A Tale of Two Expos

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Published: Jun 01 2016, 01:01:am

Wednesday, June 1, 2016.

     Nineteen sixty-seven remains a bit of a blur. It was the year that I dropped out of collage to take my first newspaper job.

     It also was Canada's centennial year, and the stars had aligned in my favour. Although I didn't know it when I walked into the newsroom of the Toronto Telegram, its young entertainment editor was looking for someone to cover for his various beat reporters while they were on assignment at Montreal's Expo 67.

    After skimming my clippings — representing three years of writing for The Varsity, the University of Toronto's campus paper — Tom Hedley hired me on the spot. At that moment, I realized that my head could spin and swell at the same time. As a card-carrying member of the North American Newspaper Guild, my salary was a generous $109 a week, a princely sum for a 22-year-old rookie reporter.

    Expo 67 opened on April 27, and through the spring and summer I edited copy and filled in for the regular critics while they were away covering the world's fair. I wrote up rock concerts and ballets, art show openings and stage plays. The best part, of course, was filling in for the dean of Canada's film critics, Clyde Gilmour.

    I wish I'd had the presence of mind to keep a diary. So many of my memories are mere fragments of that incredible time, moments that fall short of the full story. Among those moments was the morning (afternoon?) in late August when Hedley came by my desk and told me to go to the photo department and get a picture taken for my Expo pass.

    I looked at him blankly. I may have said "whaaa?", or something equally eloquent. "You'll need it for your trip to Expo," I remember him saying.

    Still not understanding, I protested that all the Expo stories had been done.

    "Oh," he said, playing the moment for all it was worth. "You're right. I guess you'll just have to enjoy yourself."

    Eventually, it dawned on me that he was actually rewarding my summer's work with this unexpected bonus. So, I did as I was told, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

     Needless to say, the experience informed my coverage of Vancouver's Expo 86, and the first in a series of articles now posted to the Reeling Back archive:

01: Expo86 Introduction
02: Expo86 Connections
03: Expo86 The Czechs
04: Expo86 In the Circle
05: Expo86 3-D
06: Expo86 Showscan
07: Expo86 IMAX
08: Expo86 Holovision
09: Expo86 Video
10: Expo86 Days

11: Expo86 Trips
12: Expo86 Multi-Screens
13: Expo86 Off Site

The five May 2016 postings that were not part of the Expo 86 series are:

THE STEWARDESSES — Director Allan Silliphant (a.k.a. Alf Silliman Jr.) combined his interests in aviation and film technology in this landmark 1969 sex-exploitation film. Despite being an indifferent movie, it went on to become the most financially successful 3-D feature ever made. (Posted May 31)

AVANTI! — As sunny as a Mediterranean summer, this 1972 comedy is a last triumph from director Billy Wilder. Jack Lemmon and Juliet Mills play unlikely lovers brought together by a family funeral. (Posted May 27)

THE REPORT OF THE COMMISSION ON OBSCENITY AND PORNOGRAPHY — Published amidst considerable controversy in 1970, this government document offered a vision of an America free of what many in the United States Congress considered "a matter of national concern." (Posted May 25)

A HISTORY OF UNDERGROUND COMICS (1974); SADOMASOCHISM IN COMICS: A HISTORY OF SEX AND VIOLENCE IN COMIC BOOKS (1972); COMICS: THE ART OF THE COMIC STRIP (1972) — Three books published in the early 1970s captured the maturing attitude that popular culture critics were taking towards a once marginalized artistic medium. (Posted May 21)

BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE — Director Anne Wheeler incorporated elements of Vancouver social history into her "delicious comedy" from 1999. Wendy Crewson, Karyn Dwyer and Christina Cox star in a story of lesbian lovers navigating the social complexities of changing times. (Posted May 9)