He was known for his tales of Old Hollywood as much as his ever-present hairpiece, and Toronto just became way more boring without him.
Yesterday, famous publicist and personal manager Gino Empry died at Western Memorial Hospital from congestive heart failure due to a stroke he suffered in July. Though he lived in a huge downtown penthouse condo on Mutual Street, Empry had been in the hospital since the stroke. Empry never revealed his true age. His friends say he was in his sixties, but the official report states he was 83.
Empry, born Gino Emperatori, signed his first client in the 1960s, the Royal Alexandra Theatre, kicking off a lifelong friendship with Ed Mirvish. Empry’s fame skyrocketed when he began booking Canada’s top nightclub, the Royal York’s Imperial Room, in the 70s.
One of his favourite clients was singer Tony Bennett, whom he managed for twelve years. Empry also spoke fondly of Peggy Lee, Cher, Ella Fitzgerald, Tina Turner, Marlene Dietrich, and Roy Orbison. In 2002, he wrote a book about some of his experiences called I Belong To The Stars.
Empry was also his own best promoter. With a flamboyant personality that overshadowed his diminutive stature, when Empry couldn’t find an A-list party to attend, he’d throw his own. For more than 40 years, you could see Empry’s colourful jackets and enormous rings anywhere from Roy Thomson Hall to the Much Music Video Awards.
Gino Empry was one of the last of a certain breed of publicist. He was from the Old Hollywood school of name-dropping and tall tales, but where a handshake could take the place of a contract, loyalty was paramount, and where Empry’s devotion to the culture of celebrity would forever change Toronto’s showbiz scene.
Empry’s funeral takes place Wednesday at 10:30 AM at St. Michael’s Cathedral. He will be buried at Prospect Cemetary.