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  • Written by George Anthony
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  • Written by George Anthony
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A Life Behind the Scenes

Written by George AnthonyAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by George Anthony


List Price: $13.99


On Sale: December 21, 2011
Pages: | ISBN: 978-1-55199-219-8
Published by : Emblem Editions McClelland & Stewart
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A behind-the-curtain look at the life and times of Canadian celebrity interviewer Brian Linehan by one of his oldest friends and intimates.

Brian Linehan was one of seven children growing up in the shadow of the Dofasco steel plant where his father and brothers worked. At seven years old he fell in love with the movies and was more convinced than ever that he was not destined to carry a lunch pail. The kid from Hamilton with the broken nose would live and dream bigger than the movies of his youth.

By the time he is thirty, Linehan transforms himself into a television host wooed by every major studio in Hollywood. In more than two thousand interviews for his signature show, City Lights, Brian Linehan becomes as famous as the stars he talks to. Some, like Burt Reynolds, will come to him again and again for on-camera therapy; others, like Shirley MacLaine, happily return to City Lights so he can “tell us about our lives.” Viewers come back to hear what he will ask his unsuspecting guests. What secrets, what long-forgotten memories has he unearthed this time?

Brian lives the high life on film studio tabs, flying everywhere first class while hanging out with the rich and famous — house-guesting with Bea Arthur and Joan Rivers in Hollywood and New York and flying to Vegas on Paul Anka’s private jet with Ann-Margret. He is entertained by hostesses in Paris, London, and Palm Beach. He becomes the quintessential dinner guest, coveted because he is witty, urbane, and well-informed — and of course he can dish. But when fortified by vodka martinis his rapier wit becomes a force to be reckoned with.

Starring Brian Linehan has it all: the wit, the struggles, the insecurity, the famous friends, the secret life behind the camera, and the ground-breaking interviews. Before ET, Access Hollywood, and STAR, there was City Lights and there was Linehan.

From the Hardcover edition.


No one knew quite what to make of Linehan or City Lights when the show started. By the current media standards, this host was hardly an eight-­by-­ten glossy. Impeccably groomed, he displayed elegant manners and ­didn’t look or sound like anyone else on television. He also looked like he had just won the Irish sweepstakes; had we ever seen anyone on television, ever, who looked so thrilled to be there? Viewers who tuned in found themselves strangely attracted to the show, almost mesmerized by the presence of its off-­kilter host. He was different, something to see.

Across town at the public broadcaster, legendary entertainer Juliette — still Canada’s favourite blonde — was fascinated by cbc alumnus Moses Znaimer’s progress with Citytv, and was particularly taken with Linehan. “People were amazed at the way he looked,” she says candidly. “He ­wasn’t your normal tv interviewer type. He had a look that was quite different, a look that probably some producers ­couldn’t come to grips with. He ­didn’t have the looks for his times.

“Today, of course, his looks would be completely accepted and not even questioned. I mean, look at Mick Jagger! That ­ain’t no beauty, my dear! But back then Brian looked almost as if he had been in a car accident. His face ­wasn’t a well-­chiselled face. He looked like a boxer who had had his face bashed in a couple of times. Looking back, I think maybe he was darn lucky to be doing what he was doing at that time.”

Linehan’s friend and former acting teacher Janine Manatis was thrilled for her pupil. “I would never have thought that Brian would be a tv ‘personality,’” she admits with typical candour. “Absolutely not.” As his teacher she saw aspects of his personality that she believed people would not find appealing. “What overcame that, in my opinion, was the brilliance of his ability, which was to me absolutely unique. How he investigated, found out, looked into, and came up with information. Information. Not gossip. Gossip is the conversation of cowards. What Brian came up with was not gossip!”

What Brian came up with was research. And yes, he really did do his own research. Not just in those early years, but for all the years that followed. “I thought that you went home at night and you had a big folder and you read a book and you did your homework,” he said later. “I’d never heard the term researchers. This was Citytv! Everybody had three jobs. It never, ever dawned on me that there was anything unusual about it.”

If the stars he interviewed were dazzled by him, and they were, it wasn’t just because of his research. It was the way he used it to connect the dots to take them places they had never been before in an interview, regardless of what book or film they had come on his show to sell.

“You went into the Navy,” he told Peter O’Toole. “You came out of the Navy two years later and applied for a scholarship at rada. Which you indeed won. You came out of rada and went straight to the Bristol Old Vic. What was happening to you during the two years in the Navy as a signalman and a decoder in the submarine services?”

