The Inside Story of Gordon Sinclair
No one knows Sinclair better than egotist Sinclair (excepting Mrs. Sinclair). And when Maclean’s told him to interview himself he said he had a great story there. A scoop, in fact. Follow him from a hobo jungle to the palace of Cooch Behar and see why he’s Canada’s best-known reporter
AT THE HEIGHT of this year’s Channel swimming season a much ballyhooed American schoolgirl, Shirley May France, went to England to splash the gap and quickly fell afoul of the newspapers. The chunky mermaid (who didn’t make it) spent her 17th birthday sobbing that she was homesick and didn’t like England.
Reading this as a news item over Toronto’s CFRR, trouble-loving Gordon Sinclair couldn’t help but blurt: “Okay Shirley, if it makes you
feel happier, I don’t like England either.”
A moment later the switchboard spluttered. Over the next several hours it stayed red while bored operators drew abuse and insult in dialects ranging from Cockney to Cornish to Chester. For several days sponsors put smoothies to work with honeyed words.
To demands for apology Sinclair yawned some-
thing about liberty of opinion and to requests for further dope said there was none. He’d been to England at least a dozen times, he said, and didn’t like the place.
“Shucks,” he added, “why should I like England? Plenty of people don’t like Canada; thousands don’t like me. Do Canadians get heated up? Do I worry?”
Sinclair is a Canadian who is used to being in the middle of a rhubarb. He likes it. He has been in more arguments than an umpire, called a liar more often than Ripley and suffered a broken nose three separate times at the hands of vexed readers.
He’s been on the carpet in such faraway places as Bangkok and Mandalay, Rangoon and Mexico. He’s been sued for $120,000 and lost every action by out-of-court settlement. In each case the money has been paid by the Toronto Star without so much as a reprimand although the same paper once fired him for speaking over the air against orders.
This Sinclair was born, raised, educated and
married in Toronto where his four children were born. The only daughter, first female of the clan in 56 years, died there at Christmas, 1942, after an illness of only 17 hours.
From Toronto Sinclair has spied out the world and from the world come home to what he thinks is the best city on earth. He is Canada’s most traveled reporter and one of the least popular. As a reporter who never was, never can and never wants to be either editor or publisher he’s probably Canada’s richest but he seldom lends or gives money to anybody. In many ways he’s a man without sympathy, feeling, or religious belief, but he’s a good reporter.
He cheerfully admits that he wears loud sports jackets because “I’m in show business.” Many people consider him vain but the only qualifying sentence in his one-paragraph will insists that no stone shall mark his grave.
For six years he’s been broadcasting news over CFRB where President Harry Sedgwick says,
“Sinclair gets us into more brawls than all other newscasters combined because he’s always tossing salty opinions. Gordon’s built up the biggest daytime audience of them all. It’s usually a feminine audience. One day he was talking about the new spring hats using all the milliner’s technicalities. Then he turned true Sinclair and blurted, ‘To me they mostly look like spittoons.’ That caused a hullabaloo and lost a good sponsor we never did get back.”
Just three months ago Sinclair was at the Canadian National Exhibition doing a roundup. With an open microphone he approached GovernorGeneral Lord Alexander and asked if the fieldmarshal would like to say a few pleasant words about the fair just before doing the official formalities.
“Well, really, I couldn’t,” Lord Alexander said. “That would really be advertising the exhibition and I couldn’t do that now, could I?”
“Well, why not?” said Sinclair. “Isn’t that what you came here for? Isn’t that the immediate job —to advertise the exhibition? What else has your Excellency come here to do?”
This directness pays off by giving Sinclair one of the biggest and most loyal audiences in Canada but sometimes the audience puts up a big fuss.
Sinclair’s jobs have included banking, bookkeeping, perfume, calendars, tires, reporting and radio in that order and he’s been fired from every job he ever held. It’s possible he holds the Toronto .Star record for firings, having been given the heave-ho 10 times.
