As radio hosts go, there are few as smooth as Andy Barrie, whose deep tone and high ratings have kept CBC atop Toronto's morning-show heap since 2004.
But yesterday, after he signed off as usual around 8:30 a.m., the unshakeable interviewer delivered some unsettling news to his colleagues.
"I have early-stage Parkinson's disease," Mr. Barrie, 62, wrote in an e-mail at 10:30 a.m., after telling a smaller group at a staff meeting.
The neurological condition, which has affected his gait and his handwriting but has not produced the tremor often associated with it, showed itself a year ago, wrote Mr. Barrie, host of Metro Morning since 1995.
While he declined interview requests, he told his colleagues he decided to "come out as a guy with a disability" after he read actor Michael J. Fox's book about his own experience with Parkinson's disease.
What it will mean for Mr. Barrie and his listeners is tough to predict, as the disease is "totally unpredictable, and virtually every case is different," he wrote.
"The rate of progression varies with every patient, with some symptoms appearing in some people and not at all in others."
What it meant yesterday, however, was shock and concern for a man with one of the most recognizable voices on local radio.
"Andy's our morning voice, and in many ways, the conscience of the city," Mayor David Miller said, citing Mr. Barrie's zest for asking probing questions of public officials. "He lives and breathes the city."
Bill Carroll, the morning host at 1010 CFRB and a talk-radio rival, sits in conservative contrast to Mr. Barrie's more liberal leanings, but voiced nothing but admiration for him yesterday.
"For a while, I did his old time slot at CFRB and now I compete against him, so I have a lot of respect for him," Mr. Carroll said.
"I hope it doesn't take him out of the game," he said. "He's the best. ... He's a more-than-worthy adversary."
For his part, Mr. Barrie made it clear that he intends to be the same in relation to Parkinson's, which can be treated with drugs and physical therapy, but has no cure.
"I say 'have' as opposed to 'suffering from' or 'afflicted with' because neither is true," he wrote, his positive tone tempered with the plain-spoken realism of a journalist.
"Disabled, but not unable. I love my work, and friends in the know have told me that the PD hasn't affected it. ... But it doesn't go away by itself, and it does get worse. So as optimistic as I want to be, I'm realistic too."
He referred to an agreement made with his Metro Morning overseers to "go for three more" years, which would get him to 65.
He referred to twice-weekly workouts with a trainer, a medication regime and the fact that he has kept depression - a common Parkinson's side effect - at bay, despite his brother's sudden death in March.
Another symptom Mr. Barrie made sure to mention was a loss of control of facial muscles, resulting in "an expression that can look either pissed-off or not-at-home. Of course, sometimes I am p.o.'d or not there. If you're not sure, ask."
The note, signed simply "Andy," adds that "Starting next week, I'm taking off for a good chunk of the summer, before I get back behind the mic in August. Till then, thanks for absorbing all this, for any advice you'd care to share or any questions you want to ask, and for being, all of you, such very human beings."
Jennifer McGuire, executive director of programming for CBC Radio, pegged Mr. Barrie's value on his deep knowledge of Toronto and its people.
"He knows the city, he connects, he's curious," Ms. McGuire said. "You hear it on air. He's a great host."