Wednesday, 1 April 2015

AM 600 Radio station announces big news: Aaron Rand and Andrew Carter move over

From today's print edition of The Suburban.

AM600, Montreal’s new English language radio station owned by industry veteran Paul Tietolman, will announce later today that both Andrew Carter and Aaron Rand have left CJAD and will headline a star studded lineup of notable personalities.
Aaron Rand

Tietolman  has hired radio veteran Steve Kowch as general manager and program director and Wayne Bews, late of 925 The Beat FM,  as sales manager. The interesting twist here is that Rand will host the morning show while Carter will do the drive home.

“I really missed mornings,” said Rand, who will bring back Paul “Tasso Patsikakis” Zakaib as his on air sidekick while Suzanne Desautels will also depart CJAD and handle weather and traffic. 

“These last few years doing afternoons at CJAD have been just great. I have not caught up with my sleep and I am ready to rise again at 3:30 a.m. weekdays to go to work.

Carter, meanwhile, said that it was his idea to switch shifts. “I have been doing mornings for more than a decade and it really takes it toll on you,” he admitted. “I am looking forward to sleeping in and staying up late again.”

Tietolman confided to us that his mid-morning show will feature a tête-à-tête between former politicians Gilles Duceppe and Yolande James. “A separatist and a federalist debating the issues each day will be ‘must listen to’ radio,” Tietolman said.
Paul Tietolman

Early afternoons will be anchored by Dan Laxer, who lost his full-time gig at CJAD a few years ago. Following Carter, Suburban editor Beryl Wajsman’s Last Angry Man returns to Montreal radio from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.  Talks are reportedly underway between Tietolman’s team and TSN 690’s Conor McKenna to bring a provocative late night sports talk show back to the local radio scene. “Montrealers crave for the days of Ted Tevan,” Tietolman said of the late shock jock sports rap host. “We just know there is an audience for that.”

Overnights will belong to Peter Anthony Holder and Sol Boxenbaum, once fixtures on CJAD. Claude Beaulieu and Murray Sherriffs will head the news team.

Over at CJAD, it appears that Barry Morgan is in for a promotion to replace Carter in the mornings. Dave Kaufman will fill Morgan`s Noon to 3 p.m. shift while Dan Delmar will take over the drive home show. Jay Farrar will step in for McKenna if he moves to AM600.
Tietolman plans to launch AM 600 in June, along with  French language talk and sports stations. 

What is my reaction to all of this? Well folks, today is  April 1. It has been a few years since The Suburban was published on this date, providing me with the perfect opportunity to say “April Fool’s” to all of my readers. Sorry, but I just could not resist.

THE REAL STORY: Tietolman does indeed plan to open three radio stations. He has Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) approval to go on the air with an English language talk station at the AM 600 dial and two French language stations, one for talk and another for sports. When I reached him he preferred not to get into too many details. But he wants to make it clear that this radio trio will become a reality. When it does, perhaps some of my April Fool’s musings will actually occur.  What do you think? 

GLOBAL TV AND THE BEAT: Last fall I invited  Jessica Laventure, Camille Ross and Richard Dagenais from The Global Morning News and Cat Spencer, Sarah Bartok and Natasha Hall The Beat 92.5 FM to the English Montreal School Board Career Fair. After doing an interview with them for The Suburban video section, I suggested that on April 1 they change places for the ultimate April Fool's joke. Well, today they do so in style and Camille even gave me some recognition on the air.

Here is the photo I took of Jessica,  Richard, Camille, Cat and Sarah which inspired the April Fool's joke.

