Transcript: Alex Barris | Nov 13, 1997

(Rhythmic string and wind music plays)

In animation, a word in pink slides by against a gray background as hands paint strokes using paintbrushes, play a piano, and touch as in a ballet performance.

The title of the show reads “Dialogue.”

The title of the episode pops up against an image of Richard Ouzounian and a guest sitting in a large carpeted living room: “Alex Barris. Writer.”

Then, Richard appears facing the screen. He's in his late forties, clean-shaven, with short side-parted blond hair. He's wearing rounded glasses, a black suit, and a striped blue shirt.

He says I'M RICHARD OUZOUNIAN.
WELCOME TO
DIALOGUE.
IF CANADIAN SHOW BUSINESS HAS
A SHORT MEMORY, IT'S BECAUSE
IT HASN'T SPENT ENOUGH TIME
TALKING TO MY NEXT GUEST.
THIS IS A GUY WHO HAS ENDLESS
STORIES ABOUT WHAT IT WAS
LIKE IN THE GOLDEN DAYS OF
TORONTO NEWSPAPERS, AND IN
WHAT SOME PEOPLE THOUGHT WERE
THE RELATIVELY GOLDEN DAYS OF
CBC TELEVISION.
HE ALSO CAN TELL YOU JUST
ABOUT ANYTHING ABOUT
EVERYTHING IN SHOW BUSINESS.
THIS
DIALOGUE
IS
WITH ALEX BARRIS.

Alex is in his seventies, clean-shaven, with receding white hair. He’s wearing a black suit, white shirt, and striped gray tie.

Richard continues SO ALEX, THE FIRST THING I
WANT TO ASK YOU IS SOMETHING I
DON'T KNOW, SERIOUSLY, AND I
WANT TO FIND OUT FROM YOU.

Alex says WHAT'S THAT?

Richard says YOU MOVED TO CANADA
FROM NEW YORK IN 1948.

Alex says RIGHT, EXACTLY.

Richard says NOW, THAT'S THE TIME WHEN NEW
YORK NEWSPAPERS WERE KIND OF
AT THEIR HEIGHT.
THERE WERE NINE OF THEM.
YOU HAD RUNYON,
YOU HAD WINCHELL.
WHY WOULD YOU COME HERE?

Richard says DO YOU WANT TO HEAR THE
STORY OF HOW THAT HAPPENED?

Alex says YEAH.
BY THE TIME I CAME OUT OF
THE ARMY AT THE END OF '45,
I DECIDED I WANTED TO BE
IN THE NEWSPAPER BUSINESS.
AND THE FIRST JOB I GOT, NOT
IMMEDIATELY, AFTER ABOUT A
YEAR, I LANDED AT
THE NEW
YORK TIMES
AS A COPY BOY.
NOW,
THE NEW YORK TIMES
AT THAT TIME HAD A HUGE
SYNDICATE, THEY STILL DO,
BUT NOT AS BIG AS IT WAS.
AND I GOT A JOB WORKING AS
A COPY BOY, VERY MUNDANE,
AWFUL WORK.
AND THEN IN MY SPARE TIME, I
STARTED DOING FREELANCE WORK.
AS IT HAPPENED,
THE TORONTO
GLOBE AND MAIL
WERE ONE OF
THE SUBSCRIBERS TO
THE
TIME'S
SYNDICATE SERVICE,
AND I OFFERED THEM A COUPLE
OF STORIES, AND THAT BUILT
OVER A PERIOD OF TIME.
IN THE MEANTIME, I HAD PUT IN
AN APPLICATION TO TALK TO THE
CITY EDITOR OF
THE TIMES.
NOW, YOU DON'T JUST GO UP
TO THE CITY EDITOR OF
THE TIMES
AND TALK TO HIM.
YOU HAVE TO WAIT
'TIL YOU'RE CALLED.

Richard says LIKE THE POPE.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Alex Barris. Writer."

Alex says EXACTLY.
SO AFTER ABOUT FOUR MONTHS I
WAS WORKING IN THE BACK, DOWN
THERE, WE USED TO WEAR OUR OLD
ARMY FATIGUES BECAUSE THEY
USED MIMEOGRAPH MACHINES,
AND YOU'D GET BLACK INK
ALL OVER YOU.
A GUY WALKED OVER TO ME,
HE SAID, ARE YOU BARRIS.
I SAID YEAH.
HE SAID, THE CITY
EDITOR WANTS TO SEE YOU.
SO I WALKED OVER,
AND HE WAS VERY NICE.
HIS NAME WAS MURRAY
GARST, I THINK.
VERY NICE, TALL,
DISTINGUISHED LOOKING MAN.
HE SAID SIT DOWN.
AND HE SAID, TELL
ME ABOUT YOURSELF.
AND I TOLD HIM ABOUT
WORK I'D BEEN DOING FOR
THE GLOBE AND MAIL
AND VARIOUS
MAGAZINE PIECES I'D DONE
ON A FREELANCE BASIS.
HE LISTENED VERY ATTENTIVELY,
AND VERY POLITELY, AND WHEN
HE FINISHED, HE SAID,
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
HE SAID, LET ME
SHOW YOU SOMETHING.
HE SWUNG AROUND, AND HE HAD
ONE OF THOSE LITTLE FILING
CABINETS WITH THE LITTLE THREE
BY FIVE CARDS, THE KIND YOU
USED TO SEE IN THE LIBRARIES.
AND HE OPENED THREE OR
FOUR DRAWERS AT RANDOM.
AND THEY WERE CRAMMED
FULL WITH CARDS.
AND HE SAID, DO
YOU SEE THOSE?
AND I SAID, YES, SIR.
HE SAID, EACH ONE OF THOSE
CARDS CONTAINS THE NAME,
ADDRESS, AND TELEPHONE NUMBER
OF AN EXPERIENCED NEWSPAPER
MAN SOMEWHERE IN THESE UNITED
STATES WHO WOULD LIKE TO WORK
FOR
THE NEW YORK TIMES.
COME BACK AND SEE ME WHEN
WE'VE FINISHED WITH THESE.
AND MY HEART SANK.
BUT LATER ON I THANKED HIM
BECAUSE WHAT HE WAS SAYING
WAS GET OUT OF TOWN.
THERE IS NOT GOING
TO BE AN OPENING.
YOU COULD HAVE DIED OF OLD AGE
WAITING FOR SOMEBODY TO GIVE
YOU AN OPENING THERE.
SO I LOOKED AROUND.
AND I THOUGHT, WHAT THE HECK,
I GOT A CONTACT IN TORONTO.
I CAME TO TORONTO ON
A WEEKEND, LANDED AT
THE GLOBE AND MAIL
AND
NEVER LOOKED BACK.

Richard says WHAT WAS
THE GLOBE AND MAIL
LIKE NEARLY 50 YEARS AGO?

Alex says OH, IT WAS GOOD.
IT WAS A GOOD PLACE TO WORK.
I WAS THERE FOR NINE YEARS,
AND LATER ON, I DID ANOTHER
NINE YEARS AT
THE TELEGRAM.
I NEVER THOUGHT
THE TELEGRAM
WAS AS GOOD A PAPER AS
THE GLOBE AND MAIL, BUT IT
WAS A FUN PLACE TO WORK.

