Category Archives: Charities

20161101_194546

GRAZING MY WAY THRU LAST NIGHT’S 21ST ANNUAL “EAT TO THE BEAT” FUNDRAISER

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the 21st annual Eat to the Beat fundraiser, presented by KitchenAid®, for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF) which featured 60 female chefs supporting people living with breast cancer.  Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall became the mecca for urban foodies to experience the best Ontario’s culinary scene has to offer.20161101_192052 20161101_192441 20161101_192621 20161101_193335Eat to the Beat guests have the opportunity to enjoy specially prepared savoury and sweet dishes at 60 stations, along with wine, beer and a selection of non alcoholic beverages set up around Roy Thomson Hall’s outer lobby. “We are so grateful to our participating chefs, sponsors and supporters who have helped to make Eat to the Beat Toronto’s must-attend culinary event and fundraiser over the years,” says Cathy Park, co-chair, Eat to the Beat20161101_193704 20161101_193439 20161101_192116Started 21 years ago by sisters Lisa and Abby Slater, Eat to the Beat has raised more than $3.9 million since its inception. Funds raised at Eat to the Beat will support the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – dedicated to funding relevant and innovative research, supporting and advocating for the breast cancer community, and providing credible, unbiased information to help empower those affected by breast cancer or at increased genetic risk of developing the disease.

“Just like Lisa and Abby, we’re inspired by the strength of breast cancer survivors and those who are affected by this disease,” says Karen Malone, VP, Research & Programs, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, “Thanks to fundraising events like Eat to the Beat, we can continue to offer emotional support and information to anyone affected by breast cancer.”20161101_194217I ran into a number of friends there, including the lovely ladies from Succulent Chocolates (yummmmm), pictured below…20161101_191956…and lots of other talented bakers, chefs and chocolatiers…..20161101_195939 20161101_19211120161101_195643There was also a number of wineries sampling their products and the fellas from Still Waters Distillery offering shots of their new Stalk & Barrel Canadian whisky (just launched in LCBO stores) – pictured below. Mmmmmm, very nice and smooth.20161101_195441 20161101_195453On behalf of all us hungry foodies attending last night, thank you to all the participating chefs and congrats to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF) for another successful soiree. For more information, visit www.cbcf.org

Big thank you to my dear PR colleague, Peter Ashworth (with me below) of Ashworth Associates Inc. for granting my media accreditation – my tummy really thanks you….burp!20161101_202703_001

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“It’s a Party” with Toronto digital artist GINA GODFREY

I had the pleasure of visiting the studio of artist GINA GODFREY yesterday, and she was gracious enough to show me around personally. Working with digitally manipulated collages that she painstakingly crafts first, Gina creates provocative, colourful large format artwork to fit any home or commercial space.20161026_13461520161026_134554Gina was the first international artist to show at the red-carpeted halls of the Jerusalem Theater in 2007 in Israel. Her works are also on permanent display in the Ohel Moishe Synagogue in Shanghai, China. Her works are on display and in collections in Israel, England and throughout North America including the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto.
Her current show (closing the first week of November) is called “It’s A Party” and features numerous pieces (giclee on canvas) that stimulate conversation and definitely promote a party mood!image001I absolutely adored her series of 4 “fishy” images, appropriated titled Fishy Fishy One, Two…etc.20161026_134912…as well as her moody smaller pieces like High Pigment and Incognito 2 (below)20161026_140429Here, let Gina tell you about her creative process herself….

Thank you, Gina. We then went into her backroom where she pulled out some amazing images she created of pop-culture icons that we all know, such as Sophia Loren, Brooke Shields and Canada’s own literary lion, Mordecai Richler (below)20161026_140218 20161026_140307 20161026_140400The prints of Sophia and Mordecai were done on handcrafted Japanese paper and in person, were so stunning to see. Sadly, my photos don’t do them justice here.

Gina is involved with a number of important causes and charities including this year’s The Brain Project. Her brain sculpture (see below – courtesy Toronto Sun) was part of an awareness program by Baycrest Health Sciences aimed at sparking a nationwide conversation about brain health and research. Her sculpture was on view this past summer at Toronto City Hall Square.Sun

She has just launched another project to raise funds and awareness for therapy dogs called Dogs on the Catwalk, again benefiting a Baycrest Health Sciences initiative www.baycrest.org/dogsonthecatwalk/   Bravo, Gina!

