A fortnight ago, on a certain online bulletin board dedicated to gossip in the radio industry, came news that legendary Toronto shock jock Scruff Connors was dead.
It was entirely possible.
After all, the notoriously outrageous radio personality -- late of Mojo Radio (now AM-640 Toronto), and the Q-107 Morning Zoo before that -- had been diagnosed with advanced bladder cancer in late 2005, and had previously undergone a quadruple heart bypass to keep his hard-lived body on the green side of the grass.
He wasn't exactly the healthiest of specimens.
But news of his death, while it had the phones ringing off the hook at Corus Entertainment headquarters off Dundas Square, was also somewhat premature.
Scruff Connors is not dead yet.
Not only is he alive and (relatively) well, he is also richer by over $100,000 -- if, and when, he ever decides to cash in the winning Lotto 6/49 ticket that he carries around in the back pocket of his jeans.
There is a certain providence in this.
Shortly after the 55-year-old Connors was diagnosed with bladder cancer, he had a picture taken of himself lying in a casket, and then posted a proposition on eBay's auction block which he hoped would raise $100,000 U.S.
Instead he had to settle for the equivalent of $12 from a man living in England.
To his credit, though, Scruff Connors had managed to keep his sense of the absurd intact, even as his life was becoming a huge question mark.
Having been initially told that his cancer was "high grade and likely terminal," Connors downloaded his coffin picture onto the Internet -- "Scruff in a box," he called it -- and offered to do what "UPS, FedEx and Purolator cannot do."
He offered -- to the highest bidder -- to deliver a post-mortem message to the winning buyer's favourite departed loved one.
"This is a one-time offer," he wrote. "Act fast!"
Fast forward now to the first week of August. Scruff Connors, his cancerous bladder now exorcised, is heading to his summer trailer at the Ponderosa Campground near Mount Albert with his son, Tyler, 24, host of the afternoon drive show on Lindsay's BOB-FM.
They stop at a variety store in the village of Baldwin.
Scruff takes a wad of lottery tickets out of his wallet, and begins feeding them into the validation machine. He wins $5 for one, and a free play with another.
Then the screen announces, "Big winner!"
Scruff takes a quick glance at the lottery screen, turns to son Tyler and says, "Hey, I just won $101."
"Cool," says Tyler.
"But that's when everything shut down," says Scruff. "The machine, itself, locked down. The phone in the store rang, and it was an Ontario Lottery honcho on the line.
"I wasn't allowed to leave the store until I answered a bunch of questions. It was like I had robbed the place.
"But it wasn't $101 that I had won. It was $101 thousand -- which is a bit of a difference."
The winning amount, to be precise, was $101,042.10 -- with Scruff's ticket matching five numbers, plus the bonus, in the July 30 Lotto 6/49.
We meet at Hanc's Diner in Bowmanville, across from the apartment building where the Scruffer now lives.
He understands, of course, how he is not to be totally trusted, and so he brings both the winning ticket and the validation ticket just to appease the doubting Thomas.
His reputation, after all, demands it.
Back in 1989, for example, while morning man at CHTZ-FM in St. Catharines, he told listeners that he had arranged for the Mayflower to make its way to nearby Port Dalhousie in time for Thanksgiving, thereby giving 40 faithful listeners --all contest winners -- the chance to have Thanksgiving dinner on the very ship they presumed had brought the Pilgrims to America.
When they showed up at Port Dalhousie, however, what was waiting for them was a 53-foot Mayflower moving van.
"How was I supposed to know the Mayflower was a boat?" asked Connors.
And then there was the 1995 Super Bowl.
Then working at a station in Winnipeg, Connors offered 30 members of the "Good Listenership" a chance to go with him to watch the Super Bowl in Miami.
There were some 1,200 faxed entries.
Connors phoned each of the 30 winners and told them to meet him at the Winnipeg airport at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday and, according to him, they "showed up wearing sandals and Hawaiian shirts, all set for some fun and sun."
A jetliner sat on the tarmac, and the excitement among the contest winners was palpable.
Trouble was the plane was going nowhere, but the bus next to it was -- to Miami, Man., two hours down the road, and to the cramped setting of the Chatterbox Lounge, where the television was a 19-inch black-and-white tuned to the game.
Scruff Connors now agrees there are reasons to doubt his word.
Still, the $101,042.10 comes eerily close to the amount he was seeking with his "Scruff in a box."
Providence at work?
From the diner, he phones his banker at BMO and asks what it would cost to purchase $100,000 U.S.
On this day, the exchange rate is 1.0649.
"It would cost you $106,490," says the banker.
"Sorry," says Scruff, "but I'm a few grand short."
He laughs, and then he hangs up the phone.