Richard says NOW,
THE TELEGRAM, OF COURSE
BECAUSE IT IS DEFUNCT,
I GUESS, HAS ENTERED INTO
LEGEND AS THIS FEISTY,
FREE SPIRITED,
ENTERTAINING PAPER.

Alex says OH, IT WAS.
IT WAS VERY ENERGETIC.
EVERYBODY WORKED VERY HARD
AND ENJOYED THE WORK.
AND I THINK THAT WAS TRUE
IN NEWSPAPERS, GENERALLY,
IN TORONTO, IN THOSE DAYS.
THERE WAS A TERRIFIC
COMPETITION BETWEEN THEM.
WHETHER
THE MORNING GLOBE
OR THE TWO EVENING PAPERS,
THE STAR
AND
THE TELEGRAM.
THE STAR
ALWAYS HAD THE
MOST MONEY AND ALWAYS
HAD THE MOST PEOPLE.
IF THERE WAS AN OUT-OF-TOWN
STORY, WHETHER IT WAS A MURDER
OR A FESTIVAL, WHATEVER,
THE
TELLY
WOULD HAVE TWO OR THREE
PEOPLE,
THE STAR
WOULD
HAVE EIGHT, AND
THE GLOBE
WOULD HAVE ONE.
THAT'S THE WAY IT
USUALLY OPERATED.
BUT YOU GOT BY,
AND IT WAS A FUN.
IT WAS A GOOD PLACE TO WORK.
AND I MUST SAY, WHEN I STARTED
DOING ENTERTAINMENT COLUMN
AND SO ON, I STARTED FIRST AT
THE GLOBE,
THEN I SWITCHED
OVER TO
THE TELEGRAM.
AND THEY WERE VERY GOOD
TO THEIR FEATURE WRITERS
AND COLUMNISTS THERE.
YOU COULD DO NO WRONG.
NOBODY CAME AROUND AND
TOLD YOU WRITE THIS
OR DON'T WRITE THAT.
NOBODY SAID PAN THIS
SHOW OR PRAISE THAT ONE.

Richard says RIGHT.

Alex says YOU HAD VERY
MUCH A FREE HAND.
AND THAT'S A GOOD
PLACE TO WORK.

Richard says IT'S INTERESTING, YOU
MENTIONED BEING AN
ENTERTAINMENT COLUMNIST.
IT WAS THE PERIOD OF WINCHELL,
AND ED SULLIVAN HAD A COLUMN,
AND JOE FRANKLIN WROTE.
IT WAS A REAL THING FOR THERE
TO BE KIND OF HARD-EDGED GUYS
WHO TOLD YOU WHAT WAS
GOING ON IN SHOW BIZ.

Alex says AS A MATTER OF FACT, I WAS
THE FIRST ONE TO DO THAT
KIND OF COLUMN
AT
THE GLOBE.
AND EVEN AT THAT TIME, THERE
WERE NOT VERY MANY PEOPLE WHO
WERE DOING ANY KIND OF
COLUMN OF THAT SORT.
SINCLAIR DID STUFF FOR
THE
STAR, THEN I STARTED MY
COLUMN AT
THE GLOBE,
THEN SWITCHED OVER TO
THE TELEGRAM, AND THEN
THE
STAR
DIDN'T HAVE -- NO, THEY
GOT A GUY NAMED, OH, I CAN'T
REMEMBER HIS NAME NOW, DOING
AN ENTERTAINMENT COLUMN.
AT THAT TIME, NATHAN COHEN WAS
THE ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR AT
THE STAR, AND SOMEBODY I
KNEW WHO WORKED OVER THERE,
HE WAS LOOKING FOR A
COLUMNIST, AND COHEN SAID,
'I WANT SOMEBODY LIKE
BARRIS BUT BETTER'.
AND WORD DRIFTED BACK TO ME.
SO I SAID 'TELL NATHAN, IF HE
WANTS SOMEBODY LIKE BARRIS,
BUT BETTER, HIRE BARRIS,
AND PAY HIM MORE'.

They both chuckle.

Richard says DID YOU HAVE A
PARTICULAR STYLE?
LIKE THE THREE DOT OR THE
MADE-UP WORDS OR SOMETHING?

Alex says NO, I DIDN'T MAKE UP WORDS,
BUT I DID USE THREE DOTS
BECAUSE I NEVER FELT EVERY STORY
WAS WORTH A WHOLE PARAGRAPH.
I DIDN'T LIKE ONE SUBJECT
COLUMNS AS A RULE BECAUSE
PEOPLE'S ATTENTION SPAN, EVEN
THEN, FOR THAT KIND OF THING,
WAS DIFFERENT.
IT'S DIFFERENT IF YOU ARE
READING A BIG NEWS STORY,
BUT IF YOU'RE READING ABOUT
ENTERTAINMENT, UNLESS YOU ARE
REVIEWING A SHOW,
THAT'S DIFFERENT.
BUT IF YOU ARE DOING A KIND
OF AROUND THE TOWN, OR WHAT'S
GOING ON IN ENTERTAINMENT,
YOU NEED SHORT, FAST ITEMS.
THAT'S THE WAY I OPERATED.
NOT THAT I INVENTED IT,
OBVIOUSLY, IT HAD BEEN DONE
BEFORE IN NEW YORK, AND
WAS BEING DONE, WINCHELL,
SULLIVAN, ALL THOSE PEOPLE.

Richard says DID YOU DO GOSSIP?
LIKE, WHAT STRATFORD
STAR WAS SEEN WITH WHAT
NATIONAL BALLERINA?

Alex says NO, STRANGE ENOUGH, I DID
SHOW BIZ GOSSIP ABOUT UPCOMING
PRODUCTIONS OR THAT KIND OF
THING, BUT I DIDN'T GET
INTO PERSONAL GOSSIP.
AND I TAKE A LITTLE
PRIDE IN THAT.
I NEVER LIKED THAT
KIND OF THING.
I DON'T SAY IT SHOULD BE
OUTLAWED, BUT I NEVER
LIKED DOING IT.
IT'S DIFFERENT IF
I'M TALKING TO YOU.

Richard says RIGHT.
NOWADAYS, THERE ISN'T
THAT KIND OF A COLUMN.
THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO WRITE
ABOUT STARS, OR HAVE LITTLE
NEWS THINGS, BUT THERE
ISN'T, I'M THE
ENTERTAINMENT COLUMNIST.
SID ADELMAN STILL DOES A
BIT OF THAT IN
THE STAR,
BUT IT'S MORE MOVIES
AND TV STILL.
DO YOU THINK WE MISS EACH
PAPER HAVING KIND OF
AN ENTERTAINMENT PERSON?

Alex says I DON'T KNOW.
I THINK, PERHAPS, THE
PUBLIC HAS CHANGED, TOO.
THEY GET THAT STUFF NOW FROM
TELEVISION, CERTAINLY FROM
RADIO, AND IT'S PROBABLY NOT
AS VITAL A PART OF A NEWSPAPER
AS IT WAS WHEN I WAS
WORKING ON PAPERS.
MAYBE I'M WRONG, BUT
THAT'S MY FEELING ABOUT IT.

Richard says DO YOU THINK SHOWS LIKE
ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT
TAKE THEIR PLACE?

Alex says I SUPPOSE THEY DO.
I DON'T WATCH THEM.
I FIND THEM, YOU KNOW,
MONUMENTALLY UNINTERESTING,
BUT I'M SURE THERE'S A MARKET
FOR THEM, OTHERWISE THEY
WOULDN'T BE THERE.

