Corey Hart and the author
Corey Hart and the author

Corey Hart In Toronto - An Opportunity To Express Gratitude

Sometimes it's all about gratitude.

Corey Hart's return to the big stage with a cross-Canada tour may have offered him an opportunity to reconnect with his fans after 22 years, but on June 14, prior to his show on Toronto's Budweiser Stage, it also gave me a chance - after 33 years - to offer my thanks to him in person as well.

For if it wasn't for Mr. Hart, I might not have secured my first full-time newspaper job.

Let me explain.

The year was 1986 - and Corey Hart was on fire in terms of popularity.  His sophomore album, Boy In The Box, was accelerating towards Diamond status - that's 1m copies sold - and an announced arena tour was selling like hotcakes. One of the venues where tickets had vanished in an instant was  Copps Coliseum in Hamilton., for a Feb. 7 show.

Since 1983, I had freelanced for The Hamilton Spectator as their rock writer, largely covering concerts and doing the occasional interview. I was living in Toronto, but I'd regularly commute to the Hammer, and the Spec was kind enough to give me a desk to sit at while I was visiting.

This was at a time when print newspapers were financially healthy, but their transition into digital tech was very much in its infancy.  For example, the very first computer I ever owned was purchased through the Spec - a T-1000, if I recall. Its total storage capacity - 8 MB.

Anyhow, what is more relevant is how technology affected print - and at that point, it really didn't. Many sections and ads were pre-printed and set in stone a few days prior to publication just to ensure the flow of production. Many of the pre-prints came from the promotion department, which didn't really communicate too often with editorial.

And because of this, the managing editor walked up to me, sweating bullets - the first and only time I'd seen him do this - and showed me his concern. A full-page ad had been prepped and printed announcing that the Spectator would run an exclusive interview with Corey Hart in the entertainment section on the Thursday before the Friday show.

The problem? Promotion hadn't told editorial. Promotion hadn't arranged anything with Hart's people, and the full-page ad announcing the interview couldn't be pulled.

It was Tuesday.

"Can you help us out?" the managing editor pleaded.

I told them I do my best, and placed calls immediately to either Sarah Norris or Rhonda Ross at Capitol EM, Hart's distributor - the memory is a little fuzzy - and I may have also possibly called Keith Brown at Aquarius, Hart's label, and explained the dire situation.

Of course, it was ultimately up to Corey Hart to do the interview.  I can't stress strongly enough how much he didn't have to do it. The tour was sold clean. In most cases, artists on the road begrudgingly did newspaper phoners when ticket sales were soft.  At that point, Hart was the hottest thing on the planet.  No worries there in terms of filling seats.

But Corey Hart graciously agreed to do the interview - I stuck around the Spec to transcribe it and write it up - and we ran the full-page interview on the Thursday.

On Friday, the managing editor breathed a sigh of relief, came to me and told me there was a job opening in September and that I should apply for it. 

And that's how I became a full-time employee of the Hamilton Spectator - thanks to the largesse of Corey Hart.

In the past 30 years, I've seen and reviewed Hart a few times in concert, occasionally interviewed him for different outlets, but we had never met until Friday night, thanks to some strings pulled by my friend Karen Bliss.

It was brief - but it allowed me to thank him in person for his act of kindness that made a life-altering impact.

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