Friday 17 June 2011

Nat Lauzon jumps to The Q 92.5 FM; Ken Connors shifting to weekends

The Q92.5 FM continues to raid the refrigerator at Virgin Radio. First it was morning man Cat Spencer, who agreed to terms in the spring to replace Aaron Rand. Because of a non-compete clause in his contract, the Cat cannot begin with the Q until late August. Today, Q General Manager Mark Dickie confirmed to me that popular Virgin mid-day host Nat Lauzon (left) is jumping shift. She will slip into the weekend (Noon to 5 p.m.) slot on the Q in October. Because of contractual arrangements she remains part of Virgin until then.

Why go from a full-time five day a week job to simply weekends'? "I think it is a lifestyle change for Nat," reasons Dickie. "For us, it is part of creating a blockbuster weekend format at the Q."
Blockbuster? Well yes, because besides Nat Lauzon weekday drive mainstay Ken Connors (right) will also switch over in August and become the host of a weekend 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. program. On Sundays he will even stick around longer, from 10 a.m. to Noon, with a separate all-request show. The Q already has a smoking hot mid-morning Saturday show (10 a.m. to Noon) with the exceptionally talented, beautiful and incredibly bilingual Anne-Marie Witenshaw.

"We are going to treat weekends just like weekdays," said Dickie.

Donna Saker will have an expanded shift, going from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Look for more announcements soon.

As for Virgin, well now that they have to fill yet another spot. Freeway Frank took over from Spencer and then Heather B left for a job in Cleveland, replaced by Nikki. Who should replace Nat? It is time to give the multi-talented Kelly A (A for Alexander) a full-time gig. She is great on weekends, fill-in and special assignment and homegrown.

Thursday 16 June 2011

Catherine Sherriffs is the new CTV Montreal late night anchor

CTV Montreal Director of News and Public Affairs Jed Kahane sure was thinking outside of the box when selecting the successor to Debra Arbec as late night anchor. Catherine Sherriffs(pictured) got the nod and she will debut on July 4. Arbec, of course, left to become suppertime co-anchor on CBC TV. Most people thought that one of the two weekend anchors, Tarah Schwartz or Paul Karwatsky would be chosen. If not them, perhaps one of the veteran reporters.

A reporter for CTV Montreal’s top-rated newscasts for the past two years, Sherriffs is a familiar face and voice to Montrealers. Additionally, she has spent the past four years as a newscaster on Virgin Radio and CHOM FM. I am sure she will not miss those 4 a.m. wakeups,

“Catherine is a dynamic and skilled journalist who can tackle any story”, said Kahane. “Whether she’s covering hard news or topics that are a little lighter, Catherine has a way of connecting with the audience, and we know she’ll continue to build that connection in this new job.”

Sherriffs grew up in Morin Heights and studied journalism at Concordia University. She is the niece of Murray Sherriffs from The Q 92.5 FM. As part of her new assignment, she will continue reporting for CTV’s flagship supper-hour newscast.

Why did Kahane choose someone who has never anchored on TV before? I asked him this question. "Because we have every reason to expect she’ll be great at it," he told me. " True, she hasn’t anchored a television newscast before, but she’s been a live newscaster on radio for years, and I’d venture that viewers who’ve seen her live reporting on CTV for the past couple of years will agree she has a great on-air presence. We’re confident that she will shine through on the anchor desk. Besides, just about every TV anchor in this country started out as a reporter, and one day, simply made the leap to the anchor chair. So we’re not exactly reinventing the wheel here."

Tuesday 14 June 2011

TEAM 990 throws a terrific 10th birthday bash; awaits Habs news

Photos: Mitch Melnick and Wayne Bews; Robin Burns and Annakin Slayd; Paul Massie and Steve Traynor; TEAM 990 sales rep Elizabeth Farnesi, Ron Francis and son Rod Francis.

I had a great time last week at THE TEAM 990’s 10th anniversary party held at the Paul Stevens Dinner Club in Pointe Claire. Paul Massie and Steve Traynor (as in Paul Stevens) were terrific hosts, offering an open bar, serving up tantalizing hor d’oeuvres and a delicious buffet featuring roast beef, chicken, shrimp, mashed potatoes, rice and vegetables. There was live music by the Shane Murphy Band and comic relief from stand up comics Scott Faulconbridge and Mike Patterson.

TEAM 990 general manager Wayne Bews assembled a VIP guest list of about 200 people, inviting them to come by during a live broadcast of the Mitch Melnick drive home show from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Melnick signed off at 7 p.m. as the Shane Murphy Band took to the stage. After 8 p.m. the general public was invited in.

I have been a loyal listener of THE TEAM 990 since they first went on the air, with Melnick and the late Ted Blackman hosting the morning show. They were part of a national network, set up by CHUM Radio, which did not last very long. THE TEAM, though, survived. Initially they had broadcast rights to the Expos. When they left town for Ottawa, some people in the industry predicted an imminent death. But THE TEAM 990 was rejuvenated five years ago when Bews took charge of the operation. The station has a solid morning show with Elliott Price, Shaun Starr and Denis Casavant; Tony Marinaro is probably the best hockey analyst in town and a joy to listen to; old pro Randy Tieman turned out to be the perfect fit for radio when PJ Stock quit; Melnick is the king of sports talk radio and always includes a steady diet of rock ‘n roll as well; Rod Francis, Melnick’s producer, has great knowledge of sports and politics; Paramount Financial Services boss Lorne Rubin contributes an entertaining market minute weekdays at 4:45 p.m. sprinkled with sports notes; contributors Stephen Brunt of The Globe and Mail and TSN’s Pierre McGuire represent “must listen to” radio when their bits come up; Connor McKenna is a rising star as are a few others.

