Sunday, 14 December 2014

Two pieces of bad news: CBC TV supper hour news slashed and Corbeil leaves CTV

As 2014 draws to a close, I was especially sad to hear two pieces of news regarding the local television scene:  the local CBC News is being cut back from 90 to 30 minutes and André Corbeil  is leaving CTV Montreal News.

The one thing you can always count on CBC for is inconsistency. That is what you get from a crown corporation which in my opinion should have been privatized years ago.  Beginning next fall,  regional supper-hour newscasts will be reduced in time. Some cities will see them go to 60 minutes. We are the losers, with 30. This goes along with CBC president and CEO Hubert T. Lacroix promised in June - that the broadcaster would be shifting its priorities from television and radio to digital and mobile services.  
It really is too bad. I have enjoyed the 90 minute format, which in Montreal resulted in three separate 30 minute newscasts beginning at 5 p.m. It's funny because when I do get home from work early I end up watching CBC live for parts of the first hour and then watching CTV and Global online. The Montreal team did a great job packaging a whole lot of information, complete with regular weather forecasts with Frank Cavallaro, a number of sportscasts with Douglas Gelevan and Andie Bennett, special features and a lot more. How will they squeeze the  toothpaste back in the tube? Will there still be live weather and sports?
As for Corbeil, CTV News has to make some cutbacks and his permanent post was
André Corbeil
slashed. He was invited to stick around to do weekend sportscasts, but he declined. Corbeil is talented, perfectly bilingual and a man with a lot of class. He should not have trouble finding work. He would certainly be an excellent addition to the staff of any local communications and marketing outfit. If Global TV or CIty wanted to add a permanent sports expert, he'd be a wise choice. I first met Corbeil early on in his arrival here. The Montreal Alouettes were visiting one of our schools, Dante in St. Léonard, for their off-season tour and I invited him to come cover it. 
"Bring your shorts and running shoes," I offered. "You can play for Dante when the Als take them on in basketball."
Corbeil accepted the challenge and played pretty well. Over the years he was always enthusiastic about covering school events. He was a regular guest at our Sports Celebrity Breakfast and made sure to get out there and cover the amateur sports scene, something which has been terribly neglected by our only English language daily.
While Paul Graif is the logical choice to handle the weekend duties, a role the K103 FM morning show co-host has fulfilled before, there will no doubt be others in the mix. Thankfully we still have such outstanding pros as Brian Wilde and Randy Tieman on board.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Main and Local personifying Montreal's most memorable icons, events and expressions

Local entrepreneurs David Prince, Jonny Goldmaker and Andrew Cohen have come up with a pretty neat concept that both present-day and former Montrealers are bound to embrace - especially the latter.
Andrew Cohen

Main and Local  is personifying some of Montreal’s most notable and memorable icons, events and expressions in a collection of whimsical housewares and apparel. Inspired by Montreal landmarks, local delicacies and the melting-pot mentality of the city, the partners wanted to bring the creativity of the city into something you can touch and bring home. 

“We love the city, celebrate it and share it the best way we know how,”  the trio emphasize in a statement.

Prince, Goldmaker and Cohen have sought out Montreal artisans to produce their exclusive giftables, ranging from 100 percent  natural olive oil soaps, handmade leather valet trays, t-shirts that say "Poutine,"  an Expo '67 wall clock, Orange Julep earings and limited edition Montreal Royals prints.
Prince and Goldmaker

Main and Local recently opened a pop-up shop at Place Montréal Trust featuring their bestselling items, just in time for the holidays. The pop up will be open until mid-February in this location and until 5 p.m. on December 24. Online orders are guaranteed for Christmas delivery when placed by this Friday, December 12, 2014. Online rders can also be delivered to the Montréal Trust location for free pickup anytime on and before the 24th.

I have a family member now residing in the United States. During his annual visits back home he purchases all types of articles which remind him of Montreal. He and others like him should appreciate Main and Local.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Camp Pripstein's is shutting its doors

After 75 years in business,  Pripstein's Camp Mishmar in the Laurentians is shutting its doors.

"With our Early Registration promotional period completed, our camper numbers are lower than targeted," stated owner Ronnie Braverman in a letter to families. "Not only does this have financial implications for us, but we would be unable to ensure a great experience for campers without healthy group sizes. Therefore, after much discussion, my family and I have regretfully decided to call it a day and close the camp."

When  Braverman first joined his grandfather Chaim Pripstein in the business 42 years ago, the Laurentians were one of the booming centres of the Canadian camping scene. In addition to Pripstein’s, there were over a dozen privately operated co-ed English camps dotting the countryside, such as Hiawatha, Pine Valley, Pembina, Bayview, Panorama, and more.

"Most of us know that when the Parti Quebecois took power in 1976, threatening to separate Quebec from Canada, over 100,000 anglophones and many head offices left the province," Braverman says.  "This exodus continued unabated till today, with the majority of our former campers and staff choosing to start their careers and families elsewhere. This had a devastating effect on our private camp scene. Camps started closing one after the other, and by 2007, Pripstein’s was the sole camp of the original group still operating."

