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"PEZ" 2006 Obituary


PEZACKI o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2006-05-23 published
PEZACKI, Anna Maria
Passed away while visiting relatives in Poland, on Tuesday, May 16, 2006 at the age of 63. Beloved wife of the late Edmund WEST. Loving mother of John PEZACKI and his wife Natalie of Ottawa. Dear grandmother of Aidan. Survived by her mother Adela BIERNACKA of Toronto, brothers Wojtek and Andrew BIERNACKI and sister Elizabeth KIDYBINSKI. Dear aunt of Chris and David KIDYBINSKI. A Service of Remembrance will be held at the Turner and Porter Funeral Home, 436 Roncesvalles Avenue (at Howard Park), on Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 6 p.m. with visiting beginning at 5 p.m. For those who wish, donations may be made to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario.

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PEZARO o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2006-10-23 published
Gino EMPRY, Agent And Publicist (1925-2006)
Brassy Toronto impresario with a 1,000-name roster of show-biz clients was, deep down, a shy guy with a heart of gold, and a regular churchgoer
Special to The Globe and Mail; Globe and Mail archives, Page S8
Toronto -- He spent one night with Pearl Bailey while the singer talked about the sex life of a pomegranate until 3 a.m.
Marlene Dietrich gave him a wallet with blank cards inside after spying him fishing around in his pockets for something to scribble on. "You must always be chic," she cooed.
Tony Bennett once fixed him with a stare and asked menacingly, "What the hell is that supposed to mean? Are you making fun of me?"
Phyllis Diller once sent him $500 to help pay for a nose job. On the other hand, buxom Jane Russell took one look at that generous schnozz and pronounced it "big enough to fit my cleavage."
Welcome to Gino EMPRY's world.
Talent agent, impresario, boulevardier and flack-turned-friend to dozens -- no darling, make that hundreds -- of stars, Mr. EMPRY was a throwback to an era when Public Relations men such as Irving "Swifty" Lazar bent the ears of such make'em-or-break'em celebrity scribes as Walter Winchell and Hedda Hopper.
For over 40 years, Mr. EMPRY was a show-biz fixture in Toronto, booking the talent at the fabled Imperial Room in the Royal York Hotel, hyping his stable to pretty much anyone who listened, befriending cops, doormen, tough guys and starving artists. Dubbed the father of celebrity publicity in Canada, it's probably no exaggeration to say he rubbed shoulders with every famous name in, well, the Western Hemisphere.
His 1,000-name roster of clients included, at various times, Mr. Bennett, Peggy Lee, Deborah Kerr, Cher, Jack Lemmon, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Hope, Eartha Kitt, Peter O'Toole and, closer to home, Ronnie Hawkins, William Hutt, Karen Kain, Anne Murray and Roch Voisine. The only person he regretted not having worked with was Clark Gable. "But he's dead," Mr. EMPRY once observed. "Otherwise, I've met all the others."
His forte was the personal touch. "He and I hit it off quite well," recalled Ms. Murray. "He was always so flamboyant and we always had good laughs. He used to say to me, 'when are we gonna have dinner?' And, of course, we never had dinner. But every year he sent me a Christmas card -- every single year since 1971 -- and he handwrote on every one, 'when are we gonna have dinner?' "
It was a God-given gift, he told The Globe and Mail in a 1996 spread. "That's why stars trust me and why they have done things for me that they wouldn't do for other people."
Like the time he talked British singer Petula Clark into taking over a laryngitis-stricken Mr. Bennett's Toronto gig on one day's notice. Or when the Toronto police force "begged" Mr. EMPRY to get Hal Linden, then television's Captain Barney Miller, to appear at one of their bashes. "He said yes to me, and I guess that's partly why I have half the police force as my Friends," Mr. EMPRY recalled with satisfaction. "I just looove policemen."
And they loved him back. At his legendary parties, whether at the Royal York or at his knick-knack-filled, white-carpeted, shagadelic downtown pad, "half the Toronto police was there, and that's one reason he could park anywhere at any time, no questions asked," recalled Mary JOLLIFFE, who served as the Stratford Festival's first communications director. "He never paid a parking ticket -- ever," confirmed Helga STEPHENSON, a Toronto film promoter.
