Saturday, August 13, 2011

Talk radio silenced: Remembering Ted Tevan

Ask any writer, journalist or media type who his/her influences were and you'll likely need to clear off a few hours to hear the entire list. If you're in the business of creating stuff - words, pictures, sounds, whatever - and sharing them with an audience, those whose work inspired you early on tend to stick with you long after they're gone.

And so it is with Ted Tevan, the legendary Montreal sports talk radio host who passed away yesterday at the age of 78. As a kid, I often found myself beside a radio in the house, listening to his Sports Rap show. He'd come on after an Expos baseball game or a Canadiens hockey match and inevitably get into it with his listeners. He was argumentative, combative and endlessly entertaining.

His was one of the first shows I ever called, and it was the first one I ever got kicked off of. If you irritated him - not that difficult to do, apparently - he'd blow you away with the sound of a machine gun and a call of, "You're gone!" On his watch, Chenoys, Mort the Sport, Nicholas the Great, McGarrity and 790 became an integral part of our vocabulary. His show was more than a little dangerous, and when it faded to silence well past bedtime, you knew you'd be talking about it with your friends the next day, then counting the hours until he hit the air again.

As edgy as his on-air delivery often was, deep down you knew how much he loved being behind the mic, and his shows always pulsed with the kind of energy that's sadly lacking from much of what sails over the focus-grouped, demographic-sliced airwaves today. From the outpouring of responses on Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere, it's clear I'm not the only one who felt this way. It's also clear his influence is as strong as it always was.

In my own admittedly unconventional career in media, I often find myself talking live on-air with radio hosts at stations across the country. As I sit on the phone or, even better, in the studio, waiting for the interviews to begin, I often think of those long-ago calls to his show, how my pulse would race more than a little bit as he began speaking to me, as I wondered if my voice would even work as I took my first breath, as we got deeper into whatever the topic of the day was, and as the conversation either settled into a friendly groove or derailed into a catastrophic, machine-gun mess. I'd be fooling myself if I didn't acknowledge how the imprints of a childhood experience helped shape who I ultimately became.

I do hope he knew just how profoundly so many late-night listeners appreciated who he was. He was an original who was infinitely comfortable with his own voice, and unafraid to let the chips fall where they may. The business to which he contributed so much needs so many more like him today. The world does, too.

Your turn: A media figure who influenced you. Please discuss.


Crazylegs said...

Thanks for this post, Carmi. And thanks for the heads-up about Ted's passing. As I mentioned on Twitter, Ted was a friend of my Dad back in the old days, and I have a few fond memories of the man, as well. I will never forget listening to Sports Rap while lying in my Pierrefonds bed. For what it's worth (and with your indulgence here), I posted a few of my recollections about Ted.

carmilevy said...

Thanks, Kevin. I commented over on your place, and invite everyone from here to pop over there for a poignant perspective on an incredible life.

For what it's worth? Lots. I think we'll all hold onto those experiences a little more tightly now.