Sunday 30 December 2012

Agora Restaurant reborn on Somerled Avenue in NDG

Good news for folks like me who were sorry to see the popular Agora Restaurant on Somerled Avenue in N.D.G. close its doors last summer. Chef Fotis Vasilakakis has breathed new life into the establishment, rebranding it Olympic Agora.

Emmanuel Plaitis  had purchased the 60 seat eatery from original owner Peter Vamvakaris towards the end of 2010. All seemed to be going well, until the surprising closure. Fortunately,  veteran restaurant man Vasilakakis stepped up to the plate.  When I dined there with family members I was most impressed to see the new owner step out of the kitchen on more than one occasion to visit each table and see how their meals were going. He even had the waitress present several items on the house -not a bad PR move when trying to lure back former customers and attract new ones.

I had the trademark Greek chicken, a quarter breast with rice and Greek potatoes. It was excellent. The old Agora menu, with such favorites as Greek salads, brochettes, lamb chops, steaks, sole, salmon filet, remains intact, but with the new Fotis touch.

Fotis told me that a website is in the planning stages.  The address is at 6544 Somerled . For more information call 514-484-1111.

Friday 28 December 2012

Parthenon Restaurant to open new location on Queen Mary Road

There is a new restaurant about to join the Queen Mary Road strip in Montreal. Parthenon, the popular bring your own wine brochetterie and a mainstay on Van Horne Avenue near Côte des Neiges since 1978, is opening a second location on January 3.

That is not great news for Yia Sou,  the three year old Greek restaurant right next door.  It took over the spot previously occupied by the Arahova chain and has done very well.  Parthenon has a lot of the same menu items (not of course Yia Sou's signature Greek Taverna chicken) at a much lower price.

Parthenon's Côte des Neiges location  is very popular at lunch, especially with the nearby Jewish General Hospital crowd.  It will now attract a new West End crowd in Snowdon.

Can Yia Sou and Parthenon co-exist on a strip which has traditionally not been too friendly to restaurants? We will wait and see.

Monday 17 December 2012

Some kind of year for evenko

The Montreal Canadiens may be off the ice due to the senseless NHL lockout, but owner Geoff Molson can still smile at the fact that his entertainment production arm, evenko, has just completed a solid 2012.
Here is their review:

First of all, it must be noted that in 2012 the Bell Centre was ranked third among the best arenas in the world, just behind London’s O2 Arena and the Staples Center in Los Angeles (Venues Today, November 2012). The Bell Centre was also the venue that obtained the highest number of Facebook check-ins in all of Canada for the year, leading the Rgers Centre and Canada’s Wonderland! (source:

As far as production of shows and festivals, 2012 has been another record year for evenko: we presented 1003 events, nearly a third of which showcased Quebec artists! That’s almost 3 events for every day of the year.

Although evenko is often associated with the Bell Centre, it’s important to recognize that aside from the 141 events that were held there in 2012, we produced 484 events in other Montreal venues, another 310 throughout the province and 68 outside of the province of Quebec for a total of 2,220,334 tickets sold!

Another piece of great news: tomorrow, evenko and Virgin Mobile are officially inaugurating theVirgin Mobile Corona Theatre, with exclusive performances from Feist, Coeur de pirate and Kele Okereke of Bloc Party, who will be at the turntables keeping the guests dancing! Firmly committed to developing local talent, evenko has presented 21 Quebec artists (musicians and comedians) on the Corona Theatre stage since November 2011, all while contributing to the cultural life of the thriving South West borough.

Remaining in the context of diversifying its core competencies as promoter and producer of shows and festivals, evenko won the bid for exclusive manager of the future Place Bell in Laval, which will be inaugurated in the fall of 2015.

Peter Gabriel
As a promoter, evenko was associated with 56 shows in Quebec City, including Bryan Adams, Pitbull, Star Académie, the Michael Jackson Immortal Tour of Cirque du Soleil, Peter Gabriel (as he launched started his North American) and the great Leonard Cohen at the Colisée Pepsi. At the Grand Théâtre, the performances of City and Colour, Queen Extravaganza and Loreenna McKennitt were presented to sold-out audiences, and Avenged Sevenfold gave an electrifying performance at the Agora.

