Rich & Famous

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Big League Babble On

Big League Babble On

The Misadventures of a Rabble-Rousing Sportscaster and Why He Should Be Dead By Now
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CityTV loved the cops and the cops loved us. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been let off over the years, after being pulled over by the police, because of who I was and where I worked. I got stopped several times on my way to work in the morning. I’d get out of the car (a complete no-no!) and walk to the cruiser, hoping that they’d recognize me and just wave at me to drive away. The gall, I know. And it worked. Mind you, one time on the PCH in Los Angeles, the CHiPs officers actually pulled out their guns ordering me back in my rent-a-car through their loudspeakers. They tried to nab me for “failure to stay in a carpool lane,” but I weasled my way out. I pulled “The Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer” bit from SNL on the cops, telling them that these new lanes — which I actually had never seen — “frighten and confuse” me! “I don’t know, because I’m a simple sportscaster from Canada — that’s the way I think.” And they bought it.
But most of the time that I saw the lights a flashin’ behind me, it was very late in the evening. On one night, I was with my girlfriend Celeste and was pulled over after speeding up Avenue Road on the way home. As always, I got out of the car for a little of the “old soft shoe” tap dance.
After several minutes, the very nervous Celeste looked in the rear-view mirror and, to her horror, saw the cop and I arm wrestling over the hood of his police cruiser. She then saw the six-foot-five officer win the “feat of strength” easily. He shook my hand and told me to play more soccer highlights on the eleven o’clock sports. Oh yeah, and to stop speeding. “On your way, youngsters!”
Another time, also heading north on Avenue, a cab driver cut into my lane and sideswiped me. (Totally his fault. Even his customer said he’d testify on my behalf.) When I got out of my sports car to argue, I was pulled away by a cop who was immediately (and miraculously, I might add) on the scene. He said, “Johnny, I smell liquor on your breath. Here, come over to the side of the road. Now stand there and I’ll take care of this. Don’t let the cab driver smell the booze on your breath!” But my favourite, by far, took place in the early morning after a TIFF party (the bars are legally open until four a.m. because of the foreign press deadlines) and a cop pulled me over for speeding just about two lights south of where I lived. After a nice chat along the lines of, “Have you been drinking, Mr. Gallagher?” and me replying, “Yes,” he did the most bizarre thing for me. Now, I’m not proud of this. Eternally thankful, yes; proud, no. But after sensing that it was possible I would blow over the limit, he took off his jacket and hat and threw them in the back seat of my car. He then took my sports jacket and put it on, placed my girlfriend in the back of his police car, had his partner get in the driver seat, and then jumped into my BMW convertible and drove me home safely and soundly. He just didn’t want anyone to see that a cop was driving me home. Now, thanks to the fact that I don’t work downtown anymore, and with the advent of Uber and my new love for the TTC subway system, I refuse to get behind the wheel after any amount of drinks. It was incredibly stupid then, and nobody should take these stories as an endorsement of drunk driving, which I may or may not have been doing. I’m just glad I wasn’t given the opportunity to blow into a breathalyzer. After all, I didn’’t want it to tell me, “One at a time, please.”
One day I got called into the big boardroom at City. I had no idea what it was all about. But I entered a room full of cops, including members of the RCMP. The station’s head of security was there, too. If I was getting fired, this seemed like security overkill! Turned out that I, John Gallagher, had been sent a mysterious parcel that may or may not have contained anthrax. A white substance was all over it. The same thing had happened to NBC anchor Tom Brokaw one week after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The anthrax in Brokaw’s package infected his staff. Although my box tested negative for anthrax, no one was taking any chances. No other on-air personality at CityTV, or even in Canada, for that matter, received an anthrax threat. Just me. Hmm, maybe I should start running more soccer highlights.

