RIP: 'Bernie The Attorney'
Flamboyant former music industry lawyer to the stars, Bernard Huntley Solomon died Thursday in Toronto after an extended illness at Mount Sinai Hospital. He was 80.
By David Farrell
Updated 5/23/18: Flamboyant former music industry lawyer to the stars, Bernard Huntley Solomon, died Thursday in Toronto after an extended illness at Mount Sinai Hospital. He was 80.
Educated at what was then known as Waterloo Lutheran University (now known as Wilfred Laurier), the pint-sized music mogul was known for his flamboyant sartorial style, an over-sized diamond pinky ring, a roguish grin and, when enraged, removing a wooden left leg and hurling it at stubborn clients or legal adversaries. He went on to graduate from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto.
Solomon lost his leg as a teenager when he tripped and fell at a transit junction in the city’s east-end where it was severed by an oncoming streetcar.
His two sons, Randall Harrison and Cortney Solomon, were from his first marriage to his high school sweetheart, Frances. It was these two sons' names that would be used to create the name of Dallcorte Records which he formed with Martin Onrot as GM. The company's biggest success was with Cutting Crew ("I Just Died In Your Arms"), but also enjoyed degrees of success with acts such as the Drivers and Elkie Brooks.
Dallcorte was initially funded by a consortium organized by David Cowper, an insurance broker who maintained an office at 14 Dundonald where Bernie had his practice prior to establishing Dallcorte at 180 Bloor W. The other tenant was accountant Murray Silver, making #14 a one-stop shop for artists. The top floor was later renovated for ATV.
Flamboyant and flawed, Solomon's life was not always a bowl of cherries. He was to lose two wives and a son, and a car accident pushed his prosthesis into the stump of his leg that required an operation and another extended prosthesis.
He was buried at Dawes Road Cemetery on Friday, May 18. An official obituary will be published early next week where it will appear on Benjamin’s Park Memorial Chapel funeral home website.
Additional details to follow sometime later today on FYI and below, what a few of his friends and former clients have said (so far).
When Dallcorte signed Elie Brooks, Bernie, Elka Aiken (his fiancée at the time), Marty (Onrot) I and David Cowper and his wife flew to England to sign her. It was arranged by David Cowper that we would all go to England on the Concord. It was a most memorable four-day weekend and one I will never forget. We did everything first class and included a meal at Mr. Chow in Knightsbridge. It was a long weekend living the lifestyles of the rich and famous. He was very, very good and generous to (husband) Martin and I.
We were the greatest of friends. Marty Onrot, I think, introduced us when Bernie Finkelstein and I went into partnership and after that he became my lawyer. He had his faults but I loved the man. He was a wonderful friend for years and years and then when he fell on hard times he worked for me for a while, but eventually we parted ways and I lost track of where he was. It was a sad moment. He was a generous man to everybody. He was solid gold this guy. Some of the office fights we had when he had an office up on Avenue Road with Steve Propas, they were wild… chairs flying. I just regret the fact that I never got to see him again.
Steve Propas and I first met Bernie Solomon in the mid-Seventies, while running our Dixon Propas Management company. We were attracted to “Bernie the Attorney” because of his legendary negotiating skills and his reputation of being the best entertainment lawyer in Canada. I will never forget that first meeting in Carmen’s Steakhouse,
Steve and I entered a private area where Bernie would hold court.
There he was immaculately groomed wearing a fancy sports jacket with cravat and a silver cane and Louis Vuitton briefcase. He was the master raconteur, and he regaled us with stories of his extensive network and conquests, and he had us spellbound for that three-hour lunch. We were hooked, we wrote him a big retainer check before dessert. He didn’t disappoint; our business took flight after that initial meeting. We all became very close personal friends, and the Prope and I were A-listers at Bernie’s at countless dinner parties and soirees. We thought 'wow, we're in the Big Time.'
By the late seventies with the management company booming we began to strategize with Bernard (as he liked to be called) to launch a new independent label, Solid Gold Records, and sign all our management clients to what he called a holistic contract which was more of a 720 than a 360 deal. Bernie liked to say, “why settle for a piece when you can have it all?”
Bernie had it all, luxury offices and a massive bachelor apartment, multiple cars and beautiful women. Solid Gold gave us the chance to travel with Bernie on his over the top trips to New York, Los Angeles, Paris, London, all very expensive, but worth every penny as the deals rolled in. Bernie always travelled with one or more of his ladies. On one occasion I just settled up the bill for our rooms at the London party hotel, The Athenaeum, and Steve and I were to meet him in the lobby to go to Heathrow. There were two limos outside, so we thought the second was for us, but no it was for Bernie's Louis Luggage collection. That was the way he rolled. I miss both Steve and Bernie dearly.
