For all his agonizing over ratings and “audience reach” at my farm that summer night, we both knew he’d found his medium on CBC Radio.
Also, he spent quite a bit of time buttering me up.In the next breath he was plugging their upcoming benefit for the Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics.There was something unsettling—and also engaging—about Jian’s habit of mixing the prim with the pervy.I visited him a couple of times in Cabbagetown and he was rather house proud, pointing out new pieces of expensive furniture, the gleaming wood floors and his collection of Persian rugs. He’s often spoken of feeling like an outsider because of his Iranian background, and I believe that being born on the fringes of the dominant Canadian culture fuelled his ambition. I didn’t have much to show for myself back in my 20s, but I did have a column in the country’s most respected newspaper.For Jian, a self-conscious immigrant kid who’d grown up feeling like a nerd and dreaming of David Bowie, that kind of status mattered more than anything.” I don’t recall actually saying no, only both of us bursting into laughter as though the whole suggestion had been a big joke. Long before he was a household name in Canada, he was a master of calculating what other people wanted and presenting them with it—so long as it didn’t conflict with his own ever-pressing desires. Although I can’t recall the specifics now, I remember that the emails went on and on and were full of unfulfilled longing, which would prove to be a perpetual theme for Jian.After that first meeting I didn’t see Jian for several months, but we kept in touch. He always seemed in desperate need of something just out reach—engaged in a never-ending quest to find the balm for his restless soul.My editor sent me to interview the band Moxy Früvous, who had been gigging around Toronto since I was in high school.They were a terminally geeky folk band who name-checked Margaret Atwood in their lyrics for airplay on CBC Radio.She thinks he created and used his personal brand—one that was endorsed by the same network that brought us David Suzuki and —to get in touch with women so he could abuse them.She also believes that for him, in his sickness, that dark irony was a turn-on.