Howdy! Once upon a time, two lady broadcasters realized they weren’t really ladies, or even broadcasters anymore. So they became podcasters, and part-time cowgirls. Wendy and Mo talk about all the truly strange coincidences in their lives, how they came together, how naive they were thinking a podcast would be easy, and the trials and tribulations of finding, identifying and recruiting other women of ill repute. We also discuss how both our traditional careers came to an untimely end, and ponder the mystery of The Woman with No Pants. It’s all over the place, but so are we. Here’s how it started, and how it’s going.
The Women of Ill Repute with your hosts, Wendy Mesley and Maureen Holloway.
Once upon a Time.
Once upon a Time, there were two lady broadcasters.
Really? This is what you're doing?
All right. Once Upon A Time, there were two female cisgender media personalities of some renown, both of whom were banished from their kingdoms. Is that right?
Well, I don't know. Queendoms maybe?
Yeah. Well, no, actually, I would say in my case very much kingdoms, which is part of the problem. But I digress.
Well, I don't think we want to go there, but actually, CBC is very much a Queendom now. But anyway, let's go back to Once Upon a Time. Not too long ago, I approached you to do what I think every broadcaster is doing now and said, let's start a podcast.
You had the idea and you had the name and everything. And you said, come on, it's going to be easy. We're going to find all these amazing women and people who are kind of different and outliers, who are funny and cool and brave. And you said we get Cher and Jane Fonda and they're all going to want to talk to us. We're going to make tons of money and it's going to be so much fun.
Well, the fun part was right. I did say that.
In your defense, I said, sure, I agree. How hard could it be?
Well, I was even thinking that we would find a way of figuring out some way of categorizing Dolly Parton as a woman.
Right. And Katie Lang, she's still on your list.
How hard could it be? So anyway, it ended up being a little bit more challenging than we expected. And much as we have come to love each other as friends, we never really worked with anybody else this closely, with another sort of bossy person.
Well, certainly not with each other. And as we say, you're a serious, respected journalist and I'm a silly but still respected radio host. You're like Thelma to my Louise, Wendy.
Well, except I never got pregnant, so not really.
Okay. You're Wilma to my Betty.
Oh, I love Wilma. Maybe more like Cagney and Lacy, though. How about Cagney and Lacey?
Yes. Or Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift, but way older and not musical.
Anyway, so we had a couple of bumps. We even had an argument. Not on the air. But we wouldn't speak to each other for about an hour.
For a whole afternoon. For a whole afternoon we didn't speak to each other.
Meanwhile, we're madly writing emails. Oh, Maureen, I'm right and you're wrong. Or maybe I'm right. Or maybe you're right. Or I don't know.
It's so true. It's so true.
So everyone says that we should have those fights on the air. I don't know about that, but we only had one.
Well, it's early days Wendy. It could happen.
So we've come a long way, and I think we're ready to share the results to launch. But first of all, I think we want to take everybody back to our very first episode and our very first conversation, which we thought should be with each other.
We were so naive. We had dreams in our hearts. We had stars in our eyes. We had no idea.
Yeah. So you'll hear how it started. They call them prequels these days. So this is our prequel.
And then afterwards, we'll tell you how it's going.
Coming right up on Women of Ill Repute.
Maureen Holloway and Wendy Mesley are the women of Ill Repute.
I saw the weirdest thing the other day, and it has stuck with me, and I want your take on it. There's no answer to what happened, but I want to hear what you think about this woman. So I was walking the dogs about a couple of weeks ago. It was cold. It was before- There wasn't much snow, but it was cold. Definitely cold. And there was a woman walking along, an older woman, like, older than us. So very old. An old, decrepit woman.
Yeah, really old.
Walking along with a man that I would assume is her husband. And she had, like, a toque on and a ski jacket, and he was fully dressed, and she had no pants on, like none. She had panties. I hate that word. I hate the word panties. But she had those on and she had socks and shoes.
What was he wearing? Was he wearing pants?
No, he was fully dressed.
And he thought it was normal? Or maybe she thought she was on Zoom.
Well, I don't know what they- and this stuck in my mind because I kind of admired this. And she had great legs. The legs are the last to go, basically. But why was she doing that? And it could have been- I mean, whenever you talk about people being brave, the possibility of mental health issues come into play there. And I wonder if she had been by herself, we would have assumed that she had dementia or something, but because she was walking along with a man who appeared to be her husband and they were laughing and talking, I just assumed that this was her choice.
Back to the really important thing. Why do you hate the word panties? What are we supposed to say?
