Friday, July 31, 2009

889th Post - I Have Seen The Future

We hit the road this morning, hitting River John to visit the library. Surfed the web there for a while. We decided to have lunch in Tatamagouche. Leaving Big Al's, we went on to the main street.

Patricia had to go to the pharmacy. I went into the local bookstore and struck up a conversation with the owner, a woman named Annette. She ran a bookclub downstairs called Fables. They also run films, present musical performers, and play chess. It is a private club. Costs about $100 a year to be a member.

They needed about 150 members to sustain the business; they have 700 members in just 8 months. Some nights, there is a line up to get in. Annette and her husband are considering limiting memberships.

We will be back. Soon.

Our main goal today, however, was to visit Jost Vineyards in Malagash. We did. We went on the wine tour, which was interesting. I met a couple who had the same model camera I had. I even showed them a couple of features on it that they didn't know about!

After a good day trip we returned to the cottage where we have spent the evening watching some documentaries (Mata Hari was robbed!).

Last formal day of my vacation. Back to work on Tuesday. Where have the last 2 weeks gone?

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

888th Post - Bevboy Peachboy

Got my hair cut today.

Haven't had a shave since Monday.
Look like a peach.

Do you agree?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

887th Post - Newbie Beats The Heat

Very hot day today. Newbie as a black cat is really minding it. Caught this pic of him on a scratching post and thought I'd share it with you.

Made surf and turf for tonight's dinner. Patricia didn't spit it out so I guess she liked it.

Getting my hair cut tomorrow. Can hardly wait.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

886th Post - My Waterloo

Patricia managed to get the remote control from me today.

It is not that big a deal because we only have 3 channels. But it is the principle of the thing that galls me so. I am a guy. I SHOULD have the remote. It is only right. I know you agree. Besides, I paid for the stupid tv in the first place. Shouldn't that afford me remote rights? Shouldn't the remote default to me?

Patricia must fall asleep eventually. I will make my move then.

The remote will be mine again.

It is the way it should be.

I will be a man again.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

885th Post - All Radio All The Time

I hope I got the last 4 hours of CFDR this morning. Reception is often spotty at the cottage. I did hear most of the last couple of hours as well as the very end. The last two songs were "Who's Gonna Fill These Shoes?" By George Jones and "Happy Trails To You" by Gene Autry. Then, nothing: The signal was gone.

Five minutes later I was speaking with the latest blog interview. We spoke for about 90 minutes, covering most of his career.

Got back to the cottage. Took a nap. Spoke to the police regarding a misbehaving neighbour. Stifled in the high humidity. Cooked and ate dinner.

About to watch a movie.

Ciao for now.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

884th Post - OMG!

DT called me this afternoon as I was preparing to mow the lawn. I interview him at his cottage tomorrow morning at 10! Me! Silly old me.

This is a major "get" for me. I can't get over how lucky I am.

Very nervous. More nervous than Michael Jackson on his wedding night.

(Sorry. Was it too soon?)

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

883rd Post - NYT: Comics' Gargantua of the Gross

Been a big fan of Basil Wolverton's for many years now.

If you have seen "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" you have seen a little bit of his work. Remember the scene where Eddie (Bob Hoskins') character is locked in a building and sees the outline of a beautiful woman, only to realize it is an ugly one? Eddie even calls her "Lena" as he runs away. That is a Wolverton creation named Lena the Hyena. How the character first saw the light of day is explained in the article you will read if you click the link below. As a tease he had help from Frank Sinatra, Boris Karloff, and Salvadore Dali!

Read the article. Learn something through Bevboy's Blog!

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882nd Post - Happy Birthday

It is River John's 224th birthday. We had a piece of cake and everything.

Tonight we went to the RJ parade. 15 minutes later it was done. Perfect length for a parade.

Later on tonight, if we stay awake, we will go to the RJ fireworks.

We love River John! Wonderful community spirit.

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881st Post - Shear Exhaustion

Sheep shearing at Lismore Sheep Farm. Part of River John Days.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

880th Post - Me And Splash

The mascot of River John Days and I go way back.

879th Post - More Interview Updates

Yesterday, during my brief return to the city, I wrote the two outstanding interview subjects, B.P. and P.C, to see if they had had a chance to read over the first drafts of their respective interviews. Both interviews are very long and took me many hours to transcribe for your eventual reading pleasure. B.P. wrote me back 45 minutes or so later and promised to read it over so that we could discuss any changes before the interview is published, probably in August sometime.

P.C. called me about an hour ago. He hopes I enjoy vacation and looks forward to talking to me upon my return to the city, the week after next. As a special bonus feature, he has spoken to his friend, D.T., who is amenable to an interview. He is a fellow cottager, but one community away from us. I will give him a call this afternoon to see if he might be willing to come over for dinner sometime next week, followed by a 2 or 3 hour discussion. Or more, if he is willing. I'll have to clear space on my digital voice recorder (yes, I brought my digital camera, camcorder, and voice recorder to the cottage!)

G.T. has agreed to an interview. He is a program director at a radio station in the province, but is better known for a character he plays on Halifax radio every weekday morning. T.B. works at that station, and approached ME last week, saying he'd "love" to do an interview with me.

Local author S.V. said he'd be interested in an interview. He is an interesting cat, and our paths have crossed many times over the years.

These interviews began simply enough. I just wanted to get some radio stories from folks. But I have wanted each one to be better than the one before, and I have expended a considerable amount of cash on computer equipment (my home pc gets used for my blog more than it does for anything else), a better camera, digital voice recorder, camcorder, and the lunches. Even my ASUS EEE pc gets used for the interview transcriptions!

I could grab my calculator and quantify how much I have spent, out of pocket, for these interviews. But I prefer not to. This is a labour of love for me, and I am gratified that my name is getting out there to the point where I am being hit up for sit downs. Besides, if I did figure out how much I have spent on this, I might stop doing them.

Greetings from the River John library. Free hot dogs and pop at 2pm at the park across the street. Does life get any better?


Thursday, July 23, 2009

878th Post - A Pit Stop and Bad Radio News

We are back in the city for a short few hours as Patricia had a doctor's appointment that couldn't wait.

I arrived home, took a shower, put on a fresh shirt, and checked my facebook status in time to learn some unsettling news. Jaime Paterson of Kool FM has been laid off, as of this morning. Yes, the guy who does the drive home show on that station. Yes, the host of the Sunday morning Beatles Brunch. Yes, the guy whose passion for Paul McCartney played a role in his coming here recently. Gone.

Shauna McKinnon seems to be gone as well.

The Kool FM website has already removed all traces of Paterson and McKinnon. It's as if they never existed. Their on air personalities consist of Griff and Caroline, with Ian Robinson remaining as "Phil Inn". Ironically enough, I am wearing a KOOL FM shirt that Ian gave me last week.

You know that I love radio. But I hate how many of the people in it are treated. I have stated that if I had it to do again, I'd enter a career in radio. However, given the layoffs in that fine medium, and other annoyances that hamper my enjoyment of it, the more convinced that my career decision 27 years ago was a sound one. I have been lucky enough not to know even a second's unemployment all of these years. Had I been in radio all this time, I'd doubtless have been laid off many times by now. Not trying to put myself down; I'm just being realistic.

I also learned this morning, or was it last night, that 780 KIXX goes off the air in a matter of days. Monday morning, we lose our last AM station, forever. A sad day. KIXX goes off the air at 10am; a couple of weeks later, the station replacing it, succeeding it, on the FM dial, goes on the air at 92.9FM. They have been test broadcasting lately, and it sounds agreeable enough. I'll probably try it out for a spell.

We live in interesting times.

Back to the cottage in a couple of hours...


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

877th Post - Another Day In Paradise

Slept for nearly 12 hours last night. Spent time today watching some more episodes of Burn Notice and Americas Got Talent. Got a pizza from Mammys Pizza.

Tomorrow we are returning to the city just for the day as Patricia has a doctors appointment. We will be back here tomorrow night for the balance of our vacation.

Yawn! These 10 hour days are a killer!

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

876th Post - In Paradise

Patricia and I left for the cottage Monday night around 11:15 and arrived here around 1:20 this morning. Parts of the drive, I don't remember. Ran the ac most of the way.

Oddly enough we got up early this morn and checked out some yardsales and had breakfast in River John. Came back here. Lay down around 11:30 and didn't really get back up until 3:45 or so.

Patricia made a nice dinner. We have spent the evening watching the first several hours of season 3 of Burn Notice.

Vacation has begun!

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Monday, July 20, 2009

875th Post - Cottage Bound

Cleaned all day.

Have to wrangle cats. Pack a bit. Pick up a couple more things at Patricias place. Drive to cottage arriving around 1 am.

Crazy us.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

874th Post - When DOES Vacation Start?

Another day spent cleaning Patricias old place. Another day of returning home exhausted.

My main tv died this weekend. Replaced it with what was in my bedroom. Will be in the market for a shiny new one after vacation.

The police have been hanging around the school behind my house for hours now. Wonder what's going on out there? Like they'd tell me!

Always amused when people say the police are 100% sure that "Person A" committed a crime because a cop told a friend of a friend. I don't believe it for a minute. The police must keep a very tight rein on the information they have on a case for fear of jeopardizing it should it go to trial. They won't be telling me anything, or you, or that proverbial friend of a friend.

And I love it when people just assume an accused person is guilty. Yep. Who needs a trial when we can just assume stuff?

Geez, who did a number one in my Mueslix?

Monday: The cottage. I hope.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

873rd Post - Two Days After

Patricia moved in two days ago, and we still haven't killed each other.

We are still cleaning out her old place for the new person who's taking it over, soon. Worked at it all day and into the evening. We'll go back in the morning and finish it.

I am on vacation, but you'd never know it. Flat out working, preparing the house for Patricia, and now cleaning out her place. The cottage can't come soon enough! Twelve hours of sleep a day, here I come!

Learned today that the new FM radio station, at 92.9 and to be called Lite 92.9 FM, is advertising for a morning show "co-host". Only one! That would indicate to me that they have already approached or even hired someone to do the job. Who knows who that might be? I'd like it to be Brian Phillips, but I doubt if he would confirm or deny it if I asked him. I also notice they're not advertising for any news positions. It makes me wonder if they'll just get people from the talk station to do the news every morning and afternoon. They're not advertising for a mid-day host, either. Once again, they may have already hired someone, or they will just voicetrack that section of the day, giving listeners the impression that there's someone there when there isn't.

Getting lots of good feedback from the latest interviews. JC Douglas wrote some very nice things last night through Facebook. Wish he'd write them as a comment here on the blog for the world to see, but them's the breaks!

Off to bed. Another long day tomorrow.


Friday, July 17, 2009

872nd Post - The Day After

We haven't killed each other yet. Yet.

You can tell I'm on vacation because today I wore a lime green shirt with "volunteer" written on the back.

Walter Cronkite died today. I don't know if they will approach Dan Rather for a comment or not since he forced Cronkite to retire years before he wanted to so that Rather could become news anchor. At least if you believe Cronkite's book of several years ago.

Tomorrow: More of what happened today.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

871st Post - The Day!

Without comment. Play the video. It will answer your questions about the recent "T-N" posts!

Busy, busy day at Casa Bevboy! Gotta go.


Here are the lyrics if you still don't get it!

870th Post - Something Totally Different

Hope you're enjoying the interviews. There will be more to come.

Heading into a very busy few days. Not sure how much time I'll have to blog about it. I will blog tomorrow for sure, to make the special announcement. Friday, Saturday are expected to be write offs as I deal with the left overs of what happens on Thursday.

I need a total change of pace to get my mind off all this stuff.

