Tag Archives: Natasha Gargiulo

Virgin Radio 95.9 fires Freeway Frank, Natasha Gargiulo, brings in Cousin Vinny and Shannon King

Updated with announcement of new hosts.

“Freeway” Frank Depalo and Natasha Gargiulo in 2011.

Until Wednesday, these were the two big faces of Montreal’s Virgin Radio station. On Thursday the station was pretending they never existed. Standard operating procedure in the industry, unfortunately.

“Freeway Frank” Depalo and Natasha Gargiulo, who have been together on the morning show since shortly after The Beat launched in 2011, disappeared from the station’s website, Mike Cohen noticed yesterday. They confirmed the news in a video posted on Thursday.

Thursday morning, in their place on air were Lee Haberkorn and Kelly Alexander, hosting the nameless “Virgin Radio Mornings” with no mention of the previous hosts, talking about various lifestyle topics like nothing changed.

Cousin Vinny and Shannon King in their new publicity photo.

On Monday morning, Virgin announced its new lineup, finally confirming the rumour that it had hired Cousin Vinny Barrucco back from The Beat. He’s being paired with Shannon King, who comes from Kiss radio in Sudbury.

Barrucco left The Beat six months ago and promised recently he would soon announce where he’s going. So apparently his non-compete clause is six months.

Bell Media did not respond to my request for comment about the firing, and made no mention of Freeway and Natasha in its announcement of its new lineup. None of the remaining Virgin personalities have commented publicly on social media about their departed colleagues, likely because they were told to by management, which makes them seem heartless to some listeners.

Also in the new Virgin lineup:

  • Lee Haberkorn, who was the third person on the morning team, gets promoted to afternoon drive host, where he’ll do a shift from 3-8pm.
  • Charli Paige gets the entire daytime to herself, going from 10am to 3pm weekdays. This puts an end to the experiment where a syndicated Ryan Seacrest show aired during the weekday. It started in 2012 after Virgin filled the hole that Barrucco left by hiring Andrea Collins.
  • Adam Greenberg, who was hosting afternoons, switches with Haberkorn and becomes the third guy on the morning team as content producer for the show and its social media.

Going with a three-show lineup between 5:30am and 8pm, each one about five hours long, shows Bell Media will still be stretching the shifts of its announcers — The Beat has four shifts in that time and starts its evening show at 7pm.

The new lineup announcement doesn’t mention Kelly Alexander, who has been with the station since 2007 and seems to have been passed over for a promotion to a more prominent (and stable) job once again. She’s currently hosting weekends.

Virgin also recently parted ways with program director Mark Bergman, who surprisingly resurfaced at The Beat. He has been replaced by Blair Bartrem.

Virgin Radio’s loyal audience, like any other, isn’t pleased with two personalities they have spent a decade getting to know suddenly disappearing without a word. A video posted to Facebook teasing the new show generated more than 200 comments, mostly negative. A video announcing the new hosts generated 180 comments in three hours, and 89 “angry” reaction emotes.

Firing on-air talent is never easy, but perhaps it’s time for radio stations in particular to re-examine how they go about it. You never want to put someone you’ve just fired in front of a live microphone, but in the age of social media, they kind of have one anyways. A little heart can go a long way. And the fact that Virgin has had this in the works for six months just makes it worse.

Listeners will be wondering why this change was made. The most logical answer is ratings. Virgin slipped behind CHOM and even CBC Radio One in the last ratings book, and the morning show, though not always the highest rated, tends still to be the anchor of the schedule. With the trend against The Beat continuing its slide, a change had to be made. At first, when The Beat climbed above Virgin in the overall ratings, Virgin could content itself to owning the 25-54 demographic, but even that slipped away as the two continued to diverge.

I’m not sure how much this will change things. The music tends to come first, especially when daytime announcers are limited to breaks of only a few seconds between songs. But we’ll see.

UPDATE: I wrote about the change for the Montreal Gazette. Bell Media isn’t making anyone at the station available for an interview.

Italians are everywhere

CBC's Sabrina Marandola is among the Italian Montrealers profiled by Panoram Italia

CBC’s Sabrina Marandola is among the Italian Montrealers profiled by Panoram Italia

It’s not just me who’s been talking to English-language broadcasters in Montreal. Italian community magazine Panoram Italia has been profiling members of its community who have jobs in the media in Montreal. The magazine’s December/January issue is devoted to it, with CBC’s Sabrina Marandola and CJAD/CTV’s Laura Casella on the cover.

Natasha Gargiulo joins Virgin Radio morning show

"Freeway" Frank Depalo and Natasha Gargiulo form the new CJFM morning team

After just under a week of anticipation, Virgin Radio (CJFM 95.9FM) announced Thursday morning at 7:10am that Natasha Gargiulo is going to be the new morning co-host in the new year, taking the place of the departing Lisa Player. Starting Jan. 3, she will co-host Freeway and Natasha in the Morning with “Freeway” Frank Depalo.

You can listen to audio of the announcement and a chat with Gargiulo here (MP3).

Virgin Brand Director Mark Bergman graciously allowed me to break the news a few hours early so it could be in Thursday morning’s Gazette. It was, surprisingly enough, the first time I had been inside the Virgin studio with its giant branding star (and a giant CHOM logo in the hallway visible through a window), and I got a chance to talk to Gargiulo, Depalo, Player and Bergman about this big change.

