For as long as I can remember Bill Good has been a part of my life, well, at least somewhere in the background. I’m sure there are many like me who make the Bill Good show on CKNW apart of their morning ritual.
There is nothing better than sipping on a cup of green tea, battling morning traffic all while being engrossed in an interesting topic that either makes you think or leaves you feeling exasperated.Trust me, listening to talk radio can be toxic to your health.
From wearing the baby blue Hockey Night in Canada jacket in the 70s, to reading news as an anchor in the 80s and 90s, to currently ruling the talk show air waves every morning on CKNW, Bill Good has been an institution in this province. He has become one of the best and most interesting media personalities in Canada.
I got the chance to sit down with Mr. Good and his lovely producer Jessica Gares to try and get a behind the scenes look at one of the most provocative talk shows on local radio and to try and figure out what is behind the staying power of the one and only Bill Good. Best of all it was a great chance for me to sit and chit, chat with one of the best in the business at doing just that…talking.
Bill you have been a part of many British Columbians lives for decades. While a lot of your colleagues have retired, moved on or even been fired, you have managed to hang around and continue to be a voice in B.C.. What has been your secret?
I think I’ve been lucky. I’ve been in the right place at the right time for a number of good opportunities. I’ve also treated it as a business and made good business decisions over the years. I surprised people like leaving the wonderful and glamorous world of sports to go into news or leaving television to come here to radio and at the time that raised a lot of eyebrows. Instinctively I knew that they were the right things to do at the right time.
How and when did you get your big break?
I was determined when I was a kid that I was going to be in broadcasting but I didn’t want to do sports. My dad was a sports caster and I didn’t want to be seen following in his foot steps. But shortly into my career the Vancouver Canucks came into the National Hockey League, the CBC wanted me to do sports and I had the opportunity to audition for Hockey Night in Canada and who could resist? That lead to ten years of Hockey Night in Canada, two Olympics, and the Soviet Union vs. Canada hockey series in 72 which I co-hosted with Johnny Esaw.
What is it about being a talk show host that you love the most?
I just like interesting people and interesting stories. In this job you get to talk to people like Prime Ministers, Premiers and you get to talk to hookers and shysters; get to talk to Celine Dion and Hootie & the Blowfish. (Laughs) Back in the day, ‘Frosty’ Forst loved it when I had Hootie & the Blowfish on. Sometimes you meet people on the way up before they become huge stars in the future.
You mentioned you have spoken to Prime Ministers, Premiers and other politicians, do you ever get tired of politics?
I don’t get tired of politics but I have to be careful not to overdo it because a lot of people are tired of politics and particularly politicians these days. I’ve always been a bit of a political junkie so I have had to pull myself back from that.
I know for a lot of younger people politics can be frustrating and we have seen first hand their lack of participation when it comes to voting. In general it seems that we no longer see that star candidate that can speak to the masses, that can motivate and lead us. Do you agree?
I get frustrated by some politicians and I get really frustrated by the system. I remember having a recent conversation with a friend and he asked me why is it that we attract such poor people to politics? I said my experience has been we attract some very good people to politics but the system prevents them from being their best. They always have to curry favour with the leader or they fall from grace and never be considered for a cabinet post and that applies to almost every parliamentary democracy. I think that it is really too bad because it stifles a lot of good people who go into politics for all the right reasons.
Was last year’s provincial election one of the most surprising things you have seen in your career?
Absolutely it was one of the biggest surprises that I’ve seen in politics. There were so many polls done and so many of them indicated the NDP would form the next government but we weren’t getting the information from the Liberals that their polling was showing that it wasn’t the case. Naturally I don’t think they even wanted their candidates to know because they wanted everyone working until the last second.
The government of the day had become quite unpopular over a number of issues and there was a general feeling that it was time for a change. I think the premier (Christy Clark) did a magnificent job of campaigning, Adrian Dix did a very poor job of campaigning and his flip, flop on the Kinder Morgan pipeline was probably the final straw in the minds of a lot of blue collar, working class people who were more concerned about their jobs than politics.
Speaking of Christy Clark, she went from having a popular talk show on CKNW to now serving as B.C.’s thirty fifth Premier. Did you ever have the itch to get into local politics?
Absolutely not. I’ve been asked but I think I can be more effective by doing what I do. I think I can be true to myself, people can challenge what I say but at least I can say what I think. If you are in politics you have to follow the party line. It’s very difficult especially if you are in the governing party and being in opposition would have very little appeal because you don’t have much impact.
