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Tuesday December 18, 2012

Patrick Watson remembers Laurier LaPierre

Special to The Globe and Mail

The death of Laurier LaPierre, grieved as it is by so many, has also been the genesis of a flood of memory. In 1963, having lost my host of the Ottawa-based series Inquiry, Davidson Dunton (to a Royal Commission), I was off to Montreal to see Pierre Trudeau about it, when a colleague at CBOT gave me the name of a young McGill history prof he had auditioned for a new series and turned down because he couldn't risk going to air with such a strong Quebec accent in the chair.

I took down the co-ordinates.

And when Pierre and I were not able to come to an agreement (he wanted to run the enterprise), I went off for an afternoon glass with Professor LaPierre, which turned into a long afternoon and a dinner and a regretful farewell at the end of the evening.

Laurier came to Inquiry a week later. And generated a huge anti-Francophone reaction. At first. One viewer wrote, "Get that goddamn Frog off the air."

But then, bit by bit, as the season progressed, it all turned around. And at the end of the season, as Douglas Leiterman and I were beginning to assemble what would become This Hour Has Seven Days, there was no doubt in either of our minds who one of the hosts had to be.

We initiated The Hot Seat, Laurier and I together, grilling often a politician, always an authority figure. And before long complaints flooding down from Parliament Hill led CBC Head Office to instruct us to (a) drop the Hot Seat designation and (b) cool it a bit.

Well: just a bit. But it had become, and continued to be, one of the most rewarding interview experiences of my life. And one of the richest friendships. With a brave companion who risked and committed his life to a range of tough and challenging causes. And, yes, he will be sorely missed.

But more than anything else fondly and wondrously remembered.

Patrick Watson was co-host of This Hour Has Seven Days

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