Photos: Peter Dalla Riva and Andie Bennett; NHL referee Dave Jackson and The Gazette's Pat Hickey

Melnick gave Andie Bennett the opportunity to blossom into a solid sportscaster and she did so in spades, catching the attention of CBC Radio One Daybreak which hired her last winter. At THE TEAM 990 producers became on air personalities. Besides Starr and Francis, there is Shaun Campbell, Mitch Gallo and Amanda Stein. THE TEAM 990 is the home of the Impact soccer broadcasts, with Brian Wilde and Noel Butler. Part-time hosts include Matthew Ross, Nick Murdocco and Gary Whittaker. Jessica Rusnak handles announcing and sales while Dino Ceresa works on sales and promotions. Elizabeth Farnesi and Karen Bryant-Pepper have worked there in sales since day one. Scott Saxon is the creative director, responsible for the on air commercials. Chris Robitaille oversees engineering while Bernice Davies (traffic) and Len Joseph (accounting) are also originals. A couple of new sales reps were hired recently, Ken Doran and Sheldon Novack, both with solid radio experience. Sounds like some foreshadowing for a big Habs sales campaign.

According to the buzz in the room, the Canadiens will announce very soon that they are shifting English hockey broadcasts to THE TEAM 990. THE TEAM is under the large umbrella of Bell Media, which of course also owns CTV and TSN. Bell has a minority interest in the Canadiens. The Habs play out of the “Bell Centre,” so despite the fact CJAD is owned by media giant Astral it appears as if this time the odds were stacked in THE TEAM’s favor. We will also have to watch and see if they change their name to TSN Radio, as rumoured.

Look for Elliott Price to handle the play-by-play and either Chris Nilan or Sergio Momesso to do colour commentary. Nilan , the former Habs enforcer, has enjoyed a lot of air time on Melnick’s show the last few months. He told me when we sat down in March that he had applied for the job with CJAD last summer, but lost out to Momesso who did a great job with play by play man Rick Moffat.

Back to the 10th anniversary party: everyone had a blast. The atmosphere was perfect for folks to chat and network. Among those I spotted were rapper Annakin (Andrew Farrar) Slayd and his brother Jay (manager of Maclean’s Pub), The Gazette’s Pat Hickey and Randy Phillips, Andie Bennett, football legend Peter Dalla Riva, Robert Vairo of the Montreal TV-Radio School, former NHLer Robin Burns, NHL referee Dave Jackson, Stephen Brunt and a host of others.

I told Brunt how much I thoroughly enjoy his contributions to the Melnick show at 4:25 p.m. weekdays. He will soon be taking the summer off from the program. One of this country’s great sports writers. If you want to see his brilliance on electronic media, check out this video essay he did for CTV at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Photos: Dwight Walton, Shaun Starr and hockey writer/ CTV web reporter Arpon Basu;The Shane Murphy Band. (all photos taken by the author)

Sunday 12 June 2011

Julia Roberts has arrived in Montreal

Actress Julia Roberts and her entourage arrived in Montreal on Thursday. The superstar actress will begin filming the blockbuster movie Snow White soon. For more details click here.

Lyric Theatre present outstanding show

The Lyric Theatre Singers, recognized as a long-standing producer and promoter of musical theatre in the Montreal area, hit the stage at the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall at the NDG Loyal Campus of Concordia University with four shows between June 9 to 11. They did not disappoint.

Broadway Rhythm was this year’s theme as the award-winning vocal ensemble presented highlights from Broadway’s most popular and beloved shows: Rodgers and Hart (Johnny One Note, My Funny Valentine), Lerner and Loewe (Almost Like Being In Love), Cole Porter (Another Op’nin’, Another Show), Stephen Sondheim (Little Things, Being Alive, Sunday in the Park), Charles Strouse (It’s the Hard Knock Life, Applause, ) - as well as highlights from The Music Man, Fiddler on the Roof, Hairspray, West Side Story, Nine and a number of others.

This is an extraordinary organization, with the abundantly talented Bob Bachelor still waving the baton as musical director. He even stepped on stage and nearly brought the house down with his beautiful presentation of the song New Words. Bachelor also made a few cameo appearances in numbers, which prompted instant applause the moment he appeared. A busy man to be sure, he just recently completed another year at St. George’s School of Montreal where he produced and directed their high school production of Curtains. Lyric impresses you the moment the cast hits the stage – all 39 of them, ranging from a few teens to senior citizens. Their level of energy is just extraordinary and infectious I might add. I particularly appreciated the lovely Laurent Gauthier’s singing of Colors of the Wind from Pocahantas. Such poise and a gorgeous voice. The three songs from Hairspray really got the audience hopping while the way in which Cantata for A First Date played out was quite clever as four performers started out the scene in a stage of undress, putting their clothes on as they prepared for that awkward first date. Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend had the gals dressed to kill and the men waving really good knockoffs. A big thanks to Diane Dupuis-Kallos, who has provided this video link for you to watch some of the numbers and the photo you see this in this entry. Her son Richard, only 19, is one of the youngest performers in the group and he did impress.

It was great to watch Jim Brown, a public school teacher for 45 years and now retired, belt out the tunes. You can see how much he enjoys this. In fact that appears to be the same for the entire cast, the orchestra and even the spotlight man. They begin auditions in September. You can go to, email or call 514-626-5783 for more details. One of the highlights of the closing show was a draw for tickets to travel with VIA Rail Canada. The grand prize was a return trip for two in first class between Montreal and Vancouver, valued at $9,100. There were also a pair of packages for return trips for two in business class in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor. One lady in the audience shrieked when she heard her number called and then asked Lyric president Louise Dorais to repeat it. The lady was in fact a finalist, of 12 names eligible for the three grand prizes. Well she won, hugging her friend and telling her “you are going with me!”