Leonard Nimoy Pitches a Galaxii to 1969 Toronto

Originally published on Torontoist on February 27, 2015.

20150227nimoy1969

Toronto Star, April 8, 1969.

“The voice of Mr. Spock of television’s Star Trek filtered through eerie space sounds and galactic lighting in the McLaughlin Planetarium last night–in the role of salesman,” the Star reported on April 4, 1969. “Leonard Nimoy, who at 38 looks much younger than the role he has portrayed for three years on the now-defunct TV show, was assisting in a dramatic effort to sell merchandising space in Galaxii, a CNE show.”

The sales pitch marked an early Toronto publicity appearance for Nimoy, who passed away today at age 83. During the presentation, sponsored by Industrial and Trade Shows of Canada, Nimoy “stood in one corner of the small stage minus Mr. Spock’s Vulcanite pointed ears, extolling the drawing power of the display.” The UV lighting used at the session gave those wearing white shirts an eerie, unearthly glow.

Interviewed by the Star, Nimoy seemed relieved that Star Trek wasn’t coming back for a fourth season, as his commitment had cost him film roles. “I’d like to do TV but I’d like to have a broader base,” Nimoy noted. “You get tired playing any character for a long time. It varies from script to script—from agony to despair.” He found a new series quickly, replacing Martin Landau as Mission Impossible’s resident disguise expert that fall.

20150227galaxii

Toronto Star, August 14, 1969.

Nimoy enjoyed meeting Canadians, calling them “very professional people.” He was also fascinated by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. “He’s captured the interest of a lot of people, not only Canadian but American as well,” Nimoy observed. “He has a style and personal attitude similar to the Kennedys.”

Galaxii wound up being the spacey teen-centric attraction of the 1969 Canadian National Exhibition, albeit without an appearance by Nimoy. For a $1 surcharge, visitors entering the Automotive Building enjoyed a period mélange of strobe-lit music performances (headlined by the Guess Who), a sandbox room with a religious-themed presentation inspired by the martyrdom of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., films of the Apollo 11 moonwalk, and an aluminum-paneled room where 60-degree Fahrenheit temperature changes occurred within seconds. The elaborate environments were still being assembled on opening day.

20150227trekfans1976

Toronto Star, July 27, 1976.

Organizers of the first large-scale Canadian Star Trek convention, held over three days at the Royal York Hotel in July 1976, tried to assemble as much of the cast as possible. William Shatner proved too expensive, while Nimoy was tied up in Milwaukee playing Henry Higgins in a touring production of My Fair Lady. The 6,000 fans that showed up bode well for future Toronto Star Trek gatherings, including one which drew 15,000 to Nathan Phillips Square in September 1991. Among those on hand for that event, in full Next Generation regalia, was mayoral candidate Jack Layton. During the official proclamation of the event, Mayor Art Eggleton noted that Toronto enjoyed “the only city council that meets in a spaceship.”

While Nimoy did not attend the 1991 festivities, he spent significant time here four years earlier directing the biggest box office hit of 1987, Three Men and a Baby.

In the hearts of local Star Trek fans who followed his long career, Nimoy lived long and prospered.

Additional material from the April 4, 1969, August 14, 1969, July 21, 1976, July 26, 1976, and September 9, 1991 editions of the Toronto Star.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

tspa_0005050f_trek76

Photo by Mike Slaughter, 1976. Toronto Public Library, from the Toronto Star Archives.

The Toronto Public Library’s collection of Toronto Star photos often demonstrates how images were edited for final publication. The shot used to illustrated the 1976 Star Trek convention is a good example, as the unidentified man on the left not only didn’t make the final cut, but his hand was blasted off by a phaser.

Advertisements

Toronto by Newsreel

Originally published on Torontoist on April 24, 2014.

20140424newsreelphotographers

Newsreel and press photographers, Queen’s Park, 1911. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 8012.

Before videographers, there were newsreel photographers. Carting their boxy cameras around, they roved the city, covering the top events of the day, racing to disasters, and hunting for oddball human interest stories that would amuse audiences. In their heyday, services like The March of TimeMovietone News, and Pathé News brought the richness of the world to neighbourhood movie theatres.