Do you like the word panties?
I don't know. I haven't heard the word panties for, like, decades.
Maybe it's just icky. Like underwear is no better either, but panties just sounds- I don't even know why.
Waisties are back in, I think.
Yeah, like the high ones and the-
They're still panties, they're just high waisted panties.
Are they? Nobody says panties anymore.
Well, I want you to stop saying it. I don't want to say anymore because I don't like the word. I want to get back to this woman with the great legs who wasn't wearing any pants. Okay, this is kind of what we mean by ill repute. Not so much- Not caring so much what people think about you and getting on with your own truth.
Yeah, well, that's how I was raised. My mum was very much a person who didn't give a damn what other people thought, and I thought that was really normal, but apparently it's not normal. So I think that's what I would like this podcast to be about. It's not about being able to say whatever the heck you want to say and hurt people willy nilly, but it's about being able to talk about things. And I think we should respect people who see the world a little bit sideways.
Do you care?
Yeah, I care. I'm an only child, so I thought I was great, but apparently I'm not perfect. So, yeah, I do care, but I probably don't care as much as other people raised in households where mothers didn't give a damn.
So without getting into this in too much detail, and I'm sure we will somewhere down the road. But what happened to you at the CBC after decades of working your butt off, and caring what people think, because that's part of the job, and you were turfed out unceremoniously, how has that affected how you feel about what other people think of you?
It's changed things a lot. Like I was- basically, George Floyd was murdered, and I used the N word in a show that I thought was about fighting racism. But I hurt people because I used the word. I would never, ever in a million years call somebody that or use it to hurt. That's not what this show is about. I hope that my career or that my life stands for something more than that moment. But, yeah, I think it's important for people to be able to talk about things and understand each other. So I've done a fair amount of thinking about that. But ultimately, I think I have more to offer than that one moment. What about you? You left your job at the same time, too.
Well, yeah. Within a year of you losing yours, I was out on my Lily white ass and-
Stop it. The circumstances were quite different. My time was not up. My partner disappeared, my on air partner without explanation. And instead of trying to rebuild a show, they let go of everybody, including me, and started looking for a new show behind our backs, essentially. And we didn't find out about it until the end of the year, and then- anyway. So I'm angry. But, I mean, there's also the fact that both you and I. Okay, I'll tell you. There was a woman who called the other day from cerebral palsy to collect clothes. She said, this is Maureen Holloway. I said, yes. She said, Are you the Maureen Holloway? I always tell story for anybody named Maureen Holloway, Wendy Mesley, who are not us who have been asked, Are you them? And they have to say no. But I said yes. And she said, didn't you used to be on the radio? And I said, well, yeah. And she said, well, you had a good run.
Yeah. So it's over now. So just go off to your little corner and be happy and just age gracefully.
You had a good run. And it's only when you put yourself out there like we have professionally that people feel that they have a right. I mean, God bless her. She's right. I had a good run. But they get to decide, well, you know what? You had a good run. You wouldn't say that to a doctor or a lawyer or anybody else.
I was once sitting in a restaurant and people at the very next table, they must have thought that I was a doll or some inanimate object because they started talking about me as if I wasn't there and I could hear them. They're going on and on about and I'm like, Hello, I'm here. Yeah. No, we're human, too. And I'm hoping that with you and some of the people that we're going to talk to, maybe- because they're all just lining up, all these famous people.
They will be. Some of them may not be famous, as long as they're interesting and brave and funny.
Yeah, well, I think being brave is important.
Being brave is important.
So I'm angry, too, but it made me think of- I interviewed Douglas Copeland once. He's the guy who did the, basically came up with the term Gen X, and he's an artist, and he's not very funny, but he's very talented. And he said something to describe himself and he said, what are you? And of course, at CBC, you're never supposed to say, well, I'm something. You're not supposed to have a personality or an opinion, let alone a sense of humor. And I broke all the rules. And I said, I am an angry optimist, and I think that is what I am like. I am angry about climate change and wage gaps and trolls on social media, authoritarianism. All of these things that you and I, Maureen, are going to solve on this podcast.
By being funny.
Well, yeah. So anyway, I don't think we'll solve the problems of the world, but yeah.
This is something- Samantha Bee is somebody who has turned her anger and her natural ability to be funny into a formidable tool. She's angry and funny, and she's actually in town. Maybe we can get her on the show.
