Jeff Gilhooly is returning, just in time to say goodbye.
CBC Radio ‘Morning Show’ listeners, and readers of this blog, will know that Jeff had to take some time off earlier this year, to deal with a diagnosis of prostate cancer.
He has been recently given a clean bill of health, and will come back for a final week on the ‘Morning Show’, from July 25 to 29. And it’s going to be quite a week. CBC archivist Christine Davies has been wading through 20 years of audiotape, looking for interesting, inspiring and, to be sure, embarrassing moments in Jeff’s illustrious career.
“I’ve been tasked by the producer, to pull some things from the archive,” Christine said, in an interview. “I’m not sure how much detail I can provide, because we want these to be a surprise for Jeff as well. I guess the challenge is, Jeff has done so much over such a long period of time. When you think that he started with us, back in 1990 on ‘On the Go’, and then to the ‘Morning Show’ in 2003, another busy current affairs program. If you think about the math, that’s a lot of interviews…. Certainly well into the thousands.”
Jeff already knows one blooper that will almost certainly make it to air. “I was doing the school announcements,” Jeff said, in an interview. “There was a program at Holy Heart, the Baccalaureate program, and I had this announcement sent up, and the PSAs (public service announcements) was one thing I didn’t read over beforehand. And that can be very dangerous, because that’s exactly the time that you hit something you think you recognize but you make a mistake on it. I remember reading ‘the Holy Heart Baccalaureate program,’ but saying the ‘Holy Heart bachelorette program.’ Well, the phone started ringing! I know we still have that on tape, because we have since played it at an internal blooper party.”
One thing is for sure: Jeff intends to get right down to work.
“I’ve got story ideas. Being off for that length of time, things go by you – why not do something about that, or this? – and I’m probably not going to be able to execute them all. But I will definitely do some story ideas I’ve developed over the last little, not related to my health, things I would come up with anyway.”
I asked Jeff if the farewell party will last the entire week, or if it’s all being reserved for Friday.
“Going in, I haven’t given a whole lot of thought to that,” he said. “I assume that Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will be business as usual, with me being back on after 12 weeks absence. I’ll have some explaining to do, not a lot, saying ‘I’m back, feeling better, I’ve got a clean bill of health, so I’m back, like I said I would be, just delayed somewhat.’ Then as we hit Thursday and Friday, we’re going to start to look at the retirement side. That’s my plan. But I’m flexible on that. There is going to be reminiscing, some reflecting, that kind of thing.”
Jeff said he had some concerns about that last day, since so many of his colleagues are off on vacation. This is, after all, a roast – and you can’t roast yourself. But he was relieved to learn that long-time colleague Cec Haire will be there for the send-off.
“Because it is really awkward to do it, if it’s just you. It sounds like you are introducing your own obit. It’s more valid when someone is there, to introduce the items… then he and I can talk about it after, if it needs any context or whatever.”
And how does Jeff feel, knowing that there are five days left until it’s all over?
“It’s going to be the end of my broadcasting career. No, I don’t feel sad about it. It’s really a celebration, in many ways, and a new beginning.”