Satan's Show

Journal Entry. Winnipeg
December 6th, 2007

** Editor's note.

In the aftermath of Morningside's May 1980 "Referendum Canada" broadcast I took a break from writing.

Well, that's not exactly true. Eighteen hours after the show I stumbled back to the Chateau Versaille and scrawled in my Journal:


As the Current Affairs producer I was responsible for the first hour of that historic broadcast. It did not go well.

The show opened with almost FOUR minutes of DEAD air.

And as this nothingness was broadcast across the country I found myself involved in a nasty control room scuffle with the Montreal plant technician who was running the board. Or, as it turned out - was not running the board.

When we finally DID get to air we opened - not with the audio essay Josh Freed and I had worked half the night to create -- but with a disc.

Over the next few weeks I stewed in humiliation and anger. I went home to Calgary and lay in the sun, and when I came back to Toronto I walked the halls of the old radio building at 354 Jarvis trying not to make eye contact with the other Current Affairs producers.

Karen Webb who was the producer of the Food Show gave me a fern to cheer me up. Marika Hurko who was the producer of Quirks-and-Quarks made me a Ukrainian dinner.

And the As It Happens crowd looked at our little Morningside team with contempt. Twenty seven years later I still remember the sting.

In my Journal I wrote bitter semi-literate rants. Nothing reflective. Nothing instructive. Nothing worth recounting.

However for the purposes of this post I've pulled what I could out of those ramblings and constructed a reasonably accurate narrative of what - up until that time at least, was the most stressful few hours of my life.

Half a lifetime later the moral of the story is pretty clear to me now. We are a bilingual country. Speak BOTH national languages.


Montreal. Wednesday, May 21st, 1980.

4:00 am

Just got back to the plant with almost three hours of tape. Have to cut it down to about ten minutes. Fours hours to do it. The Security Guard made me show my pass again. Asshole. Hope Josh shows up soon. He's going to top and tail the item.

I spent the night all over the city which is absolutely ELECTRIC. Music, dancing, bonfires, pot, beer, tourists, cops. It's been warm recently ... so everybody is out.

Went to McGill; clipped some students - all Anglos so they were cheering the numbers. Went to Old Montreal and even there the mood was pretty good ... the city is just one big party. Grabbed a cab to the Paul Sauve arena, stood beneath Levesque when he gave his concession speech. History in the making. It's tough to get clips in English but I got some great tape from a PQ guy who cried throughout the interview. He swore there'd be another referendum soon.

6:00 am

Josh is working like a madman. Thank God for fast-forward. It's amazing how you can train your ear to pick clips at four times regular speed.

We're going to open the show with about 20 secs of crowd singing ... go to a few streeters with the crowd b/g ... dip the audio and cue Don to read my intro which will set the scene and get us into Josh...Josh will takes us to tape...and we're off.

GMD [our Executive Producer, Gary Michael Dault] is directing the show and he's pretty tense. We've got tape, then a five person panel, then a cross country hook up of Premiers, then more tape, then a couple of journalists. That's a busy hour.

8:00 am. Thirteen minutes 'till we go to air live to the Maritimes. We finished our item about ten minutes ago. Lots of time. I can't remember when I last ate. I'm so tense I couldn't eat anyway.


We're all watching the second hand crawl towards the top of the clock .. when it hits twelve Gary gives the cue -: roll tape and -- nothing.

The tech didn't move.

"roll tape....roll tape....ROLL TAPE !!!!"

Didn't move. Didn't react. Didn't say a word. Finally after fifteen or twenty seconds he turned to Gary and said "queest-ce que voulez-vous que je fasse ???" [What do you want me to do?]

He refused to take any direction in English. Gary, of course - could not speak French.

8:14. Chaos. The bridge of the Titanic must have been like this. Gary yelling in English, the tech yelling in French, the hotline from Toronto ringing, Don on the talk-back asking WHAT was going on, and from the overhead off-air speakers -- the deafening hiss of static.

Coast to coast to coast.

8:14.30 I could see my item cued-up. Josh was in the studio with Don ready to go. I thought "fuck it" and reached across the board to push the 'roll' button. But the tech blocked me ... pushed me away and in perfect English yelled -:


8:15:00. I did not take this well. And as they say ... a small fracas ensued, which ended when the tech walked out of the control room.

8:16 The plant technical supervisor rushed in and took over. "What do you want to do?" he asked Gary. "Go to disc" was the reply.

And so Morningside's post Referendum show began with Al Stewart singing "The Year of the Cat" which was the only record we had cued up. Don't ask me why.


The rest of the first hour was a bit of a blur as the adrenalin worked its way out of my system. The plant tech manager had trouble linking the remote studios so we lost a few Premiers. He was slow on the sliders so the audio levels were a mess. And when we eventually rolled the tape Josh and I had produced it was towards the end of the hour and the whole thing felt flat.

When he wrapped this dog's breakfast of a program Don Harron graciously thanked all of us for working so hard and Gary went out of his way to shake our hands and through gritted teeth say: "good job everyone, good job"..

...and that, was that.


Amanda said...

Mon Dieu! What the hell was the tech's problem?

Chimera said...

More to the point, is that tech still alive? And if so, why?