Well, you know what? I've always had a crush on comedians. Maybe it explains our friendship. I had a show on CBC where I was able to interview all kinds of famous people, and I would always argue for comedians. They were terrible. They were absolutely terrible to interview because you'd say things like, okay, be funny now. And I wouldn't actually say that, but they weren't interested in a conversation or in questions. But I never gave up because I just-
Stand up comics are used to doing their material. It's tightly. They often call, I'm going to do a tight ten, like ten minutes and so on. It's a polished piece of performance for most of them. And you try to get them out of that and have a natural conversation. And it's not their comfort zone. Trust me. I've done shows with comedians, I've worked with comedians. They panic if they're not in their tight ten or whatever length the show is.
Yeah, so I'm hoping that we're going to get- not I don't know, not Hillary Clinton or Gloria Steinham. They're kind of cliche'd women, but yeah. And with sort of rough edges, but they're not hilarious. And we kind of know, too, what they're going to say. So I'm hoping that we can get people, even people in their twentys and thirtys, who are trying to make the world better to come on and be funny.
Tell me, who your first three dream guests? If you could just.
Cher. There was this great quote of her once of her saying that her mother had said to her, Cher, what you need to do is marry a rich man. And she said, Mom, I am a rich man. So I think she's kind of cool. I'm not sure how often she does interviews, but I'd love to talk to her.
I'm going to throw in- I'm going to tell you mine, and we'll go back and forth. Yeah.
Okay. Who's yours?
I'm not as lofty as Cher right now, but I'd love to talk to Marie Hainen.
I actually Googled her and I think it's Hannan.
All right, well, we'll figure that out. Okay. She was the lawyer, a very high powered defense lawyer who defended, amongst other people, Jian Ghomeshi, your former colleague. And she's taken a lot of flak for that. She was doing her job and she did it extremely well. Apparently, she's hilarious as well. You see, these things are not mutually exclusive. I'd like to talk to her.
Yeah, I'd love to talk to her. She wrote a book recently and I haven't read the whole thing. I just read bits of it quoted by other people where she said, you know what? I never get asked to talk about male work life balance all the time. And I've done it. Maybe you've done it, talked about female work life balance because the idea of a woman working was still a new concept until very recently anyway. And then she said, like, why did I do all of those speeches? After listening to her, I'm like, yeah, I'd love to talk to her. I hope she's listening. Maybe she'll come.
Maybe she will. If we build it, they will come. Alright, number two.
I would love to talk to Anna Kathyan. She's the one who does Red Scare, and I can't even remember the name of her co host. There are two Russian women who do this podcast, and it's so clever, and they piss people off all the time, which I think is necessary. I think it's part of being brave, you've got to piss somebody off. And sometimes you can even be wrong. But she goes for it. And so I'd love to have her on, and I'd love to. This person is very much a cliche, but Jane Fonda, she loves to party. She's not afraid of having done stuff over the years. I just think it would be fun. But, yeah, she's not lining up either at the moment.
No, I think we might have to start a little smaller. I would throw. I mentioned Samantha B. I would throw Fran Liebowitz in there.
I love Fran Liebowitz, but she doesn't.
Yeah, she's a woman of ill repute. She's funny, she's brave, she's smart. She does whatever the hell she wants. I think she should come on. And I need a third. Well, Maya Angelou is gone. I'd love to Serena Williams on. Oh, my God, I'd love to talk to Serena Williams.
Yeah, but you know it can't just be our wish list of who are great people that we'd love to talk to. They have to be like, I would love to talk to Dolly Parton, only she's an angel. Like, she's not a woman of ill repute. She has big boobs, but other than that, she's perfect. So they have to be people who have made you think about things in a different way other than, oh, my God, you're just so amazing.
Why was there this belief and there still is that women with big boobs have a higher sex drive? Like, seriously, where did that ever come from?
I didn't know that. I thought they just prompted lust in others.
Think about it. When you're growing up, boys were fascinated by the girls that had already grown breasts, and they just assumed, oh, well, you've got breasts and you're sexual and you'll do it.
Well, I think at a certain age, guys will do anything.
I've got one more person I'd like to have on, and then we're gonna take a break. The woman with no pants.
But she had panties.
Stop it! We'll be right back. Women of ill repute with Wendy Mesley and Maureen Holloway. We're still working out who the smart one is?
It's me. Me.
I can't argue with that.
You can't have all of it. You can't be the smart one, the funny one, and the pretty one. What does that leave me with?
Well, no, you can be pretty because it's a podcast.
They want to know, is this going to be some sort of feminist flag waving thing?
