We catch up with some familiar BC faces (and voices) from the past

We catch up with some familiar BC faces (and voices) from the past

Once fixtures on the B.C. television and radio scene, their faces graced our TV screens and their voices resonated over the airwaves for many years. But time changes everything, and broadcasters come and go. Recently, we did a little digging of our own and tracked down a few local household names (like Mr. Brian "Frosty" Forst pictured above) to catch up on their lives today.

Brian "Frosty" Forst
Credit: Tricia Dong

Brian "Frosty" Forst

Brian “Frosty” Forst became a Vancouver institution during his 41 years on CKNW, where he reigned as the station’s top-rated radio morning host from 1975 until his retirement in 2005. A true radio entertainer, Frosty was one of the most well read and informed of his ilk.

“I was obsessed with being as on top as possible with everything, which gave me more avenues to explore and have fun with on air,” says Forst. “Plus of course, to be able to know a little about all subject matters that would come up with all my talented contributors. For me it was my life as opposed to a job. Most of the ‘work’ took place off-air; a lot of book and news reading, plus TV watching, including more news and sports than entertainment shows.

“There would be no cheating on prep or readiness to be as sharp as possible early in the morning. No late nights and hardly any social life . . . it was more important to be ready to go at 5 a.m.”

And ready he was — for 30 years in CKNW’s pivotal timeslot. Today, the road is where you’ll find Frosty — be it walking the White Rock promenade or riding the open road.

“Other than lining the pockets of doctors and hospitals, my life is my motorcycle and travelling,” he says. “I picked up a scooter a few years prior to retiring and enjoyed it so much I went to school, got my license and moved up to a cruiser. As long as it’s not pouring rain or below five degrees, I’m gone. If it wasn’t for the bike, I don’t know what retirement would look like.”

Fred and Cathy Latremouille
Credit: Robert Karpa

Fred and Cathy Latremouille

Citing “wanderlust,” Prince Edward Island has become home to the Latremouilles, a.k.a. Fred and Cathy, one of local radio’s most endearing tandems ever.

From their initial pairing in the 1980s hosting CFUN’s “Latre-mornings,” to the KISS-FM era of the ’90s, through their brief return to the airwaves on the now-defunct Clear-FM (now SONiC) in 2006/07, the husband-and-wife duo have now hung up the microphone. Today, the two are enjoying the laid-back lifestyle of the Maritimes.

“It’s almost like a time machine back to my Horseshoe Bay days as a kid,” says Fred. “Great stretches of white ‘singing sand’ beaches [such as at Basin Head] and hardworking honest folks with lobster four months of the year right from the docks and no traffic to speak of, so the driving and scenery are easy on the nerves and the eyes.”

Living on 25 acres of private waterfront just minutes from Confederation Point, the pair walk, bike and swim the area regularly. “There is a beautiful beach over the dunes in front of us,” adds Fred. “Suit optional, as there is nobody there normally.”

Russ Froese

Russ Froese

Following a 34-year broadcast career that began in Terrace, B.C., and eventually saw him work in various news capacities through television outlets BCTV, CBC and the myriad incarnations of CKVU (now Citytv), Froese left the cameras behind in 2003.

“I feel very lucky to have had a broadcast career during one of the most challenging and rewarding times in the industry,” says Froese. “There wasn’t a day that felt like work.”

In a business that has seen paradigm shifts in direction over the years, Froese acknowledges the ever-changing face of news.

“I’m not happy with some of the delivery models out there — like the heavy bias of Fox News — but we are in the midst of a communications revolution; where it stops, nobody knows. As long as reporters get paid and encouraged to shine the light in dark places, I will keep the faith.”

In addition to freelance voiceover and production work, these days the former news anchor enjoys an easier mix of work and downtime.

“I am a communications consultant specializing in crisis issues. I’m deeply involved in Red Cross work here and in conflict and disaster zones.”

Froese now also finds time to enjoy his music: “I am back on guitar and bass as a member of a garage band project called The Ocean Park Wailers. Our next dance is pending. We’re also taking more time to travel, especially to Italy to see kids and grandkids.”

Larry Hennessey and Willy Percy

Larry Hennessey and Willy Percy

Paired together 27 years ago in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Larry and Willy have since been fixtures on Vancouver radio for nearly a quarter of a century.

“We started on CFOX [99.3 FM] July 11, 1988,” recalls Hennessey. “It was 15 years and one week; an amazing 15 years [and one] bad last week.”

