Saturday, May 27, 2017

Weekend Mornings

I had heard Dave, but never worked with him. Working with him weekend mornings was a complete treat! In fact, I would often go into the studio a few minutes early just to listen to him host and interact with CJAD listeners. My time at the radio station included Dave Fisher’s retirement and when he left, I missed listening to his warm, smooth sound and his supremely adroit exchanges with callers to the Trivia Show. I know he was eager to relax more.

Hanging with Dave
I always enjoyed our pre-shift chats and his stories about the adventures he shared with his wife!

It was also great fun to be back on CHOM-FM! I worked there for several years during my professional broadcasting career as a news anchor, interviewer/host, reporter and editorialist. As Maisonneuve Broadcasting sold the station to CHUM, I was hired by Lee Hambleton. Former news director, now mystery author, Hilary MacLeod, agreed to let me do weekly commentaries and I went on to earn two ACTRA Award nominations for Best Opinion/Commentary. Doing commentaries on CHOM-FM was one of the main reasons I turned down job offers from other Montreal radio stations and stayed there for 16 years.

My time at CHOM was filled with infinite adventures and fun. Al Gravelle set my paper weather forecast on fire while I was reading it on the air! I also remember Marty Lamarre’s side-splitting stair choreography, Chris Michael’s air drumming, the Pete Marier rhino episode and hanging out in the office of former Music Director Neil Kushnir. I remember laughing uncontrollably on the air with Too Tall because of an un-cued news report!

Montreal heritage
The original CHOM door with its heart-shaped window is still in the building and stands as a testament to the station’s trendsetting legacy in the city.

These last couple of years, replacing Trudy Mason weekday mornings, I got to work on the CHOM-FM morning show with Terry, Heather and Esteban. Lots of people would tell me, and my son, that they heard me doing the news on CHOM.

Over the course of my nearly two years at CJAD, there were plenty of memorable moments. Just before 4AM on the morning of Sunday August 28, 2016, I got in the elevator and pressed the floor number to the newsroom. The elevator suddenly stopped between floors. I couldn’t pry open the doors and the emergency phone in the elevator was broken.

I used my cell to call the CJAD control room. The talented and very versatile Sean Coleman was working and thankfully, he was relentless in his efforts to get me out! In the end, Sean recruited Montreal firefighters, who helped me pry open the doors and scramble from the stuck elevator onto the uneven floor. 

Saved by Sean (leaning against wall)
I spent about an hour in there, singing jazz standards to myself. The worst part, by far, was falling an hour behind in my workload!

The weekend morning news shift at CJAD is pretty busy with 5 minute newscasts every half hour until 11AM, no breaks. There are newspapers to comb, interviews to do, lots of tape to cut, and stories to post to the web. I learned how to use Digital Suite and Polopoly Content Management Systems and grew to love the Snipping Tool app, which allowed me to take stills from raw CTV video footage and use them as photos for web stories. Weekend mornings, I shared the newsroom with the dynamic Marie-Pier Boucher, who anchored news on Bell Media’s French stations in Montreal. 

There were mornings we had to contend with terrible technical problems. On the morning of February 7, 2016, we had no internet, or Burli, which is the highly functional newsroom software. On November 28th 2015, our computer screens kept freezing for long periods of time. We couldn't write anything and I had no tape for the newscasts. It had to be one of my most stressful days in radio. By turning the computer on and off, and rebooting, I managed to print enough stories for one newscast and pretty much used it over and over again. I managed to print one or two for Marie-Pier.

Reading news on CHOM-FM
I would arrive at 4AM Saturday and Sunday mornings and leave after the 11AM newscast, content to have done gratifying and important work. News anchor Luciano Pipia worked the shift after mine. I had the pleasure of working with Luciano years ago at CHOM/CKGM when it was on Greene Avenue. I was delighted to discover we continue to share an appreciation for sarcasm and Sinatra!

Sinatra and sarcasm buffs
My wife was always amazed at the number of people who would tell her they had heard me reading the news on CJAD! The station, dedicated to comprehensive news and current events coverage, is a true Montreal broadcasting institution and I’m glad to have been a part of it.