CBC journalist Larry Zolf dies
Larry Zolf, a veteran CBC journalist and political expert, has died. He was 76.
No further details were immediately available.
Zolf was a reporter, producer, critic and radio and TV host with CBC, writing a political column for CBC.ca until 2007.
He joined the CBC in 1962 and was one of the hosts of the legendary current-affairs TV show This Hour Has Seven Days.
Born in Winnipeg on July 19, 1934, Zolf was raised in the city's North End, a Jewish-Polish-Ukrainian neighbourhood that was a hotbed of socialism and strikes.
His pro-labour, socialist outlook was a hallmark of his interview style on air, but toward the end of his writing career, he defined himself as more of a Red Tory, along the lines of former prime minister Joe Clark or Ontario premier Bill Davis.
His assignments for the CBC included covering the Gerda Munsinger affair, integration in Mississippi and the October Crisis in Quebec.
Colleague and friend Allan Fotheringham recalled Zolf's coverage of the Munsinger political scandal in a Maclean's magazine article.
"When the doxy Gerda Munsinger was unearthed in the Diefenbaker era, Zolf was sent out to bang on the Montreal door of Pierre Sevigny, the one-legged cabinet minister who had been identified as one of her lovers. Sevigny came to the door and, on camera, swung at Zolf with his cane," Fotheringham wrote.
Wrote for Trudeau
Zolf, a father of two who had aspired to be standup comedian, was famously sardonic and known for his jokes and story-telling. He wrote a book, Scorpions for Sale, which was shortlisted for a Stephen Leacock award and captured some of the funniest stories from his own journalism career, among them an encounter with a cane-wielding cabinet minister.
Zolf was in the parliamentary press gallery when Pierre Trudeau was prime minister and once wrote Trudeau's jokes for the annual parliamentary press dinner.
Fascinated by Trudeau's character and style, Zolf wrote Just Watch Me: Remembering Pierre Trudeau, a raffish tribute to the former prime minister. He was also known for his stand against the Senate, which he saw as a sinecure for fat-cat politicians and outlined in the book Survival of the Fattest.
As an on-air personality, Zolf was irreverent, opinionated and sometimes outrageous.
In a famous 1971 TV interview, he tangled with feminist Germaine Greer, accusing her of ignoring working-class women and coming from a position of privilege. Greer, always powerful before the camera, rounded on him and told him he was trying to distort the message she delivered in The Female Eunuch.
He was proud of his role in creating This Hour Has Seven Days, the controversial current-affairs show known for among other things, trying to film at the Miss Canada pageant for an exposé, when the CBC had no rights to the show.
'I was the star'
"My motivation is to teach and influence by engaging television programs, books and articles that hold the audience's and readers' attention," Zolf said of Seven Days.
"I was the star of Canada's Seven Days, the best television show of its kind on the continent, better than 60 Minutes," he boasted about the show co-hosted by Patrick Watson and Laurier LaPierre. "Seven Days gave me the image that helped me get started."
After Seven Days he went to Sunday, the current affairs show that replaced it, as an interviewer. He also had later roles at CBC on radio and behind the scenes as a producer.
Zolf studied at the University of Manitoba and went to Toronto to study law at Osgoode Law School. He decided against law and instead switched to history, but didn't finish his master's degree.
He worked as an archivist and interviewed Winnipeg Communists in 1961 before getting work as a researcher at CBC. Producer Doug Leiterman gave him his first broadcast role on Document in the early 1960s.
His other books include Dance of the Dialectic and he won an Anik Award in 1965 for his documentary on computers.
He has been a film critic for Maclean's magazine, a lecturer at Carleton University and a columnist for the National Post and other newspapers.