Last week, British Pathé announced it had uploaded its entire film collection to its YouTube channel. Shot between 1896 and 1976, the 85,000 clips cover a huge range of material dealing with everything from the World Wars to clubs dedicated to waistcoats. Now that they’re easily accessible, you can count on hours of time being gloriously wasted, especially by history buffs.

Given the vast amount of material needed to fill newsreels each week and our city’s ties to the British Empire, it’s not surprising the collection boasts a few Toronto-centric items. Type “Toronto” into the search field and you’ll find royal visits, salutes to home-grown Nobel Prize winnersparades in old Chinatownentertainment for patients in iron lungs, and beauty parlours for dogs. (Some of the related descriptions are quite amusingly matter-of-fact: footage of Nathan Phillips Square from 1969, for example, is called “two semi-circular office blocks with waterfall in front.”)

Here are just a few of the clips that caught our eye.

The Prince of Wales in Canada (1919)

While this film covers the future King Edward VIII’s cross-Canada visit in August 1919, the last four minutes (starting at the 10:30 mark) highlight his stop in Toronto. The Prince attended the Canadian National Exhibition on August 25 and told a luncheon crowd that he was delighted to visit the city he’d heard such good things about from Canadian soldiers. “It seemed to me that a lot of them came from this great city, and I know no finer soldiers or better friends.” He promised that he would do his best “to be worthy of Canada’s friendship and of Canada’s trust.”

Other stops shown in the clip include Queen’s Park (“the Parliament Buildings”) and the Royal Canadian Yacht Club.

The Super Test (1924)

At first glance, it might seem as if this footage of motorcycles failing to conquer a steep incline is the 1920s equivalent of a “fail” video. But there was good reason for all the fumbling—the cyclists were dealing with slippery conditions on a 70-per-cent grade.

These early motorsport enthusiasts had gathered at the ravine by Bloor and Parliament streets on April 19, 1924, for the Toronto Motorcycle Club’s annual “hill climb.” That day, Canadian motorcycle champion Morris “Steamer” Moffatt avenged his loss of the previous year, powering up the hill in nine seconds flat. “American riders present claim the hill used is unequalled for this purpose,” observed the Globe. “The course was well roped off and the police gave splendid protection to both spectators and riders. Not an accident marred the day.”

We can only imagine the kind of complaints that would be generated if someone tried to recreate the event today.

Hooray—We Can Win Something! (1926)

The caption writer was on the ball when it came to this story about the April 29, 1926, home opener for the Toronto Maple Leafs baseball squad. The game marked the opening of Maple Leaf Stadium, which took only five months to build. Fans witnessed an exciting last-minute comeback by the home team against the Reading Keystones. Down 5-0 going into the bottom of the ninth inning, and just as patrons were starting to leave, the Leafs suddenly tied the game. Victory came in the bottom of the tenth, when Del Capes’s bunt allowed Herman Layne to run into home.

The 1926 Maple Leafs captured the International League title with 109 wins, then defeated the Louisville Colonels in the Junior World Series. The team actually included more future hockey hall of famers (Lionel Conacher and Babe Dye, though the latter was traded soon after opening day) than baseball stars (New York Giants pitching great Carl Hubbell).

Let’s All Be Young for a Few Moments! (1931)

Some things in Toronto never change. Arguments over the waterfront. Debates over another downtown subway line. Upside-down clowns at the Santa Claus Parade.

The 1931 edition of the holiday staple, held on November 14 that year, was loaded with bizarre floats and balloons that seemed poised to attack onlookers. Among the cartoon celebrities that took part in the procession were Felix the Cat and Mickey Mouse. The Star also mentioned the presence of “Woofus the Tiger,” but we have no clue who he was. Blackface radio stars Amos ‘n’ Andy were also represented.

Santa’s ride that year began at Geary and Bartlett, then headed down Hallam, Ossington, Bloor, Queen’s Park, and University, before arriving at Toyland at Eaton’s Queen Street. He was scheduled to greet kids at the store from 2 to 4 that afternoon.

Toronto (1939)

The Miss Toronto beauty contest ran from 1926 until 1992, shortly after city council voted to ban the City Hall portion of the event. The year 1939 marked the third year the contest was sponsored by the Amateur Police Athletics Association, which made it part of its annual Police Games at the CNE grounds. During the late 1930s, “real girls” were encouraged to enter, and all makeup other than lipstick was forbidden.

