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STAND BY TO LAUGH
by Rob Lindsay

A rare moment captured on tape. Stage Manager Pat McDonald (left, seated) shares a smile with Assistant Stage Manager Al Wylie during a rehearsal.

"Get ready to laugh!" "Stand by to laugh!" "This is funny - so laugh!" If you have ever been to a live taping of Royal Canadian Air Farce, chances are you have heard these words echoing through our CBC studio in downtown Toronto. But who is the maestro behind these fine words of wisdom? Who is this man who frightens everyone into great gales of laughter, yet refuses to even crack a smile himself? To those who know him, he's simply known as Pat. To those who don't, it's Mr. McDonald. Regardless of how he is addressed, you can't miss Air Farce's Stage Manager Pat McDonald, nor would you want to.

If you've haven't had the chance to see Air Farce live, don't feel left out. We guarantee you've seen Pat before. He has quickly become known as the fifth Farceur, after making more than a dozen cameo appearances on the show. If you're not sure which one is Pat, here's a hint. Look for the guy who never smiles, and chances are you've found him.

Standing over six feet tall (six-one with headphones), Pat prowls around the studio floor, clenching his square jaw, looking like a well-toned linebacker seeking his next victim. In actuality, Pat acts as the eyes and ears for Director Perry Rosemond, who calls the shots from the control room over 100 metres away. It is Pat's responsibility to ensure everybody and everything is exactly where the director wants it. Among his many duties, Pat is responsible for coordinating all the sets and decorations, props, lighting, audio, hair, make-up, wardrobe and cast members, so that they all come together in unison, giving the show its polished look week after week. So please excuse Pat if his menacing demeanor frightens you a bit - he just has a lot on his mind.

Pat McDonald started his illustrious television career in 1965 at the popular radio and television station CKLW, located in his home town of Windsor, Ontario. Starting in the mailroom and then becoming an assistant film editor, Pat landed his first Studio Managing job within the year. Overlooking the daily operations of news, sports and variety programming, Pat got his first big break in 1966 when he was in charge of the live studio children's show, "Bozo's Big Top". There wasn't a child with a television set who didn't watch Bozo the Clown, and Pat says he felt honoured to be part of this historical program.

But to many, the late 1960's was a time of Rock & Roll and Motown music, and Pat was no exception. CKLW, owned by RKO General, boasted the third highest radio ratings in the United States - not bad for a Canadian operated station. Most of the "new" sounds were coming from, or through, Detroit (located across the Detroit river from Windsor), so it only seemed natural that CKLW-TV should take advantage of its own resources. In the late 1960's, CKLW started their long running musical series, "Robin Seymour's Swingin' Time". Between 4 and 5 p.m. every weekday, Robin Seymour (a popular radio DJ) hosted the live dance and music show from the Windsor studios. Pat was responsible for overseeing the daily operations of the live studio set, which included a full house of dancing teens. Every day live bands such as The Four Tops, The Four Seasons, Three Dog Night, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Frank Zappa and even a baby-faced Ted Nugent rocked the studio walls. "You name a band and chances are they performed on Swingin' Time," Pat reminisces with a smile. (Yes, that's right, a smile!) "I loved that time. I was able to witness the beginnings of superstars, like The Supremes. They were just little teen-age kids promoting their songs and hardly anyone knew them. Now they're all considered classics."


 

Man's World
Aired: Dec 31, 2000

Olympic Triathlon gold medallist Simon Whitfield survives the ultimate test – an interview with Buck McSweeney.

We tried to get the real Wayne Gretzky for a cameo with Simon Whitfield, but to no avail. Pat McDonald graciously offered his services and stepped in at the last moment.