Rick Campanelli has incredible energy. When he enters a room, his optimistic vibe immediately diffuses in the air and we are all suddenly drunk on enthusiasm. I’m used to seeing him in a suit, glancing at the audience from the TV screen, but here he is – in a baseball cap and shorts, telling all about his recent cottage trip. The next thing I know, we are exploring the idea of doing a photoshoot outdoors, by the large sculpture of a bull with the Global TV logo. Then, we play foosball and shortly afterwards head off to a pre-taping of one of his shows.
Campanelli is personable and it works in his favour – after all, he is in the entertainment industry. A well-known face on television, many would recognize him on ET Canada billboards and are familiar with his unmistakable broadcast voice.
It’s easy to start building expectations of who the person is before you actually meet them. Today, we get to know Campanelli from both perspectives – his career, as well as his dedication to his family, girlfriend, son and his love for soccer. We will even talk about fashion, a little bit.
HANNAH YAKOBI: You had a lot of career plans growing up – you wanted to be a pilot, an artist, a soccer player. Did you want to be all of those things simultaneously?
RICK CAMPANELLI: Yeah I did, I‘m a dreamer! [laughs] No, I went through phases. I was even writing my own newspaper for a while and taking pictures when I was about 10.
I come from a pretty big family, there were six of us, in an old, little house in Hamilton. I am the youngest of four siblings. My poor sister – she had three brothers. As the days go by, I feel more bad for her, what we put her through growing up. Poor thing! She couldn’t even watch Love Boat; she had to fight to watch it over all her brothers who wanted to watch hockey, football, baseball.
Were you overprotective of her?
Well, the two older brothers came first, so I guess they were. I was never overprotective because I was the youngest; I think they were all overprotective of me. I tried to be protective, but it didn’t work.
Did you feel that you got away with more stuff than them?
I really did. I was the black sheep of the family. Once I got into that party phase in high school, I would come home so late, and my parents didn’t care anymore. Well, they cared, but they knew I was in good hands with them just being chill and relaxed, because they had gone through it already with my three older siblings.
But getting back to my career dreams, I just wanted to try so much. To this day too, I still want to try things, because you only go around once. If you don’t try it while you are here, when are you going to do it, right? So, I dreamt of being an astronaut, and soccer player, and artist, and architect. Never a fashion designer though.
Well, that came later in life because I was never into fashion growing up, it was all hand-me-downs for me mostly.
I got into fashion in high school. I wanted to release a line of T-shirts called TUFF Boy Clothing. It was pretty cool because I was creating my own jeans back then too. I had a bunch of hockey jerseys, so I used to take the crests from them and sew them onto jeans. It was a really ridiculous look, but then I noticed a few years later that some jean lines, the more vivid ones, were doing the same thing. I never got too serious about it, you know – I just did it for fun.
You mentioned that you watched a lot of sports with your brothers. Were you a big sports fan?
Oh yeah, huge sports guy growing up. We always did activities with the family too, like bike rides, soccer, tennis, baseball. There was a time when five members out of my six-member family were all playing organized soccer. My Mom was the only one who wasn’t, but my dad was in an over 40 league, and all my siblings and I were playing rec soccer.
So there was a lot of time spent with family. My dad had to drive us to our games and practices, my Mom was preparing the oranges and lemonade for half-time and for all our games. It was great.
Do you still play any sports?
Yes, we sometimes have charity and soccer tournaments with my former colleagues at MuchMusic. It’s always great getting together with those guys again because we used to play regularly when we worked together years ago. We would play every Saturday, and it was co-ed too. But that is the extent of it – I am not playing organized anymore. And I love golf, so I’ll golf every so often. Who doesn’t love golf?
Having spent a lot of quality time with your family while growing up, have you transitioned any of those things into your relationship with your son?
Yes, I really have. Except, my Dad is an old school Italian, so things would get a little too intense when it came to discipline. [laughs] Of course, that’s the way it was with the cultures and generations back then, they did things differently. But when it comes to raising my boy, I learned a lot from my parents. And now it has been seven and half years!
So he is 7 ½ years old?
He is. He’s going into Grade 2 this month. He’s a January baby, so he started a little late. There are a lot of challenges, but also a lot of moments and time when you just stare at him and think: “this kid, he’s getting it, he’s growing up, and he’s becoming a little me.”
Is he used to seeing you on television now?
Oh yeah, he doesn’t care anymore. He’s over that. [laughs] I brought him in when we first started here and he was just a little toddler. Now when he comes in, he’d rather hang out with Brad in audio or Anne in make-up – that’s fun stuff. Studio-wise, he couldn’t care less because you just stand and talk there.
Speaking of studio work, you’ve interviewed many people in your career so far. Who was your favourite interviewee and why?