The last time was in 1943 when the Star gave him $5,000 in cash to get out and stay out. Six years later they handed him an air ticket and an assignment to fly around the world by any route he liked. During that trip he was one of the last
out of Shanghai before the Communists came and one of the few Canadians in Berlin when the Russians lifted their blockade.
He has seen men die by shooting, drowning, burning, hanging and earthquake. He’s covered wars, revivals, strikes, sinkings and art shows.
He’s visited a dozen nudist camps, interviewed such celebrities as Hitler, Gandhi, Roosevelt, Queen Elizabeth and the Pope and he was the last living man to speak with adventurer Richard Haliburton.
He swam in the Ganges, drifted down the Nile, crossed the Jordan, and posed beside the Suwanee, the Rhine and the Wabash faraway.
A Rare Nose for Adventure
HE’S VISITED nearly every country on earth and traveled by all kinds of transport from rickshaw to railway, from dog team to cable car and from bum boat to luxury liner.
Sinclair has twice fallen from boats in the middle of big lakes, twice been forced down in planes and once hit by a train going a mile a minute. He has three times found dead bodies.
A free lance in the cut-throat fields of writing and radio Sinclair is considered arrogant by many and cocky by most.
Gerald Brown, the city editor under whom Sinclair served longer than any other, puts it this way: “Sinclair could have been Canada’s greatest newspaper reporter. He wasn’t because he never absorbed the necessary iron discipline of the newsroom. As an individualist and a career rebel he was incapable of fully competent professional treatment of a story which did not whip up his
personal interest. On such a story any enthusiastic junior reporter could eclipse him. That trait made Sinclair in his newspaper days a heavy burden for any editor to carry.
“But on a story which sparked the eternal cub in the Sinclair make-up he could bring joy to his time-harried bosses. Fortunately that was most of the time. As one who on occasion suspiciously challenged and cross-checked the accuracy of some hair-raising Sinclair article I should like to vouch for his conscientious accuracy. Sinclair sees events through a special pair of eyes. And he has a rare nose for adventure. Things happen when Sinclair is around.”
Among the challenged stories Brown mentions is Sinclair’s scoop on the scuttling of the German pocket battleship Graf Spee.You remember that ship, chased into Montevideo, had to sail out of the harbor toward the guns of three much smaller British warships on December 17, 1939. On the chance that officials of the British Consulate would be watching the action Sinclair telephoned the South American city, got the consul personally on the wire and as he stood at the window watching the ship scuttle, the British official gave a firsthand account to Sinclair in Toronto.
When the story was turned in to the desk a subeditor was assigned to call Montevideo again to see if Sinclair had in truth been talking to the consul. The whole result had seemed a bit too good to be true. The surprised consul said, “Certainly he was talking to me. Why did you ask?”
Of Sinclair’s immediate family there were 14 males: four born in Canada, 10 in the U. S. He likes to puncture American razzle-dazzle by pointing out that the four Canadians could buy and sell their 10 American cousins.
Cont. on page 39
Continued from page 13
“I’m a Canadian and glad of it and I like being well known,” he says. “Pick up Canada’s biggest newspaper and you can read me; listen to the strongest independent station in British radio and you’ll hear me; visit libraries and you’ll find some or all of my books. Thumb through the leading magazines and you’ll see my name. Why should I leave home?”
Sinclair was the first reporter sent around the world by a Canadian paper and he made the circuit four times, each by a different route. He hopes to go again with a tape recorder.
He stands five-foot seven, weighs 160 lb., and has blue-grey eyes which his three sons say are hard as steel. He has more hair on his chest than on his oval-shaped head and pays lip service to such sports as hunting, fishing and golf though his only serious hobby is home movies. (He makes regular movies of all his children.) To the delight of many he thinks he’s a shrewd poker player but pals use another six-letter word which also begins with “s.”
Currently he breeds dachshunds, but from time to time he’s raised rabbits, chickens, goldfish, canaries and love birds. He’s given away several hundred of these but never sold one.
He likes oysters fried, raw or in stew, rare beef, chicken sandwiches, beef stew and soups, but hates eating anything alone. He thinks the Chinese are the world’s best cooks, the French the most attractive women and the Italians the most carefree of peoples. If he’s ever a lonely widower he’ll probably live in Italy or France.