Richard says NOW, IT'S FUNNY YOU SAY THAT.
YOU'RE STILL INTERESTED IN
SHOW BIZ, YOU STILL WANT TO
KNOW WHAT'S HAPPENING, WHY
DOES THAT KIND OF FAST PACED,
DA, DA, DA, DA TV
SHOW TURN YOU OFF?

Alex says PERHAPS BECAUSE I'VE NEVER
HEARD OF 80 PERCENT OF THE
PEOPLE THEY ARE TALKING
ABOUT, FOR ONE THING.
YOU KNOW?
TODAY'S BIT PLAYER HAS A
SERIES TOMORROW AND IS FIRED
THE NEXT DAY AND IS
MARRIED THE FOLLOWING DAY.
AND BY THE TIME YOU RECOGNIZE
WHO IT IS, HE'S BEEN
SUPERSEDED BY
ANOTHER NEWCOMER.
SO I CAN'T KEEP TRACK ANYMORE.

Richard says NOW, WE'VE ALREADY DRIFTED
FROM NEWSPAPERS TO TELEVISION,
WHICH IS JUST WHAT
ALEX BARRIS DID.

Alex says THAT'S WHAT I DID, TOO.

Richard says HOW DID YOU START TO GET IN,
WAS IT CBC FIRST, OR CFTO?

Alex says NO, IT WAS CBC.
AND IT CAME ABOUT IN A
LONG, KIND OF A DULL WAY.
FROM THE TIME I WAS AT
THE
GLOBE AND MAIL, MY SECOND
YEAR AT
THE GLOBE AND MAIL,
I WAS UP AT QUEEN'S PARK
COVERING THE LEGISLATURE.
AND WE STARTED, QUEEN'S PARK
KIND OF FOLLIES, PRESS GALLERY
SHOW, IN WHICH WE SORT OF
POKED FUN AT ALL THE MEMBERS,
AND CABINET MEMBERS.
GREAT FUN.
AND I GOT INVOLVED IN WRITING.

Richard says HOW MANY WAYS CAN
YOU RHYME DAVIS?

Alex says WE HAD A LOT OF FUN.
AND WE PUT ON THIS
SHOW ANNUALLY.
AND WE DID THAT SEVERAL TIMES.
AND THEN IN '54, I GUESS, OR
'55, MARILYN BELL SWAM LAKE
ONTARIO AND, OF COURSE, THE
PAPERS WENT CRAZY TRYING TO
COVER THIS AND TRYING TO OUT
DO EACH OTHER AND TRYING
TO SIGN HER UP AND SO ON.
AND I DID A MOCK BALLAD OF
MARILYN BELL TO THE TUNE OF
CASEY JONES, TALKING ABOUT THE
NEWSPAPERS SCRAMBLING AROUND
TO COVER IT.
IT WAS KIND OF FUN.
AND I PERFORMED IT AT A SHOW
THAT THE PRESS CLUB PUT ON.
AND THERE WAS A MAN WHO SHALL
REMAIN NAMELESS, WHO WAS AT
THE CBC, VERY HIGH UP, AND
HE HAPPENED TO BE THERE THAT
NIGHT, BUT HE DIDN'T NOTICE
ME BECAUSE HE WAS BOMBED
OUT OF HIS HEAD.
BUT ANOTHER PRODUCER
OF HIS NOTICED ME.
AT THAT TIME, THEY HAD JUST
STARTED DOING A SHOW HERE
CALLED
11:30 FRIDAY.
IT WAS ONE OF THOSE MEMORABLE
CBC TITLES THAT THEY ABOUND IN.
AND THEY HAD DIFFERENT
EMCEES EACH WEEK.
AND THIS GUY SAID, OH, YOU
SHOULD HIRE BARRIS TO DO ONE,
AND I DID.
AND THEN I DID MORE,
AND THEN I WOUND UP
WITH
THE BARRIS BEAT
PROGRAM, AND SO ON.
KIND OF A TALK-VARIETY SHOW.

Richard says AND VARIOUS PERMUTATIONS AND
THINGS LIKE THAT HAPPENED
OVER THE YEARS.

Alex says OH, YEAH.

Richard says BUT THE MAJOR TV THING I
THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE
RECOGNIZE YOU FOR, IN FACT,
WHEN YOU WERE GETTING READY
FOR THE SHOOT TODAY, ONE OF
THE PEOPLE WATCHED YOU FOR A
WHILE AND SAID, YOU USED TO
BE ON
FRONT PAGE CHALLENGE.
BUT YOU WERE ON THE
VERY FIRST ONE, RIGHT?

Alex says I WAS.
IN FACT, THE PANEL WAS GORDON
SINCLAIR, TOBY ROBINS,
MYSELF, AND THE GUEST
PANELIST ON THE FIRST SHOW
WAS SCOTT YOUNG.

Richard says AND THERE'S A GREAT
SCOTT YOUNG STORY.
HE SAYS, HE CAME HOME
FROM THE AUDITIONS HOPING
HE'D BE A REGULAR.
AND HE SAID, I KNOW
I WON'T BE A REGULAR.
HIS WIFE SAID, WHY NOT?
AND HE SAID BECAUSE SINCLAIR
IS OLDER, ROBINS IS PRETTIER,
AND BARRIS IS THINNER.

Alex says YEAH.
AND HE WAS RIGHT.
HE WASN'T A REGULAR, BUT HE
WAS A FREQUENT GUEST PANELIST.
HE WAS VERY GOOD.

Richard says NOW
FRONT PAGE CHALLENGE
WAS ONLY SUPPOSED TO BE A
LITTLE SUMMER
FILLER, WASN'T IT?

Alex says SURE.
THERE WAS A STORY, WHICH I
THINK I MAY HAVE COVERED IN
THAT BOOK WHEN SINCLAIR WAS
TOLD THEY WERE GOING TO GO
AHEAD WITH IT, HE WENT TO
THE PRODUCER, HARVEY HART,
I BELIEVE, AT THE TIME, AND
HE SAID, DON'T YOU THINK
YOU OUGHT TO LOOK
FOR A YOUNGER MAN?
AND HE SAID, WHY?
HE SAID, WELL, WHO KNOWS,
SUPPOSE THIS SHOW GOES ON
FOR MY A FEW YEARS.
I'M IN MY FIFTIES
OR SOMETHING.
AND HARVEY LAUGHED, AND SAID,
OH, DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT.
AND, OF COURSE, THE SHOW
LASTED FOR 37 YEARS.
AND GORDON WAS ON UNTIL
HE DIED IN '84-'85,
SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

Richard says NOW, YOU DRIFTED AROUND.

