Thirteen years ago, staying at the Val d’Or Friendship Centre and enjoying their hospitality and my anonymity, my cellphone rang. It was Catherine Bainbridge calling me with an offer I could not refuse: to take over the writing of the then-infamous Reznotes column. I asked her what had happened to Neil Diamond, the smart guy who successfully annoyed every politician around for nearly a decade. It turned out that he was walking down a new media avenue called videography and wanted to do basically the same thing, except in a visual format.
I knew that Neil had gained some notoriety with his writings, so I said I would do it, but only if I could use a pen name. I wanted protection in case vicious readers, their appetite for blood already whetted by Neil’s sharp penmanship, would feed me to the wolves. Thus, “The One and Only” was born.
During the next two years the greatest mystery of all time went unsolved as furious and adoring fans grappled with the reality that they could be the targets of Reznotes’ unbridled fury and rib poking yet finely honed humour. Politicians and anyone who inspired me to write about them became more and more cautious, fearful that some unknown writer could be lurking in their boardroom or sitting at the next table at the diner.
For those first years, the secret of the one and only was known by only a few. This secret was so secure that if WikiLeaks were around back then, no evidence of anyone remotely resembling a ghostwriter could be uncovered. Finally, when just about everyone was pointing accusing fingers at each other, I emerged from my shadowy existence. Soon after that, nearly anyone with a directorship position avoided me, while regular citizens rushed to meet their new literary hero and believe me, I got a lot of back pounding from enthusiastic fans.
Slowly, the Reznotes became an integral part of the Nation, and others began to realize that they could do their own politico bashing and that got me off the hook to concentrate on old-fashioned funny stuff. Occasionally, I would bring up something that bore some resemblance to head bashing, but I tried to be neutral. Shortly thereafter, I became someone politicians wanted be seen with, someone who could poke fun at them, usually at their request, or they would mention something that they wanted to hear about.
I started getting calls from people. My hand was shaken more times than those of politicians. And as the Nation’s readership grew, so did the Reznotes fan base. Once, in Great Whale, someone very familiar came up to me and shook my hand so vigorously and asked for my autograph. Then, he and his entourage flew off in their private plane to parts unknown. Those who witnessed that moment wanted to know just when and how the Premier of Quebec got to know me. I was blown away, as I still hadn’t figured out who this jovial short guy was. Apparently, Reznotes has fans in Quebec’s National Assembly.
At other times, I would be greeted with big bear hugs from local mayors and other small-town leaders. Often, I had to turn down offers of drinks, but sometimes I didn’t. Many people who didn’t know better thought of me as a journalist and dedicated researcher, but I tried to explain that it was my editor’s job to do that. But hey, who listened to me when the wine and beer flowed from the wallets of star-struck fans.
Reznotes has come a long way since the beginning first words, to an article that was flavoured with history, poetry, backslapping and shocking insights to our world as seen through the eyes of someone with a close eye on the pulse of the Nation’s funny bone. As I have often said to those who asked me how it was done, how did I cover everything from ingrown toenails to groaning about the weather? My secret was to tackle any subject that came to mind and write it down as quickly as possible, so I could carry on with my very normal life.
As for the others who work hard to produce this fine magazine, my hat is off to them, especially those who’ve had to track me down at deadline time, and my thanks for working with such a great team of people. Happy 20th Anniversary to the Nation. May it live long and prosper!
Signing off from the Great White North, I remain truly yours.