Why do I call him legend?
Where to start?
The media mogul got his idea to start The Newfoundland Herald in 1946 while hunting gators in Hondurus.
A stack of tightly bound newspapers fell from the sky, and Stirling wondered: If The Miami Herald can get all the way to readers in the Central American jungle, why can't I get a newspaper to the outports of Newfoundland?
So, after returning to St. John’s, Stirling purchased 60 tons of newsprint from Joe Smallwood, who had tried his hand at his own newspaper and failed.
To build readership, he had The Herald air-dropped onto the ice floes during the seal hunt.
Forget the fact that many a sealer couldn’t read — it was all about publicity.
And it worked.
The Newfoundland Herald celebrates its 65th anniversary this coming May.
In the late 1940s during the debate over Confederation, Stirling sided with the anti-Confederation forces.
In his book, No Holds Barred, John Crosbie writes about how, in June 1948, he was assigned to work in Stirling’s Topsail Road apartment.
Equipment had been rigged up there to enable the Responsible Government/economic union with the U.S. forces to listen in on long-distance radio-telephone calls between confederates in Newfoundland and their contacts in mainland Canada.
They were looking for proof that Smallwood and his forces were secretly being financed by the Government of Canada.
They never did get the proof, although they did listen in on some fascinating conversations between Newfoundlanders and their mainland lovers.
In the early 1970s, Stirling claimed to have been cured of rheumatoid arthritis by liquid gold injections.
He also bought gold cheap, and sold it for a fortune — ultimately making a killing.
Stirling has a reputation as a media maverick and trailblazer.
His TV station was the first to broadcast 24 hours a day in North America, and he’s credited with revolutionizing the FM radio dial in the late ’60s.
In 1969, shortly after the Beatles released Come Together, Stirling and his son, Scott, met with Lennon.
“Stirling telexed a note to Lennon. It said, “I’ve heard your Come together. So here I am. Geoff Stirling.”
A 1974 documentary in which Geoff co-stars, Waiting for Fidel, is a cult classic, credited as the first “stalkumentary.”
In 1977, soon after the death of his 19-year-old daughter Kim in a car accident, Stirling sold off his mainland radio stations and retreated to Newfoundland.
Stirling spends his time these days between Arizona and Motion, near St. John’s, where he lives in a mansion made of B.C. logs.
I first met Geoff about eight years ago when I worked for a year or so at The Herald.
Geoff was a character, and a legend.
Once, he drove up to the front door of the office in a Ferrari with studded tires (it was spring) and a scarecrow made out of the passenger’s seat so potential kidnappers wouldn’t think he was alone.
His next goal is said to be reincarnation, but I question whether Geoff will ever die.
Favourite Stirling quotes
“This is my movie. I’m the writer, the producer, the director and the hero. In my new movie, my reincarnation, I may not come back to Newfoundland. I may not even come back to this planet.”
— December 2004 Report on Business magazine.
“We’re saying, what are the issues now that are important? Renegotiation of the upper Churchill, which everybody has written off as impossible, you’ve got to shame them into it. It has to be shown and repeated and repeated. This is why The Independent is playing an important role in this movie.”
— Geoff Stirling in an October 2005 interview with The Independent newspaper.