Mark Elliot, born Nils Flemming Johanson, a former late-night talk radio host on radio station CFRB 1010 in Toronto and an addictions counsellor in private practice, died Jan. 11 at age 65, in St. Catharines from pneumonia. Earlier in his career, he was a popular disk jockey at Top 40 stations in various Canadian cities including Quebec City, Winnipeg, Ottawa, and Windsor, Ontario.
He will be remembered best as the Host/Creator of People Helping People, North America's first weekly Addiction Recovery Radio program beginning in 1994 in Windsor/Detroit on AM 800 CKLW. To all who knew him, and there were many, he will forever be remembered as an exceptional human being whose empathy for people seemed limitless, and for battling addictions, and scars suffered from childhood abuse to find some sanity and peace in his life with his outreach program.
Family and friends will be received on Tuesday, January 15, 11 am. through 1 pm at Hetherington & Deans Funeral Chapel; 5176 Victoria Ave. (905-354-5614), followed by a funeral service and interment at Fairview Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations made to Project Share, Niagara Falls or The Scott Mission, Toronto would be appreciated by the family.
Broadcast consultant Steve Kowch was Program Director at CFRB when Mark Elliot was at CFRB. Here’s what he had to say three days ago on the Kowch Media blog:
Remembering Toronto broadcaster Mark Elliot, champion on radio of drug addicts, alcoholics and people suffering from mental illness
From where I sit On The Kowch, I was very sad to hear that Mark Elliot, a champion on the radio of the addicted and alcoholics has died. He was a friend and one of my first hires when I became Program Director at CFRB Radio in Toronto. He was the host of People Helping People on weekends and hosted The Nightside overnights during the week. More times than not he had the Number One show in his timeslot on Toronto radio.
Mark (AKA Nils Johanson) understood the power of radio to reach out to people to entertain, inform and help them. I saw this firsthand as the PD at CFRB when we hired him to host People Helping People, a show that reached out to addicts, alcoholics or people with mental health issues.
His deep compassion for callers was rooted in his been there done that history of an abused gay teenager, alcoholic, drug addict and sufferer of depression. All this while being one of the top broadcasters in Ottawa.
By the time I worked with him at CFRB, he was established as the guy on the radio who helped people most of us would ignore if we crossed paths with them on the street. But not Mark (he’ll always be Mark Elliot to me) who would take their calls and give them a voice long before Bell Media’s annual Let’s Talk campaign. During the Christmas period he would be on air 14 days in a row taking calls from the lonely, the depressed and his stable of regular callers. For many of them, he was the only friend they had or the only person who cared. Mark treated them on air like family.
And while I may have thought Mark was a one trick pony broadcaster, I discovered he was more than that. When Toronto and most of Ontario was in the dark from a massive power failure, it was Mark Elliot who helped listeners stay calm, be informed and shared their stories on air.
Mark became my go to guy at night and weekends to host breaking news events. He co-hosted with Michael Coren an extraordinary and highly emotional radio town hall meeting on same sex marriage when the country was deciding to make it legal. Coren against and Mark in favour.
Mark helped CFRB win news awards with his coverage. But for him, that wasn’t why he was on the radio. He just wanted to help people. So much so, when CFRB wanted to cancel the show because of budget cuts, Mark did it for FREE until he could no longer afford to put gas in the car to drive in from his cheap Niagara apartment to host the show. Not being on the radio was killing him. I had supper with him and Jarrett one night last year and the sadness in his voice had replaced the optimism he always had when he was on the radio.
And then when it was time to sing happy birthday to Jarrett that night in the restaurant, his mood perked up and I could feel the love these two guys had for each other.
Click here to read comments on Toronto’s Southern Ontario/WNY Radio-TV Forum about Mark’s death.
From where I sit On The Kowch, my thanks to Jarrett for being there for Mark during the past 20 years. Your love was with him to the very end. My condolences to Jarrett and all who knew Mark and benefited from his kindness and compassion. RIP, my friend.
And Charles Adler interviewed Mark’s longtime friend Warren Crusader shortly following his death.
A trailblazing radio personality was one of the first to speak openly on air about mental health, and one of the first to speak openly about being gay on air. He’s passed away - and he’s our Greatest Canadian this week.
Guest: Warren Cosford - Veteran radio programmer and friend to Mark.