CTV - W5

With Carole Taylor on studio set.

I was hired as a producer for W-5 after returning to Toronto from Edmonton where I left in a huff as executive producer of the local public affairs television, Hourglass.  I was hired by Don Cameron who  was head of CTV News.  I remember Don, a veteran reporter,  had a huge blow-up photograph on his wall of him interviewing Che Geuvera , the Cuban revolutionary.

When I moved back to Toronto with Liset and Peter Jr,there was a ban on babies living in downtown apartments
So we were forced to rent an apartment opposite the Science before buying a small house in Sackville Place in Cabbagetown. We later moved to a 3 bedroom Victorian house on Sackville

                and mcgaw
Carole Taylor and Jack McGaw

Jack McGaw was W5's executive producer and Carole Taylor was the host.  Reporter/producers included Gordon Donaldson, Jim Reed, Bob Reguli and Barry Dunsmore and later Isabel Bassett. My favorite camerman was Jim Mercer. I also did some on-camera work notably in my second season there when Jack did the show live from the CFTO studios in Agincourt.

peter in plains
In Plains, Georgia

Isabel Bassett, wife of media mogul and CTV director John Bassett and a member of Toronto's royalty, joined W-5 staff in my second season to do celebrity interviews.  Some thought she was given the job because she was John Bassett's wife.  I don't think it hurt who she was but Isabel was a good journalist in her own right and a pleasant person. I admit she had some bad habits, for example chronically leaving her white convertible BMW parked illegally outside the CTV headquarters on Charles Street in Toronto and not minding that it  got festooned with parking tickets. I got to drive that car once.  John seemed a very attentive older husband, for example  phoning Isabel every day when we were in Tehran interviewing the Empress. Isabel  was the only woman I knew who could walk into a crowded room and turn heads.  One such incident occurred when we were in Edmonton interviewing Alberta premier Lougheed, another of her many prominent friends, Ethel Kennedy and E.P. Taylor included. But she was not a snob and was just as comfortable working with battered women as she was with royalty.

bassett and iran
Empress and Shah of Iran with Isabel Bassett, Tehren

profiles on location.  These included the Empress of Iran ( see separate story) in Tehran, E.P. Taylor and author Arthur Haley in the Bahamas, Peter Lougheed, and "Deep Throat" actor Harry Reems in New York, and the Eaton brothers: ;John, Fred, Thor and George.

Because of the close ties between the Eaton and Bassett families, Isabel insisted it be an uncritical piece, and it was.  The reason for the profile was the opening of Eaton Centre on February 10, 1977. With the brothers, Isabel and I toured the empty first phase of the building before it opened.  We filmed in highest quality color negative film on the presumption this was history footage worth preserving on the best film.  I wonder if it still in the CTV archives. I somehow doubt it.

The Eaton family had already closed its higher end  College Street and Yonge Store and I lamented to the brothers how much I missed shopping there.  They look displeased and didn't repond.  I clearly had made a big boo boo with Isabel's friends! 

I also produced profiles with consumer reporter Ruth Freems.  We went to California ( with a side trip to Vancouver ) to do stories on the skateboarding craze and on  Nobel prize winner chemist Linus Pauling about his belief in the curative powers of Vitamin C.  Ruth, skeptic,  tried to challenge Paul's on his views but not very successfully I seem to recall. I remember Paul  gave us each at handful of Vitamin C  pills from his pocket before we left.

Robert Crone

Robert Crone and fellow Steadicam operator Jerry Hill

The other I did with Ruth was with Mordecai Richler at this home in on lake Magog in Eastern Quebec.  As far as I know it was the first time a Steadicam, or camera stabilizer was used in Canada.  It was used to film Richler and Ruth walking down stairs outside his house which I think led to the lake.  I can't remember why Ruth was interviewing him.

