Truth and Rumors Hit TV Guide

It’s not a rumour, it’s true–I used to work at TV Guide.
Worked there for over a dozen years, in fact. That’s me, left, with a couple of guys I once played hockey with.
So it’s good to be in TV Guide again, although it is a very different experience. My book, Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV’s Most Famous Myths, is featured today at TV Guide.ca. You can read the article, by Denette Wilford, here.
The story goes through my ten favorite rumours from the book, everything from those saucy Johnny Carson Tonight Show tall tales to the rumour that Blue’s Clue’s host Steve Burns is dead to the nonsense spread on the Internet about Captain Kangaroo (Bob Keeshan, right, with me back in the ’90s) being a WWII killing machine along side Lee Marvin.
There were plenty of rumours spread during those kooky TV Guide days. The weekly was once the largest-selling magazine in the world, topping 25 million copies sold in the U.S. in the ’70s and well over a million a week in Canada. A TV Guide cover could make or break a show. I remember Lenny Clark, now on his pal Denis Leary’s Rescue Me, took his cover from TV Guide Canada to the bank–literally. Clark was then starring in his own blue collar comedy, a rip off of Roseanne. He used the fact that he was on a TV Guide cover as collateral at the bank to secure a loan on a house. The U.S. bank never knew it was the Canadian Guide, not the almighty American (they looked the same). Clark’s comedy, of course, was canceled weeks after the cover ran. Clark laughed like hell when he told me that story a few years ago.
I started there in the ’80s in what was then called the “paste up” department. Copy, typed on old IBM Selectra typewriters (gad I’m old), was re-typed by “trained professionals” (other twentysomethings) into giant typesetting machines, spat out onto a clean, coated stock and then sliced into little squares and pasted with hot wax onto boards. The final boards would be put in an envelope and tossed into the back seat of a Taxi, which would take it to a printer on Weston Road. If it was a hot day, some of the wax would melt and the copy would shift before it made it to the presses!
When I first started working there, TV Guide was a tidy little operation over on Merton Street near Yonge and Davenport. Editor Ken Larone was the only grown up there, it seems, the rest of us were kids, and when he turned his back, the place operated like a frat house.
Within a year I was photo editor and a couple of years I was down in Los Angeles as the Hollywood bureau chief. That meant I was holed up in an apartment in the Valley, trying to set up photo shoots and driving around to places like George Burns’ office in Hollywood where the then 90-year-old still reported every day.
Andrew Ryan of The Globe and Mail worked for the magazine then (a buddy from University days, he was the one who suggested I get in the Guide). Bruce Dowbiggin, who went on to cover sports for CBC and author a book slamming Alan Eagleson, wrote the sports column. The great Harry Purvis visited once a week from Hamilton and kicked in some of the most memorable movie listings. (“The Chinese Professionals: The story of a good man gone Wong.”) The Toronto Star’s Tanya Workman and my old pal Ray Bennett, still in the game over in England for The Hollywood Reporter, all survived stints at The Guide, as did (a bit before my time) The Star’s Rita Zekas.
Many, many others are still in the business or else went on to real work.
The place was owned back then by Phillipe de Gaspe Beaubien, a very regal gent with a clipped moustache who always wore vests and a gold-plated pocketwatch on his infrequent walkabouts. The one time “mayor” of Montreal’s Expo ’67, Beaubien bought the Canadian rights to the mag in 1977 (it dates back to 1953 in the States) and went on to make a boat load of money.
Ah, memories.

One Response to “Truth and Rumors Hit TV Guide”

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