You can learn more about Gina’s digital artwork and upcoming shows as well as her passion for philanthropy by visiting her website and following her on social media.   www.ginagodfrey.com 

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Mini Holmes presents…A Star-Studded Benefit for comedian KEVIN McGRATH this Tues. Aug.16

Anyone who has ever visited a comedy club will know how hard comedians work and as Rodney Dangerfield used to say… “I can’t get no respect”. Well, this Tuesday Aug. 16th many of Canada’s top comics will be paying respect to fellow funny man, Kevin McGrath (pictured below), with a special benefit show at Cherry Colas Rock’n’Roll Cabaret in Toronto raising funds to help support Kevin as he goes through painful rehab after a horrendous car accident that left him with numerous broken bones and serious internal injuries. Kevin will be in hospital for the next few months followed by several months in the rehab hospital.kvimghs001Benefit producer Mini Holmes, a very funny lady and media personality herself, told me “This is close to our hearts because we all love Kevin and also because we know as comics this could have been any of us. We are all on the road gigging nightly.” MiniKevin McGrath has kept Canadians laughing since the early 1980’s. He got his start with The McGrath Brothers, a comedy music act that featured impressions of The Beach Boys, The Bee Gees, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, and many more  he began performing solo stand-up comedy when the McGrath Brothers disbanded. Kevin has appeared on CTV, Global Television, The Comedy Network, CBC, and has appeared in every major city in Canada. Kevin’s comedy is fueled by his obvious love for his wife, his fear of flying, a reluctance to engage in anything involving strenuous activity, and his undying love for music.

Hosted by Mike Bullard, the show will feature comedians who came up thru the ranks with Kevin including Mike Wilmot, Derek Edwards, Mike MacDonald and Simon Rakoff. Mini will also perform a set just to add a little estrogen to the manly mix up on stage! All of these generous performers are donating their time and talent so all $s from ticket sales will go to Kevin.

Mike Bullard

Mike Bullard

Mike Wilmot

Mike Wilmot

Derek Edwards

Derek Edwards

Mike MacDonald

Mike MacDonald

Simon Rakoff with name

Cherry Colas Rock N Roll Cabaret, 200 Bathurst Street (just N. of Queen)
Tuesday August 16th   9:00pm.
$15 in advance / $20 at the door 

Tickets can be purchased via Facebook event page:   https://www.facebook.com/events/151586161942592/

As their original agent back in the 80’s “golden era” of stand-up comedy in Canada, I love these guys and really hope you will come out and show ’em a little love AND cash for Kevin.

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THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW ….AND THE STARS CAME OUT LAST NIGHT

Last night, FIFE HOUSE presented their annual “Spotlight” concert and fundraising gala (produced by Michael Rubinoff) at the Glenn Gould Studio in downtown Toronto and their guests of honour were the incomparable ANDREA McCARDLE (Broadway’s original Annie) with the equally amazing musical genius SETH RUDETSKY. They chatted about Andrea’s incredible career in musical theatre and Seth accompanied her on piano as she belted out hit after hit. Wow!

My friends at URBANSOURCE CATERING presented platters of the most delicious, scrumptious hors d’oeuvres throughout the pre-concert reception, ferried by an army of friendly servers who kept the goodies coming!20151127_181249 20151127_180149 20151127_180308Calvin Hambrook, Urban’s Catering & Events Manager, ensured everything went smoothly and he enjoyed schmoozing with the guests, many of whom are long-time clients of Urban. Below, here’s Calvin (l) with Fife Hosue’s Dir. of Development & Communications David Currah (r).20151127_175301 Apart from the amazing concert, there was also a fabulous silent auction featuring tons of donated prizes including a framed photo (titled “Quietude” 20” x 30” photoprint on Dibond) by Urban Gallery’s own Kaspara Albertsen, perfect for the festive season….here’s just a few of them:QUIETUDE by Kaspara Albertsen20151127_173004 20151127_172938 20151127_173426

20151127_175717Even some of Urban Gallery‘s artists donated paintings to the auction including Joan Andal Romano whose show opens next weekend. Below – “Life is Art” (from her Alice Series) 18” x 24” mixed media on canvas20151127_173347…and Nancy Jane Price (below), whose work was on show this past September at Urban Gallery (her donated painting is titled “Together 24” X 24” Acrylic on canvas)20151127_181625Also featured were paintings courtesy of  previous Urban exhibitors Janna Kroupko and Brenda Clews (pictured below with Calvin) – her donated artwork was titled “A Spring God” 24″ x 30″ oil on canvas (lower pic)20151127_195111
A SPRING GOD by Brenda ClewsIt was truly a great turnout for this event benefiting Fife House which provides secure, supportive, affordable housing to people living with HIV/AIDS in the Greater Toronto Area.HHH_Logo___website

http://www.fifehouse.org/

Here are a few more gala pics – see if you can spot anyone you know in the crowd…20151127_191750 20151127_191833…and more of the great Urban staff …20151127_191720 20151127_191625Check out the UrbanSource Catering website for catering ideas for your own swanky soiree: http://urbancatering.com/

Thank you to everyone involved for making the FIFE HOUSE “SPOTLIGHT” CONCERT & FUNDRAISING GALA such a success.20151127_213739 20151127_213738

 

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“EVENING @ THE MARKET” RAISES FUNDS & AWARENESS FOR FOOD SHARE

Last night, I over-indulged in some of Toronto’s yummiest food and beverages, thanks to a last-minute invitation from KJ Mullins, publisher of www.newz4u.net. The event was Evening at the Market (hosted at the St. Lawrence Market) to benefit Food Share (foodshare.net) a non-profit organization that works with communities and schools here in Toronto to deliver healthy food and food education.