Mr. EMPRY was a character in a character's world. "People tell me, 'Gino, you don't walk into a room, you make an appearance.' " It was a trick he learned from Bernadette Peters. "She told me once, 'Gino, do you know how you get the best table in a restaurant? You walk to the front of the line and look imperious.' "
The look came naturally. The family name was EMPERATORE, from the Italian imperatore, meaning emperor or commander, or, to Mr. EMPRY, of the Caesars. "And my police Friends tell me I am like a Caesar, always ordering people around."
It was an unlikely trait for a pallid, elfin guy, barely 5 feet 6 inches (when not wearing his favourite two-inch heels), a Kim Jong-il-style bouffant 'do, silk ascot, and jewellery -- lots of it, as befitting someone with such distinguished roots. Around his neck was a multicoloured ammolite pendant -- a gift, he said, from Ella Fitzgerald. The heavy gold bracelet was from Tony Bennett, the Mickey Mouse watch from Kay Ballard, the diamond pinky ring from Glenda Jackson, and the goldfish charm from Lena Horne. A chunky signet ring flashed the family coat of arms: a star and a half-moon topped by a chivalric helmet, anchored by the banner, "Emperatore." This bit of heraldry also adorned Mr. EMPRY's gold-embossed business cards.
At his zenith, he managed Mr. Bennett worldwide for a dozen years, but not Robert Goulet, as has been reported. "Gino and I were Friends," said Mr. Goulet on the phone. "He did Public Relations for me in Canada. We loved him dearly." And then, he popped the most hotly debated question about Mr. EMPRY: " How old was he?" Told an estimate, Mr. Goulet seemed shocked. "Holy mackerel! He never looked it."
Like Jack Benny plus a decade, Mr. EMPRY was eternally 49. "I'm not vain," he insisted. "I just go to great lengths to look better than I am." He would say, with a straight face, that he was born in 1949, though biographical material says he graduated from the University of Toronto in 1961 at what would have been the precocious age of 12 (one unconvinced wag quipped that Mr. EMPRY "seems to have represented everyone from Sir Wilfrid Laurier to Ella Fitzgerald"). He was also coy about his credentials those close to him say he had been a bona fide chartered accountant.
One thing that might surprise people who couldn't see beyond the glitz -- Mr. EMPRY was, deep down, a shy guy with a heart of gold, and a regular churchgoer to boot.
"Everybody's talking about what a character he was and all the stars he dealt with, but nobody has said how helpful he was to a lot of unknowns... all the small companies starting out," said Sylvia SHAWN, who was Mr. EMPRY's partner for 20 years. "Whoever asked for help, got it."
And it was a long list: the Actors Fund of Canada, the Canadian Cancer Society, DareArts, Easter Seals, the Ontario Musical Arts Centre, juvenile diabetes, Israel Bonds and the Variety Club of Ontario, to name a few. In 1993, he received the city of Toronto's highest honour, the Award of Merit, and three years later, was guest of honour at a tribute from Famous People Players, the renowned black-light theatre company, one of his favourite causes.
Long-time Imperial Room maitre d' Louis JANNETTA, famous for refusing Bob Dylan entrance because the singer wasn't wearing a tie, recalled Mr. EMPRY's creation of "Gypsy nights" -- when the cover charge was dropped at the venue for young theatre unknowns.
"We allowed all the [local] theatres -- the Limelight, the Mousetrap, Second City -- to come for the late show on Thursdays of opening week without a cover charge." A lot of young artists came, John Candy among them, and to Mr. JANNETTA's consternation, their dress was not up to the room's formal standards. "I provided jackets for them," he noted. Mr. EMPRY "was a genius in his own right."
The eldest of nine children, Gino was the son of Arturo EMPERATORE, who came to Canada from a rural region outside Rome, and Lucy FLAMMINIO of Toronto, who was 15 when she gave birth to him. The couple ran a small grocery store and butcher shop, where the young Gino cut off the top of two of his fingers in a meat-slicing machine.
