DEMONTIS: Sun career an absolute thrill ride for this 45-year employee

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Forty-five years ago, I walked through the doors of the Toronto Sun .

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I was young, ridiculously naive and beyond excited. I had no idea my adventures would last almost five decades.

At first, people were curious about the new kid on the block. Andy Donato came over and with a big, friendly smile, welcomed me: “Hi, I’m Andy. I’m Italian, too.” I almost cried.

There was the young, swaggering Mark Bonokoski (Bono) in way-too-tight jeans, intensely dark, darting eyes and a serious mustache. I sat among a bunch of young, good-looking turks — Bono, Peter Young (a genius madman), Paul Mann, Kevin Scanlon and the beloved Jerry Gladman.

I loved the adventures of the late, great Christie Blatchford and Blux the Wonderdog and how he used to sleep, feet up, next to the library. One day John Downing meandered down and huffed at the sight, to which Blatch, without skipping a beat or a key, said “Well, John, if you were hung as well as he is, you’d be doing the same thing.” I think John was speechless for once.

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Rita DeMontis has fond memories of the late Christie Blatchford.
Rita DeMontis has fond memories of the late Christie Blatchford.

Every day was a new adventure. Lions, tigers, even bears, oh my! Or the beautiful dancers from Cats , in full makeup, prancing through the newsroom.

Another day the RCMP showed up, looking to arrest Peter Worthington over a big official secrets debacle threatening the nation’s security (never mind the CBC had already reported on it). But Pierre Elliott Trudeau (yup, his dad) was out for vengeance and wanted Peter’s head on a platter.

Rita DeMontis thoroughly enjoyed working with and learning from Peter Worthington.
Rita DeMontis thoroughly enjoyed working with and learning from Peter Worthington.

Speaking of Peter, I just loved the man. He was a mentor, a giant in the industry, and the most astonishing person — cool as a cucumber, with the driest sense of humour and the kindest heart for me. To have known him was a privilege.

Thanks to the Sun , I’ve interviewed the famous and the infamous, victims of horrific crimes (the late actress Theresa Saldana) and women who killed their abusive husbands. I staked out mobsters (they always sent me out with the great Terry Collins and Cal Millar) and, one time, I trailed a bunch of gypsies, my mother thoughtfully pressing a rosary into my hands before I went out for the hunt.

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  1. Former publisher Doug Creighton holds the first copy of The Toronto Sun on Nov. 1, 1971 with Ray Biggart, Peter Worthington and general manager Don Hunt.

    TORONTO SUN AT 50: A trip down memory lane inside a real-life word factory

  2. George Gross, right, and Doug Creighton were two reasons why a young Steve Simmons regularly read the Toronto Sun in it infancy, long before he entered the world of journalism.

    SIMMONS: 50 years of Toronto Sun sports, a personal journey

I also covered Pope John Paul II’s visit to Canada, both times, checking on all the portal toilets in use during the Pope’s visit. My lede? “Organizers were flushed with pride over the seamless organization of the johnny-on-the-spots.”

Pope John Paul II blesses stroke victim Anthony Ramuschak, 16, of Hamilton, during one of his visits to Toronto.
Pope John Paul II blesses stroke victim Anthony Ramuschak, 16, of Hamilton, during one of his visits to Toronto.

I joined the lifestyle department, then moved to the food section in the early 1990s and interviewed top chefs around the world. Jamie Oliver is now a good friend and I interviewed the late, great Anthony Bourdain so many times he knew me by my first name.

I took over the helm of the lifestyle department locally and nationally and I was able to travel everywhere. It opened so many doors to experiences such as my cooking show, a radio spot on Newstalk 1010, and then my own show on Sirius XM. I was even in an episode of The Walhbergs , good grief.

And there are so many heroes who helped me along, who held out their hands to me and gave me the courage to chase such an insane dream of working in this wonderful, frustrating, insane, heartbreaking and breathtaking word factory where every day is an adventure.

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