Red Robinson

Red Robinson’s broadcast career was fictionally implausible — which is why it was the perfect story to turn into a musical: Red Rock Diner. The show debuted in 1997… four years after I did this duo interview with Red and fellow Vancouver broadcast legend Fred Latremouille for TV Week Magazine —a publication Red and I both worked for at the time.

I was lucky enough to cross paths with Red many times. He was always encouraging, gracious, charming and – if the Canadian Broadcasting Hall of Fame has a Mount Rushmore—his face would be on it.

I don’t think Red was built to rest so if there’s a broadcast heaven I’m assuming he’s spinning all the hits and introducing all the biggest acts.

Thank you, Red Robinson (1937–2023)

From TV Week Magazine, 1993

This interview cost Red Robinson a hundred bucks.

As I was asking Robinson and his longtime friend, Fred Latremouille, about their new jobs, the pair suddenly remembered an old bet. Said Latremouille: “For some years I was betting Red that CISL would hire him for their morning show and I couldn’t understand why they hadn’t.

We had a standing bet. We had a hundred dollars on it.”

Robinson laughed and declared: “I owe you now, right this minute.”

Although it took three years to collect, Latremouille says he never doubted he’d win his bet. Explains Latremouille: “It’s overdue that they brought Red in to do the oldies stuff because Red was and is committed to that kind of music and the era in a way that nobody else in the market ever was and he has a real passion for it and that’s rare.” (In case any CISL listeners are confused about why it took Latremouille so long to collect?—?yes, Robinson has been heard on CISL, but he hasn’t been working for the station, they’ve been picking up his syndicated oldies show from the Satellite Radio Network.)

It would have been more of a gamble for someone to have bet on Latremouille leaving CFUN. Although he’s worked at a lot of other stations, Latremouille has put in almost 20 years?—?including the last 11?—?at CFUN. But last year, KISS made Latremouille and his cohost (and wife) Cathy Baldazzi an offer they couldn’t refuse.

Robinson said it was, “The biggest offer ever made for a broadcaster on the west coast” and Latremouille didn’t dispute the statement. In order to get out of their contract with CFUN, Latremouille and Baldazzi had to give one year’s notice. They did and KISS agreed to wait?—?an incredible show of confidence in a business where most programming changes seem to happen at the speed of light.

On August third (1993), Latremouille, Baldazzi and thousands of B.C. radio listeners will be starting their morning at a new station and a new spot on the dial (96.9 FM). The rest of the KISS morning team will include Jack Marion (news), Garry Raible (sports reports), Katey Rebax (traffic updates) and BCTV’s Wayne Cox as the weather forecaster.

By complete coincidence, Robinson starts his new job as a morning man on the exact same day?—?although his day doesn’t start until a half-hour later. Latremouille is on the air from 5:30 to 9:00 a.m. and Robinson is on from 6:00 to 10:00 a.m.

When we spoke, Robinson still hadn’t chosen the rest of his crew but he was looking forward to the opportunity to play with the new show.

“I think it (Red’s show) is going to work really well,” says Latremouille and I’m hoping that Red yanks away lots of audience from Frosty and so do I.”

“I’ll drink to that,” says Robinson. And then the two raise their bottles of fruit juice and clink them together to toast the prospect of taking on their former CFUN cohort, CKNW morning man Frosty Forst.

Robinson, who is already a member of the Canadian Broadcasting Hall of Fame, says he plans to include items like “then and now” features on the classic rockers heard on CISL (AM 650). “Like here’s his old hit, Devil With the Blue Dress and then I’ll phone Mitch Ryder and ask him what he’s doing today. So every day I’ll call a different performer. Plus I’ll dig into my 6000 interviews and run little pieces like what John Lennon said when he was here.” After telling me this, Robinson turned to Latremouille and said, “You were supposed to do that show.” Then he turned back to me and explained: “He was supposed to emcee the Beetles in Vancouver and he got mononucleosis.”

Says Latremouille: “Can you imagine? I was listening to it in the hospital.”

“He was listening and almost crying,” says Robinson. “I would have too.”

“I was a kid,” says Latremouille.

“It was fabulous,” says Robinson, with just the hint of a tease. “I was the program director and Freddy was in the hospital and I went and did it.”

Says Latremouille: “Red is one of the reasons I got into this business?—?because of his association with the music and presentation of it in the early years when I was a kid. It was just great to hear those early songs on his show and the energy that Red brought to it and still does.”

Adds Robinson with a smile: “And breaking the rules. You liked that

too.”

“But more than that I liked the entertainment, the communication, what was going on. I was a lonely kid in my room and there was this guy and there was that great music so in a way Red was responsible for my getting into this.” Robinson was also responsible for hiring Latremouille to work at CFUN (the first time Latremouille worked there) and although it wasn’t his first radio job, Latremouille says, “That was the big break. CFUN was a big station.”

“The early years of FUN were some of the best radio years,” says Robinson. “Frosty Forst was part of that group, and Al Jordan, Fred, myself, Tom Peacock who became manager of WX, Terry David Mulligan. And we never made any money. That wasn’t the motive.”

“I never have worked for money,” says Latremouille. “I’ve worked for very little and very good dollars. I’d rather have more but I’ve never worked just for that. It’s a great business, it’s fun.”

Watching Robinson and Latremouille talk, I feel less like an interviewer than an eavesdropper. As well as talking about their new jobs, they discuss vacations, families and exchange gossip about mutual friends.

When Latremouille talks about being “a kid” while he was listening to Robinson on the radio he says it with such respect that there’s no chance of mistaking it for even the slightest bit of a dig. And both men seem absolutely convinced that it’s the other one’s story that is far more important to tell.

Despite the fact that he spent 20 years at CFUN, Latremouille says there’s an old joke he and his radio cohorts used to share?—?that you could judge how successful a deejay was by the size of his U Haul.

“I think there’s only a couple (of stations) I missed,” says Latremouille.

“Me too,” says Robinson. “I never worked QM, did you?”

“No,” says Latremouille.

“Never worked CBC radio,” says Robinson.

“I did,” says Latremouille. “I was at LG for about two years, I was at CBC radio off and on and I did some fill-in at CJOR for talk.”

“And you did a helluva job,” says Robinson. “I worked LG but I wasn’t on the air, I was a salesman there for about 14 months.”

“I haven’t worked any of the FM stations before this,” admits Latremouille.

“Nor did I,” says Robinson. “I never worked CFMI either. However, I worked at NW. Never worked the FOX (CFOX) but I did do a thing every day back when it was LGFM.”

“I met Larry and Willy (the CFOX morning team),” says Latremouille with a big grin. “Does that count?”

With an even bigger grin, Robinson asks, “I forget, are those guys still here?”

“It starts,” says Latremouille, “It starts.”

Yes, it does. For both Red and Fred it starts on August third, but it seems clear that they’re not planning to compete with each other?—?just with everybody else.

Red Rock Diner?—?The Arts Club Theatre?—?Photo: David Cooper