Nan Morris, who won the title on July 8, 1939, fit the bill. A Star headline described her as neither “jitterbug” nor “glamour girl.” Initially, she claimed she was single, but a front-page story a few days later revealed she had been married to her childhood sweetheart for three years. Even though married women were allowed to participate, Morris assumed public knowledge of her status would hurt her chances.

No scandal ensued. “I wondered how long it would be before you chaps would be catching up with me,” her husband Jack joked to the Star. “As long as you don’t start calling me ‘Mr. Toronto,’ though, I don’t mind.” He admitted that he didn’t know she’d entered the contest but said, “I’m mighty glad she won. Those judges and I both know how to pick them.”

By the way—the man draping Nan Morris with her sash? Mayor Ralph Day.

Ice Hockey (1948)

Given the eternal disappointment Toronto hockey fans have grown accustomed to, it’s refreshing to find footage that proves our team was once a contender. As the 1947-48 NHL season wound down, the Maple Leafs had their eye on both first place in the league and the Stanley Cup: they won both.

The game shown here was played in front of 13,874 fans at Maple Leaf Gardens on February 28, 1948. Sportswriters praised both teams for their wide-open, end-to-end play. The game also featured the unusual sight of Leafs centre Syl Apps, known for being a gentlemanly player who served as Ontario Athletic Commissioner on the side, flattening Chicago Black Hawks defenceman Ralph Nattrass. The Globe and Mail’s Jim Vipond dubbed Apps the “undefeated wrestling champion of the NHL.”

The corniest and most tortured headline—inspired by the play of Black Hawks goalie Emile “The Cat” Francis—came courtesy of the Star: “MUCH ADO-ING ABOUT PUCK WHICH ‘THE CAT’ HAS ‘MOUSED!’”

Additional material from Baseball’s Back in Town by Louis Cauz (Toronto: Controlled Media Corporation, 1977); the April 18, 1924 edition of the Globe; the March 1, 1948 edition of the Globe and Mail; and the August 25, 1919, November 14, 1931, July 10, 1939, July 11, 1939, and March 1, 1948 editions of the Toronto Star.

Vintage Toronto Ads: The Three Stooges Meet the CNE

Originally published on Torontoist on August 21, 2012.

20120821cne2

Globe and Mail, August 17, 1962.

An official opening presided over by Quebec Premier Jean Lesage. The unveiling of the $3 million Better Living Centre, touted as a showcase for “refinement in contemporary living.” Four nights of free concerts by Louis Armstrong at the Bandshell. Yes, the 1962 edition of the CNE had plenty to offer for adults.

But who did the kids want to see? Larry, Moe, and Curly Joe.

Riding a renewed wave of popularity thanks to reruns of their classic shorts on television and a new series of kid-friendly features in theatres, the Three Stooges were natural headliners for the CNE Grandstand’s “Matinee Fun-Fest.” Their opening performance on October 20, 1962, drew 20,000 children to see the veteran comics as part of a bill that also included clowns with green-foil eyelashes and acrobats who dangled from the Star’s helicopter.

20120821cne1

Globe and Mail, August 17, 1962.

“By any normally accepted standard of critical judgement,” the Star’s David Cobb observed, “the Three Stooges are notable mainly for the glaring poverty of their comic invention and for the dread simplicity of their obvious patter.” While acknowledging the joy kids took in the trio, Cobb felt that for adults “they were a comic desert on which there fell no reviving rain.” The Globe and Mail’s Kay Kritzwiser believed their humour defied description, though her attempt to provide that description is pretty apt: “It’s a matter of loud bongs on the pate, excruciating blows in the midriff, finger-pokes in the eye and clean, hoary jokes.”

Moe Howard acknowledged the role their young fans had played in their revival. “It seems that you kids like watching us strange characters on the TV screen,” he told the audience. “It’s you who’ve brought us back to the top again, and we thank you.”

Additional material from the August 17, 1962 and August 21, 1962 editions of the Globe and Mail, and the August 21, 1962 edition of the Toronto Star.

“A Voice That Can Scale Mountains”

Originally published on Torontoist on February 13, 2012.

20120213whitneycover

Toronto Sun, August 17, 1986.

