One of the biggest radio fans this country has known died this week.
Craig Smith became known to many of us in broadcasting when he took over moderating the so-called big yellow board, the sowny.ca message board. It has been a source of information, infuriation, lies, half-truths, inane comments and the occasional worthwhile rant for many years. Craig contacted me once many years ago and asked if I’d take him on a tour of 680 and the other Rogers Toronto stations so I said, sure. We sat and talked radio for a bit and it was clear that this man knew more about the history of Toronto radio that I ever would. He was a true fan of those who made it happen.
I had a bias against him at the time. He had allowed a very mean bitchfest to go on far too long about someone very dear to me and I told him so. I made it clear to him that I was unhappy about it and he promised to try to be more vigilant in the future. But this was Craig’s naive notion – he really didn’t see radio people as being like the rest of the population. He was a superfan and thought we were stars, teflon, above the petty comments of others and untouched and unharmed by them. He saw us as beloved by the masses and easily able to flick away a negative comment like a piece of lint. If we put ourselves out there on the airwaves we were fair game and our critics shouldn’t bother us. That’s got a ring of truth to it but it overlooks the fact that we are also sensitive human beings. And a line has to be drawn somewhere, hopefully long before comments become libellous. So Craig and I sort of agreed to disagree on that notion.
I would send Craig emails to alert him to just plain mean postings and he would sometimes remove them and sometimes tell me I was overreacting. I didn’t alert him when I was the target of a very mean-spirited attack after I posted something I thought was truly benign and not controversial at all. However, I later asked Craig to promise me that he would deactivate my password and never give me another one so I wouldn’t be able to access the posting system. Knowing I would not be able to comment on the site made it easier to take some of the truly outlandish and idiotic things that were sometimes said as an observer and not a participant.
Craig contacted a bunch of us last year and told us his many years of heavy drinking had taken a toll on his liver and he was going on the transplant list. He had cleaned up, quit drinking, and wanted to start again. When he went onto the transplant list I became one of Craig’s “support group” – people to whom he wrote a regular, private sometimes daily blog on his attempt to get healthy. I don’t know that I offered a lot in return except to tell him to get spellcheck (!) and to hang in there.
Last year, while he was feeling well, he went on what he called his “Ontario tour” to see people and hang out before travel became too difficult for him. London was one of his destinations and a bunch of us met him for dinner at the Mongolian Grill. In the above photo Craig is on the far left, then Sarah Watkin, Greg Simpson, me and Derek. After that trip he moved into a small apartment and eventually just visiting a record store would tire him out for the day. Craig spent the last few months in and out of hospital and he died Monday night with his two best friends at his side. He talked about dying when he was with us in London and said he had lost both of his parents when they were relatively young and that he looked forward to being with his Mom again. Mother’s Day and her birthday were very hard days for him. He missed her terribly. Craig was just 54 and just the way he lost his number one fan when his Mom died, now we radio “stars” have lost ours.