Friday March 18 2011
By Sandy Graham
With the 40th Anniversary of the Junos coming up, Cashbox Canada would like to pay homage to some of the music industry icons who have “built this city on rock „n‟ roll.” On a summer night in August 1984, Much Music was launched in part to capitalize on the success of MTV, the American cable music channel that had premiered a little bit earlier. It was the innovative brainchild of Moses Znaimer, and his on-air „vee-jays‟ were personalities in their own right. Along with Erica Ehm, Michael Williams, Christopher Ward and JD (John) Roberts there was also the blonde haired blue eyed zany kid, Steve Anthony. Now a co-host on the hugely popular CP 24 Breakfast show in Toronto, Steve Anthony has grown into the role of a serious broadcaster, while maintaining his outgoing personality that won him such popularity in his early days on radio and television. Cashbox had the opportunity to ask a few questions of how the career of this music loving guy got to where he is today.
When and how did you start in radio? The year? 1972. Marconi had just invented the radio the year before. And all was good. At the tender age of 14, my big brother, Ron, took me under his wing and let me sit in with him on his radio show at McGill University. A mix of eclectic music and chat that got me hooked. I loved music, but, more importantly, I loved “communicating”. Yes, a bit of a self-indulgent endeavour. Okay, a huge self-indulgence. But, heck, you go with your strengths, right?
Steve Anthony TodayI worked at a bunch of part-time jobs while going to school to earn enough to get DJ equipment so that I could earn money playing music at weddings and parties. But, more important, was that I got to talk, to “attempt” to entertain. As you can imagine, I sucked. But only a few of us are really good at this shit coming out of the gate. With my best pal (at the time) Pete Marier, we would DX at night. Let me be smarty-pants science-guy and describe DX-ing. Ahemmmm. During the day, the sun charges the Earth’s ionosphere. The ionosphere is a region of the earth’s atmosphere where ionization caused by
incoming solar radiation affects the transmission of radio waves. It extends from a height of 70 kilometres to 400 kilometres above the surface. At night (that’s when the sun goes down), the “charged” ionosphere acts like a great big dome over the earth. Unlike FM (frequency modulation), AM (amplitude modulation) radio signals cannot pass through this|”dome”, so an AM radio signal, say, from Chicago, bounces off the ionosphere, back down to, say, a lake, bounces back up to the ionosphere, ad nauseam, until Pete and I were DX-ing and listening at night to radio announcers from “far away” lands. Hooked even more. Add in a station like CHOM, at the beginning, where it was the first free-format radio station in North America, where the jocks got to play what they wanted and said what they wanted to say, and radio became, along with my red and white, corpuscles in my blood. My first “volunteer” job was when I was 17. The radio legend Andy K was doing overnights at (now defunct) Montreal West Island (where I lived) CFOX. He let me operate the console of a radio station in one of the biggest radio markets in all of North America. He referred to me as his operator “Failsafe”. I will always love him for that. Andy K passed away far too young back in December of 2006. Who gave you first job in radio and how did it come about? With the experience I got at CFOX, I was able to “wrangle” control of John Abbott CEGEP radio, with my new pal Les Krifaton (http://www.fox5vegas.com/station/9431645/detail.html ), from a bunch of “pot-smoking-this-is-cool-for-me-and-my-other-pot-smoking-cegep-pals-while-we-sit-in-this-room-with-two-turntables-a-microphone-a-black-light-on-the-black-light-posters-god-i’m-so-high-dude-pass-those-joe-louis-would-you-i-so-have-the-munchies”, and turn it in to a “real” radio station. With shows and news and sports and current affairs and .. Well, you know .. a radio station.
Steve Anthony and Leslie Neilson
That gave me the “credentials” to meet real pro announcers in Montreal, like Gary Bell, The Real Earl Jive, Bobby Gale. I sucked their brains dry. And then sent out a really, really bad demo tape. Did I mention earlier that I sucked? Anyway, I got three offers. One from Estevan, Saskatchewan, one from Cambletton, New Brunswick, and one from Timmins, Ontario, 680 CKGB, by a great guy named Stan Lark (who later went on to run the radio program at Humber College in Toronto). Estevan sounded like the red VW microbus that Arlo Guthrie used to sing about in the Alice’s Restaurant song (THAT’S an esoteric reference), Cambletton was in “The Brown Province”, as some pals of mine called it. But Ontario was, well, right next door to Quebec.