Mad TV has been canceled now. It's always been considered a weak sister to Saturday Night Live, which always seemed unfair to me. They're both sketch shows, but the comparison ends there, more or less. SNL's humour is topical to the point where if you watch a repeat of a show six months after it was first broadcast, you may think you're in a time warp, and struggle to remember the context in which the jokes exist. Mad TV political humour was generic enough, less topical enough, to make catching it out of sequence more bearable.

Of particular delight were the Mad TV parodies of other shows. One of my very favourites is the following, a Spanish version of the original Star Trek series. I studied Spanish in university; took a couple of courses. As poor a Spanish student I was, it sure seems to me that the language is correct, or nearly so; and that they're mostly playing it straight. It is still ridiculously funny to me, though.

I hope you agree.

P.S. T-1 Day!

Monday, July 13, 2009

869th Post - Interview With John Biggs

I first heard John Biggs on C100 radio in the late 1980's, when I moved to Dartmouth from the Annapolis Valley. In 1993, he moved over to my beloved CJCH. He discusses this incident at length during the course of our interview.

This is the first interview I've conducted via e-mail. My thanks to John for his fine writing, patience, and good humour during the production of our online discussion. Any mistakes that remain in the text are my fault, not John's, not anybody else's.

Trying something else a little different with this interview. My comments are in bold-faced, like this. John's comments are in regular text.

Let's say hello to an old friend, and see what he's up to.


Question 1. How did you get your start in radio?

John Biggs: Actually, the first time I even thought about radio was when the idea was thrust upon me. I was rehearsing with our band in Dwight’s basement (my friend, Dwight Naugle, who was our drummer) and I guess I must have spoken something into the mic, and Dwight’s Mom said, “You have a nice voice. You should be a radio announcer.” Of course, Dwight’s Mom also liked the way I sang Black Magic Woman by Santana, so maybe I should have stuck it out in the band, but that was the first time the thought of working in radio had actually entered my thoughts.

Bevboy: Was this band Titan?

JB: Actually, the band with Dwight was long before Titan (different permutations and combinations of bands with different names, but the last name Dwight and I were in together was called Speed), but I was in Titan eventually, yep.

BB: How did you arrive at that name?

JB: The name had been chosen by someone else long before I became a member. Your guess is as good as mine.

BB: What type of success, limited or otherwise, did you achieve?

JB: Well, I guess you could check them out here .

We did okay. Years later, when my life as a professional musician had sadly and unsatisfactorily come to a close, I had no idea what else I was going to do, because being a musician was all I had ever considered. I went to (what was then called) Manpower, and currently known as Job Bank, I expressed an interest in finding out more about radio, did a voice test at CFDR with John Cunningham, and was allowed a seat in the radio program at what was then known as the Nova Scotia Institute of Technology (N.S.I.T.) in Halifax.

They called the radio station (which was the background music on the screens which used to run the scroll of wire copy on our televisions years ago – remember them?) “CRXL”. I was one of the very last people to successfully complete the course before they closed it down and put their focus - and money - into computers. Go figure that. It was 1983.

BB: Wasn't there a "Fireman Bill" or someone who taught that course? He had been one of those "Fireman Bill" characters on local television back in the day?

JB: Fire Chief Murray was his character name on Firehouse Frolics, back when it was still called CJCH-TV (precursor to ATV). His name was Murray MacIvor, and he was a very good voice talent in his heyday, but yes, he was one of the instructors at the school. The other instructor was Bill Wall. Both Bill and Murray worked at CJCH radio at one time or another.

Anyway, coming out of CRXL, I actually had a choice of two jobs – both in Newfoundland; one in Cornerbrook, and one in St. John’s. St. John’s, being the bigger of the two markets, was my choice. I had been on stages performing in many of the bars in both Cornerbrook and St. John’s just a couple of years before, and I loved Newfoundland. Hated leaving home, and my Dad, who had become very ill with leukemia, but I had to get a career started after having failed at getting a music career off the ground. A couple of years later, my Dad was dying, and I desperately wanted to get home, and although I was already doing mid-day shifts and doing character voices on the morning show in St. John’s, I took an all-night gig at C100 to get home. However, it was too late to get back in time for Dad.

He died in July of 1985, and I didn’t start in Halifax until late October of that same year.

Question 2. Tell me about your very first on air shift.

JB: I don’t remember much about my very first on-air shift in St. John’s (590 VOCM), but it was back when no one had even considered automating an all-night shift.

I mean, part of your job was to call the morning show host and wake him up, and make sure the studio was clean. Funny, they have cleaners to come in and do all that sort of thing now, but back then we were instructed to clean out ashtrays (imagine that) and wipe down all the counter space with a damp cloth to clean up any coffee stains (which were probably made by the morning show on the previous morning), and, of course, to change the logger tapes. Yes, for the love of God, don’t forget to change those 24-hour logger tapes so that the CRTC would have a record of everything ever said in a broadcast day, to make sure you were following proper procedure. You had to keep them for – I can’t even remember anymore – God knows how long, 30 days, maybe? Longer? …and you were always warned how serious a matter it was to forget to change them. Of course, that’s all done digitally now, too. No all-night announcers. No out-of-phase, warbly, reel-to-reel machines. Just digital progress.

BB: Am I detecting a note of cynicism in this?

JB: Sarcasm, perhaps.

BB: At what point did automation really come into vogue? Do you think that, today, a private station could afford to go back to being all live, local, all the time?

JB: One affords what one wants to afford. Since everyone has moved their bottom lines up to no longer include salaries for overnight employees, it’s unlikely all-night announcers will make a resurgence. However, after I left Halifax, I think one of the instances where it was most obvious that an all night presence is a good thing was when SwissAir Flight 111 went down, and out-of-town news crews were on the scene before anyone local. Had there still been a presence looking at the newswire on a regular basis on one of Halifax’s local stations, they could have been first to the scene. To not be first to the scene of something that major speaks volumes about how the industry has changed in the 26 years I’ve been in it.

Question 3. What is the best piece of professional advice you have ever received, and who provided it?

JB: I’ve received far too many to just hone it down to one. I will say that Steve Bolton’s advice of “brevity” (at my second radio station in St. John’s, CJYQ/Q-93) was something I took a long time to learn, but I’ll always credit him with the lesson. I’ve also become acutely aware that many people don’t “get me.” My sense of humour is not necessarily mainstream. I’m not a conformist. However, I can’t betray myself. I have to say what I find funny, rather than try to deliver a line that someone else thinks is funny, or is from a successful joke service which writes for the masses.

Back to the point - the most humorous (to me, at least) advice I’d ever received came from Barry Horne, my PD in my early days at C100 FM (The “Biggs For Breakfast” years, not to be confused with “Biggs and Harrison” or “The Breakfast Club with John, Peter and Moya”.) Barry, quite seriously, in a post-morning show meeting one day, simply instructed me to “be funnier.” I wanted to laugh, but he wouldn’t have found that funny, either. I shared this story with Peter Harrison, (who apparently you’d like me to speak about later), and Peter laughed and said it reminded him of his days in Theatre at Acadia, when one day the best advice he could come up with as a fledgling director of a play to his cast was, “act better.” Not exactly instructional, but funny as Hell. At least, it was to me. From time to time, Peter and I threw “be funnier” and “act better” back and forth off-mic just for a laugh.

BB: How did The Breakfast Club get its name? Surely not from the John Hughes film!

JB: I came up with it. Our PD, Murray Brookshaw, asked us for ideas for a name of the show after Moya joined. I said Breakfast Club. Peter and Moya seemed to like it. Murray didn’t react. About a week later, Murray met with us again, and said, “We’ve got a name for the show! We’re going to call it “The Breakfast Club!” I looked at Peter, and Peter said, “That’s what John suggested last week.” Murray acted as if it was news to him.

Typical of some people who don’t necessarily have ideas, but need to be credited for them. Happens in radio a lot. Everything is stolen from someone else. I used to do a bit on the show called “Tabloid Tales”, slugged with “We buy ‘em so you won’t have to.”. Stopped doing it after a few years, and lo and behold ASN news with Ron Cronstein is doing a bit they’re calling Tabloid Tales. Like I said, everything is stolen from someone else.

BB: Peter Harrison and I have something in common. We're both Acadia grads! I had no idea. Wonder if he studied drama there with Bill Carr.

Bill Carr is tremendously gifted. Very naturally funny. I was lucky enough to co-host an Atlantic Lottery special TV promotion for their 25th anniversary with Vanna White, who they hired and flew from California for the shoot. Bill Carr was chosen by the agency putting the shoot together to warm up the audience before the taping. I’d rather have listened to Bill do another half hour of stand up than get on with my co-hosting duties.

BB: Over the last year or so, I have heard many Barry Horne stories. I'll leave it at that. Is it safe to say that he was a polarizing figure at both C100 and Q104?

JB: If Barry Horne knocked on my door, I’d invite him in - that’s all I can honestly say. Barry gave me the chance to be the morning show host on C100 in 1986 - when FM was just hitting its stride. I had #1 numbers on that station, and managed to hang around for 11 years at the place. I dare say if Barry were still there, I might be still there. Was Barry polarizing? Lots of polarizing figures in radio. Brian Phillips was a polarizing figure. I was probably polarizing as well, but there’s not much I can do about that. People form opinions about you, and you’re powerless to change them. People think what they want. No one cares to really KNOW you. Some people just WANT to not like you. Makes them feel superior, or something. Whatever. The death of Michael Jackson is a perfect example of that. Now THERE’S a polarizing figure. Maybe – in the entertainment business – if you’re NOT a polarizing figure, you’re not doing your job. Did Barry ever piss me off? Sure. Do I hate him for that? I probably did things that pissed him off, too. Not much sense in hanging on to that stuff. Life is short. Lots of people have pissed me off a lot more than Barry ever did, but there’s no point hating them, either.

Question 4. Who were your influences in radio when you were growing up?

JB: Well, as I had explained, I really never chose radio initially. It seemed to have chosen me. But I will say that I had favourites growing up and listening to radio. Terry Williams was always fun, and Donnie Berns had one of the best voices I’d ever heard – and that includes now or then – and he so affected me, that I still remember a break he did one Christmas, on an evening show, when he introduced a Christmas song by Mahalia Jackson. That’s talent, man. I mean, it also speaks volumes about my having a pretty damn good memory for a 52-year-old, but Berns was the real deal. He had a cute little jingle, too, which he probably did all the voices for - “It’s the Donnie Berns show, on CJCH”…(difficult to sing it for you on paper.)

I think, though, Dave Cochrane was the guy with the style I tried to emulate more than any. I loved the way he shot people down. He did it in such a smart way, that it became what I wanted to do most. He also wasn’t afraid to laugh a little on the air. I know some announcers over the years have thought that it isn’t “cool” to laugh out loud.

I think you sound a little stiff if you DON’T laugh sometimes.

BB: I have never met Dave Cochrane, but I'll never forget a very awkward moment in radio that he was forced to preside over. It was very early in 1983, February 4th to be exact. Cochrane played Olivia Newton John's latest hit, a song called "Heart Attack". Coming off the tune, Cochrane announced some breaking news: Karen Carpenter had died of... a heart attack. He prefaced the remark by saying something like, "I would never have played that song if I had known I was about to announce that someone had died of a heart attack because it would have been in bad taste". I have never forgotten that moment, and I doubt if I ever will. You could never script something like that.

JB: Well, he could have chosen to wait to announce the death of Karen Carpenter until after the next song, so I think the moment might have been played to sound awkward, but it sounds more like he chose that time to say it. No one would have forced him to make the death announcement at that moment. Plus, he made you remember it to this day, so it worked, right? It was powerful.

BB: Cochrane left CJ for CFBC, and from there I have no idea what became of him. Do you?