Financially, Sinclair is an oddity among reporters because he could lay hands on $100,000 without borrowing a nickel, within a month. He has a mortgage-free home and summer place, two cars, a boat, part of an island and good stocks. He has followed an investment policy since 1932 and it’s pretty simple: “Never buy unless they pay a dividend; sell the instant the dividend is passed.”
He earns about $375 a week and rejects another $60 to $75 by refusing to make speeches. This should make him look like a financial success but he Is now, and has been for 15 years, in debt to the Bank of Montreal. Choosing to make the bank a whiplash and goad across his own back he takes pride in the ability to borrow and is never free of debt.
But being a financial success sometimes divides homes. At radio station CFNB in Fredericton is Gordon Sinclair, Jr., who has this to say, “Dad kept hammering at us at home that a man had to do his own job, make his own decisions and live his own life. So here 1 am doing just that and he objected right down the line. Didn’t want me to go into radio, didn’t want me to leave Ontario, didn’t want me to marry at 21. Well 1 did . . . and I’m not sorry.”
The big red Sinclair home is on the banks of a creek to the west of Toronto. Acquaintances seeing this for the first time say it can’t possibly be his. “Hey look—no billboard; no Neon sign. Must be some other Sinclair.” There Is a small aluminum name plate on the garage door, placed there years before the street was numbered. “Hap” Day, who coaches the Maple Leafs, lives seven doors away and they meet about five times every 10 years.
Three years ago, along with six other men, Sinclair was a candidate for director of his golf club and finished
last. It’s said that he got no votes whatever. Many nongolfers find him equally resistible.
The trigger-tempered Gordon Sinclair was born on a Sunday while the wolves howled 200 yards away and disturbed the doctor’s horse tethered outside.
But this was no homey little cabin deep in a forest clearing. Sinclair’s birthplace was on Toronto’s Carlton Street, five doors from the gate of the Riverdale Zoo where there were plenty of hungry wolves. They usually let go with mournful howls about 7 in the evening. At that time on the evening of June 3, 1900, young Gordon joined in the chorus.
That was in the home of his grandfather, a flour miller named Albert Robert Eesley. The next day Alexander (“Sandy”) Sinclair went to the city hall aboard one of those new electric streetcars to register his first-born as Gordon Allan Sinclair. The future reporter was 21 before he discovered that, on the official record, his first name was not Gordon but Allan. Nobody has ever called him Allan.
A Drowning on Yonge Street
His one memory of the Carlton Street house was the Saturday night when friends brought the owner home dead. Granddad Eesley had been drowned on Yonge Street, and we do mean street. He’d fallen into a horse trough outside a pub and there he died while his drunken pals laughed as though it were a grand joke. There were few phones and no taxis in those days so the pals carried Eesley home and placed him, without advance notice, inside the front door. He didn’t leave a dime but he did leave 10 children.
By the time school age came around the Sinclairs had moved to the east side of Riverdale Park and Gordon was enrolled at Bolton School. His turbulent career started soon afterward when he was expelled by Principal R. J. Blaney at the demand of a plump schoolmistress.
On the day of reinstatement there was a lot of philosophical chatter about futures in which Blaney predicted, “This boy will one day earn $5,000 a year.” In those times they might as well have said, “This here gaffer will fly to the moon.”
With home on one side of the 200 and grandma on the other, young Sinclair frequently crossed the park. Once he saw a keeper torn to pieces by an infuriated bear. Another time he watched a leopard escape.
Bolton School was followed by Riverdale Collegiate. It was 1915. When a former classmate, Melbourne Passmore, then a junior in the Bank of Nova Scotia, enlisted he was asked to suggest a youth to take his place. Sinclair got the nod.
Ten months later Sinclair was fired for accidentally hitting the manager with a wet counting sponge. He went to Eaton’s as a punk in the bookkeeping end and promptly got the heave-ho for sassing a customer.
