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Gzowski family responds to controversial bio

The revelations contained in the first full-length biography of journalist and broadcaster Peter Gzowski are beginning to provoke a backlash.

R.B. Fleming’s Peter Gzowski: A Biography (Dundurn Press) contains many uncomfortable truths about the host of Morningside and The Country this Morning, who died in 2002 “ that he could be cold to his guests and cruel to co-workers, that he smoked too much and struggled with alcoholism, that he had a tendency to bend the truth for the sake of a good story.

However, the biggest controversy stems from the previously unpublicized revelation that Gzowski had a child from a secret affair with a co-worker in the 1970s. A Toronto Star reporter who managed to track down Gzowski’s love child discovered that Rob Perkins now lives in Kingston, Ontario, where he manages an auto-parts store, and that the identity of his father has been something of an open secret (“I’ve talked about it openly to people I know,” Perkins says, “I just don’t brag about it).

Now, in response to an interview with Fleming on CBC Radio’s The Current, the Gzowski family has responded to the biography’s controversial claims. In a letter read on-air on Thursday’s show, the family states:

To date, no member of our immediate family has spoken with Rae Fleming beyond telling him that we would not take part in his research. We made that choice after several people who knew our father well and who knew us called to say that they thought the questions being asked of them were mean-spirited, ill-informed and, in some cases, baffling. None of us has been interviewed about this book, nor will we be.

We feel that The Current failed to bring its usual journalistic principles to its coverage of this story. Specifically, why did the host or her producers not consider any of the sources that Fleming used for his allegations, considering Fleming’s opinions are so radically different from both the public perception and our family’s knowledge of our father?

We cherished our time with him and continue to celebrate his memories and his accomplishments. We are sorry that anyone would regard this biography as a portrait of the man we knew in private or the public man on the radio.

Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente has also come to the defence of “our beloved Gzowski,” arguing that if the radio host was indeed a neglectful father, it was only because he was a man of his times.

Back in the ’60s and ’70s, secret love children were a dime a dozen. Some were so secret, their own fathers didn’t even know about them. A few years ago, one 50-something man I know answered the door and was greeted by a beaming, eerily familiar-looking young fellow who announced: Hi, Dad!

Lots of teenage girls (Joni Mitchell, for example) had love children, too, whom they gave up for adoption before they went on to become successful women. Pierre Trudeau had a love child in old age, and was widely admired for it. Mel Lastman, a former mayor of Toronto, admitted to a long affair that allegedly produced an entire love family. He was widely thought to be a sly dog.

Wente’s broader point “ that bad behaviour shouldn’t distract from Gzowski’s professional achievements “ may be a good one, but lumping him in with Lastman certainly doesn’t do him any credit.