Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Fond Farewell For Lloyd Robertson

In the end Lloyd Robertson did it his way, the way of a gentleman.
Quietly and without ostentation he announced at the end of Thursday night's CTV telecast that he was stepping down as anchor after an unprecedented reign of 35 years at CTV.
And I remember the day it all started.
I was at the CBC fall TV launch in 1976 when CBC news chief Knowlton Nash announced to startled critics that :"I've lost my Mr. Clean!"
I'd been hearing the buzz that Robertson was about to defect to CTV and then it was true.
Most of us called cabs and deserted the CBC fete in a flash as publicity chief Cec Smith stood at the curb shouting "Stop! We're paying for all this."
Remember that Robertson started at CBC in 1954. But he was increasingly vexed by union regulations that forbade him touching his copy --he was no more than an announcer at CBC because of these restrictions.
But up at CTV's Charles St. that momentous day headquarters pandemonium reigned supreme.
CTV President Murray Chercover was chortling "We're now Number One in news!"
But just as Lloyd was about to begin his press conference in rushed CTV's Harvey Kirck --Kirk had been on a tour of western affiliates when told the news the night before.
He boarded the first plane to Toronto and told me he was anxious sharing the CTV platform with Robertson.
Fireworks were predicted. Instead they got along very well for the next 10 years until Kirck's retirement.
Now --35 years later --people will be asking of Robertson did he jump or was he pushed?
CTV's 11 p.m. news ratings remain high so Robertson --who after all is now 76 --could have picked any date to retire.
But one thing about Robertson --he's outlasted all challengers.
For a time media watchers had predicted Keith Morison would be the successor. But trouble ensued when Morison began openly speculating. Very soon he was out at CTV.
Another challenger was Pam Wallin but she eventually defected the other way --to CBC. These days she's a Tory senator.
So who was the choice?
Lisa LaFlamme, 45, is the surprise choice.
True, she has served a dutiful apprentice going right back to Kitchener's CKCO-TV.
But her stay on Canada AM wasn't very successful. Ratings were slumping and she seemed to take pot shots every day at Rod Black.
My choice would have been Tom Clark but maybe he has just been around CTV too long.
However both ABC and CBS chose women when their geezer anchors left. The trouble is both ABC's Diane Sawyer and CBS's Katie Couric now preside over newscasts considerably diminished in the ratings.
Robertson told viewers last night he'll stay on with his successor into 2011. He'll remain a network fixture as host of W5 and other news specials.
At CTV he's enjoyed great fame and fortune.
It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
In one of my profiles of Lloyd I openly asked how he and Harvey (who towered over him) seemed to be the same size when sharing that CTV desk.
Lloyd was so tickled by it he commissioned a CTV artist to draw a caricature of bulking Harvey sitting beside Lloyd on a pile of phonebooks.
Both guys autographed it and send it to me.
Today that caricature is a prized possession.
And a side glance at Murray Chercover who died Saturday of pneumonia at 80. Chercover kept CTV going through some pretty rough times and with a skeleton staff. In truth CTV was a conglomerate of private stations and the leader was always CFTO's Baton Broadcasting.
But Chercover also had a sense of humor. When I once asked him why CTV never had a fall TV launch he sputtered "My big Canadian show is Littlest Hobo. You want me to have a press conference for a dog?"

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