Below are comments from the main players.
It's nice to see pros at work and that's exactly what the team at The Beat 92.5 are all about; seeing them at work, you realize Cat, Sarah, Natasha, Sammy and Paul are - Montreal's perfect mix!"
Richard Dagenais
"Any opportunity to spend time with the Team over at the beat is something to look forward to. They are a group of incredibly hilarious, charismatic and talented people."
Camille Ross
"It's easy to see why the Beat Breakfast with Cat and Sarah is Montreal's number one Morning radio show. I felt immediately comfortable with Cat, Sarah and Natasha. Nothing creepy, I just... smelled their hair and followed them home. You know, normal closeness."
Jessica Laventure
Thanks to the Global Morning News team for making us look good! Don't tell my boss but those 10 minutes on morning television made me realize how easy we have it in radio. No lights, no camera...(but plenty of action)!
Cat Spencer
Sometimes, things happen that make you scratch your head & wonder what just happened! That's exactly what we hoped to acheive with our little switch-a-roo. Thanks to the entire Global team for making this April Fools prank come to life...and for making me appreciate even more so how a full face of makeup is not required for morning radio. ;-)
Sarah Bartok

We tag teamed with Camille and Richard from Global to play a little April Fools joke on all our listeners..Cat and Sarah took over TV while Camille and Richard took over the radio:

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Another successful Sports Celebrity Breakfast

I always like to begin my recaps of the annual Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors Foundation Sports Celebrity Breakfast with a little bit of history. Twelve years ago former Côte Saint-Luc City Councillor Harold Greenspon approaches to me to help create such an event from scratch. A deal was reached when he agreed to back me in the next municipal election and endorse me to succeed him in District 2.
PK Subban and young Daniel Lebovits

The Sports Breakfast began as an event to bring some recognition to the Centre and raise a few dollars. I believe we netted $10,000 at the inaugural event. But when Greenspon recruited Michael Wagen, the Senior Vice-President of Delmar International, to succeed him the Breakfast took on a different image. Over the past 11 years we have raised well more than $1 million for senior in crisis. It is perhaps the only event of its kind in the city and regularly sells out. The 600 tickets for this year were gone weeks ago. See this report from CTV.

Wagen has now been joined by Bram Naimer, president of Union Lighting, as co-chair. Morden "Cookie" Lazarus is the honourary chair, but really much more than that. Without his wealth of contacts we would not be able to recruit many of the marquee guests on our list.
Coordinator Susan Rozansky, Foundation boss Cathy Simons, and a dedicated committee make this is one well oiled machine.  
Mahovlich, Lazarus, Fisher and Irvin,

This year's event at the Gelber Conference Centre featured a special tribute to Mitch Garber while former Montreal Canadiens star Peter Mahovlich was honoured as the Sports Personality of the Year.

Garber is the CEO of Caesars Acquisition Co., a public company (CACQ) on the NASDAQ which owns the World Series of Poker, Playtika, the second largest social and mobile games business in the world, Las Vegas strip casinos Planet Hollywood, Bally's, The Cromwell, The Linq, as well as Harrah's New Orleans and The Horseshoe Baltimore. For many years he hosted a popular sports talk show on Montreal radio and along with Breakfast Honourary Chair Morden “Cookie” Lazarus he was instrumental in bringing the Montreal Alouettes franchise back to town. He also a noted philanthropist, supporting many charities in Canada and Israel.
Melnick, Garber and Leonoff.
Mahovlich was a member of four Stanley Cup championship Montreal Canadiens teams. He enjoyed a breakout season in 1970–71, scoring 35 goals in the regular season and another 10 in the playoffs. His best year came in 1974–75, when he racked up 117 points. He hit the 100-point mark again the following year, finishing with 105.In his 16-year NHL career, he totalled 288 goals and 485 assists for 773 points in 884 games. Internationally, he was a member of the 1972 Summit Series.

Joel Leonoff and sports talk show host Mitch Melnick paid tribute to Garber. Leonoff is a friend and former business partner; Melnick a friend as well who has an interesting broadcast history with Garber. Leonoff shared a story that he and Garber had a chance to buy for $80 million. They laughed at the owner for asking that much, but giggled no more when Microsoft picked it up for $450 million. Garber, who like Leonoff, is a self-made millionaire and gigantic success story, is also a great public speaker and he hit all the right notes in his address.