Chaim Pripstein came to Canada from Poland  and got a job teaching at United Talmud Torahs School. However, when the depression hit he was one of the casualties and had to become a peddler to make ends meet. He made his way to the Laurentians often and in his broken French became friendly with many of the farmers. Business was difficult for them too. Pripstein had an idea. One summer he asked if he could rent a farmhouse and convert it into a small hotel. “He promised them to use their food, which was not being sold and that his wife would do the cooking,” Braverman recalls. “At the end of the summer they would at least get some revenue.”

Soon enough guests were looking for an activity for their children. Pripstein hired some counselors and eventually established an actual camp in place of the hotel. Camp Mishmar (which means “On Guard” in Hebrew) was born, although most people liked to call it Pripstein’s.

In an effort to help out the camp's  loyal families, Braverman has  met with  with Sol Birenbaum and Howie Grossinger, owners of Camp Walden and they have reserved spaces for those already registered at Pripstein's.  

"After meeting with Sol and Howie, it was clear to me that their emphasis on nurturing their campers and staff and maintaining strong communication with parents would be a great fit for our families," says Braverman.  "I have visited Walden, which is just a four hour drive from Montreal. They have a beautiful, private site and own the complete frontage on their lake"

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Rick Moffat will indeed return to CJAD and TSN 690; McKenna keeps seat warm

Frequent listeners to CJAD and TSN 690 each morning might be wondering what happened to the golden pipes of Rick Moffat. While we heard him handling the play by play duties for Montreal Impact and Alouettes games, his regular spot doing sportscasts on the Andrew Carter Show and as a co-host of the TSN 690 morning show with Elliott Price and Shaun Starr has been occupied by the uber-talented Conor McKenna.

Rick Moffat
"If you're wondering about me, I'm back fresh on January 5," Moffat  tells us. "I just had to burn off time racked up from a year filled with Impact, Rogers Cup and Alouettes games."

The average listener probably does not realize it, but from spring to fall guys like Moffat work almost seven days a week with plenty of overtime. Not an easy grind for a fellow who has to wake up by at last 4 a.m.  "It feels weird to sleep normal hours," Moffat admits.

Last week Moffat was kept busy following the death of hockey legend Jean Beliveau. "I did radio hits from coast to coast," he said.
Conor McKenna
While we will welcome back Moffat, one wonders how TSN and CJAD might be able to find a permanent spot for McKenna who is indeed a rising star in the industry. He delivers his sportcasts with panache and has a great sense of humour. We have already grown used to his great work on the Habs post-game show. If AM 600 ever does go on the air, he'd be a wise choice to lead their sports team.


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Book of Mormon the Musical knocks them dead at Place des Arts

Thank you evenko for bringing us some Broadway musicals again. While the Lion King graced the stage of the Place des Arts last summer, the national tour of The Book of Mormon  has now arrived. I was on hand Wednesday for the second of eight performances and the show was everything I expected it to be: controversial, hilarious and unforgettable. Next up will be Jersey Boys January 6 to 11. 

The Book of Mormon won  nine Tony Awards,  including Best Musical. It is on here until December 7 and includes a pre-show lottery at the box office, making a limited number of tickets available at $25 apiece. The wildly popular lottery for the Broadway production has attracted as many as 800 entries at some performances.  The producers are offering low-priced lottery seats for every city on the National Tour.   Entries will be accepted at the box office beginning two and a half hours prior to each performance; each person will print their name and the number of tickets (one or two) they wish to purchase on a card that is provided. Two hours before curtain, names will be drawn at random for a limited number of tickets priced at $25 each. Only one entry is allowed per person. Cards are checked for duplication prior to drawing. Winners must be present at the time of the drawing and show valid ID with photo to purchase tickets. Limit one entry per person and two tickets per winner. Tickets are subject to availability.

The Book of Mormon is bound to offend and entertain you.
The Book of Mormon  features book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone. Parker and Stone are the four-time Emmy Award-winning creators of the landmark animated series, “South Park.” Tony Award-winner Lopez is co-creator of the long-running hit musical comedy, Avenue Q.  The musical is choreographed by Tony Award-winner Casey Nicholaw (Monty Python’s Spamalot, The Drowsy Chaperone) and is directed by Nicholaw and Parker. 

As for those nine Tonys, they included  Best Musical, Best Score (Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, Matt Stone), Best Book (Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, Matt Stone), Best Direction (Casey Nicholaw, Trey Parker), Best Featured Actress (Nikki M. James), Best Scenic Design (Scott Pask), Best Lighting Design (Brian MacDevitt), Best Sound Design (Brian Ronan) and Best Orchestrations (Larry Hochman, Stephen Oremus). 

