December 1, 1999
Foth’s Page First - THE COMMENTARY
By Joseph Planta
VANCOUVER - Whenever I’m in a doctor’s office, and in the last little while it’s been often, I pass the minutes, sometimes tens of minutes, reading the selection of magazines in the waiting room. The magazine of choice used to be Time, but then I realised I was a Canadian. I like Entertainment Weekly, People is okay, but pop schlock like that is never in my doctor’s office. The one I jump to grab and flip through, almost always is Maclean’s. A lot of people look when I do that, maybe they think a kid like me should go for the Sports Illustrated or the lovely array of Archie comic books. They look because instead of reading it from the front to the back, I turn immediately to the back and read from there.
Gracing the last page of Maclean’s for the last 24 years is one of this country’s most beloved and respect journalists, Allan Fotheringham. “The Foth” to his loyal readers, he writes politics, the arts and he does it in a most unorthodox way. He’s riotously funny, as well as terribly engaging. Foth is one of my heroes. He probably is an inspiration that started The Commentary, but alas I’ll never write like this guy. Fotheringham is often criticised at being too much of a gossip column, rather than his counterparts who bring hard rhetoric. Perhaps, the keyhole peeper wins out.
His latest book, just out from Key Porter Press is called Last Page First. In it he culls past columns from his Maclean’s back page and adds some very insightful pieces of commentary. The reason he was put in the back page, was that of Peter C. Newman, but whatever what Newman’s intentions were, it turned out to be the most wanted and prized piece of real estate in the magazine world. Not long after Maclean’s adopting of a back end columnist, Time and Newsweek followed suit. Any journalist, columnist or pundit would kill to have the last page in any magazine today. In Last Page First and for the last 20 years in Maclean’s, the Foth column is accentuated by the creative doodles of Vancouver’s own, Roy Peterson. Peterson is a terrific caricature artist, easily the country’s best.
In one memorable piece, in which he advises one young man on how to get to the height of journalism, he spews out all kinds of tips. “Always wear shoes that are smartly shined,” says Dr. Foth, who goes on to say it’s the first thing a woman notices in a man. She looks that low? About schooling, he tells that one must stay away from journalism schools. “You can’t teach journalism any more than you can teach how to make love. You either got it or you ain’t.” He also says that one shouldn’t wear cuff links with a sports jacket.
A memorable story has our Prime Minister refering to Foth as Mr. Fuckingham. In this week’s Maclean’s he tells how the story was misprinted, and it reads in the book as Mr. Fotheringham, thus rendering the story useless. Another funny item has a Mrs. Susan d’Aquino going up to Fotheringham and saying, “I am Susan d’Aquino and I think you’re a fucking son-of-a-bitch.” All he counters with is, “Thank you very much.” Get this book, it’s funny, informative and totally Foth, at his very finest.
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