Friday, April 18, 2008

200th Post - Interview with Deb Smith of CJCH Radio

Patricia and I were standing in front of the Pogue Fado by 11:58 on Tuesday, the 15th of April. Two minutes early for our meeting. Patricia, wanting to make an impression on our guest, wore a skirt. I had brushed my teeth, combed my hair, and shaven that morning, using the same razor I have been using for 6 months. Check out the post from March 31st or so for that amazing money-saving tip.

At 12:02, apologetic for being late, and explaining that she had to prepare the noon hour news report for Amber LeBlanc, Rick Howe's producer, Deb Smith arrived and said hello.

We went into the Pogue and selected our lunches. The pizza I asked for turned out to be the smallest pizza in the world, barely enough to sustain a super model for more than two days. Patricia's perogies, once again, were insufficient to keep a real human being alive. Deb ordered a club house sandwich with fries.

We started to talk.

1. How did you get your start in radio?

I managed to get a summer job at CIGO in Port Hawkesbury, also working weekends during Grade 12. I decided to pursue a B.A. at SMU, but I couldn't get radio out of my mind. I left SMU and studied radio journalism in Woodstock, New Brunswick. I landed a work term at CJCH radio in 1996 as a production assistant on the Hotline, back when Brian Phillips was the host. Rick Howe, the news director then and now, eventually offered me a full time job, and I have been there ever since.

2. What is the best piece of professional advice you have ever received?

I can't remember who told me this, but it has stuck with me. Be Yourself. If you try to fake it, if you have to pretend to be something you're not, you'll never make it on the air.

3. Whom would you say was or is your mentor? Someone professionally or in your family you really look up to?

Professionally, I would have to say Barbara Frum. I was a big fan of hers back when she was doing the Journal on CBC. I loved the whole CBC news package back then, with Knowlton Nash and then Barbara on the Journal.

Personally, it would have to be my parents. My father passed last year and it was at his funeral when I realized how much he was respected and liked by so many people.

3.a: Deb, it may be a year or more before I lay eyes on you again. But when that day happens, you will look at me and smile, and say, "Hi, Bev". How do you have such a memory for faces?

It's voices, too, Bev. It is just my line of work. I have to remember people's voices from all the time I spend on the phone. And I have always had a good memory for faces.

4. Back when you were producer of the Hotline with Brian Phillips, and then Rick Howe, you had an opportunity to meet a lot of people from all walks of life. Politicians, entertainers, etc. Which person surprised you the most, for good or bad?

Delta Burke. She wouldn't go in studio with us until her hair and make up had been done. Rather than wear the headphones the normal way, which would have disrupted her hair, she wore them upside down during the radio interview. She was a bit of a diva, a real southern belle.

I was also deeply impressed by Mr. Wrightman, the holocaust survivor. And Eydie Hartnett who survived the Halifax Explosion, had wonderful stories to tell.

Loved Denny Doherty. After the interview with us, he hung out with us in the newsroom for a while.

5. What happened with Just Between Us?

CJCH has been granted permission to jump from AM to FM. The women who did the show owned it, and with this upcoming "flip", we would have potentially no place to go. No other FM station that plays music carves out time for a talk show.

We have uploaded most of the interviews to Apple itunes, and we have had more hits from that, from both men and women discovering the show for the first time, than we had when we were on the air. I invite Bevboy's Blog readers to sample the show through itunes! And the website, is still up and running.

We are exploring options, looking for a new home for the show.

6. You have been the morning person on CJCH for about 4 months now, while Brian Phillips has been recovering from knee surgery. How has this new role expanded and changed your on air experience? Do you feel more confident in this role now, or do you look forward to returning to doing the news? How does it feel to be the only woman in metro radio to fully host a morning radio show?

I didn't realize I was the only woman fully hosting a radio show until you brought it to my attention.

I feel much more comfortable now than I did a few months ago. But it is a different set of priorities than doing the news. I am busier now, and have a different set of priorities. I may mention to Chris Mills, the newsreader, something that he had just said on his newsreport, that I hadn't heard him say. Brian used to say things to me that he hadn't heard me say on my own news reports a few minutes earlier, so I know how Chris feels.

7. You described yourself as being shy in a previous e-mail to me. How does a shy person function as an on air person? Is it hard to speak on the air? How do you control your nervousness, if you have any, that is?

Radio people are often shy, Bev. They are one person on the air, and an entirely different person off. I am supposed to offer a toast at a wedding this summer. I am very nervous about it! It is a different situation, speaking in front of a group of people, than it is on the radio.

On the other hand: Remember Jared Taylor, that "race realist" who debated with Peter March on the Hotline last year? I was in studio that morning doing the news. Taylor sat next to me as I read the news, and there were all these tv cameras shooting the guy 3 feet away from me. It is a small studio, as Patricia knows [Patricia was a guest co-host on the Hotline in April 2006; I called in and proposed to her on the air]. I got in my comfort zone and read the news, with all the commotion going on around me.

Bottom line: I just have to find my comfort zone, and I can go on from there.

8. This is a question for the ladies and Harold the crossdresser on Spring Garden Road. You mentioned on the air when CJ was involved with the IWK radiothon that you would spend $15 on a thing of lipstick. Many women I know expressed surprised that you could obtain a thing of lipstick at such a good price. Where do you buy your lipstick?

My sister sells Mary Kay cosmetics, so I get the family rate. And I buy lipsticks from drug stores too.

And I have a Harold story. I was in town for something during high school. I was wearing a blue shade of pantyhose. We went to the Dairy Queen on Spring Garden Road for lunch afterward. An older man stood behind me and remarked on how attractive this shade of pantyhose was on me, and where could he get a pair for himself. I looked behind me, and there was this man all dressed up like a woman.

9. I make Patricia tell me the names of the colours of her lipstick as I find them amusing. What is the strangest colour name you can think of?

Toast of New York
Patricia: Fizzy from Clinique.

And there are funny names for lip balms, too, Bev. [Deb takes a balm out of her purse and shows it to me, and has me sniff it. ] Say hello to Satsuma, Bev!

10. Do you have any Karen Begin stories you want to share?

I didn't know her well, but I found her very friendly and funny. Her death was a real loss.

Bevboy has a story. Back when we had those long conversations at night, she told me once she was fascinated by my first name, Beverly. She asked me if it was the result of an operation, or had I actually been born with testicles.

Around this time, it was time for us all to leave. Deb's work day was over, but ours sure wasn't. Patricia and I thanked her, and we took our leave.

You can hear Deb Smith on CJCH radio every weekday morning from 6 until 10. You can find her at 920 on the AM dial. Alternatively, you can listen to her through the internet at .

Bevboy, out.

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