Alex says I WAS ON THE ORIGINAL PANEL.
THEN, I DON'T THINK I WAS VERY
GOOD BECAUSE I DIDN'T TAKE IT
SERIOUSLY ENOUGH.
I WAS HAVING FUN WITH IT.
WE HAD GREY OWL, WHO IS -- THE
STORY ABOUT GREY OWL, ANYWAY.
AND I REFERRED TO
HIM AS WHITE OWL.
THAT KIND OF THING HAPPENED.
I WAS TOO LIGHT
HEARTED ABOUT IT.
SO THEY SAID, WELL,
THAT'S NOT SO GOOD.
IN THE MEANTIME, WIN BARRON,
WHO WAS THE ORIGINAL
MODERATOR, DIDN'T WORK OUT.
HE WAS A LITTLE TOO SOMBER.
SO THEY DECIDED
TO DUMP HIM.
THEY WERE GOING TO LOOK
FOR A REPLACEMENT
FOR THE MODERATOR'S JOB.
AND FRED DAVIS AND I LITERALLY
DID ON-AIR AUDITIONS BACK AND
FORTH FOR FOUR WEEKS BEFORE
THEY DECIDED ON FRED.
AND, OBVIOUSLY,
THEY WERE WRONG.

Richard says OF COURSE, OBVIOUSLY.

Alex says HE ONLY LASTED 37 YEARS.
I HAD A JOKE WITH
FRED ABOUT THAT.
I DID THIS AT A
BANQUET ONE TIME.
I INTRODUCED HIM, AND I SAID,
NOW I CAN TELL THE REAL STORY
OF WHY FRED DAVIS GOT THE
JOB ON
FRONT PAGE CHALLENGE.
HIS NOSE JOB WORKED
OUT BETTER THAN MINE.

Richard says BUT YOUR NOSE IS A JOY.
YOU WORKED THROUGHOUT CBC FOR
MANY MORE YEARS UNTIL YOU
FINALLY MADE A DECISION
TO GO AND WORK IN AMERICAN
TELEVISION, WHICH IS
A WHOLE OTHER CHAPTER.
BUT I SAVED UP, YOU WROTE A BOOK
ABOUT YOUR TIME AT THE CBC.

Alex says THE PIERCE-ARROW
SHOWROOM IS LEAKING.

Richard says
THE PIERCE-ARROW
SHOWROOM IS LEAKING.
BEFORE WE EXPLAIN THE TITLE,
AND TALK ABOUT THE BOOK, I
ACTUALLY HAVE TUCKED AWAY HERE
AN ALEX BARRIS QUOTE, OKAY?

He reads from a piece of paper:
“WHAT THE CBC DESPERATELY
NEEDS NOW IS A TRANSFUSION
OF CONFIDENCE FROM THE
CANADIAN PEOPLE AND
THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT.
THEN, PERHAPS, THAT CONFIDENCE
WILL GROW STRONGER INSIDE THE
CBC AND ENABLE IT TO
BEGIN AGAIN ACTING LIKE A
PROFESSIONAL BROADCASTING
NETWORK, INSTEAD OF A
PANIC-STRICKEN RABBIT.”

He looks up and says
ALEX, THAT WAS 28 YEARS AGO.
YOU THINK THINGS HAVE CHANGED?

Alex says FOR THE WORSE.

Richard says FOR THE WORSE.

Alex says THE FUNNY THING IS WHEN THAT
BOOK COME OUT, WHICH WAS THE
FALL OF '69, I WAS ALREADY
LIVING IN L.A., BUT I CAME
BACK FOR THE BOOK LAUNCH,
WHICH THEY HELD, BY THE WAY,
AT THE PIERCE-ARROW SHOWROOM.

Richard says NOW, YOU SHOULD EXPLAIN, FOR
PEOPLE WHO HAVE FORGOTTEN,
WHY YOU CALLED IT THAT.

Alex says THE PIERCE-ARROW SHOWROOM
WAS SO-CALLED BECAUSE THE
BUILDING WAS BUILT IN THE
'30s, SOMETIMES, BY THE GUY
WHO WAS MANUFACTURING THE
PIERCE-ARROW, WHICH WAS A
LUXURY CAR DATED
WAY, WAY BACK.
CAME THE DEPRESSION, THEY
WEREN'T DOING VERY WELL,
AND THE WHOLE COMPANY
EVENTUALLY WENT BANKRUPT.
AND THE BUILDING WAS BUILT
AS A SHOWROOM FOR THE
PIERCE-ARROW, AT YONGE AND
WHATEVER THAT STREET IS.

Richard says SUMMERHILL.

Alex says SUMMERHILL, RIGHT.
NEAR SUMMERHILL.
THEN IT WENT THROUGH
VARIOUS OWNERS.
AND IN 1954, THE CBC BOUGHT
IT BECAUSE THEY REALIZED THEY
WERE GOING TO NEED ANOTHER
STUDIO, BESIDES THOSE LITTLE
PHONE BOOTHS THEY HAD
DOWN AT THE COMPLEX.
AND THEY STARTED DOING LONG
NARROW SHOWS FROM THAT STUDIO
FOR MANY, MANY YEARS.
THE TITLE CAME ABOUT BECAUSE
WE WERE DOING A SHOW THERE --
DO YOU WANT TO HEAR THIS?

Richard says YEAH.

Alex says IN '68, I GUESS,
WITH MALKA AND JOSO.
THIS WAS
INTERNATIONAL FOLK MUSIC.
THEY SANG IN ABOUT SEVEN
LANGUAGES, AND SO ON.
AND THE SET WAS, YOU KNOW,
VENETIAN ARCHES AND...

Richard says YOUR STANDARD CBC VARIETY SET.

Alex says YEAH, EXACTLY.
AND WE TAPED THE SHOW LATE
AT NIGHT, ABOUT 10 O'CLOCK
OR SOMETHING.
NO AUDIENCE.
AND WE BROKE FOR DINNER ABOUT
8 O'CLOCK, AND WE WENT OUT,
AND IT WAS RAINING.
WHEN WE CAME BACK, ADDITIONS
TO THE SET HAD BEEN MADE.
BUCKETS CATCHING THE
WATER THAT WAS DRIPPING.
THE PIERCE-ARROW SHOWROOM
WAS LITERALLY LEAKING.
SO THEY CALLED THE MAINTENANCE
DEPARTMENT, AND THEY SAID
THEY'D PUT IN A REPORT, AND
THEY'D FIX IT IN THE MORNING,
WHICH WAS NONSENSE.
YOU COULDN'T DO A DAMN THING.
WHAT SAVED US THAT NIGHT
WAS THAT THE RAIN STOPPED,
AND WE WERE ABLE
TO DO THE SHOW.
BUT MY ARGUMENT WAS THAT
THE CBC WAS LEAKING,
AND NOBODY WAS ON DUTY.
SO THAT WAS WHAT
THE BOOK WAS ABOUT.

Richard says THEY KEPT THAT STUDIO, BY
THE WAY, UNTIL JUST RECENTLY.
AT THE END, THEY
WERE ONLY DOING
Mr. DRESS-UP
THERE.

Alex says I THINK IT'S NOW AN OFFICE
BUSINESS, OR BUSINESS DEPOT.
I WAS GOING TO TELL YOU
TWO THINGS ABOUT THAT.
AS I MENTIONED, THE
BOOK CAME OUT IN '69.
I WAS IN LOS ANGELES FOR
SEVEN YEARS, I CAME BACK.
IN 1979, THE CBC WERE DOING
A TELETHON OF SORTS FOR
VIETNAMESE BOAT PEOPLE
OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT.
AND WAYNE AND SHUSTER
WERE HOSTING IT,
AND I WAS WRITING THE SHOW.
AND WE WERE IN THAT SAME
STUDIO, ALMOST LITERALLY, TEN
YEARS TO THE DAY, AND I SWEAR
TO GOD, IT WAS LEAKING AGAIN.
NOTHING HAD BEEN
DONE IN TEN YEARS.