Jumping to the newly created Jack-FM (96.9) back in October 2003, the zany radio pair helped launch the then-novel radio concept that mixed various musical genres “together on one station.”

All good things come to an end and Larry and Willy’s departure came abruptly as they disappeared under the cover of darkness on June 27 of this year.

A listener revolt ensued, prompting the pair to foot the bill for a recent thank-you party for their loyal followers, billed “E.I. Night” at the Boulevard Casino in Coquitlam.

Speculation continues that Larry and Willy will soon resurface elsewhere on the dial.

In the meantime, footage of their hilarious unemployment adventures from the self-shot video, “Taking the Work They Can Get” (as the magician and clown hosting little Bobby’s eighth birthday party), can be seen on the duo’s YouTube channel.

Dave Gerry

Dave Gerry

Having spent “the bulk of my most productive and creative years in Vancouver,” according to Dave Gerry, in 2008 the TV host vanished from Citytv along with Simi Sara, following a three-year stint on the channel’s morning program, Breakfast Television.

After 23 years at the television outlet where he says he was “blessed to be left alone to follow my own wacky muse,” the Ontario native returned home where his witty repartee now forms part of Global Toronto’s popular new morning show.

“I decided to give Toronto serious consideration when I was approached by producer Bud Pierce in the spring of 2011,” says Gerry. “Pierce had been the producer of BT Vancouver when I hosted with Simi. I was born in Ontario and had worked stations in London and Kitchener before moving West.”

Already familiar with the terrain, it didn’t take Gerry long to get up to his usual on-air antics.

“People on the street, where I still wander with a microphone and a camera, seem open and friendly. I have the benefit of sitting beside a hugely competent broadcast partner [Liza Fromer] who knows the city like the back of her hand.

“I have been lucky to have been paired with strong and forgiving broadcasters, great talents like Wayne Cox and Johnny Michel and many, many others,” he says. “Co-hosting BT with Ms. Sara for three years set the bar pretty high as well.”

Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair

Jumping from the maelstrom of B.C. politics in 1981, then-Social Credit cabinet minister Rafe Mair made the leap into broadcasting at talk-radio station CJOR 600. Despite a late start to his “new” career, it turned into a most rewarding one for the ever-feisty host.

“I started at 50,” says Mair, “was BC Performer of the Year, was shortlisted for the coveted Michener Award twice then won in 1995, received the Bruce Hutchison Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Jack Webster Foundation and am in the Broadcasters Hall of Fame — during which time I was fired three times!”

In addition to writing a regular column for The Tyee and a Russian online publication called Strategic Culture, Mair remains a vocal proponent of the environment and currently devotes his time to environmental matters as co-founder of the online news journal, Common Sense Canadian, with filmmaker Damien Gillis.

“This means a good deal of writing and public speaking on such issues as pipelines, tankers, farmed fish and energy issues like ‘fracking.’ ”

Recently bestowed the Eugene Rogers Award from the Wilderness Committee for his environmental work, Mair urges we take care of the planet.

“My message is simple,” he says. “British Columbia — our beautiful home — is under massive environmental attack on many fronts. “Get involved, as it is already late in the day.”

Val Cole

Val Cole

Having arrived at KISS-FM (now Jack-FM) in 2000 as part of the new morning team following the departure of Fred and Cathy Latremouille, Cole quickly established herself in Vancouver. Switching frequencies to 1410 AM three years later, she sat alongside Nikki Renshaw as co-host of the popular Nik and Val Show for six years from 2003 to 2009.

Upon CFUN’s demise, however, Cole took that as her cue to return to Ontario.

“My adopted daughter was born at the end of February 2009, which meant I was on parental leave when CFUN was shut down later that year. So there was no job for me to return to after my leave was up,” explains Cole.

“At the same time, my mother in Ontario was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It definitely felt like my path was being cleared to be with her, and my husband selflessly chose to uproot his business and move away from his family to allow us to head East.”

Sadly, Cole lost her mother within the year but takes solace in the fact “we were able to give my mom eight precious months with her only granddaughter that we wouldn’t have been able to do so many miles away in B.C.”

Cole currently hosts Daytime Toronto, a daily TV talk show, in addition to numerous appearances in commercials. But she says she still misses Vancouver.

“It was the hardest thing to leave and if I didn’t have such an important reason to do so, I’d still be there. Though I was 32 when I arrived, I really felt like I grew up in Vancouver. I made such tremendous progress in my career and personal life because it’s where I met my husband and became a mother.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m just taking a break from Vancouver. As soon as we can afford to break into the real-estate market again, we’ll be back.”

Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.