This piece was created as part of a fundraising campaign for an ongoing multimedia project. This is not a fictional creation in and of itself, but rather an account of a real interview that took place with a fictional character. The people reported as being there, were actually there, in the actual places mentioned. The parameters of Conor Blaine’s character, from his accomplishments to his quirks, are already well established, but the dialogue here was improvised: while we each had time to prepare, we were unaware of each other’s preparations / questions, which created a unique authenticity in our interactions. And that’s how I spent a real afternoon with a fictional character…

It seemed appropriate that the night before my scheduled interview with Conor Blaine, I was up irresponsibly late drinking vodka Monsters and binge watching reality TV. While the magnitude of the event should’ve had me in bed early with outfit prepped and alarm set, it was the combination of nerves and excitement that kept me up. My better judgement warned that I would fundamentally regret my choices, but there was comfort to be found in knowing that Conor himself would approve of the use of time…and that he hates sleep.

I arrive at Else’s right on time, and even though it’s just opening, it appears Conor’s been there for a bit. He’s tucked away at a table in the back of the empty dining room, finishing up a phone call as I approach.

As much as I’m glad to see him in the flesh, he’s downright surprised to see me. I found out in short order that he wasn’t aware of our scheduled meeting, but he was a good sport about it.

I introduce myself, telling him I’m there for our interview.

“Aren’t you lucky?” he quips with a smile, and while it’s definitely arrogance, I find it rather charming coming from him.

We cover a few quick points on who I am, and how I got this meeting (his manager Margot set it up without consulting him, a fact that doesn’t appear to surprise him). He’s wearing black boots with black shorts, black heart shaped sunglasses (yes, inside), and a white tuque under his hood. His black hoodie is emblazoned with “Peg the Patriarchy” in pink, and I compliment it, which turns out to be a good opening.

“It’s a Luna Matatas design. Cara Delevigne swiped it for the Met Gala in 2021. Never gave her credit. But she knew who originally created it. It was with intention. Dumb broad. Luna is great, she’s a sex educator, primarily.”

And we’re off to the races.

Anyone who follows Conor on Twitter knows of his penchant for live tweeting 90 Day Fiance, but scattered amid those are gems that highlight his familiarity with the Real Housewives universe, where I’m hoping to connect with him.

“Fuck marry kill, all the Housewives.”

“Kill. Next question.”

Laughing, it takes me a moment to gather myself. I ask him what it is that keeps drawing him back to Montreal. He could be anywhere else, and yet he flies back here whenever he has a spare weekend.

“I love Montreal, truly. It’s a big city, but people don’t give a fuck about fame here. I can just live, you know? Whether it’s arrogance or respect, the Quebecois understand.”

I ask how long he and his husband Raphael have been together, hoping to skip some steps toward intimacy, and get closer to the subjects that matter most to his heart.

“Two years. Probably two years…I think it was two years. It was in the third season. Two years,” he says definitively. “Everybody always wants to know about Raph.”

“Well,” I say. “It’s kind of relationship goals, you know? You guys seem so happy.”

“Don’t we? Aren’t we?”

And that’s when things got interesting.

We were interrupted by local author and YouTuber Holly Rhiannon, ring light in hand, camera gals in tow, already filming.

It took a moment to straighten everything out; in the end we determined that Margot had double booked the time slot. Holly was the apparent winner of lunch with Conor thanks to an online contest.

“I’m sure you got a heads up about this,” she said.

“I’ve had no heads up about anything. I should be doing something much different than this right now.”

She seemed more curious content creator than enamoured fangirl, and it was clear that she’d entered the contest ironically. Still, neither one of us was going to get the exclusive one-on-one time with the star that we were promised, and we’d have to make do.

Once everyone settled in and drinks had been ordered (gin and tonic for Conor, of course), he asks us each what we thought about Margot. Unsure what he’s after, I tell him the truth, that she was nice enough, and Holly shrugs that she was “great”.

“I don’t think either of you have met her.”

Changing gears, he tells Holly that I’ve been asking some questions, and she says she has questions as well.

“You know how I love doing interviews!” he grins, and while Holly may not realize it, I know he’s being facetious: he likes few things less. “What kind of questions do you have? Are they personal?”

“Some of them might be. I actually don’t know too much about you.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard that in my life.”

“Well, I’m not big on celebrity,” she says.

“Not big on celebrity!” he parrots, incredulous.

Trying to get back on track, I ask him how he and Raph manage to keep things spicy considering how much time they spend apart.

He hesitates, looking for the first time at a loss for words, and just as he begins to speak, Holly interjects, saying that she’s more interested in his new Twitter account.

