The man with a line for ev­ery oc­ca­sion, ex­cept his fi­nal one

Ottawa Citizen - - CITY - DAVE BROWN

At the Academy Awards show of 1976, an Ottawa film com­pany won for best doc­u­men­tary fea­ture ( The Man Who Skied Down Ever­est) and, in ac­cept­ing the award, the com­pany owner-founder dropped a one-liner.

“This is an Amer­i­can award for a Cana­dian film about a Ja­panese ad­ven­turer who skied down a moun­tain in Nepal.”

The line was spo­ken by Frank “Budge” Craw­ley, but in­sid­ers sus­pected then, and still do, that it was cre­ated by Craw­ley Films gen­eral man­ager Graeme Fraser. Recog- nized in­ter­na­tion­ally as a skilled com­mu­ni­ca­tor, he was a firm be­liever in brevity, and de­vel­oped one-lin­ers as at­ten­tion grab­bers.

Robert Graeme Fraser died last week at the age of 94. His brother, Keith, in his eu­logy ex­pressed sur­prise that Graeme hadn’t left notes and one-lin­ers for his own fu­neral. To those who knew Mr. Fraser, it meant he prob­a­bly thought he was go­ing to sur­vive the bro­ken hip. There were com­pli­ca­tions.

He died at The Ottawa Hospi­tal’s Civic cam­pus, days af­ter be­ing ad­mit­ted af­ter a fall. He joked with paramedics when they picked him up at his west-side home, say­ing he would ac­cept a ride only to “my” hospi­tal. Af­ter 13 years as a trus­tee on the Civic board, he had a right to claim some own­er­ship.

Raised in the Glebe, he was an ar­tillery of­fi­cer in the Sec- ond World War and sur­vived the hard go­ing from the beaches of Nor­mandy through France, Bel­gium and Hol­land.

Hav­ing been too close too of­ten to ex­plo­sions, his hear­ing failed in later life and it was con­sid­ered a war in­jury.

He was a pi­o­neer of me­dia re­la­tions, from the days it was called pub­lic re­la­tions. His skill in that field helped Craw­ley grow to be Canada’s big­gest film pro­duc­tion com­pany. In 1982, it was sold and be­came Atkin­son Film Art.

Pub­lic re­la­tions is the art of build­ing a pos­i­tive im­age for a com­pany or a cause, and get­ting space in main­stream me­dia through news, rather than ad­ver­tis­ing.

That meant at­tract­ing the at­ten­tion of re­porters, and that meant putting out in­vi­ta­tions to an open bar.

There were dif­fer­ences to a Craw­ley in­vi­ta­tion. It meant one would not be wast­ing one’s time. Mr. Fraser didn’t pour drinks un­less there was a mes­sage worth the trip. A dap­per man, he was also a mas­ter shmoozer.

Keith de­scribed his brother, seven years older, as a mas­ter sales­man, with a hu­mour he called “wag­gish.”

As a 45-year Ro­tary Club mem­ber, Graeme could claim he, as pres­i­dent, presided over the best turnout the club ever had at a reg­u­lar meet­ing.

He sat down days ear­lier and wrote a per­sonal note to ev­ery mem­ber, telling them they were ex­pected to be in the re­ceiv­ing line at the meet­ing. He just didn’t tell them which side of the line.

While at Craw­ley’s he pro­duced a monthly news bul­letin. It was mailed to a se­lect list of 3,500, and it was well read. He used gags and one-lin­ers scat­tered through the com­pany news, forc­ing read­ers to be care­ful or miss a grin­ner/groaner. His vol­un­teerism was epic. Over the years he served as pres­i­dent of the United Way, Cana­dian Club, Civic Hospi­tal, Cana­dian Film and Tele­vi­sion As­so­ci­a­tion, Cana­dian Ad­ver­tis­ing and Sales Fed­er­a­tion, Ottawa Vis­i­tors and Con­ven­tion Bureau, and Red Cross. That’s only a par­tial list.

He was in­vited to Rus­sia to speak on film pro­duc­tion, and in re­tire­ment taught pub­lic speak­ing and pub­lic re­la­tions. He was busy as a mas­ter of cer­e­monies at for­mal events, and as snap­shots of his life played at the Hulse, Play­fair & McGarry main chapel Fri­day, they showed he spent a lot of time in tuxe­dos and din­ner jack­ets.

Peo­ple he shared space with in those pho­tos in­cluded Prince Charles, Prince Philip, Roland Mich­ener, Pierre Trudeau, and the peo­ple most im­por­tant to him — his fam­ily, which in­cluded many grand­chil­dren and great-grand­chil­dren.

He had a knack for mak­ing the mun­dane mem­o­rable. For a hand­shake, he of­ten used his left hand. Meet­ing him for the first time could be a sur­prise and most of us who ex­pe­ri­enced it would take back the right hand and ex­tend the left, think­ing he had a prob­lem.

But he would pull you close and ex­plain. “For peo­ple I like or want to be friends, I use the left hand. It’s closer to the heart.”

Over the years as a colum­nist I used many of his puns and one­lin­ers, al­ways giv­ing credit. They were orig­i­nal or there would have been com­plaints. Some sam­ples:

Re­tire­ment takes all the fun out of Satur­days … One Mensa mem­ber to an­other: “Who was that I saw you out­wit last night?” … There’s a dis­ease so rare doc­tors haven’t de­cided what to charge for it … By the time we can af­ford to lose golf balls, we can’t hit far enough to lose them … Bach­e­lors are like de­ter­gents. They work fast and leave no rings … If looks could kill, many would die with bridge cards in their hands ... Husbands have to learn to stay calm, cool and cor­rected … Love is grand. Di­vorce is 100 grand … Bored? Write a short story us­ing al­pha­bet soup.


Along with be­ing a mas­ter PR man, Graeme Fraser gave much of his time to a long list of char­i­ta­ble causes. He died last week at the age of 94.

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