By Sean O’Malley
Senior Media Relations Specialist
Full disclosure – I have been a huge fan of Anderson Cooper long before he reached a new level of international stardom in the Donald Trump era. Back when George W. Bush was considered the end of the world as we know it, I was the Foreign Editor for CTV National News, so it was my job to follow American politics. The way Cooper spoke truth to power on CNN gave me comfort on a nightly basis.
So truth be told, the prospect of meeting him in person made me lose all sense of journalistic objectivity. I was giddy with anticipation.
The occasion was a segment he was doing for 60 Minutes featuring the work of Dr. Jeff Daskalakis and Dr. Daniel Blumberger at CAMH’s Temerty Centre for Therapeutic Brain Intervention that aired this past Sunday.
The date was another Sunday last September. The place was the Four Seasons hotel in midtown Toronto.
I actually had another brush with fame that morning, almost literally bumping into Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock as we were both walking down a Yorkville street looking at our phones.
The 60 Minutes crew had booked a conference room at the hotel to do one of their primary interviews for the segment with Temerty Centre patient Sharon Jakab, who had undergone successful Magnetic Seizure Therapy (MST) that put decades of life-threatening mental illness into remission.
When I arrived at the Four Seasons with Public Affairs Manager Julie Rosenberg, VP Communications and Partnerships Lori Spadorcia and Temerty Centre clinician Julia Dimitrova, the conference room had already been set up as elaborately as a movie set, with the room in near total darkness except for the centre of the room that was lit up and set with chairs for the interview to take place.
We promised the crew we would stay seated and silent in the back of the room during all of the active shooting, which was scheduled to last for several hours.
Though it was late morning, Cooper was still in his hotel room sleeping as he had flown in from New York well after midnight. While we passed the time watching the 60 Minutes crew continue tinkering with the set-up, they invited us to help ourselves to the leftovers of the large amount of food that had been ordered. Having missed breakfast, I eyed a half sandwich and an untouched bowl of perfectly crisp French fries on a small table about five feet high with no chairs surrounding it. I passed on the sandwich but helped myself to at least half of the fries.
When Anderson Cooper entered the room, he immediately took notice of the four strangers sitting in the back. Despite his sleep deprivation and need to prepare for a long day of interviews, his first instinct was to walk up to us and shake all of our hands and exchange warm pleasantries.
Then, to my horror, he proceeded to that small table, where it was apparently his custom to eat standing up while reading his interview notes.
That was his meal I had mooched on. I had stolen Anderson Cooper’s French fries. Fortunately he was a light eater and the situation was resolved without incident.
Prior to the main interview with Sharon, Cooper had a lengthy discussion with Dr. Daskalakis and Dr. Blumberger about their MST treatment and their history with Sharon, who agreed to waive her right to patient confidentiality so that millions of 60 Minutes viewers in the United States and Canada could hopefully be inspired by her story of hope and resilience.
Then one of the producers, noting that I was close in height and build to Cooper, asked me if I wouldn’t mind sitting in his interview chair so they could frame their shot while they were waiting for him to sit down. So in a technical sense, I can say that 60 Minutes asked me if I could stand in for Anderson Cooper. Not bad future dinner conversation fodder.