Thank you for being respectful to this very special friend who, on a daily basis, had to battle many physical issues and forge ahead. I’ve known Bernie since 1969 - before either of us was in the music business. As a law clerk, I assisted him in his law office. He was a very bright guy who could put together airtight contracts for his clients. He was elegant (often confused as flamboyant), funny, generous and kind. I will remember him fondly and miss him terribly.
Bernie Finkelstein C.M.
Bernie Solomon was very special. Certainly, the first “music business” lawyer in Canada who was also a “deal finder” and “deal maker”.
Prior to Bernie, lawyers in Canada just waited for paperwork but Bernie went out to the world and dug up the deals.
And he was very good at it, very good.
I was about to become partners with Bernie Fiedler in 1971/72, and Bernie Solomon was recommended to be the lawyer who could put this deal together with the right legal papers etc.
It went so well that we kept Bernie Solomon on as our lawyer. So we became known as the “Bernies” as if me and Fiedler weren’t enough.
Bernie Solomon taught me lots about the music business and I always loved working with him and especially travelling with him. It was always first class and only the best of everything.
He knew his way around New York, Los Angeles and introduced me to many of my international partners at Midem, many of whom I worked with right until I sold my company in late 2007.
Bernie was highly respected on the international front and here at home, during his heydays.
I considered him a great friend and a great lawyer, and although we had not been touch for several years, I will miss him and hope he is resting peacefully.”
Frank Davies – Let Me Be Frank, inc.
'Bernie The Attorney' (Solomon) was one of only a handful of Canadian music/entertainment lawyers in the late 60s and 70s. A flamboyant personality, Bernie enjoyed the high life and attracted artists and entrepreneurs looking to share the same in Canada's emerging music business at that time.
Bernie represented several of the artists I signed to my record label in the 1970s. One of his international clients, the ATV Music Group, was headed by Sam Trust, ATV's worldwide President and an early and longtime supporter of Canadian music, who asked him to open a Canadian office for them in the late 70s. One of the earliest signings was Canadian singer/songwriter Eddie Schwartz (also a client of Bernie's law firm) who shortly after scored with the massive "Hit Me With Your Best Shot". Another very successful signing followed as Montreal's Aldo Nova scored platinum with his album debut in the U.S.
I succeeded Bernie as President of the ATV Music Group, Canada in 1982 until the company was bought by Michael Jackson for its assets in 1986.
Ross Reynolds – as the former President, GRT Records Canada
So sorry to hear about Bernie. He was a true character in the best sense of the word. Bernie was our entertainment lawyer while I was at GRT. Dan Hill, one of our big success stories, was managed by Bernie Finkelstein and Bernie Fiedler, both characters in their own rights. There were some memorable negotiating sessions with the three Bernies.
Bernie made it into the Canadian law books when he successfully represented GRT and Lighthouse against a retailer who was importing US Lighthouse cut-outs. Our case probably improved when the presiding judge walked in with a pronounced limp. Bernie, who had lost a leg in an accident, had a slight limp that became much more significant when he saw the judge. The case was listed under one of Lighthouse’s companies, Fly by Night.
Bernie certainly had a way with women. In between marriages, Bernie had me set up a meeting with a very attractive lawyer who did GRT’s corporate work. Bernie picked her up for lunch in a huge Cadillac convertible wearing a pink suit. Quite a figure.
Julie Gibson - past associate
I met Bernie in 1965 when I rode in the back of the cab he drove to put himself through law school. I was working for the Crown Attorney and we became instant friends. He loved the law then.
We remained very close and I have all the information you need, and great stories. I went to work for him in May 1973 after he flew to Nassau to persuade me to come back to Canada to work for him.
He was born October 3, 1937. He lost his leg at the age of twelve at the St. Clair streetcar loop when he slipped and fell on the tracks and a streetcar severed his leg at the ankle.
Another sad day for rock ’n roll.
Robert Farmer – lawyer, former partner in the law firm of Solomon, Farmer
Bernie was one of the major forces in obtaining international exposure for Canadian music. Part lawyer, part hustler, part shaman, he had an amazing ability to extract vast sums of money from record companies on behalf of his clients. He had a rakish charm that was irresistible. Sure, he could be less than charming sometimes, but overall, I’ll remember all the laughs and forget about the other stuff.
- A special note of appreciation to Julie Gibson in substantiating the facts of his life for this story.