• Aimee Spencer Tiemann

Wayne Crouse got the beat, then he got a beatdown

Wayne Crouse got the beat, then he got a beatdown by famous girl group, The Go-Go’s. He befriended a hockey rookie who became “The Great One.” He went from big city to rural countryside. His world has been an adventure since the first time he sat down at a typewriter.

Media in the 60’s

“The media landscape was large in the 60’s,” Crouse recollected. “There was an array of publications from daily to weekly. There were so many magazines, newspapers and other publications that Americans trusted in to get their news.”

Crouse started at the Dearborn Guide, in Dearborn, Michigan, in the late 60’s right out of high school. In 1967, there was a strike and readers went without daily papers.

“My boss at the time, respected journalist Bob Ross, joined a group that started a paper called the Detroit Daily Dispatch,” Crouse said. “This paper gave readers in the area what they wanted, the chance to keep up with the news. This paper gave reporters what they wanted, a place to work for strike-idled reporters and editors. It was amazing to be the editor of this publication working alongside some of Detroit’s best journalists.”

Crouse ended up going to the Michigan Consolidated Gas company to start learning the other side of storytelling, public relations (PR). As much as he liked the company, the journalist in him couldn’t be silenced, and he quickly found himself at The Detroit Free Press covering sports.

He threw a bat, the player ducked, and the world went wild for baseball – and Crouse found his first big headline

“I can still remember when my first big story hit,” Crouse stated. “There was a fight in 1972 at the baseball playoffs. Oakland A’s short stop Bert Campaneris had a meltdown and threw his bat at a Detroit Tiger’s reliever Lerrin LeGrawn.

“The story became a huge controversy, ringing around the world,” he continued. “It’s funny, when you’re writing the story, you just think you’re covering the news. You have no idea of the magnitude and the history you’re writing until it’s released in the paper.”

Crouse did what most men at this time did. He went on to get married and have children. He also continued to rise as a reporter. His rise wasn’t a straight line though. He moved to London, Ontario, Canada, to work at the London Free Press.

Crossing the border to a bigger chapter

After he was there, a temporary position in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, became available. It was this position that led to him becoming a household name as the columnist of Page8 in The Edmonton Sun.

“I got a call about a temporary position in Edmonton to work for a magazine covering the Commonwealth Games,” Crouse recollected. “The Commonwealth Games were bigger than the Olympics. I spent three months, working day and night. I’d start at the crack of dawn covering the games for the day, which go on for several hours. At night, I was responsible for hitting all the major parties, red carpet events, and other Commonwealth-curated gatherings. I slept four hours a day, but never felt tired. The adrenaline and excitement kept me going.”

As Crouse was going to return to Ontario, he was tipped off by a friend that a new paper was coming to town called The Edmonton Sun.

“After spending the three months in Edmonton covering the Commonwealth Games, I fell in love with the city,” Crouse said. “I went to the paper and asked if they needed help. They did and I started as an editor. After a short time, I was named Sports Editor. This is when I met ‘The Great One,’ however, I just called him ‘Wayne.’”

I was there when Wayne Gretzky stepped on the ice for the very first time in Edmonton

“I remember getting a call from a PR person at the Edmonton Oilers,” Crouse recollects. “Of course, there was a person on the other side of the phone promising dreams of grandeur, explaining I was about to watch history be made throughout the season. I reluctantly went to the arena to watch this 18-year-old supposedly go where no other hockey player had gone before.”

As the season continued, it was obvious Wayne Gretzky was a fire on the ice that no hockey fan had ever witnessed before.

“The way Gretzky played was mind blowing,” Crouse said. “Just when you thought he couldn’t get any better, he became amazing. To boot, Gretzky was the nicest, most down-to-earth athlete I had ever met, and he never let the success spoil him. He was humble. He was grateful. Even though he was an all-star, he never discounted the talent of the team around him. He’s the kind of guy you were happy to call a friend.”

Crouse and Gretzky formed a friendship. Gretzky always made sure Crouse and his son had tickets to the games. When Gretzky started dating his girlfriend, Vicki Moss, a young Canadian pop star topping the music charts, he introduced his new love to Crouse. In fact, Gretzky and Moss would often double date with Crouse and his wife.

And then Page8 happened

“I thought my career couldn’t get any better, and then it did,” Crouse said. “In 1980, a job opened for a columnist and I took it.”

Page8 was the name of the column, based on the page it appeared in the newspaper. The column began as mix of commentary, humor, gossip and local news.

“The city of Edmonton and I really hit it off,” Crouse said. “The column was a lot of fun, but it came with a lot of notoriety. My picture was on every city bus and I was doing a lot of TV and radio. Soon I was recognized wherever I went, and that could be uncomfortable.”

The Go-Go’s may have had the beat, but Crouse took a beatdown from the ladies

“There were so many crazy stories I could tell just about writing this column,” Crouse said. “The interviews with celebrities are what the readers loved the most, but the celebrities didn’t always love what I had to say. One band in particular, REALLY didn’t like what I had to say…The Go-Go’s.

“The Go-Go’s were very hot on the charts, dominating the radio stations. Everyone was singing ‘We Got the Beat’ at the top of their lungs…except me,” Crouse shares laughing.

“I made a comment about their music being less than good. The Go-Go’s didn’t like that very much. The day the Go-Go’s came to town, I got invited to the show. Not only did I get invited to the show, I got invited backstage, because the band wanted to talk to me. When I walked around the corner, they started to jump me and pummel me with punches, jokingly, of course.

“The ladies turned out to be great, especially Gina Schock the drummer, and Belinda Carlisle the lead singer,” Crouse said. “Bad musicians, but great ladies!”

Edmonton versus Detroit

Crouse went on to spend decades in Alberta. After The Edmonton Sun, he went on to move to a rural paradise called Peace River. Peace River sits on a bank of one of the world’s greatest rivers, smack in the middle of an incredible rainforest with wildlife.

“When I left Detroit, it was full of crime and corruption,” Crouse recollects. “I always thought Edmonton is what a big city should be like – ever-evolving, kind and transparent in government. I believe that many of Canada’s largest cities including Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver are the greatest on Earth.”

What are the biggest lessons Crouse learned along the way?

  1. Motives are behind every action or choice people want or make. Pay attention to their words, the way they’ve acted in the past, and how they behave in front of you. There are a lot of tell-tale signs, if you just tune in.

  2. The internet is not a friend of real news. Too much fabrication, too little truth. The news is used as a weapon these days, more than an education outlet.

  3. Dogs are far more interesting than people. There is no greater loyalty you will encounter in life than dog loyalty. This is no greater love than the love of a dog. When I was a young boy, I had an elderly neighbor who told me dogs are emissaries of God, and I’ve always believed that.

  4. Don’t be committed to the “clear path” society and school show you to find your success. If I didn’t take a temporary job in Edmonton, I wouldn’t have enjoyed one of the best chapters in my life. Don’t let logic dictate everything. As cliché as it sounds, go with the flow.

  5. Work for companies from other countries and embrace their culture. I worked for a company after The Edmonton Sun called Daishowa-Marubeni International, based out of Japan. I found the Japanese to be scrupulously honest, a quality more businesses could embrace. They thrived on making the workplace exciting and effective.

Where is Wayne Crouse now?

Back in the late 90’s, Crouse returned to Metro Detroit with his family to take care of a family member in need of constant care. He’s found hope in the rebirth of a once-defeated city called Detroit.

When he’s not dreaming of the green pastures of Peace River, listening to the Beatles, or remembering the greatness of George Harrison, you can find him at the dog park every morning playing with his best friend, a rescued Labrador named Elvis.