April 2, 2007
After three decades in radio and television, and more than five thousand interviews, why so reluctant to be interviewed yourself? I like listening to other people talk a whole lot more than I like listening to myself.
Are you enjoying being away from the grind of daily television? I just needed to take a year off, get away and think about things. I felt like a kid getting out of school for the summer. You rarely get a chance to feel that free as an adult.
The Globe and Mail described your interviewing style as “a refreshing change from the sycophancy of most chat shows. Others might call it a kind of no-nonsense bluntness.” But I was never threatening. I just really wanted to know things. I’m still ridiculously curious. I’ll read anything, including matchbook covers and the labels on jars.
What was Kerrisdale like when your parents had a photography studio at 41st and Maple? There was a mob of us girlfriends and we terrorized the place. I remember going to Kerrisdale arena and trying to teach my pet dachshund to skate after fitting her with two pairs of miniature plastic skates borrowed from Barbara-Ann Scott dolls. My parents were always pleading with me not to bother anybody in the stores.
Your father’s best pal was Pierre Berton. What were they like together? It was like having Laurel and Hardy around the house. Dad would recite “Casey at the Bat” and Pierre would counter with Robert Service. I don’t know what it was about the two of them. They just loved each other.
Why did your parents send you to live with the Bertons? I wasn’t doing well in school and they figured some time with Pierre’s large family would do me good. My dad put me on the train to Toronto with a copy of The New Yorker and a hundred bucks. His one piece of advice was, “Don’t drink gin.” Of course, one of the first things I did was order a Pink Lady. It tasted horrible.
Was it a shock for an only child? It sure was. There were all these kids and pets and noise and activity. I thought I was so smart and worldly, but I still had to make my bed. It changed my life completely.
Jack Webster described you as “the most aggressive, tough, roustabout young woman I ever met.” How would you describe him? Watching him work the phones on his call-in show was like watching a ballet. And that wonderful Scottish brogue: “Get yer facts straight!” He showed me that there didn’t have to be any difference between who you were on and off the air. He loved it when people said “Hi, Jackie!’ on the street. It made him feel part of the community. I’m the same way.