A missed opportunity

The Parliamentary Press Gallery is celebrating its 150th anniversary with a book entitled Sharp Wits & Busy Pens. Not the best title one might imagine, but it’s not the best book, either. It’s a collection of essays by current and former gallery members as well as words from a few politicians all accompanied by photos, historical and otherwise.

Topics include the fire of 1916, the war years, treatment of women and Jews, the power of the press and the advent of social media along with a series of brief oral histories. Some interesting facts are unearthed but I was disappointed there was so little about the characters who worked in the “hot room” in Centre Block. As a press secretary in the 1970s, I dealt with the gallery on a daily basis and found them to be a study in humanity at its best and worst.

On the copyright page there’s the usual note about errors and omissions. Except it’s spelled emissions. I’d like to report a few emissions: there’s not enough about drinking, swearing or pranks. Where’s a guy like Bob Abra of Radio-Canada International? How he found the exit let alone his bed after his nightly stand at the Press Club bar remains a mystery. Or the time Larry Zolf held a book launch in the gallery lounge. When Pierre Trudeau walked in, Zolf looked at the prime minister and said, “Who the fuck are you?” Or when Peter Meerburg and Ian Hunter streaked the reception at the annual Gallery dinner. Twice.

My late father used to describe McDonald’s by saying, “It’s good food for what it is.” This is a good book for what it is.




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