Mahovlich was presented with his plaque by Lazarus and then interviewed on stage by legendary broadcaster Dick Irvin and equally legendary writer Red Fisher, who covered the Habs for 58 years. Fisher, at 88, is sharp as can be and had everyone roaring in the aisles with his anecdotes of years past.
Stubbs with Lafleur, Savard and Cournoyer.

A few of  Mahovlich’s high profile former teammates were on hand: Guy Lafleur, Yvan Cournoyer and Serge Savard. Present-day superstar defenceman PK Subban was in the house as was Habs  Chief Operating Officer Kevin Gilmore.  Former Montreal Alouette star receiver Ben Cahoon flew in from Utah while  current Als Jeff Perrett and Kyries Hebert were there. Former Montreal Expos pitcher Don Stanhouse, Montreal Impact technical director and Herzliah High School grad Adam Braz and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre were among the others with us.  Coderre was a real hit, with his heart very much into  the return of the Expos to this city.
Stubbs, Zurkowsky, myself and my brother Chuck in honour of our late dad.
The event also honoured Montreal Gazette sports reporter Herb Zurkowsky with the Larry Fredericks Media Award.  Larry (Lawrence Frederick Cohen) was my dad. He passed away two and a half years ago and served on the committee. As a sportswriter for more than 40 years he met Herb early on his career and the two became close.  Here is a great story Herb wrote about the event.
Kyries Hebert

Other media on hand were  Dave Stubbs from The Gazette, Rick Moffat from TSN 690 and CJAD, Mitch Melnick from TSN 690, Dave Kaufman from CJAD,  Matthew Ross from TSN 690 and Randy Tieman from CTV.

Moffat  brought two kids from the audience to try and replicate his signature "goal" call for Impact broadcasts. The key is to say goal!!!!! as long as possible without taking a breath. This turned out to be quite a hit.

I served as emcee with broadcaster  Charles André Marchand.
Ben and Kim Cahoon.
The Cummings Centre is a leader in the provision of quality programs, professional social services and a wide range of volunteer opportunities to the 50+ community. The Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors Foundation aims to meet the philanthropic challenges and needs of the 50 plus population. For more information visit 

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Cheryl Besner and CJAD dive into a whole different kind of "singles" show

You must hand it to CJAD program director Chris Bury. He continues to add unique and interesting programs to the weekend lineup. On the Record with Jason Rockman, where the host interviews noted personalities about their careers and then plays some of their favorite songs, is solid. Now comes Solo in the City with Montreal-based dating coach and event planner Cheryl Besner on Saturday evenings at 10 p.m.
Cheryl Besner

When I last interviewed Cheryl more than two years ago she was launching a high profile blog called 365 Days to Find Love, which  chronicled her journey in the hopes of connecting, inspiring, and educating single women everywhere.The online journal of her then newly single life developed a nice  following, focusing on women over 40 who were remerging in the dating scene. She  shared advice from international matchmakers, explored various Internet dating services, and developed some of her own ways to discover serendipitous encounters at places like the gym or grocery store.  She introduced readers to other searchers of love: the cynics, the starry-eyed and the star crossed, and the men she met. Although she only got involved in a committed relationship recently, her 365 day experience which started on Valentine’s Day in 2013 was a great experience.

“I learned a lot about myself,” Cheryl now admits. “I did have a few relationships, but because of what I was doing this became a bit of a catch 22 situation. A lot of the men were worried I would blog about them. I did, but I never mentioned names. I merely described the type of people they were.”

Cheryl, a mom of three,  says the one thing that stood out from the experience was her desire to step up and assist all of the single people out there spending most of their time at home alone. “I realized that nobody was really putting this topic under one umbrella,” she notes. “I went to a conference in Los Angeles and from there I went to New York and got my coaching certification in dating.”

It was soon after that Cheryl coined the term Solo in the City. “I wanted to help people find a place to go,” she explained. “One of my messages to singles was that you are not going to meet someone by staying home. Go to a restaurant, an event or a library. Odds are you will meet someone and start  a discussion. Everyone loved Solo in the City term because it is non-threatening and non-invasive.”

Enter the new CJAD show, which made its debut on March 21. It is her hope that the multiplatform show will actually get singles out from behind their computers and into the urban dating jungle with ease. 