All the market vendors shared samples of their products with the crowds of eager foodies and I was thrilled to sample my favourite peameal bacon sandwiches from Paddington’s and Portuguese custard tarts from another fave store (lower 2 pics)20151112_185258 20151112_185318(0) 20151112_185615 20151112_185427

20151112_185448I always visit Peter’s Natural Health Foods (below) to buy my raw redskin peanuts – the only place in town I can find them.20151112_185842 20151112_185852I enjoyed meeting the folks at Urban Fresh Produce, a brand new store in the Market. OMG, their samples were soooo deelish.20151112_190137 20151112_190233 20151112_190237And the salmon hors d’oeuvres across the aisle were tasty, too.20151112_190328So many fabulous treats, thank goodness I wore my stretchy pants…LOL!20151112_192100 20151112_193314KJ and I found the ladies from Baci chocolates and spent a very long time taste-testing!!20151112_194725 20151112_194729…followed by a nice shot of espresso, which meant I was up watching TV infomercials late into the wee small hours…yaaaawn!20151112_194935KJ just had to have one more dessert so we visited the lovely lady downstairs with the yummy macaroons. 20151112_195903

20151112_195941Stonemill Bakehouse (below) offered so many different pastry and bread samples, it was hard to choose…20151112_195144Earlier in the evening, it was easy to belly up to the oyster bar at Seafront Fish Market (below), but by the time we left (around 9:30pm), the aisles were jam packed and I couldn’t even back up enough to take a picture. Glad I snapped this one before the hordes of foodies arrived!20151112_190400Thanks to the folks at the St. Lawrence Market for a fantastic event, and to all the friendly volunteers from Food Share who managed the soiree with elegant aplomb!20151112_202157

 

20151027_191853

“EAT TO THE BEAT” FUNDRAISING GALA FEEDS THE SOUL AS WELL AS THE TUMMY!

Thanks to my friend and PR colleague, Peter Ashworth, I attended last night’s “Eat to the Beat” fundraiser benefitting the Willow Breast & Hereditary Cancer Support organization here in Toronto at the prestigious Roy Thomson Hall.img284Hundreds of hungry guests strolled around the circular outer hall, indulging in some of the yummiest treats created by the city’s leading female chefs, accompanied by all manner of liquid refreshments including one of my favourites…below20151027_194810

Upon entering the grand hall, my BFF Erena and I were greeted by a bustiered kick-line of charming volunteers from the Willow organization. They were outfitted to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Eat to the Beat and as you can see in this quickee video, all were bedecked in festive accoutrements…LOL

What a great way to start the evening. Congrats to all the energetic, hard-working volunteers! 20151027_185754So Erena (in B&W striped jacket below) and I pressed on and started our safari into the gourmet jungle. Calories be damned!20151027_201504 20151027_193512So many charming chefs who proudly shared their best dishes with us all…20151027_190544 20151027_192934 20151027_190300

20151027_191144 20151027_190955Lamb was a popular meat last night which, of course, made this Downunder lady very happy. It’s no joke when we Aussies boast that Australia was built on the back of a sheep. Yummm.

In between gobbling up the samples, we ran into media friend Christine Bentley (host of “What She Said” on SiriusXM)20151027_193940….and more fabulous funny friends from Willow & event sponsor Scotiabank who worked the room like pro’s!20151027_194534In case you were wondering…yes, there were lots of handsome gentlemen there, too, including reps from Hockley Beer, Pr. Edward County wineries, Ace Bakery and the Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts!20151027_190451 20151027_191432 20151027_200306 20151027_201154Lots of delicious desserts were on offer, too, and being the dedicated chocoholic that I am, I headed straight for the Succulent Chocolates table (below).  You have to taste their chocky-wokkies…wow, talk about a party in your mouth!!20151027_194319These sour cherry/mascarpone blintzes were amazing, too.20151027_191929So many food stations, not enough tummy space! So glad I wore elastic waisted pants…LOL20151027_190511 20151027_200023 20151027_195938 20151027_192904