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Distilled

Distilled

A Memoir of Family, Seagram, Baseball, and Philanthropy
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J.P. Bickell

J.P. Bickell

The Life, the Leafs, and the Legacy
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also available: Hardcover
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The Man Who Carried Cash

The Man Who Carried Cash

Saul Holiff, Johnny Cash, and the Making of an American Icon
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also available: Paperback
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Excerpt

PROLOGUE

The sun was setting as Saul Holiff crossed the living-room floor, his shadow falling on the neatly packed bookshelves as he rounded the corner and entered his study. He looked trim in his tailored black slacks and cashmere sweater; his stride was smooth and purposeful. Despite his seventy-nine years, he was in fairly good health, aside from a heart condition that was controlled with medication. Pulling a set of keys from his pocket, he unlocked the top drawer and pulled it open. He removed the kit from a small black leather bag and placed it on top of the desk. Methodically, he began to remove his jewellery and place it in the drawer.
First he slipped off the slim Piaget watch from his left wrist, then the thin gold wristband from his right. He struggled to loosen the wedding band that had been a fixture on his hand for forty years. The wallet was last.
He reached for the keys, just as he had done in every practice run. But something had changed. He studied the keys in the palm of his hand. Locking the drawer was pointless. He dropped them into the drawer and closed it.
The curtain of dusk began to fall. As he returned to the living room, he flicked on a single lamp, which threw off just enough light to see. The leather sofa squeaked slightly as he sat. The kit, he placed in the centre of the glass coffee table in front of him.
He went over his checklist:
Sit in an upright position ( check).
Eat a little food to prevent vomiting (check).
Drink a small amount of alcohol to augment the action of the drug (check).
He unzipped the kit and parted it against the surface of the table. A television flickered in the corner but was silent. The bottle of pills clicked as he placed it on the table. He removed a black garbage bag and a large elastic band.
He separated a number of gelatin capsules and lightly tapped their contents into a crystal glass, forming a mound of fine reddish powder. Using a long spoon, his actions measured, he mixed in a liberal amount of Stolichnaya, his favourite vodka, and topped it off with a splash of orange juice. Then he lifted the glass to his lips and drank its contents without stopping.
The garbage bag lay beside him, edges rolled up carefully over the elastic band. This part, he had practised a number of times, unrolling and re-rolling the bag until it could be brought down over his face in one smooth action. His wife, Barbara, was on the couch next to him. He turned to meet her eyes and spoke his last words: “Remember what we agreed. You stay in the bedroom and don’t come out, no matter what, until this thing is over. ”
He pulled the bag over his head and filled it with air, before quickly placing the large elastic band around his throat to create a seal.
Barbara was in the bedroom when she heard the noise. Perched on the edge of her mattress, plucking at a stray thread on the bedspread, she raised her head at the sound, hoping she had just imagined it. Straining to listen over the pounding of her heart, it came again, a muffled shout. The third cry brought her to her feet, and instinct forced her out the door and into the living room, toward the sofa. Do not leave the bedroom, no matter what. His last words echoed in her mind. She froze. The Seconal, a fast-acting sedative used to calm patients before surgery, was beginning to hit his bloodstream in a vodka-enhanced flood. Barbara watched in horror as Saul’s arms rose and lagged in the air. She wanted nothing more than to tear that wretched thing off his head, if only to stop the sound he was making, a sound that was now etched into her mind.
She stood rooted to the carpet for a moment, her hands trembling, then turned mechanically and walked back into the bedroom. The lamp on her bedside table remained dark. She turned her wedding band around and around on her finger. I promised I wouldn’t interfere. If I revive him and he ends up a vegetable, or maimed in some way — no, it is impossible, he would never forgive me. As night fell, the patches of silence in the living room expanded until their edges bled together seamlessly. It was over.
It was March 17, 2005.
After what seemed like hours, Barbara emerged from the room. The slumped figure on the couch did not stir. She knew everything had to be left exactly as it was, so she touched nothing except to gently hold her husband’s hand, already cooling to the touch. She remained there for a moment, feeling the tears on her cheeks. Then, she slowly rose and called the police.

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