Saturday, January 7, 2012

Verdun Kid (Terry DiMonte) Back on the Air @ CHOM

That's Terry DiMonte with well kown Montreal radio celeb George Balcan (remember that name ?) I'm sure some of you do....

Seems Terry got offered some great do-re-mi to hit the airwaves in Calgary,but he's back in Montreal now......

............and he's eager to get back to his show......on the radio.


MONTREAL - A little over four years ago, Terry DiMonte was conducting his goodbye tour of the city, taking in his favourite haunts and people. Over a cheeseburger and a plate of homefries at Cosmo’s, and, soon after, a couple of martinis at Ziggy’s, he reckoned that he had better get out of town before he exploded and his liver became the size of Alberta.

After being a fixture on the Montreal radio dial for 24 years, mostly at CHOM, DiMonte took the agonizing decision to leave town to become the morningman at Calgary’s Q107.

He got an offer he couldn’t refuse from Q107, an escalating five-year deal that would culminate with a salary in the mid-six-figure range that would make him one of the most highly paid and secure radio personalities in the country. He also got an offer he could refuse from then-CHOM management. Money notwithstanding, he also had his issues with the former management team.

But times change. So do management teams. And, so for that matter, has DiMonte. Starting Monday, he will again be spinning discs and schmoozing as CHOM’s new-old morningman.

DiMonte returns to town almost 100 pounds lighter and with a slimmer liver. Evidently, there was less temptation on the eating and tippling fronts in Calgary. “I’m not the fat man that I was,” he jokes. “But I’ve got to be careful. In my first 20 hours back here, I hit Joe Beef and Da Emma and had smoked meat and steamies and must have put on 10 pounds. But it’s back to the egg-whites now.”

More importantly, DiMonte, who just turned 54 a few days ago, feels refreshed and rejuvenated.

“Calgary was really good for me,” he says. “It pushed a reset button for me. I was in a bad way at CHOM in my last year. I hated my program director (who is no longer there). He was making my life and everyone else’s there miserable.

“I was lucky Calgary called when it did. It gave me a new appreciation of where I come from. The fresh air there didn’t hurt. I wasn’t distracted. I got healthier and cleared my mind. But I never stopped missing Montreal.”

DiMonte is true-blue Montreal and remains one of the precious few anglo-Montreal media celebs, particularly in radio. He is also a voice that Montrealers, anglos and Francos, can put a mug to.

He didn’t go into hiding when his shift was done. He lived and hung out in the city. He became involved not just in the nightlife but in all aspects of the community as well. He was a spokesperson for everything from the Missing Children’s Network to the West Island Palliative Care Centre. He is a – yes, bilingual – kid from Verdun who never forgot his roots.

But DiMonte has a confession: “When I was in Calgary, I did cheer on the radio for the Flames. But the first thing I did when I moved there was get RDS on satellite – although at first the agent at the cable company had no idea what RDS was. I will always bleed bleu, blanc, rouge for my Habs.”

DiMonte left one year on the table at Q107 in returning to Montreal. A year that would have reportedly paid him around $500,000. “It was lucrative,” he said, not denying or confirming that figure. “Nobody gets paid like that in Montreal radio on the English side.”

So one could assume he is taking a pay cut in coming here. “You could say that,” he replies.

DiMonte allows that one of the reasons Q107 lured him to Calgary was that it wasn’t a ratings powerhouse. “Calgary is an unbelievably competitive radio market. With 23 stations, there are more stations per capita than anywhere in Canada, and moving up even half a share point is a big deal.”

In his last ratings period in the fall, DiMonte was informed that his morning show hit No. 1 in its target demographic, men from 25 to 54. “So, in my last week there, I made my first bonus. I helped them get from No. 7 or 8 to No. 1 in our target demo. That was hugely gratifying. I felt I was able to leave Calgary with my head held high.”

He credits the new CHOM management team, led by station boss Martin Spalding, for luring him back to Montreal. Spalding flew to Calgary a year ago to meet with DiMonte for dinner. DiMonte assumed he was there on company business.