Meet Natasha

First, an introduction to the new girl. She’s definitely not new to the station. She started at what was then Mix 96 way back in 2000, and was so desperate to get into the industry she worked for free.

“I gave up a really good job in university to do telemarketing at night and work for free (in the Mix promotions department). My parents thought I was crazy,” Gargiulo told me during our chat in a conference room in Astral’s Fort St. offices.

She continued working at CJFM until she was hired at Global Quebec in 2003. (“I always wanted to be on television,” she says.) From there she worked as a weather presenter and an entertainment reporter for Global’s local newscast. She also got other gigs, including working for Entertainment Tonight Canada, hosting Ciao Montreal on ethnic station CJNT (back when it and Global were both owned by Canwest), and a few other television gigs.

About a year and a half ago she came back to CJFM as a contributor to the afternoon drive show with “Cousin” Vinny Barrucco. Since then her role has expanded to de facto co-host of that show. She also filled in on the morning show this summer while Lisa was on vacation. Those two facts had led some people to correctly speculate that she’d be a strong candidate for the job.

As for the afternoon show, Bergman says Barrucco will continue it solo for the time being. There are no immediate plans to give him another co-host.

In addition to all her other activities, Gargiulo is also a mother. You can see a video done for ET Canada of her and Leticia, now 15 months, at a photo shoot earlier this year.

Many jobs

Here’s the part where I question this young lady’s sanity. In addition to a radio gig that requires being at work at 5am five days a week, and the hectic, inflexible schedule that comes with being a mother, Gargiulo says she will continue working for ET Canada.

“I figured I can’t put all my eggs in one basket,” Gargiulo said of having so many things going on at once. “If Ryan Seacrest can do it, why can’t I?”

Not that she’s some sort of superhero. She credits her “very supportive husband” for allowing her the flexibility to jet off on weekends to do entertainment reporting.

Besides, she says: “My motto is never say no, because you never know how long this ride is going to last.”

That’s certainly true. Though some radio personalities in Montreal seem to last forever, most don’t last a decade. Case in point is CJFM itself. It’s turned over most of its daytime staff in the past year (losing Cat Spencer, Heather Backman and Nat Lauzon) and just about everyone since the station became Virgin Radio in 2009.

Target demo

Not that Gargiulo’s stint should be considered temporary. Bergman, at least, is happy with her appointment.

“I think Natasha is a young Montreal working mom who lives everything that the Virgin Radio brand represents: fun, entertainment, she’s into social media, pop culture. I think she’s a great reflection of the typical virgin radio listener.”

If that sounds a bit like a radio program director, it’s because that’s what it is. Bergman is up front about the fact that this is about targetting a key demographic, which is like Gargiulo: Young mothers, people who enjoy hit music and have the spending power to please advertisers.

No big changes

Asked what, other than the personality, would be changing with the new so, everyone involved agreed that there wasn’t going to be any drastic changes. But the team is constantly discussing new ideas and could put some of them into force slowly in the new year. But even then, don’t expect fundamental changes. They’re still the number-one music radio station, and they don’t need to reinvent themselves to improve.

“We wanted four words people would think of about the show,” Bergman said about the more philosophical thoughts. The words they came up with are fun, real, local and entertaining.

“If we can accomplish those four goals, we’ll be happy,” Bergman said.

“The show is always evolving,” said Depalo. “I’ve only been here seven months, so this is not it.”

Natasha Gargiulo starts Jan. 3. You can follow her on Twitter at @NatashaGargiulo.

UPDATE: Lots of congrats for Gargiulo on Twitter and Facebook. If you want to read the announcement in press release form, Astral Media has posted it to their website.

See also: Lisa Player stops playing

Promotions at CJFM

From Mark Bergman via Milkman Unlimited comes news about new appointments at CJFM 95.9 aka Virgin Radio 96, two of whom replace Bergman himself, who has been holding a few titles since being named the station’s program director and has been looking for new blood for the past few months:

The big one is behind the scenes. Madhvi Shah becomes the station’s music director, taking over from Bergman. “Madhvi is part of the reason that Virgin Radio has been enjoying the success that it has. Her attention to detail, strong work ethic, love of music, and her strong desire to win, will make Madhvi a successful and strong Music Director,” Bergman writes.

Vince Barrucco

Vince Barrucco, aka “Cousin Vinny”, who has been getting the really crappy shifts of late (late night weekdays and early morning weekends), takes over Bergman’s afternoon show The Rush.

Bergman writes:

“Over the last 2 months I searched across the country for Montreal’s next big star. Throughout my search, I began to notice that Montreal’s next big star was right here in Montreal! Cousin Vinny possesses a rare quality that allows him to raise his game faster than anyone I’ve ever met. Vinny has been working with Cat Spencer over the last couple of months in order to get the gig of his dreams. Well today his dreams come true! Vinny’s slick on-air style, hot phone calls, and targeted material will give The Rush the fuel that it needs to continue owning the #1 afternoon drive position in Montreal!”

Natasha Gargiulo

Finally, Natasha Gargiulo, who you might recognize from Global Quebec, Entertainment Tonight Canada and CJNT’s Italian show, will be a contributor to Vinny’s show, with segments three times a week.

Unlike some other radio stations in Montreal, CJFM has been enjoying climbing ratings of late. So it’s all happy fun time with no downside.

We’ll see how long that lasts.

I’ll get more details from Bergman just as soon as it’s no longer 1:30am on a Saturday.