Richard says I THINK IT LEAKED 'TIL THE
VERY DAY THEY CLOSED IT.

Alex says THE OTHER STORY I WAS GOING
TO TELL YOU ABOUT THAT BOOK,
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN THE CBC
RADIO BUILDING WAS ON JARVIS
STREET FOR MANY, MANY YEARS?

Richard says RIGHT.

Alex says JUST DOWN THE STREET FROM
THERE, ABOUT FOUR DOORS AWAY,
WAS AN OLD BROWNSTONE HOUSE
THAT HAD BEEN CONVERTED INTO
A VERY NICE BOOKSTORE.
DO YOU REMEMBER IT?
JUST A FEW DOORS DOWN.

Richard says YEAH.

Alex says AND I USED TO POP IN THERE
WHEN I WAS DOING VARIETY AT
NIGHT, ESPECIALLY BECAUSE I
WAS THERE FOR SEVERAL YEARS.
AND I'D POP IN THERE.
THE GUY KNEW ME.
AND I'D BROWSE AROUND
LOOKING FOR BOOKS.
AND I WAS ALWAYS ON THE
LOOKOUT FOR COPIES OF THE
PIERCE-ARROW SHOWROOM BECAUSE
THEY ONLY WENT TO ONE PRINTING.
RYERSON PRESS WHO PUBLISHED
IT SOLD OUT TO RAND MCNALLY,
OR SOMEBODY, SO THERE WAS NO
SECOND EDITION OR SECOND
PRINTING OF IT.
IT'S VERY HARD TO FIND.
I'M ALWAYS RUNNING INTO
PEOPLE WHO SAY, 'GEE,
I NEVER GOT THAT BOOK'.
SO WHENEVER I COME ACROSS
ONE, YOU KNOW, I PICK IT UP.
I WAS IN THERE ONE DAY, AND
I'D BEEN IN THERE BEFORE.
WAY IN THE BOOK, AND I
FOUND TWO COPIES OF
THE PIERCE-ARROW SHOWROOM.
AND I BROUGHT THEM BACK, AND I
PUT THEM DOWN ON THE COUNTER.
AND HE SAID, OH, HE
SAID YOU FOUND IT.
I SAID, YEAH, I FOUND TWO.
SO HE LOOKED, HE SAID, OKAY,
BY THE BY, THE BOOK COST 6.95
WHEN IT CAME OUT.
HE SAID, THAT'LL BE 10 dollars,
AND THIS ONE IS 15 dollars.
I SAID, HOW COME?
HE SAID, THAT ONE IS
SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR.
I SAID, THAT'S ME.
HE SAID, I KNOW.
BUT I STILL HAD TO
PAY FIVE BUCKS MORE
FOR MY OWN AUTOGRAPH.

Richard says YOUR OWN AUTOGRAPH.
THE MOST VALUABLE
ONE YOU EVER HAD.

Alex says WONDERFUL.

Richard says TO COME BACK TO THE STUFF YOU
WROTE ABOUT, YOUR PORTRAIT,
AND IT'S A WONDERFUL BOOK.
I WISH THERE WOULD BE A NEW
PRINTING OF IT BECAUSE IT'S
A GREAT INSIGHT INTO WHAT
CBC VARIETY WAS LIKE.
BUT YOU DO PINPOINT,
SERIOUSLY, SO MANY PROBLEMS.
YOU TALK ABOUT HOW THE CBC
BACK THEN WAS DRIVEN BY FEAR.
AND YOU TALKED ABOUT PEOPLE
WERE TRYING TO PUT THEIR
FINGER IN THE DYKE, BUT THEY
ARE AFRAID THE DYKE IS GOING
TO COLLAPSE ON THEM.
WELL, IT SOUNDS
EXACTLY THE SAME.
AS AN OUTSIDER,
WHAT DO YOU SEE?

Alex says I HONESTLY WOULD BE SURPRISED
IF THE CBC IS AROUND FOR
ANOTHER 10-15 YEARS.
IT'S ALREADY SO BADLY CRIPPLED
THAT IF THEY STARTED NOW,
IT WOULD BE VERY
DIFFICULT TO FIX IT.
AND I DON'T SEE ANY SIGNS OF
ANYBODY -- IN ALL FAIRNESS,
AND I DON'T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT
DEFENDING CHRETIEN, BUT IN
NORMAL TIMES, MAYBE THE
LIBERAL PARTY WOULD HAVE BEEN
INCLINED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT
STOPPING THE BLOODLETTING
AT THE CBC.
BUT AT THE TIME THE LIBERALS
CAME BACK INTO GOVERNMENT,
WITH ALL THE TALK ABOUT
BALANCING THE BUDGET, AND
DEFICIT THIS AND SO ON, NOT
EVEN CHRETIEN, NOT ANY LIBERAL
GOVERNMENT COULD SAY, OH,
WE'RE GOING TO PUT 5 BILLION
Dollars INTO THE CBC.
HE'D HAVE A REVOLUTION
IN THIS COUNTRY.
BECAUSE NOBODY CARES ENOUGH.
MAYBE THEY ARE RIGHT.
THAT WAS TRUE 28 YEARS AGO
WHEN I WROTE THAT BOOK.
I SAID THE PROBLEM WAS THE
PUBLIC DOESN'T REALLY
CARE THAT MUCH.
MAYBE THAT SITUATION IS A
LITTLE BIT BETTER THAN
IT WAS THEN, BUT NOT MUCH.
IN THE MEANTIME, THE
COMPETITION FROM OTHER
NETWORKS HAS INCREASED
TREMENDOUSLY, NEVER MIND THE
SPECIALTY CHANNELS
AND ALL THAT.
THE GOVERNMENT IS LESS AND
LESS INCLINED TO PUT MONEY
INTO THE CBC.
SO I DON'T SEE MUCH CHANCE
IT IS GOING TO CHANGE.
CERTAINLY NOT FOR THE BETTER.

Richard says ONE OF THE DREAMS YOU SAID
YOU HAD ON THE LAST PAGE OF
YOUR BOOK IS THAT CANADIANS
WOULD TURN ON AN AMERICAN
CHANNEL AND SEE
CANADIAN STARS THERE.
YOU SAID MAYBE HARVEY KIRK
WILL BE DOING THE AMERICAN NEWS.
NOW WE GOT PETER JENNINGS FOR
A WHILE, AND WE GOT ONE OF
THE KENT BOYS FOR A WHILE,
BUT WE HAVE HAD A LOT OF
COMICS, AND YOU LOVE COMEDY.
HAS IT MEANT ANYTHING FOR
CANADA THAT ALL THESE CANADIAN
GUYS WENT DOWN WITH SCTV AND
SATURDAY NIGHT AND ALL OF THAT?