“One thing that I knew about you before is that you weren’t into social media, and then I saw this Twitter account pop up, and you don’t stop tweeting.”

“I was told that it was time to finally get Twitter and the only reason I’ve never had a Twitter account is because I didn’t want to get canceled.”

I ask who it was who did the telling.

“Margot; the one who tells me everything. But I decided I would do it my way. I’ve been trying a few things out; there was that whole issue with Garcelle Beauvais.”

Holly wonders out loud which reality show she’s from before starting that she’s never seen someone so into reality TV.

“Let me be clear to all the cameras involved. I do not like reality television. But I do enjoy 90 Day Fiance. It’s a brilliant socio-anthropological study on the desperation of ugly people, specifically Americans.” He pauses here and looks my way. “Your turn.”

I’m ill prepared for a tag team interview. It’s obvious that we’re coming at this from very different directions, which is a shame because I imagine that had we conspired, we might’ve been a force to be reckoned with.

I try to get back to him and Raph, and how they manage to keep things fresh from a distance.

“I mean, I guess we don’t.”

Which makes me wonder if they have an open relationship…

“No. No, not that I’m aware of.”

Holly asks about his high school experience, and if he had a nemesis.

“My mother [Lilith Blaine]. I was homeschooled, so she was probably — definitely my biggest bully. Like I’ve said, there was nothing about growing up in my house that was normal.”

Asked what would happen if he forgot Mother’s Day, Conor answers with stark honesty.

“I don’t think anyone would’ve noticed. I mean, in the age range when it was apropos to give my mother a card for instance, she was drinking heavily then. You know, she doesn’t like Sundays; or brunch. You know, we share that.”

Now that Lilith has been mentioned, it’s as if a curse has been broken, and I feel free to tell him that I’ve read all her books. As he nods deadpan, I realize how often he must hear it, and regret mentioning it.

“It’s about time I write one of my own,” he says, and I ask what it would be called. “Valuable and Vulnerable.” He has it on the tip of his tongue, and maybe he really has been giving this some thought.

While it’s hard to imagine being as famous as Conor Blaine, it’s also hard to imagine the fact that he’s never known another life. His lineage made him famous before his mother ever began to play stage mom. As much as it might appear enviable from the outside, I wonder if he ever wishes he could give it up and be someone else for a while.

“Absolutely. I’m always looking for a little bit of anonymity. It’s what I was saying about Montreal; a little bit of that anonymity is refreshing.”

At this point, Holly and her team make some adjustments to the lighting, tinkering with the angles. One of the crew says she’s read up on him, and asks about his friendship with Lindsey Lohan. I hold my breath: she is one of the subjects on the list I received of things not to discuss.

“Lindsay and I are not friends. She knows why. And she still owes me 20 bucks.”

In an attempt to get things back on my agenda, I ask about the much awaited film version of Son of Mine. It feels like it’s been in the works forever, and he tells me that they are finally in post production, with a trailer expected in November. While much of the cast has been released, we still don’t know who’s playing Conor, and I tried to get it out of him.

“We’ve got a bunch of children that play me through the years.”

While he’s a producer, he downplays his involvement with the project.

“I just paid for it. I knew it’d be a hit. It will be a hit. There’s not much I could do to improve upon it. I mean, you read the book; it’s fantastic. I’m on every page.”

In a flash, Conor deflates. He looks out the window and rolls his eyes.

“You know, I’m done here. If you guys want to ask more questions, you’re going to have to come with me.”

Holly says that she’ll definitely go along, as she was told she’d have four hours with him. Conor’s eyebrows raise at the time allotted, shooting above the frames of his glasses. Personally, there’s no way I would miss out on the opportunity, so I pack up my notebook and follow.

Conor Blaine’s a fast walker. I get the impression he’s trying to create distance, that this is the unseen interlude between cut scenes and he’s just trying to get it over with. He chain smokes and talks on his phone. The only thing he says to us, is that “it’s not far”.

We arrive at Bifteck just before 2pm. The back of the bar is in dusky shadows, the pool tables spotlighted; we wouldn’t notice the sunset if we stayed there all night. We have the place to ourselves, and Conor moves around comfortably. He tells us he used to spend a lot of time here, right around this time of day, and then into the wee hours. Again, it provided anonymity, privacy, a shelter of sorts. One can imagine that as the night goes on and people first trickle, then crowd into the popular St. Laurent dive, that the regulars would take his presence for granted, and those caught off guard would talk amongst themselves. Still, it would be hard to speak to him directly without at least trying to best him at the pool table.

Today is no different; he tells us we can only ask questions while we shoot. He lists off a bunch of rules before noticing Holly and I staring at him blankly, and then tells us to just give it a go.

