Montreal’s best known and internationally recognized weather presenter has found a new home at CBC Television and Radio – ratings are up 28%

Frank Cavallaro is not only Montreal’s favourite weather presenter; he has also won international recognition as Winner of the Presenter’s Trophy at the International Weather Festival in Paris – twice! His easy going on-air personality conceals a fiercely competitive spirit. In his early broadcast career that took him to small communities, Frank had to draw on that strong will to keep focused on his desire to have a broadcast career in a major market like Montreal of Toronto.

I met with Frank in the cafeteria of the CBC building in East End Montreal, and we had a wide-ranging conversation about his start in broadcasting, his passion for sports in general, and soccer in particular, Quebec politics and yes – the story about his departure from CTV in Montreal. This was my first meeting Frank, and he is as engaging in person as he is on television.

Frank’s parents came to Montreal from Naples, Italy in 1957; and a year later, Frank was born; soon followed by two more brothers. The family lived in Cote des Neiges and Park Extension before moving to Ahuntsic and Montreal North. He attended Pius IX High School and continued his studies at Champlain Regional College in St. Lambert. Frank continued his post-secondary education in Ottawa almost by accident. “I had some buddies who were going to the University of Ottawa. They had a three bedroom apartment – and needed someone to share the rent. The University has a well-regarded Communications program, and I could complete my degree in just 2 years – so everything fell into place.”

After graduating with a BA in Communications, Frank secured his first broadcasting job in 1980, hosting an afternoon drive radio show in Sussex, New Brunswick. With a population of just 10,000 – it was a long way from the bright lights of Montreal. “I was earning a whopping $600 per month! However I was gaining lots of experience, playing music, reading news and sports and doing the voice-over for many local commercials.”

Frank soon moved up the river to Fredericton, a much larger city and the provincial capitol. An opportunity at CFCF 600 brought him back to Montreal in 1984. The next ‘career move’ nearly ended Frank’s fledgling media career. He moved to Winnipeg to host an FM radio evening show. The adjustment from Montreal to Winnipeg simply didn’t take place. After a few months, Frank packed up and headed back to Montreal.

“A friend of my Dad’s owned a travel agency, and I worked there quite happily for nine months.” However, the travel business didn’t have the lure of broadcasting, and when Frank received a call from a Télémedia radio station in Timmins, he was ready to go back at it. He worked in three markets for Télémedia; Timmins, Orillia and then three years in Sherbrooke. The launch of The Weather Network, based in Montreal, brought Frank back to Montreal for good in 1988.

In the late summer of 1991 Frank joined CFCF-CTV as the weather presenter – a position he would hold for 17 years – becoming Montreal’s favourite “weatherman”. In addition to his on-air responsibilities, Frank was a roving ambassador for the station, making monthly visits as a speaker or MC for community events and celebrations.

However, the station made a decision to eliminate live weather broadcasts in the late news, opting for a pre-recorded update – done just after the supper hour news broadcast. Going from 17 weather broadcasts to 7 meant that CTV didn’t need two people. “After 17 years – I was laid off – a month before Christmas.” Rather than dwell on his initial hurt and disappointment, Frank opted to see the forced career change as an opportunity. “I thought I’d take some time off, perhaps look at other television opportunities. I’ve always wanted to host a game show or a talent show like Dancing with the Stars. A good friend said that this was a good time for me to move to Toronto. However, within a short time I had a call from CBC News Montreal at Six, and I was back on television, January 28th, 2008.”

CBC is serious about their commitment to weather as part of news package. “Weather is the environment, and I’m pleased to say that we now have the most up-to-date weather software of any broadcaster.” With a rueful smile, Frank admits; “It took me awhile to convince management about the benefits of the new computer programs, but once they committed – we got the best.”

Frank has an entrepreneurial spirit, and has made a variety of promotional suggestions to CBC management. “I’d like to see us reach out to our viewers more – create opportunities for them to interact with us.” He also has ideas for coverage of the next Soccer World Cup to be held in South Africa in 2010.

Frank’s in-depth knowledge of the game and his extensive broadcast experience would make him a valuable addition to the CBC team covering the event.

A dedicated soccer fan, Frank is pleased that his 13 year-old son Massimo has taken up ‘the beautiful game’ and plays 12 months a year. “It’s great; all he needs is the shoes and a pair of shorts! However, I’d like him to learn how to play hockey, because it’s our national game.”

Each year for the past 9 years, Frank and his wife Marie-France Parent have organized a fundraising event held on January 31st. “We vary the organizations we support – with the Arthritis Foundation being our yearly constant, because Marie-France has rheumatoid arthritis. We started out with 140 people, but for the past 5 years we’ve been at our capacity of 800. It takes a lot of organization to arrange for sponsors, sell tickets, arrange a menu and complete and all the other necessary tacks – but it’s worth it. We raised $85,000 in one night this year, bringing our total to just over $500,000 in the nine years that we’ve been doing it. We believe that it’s important to give back to the community, and this is one of the ways we can make a tangible contribution.”

Not surprisingly, Frank’s favourite part of Montreal is Little Italy, and specifically the Jean Talon Market. “I love the cafés, the restaurants, and the ambiance of being surrounded by the Italian culture.” It’s also the scene of one of his happiest memories. “Sunday, July 9th, 2006 when Italy beat France to win the World Cup; I was broadcasting live for CTV from the corner of Mozart and St-Laurent from a second floor terrace overlooking the thousands of people celebrating the victory. It was sunny and 28 degrees… a sea of green, white and red… I’ll never forget it.”

At 50, Frank Cavallaro’s story is just hitting stride. It’s an evolving script where his wife Marie-France and son Massimo are the love interests, and the competitive world of broadcasting serves as the scene. It’s a Montreal story – complete with the push and pull of language and politics that are so often beyond our control, and yet part of our daily lives. (Perhaps even more so for a broadcaster working in English media.) Frank Cavallaro has experienced the life of small-town Canada, the vitality of Montreal, the wisdom achieved through world travel, and worldwide respect from his peers. With all that packed into the first section, the remaining chapters are sure to be a best seller. Bravo! Frank.

Frank Cavallaro is the CBC Weather Specialist on CBC News Montreal at Six and also on CBC Radio Noon at 88.5.

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