After he and Corus parted ways, Zeke Myers, a business partner who had produced a number of events headlined by Blundell (The Edge’s Sausagefest), suggested they build DeanBlundell.com, which wasn’t much of anything, into a meaningful hub.
It was something to do, at least. After he lost his job, Blundell admits, “It took a while to not wake up at 3:30, 4 in the morning. Sometimes I’d have a shower and go right back to bed, thinking, ‘What am I doing?’”
A few weeks ago, he began posting podcasts to the site: interviews with standup comics Craig Gass, Barry Taylor, Darcy Michael and others. One edition features venerable clothier Saul Korman and Hyundai dealer Greg Carrasco, both long-time advertisers on Blundell’s old Edge show. In another, Blundell probes his recording engineer, Mike “The A.V. Pimp,” over a complicated sexual history and an ex-wife characterized as having mental-health issues. On Wednesday, he interviewed city Councillor (and Rob Ford stalwart) Giorgio Mammoliti.
As on some of his old radio shows, especially the ones around the time he and his wife divorced a few years ago, the podcasts are a jumble of talk therapy and corrosive frat-boy humour. He insists he’s not bitter about his breakup with Corus – “I don’t have an issue with the company at all. I think that they did what they felt they had to do,” he says – though he’s still clearly processing the experience.
A brief, then, for those who didn’t follow that drama: Last summer, Blundell’s then-producer Welsman served as the foreman on a jury that convicted Joshua Dowholis of sexually assaulting three men he had met at a bathhouse. During broadcasts in September, Welsman and Blundell joked about some of the more unsavoury aspects of the trial and the fate that awaited Dowholis in prison. “All I know is that you have damned a man to five of the greatest years of his life,” quipped Blundell.
When Dowholis’s lawyer learned of the broadcast, she asked the court for an inquiry into Welsman’s behaviour, arguing he had a pre-existing bias against her client. The Toronto Star reported the story in December, Corus suspended Welsman, and Blundell read a statement on-air apologizing for comments he called “rude, homophobic and inappropriate,” as well as “offensive and unacceptable.”
Blundell says now he had no choice. “The company hired a crisis-management company and said: We need you to read this on air. I said, I don’t want to read it; I didn’t write that, that’s not from me, and I don’t find the comments homophobic. And they said: Read it.” Two days later, he was suspended.
Complaints about the incident flooded into the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (though none were valid, since they had been filed more than 28 days after the segment aired). Three weeks later, the show was cancelled.
Blundell says he never got a satisfactory explanation of what he’d done wrong. “I don’t necessarily think it was those comments. It was a high-maintenance show,” he says. “I think with how far right everybody’s gone, specifically in this city – whether it’s the moral right, whether it’s the gay right, whatever it is – there’s a lot of fear.” (Requests to Corus for comment on this story were unreturned.) As the radio industry has consolidated recently – BCE Inc.’s Bell Media, for example, now owns 106 radio stations; Rogers Media owns 54; Corus has 39 – Blundell believes they have become skittish about offending regulators.
And it’s getting tougher, he says, to avoid trouble. “What we did seven years ago, all of a sudden two years ago became: No way. With no warning, no education – no nothing.”
Truth is, Blundell had been controversial from the beginning. Six months after joining The Edge in the spring of 2001, he and then-co-host Todd Shapiro joked about oral sex in a segment that the CBSC ruled was too explicit for a time of day when children could be expected to be listening. He had his knuckles rapped in 2004 when guest David Carradine dropped an expletive; that happened only weeks after the station pre-emptively suspended the show’s on-air staff because they had allowed guest Steve-O to urinate as passersby watched through the studio’s storefront window.
The CBSC ruled against Blundell’s show once each in 2009 and in 2010, but in 2012 and 2013 the panel considered an extraordinary nine separate incidents and wound up censuring the station six times. One of those was over a segment about a gruesome double murder in Mexico in which a young man and woman who had posted anti-drug messages on social media were found disembowelled and hanging from a bridge; nearby, a sign warned others against similar online postings. Blundell joked, “I thought, ‘Jesus – someone hates Facebook more than me?’”