I don't think so. Obviously, we're feminists. My credentials are similar to yours. I broke ground and was the first woman in our parliamentary bureau to cover the Prime Minister. And I don't know, it was hard to break through, being told in the old days that women's voices weren't authoritative enough. But no, I mean, the flag waving, it's so boring. Like, who cares? I think we're in the fifth wave now of feminism. And I'm sure it'll be the last, Maureen. It'll be the last. Nothing will ever change.
I don't know, but it is sort of a dated concept. I think we just need- shouldn't everybody be a feminist? It's not just about women. It's just about people. I'm a people-ist is what I am, although it's harder for some than others. Let's talk a bit about how our lives have been. It's pretty bizarre.
Well, we kind of met through not, you know, we didn't meet online. We met through John Moore because he's like a longtime friend of yours, and he was on a panel that I did on CBC, and we kind of met and fell in love. It was weird.
Yeah. We did. Our paths crossed so many times before. So starting with my first job in media was I was a traffic reporter at the now defunct CKFM, which is Virgin 99.9 for you kids out there. And my predecessor was. And my boss, John McPherson, could not stop talking about her. Was Wendy Mesley. You went off. And at that point, I think, did you go straight to Quebec at that point to cover the legislature?
I worked at CKFM, also known as Virgin Radio now, which is, of course, why we were hired. I was actually at Ryerson, so I worked there part time, and I worked at Ryerson.
We didn't know each other there, but, yes, we both went to Ryerson. We both worked at CKFM, and we both did traffic.
It was kind of weird, though, because I went to Ryerson after my mother made me take an IQ test because I told her I wanted to be a journalist in grade 13, which is something that happened a bazillion years ago. She made me go to a psychiatrist because I wanted to be a journalist because my dad had been a journalist, and my dad was not in the picture until I was 18. Suddenly he came along. Suddenly I want to be a journalist. Off I go to Ryerson. And I loved it. It was so great. Only after three years there, you're supposed to get 32 credits. I failed my last course in my last year, and it was advanced reporting.
We're both Ryerson dropouts because I left Ryerson to take your job to be a traffic reporter at CKFM. So that happened. We both had breast cancer within a year of each other. I used you sitting across the waiting room at Princess Margaret because we both saw Doctor McCready and think, well, there's Wendy. I don't know why I never went over to talk to you, but I was intimidated.
I know, you should have come over. It was very very strange. I mean, you and I know that there's two kinds of cancer. There's a cancer that kills you, and we're still here. And there's the cancer that just sort of wrecks your life for a while. And it was very strange because, I don't know, everybody spoke in a way that was supposed to change your life, and you're supposed to be so grateful. But I didn't need breast cancer to teach me any lessons. And you kept going through the cancer. I did, too. I actually read the national news bald, had a wig and fake eyelashes stuck on by a makeup artist with a massive drinking problem. That was fun. But, yeah, here I come with the eyelashes. I'm going to stick them on your face. Oh, my God.
I know. I lost all the hair, like, ALL the hair, eyelashes, eyebrows. And I remember I was walking downtown. I had a long blonde wig, which I've never had long blonde hair in my life, but what the hell, right? Why not? And fake eyelashes, which were really hard to put on. And this prosthetic because I had a mastectomy. And for some reason, the prosthetic bra was huge. So here I am with long blonde hair and big boobs, and I'm walking down the street, I'm getting cat called at. And I'm like, thinking, if only you knew. If only you knew!
But that's all it takes. You buy those bits and you stick them on. Yeah. And then you're a better woman. People want you more. Not.
We lost our job of each other. We talked about that. Our mothers died within weeks of each other. And this is since we've been friends. This all happened to us just over a year ago.
Yeah, that was really weird. Although, you know what I'm thinking is that maybe this is harmful. Like all these bad things, whatever bad- I got to be careful. So never mind. That doesn't go anywhere. Yeah, it was pretty weird. My mom died. She raised me on her own. We were so close. She had dementia at the end, which kind of made things harder and easier. And then your mom died. It was really strange. We had so many eerie similarities.
Also famous for having short hair. It is funny. I remember asking you at dinner years ago, I said, what do you think people will remember you for? This is before you'd left CBC. And despite all the things that you've done, your incredibly illustrate accomplishments, you said, the hair. Because you're always Wendy Mesley. She's the one with the short hair.
Well, that was only after I had cancer. I was like, I didn't have the courage to cut it all off because it takes a long time to grow back. And then I was like, hey, this is better. But it's all about the hair, because that's all anyone ever comments about. When I used to have- I used to have my Barbara From perm, and I had long hair, and people always commented about my Barbara From hair. And then I got it cut, and that's all they talk about. While I was going through cancer, and then I was growing my hair back, I got an email from someone saying, Wendy, it's about the hair. Like, you might think that it's attractive, but it's really not. And you should look in the mirror. And I was like, oh, that's funny. I'll save that.
