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February 2011

Lots of changes on Montreal radio scene

There has been a lot of movement in recent days on Montreal radio.

First and foremost, Aaron Rand (below right) announced that he will be leaving his job as  morning show host on the Q 92.5 FM at the end of April. After 26 years with the station, this move caught a lot of people by surprise. Aaron Rand A year and a half ago his friends and co-hosts Paul "Tasso" Zakaib and Suzanne Desautels were fired and Rand was told his show needed less talk and more music. He adhered to the edict set forth by program director Brian DePoe and even attended a station boot camp.  The Q introduced a new, hip morning crew. Aaron changed his style and the ratings blossomed. I do not think we have seen the last of him. Aaron is made for television. Years ago he and Tasso taped a demo late night talkshow for CFCF TV. It never reached the small screen. Perhaps Global TV Montreal would consider him for the new morning show they intend to launch in 2012.

DePoe, by the way,  quietly left the Q in December for an opportunity with CHUM Radio in Ottawa. He has been replaced by Leo D'Estrella, a former Rand producer. Rand is under contract to the Q until August 31.

No sooner had Aaron made his announcement, Astral Radio confirmed that Cat Spencer would be leaving Virgin Radio as their morning show host to join the Q - but not for several months. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. Cat and Lisa Will Cat bring Lisa Player (left) with him? Will Murray Sherriffs stick around now that his sidekick Aaron is leaving? Will Aaron switch places with Cat?  Program and Brand Director Mark Bergman has his work cut out for him. He is already in the midst of seeking a replacement for Heather B, the afternoom show host who left a few weeks ago for a gig in Cleveland. I know that CBC weather guy Frank Cavallaro would probably love a chance to get back into radio. Cousin Vinny Barrucco is doing a great job on the drive home. Is he ready for a premature promotion? My personal favorite is Patrick Charles, who was part of the Cat and Lisa team initially, but is now more of a background contributor. Cat's contract also goes until August 31. Will Virgin really want a lameduck host sticking around the airwaves.  Radio insiders suggest that they will find a replacment sooner than later and have Cat sit home until he can legally join the Q on September 1.

Over at CBC Radio One, talented female sportscaster Sonali Karnick (below right) is leaving Daybreak. Sonali She got offered a chance to work at CBC in Toronto. In probably one of the sharpest moves CBC has made in recent years, Karnick's replacement is Andie Bennett. Andie (below left) has impressed everyone who has followed her career these last six years on THE TEAM 990 and the Melnick in the Afternoon Show. Her bubbly personality is AndieBennett infectious and has a real strong knowledge of sports, especially hockey.  Andie also happens to be a very attractive young lady, so look for her to get some face time on the CBC TV News. I see a TV network career opportunity for her one day.




Member of Parliament Cotler Meets With Council

Côte Saint-Luc City Council had the opportunity to meet privately February 21 with Liberal Member of Parliament for Mount Royal Irwin Cotler. It was abundantly clear that he has every intention of remaining in office. In fact, he told us he does expect an election to be called in the spring.IrwinCotler2

Cotler briefed us on a number of foreign policy and domestic issues. I asked him what he could do as a federal representative to continue to pressure Canadian Pacific Railway vis-a-vis train noises.  I still get many complaints from constituents, chiefly on Merrimac. Cotler told us that at his office the calls have not been as frequent  of late. Jonathan Schecter, our city clerk, did confirm that his office does received plenty of complaints. Cotler assured us that he will look into the matter for us.

Howard Liebman, Cotler's devoted chief of staff and a resident of District 2, accompanied him to the meeting. We always appreciate these opportunities and have held similar sessions with D'Arcy McGee MNA Lawrence Bergman.

Gazette's Mike Boone Column on Rapper Annakin Slayd


Last summer, after watching rapper Annakin Slayd's amazing Expos tribute video, I contacted him and asked whether he would consider doing something similar for the public school system. Read Mike Boone's column, see the Global TV interview and the actual  video below:

Lending some street cred to stay-in-school message
Annakin Slayd, reluctant messenger, is bringing the message to LaurenHill Academy's junior campus tomorrow.

The hip-hop artist (among other things) - whose medicare card lists his name as Andrew Farrar and his age as 32 - is still trying to get his head around this spokesman thing. He and CJAD newsman Andrew Peplowski will be visiting the high school to promote the public education system, but salesmanship runs counter to hip-hop's street ethos.