JB: Most of us, when we leave radio, don’t get talked about much. We’re just radio announcers, and most of us radio announcers matter more to ourselves than they do to anyone else. I hope he’s doing something that makes him happy. I used to love the lines he used on Brian to promote Philly the next morning. We used to call them zingers, but it’s not a practice which is done much anymore. Usually, these days, you promote something coming up in the morning show the next day, like a contest, or what have you, but radio is pretty vanilla/beige/tame (pick your favourite among those three descriptors) now in that regard, so you wouldn’t actually take a shot at the morning show host or hosts. That just wouldn’t be nice.

Back to influences - Gerry Lawrence is a wonderful man. Period. …but I could never be like him. I’m too selfish of a guy to ever give in to the popular view. I’m not saying that the person you heard on the air isn’t who Gerry really was, because I can only assume you’d be miserable if you ‘acted’ that way just to present the populist view. I’m just saying I couldn’t pull it off. It’s like - I’m not a Jay Leno fan, even though he was more popular with the masses, because he tells jokes everybody ‘gets’. I’m a Letterman fan. He’s more thoughtful, and I enjoy his sarcasm more than anything. I was always warned that sarcasm wouldn’t translate on the radio. That’s right, Mr. Consultant. It takes effort and thought to figure it out, and a lot of people are lazy when it comes to listening to radio. They want it handed to them. They don’t want to have to think too much about it. A person has to use their mind to translate what’s been meant by sarcasm. …but it’s still a sense of humour. It’s just not broad. You know? I just can’t do broad strokes.

When Gerry had come back to CJCH after having spent some time at CHNS, I was working C100 (as usual), and we got into a conversation about fresh baked bread, and the smell of fresh baked bread – and I mentioned I always loved going up Quinpool Road and smelling the fresh bread wafting from the Ben’s bakery. He said, “Have you heard of a place called The Staff of Life?” I hadn’t. He said, “You gotta try their bread. It’s amazing.” I said I should probably do that one of these days. He said, “You gonna be around for a while?” I told him I was heading home in about half an hour probably. He said, “Okay see you in a bit” - and left the parking lot. I was still standing outside talking to somebody, when he pulled back into the parking lot, with a long white bag sticking out the window at me. He had gone up to Quinpool Road, bought me a loaf of bread from The Staff Of Life, and brought it back to me. Nice, nice, nice, thoughtful man. Loved Gerry for that.

BB: This makes me wonder, in this day and age, if there is room to program by one's gut? You know what I mean, John. Rather than listen to the endless research, just decide to do something that's different and see how it works out. Is there still room for that in today's radio, John?

JB: It’s what I’d do, if I had the money, but I’d be doing it with just one signal. Most companies owning radio stations own a LOT of them, and they want to put their brand on them across many markets. Individuality has taken a back seat to branding. In most cases, it’s about the product, not the individual.

Back to people who influenced me… Well, Brian (Phillips) always intrigued me. He was lightning fast, and I could sense who he really was just by listening, which is an art – and for someone to be able to “say without saying”, that is…use the double entendre – that always fascinated me. I learned a lot from Brian. Brian’s timing (of a joke) was the closest thing to impeccable I’d heard on Halifax radio.

The first time he came back, after his trouble with the law, I remember he and I about to get started for the morning, in the old building on Robie, standing by our bunks (because they definitely weren’t lockers), getting our headphones and whatever else we needed ready to go for the shift - he on CJCH, his very first morning back, and I on C100, as usual, and I could see a hesitation in his approach…which surprised me - because the only side of Brian I had known to that point was the picture of confidence. He looked me in the eye, and said, “Do you think I’m going to be okay?” I looked right back at him and said, “Jesus Christ, man, you’re Brian Phillips. Of course.”

You’re the first person to whom I’ve ever mentioned that, by the way, so Brian’s the only person who could verify it. He said it in confidence a long time ago. I hope he’d be okay with me revealing it now. Brian did more than serve his time. The people of Halifax held him to a higher standard for far too many years afterward. He had to go away a second time and come back again before finally being able to stay home, but the heydays of CJCH were long gone by that point.

BB: And, Halifax radio is poorer for not having Brian on the air any longer. How sad that there seems to be no place for him on local airwaves today.

JB: Well, I was pretty sad that there was no place for me on the local airwaves in Halifax, either…but radio does that to people. Lay off your top-salaried people, and hire younger staff with less experience who might be as good someday as the people they’re replacing, or then again they might not…but they cost less, and they can be trained to say the things you want said at the times you want them said. As long as you’re playing the big chocolate Monopoly game when you’re on the air, you get to do it again the next day. As far as Brian is concerned, he could do very well in any market in the country if he cared to move. He knows that.

Question 5. How did you get the job at C100? I seem to recall you worked the overnight shift before ascending to the morning show.

JB: I’m not sure all that many people were pleased by my “ascension” to the morning show. Ascension’s a bit heady. Let’s stick with promotion. The isn’t papal, it’s just radio.

Anyway, yes - I was the all night guy. I came from having had lots of experience in my first two years in radio in Newfoundland doing lots of public appearances and co-hosting morning shows, and putting in the hours, too. Don’t forget, I wasn’t some kid coming out of high school when I went to technical school for radio. I had already had gone to Dal, then left university to play music professionally and was on the road for a few years, so I wasn’t ‘green’. …and basically, when the morning show job was posted, I said I would do it for whatever the minimum union wage was to do a morning show, and I would do every public appearance known to man (although it ended up that I did that to the point where I burned myself out on them), but I helped take the station to #1. (Well, except for CBC radio , apparently, but don’t get me started on that. The budgets for private and public radio are vastly different. If CBC wasn’t beating us, then something would have to be terribly wrong. They had writers, researchers, producers, technical directors… Never mind. You get the point. We had none of that. )
Then, when the show became the Biggs and Harrison show, it became a strong #1.

The addition of Moya (on The Breakfast Club with John, Peter and Moya) made us almost untouchable. Things were good…but yes, it started with just little old me, and I hit the air on the C100 morning show just as FM was really starting to catch on. Like I said before, I applied for a job there while home to see my father in the hospital where he was fading with leukemia. It was a very tough time for me. I had already lost my Mom to a heart attack when I was 13. At this point, 15 years later, losing my Dad made me feel orphaned. It was up to me – with no parental advice - to figure out what I was going to do for the rest of my life, and if radio was going to play a role in that…and just now, as I’m writing this to you, I just remembered the best piece of advice I ever received. It was from my Dad. He told me, as I was leaving for Newfoundland, for that first radio job, “Remember, it’s possible a lot of people will be listening to you. You can influence a lot of people with what you say on the air. You have to remain responsible about that.” I’ve tried to. I haven’t always been successful, but I haven’t started any wars, and I don’t think I’ve broken up any relationships or anything. But it’s become second nature to me to always weigh things with my Dad’s statement in mind. I just try to be true to myself.

BB: Was anyone upset when you became morning guy at C100? Did this not sit well with someone who might have assumed the job was his? You're hinting at something, John; care to elaborate?

JB: Not really. It was a long time ago, and I worked very hard to get and keep that job. If anyone had a problem with that, it was their problem to deal with, not mine.

BB: I noticed your comments about CBC. I am sure you are aware of the massive budget cuts they are facing. I know locally that Stan Carew's program is hugely popular, and it's put together by Stan and Doug Barron, with a newsreader at the bottom of the hour. That's it! It is a distinctly low budget affair. Is it still fair to rag on the CBC given A) their mandate; and B) their new financial realities?

JB: We hear about the public broadcaster’s troubles because they are public. Their budget is nowhere near as small as a private broadcaster’s budget, even after cuts, and that’s the truth of it. Maybe it’s time to cut spending of MY money and YOUR money on the CBC, and let them try to sell their product. You can bet the product that you hear will change drastically. Private broadcasters don’t usually go around crying about having their budgets cut, because they have to earn their budgets. This is a big sticking point in Ontario, actually. Hardly anyone pays attention to CBC radio in Omtario, but they get to keep a CBC 1 and a CBC 2 and even a CBC Radio 3 on the air, plus because they have taxpayer money to keep it on the air. Plus Galaxie, plus RCI. If they needed to rely on advertising sales to continue, their landscape would definitely change. A level playing field would make for interesting times, I think.

BB: I have noticed that most private radio announcers are dismissive or even disdainful of the CBC. I have always wondered why. The CBC is not exactly competition for you guys. Yet, I detect friction between private radio and the CBC. Why is that?

JB: Again MY taxpayer money funds radio stations which do many frivolous things with that money…and if a person is listening to CBC, and not to my station, then my station has a smaller head count to take to an advertiser to say “we have X number of people listening
to our radio stations!” so yes, it does affect the private radio sector.

BB: Do you still think of your father, and your mother, and do you still find they have influenced you? I ask this on a personal basis, as my own parents are rapidly aging and becoming more frail. What advice would you have for me, regarding my parents?

JB: I’m not sure what kind of person – if they had a good relationship with them, as I had – would stop thinking about them because their parents just because they had died. Yes, of course I think about my parents – possibly even more now that I finally have children of my own. Because I was 13 years old and then 28 years old when I lost my Mom and Dad respectively, their influence has actually remained greater for me, I believe. I was still being formed into someone when I lost both of them, so their opinions, their views on life, their values, have always remained important to me.

My only advice would be to spend as much time as you can with them (without getting in their way, of course), and if there’s anything you haven’t said that you’ve always wanted to say, any conversation you’ve never had, have it now, say it now, make your peace with them. You’ll feel much better years from now for having done that. My dad and I had the chance to have many conversations about all sorts of things, because he was dying with leukemia for over eight years. He was pretty amazing to me. He lost his wife when he was 53, and never re-married, and for the next 15 years he raised his two kids - with no help - the best that he could, working every day to provide for them. Came home from work every day at 5pm, home by 5:30pm, we ate supper together as a family every night, and he built his world around us. When my sister moved out, he was lost without her, and it was difficult for him for the three of us to not be together, but he never wavered. He didn’t go out drinking, or lose touch, or get angry. He stayed connected to both of us, and helped myself and my sister through any challenges we faced. It was always about us for him. Best dad in the world.

Question 6. Tell me about July of 1993. How did you learn that you would be shifted to CJCH and how did you feel about that decision at the time?

JB: That was a real mixed-emotion day. I never really recovered from that day. I suppose if I had have been able to swallow that and smile, I might still be working in radio in Halifax, I don’t know. Bill Bodnarchuk called me into his office and presented me with the plan, which was to switch CJCH from a “Favourites of the 60s 70s and 80s” to a Classic Rock station. From a tactical perspective, it was designed to pull a few Classic Rock purists away from Q104 - and in doing so, fatten the numbers on C100, or at least give the illusion of a bigger difference in size of listening audience between C100 and Q104, because Q104 had been closing the gap. However, if anything, considering the 7 years I had put in as morning show host, helping to put the station (C100) on the map should have counted for something, in my personal estimation, and it would have been nice to have been the beneficiary of such a move. However, that was not to be the case. My choice was either to accept the CJCH morning show position, or I’d be shown a different scenario in which I would no longer be an employee there. Such is the nature of the animal. You never know where these decisions come from at the time, or who is on your side, and who isn’t, but it hardly matters now. If I had it to do over, I’d probably have left and not played along, but I had just gotten married, and that probably played into my decision. It would’ve been pretty irresponsible of me to not take a job offer over a buyout when I had just gotten married.

BB: Hmm. In retrospect, do you view this move from C100 to CJ as a punishment, a punitive measure for some perceived slight, or did they really think that there was a positive career benefit for John Biggs to move to that station? Was this a way to "get" you, or was it a reflection of their confidence in you to make CJ a popular station again?

