Peter Mansbridge was the featured speaker at Lambton College’s third annual President’s Gala on Saturday night, before which the college granted an Observer journalist an interview with the iconic Canadian broadcaster. Our apologies to Mansbridge who (to his credit) handled the following interview with all the professional grace and charm Canadians grew to love over Mansbridge’s many year at CBC’s The National.
The following is lightly edited.
Q: When David Letterman retired he grew out his beard. I have to ask — is this your version of the retired Letterman look?
A: Actually I had a beard a couple times. I used to grow a beard every summer when I took time off and I used to go camping. And one year, there was a huge power failure right across northern U.S. and into southern Canada so they had me come back from the bush. I didn’t have time to shave my beard.
They had extra generators brought in so we could do a program. Which has never made sense to me, because how could people watch us if they had no power? But enough people saw it and they were saying I should keep the beard.
I kept it for a couple of days. It … didn’t work. But I haven’t (gone clean shaven) since the last day I did my show, which was two years ago.
Q: So you’re loosening up a little! And speaking of loosening up — when you go to the grocery store do people still recognize you? Do they give you weird looks, or …
A: Well you know, if I’m wearing a baseball cap and a beard maybe not. But if it’s in the neighbourhood, they don’t care anyway. Where I live in Stratford, it’s a town full of actors who are pretty famous; we also have a place in Toronto but the building we’re in Auston Matthews is there, Morgan Rielly is there. So they don’t really care too much about me.
Q: Right. And those guys, do they know who you are? When you see (fellow Stratford native) Justin Bieber on the street — like you do — does he know you?
A: Actually, I’ve never seen him on the street. He’s rarely there and, when he does come to town, it’s to see his parents or his grandparents. He comes, sort of slips into town on his jet at the little airport. But he’s loyal to Stratford and he’s loyal to his grandparents, so that’s good on him.