Billboard Canada FYI Bulletin: A Walk Down Memory Lane, Part 1

The scribe has a moment of déjà vu as he recounts people past and present that have populated his life.

Billboard Canada FYI Bulletin: A Walk Down Memory Lane, Part 1
Photo by Thom Milkovic on Unsplash

Through the Looking Glass

The column was supposed to start with a couple of news items about Dominique Zgarka but as I thought about this it released a cache of memories that fell into place like a jigsaw puzzle. What follows is a reminisce about people past and present who have meant something to me in my more than five-decade media career and, to varying degrees, this incomplete list of people has contributed to this industry we call the Canadian music business.

Dominique Zgarka

A remarkably smart and resilient entrepreneur in the business who started as a DJ during Montreal’s disco era. Holding a BA in computer science from Concordia University, he went on to become president of Koch Music & Video, then Sr. VP at Entertainment One before launching the ILS Group in Toronto in 2013. A smart dresser, Zgarka is equally smart at sizing up opportunities and reading contracts. His style is to keep quiet and work the backrooms.


Cyril Kaye

A Brit who came to Canada and hooked up with Zgarka at Koch Entertainment and stayed for 25 years before moving on to greener pastures outside the “biz.” He’s a consummate professional, diligent, well-connected and extremely funny. The business lost a genuine leader when he left to join Vimeo and, later, Rocketline.

Vince Degiorgio

Another smart cookie out of the Zgarka camp who went on to become a successful record producer and songwriter, but eventually set up his own Cymba Music Publishing firm where he’s been for the past 30 years. Another quiet backroom player whose knowledge of the biz runs far and deep. He’s been chair of the Music Publishers Canada for the past eight years.

Laura Bartlett

We first met when she was a secretary to music publisher Brian Chater working from a desk in his office hallway. Smart, driven and hardnosed, she went on to become president of Virgin Records Canada and excelled in the position. When the company was absorbed into the PolyGram Group she left and launched an interior decorating firm, behold design, and is also co-owner of Mckecks Tap & Grill in Barrie, ON.


Nancy Gyokeres

A former director of public relations at SOCAN, she was one of the few women to crack the glass ceiling and wielded judicious influence within the PRO. She was also a patron saint to many freelance music writers in her day, paying good money for feature articles about the society’s artists that were published in the well-circulated and well-read house organ that would become known as Words & Music.

Bob Muir

A smart, handsome overachiever who rose through the ranks at Columbia Records in Canada, he became the first president of Virgin Records when the company pulled its distribution agreement from PolyGram and set itself up as an indie shop in Toronto. With his marketing prowess and ability to hire young talent to work with him, the company had a seemingly endless procession of mega-hits with acts such as Boy George, Culture Club, and Lenny Kravitz. Sadly, Bob died by suicide before his tenure ended.


Joey Cee

A former teen idol who DJed dances and for a time ruled the airwaves at CKFH, he went on to become a serial entrepreneur, launching a fleet of magazines and annual events that continue through to today with the Chocolate Ball. While his profile and industriousness have never really been recognized, his influence over the years has been impressive, as too the number of people he had working for him. Among them super-agent Vinny Cinquemani, and myself.

Michael Cohl

Starting with just a little less than nothing, the Canadian concert promoter, theatrical producer and touring impresario has made umpteen millions and created a legacy that is second to none. When we first met, he was working out of a seedy office complex at the back of a Dominion store shipping centre in an industrial section of Toronto and dressed not much different than when last we met four years ago in jeans, a black t-shirt and tennis shoes. He’s one of the smartest people I’ve met, alongside Steve Propas and Gary Slaight. His brain works as fast as a computer, and his ability to problem-solve is second to none. He’s had a long-lasting marriage and made his clients richer than they could have ever dreamed. Like so many super-successful people, money is never the endgame. It’s all about achieving the impossible dream.


Bob Ansell

The former VP of promotion at PolyGram Records and now running Beggars Group Canada. His take-no-prisoners and sheer brilliance for absorbing and analyzing facts made him the most feared, revered and successful promo man for years in Canada. Along the way, he pushed the envelope clear off the desk and across the room pushing Canadian radio to break acts they would never, never have done had they not had Bob at the door. He’s super-smart and with David Freeman, his Dr. Watson, he’s continued to create masterful marketing successes with little more to work with than blind determination, blind faith, and true grit. His acts will never find a greater crusader than this guy. It’s all or nothing when he goes on the attack. Where others soft foot to make their imprint, Bob Ansell fires up the Panzer tank and hits the “fire” button.

> To be continued next week.

Arthur Fogel photographed in Los Angeles.
Lane Dorsey

Arthur Fogel photographed in Los Angeles.


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