“I ran into to one of your old CFRB colleagues the other day,” Paddy said, as I joined him at the coffee shop. “He told me to ask you about the time you refused to interview Pavarotti. Did you really refuse to interview one of the world’s greatest opera singers?”
“Yes,” I replied.
After a few moments of silence, Paddy realized I wasn’t going to elaborate so he pushed on, “How the hell did that happen?”
“It’s a long story,” I said, continuing my evasion, even though I knew it wasn’t going to work.
“I’m retired,” Paddy said, “not only do I have all day, I’ve actually got the rest of my life to hear it.”
“OK,” I relented; but as that particular episode wasn’t one of my finer moments, I continued to stall.
“Will you get on with it!” an exasperated Paddy exclaimed.
I began, “Betty Kennedy, who had a very popular afternoon show ....”
“I know who Betty Kennedy is,” Paddy crankily interrupted.
“..was on vacation,” I continued as if he hadn’t, “and I was filling in for her.”
I took a sip of coffee and went on. “Betty’s show was on from two to four in the afternoon. On my way downtown in the morning I would stop off at CFRB, which was then at Yonge and St. Clair, and, as you know, very close to my home. I’d go over our plans for that day’s show with Betty’s producer, a wonderfully-talented lady by the name of Irene Wilson, and then tape an interview or two before continuing down to my office. I’d come back up to CFRB about one-thirty, do the show, and then go home and work in my home office for the rest of the day.”
As I paused for another sip of coffee, Paddy admonished, “Pretty damn slow-moving so far.”
“You said you had the rest of your life,” I reminded him before going on with the story.
“The first morning, Irene informed me that there was a three-day international psychic symposium at the convention center and that she had lined up one of the world’s most renowned prognosticators, The Great Mario, for my first interview” (Editorial note: Not his real name, but he did have a distinctive Italian name.”)
After another sip of coffee I continued, “The interview was a disaster. The Great Mario really had nothing to say. For example, I asked him what some of his most famous prophecies were and he said that there were far too many to choose from. When I asked him what percentage of his predictions came true, he smugly replied ‘thirty-two percent.’ I told him I figured I had about a fifty-fifty chance of predicting most things, so I didn’t think thirty-two percent was anything to brag about. As the interview ended he asked me when it would be broadcast. I told him that he should be able to tell me that. We never did use the interview.”
“OK,” Paddy asked, “so what has all this got to do with Pavarotti, other than he’s an Italian like Mario.”
“That’s pretty much what caused the problem,” I told him.
“OK, you’re finally getting to the point,” Paddy said. “Go on.”
“The next morning when I arrived at CFRB, Irene was all excited, and, to use her exact words and emphasis, said ‘I’ve lined up The Great Pavarotti for a live interview this afternoon.’ I told her I wouldn’t do it. She protested that it was the only interview he agreed to do while in Toronto. I said I didn’t care. She begged a bit, but I wouldn’t budge. Irene, appearing both frustrated and aggrieved, gave up.”
“Good grief!” an incredulous Paddy blurted, “why in God’s name did you refuse to interview him?”
“I thought he was another psychic,” I answered.
“You didn’t know who Pavarotti was?” asked Paddy, even more incredulously.
“No,” I admitted as I got up to leave, “but I sure found out that evening when I told Anne about my day.”