A mistake I’m happy I made
Last week I told a story about how my love for the CBC runs deep. I talked about how my dad worked on “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and met a Canadian on set who told him to come to Canada where he’d get a job at the national broadcaster. Well, turns out I was completely inaccurate. I don’t know how I got that story in my head, but it was wrong. My dad called me last week to tell me the real story about how he came to Canada.
At the start of his career, my dad, Avi, worked in films. He mostly worked on Israeli productions, though he did do an internship in London on “Jesus Christ Superstar”, where he was taught music editing. My dad made an okay living working on films. He was the artistic type, and had made several of his own experimental films – one of them, “Tarantula” even won the top prize at the Chicago film festival.
The year was 1974. My father was editing a feature film in a Tel Aviv film studio. These studios also had starlight facilities, which were full of international news agencies. They were all in Israel at that time to cover the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. One day, a woman who worked at the studios asked my dad if he could do her a favour. She said there was a Canadian producer who was in desperate need of an editor to help him cut the news. My father had never edited news before but he was happy to help out.
The producer’s name was Don Dixon. He was a field producer for the CBC. At the time of their first meeting, my dad remembers Don being very stressed. He had to have a short segment cut in very little time or else he would be in big trouble.
News was shot on film in those days. Don’s film came out of the lab only 30 minutes before feeding time. The pressure was on. Don told my dad what visuals he wanted for the piece and my dad did what he was told. My father finished the piece with only two minutes left before the feeding time. Don grabbed the film reel and ran as fast as he could to the telecine room where the film was fed to Canada via satellite. The story made its way to Canadian television sets that night – where it aired on the national news. Don was relieved.
Don asked how much my dad wanted to be paid. An editor for ABC who was in close proximity said the standard rate was $150. Don handed the cash to my dad, along with an extra $400.
“You saved my ass,” he told him.
At that moment my dad realized the news business wasn’t a bad idea.
My father continued to work for Don for a few more days on the Cyprus conflict, until the story died down. Don was clearly impressed with how quick my dad worked. He told him that he’d talked to his bosses in Canada and they wanted to give him a try. My dad wasn’t interested in leaving his beloved country, but my mother was quite keen. Within a few months, they relocated to Ottawa. (“From sun, sand and sea to sub-zero, snow, and solitude,” my father said. He’s since warmed up to it.)
A year later, they moved to Toronto and eventually, I was born.
After my dad cleared up the story, I apologized for being sloppy and told him his homework was to find Don so I could get his side of things. I wanted to thank Don for making Canada my dad’s destiny. They hadn’t spoken in years and my dad said it could be tough. But before my father got to work on his search for his old colleague, Don contacted me, seemingly out of nowhere.
He emailed a quick note to say he’d read my piece and thanked me for the memories. I wrote him back apologizing for getting the facts wrong and called him a few days later to hear his side of the story. He was so happy to hear from me.
Don is retired now and lives in Victoria. His version of meeting my dad was pretty close to my father’s recollection. He called my dad a “true artist” and said they had a lot of fun together. Then we got to talking about Don’s long career at the CBC, where he’d worked as a field producer in London and Washington, amongst other places. He spoke about how lucky he was to work with such amazing talent, like Joe Schlesinger, who he called the father he never had. After the CBC, Don went on to start Television International Consultants Inc., which produced events like the Clinton/ Yelston meeting in Vancouver. He was clearly happy with the life he lived and proud of the amazing work he had accomplished. As we said our goodbyes, he wished me “God Bless.”
The most important rule I was taught as a journalist is to only report what you know. If there’s something you’re not sure about, leave it out. I don’t know why I got the initial facts about my family’s venture to Canada wrong. But for once in my professional writing life, I’m happy I made the mistake.