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Matte Babel, ET Canada's Hollywood reporter and host of Canada Sings, took a BMW 1-Series for a test drive while in Toronto. (Fernando Morales/Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)
Matte Babel, ET Canada's Hollywood reporter and host of Canada Sings, took a BMW 1-Series for a test drive while in Toronto. (Fernando Morales/Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)

My Car: Matte Babel

Matte Babel: To live and drive in L.A. Add to ...

Matte Babel

  • The cars: 2010 BMW 540i and a 2010 Range Rover Sport Supercharged SUV
  • Profession: Television entertainment correspondent
  • Age: 31
  • Hometown: Toronto


Notable achievements

  • Joined Entertainment Tonight Canada team in LA in 2011
  • has covered The Grammy Awards, The Oscars and The Golden Globes


Upcoming

More related to this story

  • Returns as host on season two of Canada Sings on Global this May

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He launched his career as a VeeJay at MuchMusic. Later, he co-hosted the Toronto morning show, CP24 Breakfast. But Matte Babel dumped that gig for the bright lights of tinsel town.

He’s ET Canada’s Los Angeles correspondent, dishing out the dirt on Hollywood’s hottest celebs. But he comes back to Canada to host the reality series, Canada Sings, on Global TV.

He divides his time between Toronto and L.A. – driving a 2010 BMW 540i and a 2010 Range Rover Sport Supercharged SUV. Now filming season two of Canada Sings in Toronto, he decided to test-drive a smaller BMW 1-Series.

Why did you buy a Range Rover?

At the time I was renovating my house and I was constantly going to Home Depot and packing things in.

I didn’t want a pickup truck. There’s a lot of room in my trunk. It can carry a fair amount of heavy stuff and at the same time it’s luxurious. It looks great and streamlined.

I like things that are attractive. The vehicle itself is an all-around good package with power, speed, and luxury.

What does the Bimmer say about you?

I think it says I’m conservatively luxurious.

A car in L.A. is such a totem. But they make everything seemingly affordable in L.A. and it’s easy to get caught up. But if you know your price range and bracket you can wind up with a phenomenal car.

I love my BMW, but I do miss the room to store things in. While it does have a big trunk space, it doesn’t have the same kind of room as a Land Rover.

What was your first car?

It was a red 1991 Honda Prelude. I had never driven a standard and I think the clutch was gone the first couple of weeks.

The first day I drove it, I was like, ‘Why do I have to hold down the clutch so much? Half way to school I realized the parking brake was on.’

Who taught you to drive a stick?

My brother taught me, but he’s a sink-or-swim kind of guy. He was like, ‘Just get in – do this and this.’

When I was 12, my dad let me drive his car around the parking lot and it was actually standard. But you were in first and barely on the gas. I don’t know if that helped – apparently not.

My brother taught me the bare bones and then I ventured off. You get the hang of it pretty quickly. It’s one thing I miss in both cars.

What’s your driving record like?

My driving record is atrocious. No accidents – just little tickets I’ve endured throughout my life.

One time, I wanted to move some cabinets out of my house. I asked my friend, ‘Preston, can I use your truck?’ He said it doesn’t have insurance right now. Well, I’m only going from A to B and I have to move these cabinets. He said, ‘I’ll come with you, but if anything happens it’s your responsibility.’

So I load these two big cabinets from IKEA into the truck. They’re about eight feet tall by four feet deep. The tailgate is down and I load them in the back, stacking them one on top of each other. We tied them down with a yellow rope, but obviously not as secure as we thought they were.

We get on the Gardiner. We’re on it about five minutes and all I hear is whoosh! I look in the rear-view mirror and there is a cabinet in mid-air almost like The Wizard of Oz. My heart drops and it smashes on the car behind us! To make matters worse, it’s an unmarked cop car. It shatters all over the road and traffic is backed up. This is the worst-case scenario.

This guy comes out and he’s furious! He says, ‘Give me your license!’ I realize I didn’t have my license on me at the time. My friend gets out of the car and just starts walking the other way. I said, ‘Listen, I’m taking these cabinets to a single mom as a part of this program.’ I embellished a little bit… I don’t know what happened – but I didn’t get a ticket. I didn’t get a warning. He just had a good heart that day.

Then another time I make a left-hand turn and I get five tickets.

I don’t have a lot of speeding tickets. I have a lot of parking tickets. I might have built a couple of the governmental buildings in Toronto.

I’m more careless than I should be. But in the U.S., it’s a different beast. In L.A., parking tickets are $64. And they keep going up. There’s no real fee. I’ve heard of people’s tickets going to $600! Which makes you wonder how is that state possibly bankrupt?

So there I’ve learned my lesson and I pay my tickets. I don’t have anything near as what I had in Toronto.

Did you have to take your driver’s test again in L.A.?

That I did. I almost failed.

All our tests are computerized – there, they weren’t. It was a piece of long foolscap paper with all these questions on it. I filled it out and passed that portion.

But the traffic in L.A. moves so quickly. I was taking those beats – one Mississippi, two Mississippi, and people were beeping and honking at me. The driving instructor was glaring at me. Finally when we got back, she was like, ‘What were you doing? You were taking so long. You were backing up traffic.’

I said I was being overly cautious. She gave me a speech about how she wouldn’t normally pass me. There’s a lot of preamble and she had me on the edge the whole time. Finally she says, ‘I’m going to pass you.’

What do you listen to on the road?

I have an iPod so I listen to everything. Sometimes when people get in my car they’re like really – you went from this to this?

Do you sing at the wheel?

Oh, I’m singing – I’m singing! Half the time I shouldn’t be.

The car is the only place you can talk to yourself and look sane because people are always thinking you’re talking to someone, but half of the time I’m not. I’m just singing to myself.

If I could bring you the keys to any vehicle what would it be?

I always wanted a Porsche – a clean Carrera 4S 911 – that was my car!

This interview has been edited and condensed.

pgentile@globeandmail.com

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