Toronto Star

YTV’s most PG mo­ments

PJ ‘Fresh’ Phil Guer­rero was the elec­tronic babysit­ter for Cana­dian chil­dren in ’90s

- ED CON­ROY SPE­CIAL TO THE STAR

If you were a Cana­dian kid watch­ing TV in the 1990s, there’s a very good chance your child­hood was heav­ily in­flu­enced by the mad­cap an­tics of Phil Guer­rero, a.k.a. PJ “Fresh” Phil.

He was the host of YTV’s daily af­ter­school block of pro­gram­ming called “The Zone,” which broad­cast an eclec­tic mix of new and old: Adam West as Bat­man brushed up against Teenage Mu­tant Ninja Tur­tles, Power Rangers and black-and-white episodes of Den­nis the Men­ace.

PJ Phil was the coun­try’s elec­tronic babysit­ter from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., broad­cast­ing live from the then bar­ren waste­land of Lib­erty Vil­lage.

Guer­rero now hosts The Vel­vet Ro­pe­line, a web se­ries for Ses­sionsX.com (fate­fully also based out of the now thriv­ing Lib­erty Vil­lage), and re­cently took some time to share mem­o­ries of the more con­tro­ver­sial times dur­ing his reign as the coolest older “TV brother” Cana­dian kids ever had. Pick­ing a name “When I started, it was a thing for the ‘pro­gram jock­eys.’ PJ Jan had a name (‘Jazzy’), there was Gord the PJ ‘Man,’ and PJ ‘Rockin’ Chan. They all got to choose their names. I sug­gested for me, they turn it into an on-air con­test for kids to pick one. I liked PJ ‘Kickin’ Phil the best, but that was voted down be­cause it was too vi­o­lent. This was like 1990, so the ’80s weren’t too far back in the rearview mir­ror and Toronto was still a very religious town. That’s when I re­al­ized, OK, this is a bit of a re­spon­si­bil­ity. There were only, like, 25 chan­nels and I was rep­re­sent­ing the first kids’ net­work.” Power Rangers “In 1994, YTV pulled the plug (on Power Rangers) af­ter so many com­plaints . . . I was told to not make a big deal about the show on ‘The Zone,’ which was hard be­cause it was the most pop­u­lar show we had at the time, but they still took it off. That would never hap­pen now in a mil­lion years.” Pogs “Pogs was this harm­less, Hawai­ian kid’s game which was ac­cused of turn­ing kids into crazy gam­blers be­cause you would win what you shoot. You know, the kids in the school­yards are gam­bling at re­cess. And some peo­ple sug­gested that once kids were into gam­bling, al­co­hol and sex ad­dic­tion would fol­low. You know, some 12-year-old kid is into Pogs and next thing he’s gonna be out cruis­ing for pros­ti­tutes? It was ridicu­lous.” Beast Wars “Our VP of pro­gram­ming at YTV, Dale Tay­lor, had to come up with a new name for this car­toon Trans­form­ers: Beast Wars, so it was turned into Beast­ies, be­cause Beast­ies are cute. Can’t be us­ing the word “Wars,” right? So all the prob­lems would go away if we called it Beast­ies. I don’t know why no one pointed out that Star Wars didn’t turn a gen­er­a­tion of kids into war­mon­gers. And that was in 1977!” Sub­ver­sive hu­mour “Me and Snit (Phil’s berserk made-of-gum ro­bot side­kick) used to make com­ments about some of the drug ref­er­ences in things like the old ’60s an­i­mated Spi­der-Man.

“It’s kinda funny ac­tu­ally, but I made jokes on air back then that the kids watch­ing at the time would only un­der­stand now. It’s like the punch­line comes 25 years later.” Colour­ful lan­guage “YTV hosted a live event called ‘Fes­ti­val of Friends’ at Won­der­land, with lots of big name kids’ en­ter­tain­ment guests. And we had to sing this song, so me and the other PJs were re­hears­ing it in our trailer, but I was goof­ing around, mak­ing the words dirty, you know.

“Then there is a knock at the door and a voice says, ‘Hello, it’s Shari Lewis next door and Lamb Chop can hear you!’ It was dur­ing my N.W.A phase in 1991 when I wore a Raiders hat.” YTV achieve­ment awards “It was kind of like YTV’s Os­cars, all hands on deck and all the crews work­ing to­gether. Ev­ery year, all th­ese kids across Canada get­ting rec­og­nized on TV for their hard work. And we broke a lot of stars out of that thing — Jim Car­rey, the Bare­naked Ladies, DJ A-Trak, Te­gan and Sara, Estella War­ren . . . It was beau­ti­ful. It should come back. Who does stuff like that any­more?”

 ?? PIER­RETTE MASIMANGO/SES­SIONSX ?? Phil Guer­rero, a.k.a. PJ “Fresh” Phil, was the host of “The Zone” on YTV in the ’90s. He now hosts The Vel­vet Ro­pe­line web se­ries from Ses­sionsX.com.
PIER­RETTE MASIMANGO/SES­SIONSX Phil Guer­rero, a.k.a. PJ “Fresh” Phil, was the host of “The Zone” on YTV in the ’90s. He now hosts The Vel­vet Ro­pe­line web se­ries from Ses­sionsX.com.

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