Mr. EMPRY remembered being "wretchedly poor. We had to count our pennies. In the Italian ghetto, there were gangsters and rough types. I used to get beat up because I liked school. I remember my mother telling me, 'There's more than one way to fight a battle. Use your tongue.' So I learned to use my mouth which is very useful in my business!"
He developed a love of the theatre while at Saint Mary of the Angels Separate School in Toronto. He acted with Catholic youth groups before joining an all-boys acting ensemble at Saint Michael's College. "I played Portia and Juliet because I was small."
He had an uneasy relationship with his parents and left home early. His father was distant at best. "My father was a wonderful man, but very shy, and never a father figure to me. So I kept looking for strong men to give me what I felt I needed -- authority. Being of Caesarean heritage… I'm both a gladiator and a slave. I'm a slave to my work and I'm a perfectionist. I insist on things being done right. There are no loose ends with me."
His first job was as a night auditor for a trucking company. Later, he worked as a systems analyst for a transportation firm, while appearing in some 50 amateur theatre productions, including what he'd refer to as his best performance -- in Teahouse of the August Moon. But he yearned for more, and plunked down $2,000 for a career consultant, who advised him to take two years to get a toehold in entertainment. Mr. EMPRY wrote hundreds of letters to radio producers, theatre owners -- anyone who might give him a break.
It happened in 1964, when the contacts he'd made at the Ontario Drama League led him to Ed MIRVISH of Honest Ed's discount store fame. Mr. MIRVISH needed a boost for his recently purchased Royal Alexander Theatre. To compete, it had to draw the big names away from the rival O'Keefe Centre, and Mr. EMPRY was hired. Emboldened, he formed his own booking and public-relations agency. "I started at the top," he said later. "You couldn't get any better than the Royal Alex at the time. I got $100 a week." Things only improved when the Irish Rovers signed him as their international publicist.
In 1970, he became entertainment director/Public Relations consultant for the 500-seat Imperial Room, then the country's top nightclub. In addition to A-list celebs, he booked female impersonators and Las-Vegas-style revues. Mr. Bennett, among the top acts, insisted on the same suite at the Royal York, one that faced east fronting the gilded Royal Bank Tower (the crooner's paintings adorned the walls of Mr. EMPRY's condo.) Count Basie was "the very essence of cool." Raquel Welch was "pretty, but not glamorous." Mr. EMPRY and dancer Cyd Charisse used "to sit for hours talking about everything under the sun… I never got tired of looking at those incredible legs."
The Imperial Room closed in 1989 and in 1991, Mr. EMPRY was abruptly dismissed from the MIRVISH account by Honest Ed's son, David.
He soldiered on with corporate shilling, including for Playboy magazine in Canada. Three years ago, he couldn't have bought juicier publicity than when he orchestrated a handshake and chit-chat between Aline Chrétien, prim wife of the then-prime-minister, and Tailor James, a well-endowed Toronto-born Playmate of the Month. Organizers of the charity event were miffed, but it got tongues wagging. The news media took note, but dismissed it as "a tempest in a D cup."
More recently, Mr. EMPRY farmed himself out, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, as "the Happiness Guru" ($100 for a one-hour session), inspired by sultry singer Peggy Lee, who referred to Mr. EMPRY in her autobiography by that 1960s tag. When he asked why, she replied: "Think about it, Gino. We are considered as stars in the entertainment industry but we are misused, abused, taken advantage of and left stranded in embarrassing situations that have nothing to do with what we really are all about.
"Along comes baby-faced Gino EMPRY, and he really cares. He understands our concerns, our worries and our needs. Even more important, he doesn't pander to the vanities we parade to our unsuspecting fans. He seems to know our weaknesses and treats them with love and respect. He really loves us!"
He really did. "He was very good to his clients, very loyal," Ms. JOLIFFE said. "He often worked around the clock for them."
Of course, there was his dark side. "To know Gino was, at one point, to have had a fight with him," said Ms. Stephenson. "He could be infuriating one moment and endearing the next."
A temper that fuelled more than a few thrown telephones got him into hot water in 1989 after an altercation with a woman in the lobby of the building that housed his million-dollar condo. The judge didn't buy his plea of self-defence, and he was fined $1,000. "I haven't used a lawyer since," he said, years later.
