Percy Saltzman Interview: Earl Cameron

Earl Cameron

One attribute characterized the man: unflappable.

His calm demeanor, his quiet voice, his understated authority, the aura of personal magnetism that enveloped him - all were an exact match for the core of the man himself.

I worked alongside him for quite a stretch, on both radio and TV, and he personified for me the majesty and the authority of the Canadian system of broadcasting, known in the trade as the Canadian Broadcorping Castration.

As a news reader he was nonpareil, sui generis. A rara avis. No one quite like him - not Cronkite, not Rather, not Jennings, not Larry Henderson, not Stanley Burke, not Peter Truman, not Peter Mansbridge, not Nash of the Nashional, not Dennis McIntosh, not Wally Macht, not Harvey Kirck, not even Lloyd ... not ... not ... not ... well, maybe just one, and that was because of the rich sonority of his thrillingly resonant voice - and that was John O'Leary, the best in the business. Good old, dear old John O'Groats, O'Silver, O'Stentor, O'Leary.

No one matched O'Leary's golden throat - not deB Holly, nor Alan McFee, nor Harry Mannis, nor Larry Palef, nor Gil Christie, nor Alan Millar, nor Lamont Tilden, nor Norman Kihl, nor Fred Cripps, not even "Roaring Lex", not even the great Lorne Greene - the very Voice of Doom itself!

May most of the afore-mentioned rest in peace, but not too soon, I trust.

A tiny incident typifies Earl Cameron's cool. He was reading the news live one day in a CBC radio studio, when a fellow CBC-er pulled a prank, by suddenly dousing the studio lights.

There was poor old Earl, plunged into stygian gloom. Did he panic? Did he falter? Did he waver? Did his voice betray so much as a hemi-demi-semi-quaver? No siree sir, not so much as even a half a hemi-demi-semi!

He simply took out his box of matches, lit one, and calmly proceeded to read the rest of the news by match-light. As I say, he was unmatched - but never matchless.

And when one horrible tragic day, he lost his son in a terrible terrible traffic accident - a useless, senseless, T-boner - and when I tried falteringly, to commiserate, all he said was, in his sad, sad voice: "What a waste!"

I have never forgotten that, and I never will.

He was Mr. Canada. He was a real cool cat. He was our one and only. He was nationally famous, and yet he had no side. Absolutely no side. Amazing! Very rare!

Very rare in our famously vainglorious, insalubrious, and overweening calling. I ought to know - I'm one of them. Or was.

A great man, now gone to his grave. What a waste.