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Well, Hi There: Jian Ghomeshi, live and off the air

Jian Ghomeshi’s climb to the top of the CBC required plenty of ambition, glad-handing, star-chasing, stubble maintenance and serial dating, plus a couple of workplace meltdowns

Well, Hi There: Jian Ghomeshi, live and off the air

One day, roughly five years ago, Jian Ghomeshi got a severe headache and felt sharp pains in his chest. “I thought I must have a brain tumour or be experiencing a heart attack—that I must be dying,” he says now. A few days later, he started to feel dizzy, had trouble breathing and headed for the nearest emergency room. The doctor took note of his symptoms and asked if he’d done any coke (he hadn’t). It turned out to be a panic attack, and he was eventually diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. He now visits a midtown psychologist once a week. When the demands of hosting Q, Ghomeshi’s CBC radio show, don’t allow him to leave the office, he and his shrink talk over Skype. The sessions help him cope. “I’ve worked through a lot,” he says. “Feeling like an outsider because of my Iranian background, trust issues. A lot of not feeling good enough.”

Like so many performers, Ghomeshi has an outsized ego to match his insecurity. He interviews some of the world’s biggest celebrities on his show, and often he’s the diva in the room. Last fall, Q staff were on lockdown as they prepared for an interview with Drake, figuring out how to pull something fresh out of a guy whose every Twitter feud makes international headlines. Without warning, Ghomeshi went quiet, then announced he was going for a walk. The show’s producers freaked out—no one knew where he’d gone, or when he planned to return. Minutes before Drake was scheduled to arrive, Ghomeshi slipped back into the studio as though nothing were out of the ordinary. The interview was a good one: Drake talked about the demands of success, which is something the guy asking the questions could relate to.

Q airs at 10:06 every weekday morning, right after the news. Ghomeshi opens every show with the same salutation: “Well, hi there,” delivered in a raspy growl. It’s a calculated transition from the gravity of the news broadcast into a program that’s his personal fiefdom. To say that Ghomeshi has extended the reach of a Canadian public radio host is an understatement, like saying Justin Bieber has heightened the aspirations of tween buskers from Stratford. Q is one of the most popular radio shows in Canada and is syndicated by 160 U.S. stations. A weekly televised version of the show draws 300,000 viewers, the Q YouTube channel averages 1.5 million hits per month, and the podcast gets about 250,000 downloads every week. He manages to unite an unusually diverse audience of indie-loving university students, retirees and every age in between with a programming mix that is broad yet curated (a recent broadcast featured an interview with former prime minister Joe Clark, a Martha Wainwright song and a segment on why the majority of Icelanders believe in elves). Ghomeshi’s radio fame helped his memoir, 1982, debut at number one on the bestseller lists when it was published in 2012.

At the youth-starved CBC, he has become the go-to cool guy. His bosses put him in front of a mike or camera whenever possible. This month he will be part of the broadcast team in Sochi, offering a side of politics and pop culture with his athlete interviews. (“From Putin to Pussy Riot,” is how Ghomeshi put it during a promotional event marking the start of the 100-day countdown back in October.) In March, he will host Canada Reads, a reality contest where prominent Canadians advocate for prominent Canadian books. For a guy who has always felt like an outsider, he has managed quite deftly to plant himself in the centre of everything.

Ghomeshi’s office is on the second floor of the Front Street CBC building. When I visit, he apologizes for the mess—piles of books and CDs, papers stacked on every available surface. The room is steps from the Q studio. He is dressed in his usual uniform: a slim-fit V-neck, black blazer, distressed denim and haphazard stubble that is in fact deliberately maintained using the level three setting on his electric beard trimmer. Much of Ghomeshi’s wardrobe comes from GotStyle on King West. He’s 46 years old but, like George Stroumboulopoulos, Jorn Weisbrodt and other middle-aged Toronto arts and media power brokers, he dresses young. It’s important for him to appear hip and connected to emerging culture—getting mistaken for an establishment figure would be fatal.

He tells me that if we’re going to spend time together, we should book it in ASAP. The schedule on his computer resembles a game of Tetris right before the Game Over message—coloured blocks cramped one on top of the other with only the tiniest gaps. In this case the colours mean something: red for the time he is on air or onstage, plus high-priority meetings; orange for travel (in the last couple of years, Q has taped live shows in Montreal, New York and Chicago); grey for regular meetings and show prep; yellow for unconfirmed bookings; blue for personal maintenance (thrice weekly workouts, weekly therapy sessions, twice monthly haircuts with celeb stylist Jie Matar); purple for post-workday social engagements.