“Whitney Houston a stunning singer who’s going places” read a headline on the front page of the Star’s entertainment section on April 24, 1985. The prediction proved true, even if some of the singer’s fans wished there were a few places Houston didn’t go—deep into drug addiction, for instance, before her death on Saturday. But long before erratic behaviour caused concern, Houston’s early live performances in Toronto left audiences and critics raving about her singing talent in ways akin to the recent New York Times appraisal of her gifts: “radiant, perspective altering, impossible to touch.”

In town for a 48-hour whirlwind of publicity interviews to promote her eponymous first album, Houston made her Toronto debut in front of music-industry reps and reporters at the Club Bluenote at 128 Pears Avenue. Backed by recorded tracks and dressed in a fringed pink gown, Houston performed a half-dozen songs that, according to the Star’s Greg Quill, showcased a singer “experienced beyond her years.” A headline in the Globe and Mail declared that Houston possessed “a voice that can scale mountains.”

Houston returned to Toronto in August 1986 as part of a musical line-up at the CNE—one that also included Huey Lewis and the News, the Psychedelic Furs, Stevie Nicks, and Van Halen. As tickets sold out, fans entered contests, such as the Sun’s “Wild About Whitney,” to win seats. (Ten lucky winners saw the show.) When the Sun’s Bob Thompson asked Houston about the success of her first album, she said, “It’s very giddy and sometimes embarrassing to be famous. It’s to be expected, I guess, but I’m still not aware of the effect. I mean people tell me ‘You’ve started something,’ ‘People are looking like you’ and this and that. But I can’t imagine anyone wanting to look like me.” She indicated that she learned from her bad experiences, but when Thompson pressed her to specify, she responded, “I don’t know. I guess I haven’t had any.”

By contrast, the Star’s Peter Goddard was drawn to Houston’s beauty:

She has gorgeous features that aren’t idiosyncratic in any way and don’t “type” her. She can look great in almost any situation—even in a Coca Cola television commercial designed to have her out-stomp the greatest stomper going, Tina Turner. Houston has full lips, slightly hooded eyes and a yards-wide smile of blistering white teeth. Yet there’s an athleticism to this sensuality: her body is lithe, not lean. It’s a figure meant to be photographed.

20120213whatshot

Toronto Sun, August 10, 1986.

According to the newspaper reviews, the 25,000 people at the CNE Grandstand on August 22, 1986, witnessed a flawless performance. From the moment she walked onstage to the strains of “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” she captured the audience’s attention with, as the Sun’s Liz Braun noted, “an unmistakable generosity of spirit.… What Houston has is total appeal. What she does is perform sublimely, and she makes it all look as easy as buttering toast.” The Star’s Greg Quill found that her performance grew stronger as the night wore on, especially during the closing numbers “Didn’t We Almost Have it All” and “Greatest Love of All.” “What remained,” Quill wrote, “after the last, long note had rung out across the stadium, was the memory of one of the strongest, most pure and most assured voices in pop.”

Houston returned for another packed CNE show in 1987, but she cancelled the show scheduled for the 1991 edition of the fair due to a sore throat—or so it was claimed. Inside sources told the Star that ticket sales were sluggish in Toronto and other Canadian stops on her tour—only 11,000 seats were sold here—so the shows were dropped.

In light of the directions in which Houston’s career and life went, the most heartbreaking words we found came from Quill’s review of the 1986 show. “Houston is far from her greatest achievements. Imagining how great she’ll be 20 years from now is almost impossible, given the wisdom and grace she displayed last night.”

Additional material from the April 24, 1985, edition of the Globe and Mail; the April 24, 1985, August 21, 1986, August 23, 1986, and August 21, 1991, editions of the Toronto Star; and the August 10, 1986, August 17, 1986, and August 24, 1986, editions of the Toronto Sun.

Vintage Toronto Ads: By The Time I Get to See Glen Campbell

Originally published on Torontoist on August 30, 2011.

20110830campbell

Globe and Mail, August 8, 1969.

Among the musical acts at this year’s Canadian National Exhibition is one making a final Toronto appearance. After over 50 years in the music business, Glen Campbell announced his current tour is his last due to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Tomorrow night’s show won’t be Campbell’s first at the Ex—back in 1969, he was one of the key attractions of that year’s fair.