JB: I certainly think the move benefited Kelly (Latremouille) more than it did me, if that’s what you’re asking. It was not a step forward for me, and only barely translatable as a step sideways. It’s one of the reasons the phrase “New Opportunity” is used a lot in business. Sometimes, it’s not as good as the opportunity that you just lost, but it’s the only one you have. How do you sell that as a positive? “New Opportunity.”

I think that there was a likelihood that they felt I would simply walk away from it, and they’d be done with me, I don’t know. I wasn’t going to give anyone that easy a way out.

BB: How have you never really recovered from that day? You left Halifax years later, and seem to be very successful today. Not even mentioning your personal success in recent years, with your family.

JB: It’s not a matter of whether I recovered from it, I suppose. It’s not like I stunted my personal growth - but I remain cautious of people in every business situation. Trust is very difficult for me. Let’s just say I was very disappointed by the attitude of a lot of people around the situation. You can lose both trust and faith in people pretty rapidly when you can sense their reaction to a particular event.

Some advice for anyone who cares to take it: Don’t get into radio to make friends. If friendships happen, and they will, that’s nice. But remember – if you’re an announcer - that anyone on the announce staff of your radio station could in all likelihood be looking to get ahead of you, and may use unscrupulous methods to do so. Don’t abandon any friends from your life before radio and make the mistake of surrounding yourself with only radio people. Life may not be much fun if it all blows up on you, and you’re on the outside of your old job looking in. This could apply to any job, I suppose. Luckily for me, I had my friends from my band days and from high school to hang out with when radio became less and less of an option for me in Halifax.

BB: Stealing a few listeners away from Q104 sounds very much like the justification for CFDR to become 780 KIXX in December of 1993: to apprehend a few listeners from the then Country 101, so as to make that station no longer number one. Seems cynical to me, and a waste of a radio station.

JB: Well, country listeners wouldn’t feel it’s a waste to have another country station, don’t forget. From a tactical perspective, it’s about the combo, however. The combination of total listeners you can provide to advertisers over your selection of signals, whether it be CHNS combined with CHFX, or CFRQ combined with CFDR/KIXX, or CI00 with CJCH. It’s not cynical; it’s just numbers and money.

Question 7. I will list the names of people you know, knew, or worked with. Please say something about them.

Peter Harrison – Peter and I drove up to work at C100 in white 1985 Honda CRXs. Yes, each of us had one, and we were very similar in thought on many things as well, but occasionally diametrically opposed on a couple of others. We shared some amazing times, and for a while there, we had each other’s back. He was a great on-air partner, he’s a good man, and a very intelligent person.

Kelli Rickard – I’ll always consider her one of my best friends. She had a confidence in me that wasn’t shared by many. She stuck by me when it wasn’t the popular thing to do, because once a man starts to go down in our business, the sharks like to circle, and everyone loves to get a kick in at you. I’ll always love her for sticking with me. I would re-partner with her on a show in a heartbeat. Less than a heartbeat. She’s awesome.

BB: How did you know you were on the outs? Is this a perception on your part, or was there real tension between you and management? If so, then Kelli was very brave indeed to stick with you.

JB: It’s a feeling I got from the people around me, and it’s more insidious than anything. Lots of insidiousness in the entertainment industry, and radio is somewhere among the many facets of the entertainment industry.

Brian Phillips – Radio could use about a million more people with even half the natural ability of Brian Phillips. People should be ashamed of what they put him through. I mean – Wow - Brian wasn’t a perfect human. Alert the frickin’ media, and while you’re at it, name me a perfect human.

Part of the problem was that when Brian came back to the air the first time, in 1988, he wasn't allowed to discuss his legal problems on the air. The perception from the listeners was that he was ignoring the issue, and they ultimately rejected him. Very sad, and it must have been frustrating for him not to be able to mention it.

Maybe, but whether it was up to Brian to apologize for what happened or whether it was up to management to give him the green light to talk about it, everybody makes mistakes. I think I made one once. Can’t remember exactly what it was, but I’m sure I did. However, MOST of the problem is, right or wrong, you’re held to a higher standard when you do what we do. Of course, in the last ten years or so, the Britney Spears/Lindsay Lohan/Paris Hilton crowd have almost completely reversed that trend by actually making MORE money for being complete flakes in their personal lives, so what do I know?

Terry Williams – I kinda miss him, actually. I felt he was a positive influence, but he and I didn’t really get to spend enough time together to get to know one another. We were from different generations of CJCH, but I found him to be a decent spirit, and he was always good to me. Very positive guy, always up, always with a kind word.

BB: I think a lot of people miss him.

JB: Well, I was long gone before he left, so I can’t speak to that.

Pat Connolly – Pat and I never worked together, but I remember him once writing about me in his newspaper column. I can’t even remember the name of the Ontario university Acadia had trounced – I mean REALLY pounded them - in a university hockey championship - but the team’s coach was named Titanic. Not kidding. Paul Titanic. I’m pretty sure his first name was Paul – but when your last name is Titanic, that’s kind of a moot point. Anyway – I had just mentioned off the back of John Moore’s sports something to the effect of, “What would you expect to happen, when the coach’s name is Titanic?”

I guess Pat must have enjoyed it. Of course, he was always an enthusiastic Nova Scotia sports supporter, so he wrote about it in the paper. I didn’t get a lot of press, so that stuck out for me. My “line of the week”. Considering I worked about 11 years of morning shows in Halifax, taking time out for vacations would give me about 540 weeks on the air in the morning. One line of the
week is probably a little “under quota”. ;-)

BB: I have interviewed Pat for this blog. Look for the interview to be published soon!

JB: But of course, Mr. Bev Boy.

Matt Northorp – I definitely miss Mattie. Matt and I had more fun in three or four minutes on the air than I’ve had in entire shows. When I first started on C100, Matt was the evening guy, and I was the all-night guy. The ‘cool’ thing to do in FM radio in those days was the “cross-over” …”How are ya doin’? What’s goin’ on? Whatcha got comin’ up?” etc. – and Matt and I always turned it into something bizarre, insane, stupid, silly, goofy – and then, completely out of context and apropos of nothing, I’d say, “Speaking of music…” to which he would reply, “Smooooth!” – and I’d list off my first set of tunes, our bit would be over - and I’d start my show. However, the problem with Matt and I – who both, at some point in our early careers, would have had Mr. Steve Bolton mention the word “brevity” on more than one occasion to us – was that we tended to turn the bit into a talk marathon on a station which billed itself at the time as “Light Rock, Less Talk”. Yes, there were memos. There was a particularly lengthy memo from Barry Horne (my “be funnier” guy) after Matt and I had expounded upon an adventure involving he and I transporting a refrigerator from Halifax across the A. Murrray MacKay bridge to my house in Eastern Passage. Matt and I considered it a classic piece of radio, and a lot of fun. Barry had a different opinion.

BB: Matt is still on the air on C100 drive, with Deb Smith as his co-host. They make a good team. I'd love to interview him for the blog. I hear he is a technophile like me.

JB: There ya go. A couple of Cape Bretoners, taking over afternoon drive radio in Halifax. Good on them. Deb is great. Matt’s a lot of things. He is an excellent voice talent, and has a couple of beautiful dogs, and yes, was into computers ahead of the curve. If you’re talking to him, tell him I said “Duck-EEE”. Big emphasis on the EEE. No, I can’t explain it.

BB: What do you think of the "less talk" thing, anyway? I hate that kind of thing. I'd be perfectly happy to listen to radio that had more interaction with listeners. Long, long stretches of music punctuated by commercials and brief weather reports just don't appeal to me.

JB: Everyone’s different. These days, I do different kinds of shows on three different stations, all with different formats and different listening audiences. There’s no accounting for taste, as they say, and I mean that in a positive way. I don’t have a favourite, because it’s my job - to do all of those things. I was Music Director at a country station for about five years here, and I didn’t listen to country at all growing up. It’s your job, and you do whatever your job is to the best of your ability. If you don’t someone else will gladly come along and take it off your hands. Being a Music Director isn’t about liking the music you’re playing on your station, it’s about understanding the listener who likes the music your station plays, and which perfect combination of songs will work on a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly basis to keep them listening. When to rest a song, when to bring one back, following the listening trends of the most successful stations, etc. However, if you love the music on the station where you’re the music director, you’re in heaven, or close to it. Actually, heaven would be radio with a better salary. I’m kidding, of course. I’m actually a millionaire. That’s why I’m driving a 4-year-old Malibu Maxx with bald tires, because I make so much frickin’ money doing this.

Question 8. How did you approach the challenge of March 1995, when CJCH became a News/Talk station?

JB: Well, I like to talk. Again, however, there are many different kinds of talk. I love the art of the interview. You need to be able to shut up and listen to interview someone well. Remember Mike Bullard on TV? I had a feeling he wasn’t going to make it as an interviewer for very long because he liked hearing himself talk too much. Instead of actually listening to his guests, he just wanted to crack jokes - and he managed to ruin many a good conversation and take a lot of potentially good stuff off the rails by trying to feed his own ego and his own agenda. Anyway, we all know how that turned out. So, the toughest part of the News/Talk challenge, if there was one, was that Kelli and I had to take the station down from a music station to a talk station by removing two songs per hour, and then four songs per hour, etc., until all the music was gone. That was the mandate, and that was hard…but no one on staff or in management – not PD Terry Williams, not VP/GM Bill Bodnarchuk – had ever worked at a talk station before. It was new territory for everyone. “We’ll learn as we go”, we were told…but I love the art of the interview. Always will…and I think I’m starting to get okay at it, finally.

BB: I agree. Mike Bullard seemed awfully smug.

JB: If only he’d had Barry Horne as his boss, to tell him to “be funnier”. ;-)

BB: You may not remember it, but in 1996 you interviewed Dean... Marsaw? Forget the last name, but he was a navy guy on a hunger strike because he had been denied a pension. Your talk with him was very moving, as you mentioned when you had nearly died a year earlier and embraced life. You couldn't understand how someone could throw away his life the way this guy was. I wish I had a copy of that interview!

JB: Yes, I remember it well, and yes, Marsaw. I have a LOT of cassette tapes, and I have searched for that particular interview, but have yet to find it. Oh, well. I found some pretty good ones while looking for it, including a couple of fun ones with my old friend Gary Martin, when he was the Public Relations person/ spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Police. Now THERE’S a guy I miss. Loved him. Just not fair, what cancer does to human beings, to families - to lives everywhere.

I’m glad you called it “my talk” with him. I try to make my interviews seem less like interviews and more like conversations.

BB: There was no "manual" to go by, to see how to navigate from a music station to a talk one? That seems odd to me.

JB: There’s a lot of ‘odd’ in radio. I would have thought you’d picked up on that by now. ;-)

Question 9. Where are you working now, and how does your past experience inform and enhance what you are currently doing?

JB: ClichĂ© time. EVERY past experience helps with the next. Even my 8 or 9 months at radio school at NSIT taught me what NOT to do, at the very least. This November, I will have been in radio for 26 years. Guess the chance to get the band back together has probably passed at this point. I’m only half kidding about that, by the way. I’m working at Astral Media Radio in Hamilton. I’m actually working in the same building I originally moved up here to Hamilton to work in - back in April of 1998. However, there have been four owners in the last 11 years. First Radiocorp, led by former GM and Vice President of Q104, Jim MacLeod; then it became Telemedia, owned by the GaspĂ© de Beaubien family in Quebec. After that, (Gary Slaight and) Standard bought it from Telemedia - and finally, Astral bought Standard Radio. Now, we’re the largest in the country. Astral has more radio properties than any other group in the country. They also do outdoor advertising, interactive media, and specialty and payTV (Teletoon, Family Channel, The Movie Network, to name a few).

By the way, on a side note, I was sad when CHUM was no more. When they were sold, it was the end of an era in Canada. CHUM was like family to me, regardless of how I was treated at the end of my employ there.

