Christopher Hyndman, CBC co-host, remembered as 'a force of nature'

Christopher Hyndman, one half of the internationally renowned design and television team from CBC-TV's Steven and Chris, was found dead in Toronto on Monday. He was 49 years old.

Hyndman's friends and colleagues say he had a brilliant mind and unbridled love of life

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      Fans, friends and colleagues are mourning the death of Canadian television personality Christopher Hyndman, one half of the internationally renowned design team from CBC-TV's Steven and Chris.

      Along with his on-screen and off-screen partner of 25 years, Steven Sabados, Hyndman was on the forefront during the formative years of reality-based TV and was among the first openly gay hosts to draw legions of fans and admirers.

      Beloved for his tireless charisma, quick wit and disarming authenticity, Hyndman helped to reshape the daytime TV landscape through a series of successful design and lifestyle shows.

      He was found dead in a laneway near his home in Toronto late Monday night. He was 49 years old. 

      Hyndman joined forces professionally with Sabados in 1992, when he became a member of the design company The Sabados Group.

      By 2001, they had scored their first television show on HGTV, Designer Guys, which became a smash success during the early years of reality-based programming. Hyndman and Sabados went on to host 2003's Design Rivals, which aired on HGTV, and the 2005 Slice network makeover show Chic with Steven and Chris.

      The pair moved to CBC-TV in 2008 to host the daytime lifestyle show Steven and Chris, which was syndicated in 17 countries worldwide. Combined, their programs have aired in more than 80 countries. 

      "There really was a lot of conversation around two gay men hosting a daytime talk show, which had up until that point been a place for women hosts. It certainly had not had two openly gay men hosting," said Jennifer Dettman, CBC-TV's executive director of unscripted content.

      "I think it made an incredible difference, certainly in the U.S. where the show was syndicated.... They got a lot of 'thank yous' — thank you for sharing your lives with us, thank you for being open about your relationship. I think there was a real impact there."

      Hyndman, right, with his partner of 25 years and on-screen co-host Steven Sabados. The pair came out publicly in 2007. (Getty Images)
      Hyndman, an only child, was raised in the small town of St. Philip's, just west of St. John's, before moving to Toronto, where he worked and found success as a makeup artist. He often cited his mother as his style inspiration. 

      He first met Sabados at downtown Toronto's Eaton Centre, where Hyndman worked at the Chanel counter and Sabados was display director in the cosmetics section, according to a profile in the Toronto Star. 

      Jeanne Beker, style editor for The Shopping Channel, designer and close personal friend remembered Hyndman for "his irreverence, his humour and his absolutely unbridled love of life."

      "Anybody that knew and loved Chris knew what a force of nature he was, what a bon vivant and brilliant, brilliant mind and spirit he was."

      'A great Newfoundland character'

      News of Hyndman's sudden passing drew condolences from across the design, media and television spheres. 

      Amrita Singh, a Steven and Chris contributor and personal finance expert, wrote in a Facebook post that working with the couple "was a dream come true."

      "Being near Chris was always an interesting ride. I have never met anyone so naturally funny, so able to turn a difficult situation into a laughing matter, so passionate, and so sensitive all at the same time," she wrote. 

      CBC colleagues including Murdoch Mysteries star Yannick Bisson and comic Rick Mercer of Rick Mercer Report also weighed in online.

      Steven Sabados and Christopher Hyndman on a recent vacation to the Barbados. (CBC/Instagram)
      "So very sad to hear of the passing of Chris Hyndman. He was always laughing, always smiling. A great Newfoundland character," Mercer tweeted.

      Hyndman often played the joker, while the more straitlaced Sabados played up a calm and pragmatic demeanour.

      "He really touched so many Canadians across this country. We saw the emails day in and day out of what he meant to them," said Dettman, adding that his ultimate legacy will be his ability to connect with strangers on a personal level. 

      In 2007, they launched their own line of furniture, textiles, decorative accessories and area rugs.

      'It just broke all the boundaries'

      Designer Guys creator and executive producer Mary Darling described the duo as "two wings of a bird."

      "What made the pair, I would say, is the fact that their love and respect for each other was something that was actually able to come through the screen," said Darling, reached Tuesday in Fairbanks, Alaska.

      "So when they disagreed on some way about some design, it was always respectful, there was nothing catty about it."

      Darling credited their charming banter with helping to usher in a wave of other similarly cast design shows, in which an odd couple pair of hosts hashed out design ideas.

      "From a design show aspect it just broke all the boundaries when we did Designer Guys. It was a completely new thing on the scene," she said.

      "They're the perfect complement.... Steven was very grounded and knew what he thought and Chris presented all kinds of options around him."

      A memorial has been set up in the atrium of the CBC's Toronto broadcasting centre for anyone wishing to leave messages, mementos, or flowers to pay tribute to Chris Hyndman. In addition, CBC plans a celebration of his life at a later date.

      With files from The Canadian Press

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