Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Expert in all things Canadiana, when Pierre Berton died on this day in 2004 the country lost one of its finest: a journalist, historian, novelist, television and radio personality (not to mention an all-around great guy). I had the great good fortune to shake his hand once after a taping of Vicki Gabereau's TV talk show; it was one of my life's greatest moments.
Though often considered Establishment for the series of popular histories he wrote, those in the know knew that Berton was always one of the good guys. In his later years he came out swinging against Canada Customs and the deplorable bigotry it aimed squarely at Vancouver's gay and lesbian bookstore Little Sister's; once Berton's voice was added to the hubbub of opposition the shock it made helped to create a mighty roar.
A recreational pot smoker for forty years, Berton's sensible usage of the herb puts to bed the myth that cannabis users are worthless burnouts, given how prodigious and esteemed his output was over the same period - namely fifty books in so many years; in addition to countless articles he wrote, lucid interviews he gave, and insightful TV appearances he made on such shows as Front Page Challenge, Berton's twinkling blue eyes could always be counted on to lighten up any room.
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