“Connecting people is something I have always done naturally throughout my career, so why not apply my skills to the most important connections of all?” Cheryl  said. “I’ve finally found the networking niche I truly adore. What can be better than helping people find love connections?”

The show takes a multifaceted approach to meeting new friends and potential partners. She aims to take the pressure out of awkward blind dates or superficial online chatting by simply connecting Montrealers on a human level first, through events or designated meetup locations across the city. Encouraging singles to be, above all, sociable will maximize their chances of making new friends and eventually finding love.

 “Very few people find love at first sight, or first swipe on Tinder,” added Cheryl, touted by her publicist as a fixture of Westmount’s social scene who has created exclusive events like The Angel Ball benefiting the Jewish General Hospital, thrown dinner parties for Dom Pérignon and hosted elite soirees for celebrities like Mia Farrow and Sir Richard Branson. “Let’s take the pressure down a notch and just get people talking! Maybe the person next to you at a Solo event won’t be the one, but knows a friend who could be. If you can’t be a little sociable and comfortable in your own skin, it will be that much harder to find love.” 

Check out the all-new website,,   featuring event listings, blogs and content geared toward Montrealers looking for love. A parallel Solo in the City dating site has also been launched with  the theme: Coffee, tea and we -  meet local singles at designated spots in town for a low-pressure cup of coffee!

If you cannot catch the show live, you can access the podcast anytime at

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Segal Centre for Performing Arts unveils blockbuster 2015-16 season schedule

While the Segal Centre for Performing Arts has not yet completed its present season, Artistic and Executive Director Lisa Rubin opened the curtain for the media and the VIP crowd on March 25 for what’s in store in 2015-2016.

It has been a great year for the Segal so far on stage, highlighted by blockbusters Les Belles Soeurs and Forever Plaid. Still to come, of course, Mordecai Richler’s landmark coming of age novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz will  be getting the all-star musical treatment in a world premiere musical adaptation   from June 7  to 28.   Duddy Kravitz has an original score by Alan Menken, the Tony- and Oscar-winning composer of Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and The Little Shop of Horrors. The legendary composer is responsible for some of the most beloved songs and musical scores of our time. But here is our first look at next year and what a lineup it is, with no less than seven  spectacular Montreal premieres .

Funny Girl,  the poignant musical rags to riches story of Vaudeville sensation Fanny Brice made famous by Barbra Streisand in film, will kick off the new season (October 11 to November 1, 2015) in an 18-person song and dance spectacular under the direction of  Peter Hinton. Multi-talented Canadian musical performer Gabi Epstein will hold down the  titular role immortalized by Streisand in the classic 1968 movie.

“I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world,” Epstein actually sang out in a video message recorded from Toronto where she is performing for Mirvish Entertainment.

Next up  (November 29 to  December 20, 2015) will be British playwright Nina Raine’s internationally-acclaimed play Tribes, a powerful look at the meaning of language, love and what it means to be understood. Jack Volpe (Seeing Voices Montreal) makes his professional theatre debut as Billy, the only deaf member of an eccentric, intellectual family.  Volpe, who works by day at the Mackay Centre School in NDG, is hearing impaired. He attended the press conference and delivered words of appreciation for getting the role via  sign language interpreter.

Jack Volpe at the press conference

 “When Jack completed his audition, the electricity in the building was palpable,” said Rubin. “This show will be done with American Sign Language. We are very excited to see how the deaf community can be involved and see what the story can bring to them.”

From January 31 to February 21, 2016, The Secret Annex will invite audiences  to use their
imaginations of what life would have been like for beloved historical icon Anne Frank, had she survived the war. In what is being described as “a stirring and romantic new play out of Winnipeg by young playwright Alix Sobler and directed by Marcia Kash,”  Sara Farb will take on the lead role. She will soon be starring in the Stratford Festival’s Diary of Anne Frank. In Montreal she will portray the same title character as a 25-year old coming of age in New York City. Farb expressed her joy with the role via a video message. “Doing the Secret Annex is something I am really excited about,” she said.

