First impressions are important and having never met Mose Persico before, I didn’t know what to expect. As I walked into San Gennaro café in Little Italy, there he was sitting, and talking with the staff as if he had been there before. But, he hadn’t. Mose makes you feel like a friend and deserving of his time which explains his long career in journalism and movies.
As I sat down with Mose at one of the best cafés in Little Italy, the roles were finally reversed. I was the one asking the questions because we all want to know a little bit more about the person behind Mose At the Movies.
Born in Sorrento, Italy on the Amalfi Coast, Mose came to Canada when he was just four years old. His parents immigrated to Montreal in 1965 with his two older sisters. “My parents moved to Canada primarily because my mom’s family lived in Canada already. My dad doing the noble thing that he did, decided to move the family from Sorrento to Montreal,” Persico describes. Once established in Montreal, Mose’s parents had another son, named Michael who is born and raised in Montreal.
“We arrived in October,” Mose says. “I remember my mom telling me that the first thing I did when I got to the ground was pick up snow and eat it, thinking it was sugar,” he laughed. “There was a small blanket of snow and I had never seen snow before.”
Mose Persico grew up in the Mild End district of Montreal. After high school, he attended Champlain college and then finally went to Concordia where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Journalism. “In high school, I would do well in public speaking and always had a microphone in my hand,” Mose says, as he explains his education choices in media.
“This all started at a young age at our Christmas gatherings amongst family. I’d be the Johnny Carson of the party with a wooden spoon, pretending to interview my aunts and uncles on the sofa just like Johnny Carson did. We would do our own Academy Awards for best hair, best costume, and I was always in the forefront.”
His first ever job had nothing to do with media though. After Cegep, Mose really wanted to earn money for his first car and was looking for a 9 to 5 job in downtown Montreal. He applied at an accounting firm without having any knowledge in that field and got hired anyway. He worked for a year, bought his summer car and realized that an office job was not for him. He then applied to Concordia and figured it out. Thirty-three years later and Mose is still the face of film in Montreal.
Mose’s first ever job in television was that of a driver for a show called Snow Job. After graduating from Concordia, Mose worked in the mail room at CFCF 12 and after three and a half months got promoted to other departments at CFCF 12 (now known as CTV Montreal), where he learned editing and post production. During his time there, he slowly started developing shows for Cable TV on a community channel station.
“You always have someone who gives you your break,” he explains. “They open the door just a little bit for you.” The big break came from former CFCF 12 Entertainment reporter Sandi Krawchenko. “She knew me from the mailroom and had seen that I was hosting a cable show. She told me about her job and how it consisted of flying to L.A. and N.Y.C. to interview Hollywood stars. She then asked me if I would be willing to replace her on occasion, to interview celebrities and ask the appropriate questions related to the movie.” To that, Mose obviously replied yes! Krawchenko loved his work and began sending Mose to these press junkets more often where he developed a show on the cable network called Reel to Real.
This show ran for several years and then Mose’s second big break came knocking. The former Vice President of programming suggested that Mose take his half hour Cable TV show and cut it down to three minutes. Why? So that Mose can have a shot at claiming a spot on Channel 12. Once Mose sent him the chopped version, the rest is history. Through the years this talented reporter has developed a series of half hour shows which include Entertainment Spotlight, which at the time was the Access Hollywood of Montreal, showcasing the beauty and wondrous places of Montreal.
“One of the highlights of that show is when I took the show to Sorrento. I got the opportunity to interview my aunt in her pastry show. It was great!”
His latest show Mose At The Movies has been airing for at least 10 years now. “I think I’ve done over 8000 interviews with everybody under the sun, except Jack Nicholson,” he jokes. Lucky for us, Jack Nicholson only does print interviews!
Out of these 8000 interviews Mose had the opportunity to discuss a few with me. One of his most memorable moments was not an interview, but more of an encounter. A friend of his at the time was dating James Bond, Mr. Pierce Brosnan and Mose was asked to buy her some time as she got ready and kept Pierce Brosnan company at the bar. “We said down and had drinks for an hour, talking about everything from Ireland to movie making. Ironically, he wasn’t drinking a martini!”
“When Sofia Loren found out I was from Napoli, we spoke about recipes for the best meat sauce. She also wished my parents happy anniversary which was a big highlight for me,” he describes.
He describes his encounters with actors Jack Lemmon and Al Pacino as highlights in his career. “The first time I interviewed him for the movie Dad, he spoke to me like a grandfather and he started crying in the interview. He hugged me at the end of it and it was like I was speaking to my grandfather.”
We all get star struck even after meeting actors thousands of times and that was the case for Mose when he first met Al Pacino. “I must admit, I gushed. He’s my hero.” So much so that his dogs are named after iconic actors: Pacino and De Niro.
In this fast-paced social media-driven world, it’s no doubt that the movie industry is changing. It’s no doubt that journalism has also changed given the immediacy at one’s fingertips. Netflix and OnDemand channels are making movies more accessible and social media is giving anyone the opportunity to be a “journalist.”
“Television has become like radio,” Mose explains. “It’s so immediate and a news item can go out in a second because of the Internet and social media. It’s made our jobs more difficult because there’s more competition out there. Television stations are accessing bloggers and social media experts to help them with their entertainment news gathering.
The game is definitely changing in journalism and news is becoming more accessible through our phones. It’s also becoming shorter, more condensed as people are losing their jobs. It can be a one man show now with the help of one device – your phone. “Technology is changing but you have to reinvent yourself and be able to be just as good in front of the camera as you are behind the camera,” Mose says. A word advice to young journalists indeed!
What about movie theatres? Are they dead? Seeing a movie nowadays can cost a couple a whopping $50.00 for tickets, popcorn and a drink (if you’re lucky). Will Netflix take over?
“One of the things about movies, is that it’s the cheapest form of escapism entertainment. When you go see a movie, you get a memory, and you can see a story that will touch you and inspire you. You can’t get that everywhere. Movies are never going to go away no matter how much specialty television is carving away at the market, we’ll always have film. Film is in my blood.”
How do you sustain a career in this business – the TV journalism business? Just ask Oprah Winfrey. As Mose sat in front of me describing his interview with Oprah, he choked up. It takes Oprah Winfrey to make a man cry even after the fact. While interviewing the queen of television for her film Beloved, he took his last minute of time with her to ask her for some career advice. She held his hand tightly into her hands and shared her godly advice. Her most important point being, treat people like people, and that we are all here for a purpose.
“At this point I had tears running down my face and the whole room was crying because they saw how I was absorbing every word. She was speaking directly to me. To this day I get emotional. She took the time to offer me advice, and I’ll never forget that. I’ll take that to my grave,” he says emotionally.
Feature image: Mose Persico and Lady Gaga