I’m going off topic a bit for this week’s blog because I need to say goodbye to a friend, Mark Dailey. Mark died from cancer on Monday. It was the second time he’d battled the disease; the first was well documented. He fought prostate cancer on the air, allowing the public to see what would normally be a private journey. But Mark knew that putting it all out there, literally, would make a difference. Who knows how many lives he’s saved, or will save, by encouraging other men to take care of their health.
But what I really want to talk about is working with Mark. I started at City in 1993. Mark was the anchor of what was then the 10 o’clock CityPulse Tonight. I rolled his autocue. He never once complained, even if I made a rookie mistake. He treated me as an equal, cracked jokes when he happened to be standing in a position next to me (remember at City there is no desk), never once said something disparaging about anyone…ever.
About a year later I became a writer, and crafting scripts for Mark was pure fun. There was nothing he couldn’t read, nothing you wrote that he wouldn’t make better. Hearing your script coming out of his mouth was a bit like magic. Not only that, if you were in a bind Mark was the first one to sit down and help you out. No complaints, no expectation of thanks, just a genuine desire to be part of the team.
I have so many memories of Mark, but right now the ones I want to think about are the ones that make me laugh.
Mark never lost it on air…it didn’t matter what was happening around him; he was a rock. Except once. I can’t remember the exact details, but we had done a rather provocative story on a study about marriage and sex…it may have been Valentine’s Day. Mark had talked to the weather anchor beforehand and given him the heads up that he was going to make a quip about the weather anchor and his wife. As it turned out, the weather anchor forgot, or hadn’t listened, and we cut to him kneeling down with his arm around his dog…a dog with an extraordinarily large tongue hanging out of its mouth. The weather anchor then said something to the effect of “yes, she’s a good girl”. Enough said. The camera cut back to Mark and he was laughing…behind him we were hysterical…no one could keep it together. It was the only time I saw him lose his composure.
Eventually, I became a producer and had the privilege of having Mark as an anchor for many shows I put together. As I heard City’s VP of news, Tina Cortese, say on the tribute that ran the day he died, Mark was a producer’s dream. There is no better description.
You could be in the control room, something would break, you could get in Mark’s IFB and give him the most basic information while he was in the midst of reading another story and he’d come back on camera and make it seem like he’d been preparing for the story all night. Smooth like butter.
My husband, who died six years ago, was a cameraperson at City and often shot Mark’s stories. The last time I worked for City, I worked with both of them for what turned out to be the last time. We were in Mississauga covering Hazel McCallion for the municipal elections. As many of you will know, it’s never exactly a tight race when Hazel’s on the ballot. We nabbed the Mayor for a “victory” interview at about 7:30pm and for the next four hours I hung out with two of my favourite news guys of all time, and watched Mark make an empty room seem interesting whenever we were called upon to do a live hit. There was really nothing to talk about, but it didn’t matter – when Mark spoke, you wanted to listen.
Today as I sit here writing this, I’m holding back tears, but I’m also smiling. I’m thinking about Mark, and my husband Don, with some of the other members of our City family who have gone to a better place – including Colin Vaughan and Bob Hunter – drinking Scotch, laughing, and sharing stories about the good old days – almost all of which could never be put in print. I’m glad you’re with friends Mark, but all of us back here on earth will miss you terribly.