Jessica you are the producer of the Bill Good Show and every day you have to come up with topics of conversation and guests. Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get inspiration from everywhere. Let’s say I’m on the skytrain and I hear people talking about an issue, I will make a little note to myself and send it to my email to follow up on. It’s interesting to talk to family and friends and see what they are talking about. I use Twitter as a source because it’s so fast and you can immediately see what people are talking about.
We’re trying to have a little bit more fun on the show and not just be all politics all the time. We like doing water cooler topics, and we pick up on stories that might not otherwise get told like shining a light on other issues and giving people a voice who would normally not have that platform.
As a producer do you feel Bill and you are making a difference?
It’s the best feeling ever when you make a difference. We’re not saving dying babies here. We are just producing a radio show but at the same time when you have people call up and say ‘oh my goodness you helped save this program.’ For example when Translink was going to cut the subsidized taxi program for people with disabilities we really rallied behind that and ended up saving it. To have people call up crying saying ‘I can’t believe you saved this’ it makes you feel like we are making a difference you know. It’s the best feeling.
When you are taking calls and putting them on the air how do you screen callers?
I always try and take the best caller first. Sometimes it can be tough screening calls because they will say one thing to me and go a totally different direction on air. It’s also hard to weed out the planted calls. We will get people from different political headquarters calling in and for me it can sometimes be difficult to tell, especially if they are young, dynamic and have a good point, of course we are going to want to put them on air.
I love to put people on that challenge Bill and say things like ‘you’re an idiot, what are you talking about?’ Those are my favourite calls and I don’t hide it either.
Bill I heard you mention before that you think that a lot of people who live in the Vancouver area don’t fully understand or they forget that British Columbia is a resource first province. Explain what you mean by that.
There has been a real disconnect with people in Vancouver. They go to Starbucks or eat sushi and they are quite unaware of the blue collar, hard working people in the mines or in the forest industry up north. In fact the forest industry use to count for about 50% of the economic activity in British Columbia. A lot of the head offices and legal firms that are here in Vancouver they are still being funded to a large degree by resource industries in the interior and the north. It’s really easy for people to forget about that if they don’t go out and experience or see it for themselves.
It always seems that this city is protesting something. Whether it be an oil pipeline or a bike lane, people get all up in arms and you hear a lot of that on your show.
Which indicates we have too much time on our hands probably. In other parts of the world people are struggling to stay alive or put food on the table. Here in Vancouver they are protesting the idea of putting a bike lane in Kitsilano park or people are up in arms with the idea of blocking a couple of blocks on Point Grey road. We have the luxury to have those as major issues and do we exploit that to some degree on the radio program? You bet.
You have been at this for a long time and you made mention of why you think you have had some staying power in this cut-throat business. Any plans or thoughts of turning off the mic and retiring?
My work is my hobby and that’s probably why I don’t have any desire to retire. I love what I do and everyday I get up to go to work, is a day where I am doing what I want to do. As much as I like holidays I never felt like I didn’t want to go back to work.
I’ll be around as long as they want me, as long as I’m healthy and enjoying what I do. I don’t try and put a date on it as long as I’m still feeling pretty good and I’m still having a good time, and people are still listening and calling in. So far the station still wants me to be here.
Last question. I’ll start with you Jessica, what is it about Vancouver that you love the most?
I love how on a sunny day everyone is in such a good mood. If it’s sunny in Vancouver, everyone will say hi to you. People are outside soaking it all up because they know it could be raining the next day. I also love the scenic beauty of Vancouver. My entire family lives here so that is what I love about Vancouver the most is having my family nearby.
Bill how about you, what is it about this city that you love?
I like everything about Vancouver. I have spent nearly all my life here. I love the fact that if you choose to, you can go for a walk around Stanley Park, you can go up to Grouse or the other local mountains to ski. It’s only an hour and a half to some of the best skiing in the world at Whistler, Blackcomb. It’s forty minutes by Ferry to get to the Sunshine Coast where I like to go every weekend.
Despite the fact that people say this a cold city or an unfriendly city, I don’t find it that way at all. I think it’s partly because people know who I am but I also think if you are friendly to most people you will get it back. If you want to walk around with your head down and be miserable, surprise! people are not going to react very positively to you.
*End of interview*
Although talk radio can sometimes drive one crazy, it’s important to plug in and listen to what is going on in Vancouver and the rest of the province. CKNW has been one of the top talk radio stations in Canada for decades. In this new age people are craving for information and Podcasts have become increasingly popular as alternatives to main stream media.
CKNW has tried to diversify their on air talent with the likes of Simi Sara who brings her own award winning approach to talk radio in the afternoons as well as the new evening show The Shift with Mike Eckford. However, the gold standard still remains to be Bill Good and when he speaks, people listen.
You can listen to the Bill Good show weekly from 9AM to 12PM on CKNW 980.