Anyway, I’m the mid-day host on an Oldies station, Oldies 1150 CKOC. CKOC is the oldest radio station in Ontario, started in 1922, and the second-oldest in Canada. I’m on there from 9am to Noon. (available at I’m also the mid-day host on the talk station here, from 12:30pm to 2pm. Talk 820 is relatively new – launched September 2nd of 2008…and available at (That’s right. I’m in on the ground floor of another talk station. We’ll have to wait and see how much more history might repeat itself.) I also fill in on the station for which I initially moved here back in 1998, 102.9 K-Lite FM. On top of the announcer gigs, I run the programming software for Talk 820 and I build all the format clocks in the software program. I was the music director for Talk 820 before it changed from 820 CHAM, and I turned out to be pretty efficient at running the software, so that job is a holdover of sorts from that position. Plus, my ‘title’ is Interactive Program Manager. I work on all three stations’ websites – updating, downloading and creating new content, etc…so, I keep busy. Plus, I still get a chance to do the occasional public appearance – and when I’m not at work, I’m home with my wife and our twin three-and-a-half year old children (boy and girl), Liam and Morgan. Did I mention I’m busy?

BB: How do you manage your day, working at 2, sometimes 3, radio stations, with disparate formats? Tell me about a typical work day in the life of John Biggs.

JB: Up at 6am, make breakfast for the twins, get them dressed (I’m the “morning parent”), and get them to daycare by 9:30am or so. All summer, I also host the newsmagazine show, Hamilton @ Noon, for our newsroom, so when I get in (between 10 and 10:30am), I take a look at what’s happening locally, and start making calls to line up interviews for the Noon show. Read up on the stories I’ll be talking about with those guests, wait for return phone calls for interview times, answer email, fix problems with websites or programming if any, and then do a quick crossover with the previous announcer to tee up both Hamilton @ Noon and my show (The Biggshow, which runs directly after it from 12:30pm to 2pm), and we’re off an running. Through our email client, my producer has a list of the guests I’ve arranged for both shows (I book all my own guests, so my producer’s role is more of a technical operator), and whether or not they’re calling us or we’re calling them. We do the show(s). Then at 2pm, it’s back to my office space, booking and finalizing guests for my next show or shows, running the programming software with any last minute clock changes, updating websites with any new info/contests, etc., and then back down the hallway to production to record a promo for the next day’s show, talk and voice whatever commercials production needs me to voice. I’ve also, during the time since my talk show ended when back in my office, assembled the prep I’m going to use for my Oldies 1150 show from 9am to Noon the following day, and I go into the voice track studio, and record that. I pride myself in VTs that sound live. It’s really just a matter of remaining ‘present’, and caring about your final product. Oldies music is also upbeat and fun, so it’s an easy format to love. After my voicetrack, I’ll do one last check of my email before I leave, and then hit the road to Brantford to get home for supper with my family between 6 and 7pm. It’s a full day, and I usually don’t get a chance to eat during the day, so supper couldn’t come soon enough. After we get the twins to bed, my wife and I usually watch a movie. Neither of us is very big on most of the TV programming that’s out there, so we watch a LOT of movies. Then, I’ll check my work email from home, and I’m off to bed. There’s the WHOLE day for you, not just the work day.

Question 10. Where do you see radio being in ten years?

JB: I think I’ll worry more about where I’ll be in ten years. I’m sure radio will look after itself before it looks after me. At least, that’s been my experience so far. Newspaper is having a rough time right now, and will probably be almost if not completely on-line in ten years…but radio has the ability to keep you in the moment. No other medium – not TV, not internet, not anything – can be live, portable and local 24 hours of the day, seven days of the week - and in the moment the way radio can. Programmers have removed the 24/7 component of radio and are cheating us out of some of those “live” hours right now, but maybe we’ll see that come back as well. Once a radio station in Nova Scotia finds a practical and efficient way of selling airtime to a company in Australia - because most of the world is (at this point in my thought process) listening to internet radio on their new internet-access iPods, then maybe they’ll have to hire people to work the all-night shift again. In all seriousness, I’d like to see more owners and more stations, because I think ‘terrestrial’ radio will always be viable, and the number of genres of music is only going to become more diverse over time. …and no matter how global we get, we’ll always want some kind of local human connectivity, and no medium will ever be able to do that the way radio can.
Do you realistically think you'll see some of these things happen? A return to more live, local programming?

I think, if it happens, it will happen partly out of necessity…but I think it COULD happen. Currently, I think too many radio people are worried about what a difference the internet is going to make to the viability of radio as a medium. They were worried about TV at one point, too, but TV didn’t kill radio. If anything, TV enhanced radio. (Video never did kill the radio star. It was just a not-very-good pop song.) The internet can also enhance radio’s presence (Hey, even stand-alone internet music stations call themselves “internet radio”.) Well-produced radio from a professional studio can work locally on the airwaves and around the world on the internet at the same time. The advertising stream a radio company can create by selling their station(s) on the internet as well as to local advertiserson traditional terrestrial wave bands can work to bolster their profits if done properly…but it comes back to content. If your content is kickin’ ass, it doesn’t matter where you are on the globe. People will listen, and if you’re getting website hits in the big thousands, there are advertisers who will pay to have their ad or even their flash box on your site.

BB: I agree with your sentiments about radio. No other medium has more history, more potential, than radio. If I had it do again, I'd have chosen this medium as a career choice, bottom line, hands down. I love my current job and everything, but I love radio more.

JB: There’s really not a lot of money in it, Beverly Boy. There’s hardly ever concert tickets anymore compared to the old days…but if you’re passionate about something, you don’t mind driving the 4-year old Malibu Maxx with the bald tires – because one day this week, you might get to talk to one of your heroes, or to a beautiful female recording star (who might also be one of your heroes), or intro a song you’ve always loved, or tell a joke you just came up with a couple of seconds before you turned your microphone on, or be the first to break a news story - or make a positive difference in someone’s life with something you said that they’ll remember and take with them for years.

Something about those opportunities transcends money. I may not be curing cancer, but I can help inspire people to raise money for the researchers who someday will.

Still, I’d like to be able to afford new frickin’ tires without having to put them on a credit card. Give me a break here.

Anyway, thanks, Bev. Say hi to my birth city for me. I’ll always miss it, and all my friends there.

Take care.


Bev here. Thanks again, John. Always nice to hear from you.

P.S. T-2 days!

868th Post - More Favourite Favourites

The latest interview isn't quite ready to go up yet. Probably tomorrow. That means that tonight's post will be about something else.

Last year I wrote a post about some of my more unusual favourite bookmarks. These were bookmarks for websites that are particularly interesting but which you probably have never heard of. I'll do a few more this evening.

The moonlit road is probably the pre-eminent ghost story website on the web. There may be others, but I haven't seen them. There are always scary stories here, broken down by category. Do not read this alone. Thank goodness that Newbie is right behind me. Or... is it Newbie?

Yep. It's Newbie.

The Cylinder Preservation and Presentation Project is a rather dry title for a fascinating website. This university in California has been assembling old cylinder recordings from early in the 20th century, cleaning them up, and digitizing them. It is so interesting to hear the music of our great-great-grandparents. You might think they were straight laced and austere; but many of these songs are racy and politically incorrect by today's standards. Nonetheless, they reflect what peopled often listened to 100 or more years ago. Give it a listen.

Ed Wood is considered the worst director of all time. He directed what's considered the worst film of all time, "Plan 9 From Outer Space", which features the last film appearance of Bela Lugosi.

Someone started a church of Ed Wood. Yes, they're serious. Check it out.

Tomorrow: The Interview with... but that would be telling!

P.S. T-3 days!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

867th Post - Mrs. Greenthumbs

You are looking at the admission ticket to a taping of the Mrs. Greenthumbs show, circa 1998. I know I have not discussed the circumstances behind attending that taping. I will now.

I was listening to CJCH one morning, back when Brian Phillips was the host of the Hotline. His guest for a bit was Mrs. Greenthumbs, a.k.a. Cassandra Danz. She would be in Halifax taping a new tv show, and was giving away tickets to a taping of said program.

I remembered her from various tv appearances; her passion for gardening was nearly palpable. How she ended up here taping a show is a mystery to me. But she did, and she was, and I managed to finagle tickets for Patricia and me.

We arrived at the Cinesite studios at the appointed time. We were shepherded to our seats. A producer came out and explained what the show was about (gardening, with some humour thrown in) . She also explained how we should behave during the taping. If Mrs. Greenthumbs said something even mildly funny, we were to laugh as if we had never heard anything so amusing in our lives.

The lovely Doris Mason played piano in the background of the set. She had a co-host, a guy in a green suit. Mrs. Greenthumbs came out and the taping commenced.

We laughed when we thought we should. I'd see the camera man pan around the audience. . They would later integrate the audience shots into other tapings to give the impression that there were hundreds of us, rather than dozens. I got into it, slapping my knees and shrieking with laughter; sometimes, I'd take my glasses off and wipe away pretend tears when the camera man panned by. One other time, I smiled at the camera and waved.

During a break in taping, Mrs. Greenthumbs hung around and pointed to some audience members to dance with her. I was one of the chosen men. We danced around the studio a bit (if you want to call what I do "dancing", which I don't. It's more like lurching around as if I were in great pain). She released me from my torture and I returned to my seat. At some point in the evening, she signed the above ticket for me. Her co-host, the guy in the green suit, signed the back. Maybe you can make out his name, but I can't.

I eventually watched a couple of episodes of the show. It wasn't very good. I never saw myself on tv, but others apparently did, making a damn fool of myself pretending to laugh my ass off. The producers must have realized that the show wasn't very good, because the second season was marginally better than the first. There was no third season.

Mrs. Greenthumbs died in 2002. She has been quickly forgotten, which is a shame, because she was a talented actress who found this gardening niche to work within, and made a good living doing it for years and years.

I kept the ticket she signed for me, pinned to the bulletin board at my work for years. Not sure why. It was an interesting night out, I guess, and unique enough an experience that I wanted to keep this one memento. When I left that job, I brought some personal effects home with me. This evening, as I was cleaning, I found the ticket and nearly threw it out, when I realized it could become a blog post, which it now has.

If you happen to catch a repeat of the show on some obscure cable network, and see a guy in the audience laughing himself into a fit of near apoplexy, then, yeah, it's me. You're not imagining things.

Mrs. Greenthumbs would like it that way.

P.S. T-4 days!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

866th Post - Urban Exploration

When I was researching some web links for the recently-published Peter Duffy interview, I chanced upon a website that made me lose a couple of hours to it.

I was looking for more information about The Green Lantern building in Halifax when I found a website that intimated that there are urban explorers in Halifax, in the province, who have been in that building. Ravaged by Hurricane Juan in 2003, it has not been open to the public. The Pogue Fado remains open.

What is urban exploration?

I'm glad you asked.

Urban exploration is what urban explorers do.

What are urban explorers?

I'm glad you asked.

Urban explorers are people who enter abandoned and/or condemned building and explore them. With the internet and things like digital cameras, it is increasingly easy for these folks to find each other and plan and plot urban exploration expeditions.

I am aware of one book which deals with this aspect of our culture. It is called "Creepers", and you can read more about the book by clicking here. I have the book, and will have to do some urban exploration of my own to find it, seeing as how it's buried by some other books in the house somewhere.

This website shows all of the urban exploration expeditions that have been undertaken in Nova Scotia, or at least the ones they care to admit to. You see, this is a highly illegal activity: They're breaking into private property. And it's dangerous: These buildings are often falling apart, may be full of mould, or vermin, or whatever. It's not a place you would probably want to be.

