Sitting crossed-legged on a Ferrari-red ultrasuede sofa in his well-appointed townhouse, wearing a sports hoodie of the same hue, he speaks about the impact his Italian background has had on his personal and professional personae. Off air, without the assistance of studio wizardry, his voice still booms loud. And it’s the same voice, along with his groove for classic rock, a deeprooted desire to communicate with a public audience, and the need to “give back” to the community, that has taken him, since 1978, through various radio formats – CBC, CITI FM, CHOM FM, The Mix, CJAD, Q107 – to the coveted chair as CHOM’s Mornings Rock show’s dial-rocking ‘Morning Man’.
Waving his hands to emphasize key points, he reveals that he’s just as animated behind the studio mic, and attributes his tendency to gesticulate to his Italian origins. Though he doesn’t speak Italian, he punctuates several statements with an enthusiastic “bene!’” – which comes out “beneee” – in the same anglicized accent in which he calls himself, “DiMonteee”.
Asked if he’s ever faced any prejudice in his career because of his Italian roots, the 54 year-old DiMonte explains how that may have been a problem in the ’30s and ’40s, but not for his generation. He admits that since he’s not generally thought of as “ethnic”, it’s not a personal issue, and he hasn’t witnessed any fellow industry players of ethnic background struggling for equality. He adds that an ethnic bent has actually become “an asset”, after a macrocosmic cultural shift in the ’80s.
Beneath his casual, unassuming demeanor, he is a self-proclaimed stickler for good old-fashioned manners and mores associated with quainter times. His friendly blue eyes turn serious when he talks about the core values governing his work ethic, largely accredited to his Italian side: self-discipline, respect, and honesty. DiMonte is careful to underline that both sides of his family forged his sense of decency, but his Italian grandparents showed zero tolerance for any etiquette lapse. “They were like ‘HEY!’”, he laughs, flapping his hand to mock a slap.
An audience of 100,000 loyal listeners attests to DiMonte’s ability to connect with each one singularly. “It’s a craft,” he affirms. “You’ll never catch me saying ‘you all.’ I’ll always say ‘you’.” To ensure on-going dialog with his followers off-air, he turns to Facebook and Twitter. Acknowledging that social media has revolutionized mass communication, he warns of the thorniness an open forum can pose. “Some people are abusive,” he says. Confident to the point where he can shrug off gratuitous negativity, he feels for more junior colleagues, who haven’t yet developed the thick skin to dismiss esteemrattling remarks.
DiMonte’s hometown of Montreal is a cultural tapestry and he speaks to each thread of it, but his personal sense of culture has been attuned by a series of pleasure trips to Italy. It was at the piazza in his beloved late grandmother’s birthplace of Caserta, surrounded by an idyllic backdrop of olive groves and mountains, that he became overwhelmed by a sense of his Italian heritage. His strong voice softening with sentiment, he says, “I got a little teary-eyed and thought, this is who I am; this is where I come from.”