"It was a really tricky thing," Farrar says of Go Publique, the video he recorded for the English Montreal School Board. "It could have come off as really hokey - me trying too hard to attach myself to a product. I asked them to assure me it wouldn't be some sort of pamphlet."

It isn't. Go Publique is a bilingual, colourful and very personal endorsement of the role education played in making Farrar who he is. And it's winning a new audience for Annakin Slayd.

"After the school board song," Farrar says. "I'm everybody's mom's favourite rapper."

He is a favourite of Mike Cohen, who handles communications for the EMSB. Like most sports fans, Cohen loved Farrar's hip-hop tributes to the Canadiens (Feels Like '93) and Expos (Remember), and he approached Farrar to do Go Publique.

Farrar was born in St. Léonard, but his family moved to Chomedey when he was 4. Farrar graduated from Dawson College's theatre program and went to New York to pursue an acting career.

As a 21-year-old rookie in the big leagues, he spent two years doing what young actors do: performing in off-Broadway productions, scrambling to pay the rent and hoping no one would notice his lack of a green card.

"Auditions were sparse and I wasn't making any money," he recalls.

"Then I saw a call for hip-hop auditions."

Farrar had grown up with that style of spoken-word music.

"I had friends in Montreal who were into funk," he says. "I'd get on the mike and drop a 16-beat verse, just for fun.

"I figured I was in New York, nobody knew me, I had nothing to lose, so why not take a shot at it?"

Farrar ended up cutting three tracks for "a label that wasn't really a label."

Then he ran out of money, returned to Montreal and began to record some hip-hop sides.

His stage name was inspired by the Wu-Tang Clan, members of which meshed comic book and film character names to create their aliases.

Farrar took his handle from Annakin Skywalker, a character in the Star Wars movies, and Slayd, from "a really obscure comic-book."

"I could have used nicknames like 'MC White-boy' but decided not to," Farrar says.

"I wanted something personal because the sides were reflecting my beliefs."

Eminem has established street cred for white rappers. They still can't pull off the gangsta thing without risking ridicule, but someone like Farrar has something to say. And hip-hop recording and performance (including a recent tour of Europe) are only two components of his multi-disciplinary career.

"My job is the arts," he says. Farrar has many creative irons in the fire, including TV and film writing, theatre and voice work on an animated TV series.

"This is one of the first years when I've made equal money being a writer, an actor and a hip-hop artist," Farrar says. He is quick to credit his girlfriend of seven years for making enough money, as a high-end hair stylist, to keep the household afloat through his lean periods.

The upside to being an Annakin of all trades is mastery of many forms.

"It's easier than it's ever been to dabble in things," Farrar said. "I just shot a movie using an iPhone. It's HD, so the footage is going to look as good as Spielberg's."

Schindler's Contact List? Farrar credits Jean-Michel Simard for shooting and editing the slick Annakin Slayd videos that you can watch on YouTube.

Farrar will tell LaurenHill students about his career and the potential of the online world.

"You can upload videos of things that are more interesting than your cat or your friend falling on the ice," he says. "Everyone can be a star, and we have the technology to further that dream."

ALSO, please see this interview with Annakin Slayd on Global TV




Our sympathies to Israel's Consul General

When Yoram Elron was  first posted  to Montreal as Israel's Consul General I made a point of arranging a meeting to interview him for the Jewish Tribune Newspaper.  I was immediately captivated by his wonderful personality and warmth. But there was some sadness as he told me about his eldest son, Roee Gal Elron, and his battle with cancer. One of the first things the Consul General and his wife Vered did when they arrived here was to make sure there son was well taken care of at the Montreal Children's Hospital.

From time to time I called the Consul General to see how his son was doing. Sadly, last weekend, Roee Gal lost his battle with the insidious disease. He was only 17. Besides his parents, he leaves his siblings Dori and Inbar.  The family has flown to Israel for the burial. My deepest sympathies are extended.



Eleanor London CSL Public Library - Top Books and DVDs for January

The Eleanor London Côte Saint-Luc Public Library is a jewel - the best of its kind in Quebec. Want to know which are the most popular fiction, non-fiction and DVDs being taken out by members? Here are the figures  for January 2011.

Top Fiction

1.Freedom / by Jonathan Franzen.