Next he tried to sell outrageous perfume. Few sales; no job. Soon afterward the perfume boss blew his brains out, but that’s mere coincidence. Calendars followed and Sinclair was fired for criticizing such higher art. Rubber came next. One of the reasons why the Sinclair books failed to jell in the rubber emporium was a blond and buxom switchboard girl named Gladys Elizabeth Prewett. In 18 months Gladys will celebrate her silver anniversary as Mrs. You Know Who.
At the time of this bookkeeping courtship Sinclair was playing hockey in a church league of little consequence.
He was indignant when the team’s games never drew publicity. The rickety old Toronto Star building was a block from the rubber office Sinclair went there to try and learn the why of this neglect.
Sports editor W. A. Hewitt explained that he had no reporters to send to such small games but if Sinclair chose to write the stuff it would be printed. What’s more he’d be paid.
Thereafter the Hope Church team was never overlooked and a spindly kid named Sinclair began to taste the thrill of seeing his deathless prose in print.
In March 1923, when the outdoor hockey season ended, Sinclair decided that this writing dodge was built to measure for his free-wheeling style so he asked the Star for a job as reporter.
In response came a letter from H. C. Hindmarsh, then city editor and now president, to name an interview date for Thursday. The letter was dated Monday but was not received until Thursday noon. The budding reporter did a headlong race for the Star building and asked the elevator man where to find this guy Hindmarsh.
“Why,” came the reply, “that’s Mr. Hindmarsh there.”
A giant looking like a sergeant of the Prussian Guards stood puffing a cigar the general size and outline of a prize cucumber. Sinclair cisked if he was Hindmarsh and was ignored. He asked again and the cigar walked away with Sinclair in pursuit.
The pursuit resulted in a job that carried him to the world’s far places, and frequent tenancy in the Star’s doghouse. Hindmarsh has since fired and hired Sinclair as many times as either have fingers but there’s no hard feeling either way.
On his opening morn as a cub reporter Sinclair got the absent treatment for an hour or so and was then summoned by a dusky deskman who said, “There’s a man on Robert Street keeps monkeys. One of his monkeys has just died. It was a male and this chap says the female monkey nursed this sick one like crazy. Rocked him, crooned to him, fed him and all that. Go up and see if it’s true. If so get a picture of the surviving monkey. We don’t want a story—just cut lines for the picture.”
Photographer Fred Foster picked up flash powder and a camera about the size of a truck and he and Sinclair went forth on the first assignment in a noisy career.
The monkey owner said he wouldn’t allow flash powder to be put off in his monkey’s face.
Hemingway Had Had Enough
Sinclair knew just where to find plenty of monkeys. He’d been born and raised beside their cages. So that night a monkey’s picture appeared with a touching little story about simian illness, and the owner came storming down to demand explanations.
Thus the Star editorial board became conscious of a cocksure cub who now took to reading everything he could lay hands on about news work. His favorite, then as now, was H. L. Mencken.
At that time the Star had no sob sisters or feminine editors. After two years, to his great surprise, Sinclair became woman’s editor. He was the worst in Canada, but it was several years afterward—when he tried his hand at sports wi-iting—that he discovered how it felt to be really bad. Happily he was fired from both jobs and put to general reporting.
He helped cover a story about the Japanese earthquake of 1923 with Ernest Hemingway, who was already
becoming known as a writer of short stories. Soon afterward the Star decided to buy whatever animal the children of Toronto would vote upon —through coupons in the paper—as a gift to the zoo.
A baby elephant was the popular choice and a task force of reporters and photographers was assigned to glorify Stella the pachyderm. Then, hating to drop such a profitable stunt, the Star decided to buy a white peacock too because this bird had been second choice in the voting.
Hemingway was ordered to beat the drums for this peacock and indignantly resigned with what was probably the longest, wordiest and most brilliant resignation in the history of journalism. This resignation, about 18 feet long, was pasted to the staff notice board, in relays, by admiring juniors of whom one was Sinclair. None realized that had the paper been kept it could now have been sold for the price of a new car. When Stella died of rickets Sinclair tenderly wrote her obit which ran two columns.