20151027_190424Apart from all the festive foods and drinkies consumed, we mustn’t lose sight of the night’s mission to raise awareness and $s for the Willow organization. All of us with family, friends or our own selves living with cancer are so grateful to Willow for providing an amazing network of support services. THANK YOU!
It was so nice to see such an enthusiastic crowd coming out to support the event….20151027_191848 20151027_200844

…just enough time left to enjoy a few more naughty nibbles at the dessert stations….20151027_191521

20151027_200439..and thank goodness for Starbucks and their smiling crew (below) who helped cleanse my palette with a nice strong cuppa coffee.20151027_190045I managed to snap two of my favorite ladies, Erena (below left) with Lynne (below right) from KMH Labs on Edward Street20151027_203442And here he is, the one and only Peter Ashworth (below) who worked so hard with his lovely associate Ashley to bring in the media to cover this important soiree.20151027_203751Please visit  www.willow.org  if you need any support or information. And if you would like to like to donate to their cause, it’s certainly not too late.20151027_204007

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ORT TORONTO GALA CELEBRATES ONGOING INT’L EDUCATION WORK + HONOURS CONTRIBUTIONS TO ART WORLD

Last night, ORT Toronto hosted its annual fundraising gala “Unfinished Business of the 20th Century – Restitution of Looted Art” at the Design Exchange in Toronto with a dinner and dessert reception plus a silent art auction. Thanks to my friend and PR colleague, Danielle Iversen who publicized the gala, I was invited to attend and help celebrate this year’s Honourees including Paul E. Bain (pictured below) partner at Dickinson Wright LLP, who was honoured for his work protecting artists’ rights and his dedication to several not-for-profit art organizations.20151018_212655…as well as Honourees for the ORT Recognition AwardJanis & Kenny Finkelstein, for their many years of dedication and support to the organization (below).20151018_195434Then the evening’s MC, Michael B. Miller (below) introduced the Keynote Speaker for this year’s gala…..20151018_194232….Donald S. Burris, one of the men behind the “Woman in Gold” case where a Nazi-appropriated Gustav Klimt masterpiece was returned to its rightful owner decades after the theft. Mr. Burris is a senior partner in the L.A. firm Burris, Schoenberg & Walden LLP, and he spoke about that case (recently told in the Helen Mirren/Ryan Reynolds feature film “The Woman in Gold”) and his pursuit of other art works stolen by the Nazis in World War II.  Talk about a fascinating presentation and what a riveting brush with history I experienced.

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20151018_205126Mr. Burris spoke at great length about the numerous trials, the international legal wrangling and ultimate triumph that brought the Klimt portrait of Ms. Altmann’s aunt back to the family, as well as comments regarding the other recent movie “The Monuments Men” which sadly did not tell the full true story of the Allies’ attempt to rescue and protect the greatest artworks in Europe’s private Jewish family collections.

Although the speech was a sobering reminder to all what happened seven+ decades ago, the evening was full of promise and positive celebrations for ORT Toronto which is an arm of World ORT, founded in 1880, the largest non-denominational, non-governmental organization providing “Education for Life” each year to over 300,000 disadvantaged students in 60 countries. The name is an acronym based on its original Russian name. ORTThrough its International Cooperation programs, ORT supports non-sectarian economic and social development in under-developed parts of the world, with vocational training and the provision of technical assistance.  ORT operates a global network of schools, colleges, training centres and programmes in Africa, Asia-Pacific, the CIS and Baltic States, Israel, Latin America, North America and Western Europe. ORT schools are highly regarded and are open to all children regardless of religious backgrounds.  http://www.ort-toronto.org/

ORT Executive Director, Lindy Meshwork says: “In these challenging times, we believe the key to a better world lies in education.  Since 1880 ORT has been providing the necessary skills and training to succeed, providing hope and the opportunity for a brighter future for students around the world.”
Exec. Dir. Lindy Meshwork with Danielle

Exec. Dir. Lindy Meshwork with event publicist Danielle

The evening also featured a delicious buffet dinner with a dessert reception after the awards presentations. There was a silent auction featuring artworks by renowned painters & photographers to help raise funds for ORT Toronto. Here are some candid photos of the guests, honourees and VIPs …and mazel tov to all for a fantastic night!

Harry & Esther Goodman enjoyed the festivities

Harry & Esther Goodman enjoyed the festivities

Danielle (left) joined my table for dinner and schmoozing.

Danielle (left) joined my table for dinner and schmoozing with Rochelle Covent (right)

Mr. Burris was enthusiastically  congratulated on his speech

Mr. Burris was enthusiastically congratulated on his speech

I ran into media colleague Georgina Bencsik at the buffet

I ran into media colleague Georgina Bencsik at the buffet

More media enjoying the dinner incl. Jody Glaser (above R)

More media enjoying the dinner incl. Jody Glaser (above R) with his wife Katherine

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L-R: Philip Strathy, Danielle, Sam Wales & Michael Miller

L-R: Philip Strathy, Danielle, Sam Wales & Michael Miller

A successful fundraiser & awards gala = good reason to kick up their heels!