I’m immediately aware of how much better I was at this game an undisclosed number of years ago, but thankfully Holly’s on par with me and we team up.

I figure it’s now or never, so I delve into the more sensitive questions. Margot had sent me a list of things not to mention, and I ask him why she didn’t just send over a typical list of talking points instead. I’ve personally never received a list of topics not to touch upon.

He’s caught off guard, and asks me what I’m talking about, which flusters me, and before I can muster anything, Holly pulls a printed page from her notebook, unfolds it, and hands it to Conor. He looks over the list, half a smile, the mischievous sparkle in his eye reminiscent of his younger self. He points to things at random:

“Well, this makes sense…I don’t know why she thought this was off limits…Lindsay Lohan does know why, I already said that, so it’s a direct quote.”

Blaine Defense Systems, funny enough, is not on the list. So taboo that it was omitted, Conor’s consistently maintained that he didn’t own the military weapons manufacturer that is the other part of his family legacy, and the media has treated the matter as settled, preferring not to rock the boat by pressing the matter. Recently however, the company was sold to Russian investors for a whopping $900 000 000. Sold in whole by none other than Conor Blaine.

“I don’t judge people like that,” is all he says on the subject of the buyers. “I inherited it when my grandfather died. It skipped my mother for obvious reasons.” He doesn’t have to specify that it’s because she’s a woman; the older generations of his prominent ancestry are notoriously old school conservative, to put it kindly.

As to where these new found profits might go, he says he’s passionate about food security. “I believe that everybody should have access to good, healthy food. I don’t think it’s right that we as a society lock food up. There are even food deserts in Montreal.”

He asks for more questions as he clears the table. Holly and I are not improving at the game, but we are getting better at working together, and we confer with each other, notebooks in hand.

I reluctantly admit we’re out; he nods, and finishes his drink.

As her team packs up, Holly and I debate another round, and another game too as we obviously need the practice. I turn to see if Conor will give us some pointers, and he’s nowhere to be found. He’d made a quiet escape, slipping out of the bar and into the comforting anonymity of a mid afternoon Montreal main street. An awkward ending, but a graceful one too; certainly an unforgettable way to end my already memorable afternoon with Conor Blaine.

Pre-Launch Peaks & Perks

Fundraiser!

Holly Rhiannon has had an affinity for the paranormal since she was a kid growing up in Winnipeg. She lived in a series of old homes, one of which her and her mother noticed had an unexplained window when seen from the outside.

“We realized that it was behind the closet,” she said in a phone interview, “so we had a party, and we had people guess what was going to be back there. And we broke down the back wall of this closet and revealed a whole secret room. It was very cool. And especially me as an eight year old, thought this is so exciting. We didn’t find anything like a corpse in there, which I think I was kind of hoping for. I was hoping for bones or treasure or something like that. It had an energy to it, and that third floor maintained that weird energy.”

Rhiannon also mentioned that her and her mother (her father was a “paranormal dampener”) frequently heard marbles rolling across the third floor from downstairs.

“We had someone come over once who was very in tune with the paranormal. And she told us that there was an old woman in a rocking chair who liked to sit in that room. And we also found out later on that there was a death of a young boy who we think may have been the one rolling the marbles around.”

When she arrived in Montreal six years ago, she went on the various ghost tours Haunted Montreal has to offer.

“I absolutely loved them. It was just right up my alley. And then during COVID, I started doing YouTube with my writing because I’m an author. And once I had that skill sort of under my belt, I thought this would be an amazing way to collaborate with Haunted Montreal.”

Rhiannon proposed a series of video ghost stories based on the company’s blogs to Haunted Montreal founder Donovan King. As anything officially released by the company needs to be bilingual, she enlisted her friend Marc Andre, known as Dr. Mab, to host the French videos.

The pair have started from the earliest blog entries (in 2015) and are working their way forward in time, but Rhiannon isn’t skipping ahead too much.

“I’m reading as I go because I’m one of those people who had gone through maybe the first few. And then I got a lot of the stories from the tours because I’ve been on all of them twice now, and I kind of didn’t want to spoil them at first because I know that some of the tour content is in the blogs as well. And now I’m actually coming across some of that…So I’m getting a chance to go through absolutely everything now, and it’s been really great.”

Here’s the most recent video:

Haunted Montreal’s Video Ghost Stories are available in English and French every Saturday on Haunted Montreal’s YouTube channel

Haunted Montreal’s 2022 season of in-person ghost tours has begun, check out HauntedMontreal.com for more

FULL DISCLOSURE: The author of this post also works as a tour guide for Haunted Montreal