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The magazine mutiny

Updated: Jul 25, 2022

Back in the late eighties, magazines, real ones printed on actual paper, were entering their last great decade of popularity.

City magazines were proliferating and few as much as Montreal’s leading publications, Montreal Ce-Mois-Ci, and Montreal Calendar magazine.

Both of these had gone through several owners in their twenty-year run by the late eighties and the last one was a publisher named David, whose money had been earned from selling Baldor electric motors as their Quebec distributor.

When I joined as an advertising sales representative I had no clue what I was getting into.

Within two weeks I was made director of ad sales after a rather large sale and within a few months as general manager and for practical purposes David’s right-hand man at the company.

I was creative, perfectly bilingual, had some business development acumen and astonishing energy levels.

David seemed quite impressed and took quite good care of me to the extent of even providing me with my dream car at the time, a brand new metallic plum-colored Renault Fuego. I even occasionally spent weekends at his country home on Brome Lake in the Eastern Townships.

We often partied to the wee hours at Montreal clubs, both of us being bar hounds with a penchant for those beautiful Montreal women.

Now had David been an American, he would have been a staunch Republican. His idol was Ronald Reagan.

Never having been involved with the media in any form, he had a tendency to be autocratic and heavy-handed in his dealings with the staff, especially the creative talent.

He would storm through the creative department, sockless with flip flops on his feet while slurping peach yogurt out of a plastic container.

Editorial independence and staying focused on the magazine’s mandate were also an ongoing challenge for André Ducharme, the editor, and one of the very best in Canada.

This got to such a boiling point that one day André came to see me and told me that the entire staff was planning to quit.

He had drafted an ultimatum letter and had everyone but me sign it, and asked me to present it to David.

I told him that was a really bad idea due to David’s reactionary and quick-tempered nature, but he insisted.

At that point, I really had no choice but to add my name to the document, first since I agreed with the staff but also because I thought it might make David fully weigh the consequences should he not acquiesce to their reasonable demands.

And those demands were very basic.

If and when David wanted changes to art or editorial he would call a proper staff meeting to discuss it, providing adequate time frames to do the revisions. And he would refrain from hiring and firing staff, usually on a whim, without consulting with the department heads first.

That was all. No raises. No extra holiday time. No overtime pay.

Well as anticipated, when presented with the document, David flew into a rage and pulled a Reagan air-controller sacking.

He fired the entire publication’s staff on the spot except for the receptionist with whom he was having a baby.

And of course, the sacking included yours truly, so goodbye, cherished Renault Fuego.

On the bright side, everyone canned had a new job within two weeks.

The magazines devolved within a few months, closed and Montreal has never had another glossy full-color French and English print city magazine since, some 30 years later.

Excerpt from my upcoming e-book "Recollections from my time on earth - Snackable short stories."


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