Stuff Peter Gzowski made up

A new biography of former CBC Radio journalist Peter Gzowski suggests a
tumultuous private life, a fear of cameras and at least one secret

The Canadian Press reports:

“Fleming’s book shines a light on that dark side of Gzowski, examining the broadcaster’s struggles with alcoholism, loneliness and depression following the failure of his short-lived TV show “90 Minutes Live” and the death of his father in the 1970s.”

A book review by Maclean’s writer Brian Bethune reports:

“A grad student caring for a dying parent, isolated in a tiny Ontario town, [biographer Rae Fleming] used to silently thank Gzowski every morning at 9:12 “for saving my sanity.”

“Now the author of Peter Gzowski: A Biography, Fleming has a more nuanced view of the show and of the man. “I thought Gzowski was near-perfect and Morningside the epitome of Canada,” Fleming says in an interview. “It was an enchanting country he presented. I know now it was a rather narrow portrait—that the show missed things starting to bubble up, notably Western alienation—but it was an attractive one, the image of how we wanted to be. It was like Ronald Reagan on radio.””

The biography challenges – and factchecks – some of Gzowski’s favourite on-air stories of his childhood. They were often exaggerated or plain made-up. Bethune adds:

“The imaginative child grew to be an gifted writer, as seen in his articles for Maclean’s and various newspapers and in The Game of Our Lives, his 1981 book on Wayne Gretzky and the emerging Edmonton Oilers dynasty. Even so, his was a creative genius that worked best on radio—a medium through which he could connect directly with the audience’s individual imaginations—and crashed and burned on television. Gzowski’s ill-fated 1970s experiment 90 Minutes Live has ever since been considered a textbook case of bad TV.”

The story goes on to list the reasons why the show failed (mostly Gzowski’s overconfidence). Bethune adds:

For a man who poked and prodded others for a living—some 27,000 interviews over his professional life—Gzowski hated any sort of eye on him, very much including a TV camera. In 1991, in a Toronto bistro, he became aware of a four-year-old boy gazing at him from another booth. Eventually Gzowski went over to the parents and demanded, “Tell your son to stop staring at me.” Six years later, in Paris with Mavis Gallant to choose finalists for the Giller Prize, Gzowski snapped at the celebrated writer, whom he had often praised for her insights into the human heart, “Stop being Mavis Gallant!” She was shocked, and later speculated he feared becoming a character in a story. A good guess, since Gzowski on two occasions—off-mike—anxiously asked Sylvia Fraser, whom he had once attempted to bed, whether he was in the novels up for discussion. (One was A Casual Affair.) The thought that he might be exposed to others’ gaze, in the way he exposed them, was intolerable.

“Of course, like anyone else (though perhaps more than most), Gzowski had a lot to be private about. Besides the drinking and the ugly competitive streak, there was the tumultuous sexual and family life: one marriage, two long-term relationships and uncounted liaisons, the five children of his marriage and the one child, never openly acknowledged, born of a brief affair.”