The cameraman was Robert Crone, who was under contract to W5.  Bob was a licensed pilot and flew us in  double-engine plane  to Bermuda to film industrialist E. P. Taylor and novelist Arthur Haley . Isabel flew in a commercial jet because I believe her husband John wouldn't allow her to fly with Bob.  I also flew, this time in a single-engined plane, to Manitoba to do a story about a deadly police chase.  Years later I read that Bob made an emergency landing on an Edmonton road after running out of gas.  His passenger was writer Peter Newman. He's now retired, living in Vancouver.

jack mcgaw
Jack McGaw

Jack McGaw was a heavy smoker (many of us were in those days), so much so that he had a cigarette machine set up in the office.  He had deserved reputation as an innovator in tv but could be very conservative.  The only serious quarrel I had with him was when he insisted on putting a audience warning message at the start of a story I did on dog owners picking up their pets poop.  It was too graphic for Jack's taste. Jack went on to produce and host CTV's "Live It Up" series.

Jack great strength was editing other producer's work.  He would look at my latest effort and repeatedly send me back to the editing room saying, "Cut, cut, cut".  The piece was always better for the cutting. 

You can read about visit the royal palace in Tehran  elsewhere in this document. Click here.

The picture at the top of the page is Carole Taylor and me in that CFTO studio.  The format would feature a series of pre-filmed stories followed by the host, Taylor, interviewing the reporter of the film ( in this case, me).

When I left CTV for a return to CBC TV I managed to get video copies of stories had done as a reporter/producer for W-5 ( then located on Charles Street near Yonge Street in downtown Toronto): Raunchy Music Lyrics,  Air Bags, and a profile of Jimmy Carter. I will post all three stories on Youtube shortly.

October 2011 the Guardian newspaper in Britain ran a story with the heading: "Radio stations to get new guidance on avoiding sexually explicit songs". The story began:         

"The BBC and commercial radio broadcasters will have to take more car
e with sexually explicit lyrics, particularly in songs by rap artists, as part of a continuing crackdown by Ofcom on content that is inappropriate for children".

How times do NOT change.  Here's a story I did for W5.

peter reynolds
                    raunchy music lyrics
Raunchy Lyrics

Air bags on automobiles are now mandatory in Canada.  Back in 1967 airbags were a rarity, almost a novelty.

air bag peter
Air Bags

Amy Carter was the pretty, scruffy-looking daughter of soon- to-be President Jimmy Carter playing beside the pond of her grandmother's house in Plains Georgia,  where we went to do a profile of Carter.

amy carterJimmy Carter mom
Amy Carter, Lillian Carter, from Jimmy Carter profile

Another story I did was about the stunt rider Evel Knievel             
and the toys he had spawned, notably the "Evel Knievel Jump Cycle". Carole flew to Chicago to interview Knievel and I filmed ed  Jump Cycles being manufactured at the Irwin Co. toy factory in west Toronto.  In my interview with Carole after the screening of the film she asked me what I thought of it.  I responded that my 4 year old son got more play value out of a roll of toilet paper.  Not long after that ,Carole met on of the Irwin brothers, a co-owner of Irwin Toys,  on an airline flight.  He promptly berated her for allowing such a comment on W-5.

I don't have the film but I did save the graphic that went with the story. Now its done electronically but back in the dark ages of 1976-77 graphics were all done by hand.


I made a reference above to Isobel Bassett's profile of E.P Taylor.  We filmed Taylor at his Don Mills home and farm, in the house and in the paddock with Taylor feeding his horses.  We later filmed at his house, playing golf and cavorting on the beach with scantily-clad women.  His wife, a rather sad and lonely-looking woman, told me she'd rather be in Toronto closer to her son, Charles, who I knew well from my days in London when we both worked, at separate times, for Radio Press International ( see "Noel Bernard" file ) and Charles invited me to a performance of a play he had written about American abolitionist John Brown.  Possibily the most memorable things I remember about Taylor is that, he had yen for  Isobel, according to her, and he wore a Timex watch.

Another memorable interview in 1987 was with Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppet Show at the CFTO (CTV) studios off the 401 Highway in east Toronto.  Henson was there for the production of a Muppet movie special, "A Christmas Together|", starring John Denver.  Isabel,  who did the interview, took her young son and I took mine - Peter.  We were permitted to watch some of the scenes being videotaped including the work of famed puppeteer  Frank Oz.  Peter was really too young to remember the experience.

I best remember Henson telling Isabel he would never all his creation Kermit the Frog to be used in commercials.  But the puppet was after Hensen died.

Here is some background on the movie.