Brian Linehan, the puckish, always-confident TV personality and interviewer of both Canadian and Hollywood stars, died Friday. He was 58.
Mr. Linehan, a native of Hamilton, died at his Toronto home after being diagnosed two years ago with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. He last entered hospital May 2 and had been undergoing what a friend described as a "brutal" round of chemotherapy.
Mr. Linehan brought an authoritative enthusiasm to his interview chores, beginning in 1973 on City Lights, the showbiz program that aired on the then-fledgling Citytv channel in Toronto.
Those interviews were also syndicated across the U.S. and around the world via a U.S. cable network and Rupert Murdoch's SkyChannel satellite service.
Mr. Linehan's meticulous research and in-depth questioning gave him a reputation as an interviewer par excellence.
"I'm starting to sweat with the amount of info he's got on me," actor Dustin Hoffman was once quoted as saying.
This reputation led to comic and fellow Hamilton native Martin Short's famous parody on the old SCTV comedy series. "Brock" Linehan was a smug, unctuous interviewer with pursed lips and a steady stare who inversely did not know what he was talking about and was often criticized by his interview subjects for his meandering questions and thoroughly inaccurate research.
The real Brian Linehan, however, held no grudge over the devastating send-up.
"I was always flattered," he said in a 1997 interview. "I thought it was wonderful.
"Marty didn't mock me. Marty satirized me."
In 1989, he said he was suffering burnout from all the years of globetrotting and took some time off to recharge his batteries. He kept his hand in, however, conducting star interviews for the major Hollywood movie studios. That content would be cut up and distributed as publicity material to the media, with Mr. Linehan the anonymous off-screen interrogator.
Then in 1996 he did a one-shot TV host gig, filling in for an ailing Jane Hawtin, that led to a fall special and then to Linehan, a 1997 interview series for WIC, the now-defunct western-based broadcaster.
But the series was soon cancelled after the CRTC changed the definition of the show's category, thus reducing WIC's Canadian-content quota. It seemed that although Mr. Linehan was Canadian enough, his interview subjects - which included the likes of Barbra Streisand, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford and Howard Stern - were not. The show also aired on WTN, the Women's Television Network, but the producers were unable to find another broadcaster to pick it up.
He hosted the annual Genie Awards telecast four times, most recently in 2001 and 2002, and was a presenter in 2003. He won a Gemini Award in 1999 for his already cancelled WIC talk show, and an ACTRA award in 1980 for best TV interviewer.
Last year, Mr. Linehan donated his personal files to the Toronto International Film Festival Group's reference library. The files included 30 years worth of research material, correspondence, photographs and recordings from the more than 2,000 celebrity interviews he conducted for TV and radio. It is part of the reference library's Special Collections, a Canadian film archive that also includes the donations of David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan, Bruce McDonald, Don McKellar and Don Shebib.
He also taught a TV journalism course called Inside Television at Toronto's Humber College.
But in an age of the quick-hit, short-attention-span celebrity shows like Entertainment Tonight, it seemed there was no place on TV for an interviewer who indulged himself with questions that could run on for up to four minutes.
He turned down potential career opportunities in New York and Los Angeles but still believed that the secret of good interviewing was in the preparation and the ability to really listen.
He had no love for such prominent broadcast interviewers as Barbara Walters and CNN's Larry King.
"I always used to like watching Jack Parr," he confessed in 1997 about the affable 1960s Tonight Show predecessor to Johnny Carson.
And as for aging in a youth-fixated medium, Linehan stressed that seniority did have its benefits, in that famous people would still take his phone calls.
"A quarter-century later, people are saying 'Oh, Brian Linehan? Just a minute.' It's a nice feeling."
A CBC spokesman said a private funeral is anticipated and that details of a public memorial service will be released at a future date.