Alex says I DON'T KNOW.
IT'S NICE THAT THEY DO.
I CAN'T BLAME ANYBODY
FOR GOING TO THE STATES.
WHEN AN ARTIST HAS REACHED AS
MANY PEOPLE AS HE CAN IN HIS
OWN COUNTRY, HE GOES WHERE
THERE IS A BIGGER ARENA.
WHETHER YOU ARE A DANCER, AN
ACTOR, A WRITER, A MUSICIAN,
IT'S THE SAME THING.
I HAVE NO ARGUMENT WITH THAT.
I THINK IT'S A VERY SENSIBLE
THING FOR THEM TO DO.
IN THE STATES, I DON'T THINK
THEY GIVE A DAMN WHETHER YOU
WERE BORN IN CANADA OR
DETROIT, OR FLORIDA,
OR YUGOSLAVIA.
THEY GO FOR TALENT, AND
THAT'S TO THEIR CREDIT.
WE'RE VERY, YOU KNOW,
LACKING SELF-CONFIDENCE.
WE DON'T RECOGNIZE
STARS UNTIL THE U.S.
RECOGNIZES THEM.
NOBODY GAVE A DAMN ABOUT
RICH LITTLE HERE UNTIL
HE MADE IT BIG
IN THE STATES.

Richard says JIM CARREY.

Alex says OR ROBERT GOULET, OR
ANYBODY YOU WANT TO MENTION.
WAYNE AND SHUSTER WENT TO
CALIFORNIA AND DID A SUMMER
SERIES ONCE, BUT NEVER
SERIOUSLY ENTERTAINED MOVING
THERE BECAUSE THEY REALIZED
THEY WERE BETTER OFF HERE.
AND HERE AGAIN, JOHNNY
AND FRANK DID, WHAT, 67
APPEARANCES ON
THE
ED SULLIVAN SHOW.

Richard says MORE THAN ANYONE ELSE.

Alex says MORE THAN ANY SINGLE ACT.
AND I REMEMBER JOHNNY TELLING
ME ONE TIME, THEY HAD GONE
DOWN TO THE ROSEMARY CLOONEY
SHOW FOR NBC, AND THEY CAME
BACK, AND THEY'D GOTTEN THE
STAR TREATMENT, YOU KNOW, THE
MOROCCO BOUND SCRIPT, AND
THE STAR ON THE DRESSING ROOM
DOOR, THE WHOLE BIT.
AND THEY COME BACK, AND HE
COULDN'T PARK IN THE PARKING
LOT AT THE CBC BECAUSE
NOBODY KNEW HIM.
THEN HE MET, WHEN THEY WERE
DOING THE SULLIVAN SHOW,
HE RAN INTO A GUY AT
A COCKTAIL PARTY.
AND HE SAID, GEE,
YOU'RE MY FAVOURITE.
WHEN ARE YOU GOING
TO BE ON AGAIN?
AND HE SAID, WELL, AS A MATTER
OF FACT, WE'RE STARTING OUR
NEXT CBC SPECIAL NEXT WEEK.
HE SAID, NO, WHEN ARE YOU
GOING TO BE ON SULLIVAN AGAIN?
I DON'T WATCH CBC.
THE SAME GUYS, THE SAME
TALENT, ALL THE STUFF THEY DID
ON THE SULLIVAN SHOW HAD
BEEN DONE HERE FIRST ANYWAY.
IT'S WEIRD.
BUT THAT'S OUR
CANADIAN MAKE-UP.

Richard says AND IT'S STILL THE SAME.

Alex says OH, I THINK SO.
MAYBE A LITTLE BIT
LESS, BUT NOT MUCH, NO.

Richard says NOW, ALEX BARRIS, HAVING GONE
THROUGH ALL THESE CAREERS IN
NEWSPAPERS, TELEVISION,
WRITING SOME GREAT BEST
SELLING NON-FICTION BOOKS
WITH YOUR SON, TED BARRIS,
WHAT'S ON YOUR
PLATE RIGHT NOW?

Alex says I'M DOING A COLUMN
NOW FOR
CARP NEWS.
THAT'S THE CANADIAN
ASSOCIATION OF RETIRED
PERSONS, OF WHICH I AM ONE.
AND IT'S JUST AN ENTERTAINMENT
COLUMN, BACK TO THREE DOT
ITEMS AND SO ON.

Richard says RIGHT, RIGHT.

Alex says AND THAT'S FUN.
AND I ALSO DO A SHOW BIZ
QUIZ ON THEIR INTERNET.
AND I WRITE FOR A MAGAZINE
CALLED
THE JAZZ REPORT,
WHICH IS QUARTERLY, AND I
JUST COVER DIFFERENT JAZZ
MUSICIANS, AND SO ON.
SO ALL THE THINGS I LOVE
TO DO, I'M STILL DOING.

Richard says WOULD YOU GO BACK AND DO A
MAJOR TELEVISION SERIES
EVER AGAIN?

Alex says OH, IF ANYBODY OFFERED
ME ONE, I MIGHT.
BUT IT'S NOT VERY LIKELY.

Richard says DIFFERENT GAME?

Alex says I'M NOT SITTING BY THE PHONE.

Richard says IS IT A WHOLE DIFFERENT
WORLD OUT THERE NOW?

Alex says WELL, I WOULD THINK THEY
WOULD WANT YOUNGER PEOPLE,
FOR ONE THING.
THAT'S GOT TO BE A FACTOR.
AND I CAN FACE THAT,
THAT'S NO PROBLEM.
I WOULD DO IT, BUT I'M NOT
KNOCKING ON ANY DOORS,
AND NOR ARE THEY.

Richard says ONE OF THE THINGS YOU DID
SO WELL, ESPECIALLY IN THE
STATES, IS VARIETY.
AND THERE IS VIRTUALLY NO
VARIETY -- I WAS GOING TO SAY
IN THE STATES, BUT NOW RITA
MACNEIL'S BEEN KILLED OFF IN
CANADA, THERE IS NO
VARIETY, IT SEEMS, PERIOD.
WHY DID THAT DIE?

Alex says I GUESS PEOPLE WOULD RATHER
WATCH, YOU KNOW, COP SHOWS AND
LAWYER SHOWS AND DOCTOR SHOWS,
AND BAD SITCOMS, THAT'S WHAT
WE SEEM TO BE GETTING.
I CAN'T ABIDE MOST OF
WHAT'S ON TELEVISION.
AND I'M NOT JUST TALKING
ABOUT CANADA NOW.
I'VE JUST COME BACK FROM,
WELL, I WAS IN FLORIDA DURING
THE WINTER, AND THE TELEVISION
DOWN THERE IS HORRENDOUS,
IF YOU DON'T HAVE CABLE.
AND I DIDN'T BOTHER
TO HAVE CABLE.
AND THE LOCAL NEWS
IS RIDICULOUS.
THE PROGRAMMING IS
THE
NANNY
AND
THE COACH
...
SITCOMS ARE JUST INANE.
AND EVERYTHING ELSE IS
SHOOTING WARS, POLICE SHOWS
AND HOSPITALS AND
LAWYERS, THAT'S IT.
THERE'S NO ORIGINALITY.
TRY TO THINK OF A HALF
DOZEN ORIGINAL SHOWS.
I'LL FLY AWAY,
A FEW YEARS
AGO, WHICH DIED AFTER A COUPLE
OF YEARS.
PICKET FENCES,
WHICH WON
ALL KINDS OF AWARDS
AND WAS TAKEN OFF.
FOR SOME REASON, THE UGLIER
AND THE BASER THE SHOWS ARE,
THE BIGGER THE
AUDIENCES THEY GET.
MAYBE IT SAYS SOMETHING ABOUT
ALL OF US IN THE AUDIENCE.