Despite rainstorms, sold out crowds packed the CNE Grandstand on August 16–17, 1969, to hear Campbell sing hits like “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife” and “Galveston.” When his first show was delayed, Campbell, who strolled onstage in a tuxedo and cowboy boots, apologized to the audience. “Sorry this show is so late startin’,’” he said with an Arkansas twang, “but I dropped my watch in sheep dip and it killed all the ticks.”

Newspaper reviews focused on Campbell’s square image and audience, his corny patter, and how lousy the supporting act (the Four Freshmen) was. The Globe and Mail’s Ritchie Yorke noted that the crowd “was just plain folk, the sort who don’t mind last year’s or the year before’s fashions. Like his audience, Campbell was not particularly hip, and he seemed to be fighting any possibility of anyone getting the idea that he was.” The Star’s Marci MacDonald observed the crowd was “mainly female, over 30 or under 12—family folk lookin’ for a good clean country boy.”

The Telegram’s Peter Goddard found Campbell so inoffensive that “a bottle of milk seems somehow vulgar by comparison,” but also felt that the singer was far more talented that the stereotypes about his audience (lonely housewives, Midwestern Republicans) suggested.

Additional material from the August 18, 1969, editions of the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and Telegram.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

tely 69-08-18 campbell review small

The full review from the Telegram (click on image for larger version). Glen Campbell passed away in 2017.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Canada’s Most Exciting Automotive Spectacle!

Originally published on Torontoist on February 17, 2009.

20090217nationalmotor

Globe and Mail, February 22, 1954.

The Canadian International Auto Show runs this week, drawing curious onlookers in the face of a slumping market. Before the show began in 1974 there were several attempts to create ongoing automotive events, from annual displays at the Canadian National Exhibition to attempts to run shows at other times of the year, such as the National Motor Show in 1954.

This was the second year for the National Motor Show, the first of which had been Toronto’s first major new show since the late 1930s. D.C. Gaskin, president of Studebaker’s Canadian division and head of the Canadian Automobile Chamber of Commerce, noted that “there was some question whether the event would retain public appeal after all those years. But when we found crowds lining up from the Automotive Building to the Princes’ Gates before they could get in, we weren’t quite prepared for such a demonstration of public interest.”

Over 150,000 visitors were expected to turn out for the show, which automakers hoped would stimulate buying during a slump in auto sales. Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Nash, and Studebaker were among the vendors with full displays. For those less interested in the vehicles on display, diversions were provided by Royal York Hotel bandleader Moxie Whitney, the five singing DeMarco sisters, a fashion show with dresses crafted from car upholstery, and a 200-foot, 11-panel molded paper mural that chronicled the history of the wheel.

Additional material from the February 24, 1954 edition of the Globe and Mail.

Vintage Toronto Ads: CNE ’70

Originally published on Torontoist on August 12, 2008.

2008_08_12cne_012008_08_12cne_02

Toronto Life, August 1970.

Optimism was in the air as the 1970 edition of the Canadian National Exhibition approached. The dawning of a new decade excited the fair’s promoters and ad designers, encouraging both to add a modern touch to the Ex’s 92nd edition.

One of the most controversial exhibits was “Man and his Drugs” at the Queen Elizabeth Building. Described by programmers as “an honest, fearless portrayal of the effects of drugs on today’s society,” the maze-like multimedia presentation confused visitors who were more interested in finding the exit than learning about the effects of illicit substances. As one 16-year-old visitor noted to The Toronto Star, “It’s so confusing. We were in for 15 minutes and got lost. You need at least a day to really take it all in and understand it.” Security guards noticed that many visitors, rather than make their way through the maze, snuck out via the emergency exits.

Less confusing were tours of a replica of the Nonsuch, a 17th-century fur trading vessel whose early voyages led to the foundation of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The ship, built for HBC’s 300th anniversary, had spent the past two years touring Europe and eastern Canada. Toronto would prove to be its final stop before being permanently moored at the Manitoba Museum.

1970 was the final Ex for Patty Conklin, who had supervised the midway since 1937. CBC profiled Conklin’s preparations for an episode of Telescope that aired shortly after his death in November.

Performers who graced the stage of the CNE Grandstand (later Exhibition Stadium) that year included Johnny Cash, the Fifth Dimension, teen idol Bobby Sherman, Ray Charles, Red Skelton, Chuck Berry, Brenda Lee, and the Temptations.

Additional quotes from the August 22, 1970 edition of the Toronto Star.