Wow, people are so- I'll share you a quick anecdote. I wish I could tell you who she is, but she's been visited with some unfortunate events herself. But I was at a mother's lunch at the kid's school and I was going through treatment- or no, I think I'd finished, my hair just growing back. So it was clearly not a choice. It was about a millimeter long and I wasn't wearing a wig at that point. I had big hoop earrings, a lot of makeup, kind of was making that rock. So I went to a mother's lunch and one of the mothers was sitting across from me and she started on this thing about her hair. She said hair is power. Hair for women is power. And I could not believe that she was proclaiming this when I was clearly sitting there with no hair. Anyway, terrible things happened to her later.
Yeah. No, I thought it was shoulder pads and then it was something else and now it's something else. So I don't know. I think power is really important, but I hope it's not shoulder pads or hair.
Unless you're Samson, it's not hair. That's what brought us together. And then here we are hoping to make a go of this podcast and get some other like minded people. They don't just have to be women, they can be men, they can be non gender specific.
I'm really hoping that we get some interesting people. There's so many women that I think it would just be nice. The two of us, I think, have sort of refused to have people tell us what the world should be. And there's so many other women and men and other humans who have opinions on how the world should be and aren't afraid to fight for that. So I think it would be really cool to talk to them. And I'm sure everyone will be lining up immediately and people will be throwing all kinds of money at us too, because sponsors would be good. So I'm not asking for too much. Anyway. I just think we should deal with issues that matter, with people that matter and have some fun.
Sounds good to me.
Thanks for listening to the women of Ill repute. For more, go to thewomenofillrepute.com.
So hey Mo, that's how it started.
We really- And I can't stress this enough. Well, I shouldn't say we had no idea what we were doing. I mean, we did. We're not complete nail fights when it comes to this, but we really had no idea what lay ahead.
Well, and we used to work with teams. Now we're on our own, and we didn't really know how difficult- great respect to the chasers. Oh my God- That it would be to get guests to chase guests, as it's known in the business. It's not so much that they don't want to come on, but getting in touch with them, a friend of a friend or instead, if you don't know them personally, you have to go through a PR person or a publicist or there's this whole wall of agents and managers and stuff. Oh, my God.
Yeah. And we were also and I can't stress this enough. We were under the impression that all of our guests would be super nice.
And they were. In the land of journalism, I thought they were really nice. But I guess when you're going after women who write books with bitch in the title, when you're chasing women of ill repute. Yeah.
There's a reason for the ill repute. And what was the word you used for a couple of them? Prickly. Yeah. No. Spiky.
Spiky. Oh, that's right.
You said spiky. Well, it's the same thing. Do you know what I also found, and hopefully our listeners will find this out as well, that they lectured us. We actually got schooled a couple of times by a couple of them.
Yeah, but I like to think that's because people are expecting an "interview" interview, and instead we're trying to have more conversations. So they weren't like hard landing questions about who had murdered who. It was never really like that. Anyway, some of them canceled on us, one at the last minute. Kind of broke our hearts.
I know that I was bummed out for days after that, because I love this particular woman and I still do. But apparently she doesn't love us. Anyway.
Yeah. And then we had a fight because we're both control freaks and we both thought we're in charge and we have to learn to share and we're learning.
Okay. I'm going to leave you with this theory I have, that every successful venture, be it a show or a party or a wedding or whatever, has at least one of these three things: an asshole, a scandal and a romance.
I sure hope I'm not the asshole. We didn't have any real assholes, did we?
No, we didn't. It's funny. You can't really call women assholes even though we have them.
We had some scandals, though.
We did, in real life and with our guests. And- Well, the thing i,s women of ill repute attract scandal, right?
So what about you? The third one? Where's the romance?
We're the romance. So here we go. This is our first episode down. Our next will feature. Can we say who is coming up next?
I think so. It's our podcast. You can say or do anything you want. That's why we're here.
Okay. Well, coming up, you talk with legendary comedian, writer director The Pride and Shame of St. John's, Newfoundland. Mary Walsh will be our first official guest. Yeah.
We're going to learn all about milltowns and rainbow blow jobs.
You know what? Wendy Mesley, he Changed the Women of Ill Repute with Wendy Mesley and Maureen Holloway, available on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google podcasts or at womenofillrepute.com.