Richard says I HOPE NOT.
ARE THERE ANY STARS THAT
APPEAL TO YOU TODAY, THAT YOU
SIT THERE AND SAY, YEAH, I
WISH THAT I WERE STILL WRITING
SO I WOULD WRITE FOR THIS
PERSON, OR WORK WITH HIM?

Alex says NO, I CAN'T SAY THERE ARE.
PROBABLY BECAUSE I DON'T GET
CONNECTED WITH THOSE PEOPLE.
IT WAS DIFFERENT WHEN I WAS
IN THE FIELD AND WORKING WITH
THEM AND GETTING
TO KNOW PEOPLE.
AND I LOVED WORKING WITH
JULIET AND ALL KINDS
OF OTHER PEOPLE.
WITH BARBARA MCNAIR, WHEN I
WORKED IN THE STATES, EVEN
WITH DORIS DAY, AND SO ON.
I DON'T KNOW THE PERFORMERS
THAT WELL, ANYMORE, AND THEY
DON'T APPEAL TO ME BECAUSE
MOST OF IT IS, YOU KNOW,
BAD ROCK.

Richard says YOU SAID A MAGIC WORD
I WANT TO COME BACK TO.
YOU SAID JULIET BECAUSE THERE
IS SOME INTERESTING WRITING
IN YOUR BOOK ON JULIET.
AND PEOPLE HOLD HER UP AS, I
GUESS, THE ARCHETYPAL CASE
OF CANADA EATING ITS YOUNG.
WHAT DID YOU FIND OF YOUR
EXPERIENCE OF WORKING WITH
HER LIKE FIRST PERSONALLY?

Alex says I LIKED HER.
WE DIDN'T ALWAYS AGREE.
AND IT TOOK HER A LONG TIME
TO GET HER TO TRUST ME.
BUT SHE HAD A LOT OF GUTS.
I HAD GREAT
ADMIRATION FOR HER.
SHE FOUGHT THE CBC
TOOTH AND NAIL.
SHE HAD TO FIGHT FOR
EVERYTHING SHE GOT FROM THEM.
SHE HAD ONE OF THE MOST
POPULAR SHOWS THEY EVER HAD.
WHY THEY EVER TOOK IT OFF,
I'LL NEVER UNDERSTAND.
AND SHE KNEW HERSELF.
IF ANYTHING, SHE
LIMITED HERSELF.
SHE COULD HAVE GONE EVEN
FARTHER, I THINK, BUT SHE WAS
VERY CONSERVATIVE BY NATURE.
AND HER IDEA OF A SONG WAS
THAT ANYBODY ELSE HAD TO HAVE
A HIT WITH IT FIRST, AND
THEN SHE WOULD SING IT.
SHE WASN'T A PIONEER,
IN ANY SENSE.
BUT SHE KNEW HER AUDIENCE, AND
SHE KNEW HOW TO PLEASE THEM,
AND SHE WAS REALLY A STAR.
SHE WOULDN'T DREAM OF GOING
OUT OF THE HOUSE WITHOUT BEING
MADE UP, DRESSED TO THE
NINES WITH THE HAIR DONE
AND EVERYTHING.
THAT'S THE KIND
OF PERSON SHE WAS.
I HAD A LOT OF AFFECTION
AND ADMIRATION FOR HER.

Richard says THE ONE AREA YOU KIND OF SLID
OVER, I WANT TO COME BACK TO,
YOU SAID THE CBC TOOK HER OFF
THE AIR AT THE HEIGHT OF HER
POPULARITY, AND
I DON'T KNOW WHY.
YOU MUST HAVE SOME FEELINGS.
WHY DO YOU THINK THEY
DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT?

Alex says OH, IN ALL FAIRNESS, EVERY
TIME A NEW SHOW GOES ON,
AN OLD ONE HAS TO COME OFF.
AND A SHOW STAYS ON BECAUSE
SOMEBODY BELIEVES IN IT,
OR GETS ON BECAUSE
SOMEBODY BELIEVES IN IT.
IF IT DOESN'T, IT DOESN'T.
SHE WAS ON FOR TEN YEARS.
AND I SUPPOSE THE RATINGS HAD
SLIPPED A BIT, AND SOMEBODY
DECIDED IT WAS
TIME FOR A CHANGE.
AND THAT'S ALL VERY NICE, BUT
THE CBC, LIKE EVERY NETWORK,
HAS THIS BAD HABIT OF THROWING
OUT THE DIRTY WATER BEFORE
THEY'VE EVEN GATHERED
THE CLEAN WATER.
AND IT WAS AFTER SHE WAS
DUMPED THAT THEY SCROUNGED
AROUND, WHAT THEY CAME UP WITH
WAS MALKA AND JOSO, WHICH
DIDN'T WORK.
AND THEN I DID ANOTHER
LATE NIGHT SHOW CALLED
BARRIS AND COMPANY,
WHICH WAS TAKEN OFF AFTER,
I DON'T KNOW, 17 WEEKS.
THEN THEY SCROUNGED AROUND
LOOKING FOR SOMETHING TO
REPLACE THAT.
BUT THE U.S. NETWORKS
DO THAT, TOO.
I'M NOT PICKING ON THE CBC.
I GUESS, TOO, ANY TIME A NEW
GUY COMES IN AT THE MANAGEMENT
LEVEL, OR THE PROGRAM MANAGING
LEVEL, HE WANTS TO LEAVE HIS
IMPRINT ON IT.
AND HE DECIDES TO MAKE
ALL KINDS OF CHANGES,
WHICH ARE NOT ALWAYS
THE BEST THING TO DO.
BUT THAT'S WHAT HE
FIGURES HIS MANDATE IS.
AND I THINK THAT'S HAPPENED
MANY TIMES IN TELEVISION,
YOU KNOW, AS ELSEWHERE.

Richard says ANOTHER CAN OF WORMS YOU
OPENED UP, YOU SAID
THE LATE NIGHT ISSUE,
BARRIS AND COMPANY, GZOWSKI,
90 MINUTES LIVE, RALPH
BENMERGUI
WHY IS IT AN AREA
THAT CANADIANS SEEM DESTINED
TO FAIL IN, OR AT LEAST,
TO DATE, HAVE SEEMED
DESTINED TO FAIL IN?

Alex says WELL, I SUPPOSE THE STYLE
HAS BEEN SET IN THE STATES.
IF YOU GO BACK TO STEVE ALLEN
AND JACK PAAR, AND JOHNNY
CARSON, ALL THE OTHER PEOPLE,
DICK CAVETT AND SO ON.
IT'S VERY HARD FOR US TO DO
IT HERE BECAUSE WE DON'T HAVE
THE GLAMOROUS CELEBRITIES TO
POP IN THE WAY THEY DO ON
THOSE SHOWS.
AND AS I SAID BEFORE,
CANADIAN AUDIENCES REALLY
DON'T CARE THAT MUCH.
IF SOMEBODY IS GLAMOROUS,
THEY DON'T CARE WHETHER
HE'S CANADIAN OR YUGOSLAVIAN.
AND WE JUST DON'T HAVE THE
GLITZ, THE SHOW BIZ AURA THAT
THOSE SHOWS THRIVE ON.

Richard says IS THAT A GOOD OR A BAD THING?