“After some small talk, Martin told me he had come to Calgary just to have dinner with me. I told him it was an awful long way just to come for a steak. He then told me that CHOM hadn’t been the same since I left. That was the nicest professional compliment I ever had. I nearly burst into tears. Management rarely says those kinds of things.”

Particularly when negotiating contracts.

“So that’s how it all started. But what’s funny is that Martin used to be my assistant decades back on a kid’s TV show called Switchback.”

DiMonte will have a new cast of support characters at CHOM. Heather Backman, who was once with CHOM’s sister station Virgin Radio 96, will serve as a co-host beginning Jan. 16. (Chantal Desjardins, the most recent morning-show co-host, joins Aaron Rand on sister station CJAD as of Monday.) Maureen Holloway, a one-time DiMonte radio crony, will be popping in to dish show-biz dirt. Hockey blogger Eric Engels will follow the fortunes of the Habs. And from the CJAD newsroom, Trudie Mason will keep listeners informed with the latest headlines.

But DiMonte won’t have his good friend and longtime sidekick Ted Bird, chirping sardonically about sports and current events. Bird, now co-host of the K103 Kahnawake morning show, had a rather acrimonious split from CHOM after DiMonte left.

“Ted likes to recount that when he left CHOM, he didn’t just burn bridges – he used a flame-thrower,” DiMonte relays. “I’ve never had more fun in radio than in having him sit across from me. But Ted is really happy where he is now.”

Bird doesn’t deny this current state of radio bliss: “I’m having as much fun now as I’ve had since working with Terry. It’s what Terry and I used to do. And it’s genuine. I’m glad for Terry that he’s back in town. I’m glad for the town that he’s back in town. And I’m glad CHOM recognizes that personality still counts for something.”

As for reuniting with his buddy, Bird doesn’t rule out anything: “I’m very happy where I am. My phone has been quiet. I haven’t been asked, but I remain open to any possibility.”

For his part, DiMonte doesn’t anticipate any turbulence upon his return. “I will respect the people who run the radio station and do what I’m asked. But the one thing I won’t do is argue radio philosophy,” he comments in reference to dealings with former CHOM management.

“I’ve had success doing what I do on air. I am who I am. I’m older now. I have confidence in my ability to deliver and compete. I will get involved with the community again.”

Nor does he fear his age is a factor at a rock station. In this age, some view his 54 as the new 34.

“My mentor, the late/great George Balcan stayed contemporary through his 60s,” DiMonte says. “You couldn’t say something au courant to him that he didn’t already know about. It’s a state of mind. I’ll always be curious.

“The only thing about being 54 is that I can’t do two nights in a row at Ziggy’s. But I can stay current.”

On many levels, little has changed in Montreal since DiMonte bolted four years ago, and that suits him fine.

“After working here for all these years, I was fed up with the crumbling infrastructure, high taxes and the constant pissing and moaning that always goes on here. Then I get on a plane and go: ‘Thank God, that’s behind me.’

“But then the next thing you know is that you get to a place where nothing is really going on. The economy is booming and people are talking about oil and gas and everyone is excited when the Stampede comes to town. Put it this way: one of the highlights of my stay in Calgary was at the Safeway and hearing from an aisle away: ‘Je pense pas, tabernac!’ I went running over to talk to that person.”

DiMonte abides by the theory that you can take the kid out of Montreal but not Montreal out of the kid.

“There’s a rhythm to the language and the city that you miss. When you’re there all the time, you say: ‘Oh Christ, here we go again.’ As I was leaving Calgary, people were saying to me that I was going back to the land of $1.30 gas, high taxes, language and political issues. I responded: ‘Yeah, but with all its warts, it’s home.’

“Montreal will always be home. It’s really a small price to pay to be among your people. I consider myself a very lucky man to be back here. And to know there will never

             .Well I'm sure Montreal extends a big Welcome for their old hometown boy.....

      Good Luck Terry    Cheers !!   HF&RV - Les

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