Harry, Danielle & Sam kick up their heels

ABOUT THE EVENT:
GALA MASTER OF CEREMONIES: Michael B. Miller, Partner, Dickinson Wright, LLP
HONOURARY CO-CHAIRS: Carrie Katz + Ellen Miller
TRIBUTE COMMITTEE: Madeline Avedon, Rose Baum, Jeanne Beker, Joyce Chapnick, Justice Sandra Chapnik, Hedy Frisch, Edie Glazer, Julianna Greenspan, Marlene Hait,
Elise Kalles, Barbara Kingstone, Michelle Maderer, Laura Walsh & Israel Mida, Tom Mihalik,, Aviva Morgenstern, Harriet Morton, Marlene & Martin Rochwerg, Irene Reingold, Mary Richmond, Serafima Roll, Dorothy Cohen Shoichet, Elise Sieradzki, Justice Gertrude Speigel, Bella Tal, Sam Wales, Florence Weinstock, Liora Yakubowicz
ORT Canada – Charitable Number: 118834910 RR0001
Co- Presidents: Carrie Katz, Jacob Kincler & Arthur Silber
ORT Toronto
President: Janis Finkelstein,  Past President: Florence Weinstock
Executive Director: Lindy Meshwork
Director of Admin: Roni Maderer
Sponsored by BMO, Tom Mihalik: Tom’s Place and Janis & Kenny Finkelstein
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2014 Anne Yarymowich, George Brown College Chef School

TORONTO’S CULINARY “EAT TO THE BEAT” FUNDRAISER CELEBRATES 20 YEARS

Thanks to my friend & colleague Peter Ashworth of Ashworth Associates Public Relations, I’d like to share information about this year’s annual EAT TO THE BEAT fundraising event later this month.

Sixty top female chefs lend their support to make the 20th Anniversary of Willow’s Eat to the Beat an evening not to be missed.  The event takes place Tuesday, October 27, 2015 @ 7 pm at Roy Thomson Hall (60 Simcoe Street, Toronto) and benefits Willow Breast & Hereditary Support, a not-for-profit organization that offers free peer support to anyone coping with breast cancer. Tickets are $175 (with a tax receipt) and include all food and beverages.  For tickets or to see the line-up of chefs to date as well as beverage participants, please visit www.eattothebeat.ca or call 416.778.6314 x 236.

catering 3“Willow’s role in a person’s journey with breast cancer and other hereditary forms of cancer is undeniably important in making sure caring and compassionate support and valuable information is there when they need it most,” states Karen Malone, Executive Director of Willow Breast & Hereditary Cancer Support.  “Proceeds raised from Eat to the Beat go directly to our programs and services that Willow offers which are vital in ensuring that women and their families are supported throughout every stage of the individual’s diagnosis and treatment.”

Guests will have access to 60 female chefs who are donating their time and talent for the event and will tantalize guests by personally preparing their delectable specialties on-site.  Mouthwatering sweet and savory delicacies, premium beers, wines and spirits will prove irresistible temptations for Toronto’s foodies and Willow supporters and will be set up around Roy Thomson Hall’s outer lobby. catering 5 “Celebrating 20 years is a significant milestone in the history of Eat to the Beat and we are so grateful to our participating chefs, sponsors and supporters who have helped to make Eat to the Beat Toronto’s must-attend culinary event and fundraiser over the years,” says Barbara Track, Eat to the Beat Co-Chair.  catering 4 catering catering 6“Our participating chefs, many of whom have been with us from our early days, are planning exquisite culinary treats to commemorate our 20th anniversary of women helping women in support of Willow,” adds Cathy Park, who is co-chairing Eat to the Beat.

Started 20 years ago by Lisa and Abby Slater, Eat to the Beat has raised more than $3.7 million for Willow. In keeping with tradition and adding a bit of sass with class, the event will also feature breast cancer survivors modelling original food-inspired corsets that they have created.

Again, for tickets & information on all the generous talented chefs, please visit  www.eattothebeat.cacatering 2

 

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UPCOMING FUNDRAISER FOR CANADIAN STAR SCAMMED OUT OF LIFE SAVINGS

Back in the 80’s I was a big part of the Canadian comedy industry, running the Funny Business agency for Yuk Yuk’s Komedy Kabaret in Toronto and helping build Yuks into the biggest chain of comedy clubs across North America, booking revolutionary acts like Sam Kinison, Emo Phillips and Steven Wright. When I struck out on my own in late 1985, I took several “freelance” comedians and prop acts with me, booking them across the country and into the States…and I even landed one of ’em on the couch with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. 