The appearance of Mr. EMPRY's memoirs was a foregone conclusion. He wanted to call them You Star, Me Gino, but the 2002 volume was titled I Belong to the Stars, a collection of piquant tales ranging from procuring hashish for Peter O'Toole, to getting Cher an Eaton's credit card, to fending off the advances of Xaviera (the Happy Hooker) Hollander.
Last year, he corralled support from musicians and performers in Toronto in an event to shine a light on increased gun violence in the city. This past summer, it was rumoured that he was working on a bash to celebrate the city's burgeoning Chinese population.
Mr. EMPRY never married, not even to his companion of 20 years, psychic Nikki PEZARO. He knew he occasionally rivalled the celebrity of some of his clients but "I'm a person in my own right, so why not?"
Gino EMPRY was born in Toronto on, it is believed, October 11, 1925, and died there on October 14, 2006, after suffering complications from a stroke that occurred in July. He was 81.

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PEZZANO 2006-04-15 published
FURFARO, Vincenza (née SORBARA)
At her home (Guelph) surrounded by her eleven children, on Thursday, April 13, 2006, at the age of 91. Beloved wife of the late Annunziato FURFARO (1975.) Loving mother of: Dominic FURFARO (Carmela) of Guelph, Nancy RASO of Hamilton, Stella BELTRAME, Angelo FURFARO (Carmela,) Rocco FURFARO (Brenda,) all of Guelph, Tony FURFARO (Betty) of London, Jim FURFARO (Nancy) of Guelph, Mike FURFARO (Denise) of Field, British Columbia, Mary McGIMSIE (John,) George FURFARO (Laura), Annunziato (Ned) FURFARO (Colleen), all of Guelph. Loving Nonna of 28 grandchildren and 33 great-grandchildren. Dear sister-in-law of Nancy PEZZANO. Predeceased by her parents: Maria Annunziata PEZZANO (née GIOVINAZZO) and Vincenzo SORBARA (Italy,) Brother -- Giuseppe PEZZANO (Nancy,) brother and sister-in-law Angelo and Annunziata PEZZANO (Italy,) Sister and brother-in-law Pasqualina and Raffaele AGOSTINO (Italy,) Son-in-law -- Vincenzo RASO (Hamilton,) Son-in-law -- Rodolfo BELTRAME. Caring Zia to many nieces and nephews in Guelph, Toronto, Welland, Chicago and Italy. Resting at the Gilbert MacIntyre and son Funeral Home, Hart Chapel, 1099 Gordon Street, Guelph, Monday and Tuesday from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. Prayers Vigil Tuesday at 8: 00 p.m. A Funeral Mass will be held at Sacred Heart Church, 98 Alice Street, Guelph on Wednesday, April 19, 2006 at 10: 30 a.m. Entombment at Our Lady Immaculate Mausoleum, Marymount Cemetery, Guelph. As expression of sympathy, donations to a charity of one's choice would be appreciated by the family (cards available at the funeral home 519-821-5077 or online condolences at

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PEZZANO o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.toronto_star 2006-02-15 published
DAVIES, Harold
Sunday, February 12, 2006 Passed away peacefully in his 86th year at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre Veterans Facility. Harold served courageously in the Rank of Pilot Officer World War 2. Harold will be sadly missed by his wife Jenny, daughters Carol (Joe,) Dianne, Lori (Rob) and son David (Maria PEZZANO.) He will be lovingly remembered by his sister Martha LEIGH and all his relatives and Friends. Harold has 5 lovely granddaughters Lisa, Krystle, Ashley, Melissa, Katie and one great-granddaughter Amelie. Harold was a trusted and faithful employee of Franco Belgian Rug Company for many years. Cremation has taken place. A Memeorial Service will be held at Smith's Funeral Home, 1167 Guelph Line, (one stoplight north of Queen Elizabeth Way), Burlington (905-632-3333) on Friday, February 17, 2006 at 11 a.m. Donations to the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre L Wing or to the Heart and Stroke Foundation would be graciously accepted by his family.

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