For about three years Sinclair was a picture snatcher. Once, in the course of seeking a picture of a missing murderer, he found another victim, crawling with maggots, to add to the killer’s chain. Once he snatched the wrong picture which was printed with subsequent uproar and twice he callously photographed corpses. To make them lifelike he pinned their eyes open but the editor was not deceived and the pictures were never used.
The turning point of his rough-andtumble career came in 1929 when a hobo jungle on Toronto’s outskirts was raided by police who scooped up more than 100 vagrants.
Editor Hindmarsh decided no city would detain so many drifters so assigned a reporter to go with these bums when they were ordered out of town. Sinclair accidentally drew the assignment.
Boots Sinclair Goes to Sea
That night he linked up with a small group headed by a noisy sailor and they crossed the U. S. border in the empty ice compartment of a refrigerator car. But on the third day Sinclair got into an argument with the sailor over whether the Himalayas were in India or Australia. The sailor attacked Sinclair with a stick, opened a gash over his eye, and by evening time the Star’s hobo reporter was on a rattler headed for home.
Satisfied that he had no story he wrote nothing, took a day off then reported to his desk. But Dave B. Rogers, editor of that day, took one look at the mouse over Sinclair’s eye and persuaded him to write something.
So the story of the journey with bums was put down and left in the editor’s mailbox. Sinclair went home and dug in his garden. The story was not printed and nobody was surprised.
But a day or so afterward Fred Davis, later to become famed as the original photographer of Papa Dionne’s five daughters, came and said, “Hey, Sinclair, what have you been up to? I’m to take your picture.”
Sinclair looked in his own assignment box and there was the hobo story returned: “H. C. H. likes this. Please break it up into six installments and hand them back soonest. D. B. R.”
The story was broken into four parts (one for each day of the journey) and printed on page one. But it ended abruptly just as the bums were planning to head for England.
“How come?” asked various readers. “Why didn’t this man continue? It was interesting.”
Sinclair was paraded, shown the
letters, told: “Start out again tonight. Catch up with those boys. Sail to England.”
Sinclair never did see his boxcar companions again but he wangled a job as assistant boots aboard the Laurentie, brushed aside certain union difficulties, and found the job the softest possible because nobody can get their boots dirty at sea. He landed in Liverpool on a rainy midsummer day, was soon coughing and spluttering in one of the countless tunnels which make rod riding impossible in Britain.
To wind up that trip he went to Germany which was just beginning to emerge from a postwar stupor. Then the plot repeated itself. Returning unheralded from Germany he found letters from old pal Pro Bono Publico demanding why he hadn’t stayed on to tour Germany.
So back to Germany he went, and the news career which was soon to become the most far-flung in Canadian records was well launched.
It was no longer hobo stuff but firstclass, and by 1932 visits with such personalities as the exotic Maharanee of Cooch Behar were part of the glamour.
“Just a Glamour-Struck Kid’’
Typical of the reaction to Sinclair’s first visit to India is the comment of Sergeant Sean O’Duffy, late of the King’s Own Liverpool Yeomanry.
“That lying rat. I have positive information that when Sinclair was supposed to be floating down the Ganges on a wood burner’s barge he was holed up in the Palliser Hotel at Calgary. He never so much as saw India.”
Or this from Corporal Donald MacDonald, of the Gordon Highlanders. “I was stationed with the regiment in the Khyber Pass throughout 1932 and 1933. 1 was corporal of the guard right on the pass gate at Landhi Kholal. No man, woman or ghost could go through the pass unless 1 knew about it. Well this here Sinclair wrote hundreds of pieces about Khyber tribesmen and I agree with Sergeant O’Duffy—the man’s a fake and a phony.”
Sinclair has a collection of more than 1,000 such bristling epistles.
He also has such personal documents as letters of credit, passports and registered letter receipts. These show the exact day on which he was in every city he claimed to be in. The sergeants and corporals have not bothered to accept invitations to examine these papers. Nor have the countless anonymous writers whose label is “Indignant,” “Britisher,” or “Truth Will Out.”
