In 1959, in his early twenties, Michael Doody moved to Timmins to work at the radio station CKGB.
He thought he’d be here a just couple of years.
Today is Councillor Doody’s 80th birthday and instead of us getting him a gift, he gave us one by sharing stories about the almost 60 years he has spent in the city.
Doody’s first broadcasting job in Timmins was playing records and reading the early morning news on the radio.
This was a time when 45-RPM records were considered new technology and the implementation of cassette tape was considered ‘”a miracle.”
It wasn’t hard to tell what kind of music he liked — Doody’s program director would periodically walk into his broadcast booth and tell him, “Mike, there are other entertainers besides Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald you know?”
Around 1974, Doody moved to the television station CFCL-TV where he worked a variety of jobs before hosting a talk and current affairs show, The Noon Day Hour, from 12-1 p.m.
“You name it, I did it there,” said Doody, describing his 25-year career at the station.
The Noon Day Hour featured interviews with prominent personalities from Timmins and those passing through.
It was a bit like Larry King, “a little more relaxed maybe”.
At the time some of the NHL’s best hockey players were from the Timmins area and it was pretty normal for them to come back in the off-season to play ‘fastball’ (fast-pitch softball), a game he said was very popular in Northern Ontario and Quebec.
“I got great interviews down through the years. When they came to town for the summer you ended up interviewing them. Timmins produced some of the best hockey players of all time,” he said. “Did you know that Frank Mahovlich always had a reputation for being shy, but he was a pleasant guy.”
He also interviewed travelling politicians like Ontario Premiere Bob Rae and Conservative Party leader (and later Prime Minister) Joe Clark.
But the best interviews, said Doody, were professional wrestlers who would really play up their exaggerated tough-guy characters during on-air promotional interviews.
“If you ever wanted to do an interview that’s peppy and full of laughs those are the ones you want on your show. Just give them the mic and away they’d go,” he said. “Naturally, they’d be calling out the other fella they were going to wrestle, putting him down. Sometimes they could even be a little bit on the blue side. What am I going to do, tell those guys to shut up? I don’t think so.”
Doody first got into politics in 1970 as city councillor.
He served those duties part-time while keeping a full time job in both radio and then television.
In 1976, Doody made the move to run for mayor, a decision that put him up against his then friend and long time serving mayor, Leo Del Villano.
Doody said Del Villano was very popular and considered “quite the personality. He was very outgoing and told it the way it is.”
Among Del Villano's notable acts was a campaign he spearheaded to provide the Queen’s Guard (the British soldiers famous for wearing tall hats, red jackets, and standing outside for long periods of time without moving) with bear fur.
“Their hats are actually made from bear fur and they were running out of it in England. Leo organized a special bear hunt and sent it to London England so they could have fur to make their hats. He gained publicity all over North America for it,” said Doody.
When Doody ran against Del Villano it was not because he didn’t like him personally, but because he thought that it was just the right time and place for him to be mayor.
“It was tough. I always considered him a friend but we didn’t attack each other, it was a different time and a different way to do things,” he said.
Doody described a time that was more civil, something he attributes to more face-to-face communication and less characterized by rude e-mails and other symptoms of technological disconnect that he sees today.
“When you step up and you sit in that chair for the first time and you look out you have 14 counselors, it’s quite the feeling,” said Doody. “We had tough debates in here, but always respectful, and when it was over we could sit down and have a drink together. Really, that to me was a great thing about being on council.”
Doody said that no matter how heated it got at council meetings, the council would always go down for a beer at the bar Leone’s afterwards.
From 1977 until 1980 Doody served as the Mayor of Timmins, he was out of politics until 85 when he jumped back in as a councillor until 1996.
Throughout that time he continued in broadcasting and in 1996 he retired “from everything”, both politics and broadcasting, or so he thought.
In 2005 Councillor Yves Malette had to leave council and instead of holding another election for the only one year left on the term, the mayor and city council asked Doody to step in for his ward.
The next year Doody decided to run for the spot formally and he has been on council ever since.
Doody’s next council term is up in two years and at that time he’ll have served the city as a politician a total of 35 years.
He said he was recently inspired by Hazel McCallion, who at 93 served as the Mayor of Mississauga, and so it doesn’t look like he has plans of quitting anytime soon.
However, these days Doody isn’t going for beers with council, he’d rather spend time with “the best thing that ever happened” to him, his wife Charlene.
“We’ve had meetings go to 11 O’clock — in fact one meeting went all the way to 1:30 a.m. — and when that’s over I’m going home to Charlene. She usually has something waiting for me when I get home whether it’s a piece of apple pie or a cup of coffee,” said Doody with a smile.