Gemini and Dora Award-winning performer Rick Miller (MacHomer, Venus in Fur) will explode  on to the Segal stage (March 20 to April 10, 2016) with his newest one-man, tour-de-force Boom. This Kdoons & Wyrd production will be co-presented by Copa de Oro Productions, the folks behind Les Belles Soeurs and Forever Plaid. Part explosive performance, part riveting documentary, and part nostalgic trip, Boom is expected to capture the defining historical and musical moments of the baby-boom generation. 
In what promises to be a comedic highlight of the season (May 1 to 22, 2016), Joshua Harmon’s breakout hit Bad Jew will  ask the biting question: what do you choose to believe, when you’re chosen?  It will focus on three cousins gathered in a cramped Manhattan apartment to mourn the death of their grandfather and fight over a precious family heirloom. Rubin herself will direct this  critically-acclaimed exploration of faith, family and legacy that has had North America abuzz since its Off-Broadway premiere in 2013. “I always thought my directorial debut would have been a musical,” said Rubin, whose golden pipes blew away many an audience during her performing career.

Also co-produced with Copa de Oro, will be a new production of Tony Award-winner Joe DiPietro’s laugh-out-loud musical comedy  I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change (May 8 to 29, 2016), directed by Wade Lynch. Witty and whimsical, this incredibly popular Off-Broadway musical sensation deftly lampoons the stages and stumbling blocks of romantic relationships.
Lisa Rubin, Anisa Cameron, Aron Gonshor, Anthony Housefather, Mitchell Brownstein and myself.
The lights of Broadway will also shine brightly on the explosive final production of the season,  the world Yiddish-language premiere of Mel Brooks’ record-breaking musical The Producers, winner of twelve Tony Awards. The hysterically-funny tale of scheming showbiz producers Bialystock and Bloom will be revived in Yiddish by the esteemed Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre (June  19 to July 10, 2016).  The company is proud to be associated with the Côte Saint-Luc Dramatic Society and director Anisa Cameron for their most ambitious production to date. “Mel Brooks is on Twitter so we will all be harassing him to come to this show,” says Rubin.

A very proud Mitchell Brownstein, my colleague on Côte Saint-Luc City Council who created the Dramatic Society with Cameron from scratch only three years ago, was pinching himself. Ditto for Mayor Anthony Housefather, whom by the time this show hits the stage hopes to be the Liberal Member of Parliament for Mount Royal.

Beyond the stage the Segal will  welcome Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre film series. 
Audience Engagement plays a vital role in the Segal Centre’s mission. To complement the productions being presented on stage, the Segal offers the ever-popular Sunday @ The Segal pre-show lecture series, an opportunity to explore the history, themes and ideas behind each production, and Monday Night Talk backs a post-show chat with the creators of the play.

New next season, as part of the Segal’s Beyond the Stage programming, will be Shakespeare`s Globe on Screen film series, presenting critically-acclaimed performances from Shakespeare’s home, London’s World Famous Globe Theatre. Screenings will take place in the intimate 77-seat CinemaSpace and be preceded by a pre-show discussion hosted by Repercussion Theatre, Montreal’s home for Shakespeare in the Park. Official programming to be announced soon.

Finally, the Segal continues to be an artistic resource and hub for Montreal’s independent, emerging and community artists and organizations to play, explore and grow. Next year they will  welcome  back such diverse guest theatre companies as Teesri Duniya Theatre (State of Denial by Rahul Varma: October 8-25), Tableau D’Hôte Theatre (Angélique by Lorena Gale: November 30 – December 13), Youtheatre (Dreaming Now: January 11-15, 2016 & P@ndora: February 2-5, 2016) and Les Productions Pas de Panique (Le Visiteur by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, in French, March 20 – April 3, 2016).

Six-time Grammy nominated American jazz vocalist Tierney Sutton will launch the Segal’s Power Jazz   music Series in October. The eighth season, always as rich and diverse, also features the Jason Rosenblatt Quartet, Laila Biali, Piano Chameleons (John Roney & Matt Herskowitz) and a concert in partnership with the Consulate General of Israel.