During spells between the exoticspice gardens of the Orient, the prison stockades of Devil’s Island, or the gold camps of Yellowknife, Sinclair spent much time, cooling off, in the Star’s spacious doghouse. The technique seemed to be that the man was getting swelled-headed and the way to whittle him down to size was have him write meetings of the ladies’ aid, obituaries of pious but obscure citizens and promotion about photogenic terriers or trained seals.
The firings were usually done during these restless periods between trips. A fellow reporter describes it this way with uncanny accuracy:
“Gord Sinclair likes to kid himself he’s a colorful and independent personality, but the fact is he’s a glamourstruck kid who fell passionately in love with that Jezebel the Toronto Daily Star. This has been the motivating force in his life. Evidence: The Star made Sinclair happy by sending him round the world. Then, like any lover,
he got enough of it, refused to hop from India to Ethiopia, returned to spend Christmas with his family (really to show he could take his lady love or leave her), was ordered to go to Ethiopia anyway, gave in and went. Felt like a fool coming on stage so late, rebelled again and came home. Got what he was looking for. Hindmarsh fired him by letter this time, and it stuck. Now he’s gone back to her. It’s strictly a commercial proposition with the old gal, but again he has demonstrated that he can’t keep away from her.”
Of the 23 foreign journeys undertaken during an unbroken spell of 11 years Sinclair lists five weeks on Devil’s Island as the most profitable because it gave him a syndication of about 300 papers. Most of his trips have resulted in syndication of about 20 Canadian papers plus some in Britain, Australia and Africa.
His most successful book, “Footloose in India,” was written in 19 days and Sinclair hasn’t read it to this minute. Oddly enough the Devil’s Island articles, as a book, were a disappointing flop.
His most frustrating journey was the one to Ethiopia mentioned above. When the Star threw him out that time he wrote advertising, helped Foster Hewitt by doing the ’tween - periods chatter on the coast-to-coast hockey games and made the horrifying discovery that he was expected to keep regular hours.
Then Lou Marsh, colorful sports editor of the Star, died and Sinclair rejoined the paper as sports reporter. Only one good thing happened during 18 months. In covering a golf tournament Sinclair got into a crap game where he went broke, smoked 100 cigarettes and got stinko on gin. That was 12 years ago and he’s never smoked, shot crap, used gin or gone broke since.
He was one of the lamest sports writers in the history of ink and eventually pleaded for a chance to regain the carefree spirit by going with hobos again. The Star cut his pay 40% and turned him loose. Sinclair headed for Florida, spent two idle weeks there then heard of a gold rush at Yellowknife and went north. He talked to the pioneers of that camp from Paine to Ingraham, to Thompson to Lundmark, and eventually crossed the Pacific to visit such Manchurian cities as Harbin, Mukden, and Manchouli. There he crossed a wooden bridge into Siberia but after eight hours the Russians sent him south again.
Gee! He Knows Winchell
He spent the spring of 1939 in Pekin and later joined Richard Haliburton (“The Royal Road to Romance”) in Kowloon. There he got instructions to come back to Canada and help cover the cross-country tour of the King and Queen.
Twenty minutes before sailing he was aboard Haliburton’s junk, Sea Dragon, and the two vessels cast off at the same moment. Sinclair was to cross the Pacific aboard the biggest liner on that ocean and Haliburton in a small junk. Only one made it. Sinclair was the last man living to photograph the worried adventurer.
Walter Winchell, whom he knows personally, has labeled Sinclair “Richard Haliburton with a man’s voice.” Sinclair has twice been guest conductor of the Winchell column.
Sinclair’s blond and chunky wife sometimes carries a picket against him, charging egotism, laziness and extravagancequalities seldom found in the same personality.
“He’s been lucky,” she scoffs. “Sinc-
lair was sent to Europe 20 years ago and he’s been cashing in on that trip ever since. The many subsequent journeys to such weird spots as Borneo, Arabia, Togoland and heaven knows where else were just afterthoughts. He became a big shot in his own mind when he got off the Laurentie, in England, in 1929.
