33 on 22

An interview with CBC Realtime’s [former] host, Leora Kornfeld

(Editor’s Note: Since the appearance of this interview, the CBC has replaced Realtime with the weekend evening show Radiosonic Saturday Night hosted by Leora Kornfeld and David Wisdom. Long live indie programming on CBC Radio!)

So much of radio really sucks these days. Trust us, we are forced to listen to Z95 and digital radio at our workplaces. Thank goodness that CBC Stereo provides a refuge in the form of Realtime heard Saturday evenings live across the country. Turf was honoured to be welcomed into Leora Kornfeld’s office deep in the basement of the CBC Building one rainy afternoon in December.

Turf: What were you doing when you were twenty-two?

Leora: Well, I did campus radio and then I worked for CFOX. I’m not sure how or why I got started there, but I was lucky I didn’t have to go to Butt, British Columbia, or worse yet, Butt, Alberta. People always say that you find what you’re looking for…and for whatever reason…

T: You were looking for the Fox!

L: Well, I was looking for a job in the city, and I had graduated with a degree in Art History and Film, and I didn’t know where that was going to take me, probably nowhere, and I traveled for a year, and I came back from schlepping a backpack around Europe and living on ten bucks a day, and had basically no money left. I was actually a cashier at London Drugs in Richmond before I got my CFOX job. I only had to work around twenty hours a week to get by because it was incredibly well paying. I went to the Fox and was a technical operator, which is a person who presses buttons when there’s no DJ around. I worked from 2 to 6 a.m. and then I had a day job in a record store too. It was a good cold shower because it taught me a lot about the music business which, for them, means that the records are what they play in-between commercials. The important thing is the commercials, because it’s business, right? And the sooner you realize that, the better. After that I got a job writing and producing a show called the Rock Journal, and after that I was the Expo girl.

T: Did you get to drive the CFOX-mobile?

L: I drove it once and I got a ticket in it.

T: How long in total were you employed there?

L: Two years.

T: Did you get fired, or did you quit?

L: No, I quit. CFOX was doing really well at that time and no one really got fired, except for Terry David Mulligan. But it was more like they were going through a “change in direction” and he was replaced.

T: Is it true you wanted to be the Fox mascot and they wouldn’t let you?

L: Well that was at the time I was working the 2 to 6 a.m. button-pushing and I was looking for some extra cash. And I thought it would be kind of fun. You would hi-five people and stuff. But they told me that the Fox couldn’t have “tits.”

T: How did you get your job here [at the CBC]?

L: My first job here was for writing a teenager’s show called Pilot One in 1988. It was a late-night show, and it was supposed to be about alternative culture. We did ten shows and then that was it.

T: How can you talk for eight hours?

L: Probably being told to shut up a lot as a kid. I was watching this documentary called “Not Bad For a Girl” – It’s about women in rock – and one of them is Kat from Babes in Toyland and they asked her how she does that primal scream and she said “I was just told to shut up a lot as a kid” and when she did have the right answers she was just told to shut up. It’s probably a pretty common experience with girls, right?

T: What is pop culture to you as a thirty-three –

L: Thirty-three year old. Isn’t that scary. You couldn’t even say it, could you? Before you know it, you’ll be over thirty too. I swear it’s going to happen.

T: I already feel old.

L: Well, yeah, twenty three is no spring chicken.

T: So what does pop culture mean to a thirty-three year old?

L: It means that I can still be really excited about seeing the Beavis and Butthead movie. Actually, I was just talking about the book Mondo Canuck, and how there doesn’t have to be such a delineation between high culture and low culture anymore. I have difficulty with the term ‘pop culture’ because it’s a dismissive term. People nowadays, with the possible exception of the Jane Austen mania, aren’t reading novels much. They are looking to movies, and have favorite writers from magazines, or there’s all that Internet stuff. To me, it means that it’s bigger and more anxiety-inducing than ever.

T: So it’s a lot different than when you were twenty-two?

L: Oh yeah. I was just talking about this the other day, and not to hack on Terry David Mulligan, because that’s not why we’re here…Ten years ago, the only people who had access to all this information, were people in the media. Now anybody can do it. Now you can get it all off the web. You can do it yourself and you don’t need Mulligan or anyone else telling it to you. It’s now the concept of ‘value -added’. With Realtime what we’re trying to do is trying to get a collective consciousness going, and that would be the value-added: to find out what other people think. So we’re transporting you into this imaginary room where you can talk to people from all over.

T: I think that Realtime brings people together in a way. It really de-Toronto-centralizes things. Everything that is pop culture in Canada seems to be centered in Toronto. Realtime takes away from that.

L: Oh good.

T: What do people think you look like?

L: They think that I’m taller than I am. Most people think I have shorter darker hair. This kid came up to me at the Doughboys/Super Friendz thing at the end of the show and said “Wow, like I thought that you were going to be like, really old!” and I said “Well, geez, that’s kind of a loaded comment, how old did you think I was going to be?” and he goes “I don’t know, like 29.”

T: Can you still identify with the Realtime audience?

L: Yeah, it’s scary. And they seem to get younger all the time. People call in who are in like Grade 8. We originally thought it would be people who are college age.

T: Do you have to be impartial on the air?

L: I don’t know. I had every high school kid in the country hating me when I was dissing Bush the other week. You should have seen the emails I got. It was flooding in from like “Jill, Crofton House School”

T: What do you hate?

L: Well, Bush. The incredible success of a band like that is unthinkable.

T: Are you pro or anti-Alanis?

L: I’m pretty pro-Alanis. Which is very un-hip, but good. I think she wrote some really good songs. I think she’s working her ass off, and she’s only twenty-one. She’s got riot grrrl themes. Alanis is the world’s most successful riot-grrrl.

T: Do you have any words of wisdom for those who still have to be twenty-two?

L: What, you think it’s that bad?

T: Well, our point is that it’s just a lot more significant an age than most people acknowledge, because most people graduate from university at twenty-two and it’s a time of flux in life.

L: It’s kind of like a Beck zone.

T: Do you have any twenty-two trauma stories?

L: Are you kidding? That’s all it was!

T: We are trying to collect words of wisdom from random people on being twenty-two, and it seems like everyone invariably connects it to some bad relationship story. It seems like nothing else memorable happens when you’re twenty-two.

L: I have a twenty-five pearl of wisdom. It seems that, when you turn twenty-five, all the things you’re looking for in a guy totally change. Up until then, everybody wants a rock star boyfriend. Isn’t that true? Come on, you just date him because he has nice hair. But when you’re twenty-five, something happens…

T: You come to your senses?

L: You stop putting up with the irresponsibility, the lack of money, the fact that he drinks too much…

T: Any other pearls of wisdom?

L: Stay out of the sun. Moisturize. And stop watching Entertainment Tonight. Most of all, don’t forget to learn.

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