Jim Bawden‘s retirement bash was held last night at The Bier Markt on The Esplanade, with a good crowd of well-wishers in the house. The veteran TV columnist spent 38 years on the beat, the first ten with The Hamilton Spectator, the rest at The Toronto Star, where he was not-so-gently persuaded to accept an early retirement late last year. The good news, says Bawden, is that they backed up the Brinks truck to ease him down the road. The way the newspaper business is going, we all should be so lucky.
A proud native of Hamilton, Ont., Bawden was the first Canadian scribe to hustle down to the States for the semi-annual L.A. network press tours. I remember being a green newbie way back in the day and being greeted by Bawden at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, where the 1984 confab took place; Bawden was already a cagey veteran by then. His interviews and features in The Star always took readers along as fans and placed them at the elbow of Joan Collins or Larry Hagman or who ever was being featured.
How long was Bawden on this beat? To put it in perspective, the year he started, the No. 1 TV show in America was Marcus Welby, M.D. Gunsmoke, Bonanza and Ironside were Top-10 hits. Wayne & Shuster and Front Page Challenge were the bomb. Millions watched CBC!
Nice to see so many industry folk at Bawden’s bash. Classy CBC National News anchor Peter Mansbridge stopped by to personally offer a salute. Mansbridge’s CTV counterpart Lloyd Robertson couldn’t be there, but was repped by network PR chief Scott Henderson, who read a note from Lloyd congratulating Bawden and saying how much the anchorman would miss their semi-annual chats.
Bawden was always happy to shine some light on the Canadian scene. It seemed TVO Saturday Night at the Movies host Elwy Yost could count on at least one Starweek cover a year.
Stefan Brogren, a.k.a. “Snake” from the original Degrassi series, made the scene to tell how Bawden rescued that long-running Canadian series from obscurity. (Bawden is spellbound, left). It was a Bawden Starweek story that shed light on what was then a low budget little Sunday afternoon series. Bawden said it was fun and fresh and deserved a prime time slot. Then CBC programming boss Ivan Fecan acted on the suggestion and, 25 years later, the franchise is still cranking out new CanCon.
Bawden lost all that glory a few minutes later, when Henderson took the mike and thanked the Star man for being the only TV beat writer to take his pitch to interview the creator of Kevin Spencer. The cretinious detective comedy stunk up The Comedy Network for years. Turns out Bawden was to blame. Win some, lose some.
Many of Bawden’s Star pals, including Joe Fox, former movie critic Ron Base and Peter Goddard, were on hand. Current Star TV posse Vinay Menon, Rob Salem, Tanya Workman and many others all made the scene, as did dozens of publicists from CTV, Global, CBC, Astral and Alliance Atlantis as well as independent PR companies. Rival TV columnists and editors, including John Doyle and Eric Kohanik, also toasted Mr. Television, who can now watch whatever he wants, whenever he wants. Lucky bastard!