I owe my entire professional writing career to him. While I had managed to squeak a couple of dozen articles into obscure publications in the late ’80s, it was Sid who gave me a break, allowing me to write a squibette about an AIDS documentary for him. The story ran on 1991.02.07. I would later write dozens of articles for the Star, and I actually wrote its first Internet (not Web) column. I would also write articles and columns for the Globe and Mail (and I was the first person to receive their freelance-writer contract, over which we won a partial but significant victory in the Supremes last week). I wrote for three dozen publications in total. I wrote a book, and have others in progress. And it all started in earnest with a story I wrote on company time and company equipment while working as an office lady at the Ministry of Sensitivity.
I talked with Sid on the phone at length about the article – despite its brevity, it was ruthlessly edited. But he changed almost nothing, because it was a strong piece. I see now that he liked it because it contained original reporting and miniscoops, two hallmarks of his. He gave me the highest compliment of my entire writing career, if not my entire life: “It reads well.”
We kept in very sporadic touch over the years. It was a supremely cold day in winter when I biked down to the bunker that is the Toronto Star building to sit in the studio commissary and explain to him what captioning is and why the plan he was floating to use captioning to subtitle English- and French-language programming wouldn’t work. It was an involved discussion. Very involved. But a couple of years later, Sid wrote a feature article about me and my efforts to improve cinema accessibility, very much without the help of the Little Shits™ who ran Famous Players at the time. That article ran on a full page of the entertainment section on 2002.06.15 and included photographs that made me look like a bleached-out Smurf.
The Star, whose feudal labour relations rival the CBC’s, turned the screws on Sid around retirement time. He simply walked out of the building one day and didn’t come back. Sid developed kidney disease that prevented us from talking much (I think we had two phone calls and a few E-mails). I have never had a single career at any given time, but the writing portion of my career would never have gotten off the ground, at all, without Sid.
And so the roster of my defenders shrinks by one.