O’Toole stared at him, obviously intrigued. “You’re a very interesting man,” he remarked.

Peggy Lee listened politely as Brian spoke about the rigours of touring. At least, that’s what she thought they were going to be talking about.

“Someone asked you,” he reminded her, “if there was any place you hadn’t been, and you said, ‘Paris, unless you count standing at Orly, waiting to get on another plane.’”

Peggy nodded knowingly.

“And yet you wrote a song about Paris . . .”

Peggy’s eyes fluttered in surprise. “Why yes, I did! . . .”

“. . . after looking at a painting . . .” he continued.

Peggy’s eyes lit up. “I’m impressed with you. I really am.”

Jane Fairley was constantly impressed by Brian’s ease with visiting stars. “He was so captivating to those guests. He enveloped them in a feeling of security and safety. They ­weren’t going to be pounced on. They were actually going to be asked about their craft. Brian was so good with people.” Interview subjects were so taken by his manner, and his questions, that they remember it as being the fastest half-­hour in show business. “You were on, you were off,” Carole Shelley says.

Shooting Linehan’s show, Jane Fairley recalls, “was slightly complicated by the fact that we ­didn’t have any money.” She still remembers novelist Peter Benchley coming in for his interview and excitedly handing her a tape of exclusive footage from Steven Spielberg’s future blockbuster about a monster shark.

“I’ve got this two-­inch tape from the movie version of my book Jaws that we can play,” he told her, his eyes dancing.

“Sorry,” she told him, “we’ve only got two machines, and they’re both playing back commercials.”

“So we ­didn’t play the tape,” says Fairley, with a rueful chuckle — “the tape that would have captivated the country — because we only had two machines.”

For most of his years on camera, Linehan’s interviews were live-­to-­tape. No editing. No sweetening. One time, after Brian and I had become friends, we spotted Barbara Walters in the lobby of the Beverly Wilshire hotel in L.A. “She does very good interviews,” said Brian matter-­of-­factly.

“Yes,” I agreed, “she does some very good work. But, you know, she should be good — she’s shooting five-­to-­one.”

“Oh, yes,” he said, “I suppose you’re right.”

Later, in my rental car on our way to dinner, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “All right, I give up: What’s five-­to-­one?”

I explained that shooting five-­to-­one meant you shot five times as much tape as you needed. So if you needed twenty minutes, you would shoot about two hours of interview, and take the best twenty minutes from that.

Really?” He had never done anything that ­wasn’t live-­to-­tape. “Is that really how Barbara Walters does her interviews?”

“Brian,” I told him, “the joke here in Hollywood is that they cry to get her to leave!”

From the Hardcover edition.
George Anthony

About George Anthony

George Anthony - Starring Brian Linehan

Photo © Dimo Safari

George Anthony, former entertainment editor and columnist for the Toronto Sun, was one of the founding members of the “little paper that grew” after starting his career in journalism at the Toronto Telegram. Currently consulting on special projects for CBC Television’s Arts and Entertainment division, Anthony has played a key role in bringing Canadians such hit programs as Made in Canada, Royal Canadian Air Farce, and This Hour Has 22 Minutes, as well as high-rated specials showcasing Kurt Browning, Celine Dion, Karen Kain, Anne Murray, and many more. Anthony also serves as the creative point person on The Rick Mercer Report and oversees arts programming for the network. A long-time friend and confidante, George Anthony shared more than three decades of champagne and martinis with Brian Linehan. Originally from Montreal, he lives in Toronto with his wife, Gail, and their three children.


“Unputdownable!” – Roger Ebert

“A fabulous read, funny, honest and heartbreaking.” – Toronto Sun

“A full-blown, deeply researched, breezily written, page-turner . . . containing lots and lots of star dish.” – Joan Rivers

"George Anthony has miraculously brought [Linehan] back to his sparkling peak.” – Toronto Star

“Linehan would probably approve. The research is sound and … [Anthony’s] portrait of his friend is quite moving.” – Winnipeg Free Press

“His [Linehan’s] career makes for heady reading . . . a genuinely engrossing homage and inquiry.” – Globe and Mail

“A touching record of a groundbreaking and uniquely Canadian luminary.” – Xtra

“Like its subject, the book is witty, well-informed, replete with dropped names, nostalgic and, sad.” – Pulse Niagara

From the Hardcover edition.

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