Also as part of the Segal’s additional programming: Broadway Café, an intimate open mic night for musical theatre aficionados to sing or simply enjoy their favourite showtunes; the Segal’s own performing arts Academy. with unique after-school courses for aspiring performers running from October to May, and many more guest events with such valued community partners as the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre, the Hebrew Theatre of the Jewish Public Library and The Communauté Sépharade Unifiée du Québec (CSUQ).

Segal subscribers enjoy world-class theatre plus many outstanding benefits, including free indoor parking, up to 30 percent off ticket prices, free ticket exchange and exclusive savings.

Log on to

Monday, 23 March 2015

Edgy Montreal-made TV drama 19-2 comes to emotional concluding season 2 finale

When I interviewed actor Conrad Pla  in January before this second season of BRAVO TV's edgy police drama 19-2 began to air he warned me that I would not believe where the storyline would take different characters. He could not have been more correct. Spoiler alert for those who did not yet see the season finale on March 23 or the series at all. Go to Crave TV and catch up and what you missed.

During the first season and the first eight episodes of season two Pla, as Sergeant Julien Houle, came across as a likeable and trustworthy character. He was the one keeping the officers in order, giving briefings and determining who teamed with whom. The series of courses focuses on squad car 19-2 of the Montreal Police and officers  Nick Barron (Adrian Holmes) and Ben Chartier (Jared Keeso). From the get go Chartier arrived on the scene he was working undercover for the Quebec Provincial Police, trying to uncover a "mole" at the station. Barron was the prime suspect, up until episode eight when in a shocking turn of events Houle was fingered as the double crosser. Adding to the darkness of the plot, Houle was exposed as a pedophile who was clearly being blackmailed to rat on his fellow officers in order to keep his dirty little secret safe.
The season finale was not kind to the character of Brouillard (left) and Houle.

A credit to the producers. The "pedophile" sequences were all done in very good taste given the disturbing subject matter. When Houle goes to a hotel and has no more than 12 year old prostitute join him he refuses to touch her and flees the scene. At the conclusion of the finale he calls Barron and Chartier to a remote location, hoping they will shoot him.. "I am a cop!" he shouts, explaining why he could never face prison. Barron refuses to his dirty work and the last scene Pla turns the gun on himself.

As an actor, this may of been Pla's finest moment. I am sorry that the producers chose to make him the mole for we won't see him again on this fine drama.  I spoke to Pla today about this challenging storyline.

"I knew from the French version of the 19-2 series that Houle was the mole and a pedophile," Pla said. "I asked the director if that would be the same for our series. They said maybe not.  When we started shooting season two, they still had not decided. Then about six episodes in they gave me the news. I was reluctant and told myself 'No way I can do this.' They assured there would be nothing graphic. It was amazing for me to have a regular role in a Montreal shot program. That is over now. There is nothing I can do about it. I guess it is better to go out with a bang."

One of the messages Pla feels viewers can gain from his storyline is this: "A lot of times sexual molesters turn out to be the most unsuspecting persons."

Pla is the father of four, aged two, 13, 14 and 21. "I asked the three eldest not to watch the last two episodes," he says. "I told them there was some disturbing stuff and they respected that. As an actor it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. On the show ReGenesis my character was gay and I had to have intimate scenes with another man. This was harder because there is nothing morally wrong with homosexuality."
Barron (left) and Holmes make a good team in squad car 19-2.
The season began with a violent school shooting in which Barron and Holmes became the heroes and brough down the perpetrator. It was an all too familiar scenario for Montrealers who have had to witness shootings at École Polytechnique, Concordia and Dawson. We then watched Barron hang out with his crooked cousin Kaz. The station 19 commander Marcel Gendron (Bruce Ramsay) dealt with his troubled daughter, whom we later learn was one of the victims of Houle. Officer J.M. Brouillard (Dan Petronijevic), shown as a wife abuser during the first season, seemed to have his act together. In the finale he beats his wife to a pulp and is later pounded into submission by Barron. We thought Officer Tyler Joseph (Benz Antoine) had his drinking problem under control. Clearly not we see in the season finale. Officer Beatrice Hamelin  (Mylène Dinh-Robic) has some very torrid sex scenes with her ex-girlfiend on the steps near Place des Arts.  Audrey Pouliot (Laurence Leboeuf) is still very much traumatized by being attacked last season.She loses her cool on the job often and this is picked up on YouTube.  Rookie Vince Legare (Tyler Hynes) has sex in a washroom with a woman whose purse he has reclaimed. She becomes a fatal attraction and with Brouillard double crossing him ends up losing his job.