One of my favourite local acts was Glenn Ottaway (pictured below), a comic magician who worked clean (or not) depending on the audience. Glenn always “showed up” – he could perform as an MC or a headliner. He travelled anywhere I asked and was kind enough to work for whatever budget I had been given for shows…we all made money and with Glenn, I knew my reputation would remain in tact with club owners or corporate event bookers. Careers move in different directions and by the end of the 90’s, I was out of the comedy business – it didn’t seem funny any more….too many pee-pee kaa-kaa jokes and the Comedy Network on TV had sanitized or infantilized comedy in Canada. Not so much the yuks, it was more like the blechs!glennmicLast week I heard about a benefit to help Glenn…was he sick, was he disabled…WTF? Count me in, let me help. Then I found out that Glenn and business partner David Merry (another previous performer for my comedy agency) had been scammed out of hundreds of thousands of dollars on a theatre purchase deal and Glenn was in trouble. I immediately reached out to offer my blog space as a media outlet so below are Glenn’s comments and responses to my questions, plus a brief comment from the upcoming benefit’s producer and fellow comedy guy, Matt Disero.

Young Glenn Ottaway performing his early prestidigitation tricks.

Young Glenn Ottaway performing his early prestidigitation tricks.

When and what prompted you to want to purchase your own theatre (and where is that venue located)?
I have always enjoyed live theatre. From mid-way through high school I would get a great deal of satisfaction from being involved with plays. I did 1 play where I was on stage, one play where I was stage manager and 1 play which I had written. I found it very creative on al kinds of levels. When I decided to be a performer, I knew there were many struggling and starving actors so I went the way of a variety performer. I learned early on that I could work for pre-schoolers right through to stags (different shows of course). I figured, if nothing else I would be able to survive on birthday parties. I worked just about anywhere one could imagine.

After 30 years on the road and in front of audiences I felt it was time to move on. During my career I was lucky enough to perform in a show called “A Little Night Magic” on Lombard Street in downtown Toronto. When it was obvious that show was closing, I started to do stand up (with a touch of magic) for Yuk Yuk’s Komedy Kabaret (back then a true force in the Canadian comedy scene – GF). But I was tiring of the road and wanted to do something else. I met a man in my (then) hometown of Whitby. He owned Class Act Dinner Theatre (104 Consumers Drive) and after working a couple of freelance shows there I was hired as the Production Manager which meant I was responsible for selecting plays, directing (or finding a director) for plays. This was late in 2004. I could do the theatre gig, and still squeeze in some stand-up on the road.IMG_2337As the theatre gig got more demanding, I let the comedy slip away.  As a Production Manager, my jobs list grew. I would open each show, do a little comedy and push upcoming shows. I really enjoyed the job (which sometimes fogs your observance to what is going on around you).  In 2010 the boss tried his hand at bringing in his first big talent, Tim Allen. He asked to borrow some money (for 6 weeks) from me to help with the performance fee deposit for Tim. Tim played 3 or 4 venues throughout southern Ontario, but sadly all of the venues lost money – Tim was no longer a draw. The boss asked to extend the loan because he was running for mayor. It was a close race, but he lost. It became clear to me then, that my money was in jeopardy. We met about it and he offered me a piece of the theatre in repayment. I knew the place was making some good money, so it sounded like a sound retirement fund.

What made you decide to do business with this person – did he appear to be legit and trustworthy (and why)?
His name is Clayton Varcoe – known to everyone as “Rocky.” He’d been good to me for the first 6 years (it was my first ever “day” job). I trusted him. It’s that simple. Anyone who has ever had to deal with con men know how good they are.  With this 20/20 hindsight, I now realize that he has a lot of problems – I understand now his actions are that of a sociopath – he has no conscience and feels no guilt. He lies, cheats and steals. But at the time, though, I trusted in him.

When did you first realize this was not a good business decision?
I was never a good businessman. Excuses of “it wasn’t a good year” and “expenses are way up” were offered. I fell for it the first couple of years. I still trusted him, and considered him a friend – and a friend would never screw another friend, right?

You were partnering with comic magician and writer David Merry on this opportunity – what insights did he share with you as the negotiations “proceeded”?
Rocky said he wanted to step back from the business, and eventually turn it over to me, but that I would need a partner. I started approaching people I thought I could work with. I have always respected David (pictured below) and knew he was much more business savvy than was I. I spoke with him at a BBQ he invited me to at his home. It was there that I brought up the subject. He was excited about it, and I set up the meeting between him and Rocky. The three of us met with the final offer being made: David would have just under 1/3 of the business. Rocky’s father-in-law would have 10%, Rocky would maintain just under 30% and hold 15% of my share because I didn’t have enough money for a 30% share. Rocky explained how he ran the business, he allegedly kept 2 sets of books. Part of the agreement was that Rocky would keep one legit set of books and not shuffle money between different venues to “hide” profits. I don’t want to say anymore about David’s involvement, because I have been feeling a lot of guilt over this, even though David doesn’t blame me. I blame me.

