Starring Brian Linehan by George Anthony


5 STARS

I was completely captivated (and often smiling) while reading George Anthony’s superb book, Starring Brian Linehan and like Roger Ebert, found it to be “unputdownable”! This is a book for anyone who was or is involved in the movie business or Canadian television broadcasting between the 1970’s and today, as well as for friends and fans of Linehan and those intrigued by the beast that is Hollywood celebrity.

George Anthony’s smart, well-written biography is a superb tribute to the life and times of this Canadian television, celebrity interviewing legend who knew more about his interview subjects than they knew about themselves. Starring Brian Linehan (A Life Behind The Scenes) looks back in detail on Brian’s genius, his complex personality and fascinating and often glamourous life, with humour, honesty, name-dropping, and personal stories from those who knew him best including such stars as Joan Rivers, Shirley MacLaine, Doris Roberts, Karen Kain and Sharon Gless. It’s not sugar-coated in any way and presents a very detailed and well-rounded life history. Brian was well-respected by Hollywood’s A-list actors for over three decades for his intelligence, unprecedented research, professionalism on-camera and wicked wit. He was also known to be a major pain in the ass to work with. (He was famously spoofed by Martin Short as “Brock Linehan” on SCTV.) The book also offers a very interesting read about the origins of Toronto’s Citytv, the movie business, press junkets and many delicious tidbits about countless celebrities. I learned so much about Brian that I never knew before and for that I am grateful to the author.

Brian Linehan was brilliant, self-invented, irreverent, arrogant, bitchy, gracious, kind and uncommonly witty and I had the privilege of meeting him on several occasions when I worked for 18 months for his lawyer and friend, Michael A. Levine and with his very close friend, Michael’s personal assistant, Maxine Quigley, both of whom are mentioned in the book numerous times.

Brian, although he never knew it, was a hero of mine who shared my passion for movies, acting and actors. I remember watching many of his interviews on Citytv’s “City Lights” when I was a teenager and always thought he had the coolest job in the world. He was probably a significant influence in my decision to take Television Broadcasting in college. I regret that I never told him that but he was a bit intimidating (I knew he didn’t suffer fools gladly although he was always gracious to me) in person and he was usually too busy to chat with me. I always knew when he called for Maxine because she would be laughing while talking to him on the phone. He made a lot of people laugh and after reading George Anthony’s book, it appears he exasperated and frustrated the hell out of a lot of people as well, but no matter what they respected his dedication to his craft as well as his undeniable talent.

Maxine Quigley and Brian Linehan (after a couple martinis) at Michael Levine’s 60th Birthday Party (photo by Christine Bode)

“Linehan had a flair for attentive, easy colloquy that extended beyond celebrities. At a memorial for Linehan at Toronto’s Winter Garden Theatre, actress Sharon Gless told a touching story about something that happened after a dinner with Linehan. “I walked him over to Al, my driver, who’s here tonight. And I said, ‘Brian, I’d like you to meet Al. Al, this is Brian Linehan.’ And they talked for a while, and apparently had a lovely talk, and I was just watching. We got in the car and Al stopped talking. I said, ‘Are you okay?’ He said ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ He said, ‘I have never met a man before who looked me in the eye like that. I have never met a man before who really was interested in everything that I said. He actually let me finish all my sentences before interrupting,’ like people tend to do, you know? And he had tears in his eyes.” ~ Wikipedia / George Anthony

Brian had lived for 35 years (often turbulent) with his partner Dr. Zane Wagman who killed himself in a hotel in Helsinki on July 29, 2002 without leaving him a note of any kind. I remember the day Maxine got the call and all the days that came after in which she did everything she could to console and support Brian.

Starring Brian Linehan is not just an exceptionally good biography about a Canadian show business legend, it’s the best biography I’ve ever read because the author knew his subject so well and loved him even better. Anthony’s description of the details of Brian’s struggle with cancer right up until his final days is completely authentic and reminded me of my beloved cousin’s struggle with it as well (he passed away shortly after Brian). Needless to say I was moved to tears while reading that part of the book.

Brian Linehan died too young, of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on June 4, 2004 and there will never be another celebrity interviewer like him. To this day he is sorely missed by the many, many people who knew and loved him but he will never be forgotten.

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