I am fortunate to have known Pla, a former professional kickboxer, for many years. On the eve of the season premiere I got to interview Holmes and Keeso, friends in real life. They reside in Vancouver and love our city. They are superb actors whom I had zero trouble seeing as real police officers.

A shout out to noted Montreal publicist Janis Kirshner, who had a small role in the season finale as the daughter of a senior citizen who fell on hard times.

What a season! I certainly hope that the people at Bell Media bring it back, complete with the replica Montreal Police uniforms and vehicles.  I can tell from the people I meet who have followed my blogs and stories in The Suburban that they have followed the series religiously and become hooked, something which is pretty easy to do.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

New 1994 Expos documentary is a spectacular piece of work

Has it really been 21 years since an outstanding Montreal Expos baseball team were robbed of what could have been their first and only World Series triumph? Yes, in 1994 they were indeed the best team in major league baseball and headed towards greatness. Boasting the best record through mid-August, everything came to a halt when the players went on strike and the season was ultimately wiped out.

The Expos left town for good in 2004, moving to Washington. In recent years a movement was established by former Expo Warren Cromartie and broadcaster Matthew Ross to build momentum and bring the team back via their MontrealBaseball Project and ExposNation groups respectively.

Four years ago I was part of the organizing committee of the Cummings Jewish Centrefor Seniors Foundation annual Sports Celebrity Breakfast which honoured the ’94 Expos. We had many of the greats on hand – Pedro Martinez, Marquis Grissom, John Wetteland, Felipe Alou, Cliff Floyd and Rondell White to name a few.  Last year Cromartie brought them all back, in much bigger numbers, for a tribute dinner and a very memorable appearance at Olympic Stadium prior to a sold out exhibition game between the Toronto Blue Jays and The New York Mets.

Enter Sean Menard, a former producer for TSN who had decided the time was right for him to go out on his own. Only 29 at the time, he had grown up as a Blue Jays fan. He felt that the 1994 Expos’ brush with greatness was a story that needed to be told. The end result is a stunning 23 minute documentary  called The Perfect Storm – The  Story of the 1994 Montreal Expos.Very naively I jumped into this project,” Menard explains. “I had to finance it myself and sell it to networks. I had no idea how hard it would be to get it approved by Major League Baseball for the licensing costs.”
Sean Menard

Menard eventually turned to Kickstarter, the world’s largest online funding program,  and 312 people stepped forward with cold hard cash to enable him to complete the project. The film premiered at a special screening recently at TSN 690, organized by  Matthew Ross of  ExposNation. It will make its  Canadian television debut prior to the Blue Jays –Cincinnati  Reds  two-game pre-season series April 3 and 4 at the Big Owe. Air times are as follows: March 30 (1 p.m. on TSN 5 and 11 p.m. on TSN4); March 31 (4:30 p.m. on TSN3 and 8:30 p.m. on TSN1) and  April 2 (11:30 p.m. on TSN4)