Above - David Merry (in white) performing for CTV Ottawa Morning Show

Above – David Merry (in white) performing for CTV Ottawa Morning Show

When and how did you put the brakes on?
David brought in some very talented people to perform. He was to handle the comedy shows. He brought in a very popular person (whom the theatre could never afford, but David used his influence as a friend to get a great discount) The person was to play 3 theatres and the profits would be split 3 ways (David, Rocky and myself). At the end of the run, Rocky pocketed everything….over twenty grand! That was the beginning of the end. David was first to go (get thrown out) during a show David brought in featuring a huge American TV star. Later in court, Rocky lied about the cost of the show. I stuck around because, frankly, I was in debt and needed the money, but I was working with David as a mole. I tried to screw up a number of deals Rocky was working on, including a deal with the owner of the biggest comedy chain in Canada.

Once you learned you and David had been “scammed”, what steps did you take to recoup your $s?
David took him to court and won handily because every time Rocky opened his mouth, he lied. David’s lawyer was ready for it and was ready with the truth. Rocky was fined twice for contempt of court. I couldn’t afford a lawyer, and I know I will never get any of the money back, so I tried to shame him publicly through social media. I’ve also wrote a book with lots of first-person witness accounts of his alleged law-breaking activities – he has threatened me, my sister, mutual friends and David. I have been physically threatened and threatened with lawsuits – I wish he would sue me for defamation and slander because I have proof of everything I have shared.

How has Varcoe responded – what action, if any, did he take to remedy the situation?
Nothing…he doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong. He has sent denial emails using other people’s accounts, and posted on Facebook using his wife’s identity.  But his business track records speaks for itself: the most renowned and respected playwrights’ agency in the world is currently preparing a lawsuit against him for non-payment of royalties.

How does your situation with him stand now?
Although I haven’t given up (nor ever will) I’ve decided to play it down a little for now as my legal and financial resources are basically zero. Karma’s a bitch so I’m letting her have a go at him now!Glenn at the Bear and FirkinApril 17 - 5, 2015What do you hope this upcoming fundraiser achieves – fundraising for your survival, raising the public’s awareness of such scammers, a cautionary tale for all?
Well, I am in financial trouble right now and this will help out a lot. I suffered a concussion a couple of years ago and I still have some memory issues, so while I would like to get back on the stage, it is too early to tell. I am actually quite humbled by the benefit show, but I am very thankful to all the wonderful friends who are willing to help out. If nothing else, this will be the best comedy show Toronto has ever seen and who knows, maybe Tim Allen will show up…LOL! I am also hoping the media attention will shine a light on this s.o.b. so the authorities will finally investigate his fraudulent activities to protect others.
………………………………………………………………………………

So many of the country’s top comedic talents have signed on to appear Mon. Nov. 9th at Toronto’s Revue Theatre including Comedy Aces founder Glen Foster, media personality Mike Bullard, the hysterically funny Mini Holmes, and many others including, of course, David Merry. All the details on tickets, time, venue, etc. are available at  www.therockyhorror.com

The show’s producer and all-round funny guy himself, Matt Disero (pictured below) kindly shared this with me:

I would like to say that EVERY SINGLE ACT I asked to be on this show said yes in 10 seconds flat.  I even asked a couple of people who I’m not fond of and who are not fond of me, they still said yes right away. Everyone is donating their time as a favour to me, to help out Glenn.  That speaks volumes about Glenn and his stature in the community, and about Glenn as a person.  The comedy world is full of back stabbing, lying awfulness most of the time, but I do love that when someone needs a bit of help everyone generally circles the wagons to help.   This is my first time producing a show of any kind, hell I can barely produce my OWN shows, so I was very thrilled to get help from the likes of Raining Creative, one of Toronto’s top ad firms.  I’m good friends with the president of that company and he’s a magic fan.  Again, within seconds he said yes to doing all the promotional items and pre-press for the show… mostly because he’s a fan of Glenn’s work. They moved back a promotional job for U2 and Coldplay to get the posters done for me and give advice about Eventbrite Ticketing and making that work.

