Be kind please rewind (stolen from Jane McCullough)

Back in the fall of 1995 I was a recent university grad trolling the employment agencies downtown with my resumé when I heard that the editor of Vox Ian Chiclo was going to be heading up a new “alternative weekly” paper here in Calgary. I had known Ian through CJSW and seeing him at all of the shows so I threw a resumé at him. I had no interview and he hired me without ever telling me that I was hired. After a couple of awkward telephone conversations he told me to start December 1.

Back then the Fast Forward Weekly office was a great space above Megatunes (now defunct record store) on 17th Avenue and Ninth Street S.W. In that amazing little space we had two weeks to put out the first issue. That “we” at the time consisted of Ian Mike Bell Pamela Klaffke Donna Kwan Dana Petts and Bob Grainger our interim sales manager and myself. Mike Ian and Pam scrambled to get content to put into the paper Donna and Dana (bless them) convinced businesses to put their faith and money into buying an ad in a sight-unseen publication (one of our very first ads was for “The Keeper” a reusable menstrual cup). I sat on the floor for the first few days as my desk hadn’t arrived yet and went through the yellow pages cold-calling bars theatres and art galleries trying to convince them that they should fax me their event information for inclusion in a paper that they hadn’t seen or heard of. After two weeks of panic and adrenaline and excitement we published our first issue on Thursday December 14 with a launch party held that evening at Kisaten on First Street S.W. We celebrated the end of a hectic two weeks and the beginning of something that we all knew was pretty special. At one point in the evening I distinctly remember reflecting on this and thinking “Oh shit we have to do all of that all over again!”

We started with a simple concept: to be the alternative voice in Calgary. This meant that we wouldn’t cover the same things you would find in the Herald or the Sun or even on the nightly news. We wouldn’t review concerts because we would rather do a story to get people to go and experience the show themselves not just tell them what they missed. We would promote the arts scene but also make sure that we covered news stories that you maybe wouldn’t have heard about in mainstream media. It wasn’t always well received and we pissed a lot of people off over the years but we also helped our community and made more friends than enemies along the way. It always seemed funny to me that we could put out this awesome product every week that was (fairly) polished well researched and well written when we were having so much fun. As our staff grew (the most fabulous Maureen McNamee joining us a year into the adventure replacing Pam as our City editor; sales rep and burgeoning visual artist Billie Rae Busby formerly Sparrow joined the team) so did the fun and the quality of the paper. We still had to explain to some people who we were and that no we weren’t FLUID we were FFWD but not as often. The paper was becoming a part of the scene and that was cool.

Over the years we had our challenges obviously. The introduction of the Calgary Straight into the market was a bit of a wake-up call for us not to be complacent and to up our game. We had issues with distribution and ad sales (sound familiar?) and staff turnover but we also had some great achievements. Ian sold us on the idea of the Best of Calgary survey and we introduced it in 1998. It has continued to be one of the city’s most anticipated issues and I will never forget the agony of typing in every single survey every single answer myself. For hours. And hours. And loving the weird stuff that you people would come up with every year.

Our office locations shifted from 17th Avenue we moved to a house on 18th Avenue and Second Street S.W. where for the first time our tight little group was broken up a bit with the editorial staff upstairs the sales staff and myself downstairs. Moving away from downtown became a financial necessity so we found ourselves in the Ramsay Design Centre in an office above where we are right now. That office clearly had some sort of crazy conductor action going on since we were struck by lightning one stormy afternoon. All computers were fried then-designer Kris Twyman and I nearly jumped into the kitchen ceiling bits of Ian’s brick wall had exploded and hit him in the head he had a charred brick wall behind him as a result. Needless to say we were wary of storms after that.

In my opinion every staff member over the years owes me at least a bottle of scotch for shielding them from various phone calls and/or unexpected visitors. There’s nothing quite like being on the line for 10 minutes with someone who starts off the conversation wanting to talk to an editor about a story that we had run and then getting into a shouting match with that person demanding that he apologize for calling you an extremely derogatory name just to keep the intended recipient of said phone call from having to deal with it. Drew.

In my time here at FFWD I have been part of a staged retirement party for Mr. Dressup for the CBC I have been on A-Channel’s breakfast television show talking about music I was roped into MC-ing a Cocktail Challenge that we hosted at Hotel Arts (which ended with people fully clothed in the pool. I did not MC that) I have taken part in countless media events and I have met and watched many of my favourite bands. I have this place to thank for that.

It’s hard to get the better part of 20 years down into a brief synopsis and not make it personal when my job here has become part of who I am. It’s difficult for me to see something that I have been a part of from the very beginning come to an end. So in an effort to lighten the mood here’s some fun stuff!


I remember a quiet polite movie pass winner who never said hello to me on the street out of shyness who became one of our most beloved columnists the Video Vulture.

Meeting people who would become my closest friends even to this day. Shout-outs to Jane McCullough Aubrey McInnis Jason Lewis and Kenna Burima. The fact that they all would bring me treats had nothing to do with it.

Hijinx galore. Group hangovers after our Christmas parties when we all lay on the floor of the office until it was time to go for dim sum.

Gathering at the windows of our 17th Ave. location at 3 p.m. to cheer on the tow trucks vs. inattentive illegal parkers.

Parties. Lots of parties.

Mike Bell interviewing Gene Simmons and asking him to talk to me a huge fan afterwards. Five minutes of fun and creepiness as ol’ Gene asked me what I was wearing and what my measurements were and told m how to get backstage.

Breakdance Mondays/pants optional Fridays.

Watching the ladies from the “Massage Studio” above us get taken away in handcuffs. Sad day.

Me writing CD reviews in haiku.

Falling asleep (passing out?) in the washroom at the old Mercury. Lots.

Christmas parties. Best of Calgary parties. Record company parties. Did I mention parties?

Maureen and I buying crazy shit at Shoppers’ Drug Mart while still drunk from a party the night before.

Dancing the polka with Ian at every Oktoberfest party we ever went to.

Graham and I killing “Love Shack” as we all drove to see Spiritualized and Radiohead at the Max Bell.

Mike Bell introducing me to Jagermeister. “I dunno will I like it?” [Editor’s note; the answer is yes.]

Cheap Trick at the Republik.

Going to the R.E.M. soundcheck with Jason Lewis who so kindly took pictures of me Michael Stipe and my shit-eating grin.

Kirsten Kosloski embroidering me an Ace Frehley lunchbag.

Bryn Evans and his amazing Christmas cards.

Making pizza for lunch with Tom Babin (from scratch!) and not sharing with anyone else.

Riding my bike home with Drew and getting hammered on gin at his house.