  • mimi

    Mr Ghomeshi is doomed to be single for life as he is, by his own admission in a previous interview, “very picky” and no mere mortal is good enough for him (except maybe David Bowie, but he is already spoken for). The XOJane article sheds light on Mr. Ghomeshi’s habit of objectifying his dates to satisfy his needs at the expense of their own. They are all here for his entertainment.

  • SatJ

    Wow, considering how dark this gets on page three and four, it’s concerning that the rest of this piece is so puffy – also why did you bury the stuff about his ego being so out of control on page three and four?

  • Victoria

    I don’t believe Mr. Ghomeshi’s assertion that he hasn’t read the XOJane blog. This is a man who prides himself on his knowledge of Machiavelli which demands that one keep one’s enemies closer than one’s friends. Being a cad isn’t a crime, Jian, just don’t think you’re going to be admired for being a womanizing jerk.

  • Rosemary Cohen

    I live in the U.S., and love listening to Q. Jian has a wide and appreciative audience here. He covers an interesting range of topics; he is an articulate host and “tuned-in” interviewer. It is a treat to be introduced to Canadian athletes, musicians, directors, writers, etc……what a fascinating group of people he brings into our lives. It is good to be reminded that America isn’t the only spawning ground for creative excellence. And that includes Jian. Whatever his faults are……a big ego, a “gropey” date…..his contribution far outweighs his personal shortcomings. If, indeed, those shortcomings actually exist. I fully agree that Carla Ciccone was making a mountain out of a molehill……a molehill any reasonably attractive woman has been on MANY times. And she should have just gotten drunk with a girlfriend and laughed about it instead of launching a smear campaign….it’s THAT insignificant.

  • dork

    who were his connections
    that is how you get ahead in Canada

  • mimi

    Is he so fragile and cowardly that he can’t read a negative article about himself? He can dish it out but he can’t take it! If he can’t take the media heat, he should get out of the kitchen.

  • Rosemary Cohen

    Wait a minute! He WASN’T the one “dishing it out”. Carla was, and BIG TIME. She is the one who isn’t answering the emails. I get that he is probably a jerk…..but so, no doubt, is Jake Gyllenhaal. The story NO DOUBT would have never been written if the person groping her was Jake Gyllenhaal. Jian just wasn’t a big enough star for her. Her punishment doesn’t fit the crime. I think this article presents a balanced view of Jian’s strengths and weaknesses. Carla’s did not.

  • :-):-)

    He aint that bad. He can only hurt people if they let him. He’s just trying to be someone really great (which he is) and to do so he surrounds himself with great people. He’s not that bad deep down. People just take him too seriously out of insecurity. Just appreciate him for his show and his intelligence if you can’t handle his personality. He’s a a good guy.

  • lebrity

    A 46 year old who doesn’t date anyone under 30. Is this a requirement at the CBC for its personalities? Treasures. I can separate the oiliness from the work because the work is good for Mr Ghomeshi. Can’t say the same for the rest.

  • mimi

    Or to be really great, he exploits great people? And he is a good guy, to other guys.

  • mimi

    The ends justify the means?

  • :-):-)

    IF he is exploiting them then they simply shouldn’t let him. It happens, man. He’s a smart guy and smart guys can be really crafty manipulators because of their intelligence.
    I only care about his show and what I can learn from it. I don’t believe rubbish like these silly articles.

  • mimi

    Karma comes around. May he be exploited as he exploits. In the grand scheme of things, all media is silly (including this article).

  • Victoria

    You may feel different if he was “dating” your 22 year old daughter.

  • :-):-)

    That’s not the point. I think it’s petty to write this kind of stuff about him on the internet for everyone to see. I just wouldn’t say anything. I would keep it all private. Also, if he loves the ladies like everyone says he does I’m sure he gets some satisfaction from knowing he has this kind affect on women. Stop giving him the satisfaction and forget him and move on.

  • mimi

    Perhaps the ladies get some satisfaction warning each other of being exploited by him and they share the information on the internet so that they can forget him and move on.

  • Rosemary Cohen

    I have reread Carla Ciccone’s piece, and I can’t find a consistent thread of logic. One minute he is predatory, another he is pathetic and needy and acting like a teenager. In fact, that is mostly how he seems in the piece. Like an insecure teenager. The one consistent sense that I get is that she wasn’t attracted to him, she didn’t get what she intended to get out of their night together(contacts), and she wasn’t going to let him get away with that. I don’t know Carla and I don’t know Jian, so I am not sure it is possible to judge either one of them. I do know, from Carla’s tweets, that very few of her dates “pass muster”. I’m not surprised. And I only know Jian from my daily dose of Q, which I love. I do think that you can tell some things about his personality from the way that he conducts his interviews, and I am impressed. I hate to seem naive, but he seems like a nice guy. We benefit from that personality, good or bad……I remain a fan.