I had the good fortune of getting an advance preview of the film, courtesy of Menard and Chomedey native Rich Lenkov. The latter is now a successful Chicago attorney who is presently producing a much anticipated documentary on the 1985 NFL Bears and recently made a connection with Menard. To say I was glued to the screen is an understatement. This is a work of art that had me very emotional as the closing credits appeared. I was a working member  of the media back then, covering many of the Expos game for an all-sports network in Toronto called The Fan. I even took a brief holiday to South Florida and covered an Expos game versus the Marlins in Miami on the eve of the strike call. I got to know many of the players. Yet watching Menard’s film brought forward a wide array of anecdotes I was never aware of.
Felipe Alou
Menard had reached out to best-selling author Jonah Keri, a Montreal native noted for his exceptional;  book Up, Up, and Away: The Kid, the Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, Le Grand Orange, Youppi!, the Crazy Business of Baseball, and the Ill-fated But Unforgettable Montreal Expos. Keri’s first piece of advice was to ensure that Menard made his way to Montreal for the Blue Jays 2014 exhibition series where many of the ’94 Expos would be in town. He did so and the end result is a series of fabulous interviews with former skipper Felipe  Alou, outfielders  Moises Alou, Larry Walker and Marquis Grissom,  first baseman Cliff Floyd, catcher Darrin Fletcher, pitchers John Wetteland and Ken Hill, broadcaster  Dave Van Horne, talk show host Mitch Melnick,  former beat writer Jeff Blair and former president Claude Brochu.  He went and met with former GM  Dan Duquette in Baltimore and  also travelled for a one-on-one with Pedro Martinez.

“I could not do this film without Pedro,” Menard says. “His agent told me I had 10 minutes; he gave me 45.”
Pedro Martinez
The documentary includes some terrific archived footage, dramatic background music and wonderful clips of the ’94 players on the bus towards Olympic Stadium and their emotional appearances on the field.

“This is truly one of the greatest teams in major league history and they were only going to get better,” Melnick said. “That is the sad part of this. We didn’t know how great they would have been.”

Moises Alou was part of the 1997 World Series champion Florida Marlins. He maintains the ’94 Expos were better. “We were like a family,” he says. “We saw in my dad a father figure.”
Moises Alou

Martinez, who went on to win a Cy Young Award with the Boston Red Sox,  left no doubt that it was Felipe Alou’s guidance that placed him on the road to stardom.

Duquette recalled being panned by the media for trading fan favorite Delino Deshields  to the LA Dodgers for Martinez. He had the last laugh. “I knew he could be  a good starting pitcher,” commented Felipe.  “LA did not believe that.”

Walker called himself, Alou and Grissom the best outfield in baseball. “It is too bad we did not play together for a decade,” he  said.

Brochu said he still cannot believe the ’94 season was cancelled. At the time he felt the strike would be short lived and the season would continue. “It never crossed my mind that we would not play the season out and that the post season would be cancelled,” he said. “I never once thought that was a possibility.”

Wetteland perhaps put it best this way:  “There is a vibe when we get together. It is almost as if we were champions.”

Menard's next task is to get the film broadcast on American television channels “to remind the rest of the baseball world just how good this ’94 team was, how big of a fan base there still is in Montreal and how great it would be to get a Major League Team back in the city.”
Menard’s current project is a documentary on anticipated number one NHL draft pick Connor McDavid.

Cromartie and company will be back in town for their annual  gala on Wednesday, April 1 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel featuring the likes of Rusty Staub, Tim Raines, Andre Dawson and Andres Galarraga as special guests. All of the details are here.

The Musicians of the World Symphony Orchestra and Brigitte O'Halloran set for Irish concert

This coming Saturday evening, March 21, The Musicians of the World  Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Joseph Milo, will join soprano Brigitte O’Halloran for the St. Patrick Symphonic Concert of The Year at the Rialto Theatre.

Also on stage will be Kate-Bevan-Baker at the fiddle, Sean-Paul O'Brien with his warm tenor voice and the celebrated Celtic dancers from the Bernadette Short School of Irish Dance. 
Brigitte O'Halloran

The program will include ballads such as Toora loora looral (Irish Lullaby), Danny Boy, Galway Bay, the magnificent Enya piece Smointe, the duet You Raise Me Up, famous drinking songs, the original string arrangement of Sunday Bloody Sunday, Symphonic movements from Riverdance and Lord of the Dance, all accompanied by Milo’s orchestra.