Alex says I THINK IT'S PROBABLY A BAD
THING, BUT THERE'S NOTHING
VERY MUCH YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT.
WHEN I DID THE OLD
BARRIS
BEAT
SHOW, WE WERE LUCKY
ENOUGH TO GET OCCASIONAL
VISITING CELEBRITIES.
THERE WERE A FEW PEOPLE,
OSCAR PETERSON WOULD BE ON,
PEOPLE LIKE THAT.
BUT WE WOULD GET
ACTS FROM THE STATES.
EITHER THEY WERE PASSING
THROUGH, OCCASIONALLY, BUT
RARELY, WE WOULD PAY TO BRING
SOMEBODY UP, 'COS WE DIDN'T
HAVE THAT KIND OF MONEY.
AND I'M SURE OTHER PEOPLE WHO
HAVE DONE THAT KIND OF SHOW
IN CANADA HAVE EXPERIENCED
THE SAME PROBLEM.
GZOWSKI TRIED TO DO
SOMETHING DIFFERENT,
AND THAT'S TO HIS CREDIT.
I DON'T KNOW THAT IT WORKED,
BUT AT LEAST HE TRIED TO DO
SOMETHING DIFFERENT.
AND BENMERGUI, I NEVER WATCHED
HIM VERY MUCH, I MUST SAY.
I DON'T KNOW WHY,
BUT I DIDN'T.

Richard says NOW YOU GO TO BED
EARLIER, YOU'RE EARLIER.

Alex says THERE'S AN OLD MOVIE ON.

Richard says IF THE CBC, IN ITS WISDOM,
SAT DOWN AND SAID, ALEX
BARRIS, YOU WERE RIGHT ABOUT
US NEARLY 30 YEARS AGO, YOU
UNDERSTAND WHAT WE SHOULD DO.
PICK SOMETHING, GET SOME SHOWS
GOING THAT YOU THINK WOULD
MAKE CANADA STAND BEHIND IT.
ASSUMING THAT IRRATIONAL
THING, WHAT KIND OF SHOWS
WOULD YOU LIKE TO
SEE ON THE AIR?

Alex says I WOULDN'T PRESUME, RICHARD,
TO DO THAT BECAUSE I DON'T
KNOW THE AUDIENCE
THAT WELL ANYMORE.
I'M NOT SURE THE CBC DOES,
I'M NOT SURE ANYBODY DOES,
BUT I CERTAINLY DON'T,
BECAUSE I'VE BEEN OUT OF
THAT ARENA FOR A WHILE,
AND ALSO BECAUSE OF MY AGE.
CONTEMPORARY MUSIC
DOESN'T APPEAL TO ME.
I DON'T KNOW WHETHER YOU
NOTICED, TONY BENNETT HAD A
WONDERFUL LINE RECENTLY.
HE QUOTED JIMMY DURANTE AS
SAYING, ROCK AND ROLL HAS
THREE CHORDS, AND TWO
OF THEM ARE WRONG.
WELL, THAT'S WHERE
MY THINKING IS.
I HAVE NO INTEREST IN
CONTEMPORARY MUSIC.
I FIND MOST OF THE PEOPLE WHO
PERFORM IT ARE VERY SHALLOW,
ARE NOT TERRIBLY TALENTED.
SO I WOULD BE THE WRONG PERSON
TO GO SUGGESTING WHAT KINDS
OF PROGRAMS THEY SHOULD PUT ON.
I WISH WE HAD DONE MORE
GOOD COMEDY SERIES HERE.
SITCOMS PARTICULARLY.
THAT'S ANOTHER AREA
THAT THE CBC GAVE UP ON.
PERHAPS, WITH GOOD REASON.
KING OF KENSINGTON, WHATEVER
ITS FAULTS, WAS THE MOST
SUCCESSFUL THING OF THAT TYPE.
THEY NEVER REALLY
SUCCEEDED IN ANOTHER ONE.
SEEING THINGS
DIDN'T QUITE
MAKE IT, I DON'T THINK.
NOR DID THE OTHER STUFF THAT
JACK HUMPHREY DID, I FORGOT
WHAT THEY ARE CALLED ALREADY.
BUT THAT KIND OF THING, I WISH
WE HAD DONE MORE OF BECAUSE
WE COULD HAVE DEVELOPED A
STYLE, JUST AS WE HAVE IN
OTHER KINDS OF SHOWS, IN
SOME DRAMAS AND CERTAINLY IN
DOCUMENTARIES AND SO ON.
BUT, YOU KNOW, THAT'S
LAMENTING THE DEPARTURE OF
THE HORSE AND CLOSING
THE BARN DOOR.
IT'S TOO LATE TO WORRY
ABOUT THOSE THINGS.

Richard says INSTEAD OF THE BARN DOOR AND
THE HORSE AND ALL OF THAT,
THE IMAGINARY STABLE.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE
DONE IN THIS VAST CAREER
THAT YOU HAVEN'T DONE?

Alex says OH, WOW.
UM...
WRITTEN A FEW BETTER
BOOKS, I THINK.
THAT I CAN STILL WORK AT
BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, WRITERS
DON'T RETIRE, YOU JUST
STOP MAKING PHONE CALLS.
IF THE PHONE RINGS,
YOU ARE STILL THERE.
BUT IN THE MEANTIME, THE
KEYBOARD IS THERE, AND I CAN
SIT AND WORK ON
DIFFERENT THINGS.

Richard says YOU'VE NEVER WRITTEN A
WORK OF FICTION, HAVE YOU?
OR AT LEAST NONE WE'VE READ.

Alex says THAT'S RIGHT.
THE LATTER IS RIGHT.
BUT I HAVEN'T GIVEN UP
ON THAT NECESSARILY.

Richard says AND WHAT ELSE?
THE FIELD OF MUSIC, RADIO?
WHAT IS OUT THERE FOR YOU?

Alex says I LIKE WHAT I'M DOING NOW.
I STILL GET TO SEE SHOWS.
EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE I WISH
I HAD A COLUMN SO I COULD
COMMENT ON SOMETHING THAT,
YOU KNOW, I COME ACROSS
THAT WARRANTS COMMENT.
WHEN YOU ARE DOING A COLUMN
LIKE THE ONE I DO IN CARP, THE
PROBLEM IS THE LEAD TIME IS
SO FAR AHEAD, YOU CAN'T USE
SOMETHING THAT'S THAT FRESH.
WITH A DAILY COLUMN, THAT WAS
FUN BECAUSE IF YOU HAD A QUIP
OR AN ANECDOTE, YOU COULD GET
IT IN BEFORE IT GOT STALE.
THAT'S HARD TO DO WITH
A COLUMN LIKE I DO NOW.
BUT ONCE IN A WHILE,
I GET THAT LONGING.

Richard says I STILL THINK IT WOULD BE A
LOT MORE FUN TO BE ABLE TO
OPEN ONE OF THE TORONTO
PAPERS AND READ A COLUMN
BY ALEX BARRIS BUT,
HEY, I'M WISHING, TOO.
ALEX, THANK YOU FOR
BEING WITH US TODAY.

Alex says MY PLEASURE, RICHARD.

Richard faces the screen and says
FOR
DIALOGUE,
I'M
RICHARD OUZOUNIAN.
GOOD-BYE FOR NOW.

Music plays as the end slate reads “Dialogue.”

A production of TVOntario. Copyright 1997, The Ontario Educational Communications Authority.

Watch: Alex Barris