  • Ikmowfirsthand

    That’s his thing. He doesn’t seem to date under 30. Yet to the 20 somethings he is dating, claims he can’t show them public affection because they’re ‘young looking’ and he doesn’t want people talking…

  • ferenget

    What I got from this article is that Jian Ghomeshi is a vain, self absorbed, superficial, vapid, repulsive creep who gets twice monthly “haircuts” (translation : dye-jobs) and, judging by the main photo, has a face that requires a lot of photoshopping.

  • Eden

    You are correct. He is also very quick to pick apart beautiful women, but God forbid you say anything (remotely) negative about him. I speak from experience.

  • Eden

    Absolutely. I’ve had my experiences with him, and I would love to warn any women who might consider dating him.

  • mimi

    Beware of confusing the persona with the person, or the performance with the performer.

  • Rosemary Cohen

    I’m not. I don’t idealize him. He’s a celebrity…..and, from where I view it, much more than a C-list celebrity.(If he appears on Dancing with the Stars, maybe then I’ll believe he’s C-list) He obviously has a big ego. He needs it. I’m never going on a date with him…..I just like his interviews. There is nothing like his program in the States, because he celebrates Canadians as well as Americans. I love hearing about Canada and Canadians. We have so many things in common…..SO many things. But we are also different. Those little differences are what make Q so much fun to listen to. Canada is cool, and Q reminds us of that.

  • Rosemary Cohen

    It’s also dangerous for one person to place themselves publicly on higher moral ground than another person.

  • Rosemary Cohen

    Here’s a deal. We’ll take Jian and you can have Justin Bieber back.

  • mimi

    Judge not lest you be judged? We’re all sinners in that regard. One hopes that Mr. Ghomeshi learns from his mistakes (as we all do), makes amends, and practices better judgement in the future. As a public figure working for a tax-payer funded corporation, it is in his best interest to do so.

  • Magnum Opus

    The author of this piece did an awesome job. This is way, way worse for Jian’s rep than any of Carla’s XOJane blather. Will Jian claim to have not read this too?

  • Magnum Opus

    I take it this picture is a CBC promo picture? They lightened his skin significantly. I also can’t see any pores. There’s telltale photoshopping marks on the right side of his face under eye and lower cheek next to his nose making it look like he has vitiligo. Funny thing is….. Jian probably approved this photo.

  • dmartinca

    It’s sad to see a man trying so desperately hard to hang on to his youth.

  • Rosemary Cohen

    Be proud of the success stories in your lovely country.

  • mimi

    There is more to life than success at any cost.

  • RnR

    And trying desperately for other people’s youth as well. Ever notice he especially singles out only young white women for slavish attention on Twitter? It’s REALLY creepy.

  • mimi

    It’s also creepy to see him use celebrity deaths to promote his show. Does he have any scruples?

  • Eden

    All his ‘friends’ are attractive, young, white females as well. He seems to think nobody catches on to this. It’s a sad existence.

  • RnR

    Can’t be ‘all’. Or do you mean on Twitter?

    I wanted to ask you since you know him [allegedly ;) ] – why is he like this? Is it that he’s shallow? Is he that insecure? Why is a seemingly intelligent 46 year old behaving like a juvenile?
    Coz I started listening to his podcast etc and then followed him on Twitter and read his book blah blah…and while the world did and does separate the work from the person…the whole xojane thing and even this article made me uneasy.

    also, while I get the points you’ve made elsewhere re masking his ego with humour, on radio, he sounds very nice etc etc. Or is that an ongoing effort? Which then seems all the more…well ick. that this guy is THIS different when the camera’s off.

  • Eden

    I don’t mean twitter. The majority of his friends/people he spends time with are young women. He can be nice, but it’s largely a facade. He is manipulative and knows exactly what to say to win people’s affection. He’ll say one thing on the air or in public and say the complete opposite behind closed doors. He is a ticking time bomb on a personal level. You never know when you’ll do something that will set him off. He angers easily and is hypersensitive. He did not break my heart, so I’m not saying this as a ‘scorned woman’. I feel he pulls the wool over the eyes of many.

  • RnR

    You don’t sound as angry as some of the comments do – I’m sure they have their reasons.

    His behaviour sounds like the initial warning signs of domestic abusers. But why is he like this? Why his manipulation or anger? I mean, were you able to figure a root? Or is that question on the level of why do birds fly?