The Book of Mormon follows two young missionaries who are sent to Uganda to try to convert citizens to the Mormon religion. One missionary, Elder Price (Gavin Creel), is an enthusiastic go-getter with a strong dedication to his faith, while his partner, Elder Cunningham (Christopher John O'Neill in a knockout performance), is a socially awkward but well meaning nerd whose tendency to embroider the truth soon lands him in trouble. Upon their arrival in Africa, Elders Price and Cunningham learn that in a society plagued by AIDS, poverty and violence, a successful mission may not be as easy as they expected.

This show was a real crowd pleaser. People were laughing non-stop and at the end the standing ovation was expected and well deserved. This touring cast knocked the ball out of the park. I can't imagine their counterparts on Broadway being that much better.

Book of Mormon was booked by evenko about a year ago and this was worth the wait indeed. I am anxious to see Jersey Boys and look forward to more large-scale productions coming to town.

Remembering my personal connection to Jean Beliveau

When I was 18 years old and a rookie reporter for a newspaper called The Sunday Express, I was assigned to go to the old Montreal Forum and interview Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau, who passed away December 2. He was vice-president of corporate affairs at the time, following a Hall of Fame career which saw him score 507 goals and add 712 assists over 20 seasons and 10 Stanley Cup wins.  From this meeting onwards he always remembered my name.
My last encounter with Jean Beliveau in April 2013.

Just under two years ago I had a chance to visit with Jean at his South Shore condo for a video I was doing as a tribute to community leader Roy Salomon, an honouree at the Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors Foundation Sports Celebrity Breakfast. Beliveau had accompanied Salomon twice to Israel for the Maccabiah Games.   Beliveau successfully battled cancer more than a decade ago and was still recovering from a stroke  when we visited.  

“I should be gone,” he told me. “It is a miracle I am still alive. Right now I am affected by two things: a lack of energy and weak legs. Every morning I do 25 minutes on the treadmill. I force myself to do it so I can get going. I have been to a few Canadiens games this year, but I only have the strength to stay for the first period.”

I asked Jean about today’s NHL salaries, recognizing that with his star status he would have commanded at least $7 million a season. “The most I made was $100,000,” he laughed. “I guess I was born too early.”

I told Jean that my dad Larry had passed away seven month earlier. He apologized for not being aware. "Larry and I were from the same era," he said, remembering the many years my dad covered the Canadiens for local radio stations and United Press International.

Yes that is me at the right receiving a trophy from Jean. Neil Denbow is the photographer.
So close was my dad with Beliveau that he managed to have him attend the Côte Saint-Luc Minor Hockey Association Awards Banquet. Unlike today`s generation of players, he attended with pleasure and of course did not expect a penny in return.

On this day I think of the many Beliveau fans, notably my friend Cheryl Nashen. When I first met her some 25 years ago and we got talking about hockey it was all Jean Beliveau. She could often be seen around town wearing the fabled Canadiens number 4 jersey. On important family occasions,  she even made attempts to invite him. She came close a few times.

There will never be another Jean Beliveau. That I am certain of. Rest in Peace "Le Gros Bill."

Here is a clip of a Beliveau goal.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

New leadership group takes over the YM-YWHA

There is a new leadership group at the helm of the YM-YWHA Montreal Jewish Community Centres, with Andrea Rosenbloom assuming the role of president, Alvin Fagen as  vice-president and    Marla Gold as  executive director.

Rosenbloom succeeds Joel Shalit. She has served in a lay leadership capacity at the Y in various roles, most recently as its vice-president.  Fagen is a past president of  theShaare Hashomayim Synagogue in Westmount.  

An Executive Director Search Committee was convened under the leadership of board member Tina Apfeld Rosenthal. After a search that Rosenbloom describes as both “methodical and rigorous,” the committee presented Gold’s candidature, which was readily accepted. When asked how the first few days have gone, Rosenbloom stated, “Marla has keen insight into the Y because of her history here, and has transitioned seamlessly with her collaborative management style.”
Marla Gold

Gold previously served as Director of Health, Fitness, Membership and Recreational Services at the Y. Most recently, she was the vice-president, Quebec and Atlantic Region, for Health Systems Group, where she had significant oversight functions. She is intimately aware of where the Y has come from, and where its future lies: in renewal and growth, in offering the highest standard of services and relevant programming, engaging youth, and ensuring that the Y remains a central gathering place for our community.

Andrea Rosenbloom
Rosenbloom and Gold share a vision for the Y. They expect it to be run with fiscal responsibility, in a professional, efficient manner.  “Everyone is part of this process,” stated Gold.

Gold effectively replaces Marlene Jennings, who was hired as executive director amid much hoopla following a lengthy term in office as the Liberal Member of Parliament for NDG- Lachine. Shalit's term ended on a challenging note, with the closure of the West Island Jewish Community Centre. Members there battled for the facility to remain open, but they were unsuccessful. 
The Y still remains a hub for the Jewish community. With United Talmud Torah-Herzliah building a new campus as part of the same facility, this could breath new life into an organization which continually must battle the private health clubs in the city.