2. The confession / by John Grisham.

3. The Finkler question / by Howard Jacobson.

4. Cutting for stone / by Abraham Verghese.

5. Room / by Emma Donoghue.

6. Fall of giants / by Ken Follett.

7. Secret daughter / by Shilpi Somaya Gowda.

8. Minding Frankie / by Maeve Binchy.

9. The invisible bridge / by Julie Orringer.

10. Little Bee / by Chris Cleave.


1. Mordecai : the life & times / Charles Foran.

2. Changing my mind / Margaret Trudeau.

3. I remember nothing, and other reflections / Nora Ephron.

4. My father's paradise : a son's search for his  Jewish past in Kurdish Iraq / Ariel Sabar.

5, The Jew is not my enemy : unveiling the myths that fuel Muslim anti-Semitism /Tarek Fatah.

6. Start-up nation : the story of Israel's economic miracle : a council on foreign relations book / Dan Senor and Saul Singer.

7. Nomad / Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Barefoot Contessa, how easy is that? : fabulous recipes & easy tips / Ina Garten

8, Keith Richards with James Fox.

9.  Hitch-22 : a memoir / Christopher Hitchens.

Top  DVDs

1. The kids are all right

 2. The girl who played with fire

3, The prisoner

4. Dear John

5. The girl with the dragon tattoo

6. Mao's Last Dancer

7. The Wedding Song

8. Nights in Rodanthe

9. The Social Network

10. The Trotsky

Does the Jewish community fear Amir Khadir?

 The following is a column I filed for  the Jewish  Tribune Newspaper last week. It prompted a call from at least one high ranking Liberal who wanted to let me know that Premier Jean Charest is doing a stellar job and will certainly be  re-elected. I beg to differ. However, there are a few wild cards: PQ leader Pauline Marois is not very popular; the ADQ is gaining steam; former cabinet minister Francois Legault might start his own party or join the ADQ and most worrisome, Amir Khadir is the most popular politician in Quebec.  Charest could conceivably come up the middle with a minority government.

Here is the column.

In about two years time Quebecers will go the polls  and unless Premier Jean Charest resigns and his party finds a new charismatic leader, the Liberals will likely be booted out of office. For federalists, the best case scenario would be a minority government.  That could be a frightening prospect for the Jewish community here given  the presence of  one  Amir Khadir.

Khadir is the sole member of the hardline separatist Québec solidaire, representing the swing  Montreal riding of Mercier. A physician specializing in microbiology and infectious diseases, there is no questioning his educational credentials. According to a recent Léger Marketing poll, he is in fact the most popular politician in Quebec. At 45 percent, he has the highest approval rating.
Charest, now in his third mandate, has simply lost the trust and respect of Quebecers. His party has been mired in scandal and he just does not seem to read the signs that it is time to go. He benefits from the fact that Parti Québecois  leader Pauline Marois is not highly  regarded by the electorate either.  This is where the potential minority government comes in.  The Action démocratique du Québec, considered dead after the last election, are showing signs of life under new leader  Gerard Deltell. Former PQ cabinet minister  Francois Légault is making waves about launching a new party minus the sovereignty plank. Then there is Eric Duhaime, founder of the Réseau Liberté-Québec (RLQ) — the Quebec Freedom Network. While he and five other founders insist they’re not building a new party,  rather promoting values they believe  are sorely under-represented here, you could see them on the  ballot as well.


This brings us back to Khadir and why he is such a threat to the Jewish community. He has been openly critical of Israel, marching in protests against the Jewish State and making troubling statements. But most disturbing is his high profile role in the despicable campaign to boycott a Montreal shoe store in his riding which sells shoes made in Israel.


Since last fall Khadir  has been taking part in demonstrations  organized by Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU), a Montreal-based human rights group that advocates for the right of Palestinians to live in safety. Khadir has been strongly condemned by all facets of the political community. He was recently a guest on a highly rated French-language Montreal radio show where the host, Benoît  Dutrisac, raked him over the coals.  “Stop attacking a small boutique that is selling Israeli shoes!” he lectured Khadir.


While the protests may have backfired, bringing a lot of new customers to the store and politicians from different stripes, what’s troubling is that Quebecers still seem to consider him their most popular elected official. What happens if his party wins a number of seats in the next election and he holds the balance of power in a PQ government?   With a potential slew of parties  in the next race, this is a distinct possibility.


