were hugely popular and were later published in a book.
Born in Toronto in 1920, BAIN quit school at age 16 to work as a copy boy at the Star for $6 a week. But he ended up back in school, vowing to return to the paper over the summer.
"I can't explain where his interest in newspaper work arose but he had the reputation of being a funny guy -- not a class clown at North Toronto Collegiate," said brother Ian BAIN, who attended the same school.
When he returned to the Star that summer, the editor who'd promised him a job was on vacation.
Rather than "waste a streetcar ticket," as BAIN later told a reporter, he went over to the Toronto Telegram and was hired on the spot.
He worked there until 1941, when he became an Royal Canadian Air Force bomber pilot -- despite a fear of flying that lasted throughout his life. He served in Britain and North Africa, piloting Wellington bombers on raids against Italy. He was given temporary leave to act in a film about the air force.
At the end of the war, BAIN was lured from the Telegram by the Globe, where he wrote about municipal politics. He eventually moved on to Queen's Park and Parliament Hill.
In 1957, BAIN opened the Globe's first London bureau, where he covered Europe, Africa and the Middle East. From 1960 to 1964 he was posted to Washington and reported on the civil rights movement, the Cuban missile crisis and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
In 1964, BAIN returned to Ottawa to begin work as the national affairs columnist and remained there for nearly a decade.
He returned to the Star as editorial page editor in 1973, but realized he didn't like the committee process of writing editorials. "Writing editorials is like wetting your pants while wearing a blue serge suit," he once said. "Nobody notices and it leaves you with a warm feeling."
The next year, the Star sent him to London as a European correspondent.
Editors at the Star knew him as a "perfectionist" who would rewrite his opening paragraph 30 times before being satisfied.
BAIN's last newspaper column ran in the Star on August 10, 2001 a fitting end to a career launched in those same pages.
"There are very few people to whom you could apply the word giant. Pierre Berton was one and I think Walter Stewart was one and certainly George BAIN was one," said former King's College journalism professor Eugene MEESE, who worked with BAIN.
BAIN and his wife Marion were eventually seduced by Nova Scotia and in 1982 they designed and built their home in Mahone Bay, complete with a wine cellar to house his vintage collection.
While out east, he continued writing about wine while serving as dean of journalism at King's College in Halifax and maintaining a critical watch on Ottawa for two Halifax dailies.
BAIN authored books including I've Been Around and Around and Around, Letters from Lilac, Champagne is for Breakfast, Gotcha and Nursery Rhymes to be Read Aloud by Young Parents with Old Children, which won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour.
After Marion died in 1998, BAIN's health deteriorated. He is survived by his son Christopher and grand_sons Sam and Jonathan, his brother Ian of Maple Ridge, British Columbia, and sisters Moyna SEIDERMAN and Sheila BAIN of Vancouver.
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