“It gives me a laugh to hear him telling the boys about self-reliance, standing on your own feet and asking no favors. My Dad gave him a piece of land on which he built a house, then lent him the money to get the roof on. After that his parents helped us furnish the place. A moneylender put up the rest at 7.%%. When Mr. Atkinson of the Star heard about that outrageous interest he took over the mortgage and collected the money from Gordon’s pay. Then he gave him a raise to make up for the deductions.
“When we moved to the house we live in now it was my idea. I selected the land on the golf course with a clean creek at the back door. Then I got an architect to draw up the plans and all Gordon did was sign some papers. He was off in Venice swimming in that Lido.
“Another thing that irritates me is all that talk about being Scottish. He’s no more Scottish than Stalin is. He was born in Toronto of a Canadian father and an American mother, but he’s always buying up tartans, cairngorms and heather. This year at the Exhibition some woman showed him a kilt in the Sinclair tartan so he bought the thing. It will make a nice feed for the moths.
Stooges and Boffo Chuckles
“Usually he’s pretty generous, but sometimes he gets into one of those ‘we gotta be careful’ streaks. There was a Christmas when he didn’t know what to give me, or maybe he didn’t think at all. Anyhow at the last minute he comes in with a couple of $100 Victory Bonds. A few months later he says he’s going to trade in the hundreds and buy a $1,000 bond, so where do you suppose the thousand went? Into his deposit box, that’s where !
“When the war ended he went around to different dealers ordering cars. After a few months he got a Chevrolet and then came one of those big Studebakers, a ‘land cruiser.’ He bought that, too, and gave me the Chev. About a year later he says he’s got a real nice treat. It’s a new Studebaker, only to get it he has to deal in the Chevy . . . sign here. So 1 sign and the new Studebaker comes, a green one. But whose name is it in? . . . his name! The man’s an Indian giver.
“And that stuff he spouts about hard
work and always thinking of the main chance. Man and boy that Sinclair never worked regular hours in his life. At first he’d start working at 7 in the morning and sometimes he’d work at night, too, but he was free every afternoon. Then he got interested in shows and started writing for that slap-dash show paper called Variety.
“He went around acting like a critic. He called people hicks, flesh peddlers, flaks, stooges, straight men, and all that lingo of show business. Everybody was laying eggs, rolling ’em in the aisles, or making with boffo chuckles —whatever they are.
A Cadillac for Redheads
“He had passes to everything and thought it smart to bring showgirls home here. Had a Cadillac, too, and clothes that shone up like forest fires. He still wears clown clothes and has at least 20 jackets. One day he landed in here with a big redheaded woman. We had a little car then besides this green Cadillac with all the chrome. This day I was driving the green car so he comes in and says he wants it because this redhead is Aimee Semple Macpherson the big evangelist and he’s driving her to Ingersoll where she was born, or something.
“Well, I say he’s plumb mad and if this is Aimee Macpherson I’m Cleopatra. The big redhead laughs like crazy and they go out in the kitchen where she whips up a few Martinis and I’m blowed if she didn’t turn out to be Mrs. Macpherson after all.
“But 1 was talking about the few years when he used to go downtown at 7. For the past 10 years he’s never been out of bed before 9 unless he had a fishing date or maybe golf, and he’s off doing the town by 2 in the afternoon.
“What writing Gordon does comes so easy to him that you can’t believe it. I remember a day last July when we were up at the cottage and it started to rain so there wasn’t much to do. He sat down at a typewriter and put three articles together before suppertime. Sold them all.
“I know he didn’t get that gift for fast writing out of a Christmas stocking. He got it from reading. That’s probably the feature about my husband that most people overlook, especially the many who don’t like him. He reads for hours. He reads in bed, at meals, in moving cars or trains or planes. He looks things up, too, and has big dictionaries, books of synonyms, year books and an encyclopedia.
“Another thing he reads a lot is the Bible, but he doesn’t believe all of it and sometimes says so in the wrong places. That leads to arguments too, but when that kind of hullabaloo gets going I leave. Life’s too short.”