You'll notice that one of the places they list is "Canning". I'm from that part of the province, so I clicked on that entry. A couple of guys broke into a building, looked around, and shot some pictures (mostly interior shots) of... my old high school!

I spent 3 pretty agreeable years of my life at Cornwallis District High School. It closed in 2001, and I was there for the closing festivities. Afterward, the community tried to keep part of the building going, but it was too expensive, or too much bother, so they threw up their hands. The building was razed around 2006. Sad day.

It was sad, as well, looking at the pics that these guys took. The building was in a poor state of repair. It is not fun to look at them. Yet... I feel a little debt of gratitude to these guys for capturing the final images of the school.

Do you want to join the Urban Explorers or get my information? Good luck! The website and an associated (closed) facebook presence were all I could find on them. Even much of the website is unavailable to me. However, one piece I was able to pinpoint indicates that their next meeting is on August 2nd at noon at the Just Us! coffee shop on Spring Garden Road. I knew there was a Just Us! place on Barrington, but not on SGR.

Other times they have met at the Second Cup on Spring Garden Road. Whoever runs the local chapter would write "UER" on a small piece of cardboard-type paper and fold it to make it look like a tent, placing it on the table he's sitting at, as a signal to interested parties to come over and join the conversation.

An interesting part of our underground culture, huh? Urban exploration, Nova Scotia. Urban exploration, Halifax. It's easy to think that something like that would not happen around here. Makes me wonder what type of person would want to dig around in an abandoned building. I think I'll read that Morell book.

But... I still wonder if they ever got into the Green Lantern Building? And what they found therein?

P.S. T-5 days!

Friday, July 10, 2009

865th Post - Interview with Peter Duffy

Peter Duffy Questions -- May 21, 2009

Peter Duffy and I met at the Pogue Fado on Barrington Street. It is a storied place, the Green Lantern Building, and has a significant place in radio history, which I will discuss with another person in another interview to be published soon.

Our paths have crossed a few times over the years, and it was nice to renew this acquaintance. We talked for quite a while over a decent meal.

Here is our conversation.

1. Your final column on March 19, 2009 quoted a message you received from Ivan Smith in Canning to the effect that he wanted you to get off the boat and wander around for a while. It is a lovely metaphor, and I wish I could remember exactly how it was worded. You have had 2 months away from the grind of producing regular columns. How is the lay of the land?

Peter Duffy: Well, I've taken Ivan's advice. It really encapsulated how I was feeling: That leaving the Herald was not the end of everything. it was the end of one chapter, and the beginning of another chapter of my life. I even bite my tongue if I catch myself saying the word “retirement”, because I don't feel retired. I'm catching my breath between adventures. The Herald was one adventure; the next adventure hasn't begun yet.

So, I fetched up on a strange beach. That's how I think Ivan put it. I've stepped ashore to explore. For the last two months I haven't stopped smiling. Even my doctor – I came from a doctor's appointment this morning – says he hopes he can look as relaxed as I do when his turn comes [chuckles].

I'm feeling very relaxed. I've been very selfish. I haven't joined anything. I haven't applied anywhere. I'm not rushing for any new adventure right now.

It was so hectic at the Herald at the end, so hectic I was afraid I was going to get ill. Literally, the stress; stress is a killer.

Bevboy: Because of the layoffs?

PD:And I was president of the union, pushing back against those layoffs against the company. It got so hot and heavy for the two and a half months that i was the union president. I'd no sooner become president when the roof fell in, figuratively. They were two and a half of the most intensely stressul months I've ever had. The last time I was that stressed, many years ago, I got cancer. That was at the back of my mind as the stress built up at the Herald at the end. Oh, my God.

Plus, last year, I got shingles; stress is a major cause of shingles. God, that was painful!. That was more painful than cancer. if you've never had shingles...

BB: Never.

PD: Don't even have it in your mind because you don't want to attract the gods [chuckles].

So, there was a lot of stress and a lot of worry in the back of my mind. When I stepped ashore, on March 19th, I walked out of the Herald. I did not look back. I loved the people there. I loved what I did. I enjoyed it, and I was grateful to the Herald for all the freedom it gave me. As a columnist, you have an awful lot of freedom to say and to pick your own topics. and to say what you please about them. I was grateful to the Herald for that. I was sad about the way it all ended for myself. It's not how I imagined finishing my newspaper career, with layoffs and buyouts and stuff. I think there were 17 of us who stepped ashore that fateful day.

But, you're asking about me. I stepped shore. I did not look back. I got in my car, and drove away. And I haven't looked back since. I am relaxed. I'm happy. I'm enjoying my life. I'm not doing much. I'm puttering around. The days are passing pleasantly. When I hear my wife's key in the door -- she's a high school teacher; she gets home 4:30, five o'clock -- I can't believe the day has gone. Oh, my God! Where did it go?

It was a happy day, catching up on books. I have a stack of books by my easy chair.

BB: We all do.

PD: And now I'm finally getting to them! I may even hit War and Peace. I'm just puttering around. I have a big project: My neighbour is going to help me build a deck, a huge deck at our place. My wife and i have a place near Hubbards. I have no idea how to hammer a nail. I'm that weak with wood working. My neighbour knows how to do it. I will be the gopher. He's designing the deck. And he and I will build this deck ths summer.

BB: Good!

PD: We'll go down; maybe he and I stay overnight. We'll work until we've had enough, and we'll stop and go into the house and drink some rum, tell tall tales, and get back to it the next morning. We'll work a couple of days the next week, and it will get built.

I'm not even looking for any new adventures beyond that because I wouldn't be able to accept them if they came my way or if i caused them to come my way, because I have this lovely physical project to do. No more brain work. For the month of June it's going to be muscle power.

BB: Excellent.

PD: And I'm looking forward to it. Just being with the guys.

BB: Have you worn a tie in the last two months?

PD: [chuckles] I was naked without a tie. Bev, I haven't worn a tie since March 19th. And people have remarked on it. I've been to do's, retirment parties for other people, and that's the first thing people have said to me. "My God, you're not wearing a tie!". I'm proud of it.

I still have my sixty ties in the closet. I still have my eighty shirts in the closet, summer/winter. I can't quite bring myself to throw them out. But my visits to Sears have just plummetted. I would be there every Saturday looking for sales of shirts and ties and so on. I think I've been there twice since I left the Herald.

I mean, there are a lot of changes. I'm [in] t-shirts and jeans now. I went to my doctor in a t-shirt and jeans. I never did that. i would always go from work fully dressed. [chuckles]

2. Do you miss doing a column?

PD: Bev: No, I don't. I didn't think I'd ever hear myself say that. But I don't. Or, is it the deadlines I don't miss? I'm still trying to figure that out. It puzzles me why, after writing a column. I wrote my first column in 1966, not for the Herald. This is out West. I've been doing columns off and on for forty-odd years. So, after such a short time away from the business, why would I not just be pining, going through withdrawal symptoms? I don't know. But I'm enjoying just being a civilian, if I can put it that way. I'm enjoying reading the newspaper without my radar on.

A columnist has to have his radar going on constantly. Looking for ideas for columns. You cannot read your own newspaper or another newspaper without that radar just tracking slightly ahead of each word that you're reading, looking for an idea for a column [whose] deadline is coming at you, in my case every two days.

BB: Four times a week.

PD: Four times a week. And, meeting people: Even when you're not working, you're never not working. I think as a journalist and as a columnist, you are constantly working, day and night. Off duty? [You're] never off duty. Your radar is just going constantly looking for interesting stories. Eavesdropping. We'd be sitting in a booth like you and I are now, and I would be half paying attention to you, and my radar would be half picking up what's going on in the next booth, or the next booth over there. And, my eye would be wandering, thinking, "Is that the premier? Who's he having lunch with?" [chuckles]

And, now, I'm not. I'm focused. I haven't dismantled my radar; it's been too long in use. But I just switched it on low, so it alerts me if there's a car coming or about to cross the road. My radar is the same as anybody else's radar now: Survival radar, as opposed to "Column/Career/Earning a living" radar. And it's nice to be like this: To be like you!

BB: I still work.

PD: Yes. But it's nice to be Peter Duffy. Just Peter Duffy. Not Peter Duffy of the Herald, which is how I would introduce myself. "Hi. I'm Peter Duffy from the Herald". On the phone, when I was working, when I wasn't working, it was your second skin. And, it was fine. I loved it. I liked the Herald. I liked my job.

BB: To what extent did that job define your life? You said you were Peter Duffy of the Herald.

PD: Well, I think I was my job, and my job was me. That's a sad thing to say, to admit to. In one of my goodbye columns, when I was musing aloud in print about [whether] I should take the buy out at the Herald or not, I did say that it was more difficult for a man to step aside from a job, his career, because, in my opinion, a man and his job are more closely linked than a woman and her job, a woman and her career.

Oh, you can imagine the flak! [chuckles] But, I still maintain it: That a man is his career much more than a woman is her career. A woman is multi-tasking, is multi-faceted. She is her job. She is her career. But she is more. She is her family. She is her faith. She is many things. I think a man becomes his career; it's what keeps you upright as a guy, to my mind, moreso than a woman. And, I still say that. And I don't care who knows it!

BB: My dad is long since retired. He is 78. He has to have something to do. He thinks he'll just rust if he ...

PD Rests than rusts. Bev, I may come to that once I come to enjoying not doing. I'm on holiday, still. I'm being very selfish. I'm not volunteering for anything. I'm not taking on any committments other than a few speaking engagements. But I don't know if that will last. When I feel it's time for the next adventure, then I'll go out and start looking, if and when that time comes.

BB: Have you been approached?

PD: By anybody? No, no. I just fell right off the radar. And that was good. It sounds strange to say, but I'm glad that I wasn't approached. I didn't need anything other than just to be quiet and still for a while. I needed to catch my breath. And I'm still in "catching my breath" mode right now.

If something came along, once I got my deck project finished, I would certainly consider it. I might even go out and shake a few trees, a few bushes. But, right now, I'm just very happy being me, just having all the time in the world. And the good weather! The good weather is here. It's just a bonus. My days are a joy. They're so different from my career days, my work days, which I loved, but that was a different adventure. Now, I'm on a new track, a new adventure.

BB: You used to take the Herald van or truck and drive down dirt roads and just find stores. Now, you can drive down those same dirt roads just for the sake of driving down the road.

PD: Yes. I could probably go down every dirt road that I drove down for the Herald and see if completely differently now. In fact, I've done a few, and come back, very refreshed. I went out to see a lady who's become a dear friend. She's going to be 100 this Fall. All the dealings she and I had had over the years had been through the filter of my job. I was doing stories when she was 90, 95. And now, she and I are meeting on a different level. It's part of this swtiching off the radar that I'm doing.

I can do that, unlike my younger colleagues who left at the same time, left the Herald. They still need to work. They still need to earn a living. They have mortgages, families, and commitments. They're young. That was, I think, one of the tragedies of what happened at the Herald this year with the layoffs. There were so many young, talented people who got caught up in the harvesting and the layoffs. They weren't the old farts. These were young people in their late twenties, early thirties, just about to have a baby, just got a new house, new car. And I thought, "My God. How are they going to manage?" Because, there is not a big demand for journalists in Nova Scotia or Halifax. There are fewer jobs than ever before.

Look at what's happening at the CBC now. [massive layoffs across the country] I'm in a different boat because of my age, 66. I'm pensionable, getting severance pay. If I was financially hard up, then this conversation might be very different. In fact, we may not be having this conversation, because I'd be out looking for a job like crazy. [chuckles] I would have no time to do this. But, money is not a problem. And, I felt a little guilty about that in comparison to my colleagues, the younger ones for whom money is a major urgency: The loss of a wage. And, then, I calm myself down. I say, "Listen, Duffy: You've been working since you were 18. That's, what, 48 years? And, you've been working towards being financially comfortable. So, why are you feeling guilty?" But, I did. [chuckles] I still felt guilty.