Perhaps the Liberals should draft Yves Archambault, the owner of the show store called Le Marcheur, to run against Khadir in the next election. This would  make a statement. The Israeli –made shoe brand,   Beautifeel shoes,  accounts for only two percent of his stock. It would have been very easy for him to just drop them from his inventory. He did not.


"I was sickened to see him (Khadir) distributing flyers and stopping people who were coming into the store to tell them they shouldn't support a business that sells Israeli products," Archambault said. "In Quebec we have free enterprise, and as long as it is legal, nobody has the right to tell me what I can and cannot sell in my store.”


In recent weeks three federal Liberal Members of  Parliament, Marlene Jennings and Marc Garneau   of the Liberals and Steven Blaney of the Tories and three  Members of the Quebec National Assembly, Deltell and  François Bonnardel from the ADQ, Lawrence Bergman of the  Liberals and Martin Lemay of the PQ, have shown up to demonstrate their solidarity with Archambault.


The PQ’s Marois and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe have both released statements in support of Archambault.


In his column in Le Journal de Montreal, Duhaime called out Khadir for his behavior. « For Amir Khadir,  he should do nothing less than apologize to Mr. Archambault and to all Quebecers,” he wrote. “To attack an honest businessman is totally unacceptable. Quebecers have the right to expect more from their most popular politician.”


Last week  the leader of Québec solidaire, François David, declared that Khadir’s participation in the shoe store protests was an error and that he would not continue such an activity. However, she took the opportunity to reaffirm her party’s support for the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign against Israel.

If Marois gets elected in two years and needs support to stay in office, let us hope she does not turn to Khadir.

Patricia Kalnitsky left this world way too early

Like most people my age, each day I read the obituaries in the newspaper hoping I will not recognize any names. Sadly, that is a rare occasion. Once in a while. Total shock will ensue. Such was the case  when I saw the name of Patricia Kalnitsky Alt. She was the devoted mother of three beautiful girls and the wife of Michael. The dreaded disease of cancer took her from, us at the age of 47.

Although we were  not close friends, I knew Patricia  (pictured above left) since Kindergarten at the old Wentworth Elementary School. She was always the adorable and ultimately “beautiful” red head. Wentworth School closed when we were in Grade 3, so we are shifted over to Westminster School. Most of us stayed there for two years and returned to Wentworth, which had become a Grade 7 French immersion school. From there it was on to Wagar High School for four years. Patricia was there every step of the way – always popular, with a bubbling personality. Sadly, after Grade 11 one of her closest friends named Linda Comm passed away from cancer. Linda was gorgeous and nice. People could not believe we lost her so early. When we held a high school reunion four a half years ago, I ironically remember chatting with Patricia as we looked at a board listing the Class of 1980 members whom had passed away: Steven Agustin, Billy Bloom, Michael Perlman, Clifford Shalinsky, Monte White, Mona Garbuz to name a few.

Two summers later we would end up working together as counsellors  at the YM-YWHA Day camp. There the staff really bonded and we spent the eight weeks socializing on weekends and even going on camping trips.

I sort of lost touch with Patricia after that. We’d bump into each other from time to time. I knew she had gotten married, had three girls and was working in human resources at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). Exactly three  years ago I called Patricia to see if she would be interested in having her daughter participate in a group bat mitzvah I was organizing for the school board. She agreed to come to our first meeting. Having already been through a similar program with her older daughter, she was a welcomed edition to our group. We benefitted from her experience and enjoyed her good sense of humour at the meetings.  For the next year plus I would see Patricia nearly every week. Planning a group bat mitzvah is no easy task. Imagine for a moment having eight families agree upon the choice of a teacher, venue, caterer, deejay, photographer, videographer  and other options. It was nostalgic form to spend this time with my old classmate in the role of parents.


The bat mitzvah  took place at the of March 2009. It was a huge success. Again, I basically lost touch with Patricia. Then came the news a few days ago that she had died. I posted this news on a Wagar Class of 1980 Facebook page and alerted one of her former boyfriends now living in the USA who still kept in touch with her. “I called on her birthday,” he said. “She did not mention a thing.”

Said Sharon Caplan, still one of her closest friends from high school: “It was a major shock to many people. She struggled for a little over a year and fought very hard. It is so sad for Michael and her kids.”

Rest in peace Patricia. You left us way too early!