“OKAY! I’ll take it”. Then my dad and I went looking for it on a map of Ontario. We couldn’t find it. Until we “flipped the map over to the other side”. “OMG. It’s near the Arctic Circle.”, I said. Dad said, “Well, not quite, but Hudson Bay, anyway. Look! It’s near Kapuskasing. It’s near Moose Factory. It’s near, not just Porcupine. But SOUTH Porcupine.” What have I done? I lasted 18 months, 6 days, 5 hours, and 22 seconds in Timmins.
Peter Noone (Herman’s Hermits) and Steve AnthonyTell us about your Montreal days. After Timmins, I went to Kitchener-Waterloo to work for Pat. St. John at 570 CHYM. I liked KW a lot, but used to listen to CFTR in Toronto (when it was a powerhouse Top 40 station). I REALLLLLYYYYY wanted to work there. But I got a call from Jim Connell, who was, for a very short time, my PD in Timmins. He was working at 980 CKGM in Montreal. He told the PD at the time, Buster Beau Dean, to listen to my tape. The offer was made, and I moved back home to Montreal. I lasted 18 months, 6 days, 5 hours and 22 seconds in KW.
How did you end up in Toronto? At the time, I was Music Director, Program Director and Afternoon Drive Announcer at 980 CKGM in Montreal. Jeff Sterling was the owner of the station. After many years of offers to sell CKGM, Jeff finally put the deal together for the sale to CHUM Limited. Neill Dixon, now President of Canadian Music Week, was working as an independent music consultant at the time. I remember him telling me at that time that CHUM was very loyal to their soldiers, and that before too long, one of the soldiers in the field was coming in to replace me. He asked if that made me unhappy. And if he could throw my name out there in Toronto. “Um”, I said. He took that as a yes. He was right on the money. I was replaced by David Wolfe, who was working on the East Coast for a CHUM group out there. And then Gary Slaight, PD and GM of Q107 came calling. He told me I would be a great fit at “The Mighty Q”. I was hesitant to leave CHUM. But he was, in retrospect, wonderfully relentless. So I accepted, left Montreal, and started my career in Hogtown.
Tell us about your Much Music Days.
What can I say? There was and, I imagine, never will be anything like the Much Music that I worked for. It was so absolutely new on the TV landscape. MTV had only been on the air for a short time after we got on. And, unlike MTV, we didn’t have a real plan. It was a bunch of bright, enthusiastic, highly creative young folks that just wanted to make borderless, neat television. We made it up as we went. TV and the media landscape has become so diverse and narrow casted, niched, that something like Much Music of old just wouldn’t work today.
It’s exactly why Much Music of today is what it is. It broadcasts shows and content to itsaudience. And does a great job of it. The Much Music of old that I worked for didn’t know what our market was, so we did anything and everything. Hell, when I did weekend shifts, we would often do “cooking shows” just coz! Who was John Martin and what influence did he have on the Much Music ‘family’? John Martin worked side by side with Nancy Oliver. She was the Yin to his Yang. She was the diplomat. He was the rebel. He encouraged anything and everything “out there”. I don’t quite know of anyone these days that could get away with just saying “go make some TV” as the mandate, not tell you what that was, then give you money for it? Wow. What a gig. Of course, I would be completely remiss if I didn’t mention Moses Znaimer, from whose vision this all stemmed. He was the guy that hired John Martin and Nancy Oliver. They were the ones that hired me and like-minded dolts!
Breakfast Television Days That was Moses’ idea. Again, there was nothing like it on the TV landscape. Casual, attractive, talented, engaging Ann Rohmer in studio, now Lieutenant Governor of Ontario David Onley as news anchor, and John Whaley, floor director for the show and Sportscaster. And then me. “Here’s a Live Eye truck”. Go out every morning, and do something”. So I did. Whatever it was. From rappelling INSIDE the CN Tower from top to bottom to cave spelunking to just messing with people on the street, we just did something. One day, a while after we started the show, we
finally got a budget for advertising. I remember when they revealed the campaign to us one morning. The slogan was “BT- We apologize for Steve Anthony this morning!”.
What was your funniest experience or story on the radio? Too many. How about a horror story? We all in radio and TV swear like anyone else. Well, actually, probably more. But we all have trained ourselves to not let that out while we are on air. I was working at CHOM FM in Montreal. It was the year that the original Wiarton Willy, the groundhog weather prognosticator, had been found dead in his burrow. Well, we decided that we would do a bit where I had actually got an interview with Wiarton Willie in his burrow the Autumn before, as he was about to hibernate for the winter. My partner, Andrew Carter, played the part of Wiarton Willie. We echoed his voice and pitched it up like a groundhog would sound. And the Wiarton Willie I interviewed was a hard drinking, pot smoking, cocaine driven, drug addled monster. We recorded it with so much foul language that we shocked ourselves. Then we “beeped out” all the swear words. It was a big hit. So the next day, by popular demand, we played it back. My producer started the tape and left the console, which I had no access to. Well, it was 30 seconds in, when my producer had walked out of the room, that it was discovered that he was airing the tape WITHOUT the beeps. And there was nothing I could do about it. “Oh well. I hope they’ve heard swearing before” was what we chalked it up to.