So, I'm in a good place, Bev: Mentally, emotionally, financially. This is an amazing place that I'm at right now. It really is.

BB: Excellent. I'm glad to hear it.

2.5 Did you ever have a column spiked? Which one(s), and how did you react to this?

PD: Yes. I've had a number of columns spiked. I had some spiked during the troubles at the Herald at the end because we withheld our bylines, as a union. It's one thing for a news reporter to withhold a byline because management can just put on it, "Our Staff". But for a columnist, a column is a personal thing. It's about you, and your reaction to events. And, for the reader not to know who's talking, whose voice this is, it's difficult.

I was aware of that, so when the boycott began, as the union president, of course I had to lead the boycott. I re-jigged my column to take me out of the column and make it read more like a little feature. It was still readable; you wouldn't be puzzled about who the Hell was talking here. It wasn't built like that. But, that column still got pulled because my name wasn't on it. Three [columns] in all got pulled because my name wasn't on it. So it was nothing I'd done other than ask my name not go on the columns as a show of solidarity with the union.

That's one thing. Sometimes I've gone over the line in terms of something I've said. Minorities are very touchy things to write about. Aboriginal people, Blacks, handicapped. Sometimes I've been shrill in some of the things I've said about minorities if I thought that a minority was abusing the good will of the system to the point where you dare not say anything wrong about a minority group, for fear of being accused of being a racist, sexist, ageist, whatever. All of which I've been called.

And, quite frankly, Bev, I found it quite liberating. You think I'm sexist? Stand up and say it, and I'll print it. I'll print your comment to me. I'm racist? Step up and tell me. Write a letter to the editor, or write a letter to me. I'll publish it. And, people did. I found it most liberating because we got that nonsense out of the way now. You got your worst shot in, because those words are like nuclear bombs. Nobody wants to be called a racist or a sexist or an "ist" anything. My God! You can get fired. You can get taken to the tribunal for that. But, once you've been called that, and you're still standing (you haven't been fired; you haven't been sued; you haven't been taken to the cleaners or to the tribunal), it's quite liberating. Not to the degree where you use it as a license to be unfair to a minority group. But after you've been called all those things, to have the courage to still say, "That's fine. However, I still think that the Aboriginal community should have done this ", or whatever the situation was. [It's] because they can't do any more harm to you than they've already done by calling you racist, or sexist, or whatever.

I discovered to my joy that once we got that out of the way, we could talk. I could talk to the Black community, and they could talk to me. I could talk to the Aboriginal community; I could go into their communities, literally. I went to the Prestons once, after being chastized for something I'd written about the Black community. I went to the Black community, and I spent time there, the whole day there, knocking on doors, going to the church, and asking, "Why, as a white person, am I afraid of you? Because I am." And people would talk to me, if you were upfront.

We're not upfront enough. We don't say what's on our minds. We dance. We pussyfoot. We tremble. And, as a consequence, whatever it is that's going wrong continues to go wrong because very few people will stand up and say, "That's not right", or, "That's wrong, and just because you're a minority does not give you the license to wag the dog. The tail wagging the dog. We're in a democracy here where majority rules, and yet not always. Minorities set the tone, set the pace. And, I thought that was appalling. I''m not saying I thought that minorities were wrong, but I was appalled more at the reaction of the majority to just back off, cave in, and say, "Oh, God. You're right. We're wrong. We're bad." And, I'll be damned if I'll apologize for my birthright, of who I am and who I was born.

I want you to talk to me. That's what my column was all about. Me telling you, "This is what I think about you. This is what I think about what you've done, what your community has done. And now you tell me what you think. We'll argue. We'll scream at each other. But at least we'll be talking, for God's sake. And I won't be as afraid of you as I at am now, and you will maybe know a little more about me and not be as afraid of me. Because, my God, we're all afraid of each other.

BB: It's through communication that people come to respect one another.

PD: Yes. It is. And, we're not communicating. We've got all the media. We've never had media like we have now. The ability to communicate, my God with the technology, we've got so much stuff to say, and so much stuff needs saying, and so little is getting said. And, we're all afraid of it. I think if I have any regrets about stepping away from journalism, it's that I won't be there trying to make people talk to each other. Honestly talk about what's on their mind. I'm sad about that. I will miss that. It was very satisfying. Very scary sometimes because of the feedback I got and some of the comments, and the threats.

I once got such terrible threats, and I published them in a column, that the Mounties called me [chuckles]. I never knew until that day that there's a special squad of Mounties based at the Airport whose only job is to safeguard public buildings in Nova Scotia, and public figures. That's their job. The sergeant called me up after he read my column of the threats that I'd been getting from readers on something I'd written about the Iraqi war; and he wanted to know if I had had any threats that were beyond what I had printed in the paper, if there were any that went into threats against public figures. I said, "No. They're all directed at me". The sergeant paused for a minute, and said, "Mr. Duffy, do you feel you need protection?" He was thinking maybe they needed to protect me. [chuckles]

I said, "Oh, my God. I never really thought of that before. No, I'm o.k."

I've never felt threatened in my whole career. I've caused a lot of anger amongst readers over the years, different places, different papers. I had upset a judge in Fort McMurray, the main judge in town; and he phoned me up and said, "You need to be horsewhipped!" He was so upset [chuckles]. So, I've had my share. But never to that degree that I'd need protection by the police, no.

BB: Getting back to the spiking...

PD: Sorry! Spiking.

BB: ...were some of those "ist" columns spiked?

PD: Yes. They would be the ones where I had said what I thought about a minority. I tried to do it in a constructive way, but sometimes my emotions, my zeal, got the better of me. And I went over the top, across the line; and the editor said, "Uh, uh. It ain't running like this!"

Occasionally, it got through, and it was brought to my attention that it was uncalled for, unfair, whatever I'd said was way over the line. If it was, in hindsight, I apologized in the next column for what I'd said in the previous column. I was never afraid to say I was wrong in a follow up column, or that I had crossed a line and apologized to whatever community I had offended if it was plain that I had offended them in hindsight.

Nobody likes to apologize. You'd sooner cut off your tongue than apologize. But I would apologize. And, I found, instead of a weakness, that I gained an awful lot of respect by mistakes that I owned up to. Whenever I realized I had made one, or had gone too far, I would own up to it. I never tried to hide it, because that was getting too much baggage. If you had too much baggage, you can't do the job, at least as a columnist. You have to be up there, warts and all. And, you have to have the trust of the readers. If you don't have that, nobody's going to read you.

3. You said you took out a subscription to the Herald upon your retirement. Do you feel the paper provides good value for your money?

PD: [Long Pause] Bev, I've never had a subscription to a newspaper before. I'd been in the business for 43 years, and I'd always got my papers free. You get free newspapers. You just pick one up when you go in. This is the first time in my whole life that I've ever had a newspaper subscription.

It's an awful thin paper. It has become awful thin. But I knew that anyway, from the inside looking out. I was surprised by how little money it costs to get a subscription. It's a couple hundred dollars for a year, and i was quite surprised because i would get every Saturday's paper. I would buy it because I wasn't in the office on Saturday. I would buy the Globe and Mail and the Saturday Chronicle Herald. I think the Saturday Herald was about a buck twenty five. 52 Saturdays times a buck twenty five is about sixty five dollars a year. That's how much I was already spending on the Herald, whereas for another hundred and thirty five dollars I was suddenly getting the paper every day. So, I was happy by how little the subscription cost me. Financially, I think it's reasonable. What you get for that two hundred and odd dollars, knowing the constraints the paper is under; knowing that the staff is suddenly reduced by that many reporters and editors and columnists; knowing how advertising is continuing to slide; Ithink it's the best value possible. Which is me coming crab-wise at your question. I don't think I could expect anything more, given the circumstances.

BB:They do what the can with what they have.

PD: Yes. I get the flyers. We get them on Wednesdays, and Thursdays. She's "tick", boys. She's "tick". But the flyers are a form of information as well. I know the Herald doesn't put them out; it just carries them.

But [the Herald] is a satisfying package. Some days the package is more satisfying than others. But I woudl not like to be without any of the seven issues each week. I will resubscribe!

4.You seemed to have a warm relationship with Rick Howe; among other things, you covered his final Hotline last year. Is that the case? How do you feel about the state of talk radio in Halifax?

PD: Not a lot of thought, Bev, quite honestly. I was so busy doing my own job. I was always flattered when Rick asked me come on his show, and Andrew Krystal. Those are the only two shows I can remember.

BB: Oh, you were on Andrew's show as well?

PD: I was. I don't know how big the audiences are. Do you have any idea? You've talked to these radio guys? Are they very big audeinces?

BB: it all depends on how they break down the demographics. They say that CJCH had 2.6 percent of the listenership. But they didn't care that twelve-year-old girls were not listening. They were in a particular demographic. And within that demographic it was doing reasonably well. But, once again, twelve year-old girls are the ones buying things, not people our age, [so the question is], what's the listnership, and what's the value of that listenership?

PD: When I go visit my buddy who lives across the road (my buddy who's going to help me build my deck this summer), he always has talk radio on in the mornings. When I've had to go for a doctor's appointment or somewhere in a public building, when I was working for the Herald, I was noting how many times talk radio was playing in the background.

I think there is a market for it. I enjoyed doing it. It's a lot more fun to talk than to write. It's a lot easier to be on the radio to talk, like you and i are doing now, than to sit and play on the computer with words and get yourself more and more confused about should be the best part of the story, what you should lead with, and looking for a good punch line for the ending.

I think if I hadn't been in journalism, I might have tried talk radio. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the experience. If Rick Howe or Andrew Krystal ever moves over, would somebody call me, please, and give me nod so I can put in an application? [chuckles]

BB: People in the industry read my blog, so we'll see what happens.

5. How do you fill your days since your retirement?

PD: I don't know. I don't know how I fill my days. [chuckles] They just fill. Yesterday, I had to go to Chester to see the building inspector to ask about building my deck. He couldn't see us until the afternoon. So, that's fine. That was the afternoon taken care of. In the whole morning, I read a book about the start up of The National Post. [This was] one of the books I had by the side of my easy chair that I had bought over the years and never had the time or the energy to get to. I'm kind of worried because the pile is going down now.

That's how yesterday passed: The morning, I was with The National Post, all the ins and outs of Conrad Black and getting the Post started. And, in the afternoon, I was on the road to Chester and talking decks and trusses and 2x2's with the building inspector. And, today, I'm here with you. This afternoon, I'll go home. I want to get back and finish my National Post book. It was so interesting.

The days, I putter. The furnace in my basement has got rust spots; there's been water dripping. Over the years parts of it [have become] rusty. I painted my furnace the day before yesterday with rust proof paint. It looks much better now! I feel much better. What's that? A one hour job, maybe. But dammit, it was fun to do. It was mindless, but I enjoyed it. And, whenever I walk past it now, I say, "God, that looks sharp!".

There are just nicks and dings in the paint work in our townhouse in Bedford where we live. I got some touch up paint. As I feel like it, I just do [a little touch up]. Isn't that a stupid thing? A grown man, getting pleasure out of this? But it's just jobs that have been let go. I'm touching up my life, all of these little nicks and dings in my life that I never got to.

BB: It's almost a metaphor.

PD: It's almost a metaphor. Yes. It is. I have my daytimer. The Herald let me take my daytimer home; it was no use to anybody else. I keep it on my breakfast counter. I look ahead, and next week is empty. At the moment, it's empty, but come Monday, it's going to be filling. There will be bits filling in, things that will crop up. Somebody wants to go have lunch. I have to go back and see the building inspector. I have a little memo to myself: "Go on road trip" on a little sticky note that I transfer from week to week. A little nudge to myself.