Glenn’s right, this will be the best comedy variety show Toronto has ever seen…. I should probably take myself off it and put in another act, but what the hell, someone has to lower the bar. LOL!DiseroCanadasWalkofFameI came up with the benefit show idea in part because there’s been one before for a couple of acts who were in dire health, so I knew that was something doable, and the same night I was thinking about it I was on the phone with Jeff Evason who also suggest we do something, it was Jeff who came up with the name for the show, I think.  There was alcohol…… from there it was just a matter of renting the theatre, and getting things together. In the end, it’s an honour to be able to help out a guy who I’ve learned so much from. Just watching Glenn work at A Little Night Magic over the years taught me valuable lessons that I still apply today to my corporate and public performing work.  Getting to perform on that show when I was so young (I started there when I was 17 ) was the best training I could imagine.  I truly got to watch the best acts in the country who had mastered what I wanted to do for a living.  I watched them night after night, whether I was working the show that evening or not.  Far and away Glenn was the best of them.  Strong magic, hilariously funny, ridiculously smooth and collected onstage, and razor sharp dealing with audience volunteers. I always admired his ability to seem so loose and off the cuff and still have well paced and constructed routines in the background. It’s a bar I still work to rise to even today when I’m creating a piece for my show.  As you might imagine, after years of benefitting from watching one of the masters work, it’s hardly a chore to pay back a little and help him out when he needs it.
Matthew Disero
www.mattdisero.com

I have not approached Mr. Varcoe for comment – there are too many Rocky Varcoes out there in the world anyway, and I’ve met my fill of them. Sadly there are no organizations, unions or government departments that offer assistance to performers/artists needing help getting paid. Have you ever attempted to use Small Claims Court? They give you a judgement but don’t give you any assistance in actually extracting those funds owed. But Glenn qualifies for HUGE Claims Court but no such court exists in this country. We’re gonna look after our own now…but we could sure use YOUR help so please log onto the website and buy a ticket.
Thank you for supporting Canadian artists.   Glenda 

GWN-Challenge-Presented-by-CIBC-2014

ROW, ROW, ROW YOUR DRAGON BOATS…AND HELP RAISE $S TO FIGHT BREAST CANCER!

21st Annual GWN Dragon Boat Challenge Presented by CIBC
Marilyn Bell Park, Toronto, Ontario
September 12-13, 2015

With all the hub-bub surrounding the opening weekend of the Toronto Int’l Film Festival, it’s easy to forget other things happening around the city. Jake Gyllenhaal is already causing hearts to flutter tonight at his film’s premiere, and we’re all hoping Bendy (Benedict Cumberbatch), George & Amal, Brangelina and Matt Damon will visit us, too. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that in 10 days time, the tents will all be packed up and the circus will have left town. But we’re still here and so is one of the most insidious diseases that affects so many of us: breast cancer.

So I’m sending a big SHOUT OUT to my new friends on the Dragons Abreast dragon boat crew, a team of breast cancer survivors who will be paddling for our lives when they participate in this weekend’s annual GWN Dragon Boat Challenge Presented by CIBC www.gwndragonboat.com down on Toronto’s waterfront.11202810_1651762988373332_2553160250793327470_n-300x169Along with 9 other dragon boats crewed by teams living with and surviving breast cancer, Dragons Abreast will be helping raise funds for The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation as well as raising public and media awareness. PrintDID YOU KNOW….One in nine Canadian women is expected to develop breast cancer during her lifetime and 1 in 29 will die from the disease. Since it’s beginning, the Foundation’s Ontario Region has awarded over $84 million in funding for nearly 600 grants, supporting research projects, fellowships and community health initiatives.  Funds raised through the GWN Dragon Boat Challenge Presented by CIBC will go towards breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care.thThis weekend’s events mark the 6th stop of the Major League Dragon Boat Series and the marquee season-ending festival in Canada for dragon boat enthusiasts. In its 21st year, the Challenge is the perfect festival for corporate and club crews wanting to have a last blast before the end of summer. headWhat began as the 9-1-1 Challenge (a race organized by the Toronto Police Services with a modest 5 teams made up of emergency services members) has transformed into an all-out festival infusing the thrill of the dragon boat racing with an outdoor family friendly event. Participation in the annual event has blossomed through its charitable donations, with over $1.25M donated to non-profit organizations such as the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, our 2015 charity-of-choice.

Today, the Challenge continues to celebrate the sport, attracting dragon boat teams to Toronto’s waterfront from all over North America and overseas. Teams range from novice to competitive skill level and represent local corporations and clubs, public agencies, non-profit organizations and the community at large.  In addition to the exciting racing, the festival features many fun activities: the Rock the Boat Concert Stage with live musical performances, the Lake of Bays Beer Garden, a children’s activity zone with live entertainment, a health and wellness area, plus a variety of food, arts & crafts, and other vendors.racingRACE LOCATION:  The GWN Dragon Boat Challenge Presented by CIBC is held on the Western Beaches Watercourse at Marilyn Bell Park in downtown Toronto.

To learn more about DRAGONS ABREAST, visit their website at www.dragonsabreast.catimthumb

You go, ladies. We’ll all be cheering you on!!