You know what? I love talking to people, no matter what they do for a living. I was never that way as a kid: I was really shy and didn’t like opening up that much. I always used to hang by my Mom at social events. But as the years went by, I got onto the student council in high school and also got really social playing soccer. And that just lend itself to this whole world of communication and talking to people.
I love music, thanks to my older siblings and my parents. Music was always around us. So I am going to have to say that the most memorable interviews for me are the bands that I grew up listening to. I really respect musicians who put out amazing pieces of work and make millions of people happy around the world. So, people like Tony Bennett, and Aerosmith and Red Hot Chili Peppers, bands like this are very memorable.
When it comes to actors, I never get to spend as much time with them because usually I am going to a movie junket and I spend four minutes with them. I found the people who, again, I grew up watching, were the ones who really stuck in my mind, like Tom Hanks, Henry Winkler, George Clooney. Everyone loves Clooney.
Behind the scenes with Rick Campanelli
They do! Women, men, children.
Animals, dogs, cats – who doesn’t like Clooney?! [laughs] This guy has the world at his fingertips. Everywhere he goes, everyone wants a piece of him. So I spent four minutes with him on the junket for Leatherheads. And he was the most humble man.
He gets out of his chair and introduces himself to me. The guy doesn’t have to introduce himself to anybody, everyone knows him! But he comes over to me, shakes my hand, invites me to have a seat. And it was like a conversation we are having right now. I’ll never forget the way he was and the way he greeted me into the room. It was amazing.
You meet celebrities on a regular basis through your job with ET Canada. What do you have lined up in the next couple of months, especially with TIFF starting up tomorrow?
TIFF is going to be huge for us, we all look forward to it. I’ll go and see five or six movies a day. By the time TIFF rolls around, the actors start coming in, it’s time to do the interviews, I love that time of the year. It’s when we started the show seven years ago.
You’ve been to a lot of events and I know you’ve done modelling at a couple of charity fashion shows too. Have you ever gone to fashion week?
Angie [Smith, Campanelli’s girlfriend] is all over fashion week, so she’ll bring me along. I’ll go to support her, but it’s not my thing. I’ve been in fashion shows, the charity type ones, raising awareness for a certain foundation or organization. I am definitely not going to say “no” to those, and they’ve been fun, but it’s not just my world, you know? People staring…
How do you feel about fashion in general?
I’m not a big fashion guy. I’ll wear something that is comfortable, very casual. I’ll put on a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops, and I am good for the summer.
So you get your suit fixed on the set?
Well, the suits are a whole different story. There are two sides to me. When I’m in there [points to the studio], I’m all dressed up with nowhere to go, you know what I’m saying? [laughs] It’s a very polished look, my suits have been custom fit. I see a gentleman right now who is a bespoke designer, he will do 19 measurements to get the suit perfect.
But don’t get me wrong, I love dressing up. I got used to wearing suits very quickly. I have a perfect balance, I come in dressed like this [points to his casual attire], and I hang out for a while before they send me to wardrobe and then it’s a total transformation, as you’ll see. Everything from hair to make-up to clothing.
Do you have any favourite designers?
I do. I started wearing the line that I truly fell in love with, called Lab, under the umbrella of Pal Zileri. They are more hip, mod stye. I really enjoyed them, so I wore them for two years, and then Tip Top came along, which isn’t your grandfather’s suit line anymore. They have very cool suits, and one line that I loved wearing was Simon Carter. Now, I’m helping out my friend on College Street in Toronto. He has a small Italian shop called Pasqualino, and one line that he carries is called Cinque – it is one of my favourite lines that I wear these days.
You recently returned from a trip related to charity work. Can you tell us a bit more about your dedication to charity organizations?
Yes, I just got back from South America where I went with World Vision. This is the organization I’ve been working with since about 1996. They bring me around the world to where they have offices – my first trip was to Tanzania. They approached me to work on the solicitation tapes to get to schools and religious groups across the country. You see the images on TV of kids who are malnourished, and families who are struggling with drought, but to actually go there and see it first-hand was unbelievable. So I’ve gone on four trips with them since. Different locations, the last one was Ecuador and we were there working on their gift catalogues – these are catalogues where you can buy a cow, or a goat, medical supplies or clothing for a family. If you can buy a cow for a family, they will have it for the rest of their lives. And over its lifetime, a cow produces 20,000 litres of milk.
I’ve also done work for many other organizations. I don’t say “no” to many people because they are coming to me for help, and the least I can do is dedicate half a day to them. I love doing charity work. If an organization approaches me for help, it’s a flattering ask, and it’s an honour for me to be involved.
A photoshoot with Rick Campanelli
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