Listen: The day comes you don't have anything else on, get in the car and go down those back roads. The days pass in a very gentle, nice way. And, when I hear my wife's key in the door at 4:30, 5 o'clock, I'm stunned that it's that time. The time is not weighing heavy. I'm not missing a routine, a rhythm, a purpose. Each day brings just pleasant little puttering.

I'm happy. I'm a happy man.

BB: I'm happy for you!

6. You mentioned before that you didn't mind if people disagreed with your columns, so long as they did not consider them boring. Despite this, are there some columns you wish you had not written because they sparked a backlash or were misinterpreted by readers?

PD:[Long Pause] Bev, I can't think of one that I wish I hadn't written. Even the ones that caused me pain, that came back and bit me, and a number of them did, as we were discussing earlier. They led on to new wisdom, new experiences, new columns.

Getting back to the minority communities: Whenever I upset a minority community, I would get an angry e-mail or phone call from a member of that community. It may be the chief, if it was a Native community.

I wrote a column about a year ago asking, "What do Native people want? They've got the sun and the moon, and they want the stars as well." The roof fell in. Even my own boss came in and scorched me on that one. I got some very, very abrasive feedback from the Native community. So, I invited myself to the community. I said, "Listen. Don't tell me over the phone. Don't tell me in an e-mail. I want to come and meet you, sit down in your kitchen over a cup of tea. You tell me this face-to-face. Let's just talk about this. Let's just find out where I've gone wrong here".

Whether they were stunned at my reaction or what, I don't know. But they would invite me. "Well, ok. You come up. Can you come up tomorrow?" [I'd say] "Yes, I can come up tomorrow. Give me your address. Have the kettle on at 10 o'clock and I'll be in Truro. I'll be at Millbrook [or whereever]".

And, I've made a lot of contacts, a lot of friends that way. What started out as daggars drawn, led on to all kinds of good stuff. I came away from these bruising encounters a wiser man, and I could write with more wisdom the next time. And, next time I would annoy somebody else, and I'd invite myself to their house. [chuckles]

There was never a door that was closed to me because of what I've written. Even misguided columns that I wrote caused doors to open, or helped to open doors to me, through which I passed to a new understanding of problems, of people.

I never regretted any of the columns unless I hurt somebody inadvertently with something I'd written. They were embarrassed or held up to scorn in their community because of talking to me, and people misread or read into it their own prejudices and took it out on the person of whom I wrote. I regretted that, whenever I hurt somebody. There were people I hurt. Not deliberately.

I never knowingly used my position to hurt anybody, or threaten anybody, except once.


PD: I did a story on a street person who had a dog. It was just a mongrel. It was his companion. The dog was in bad shape. It had mange. [It was] losing its skin. [It was] hungry. I did a story on this man and his dog. I convinced the man to get help for the dog through the SPCA, to trust the SPCA with his dog. He wouldn't abandon it, and he knew it needed help; and I convinced him to give it to the SPCA.

When I told a colleague at work what I'd done, my colleague said, "Oh, my God. You know they'll do? They'll just put the dog down!".

BB: Oh, no. I hope they didn't!

PD: Well, I was just beside myself. I phoned the president of the Nova Scotia SPCA. I introduced myself. "You have this dog in your care. If any harm comes to that dog, if you put that dog down because it's more trouble to try and cure it than not, I will come after you with my column. I will cause you all kinds of problems."

I'd never done that, [in] 43 years of journalism. Never, ever used my position, my freedom as a journalist, to threaten anybody, except that one time.

The dog survived, was given the most loving treatment. I don't believe ever had any intention to hurt that dog, but I wasn't taking any chances. The dog is now happily adopted by a family on the Eastern Shore. It found a new home. It's healthy. You would never know anything was ever wrong with it. The SPCA brought it back to life. And I feel good about that. But I was stunned that I might have caused it to be put down. [chuckles].

BB: I'm an animal lover and...

PD: You would have done the same.

BB: Yes. I would have done the same thing.

7. You spent the bulk of your Herald career, almost all of it, at the former Argyle Street building. How jarring, how emotional, was the move to the new offices at the Armdale Roundabout in 2008?

BB: Was it time to leave that place?

PD: No! Perhaps, Bev, if we had stayed on Argyle, my decision to leave the Herald when I did might have been harder to make. I missed the Argyle Street place. The longer I stayed in the new building, the more I missed the old building.

The old building was a newspaper building. It smelled of newspapers. It was old. It had mice. Paint was peeling. The elevator was slow, ancient. But, dammit, it was a newspaper building. The press was in the basement. There was ink in the walls. There was ink in the carpets. Damn, it was a newspaper building.

The new facilities on Joe Howe Drive were magnificent. I had never worked in such beautiful surroundings: Top-of-the-line furniture, desks, carpeting, accoutrements, wallpaper. But it was an office building. I had gone from a newspaper building -- which was like watering a plant for me: I thrivedi in it -- to a sterile office building. We had cubicles. You couldn't really see each other once you sat down and felt like you were in a call center.

The Herald spent a lot of money making the place nice for us. But the atmosphere didn't come with us. I missed [Argyle Street] terribly.

BB: You still do.

PD:I still do. I think if they moved back to Argyle Street, I might put an application in for a job. Even as a delivery boy!

BB: I think when they got the new presses out where ever they got them...

PD: Hammonds Plains.

BB: ... then the writing was on the wall for that space on Argyle, because the printing presses were on Argyle Street. I used to walk by there on a Friday night and see them loading up the papers. I guess the truck drivers would deliver all night? There would be that one printing press, and from there papers were distributed all across the entire province.

PD: The entire province, yes. It was the only industry still downtown when I came to town in 1980. I miss it. The Old Lady of Argyle Street. A dear old place. But, of course, we had to sell it to pay for the new presses. Or, to pay toward the new presses: it didn't cover the whole cost of the presses. Twenty-five million or so. State-of-the-art stuff; it doesn't come cheap.

God Bless the Old Lady of Argyle.

BB: Rumour is that it's coming down in October. That will be a sad day.

PD: I don't think I want to see it.

8. Do you see yourself starting a blog?

PD: No. I'm quite happy not writing, not communicating. Just being me. No blogs. No websites. No anything. Just being free and easy. At least at this point. Actually, a blog sounds like a lot of work.

BB: I have a daily deadline I give myself. I try to write something every single damn day. I only have 30 or 40 people who read it [every day], so I am not sure if they appreciate it or notice, but it's something I do.

9. Do you keep in touch with your former colleagues?

PD: Sadly, no. I've spoken to a couple over the past two months; but that was more just to congratulate them on nominations they got for awards and a little union business that needed taking care of. But other than that, no. I've had coffee with a dear friend at the paper a couple of times. We keep in touch. But I'm not one of these people who, when you leave, you have to keep going back every six months and walk around your old work place and talk to everybody and get on their nerves [chuckles].

Bev, I figure: When you're gone, you're gone. Walk away. Don't go back. That's it. New adventures. New friends. I'll be good.

BB: Acknowledge your past, but don't live in it.

PD: But don't live in it. Well, we're different already. Two months, even a day's separation, you're not the same. So, why try and make it the same?

No. I'm not going back.

10. Is there a future for print media in Halifax?

PD: [chuckles] You save the easy ones for last, don't you?

BB: Yes.

PD: Bev, I believe there is. Short answer. What shape it will take, I don't know. A hybrid of the tactile (the papers we have now) married to the internet. Whether the paper itself is a teaser for what's on the web... I don't know. Some kind of hybrid, anyway.

Newspapers as we know them? No. They're in a state of flux, a state of change. Will they perhaps marry with television and radio? The leader's debate [for the then-running provincial election campaign] on CBC on Monday night was a joint Chronicle Herald-CBC production. You'll see oftentimes when polling is done, not necessarily for elections, but polling is done, it will be a joint CBC-Globe and Mail effort. There are synergies happening between media...

BB: Is that a way to save money? I'm presuming it's really expensive to do a poll.

PD: How much, I don't know. But I would imagine so. I think there's an economies of scale there. Who's to say that that kind of cooperation with the debate that we're mentioning, that we don't see that expand. Perhaps a series on the Sydney tarponds, or poverty in Nova Scotia, or some major issues where CBC or CTV and the Herald link up and you'll see it in both media.

I think it's coming into an exciting phase, newspapers in general. Scary: Some of the big names are disappearing. But those who will be left, and I believe that the Herald will be left, will survive. I think our grandkids will be reading The Chronicle Herald, in some form, in some fashion. The Herald isn't going to disappear. But it will change. It has to be relevant. For a medium to survive, it has to be relevant.

And I'm not sure politics is paramount in people's lives these days, given the distrust that we have of politicians. They open their mouths. We know they're lying. And yet we still, and the Herald still, devotes a lot of space to politics. I'm not saying we should not cover politics. I'm saying that a story about poverty in Nova Scotia ...

BB: That was an excellent series that you guys did.

PD: Wasn't it! That will be more read. Issues that come right in through your front door are what the Herald needs to do.

What other issues? Crime. Fear on the streets. We do crime stories every day. There's a problem out there. I don't have the answers to how we can write about it that will be different to how the Herald has written about it before. But, somehow, we have to get into people's homes with these issues. Given the Herald, and I'm talking about the Herald because I know it best, given how the Herald's staff has shrunk, and its resources are not as big as they once were, I think that the Herald needs to brainstorm more [on] what people need to read because the Herald, like any other newspaper that's in business, has to sell papers. It's nice to be a public trust, and to fight for the litle guy and to expose corruption and to have all of these altruistic ideals. It's good to have that. But the bottom line of a newspaper, of a tv station, of a radio station: Make money. And you only make money if people are buying you or listening to you. And you only get people reading you if you're writing about what's on their minds: What's pleasing them, what's hurting them, what's scaring them.

BB: What's affecting them.

PD: Yes. What comes in their front door when they come home at night. Bev, one of the things I used to do when I worked at the Herald: I trained myself when I would be in public, after work, going to Sobeys, get my groceries. I trained myself to look at the people around me, in the line ups, waiting to pay for my groceries. To listen and to look at them. To the woman ahead of me with her two little children, squalling away. She's tired. She just wants to get the groceries paid for and get home. I'm looking at her and thinking, "What can I write about tomorrow that's she's going to want to read?" She's going to tell the kids to be quiet while she reads takes five minutes to read Duffy. What can I possibly write to capture her attention, given the other things she has going on her in life?

And, the guy standing in front of me. He's wet. He's tired. He's on his way home from work, and it's been a rainy day, and he's had a bad day. What the Hell can I write about that will capture his attention? I think that the Herald, all media, need to go stand in the grocery store lineup for quite a while, for quite a few weeks, and just listen. And look. And figure out: What can we possibly put in our paper, on our radio station, that will capture this poor woman's attention, this woman with her kids, and this guy who's wet, and this old person who doesn't have a lot of money and she's not sure how she's going to pay for her groceries. What do we need to write about, that will get their attention? That will interest them? Help them, perhaps? But, most of all, make them buy the damn paper tomorrow? [chuckles]

Wrap Up:

BB: Peter Duffy, thank you so much for your time today. I know you're retired and like to take things easy, so I appreciate your coming downtown and sitting down with a silly guy like me. I hope, as a blogger, that I didn't ask questions that were embarrassing or inappropriate because I'm learning how to interview as I go along.

PD: Bev, the pleasure was mine. Thank you for even thinking of me. I'm flattered, really. This is a nice change-of-pace where I get to say what I think in an interview, for a change. This is interesting. And I thought your questions were good ones.

BB: I appreciate your kind words.

PD: You were good. You done good!

BB: Thank you again.

PD: My pleasure.