Steve Anthony and (l to r) Davey Jones, Mickey Dolenz & Peter Tork
What was your funniest experience or story on television? How about most fun? We were asked by Washago Beach BIA to come up from Toronto to show off their new beach program … bungee jumping, and helicopter rides for families. Which we did. Near the end, and I am not certain, but probably why they DON’T have helicopter rides there anymore, they asked me, “What do you want to do now?”. Hmmmm. How about you give me a cape, strap my feet into a snowboard, harness me in to two bungee cords, attach that to the bottom of the helicopter and fly me 10 feet off of Georgian Bay at 150 kmh?” They did! Who was your most favourite artist that you ever interviewed? Well, honestly, there are too many. But I gotta mention Sir Bob Geldof just about two weeks ago on CP24 Breakfast. For a guy that has been so influential on a world scale to be so, and excuse the cliché, down to Earth, friendly, open, unpretentious, unrehearsed and approachable, amazed me. Truly. And he has a memory like a steel trap. He remembered that we met at Much Music 20 years ago. What would you give as advice to the next generation of hopefuls on how to proceed in the business? Know everything about everything, be able and be willing to do anything, and be nice to people on the way up. Because you might meet them on the way down.
Steve Anthony – CP 24 You are now co-host of CP 24, along with Melissa Grelo. What is it like working on the most popular morning show in the city? Here it is in a nutshell; There is a term, almost “cliché” that says, “Time to re-invent yourself”. Easy to say. Very hard to do. So here I was, Steve Anthony, your “blonde VJ pal”, Steve Anthony, that whacked guy from Q107, CFNY, CKGM and (now defunct) MIX 99.9. I was Steve Anthony, the guy that BT apologized for every morning. How do you re-invent THAT? Well, along comes this TV show, direct competition to the show that I helped launch 20+ years ago. It is a smart, credible, GTA-centric powerhouse that EVERYONE watches, at least at some time during the day. You see it everywhere. You can’t avoid it. It is on in restaurants, greasy spoons, sports bars, pubs, doctors’ offices, lawyers’ offices, dentists’ offices, retail stores, and on and on.
And I am asked to be compelling, interesting, smart, informed, opinionated, and, yes, fun and funny.So all that I did before, plus the “smart” part as well. EXACTLY how to reinvent myself. How often does a chance like that come along for people
like me in the broadcast industry? The first day that Melissa and I were on the air together, our rapport was natural, funny and smart. The “natural” part was the most important. You can’t just put two people together and just expect it to happen. There is that unknown element that you only know exists when you see it happening. I love just talking with her. I love making her laugh. I love how she makes me laugh and think. It’s a job that isn’t a job. It’s just two folks interested in each other, talking about and laughing about and putting in perspective the events of the day. A dream job, really.The producers always put together the stuff that Melissa and I riff on. I know that Melissa and I could probably entertain each other in an empty room. But without all that great stuff that the CP24 Breakfast producers put together, it wouldn’t be this great show that people go to every morning. Then all the other talented folks that make this such a great team; Lindsey Deluce, Nalini Sharma, Mika Midolo, Bob Summers, Maurice Cacho, Cam Woolley .. did I leave anyone out… Oh yes. I’d like to thank God! Sounds like I’m making an acceptance speech. And isn’t it mandatory to thank God? At least every awards show I’ve ever seen. By the way, I have a twitter account. It’s @SteveAnthony. I’ll follow you if you follow me. Deal? Who would you like to acknowledge for helping you in the business? Wow. Stan Lark, Pete Marier, Pat. St. John, Jim Connell, Rob Braide, Jeff Vidler, Neill Dixon, Gary Slaight, Bob Mackowitz, Gene Valaitis, Moses Znaimer, John Martin, Nancy Oliver, Ian McLean, Ross Davies, Andrew Carter, Marc Aflalo, David Johnson, Gord McWaters, Bob Cook,Blair Bartem, Bob Harris, Karen Steele, Pat Holiday and Bob McLaughlin.