    I feel sad for the young women who might end up thinking its their fault…as I once did. It takes a long time to accept that it wasn’t your fault or something you did…which is why I understand the anger in some of the comments.

    And also, he works with a lot of young women – Lights, his assistant – consistently over years now. I wonder how differently he behaves with them….?

  • Eden

    Edited

  • RnR

    Wow. I hope his weekly therapist appointments are fixing that.
    Eden, thank you for your replies and patience. I’m sorry you went through whatever you did…but I’m glad you seem to have perspective about it.
    If you ever want to share gory details on a sympathetic shoulder, give me a shout! ;)

  • Eden

    I don’t know how to get ahold of you! But I would if I could.

  • RnR

    Seriously?

  • Eden

    Yes

  • RnR

    did you get that? not sure why you’ve taken your comments off.

  • Eden

    .

  • DonkaLaDonaDonut

    Urgh.

  • canucked

    Met him once. Once was enough.

  • katy

    Jian Ghomeshi is an intelligent and thoughtful interviewer (and how great was Canada Reads this week!) It is obvious that he takes an immense amount of time and energy to get prepared for his guests, so the comments below inferring he is narcissistic and shallow …. he “exploits” people are bizarre to me. Q has fantastic and varied guests/topics and is a treat to listen to, for me anyway.
    Seems like there are some very jealous or…. I don’t know, just bitter and unhappy people commenting on this article. Why bother attacking him so much? If you don’t like his show or him, don’t listen.

  • Kendal

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how
    the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them
    better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
    whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly;
    who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort
    without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the
    deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends
    himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph
    of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails
    while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold
    and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”―
    Theodore Roosevelt

  • Renée Lalonde

    Genuinely enjoyed reading this, and I love the way you finished the piece.

  • Billy Bob

    because he is overly scripted, earnest (requirement for CBC) and instead of saying I will be talking to / interviewing so and so, says so and so will be here for a “feature chat”. this “internal” branding is so lame that it turns me off all the good work he does. needs to lighten up.

  • mimi

    For a self-professed workaholic, Mr. Ghomeshi certainly has a lot of time on his hands to chase the ladies (or girls): “I was volunteering at a music festival in Canada where he was the MC once and he kept hitting on me. I met him the first day of the festival and I had no idea who he was but the older ladies I was volunteering with were positively swooning over him. He was flirting like crazy and asked how old I was, I truthfully told him that I was 16 and he was like wow you look like you are in your 20′s but he kept talking to me, I am 22 now so this wasn’t too long ago but he looked younger than he was so I didn’t think it was too weird that he kept talking to me because I thought he was like late 20′s/early 30′s and honestly I liked the attention of an older guy (I had no idea how much older). He tracked me down the second day at my second volunteer location and would not stop talking to me, again asked how old I was, again I told him I was only 16, and again he said that he thought I was at least 20 (even though I had told him the day before) but he kept on flirting. On the third day he AGAIN asked how old I was and again I said 16 and he pretended like we had never had this conversation before, once again stating that I looked to be 20 (for context, people often think I am in junior high now and I didn’t wear makeup at this music festival so no way did I look 20). He asked for my number and I gave it to him because I was dumb and 16 and although I had no idea who he was, everyone around me was giving me the impression that he was kind of a big deal. He asked me back to his hotel room and I was like ohh my friends are waiting for me at the campground byyeee. Then the festival ended and that’s when the texts started. He was texting me like craaazy, I wish I had kept that phone because holy smokes, like 40 texts a day. I was flirting and texting back because I was young and dumb, but keep in mind I had told him 3 times that I was 16. Finally one day my mom asked me who I kept texting, and because I have never been able to lie to my mom, I told her. She flipped out, told me that he was 40, and told me to stop talking to me because that shit is hella creepy. I didn’t believe her so she pulled up his wikipedia page and everything. I stopped replying to his texts but he kept saying if I was ever in Toronto we should “go for coffee” we all know what that means Jian. Whenever he’s going to be in my home town he emails me to ask if we can meet up, and whenever I mention on facebook that I am going to Toronto he messages me. The last time he was here I scored free tickets to a concert he was promoting that my sister wanted to go to so it worked out well for me I guess!”

  • Ronald Carroll

    WORKING TO BRING CANADIAN WOMEN TO PLAY HOCKEY IN DPRK .
    CBC WOULD NEVER HAVE THIS STORY ON AIR NOW, IT’S NOT “SENSATIONAL “ENOUGH.

 

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