It’s also noteworthy that evenko was associated with the Mondial Loto-Québec de Laval for the first time, to present three outdoor shows on an international scale on the enchanting site of the Centre de la nature, with Sarah McLachlan, LMFAO and Aerosmith.


* OSHEAGA Festival musique et arts: For the seventh edition of the festival at Parc Jean Drapeau – which was sold out for the first time – festival goers from here, Quebec, the United States and around the world had their eyes and ears full for three days of performances, including Justice, Snoop Dogg and The Black Keys!

* PHILIPPE BOND, who took home the “Olivier de l'année” and received a Platinum Ticket(over 100,000 tickets sold). He will make his first Bell Centre appearance on April 5th!

* COLDPLAY, who sold out the Bell Centre for 2 concerts on July 26th and 27th that were spectacular and sparkling (thanks to the thousands of glowing bracelets distributed to fans). These shows were also immortalized on their DVD Coldplay Live 2012!

* SALTIMBANCO of the Cirque du Soleil, which, after having been seen by fourteen million people around the world, has come home to complete its final lap at the Bell Centre from December 19th to 30th. This is a show you absolutely have to see – or re-see!

Other remarkable events at the Bell Centre
Jennifer Lopez

It’s hard to choose in such a prosperous year, but it’s impossible to forget Simple Plan, Bryan Adams, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead, Roger Waters – The Wall, Star Académie with 8 shows at the Bell Centre and 24 performances throughout Quebec, Enrique Iglesias and Jennifer Lopez who kicked off their North American tour in Montreal, the super-productionDragons which was presented for the first time in Montreal and in French, Madonna, Jason Mraz, Peter Gabriel, Rush, the divine Barbara Streisand, the legendary Leonard Cohen, who successfully created an intimate ambiance for his two concerts at the Bell Centre, and finally the sensation Justin Bieber – who, with his adoring fans in a complete frenzy – exploded the
decibel level at the Bell Centre!          

Musical performances
This year brought the return of Don Juan, composed of a new line-up revolving around Jean-François Breau and Marie-Ève Janvier, and the Broadway musicals Wicked and Mary Poppins, presented for the very first time in Montreal at the Place des Arts.

evenko presented two highly anticipated boxing matches: Jean Pascal vs. Tavoris Cloud andLucian Bute vs. Dennis Grachev; the first Rendez-vous des Maîtres, which brought together the legendary tennis stars Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, Ivan Lendl and Jimmy Connors on the court of the Bell Centre; a second pre-season NBA game, with the New York Knicks facing off against the Toronto Raptors in front of a sold-out crowd; and the unforgettable UFC 154, where Georges St-Pierre won back his welterweight world champion title after a battle of the titans against Carlos Condit.Overview of performances in other Montreal venues
City of Colour, Of Monsters and Men, Sum 41, The XX, Refused, Sonar Tour and The Weeknd took Metropolis by storm; Queen Extravaganza lit up the Théâtre St. Denis; Charlie Winston, Charles Bradley,
 A$AP Rocky
, Steel Panther, Gotye, Young the Giant, MarthaWainwright, Malajube, Ariane Moffatt and Pierre Lapointe took the stage at the Théâtre Corona Virgin Mobile; Grizzly Bear, Slash, Jack White and Ed Sheeran rocked thousands of spectators at Olympia; Fun. sold out the Cabaret Mile End; and Death Cab for Cutie, David Byrne/St. Vincent and Rufus Wainwright put on great shows at the Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste.

Sugar Sammy received unanimous critical acclaim for both his bilingual show You’re Gonna Rire (45 shows at the Olympia in Montreal) and his entirely francophone show En français SVP(36 shows around the province of Quebec). Also in comedy, evenko launched their brand new series Comiques au Corona, hosted by François Morency, who invited the likes of Philippe Bond, Louis-José House, François Bellefeuille, Sugar Sammy, Maxim Martin and Dominic et Martin, among others, to test out their new material in front of a live audience at the Corona Theatre.

Osheaga Festival Musique et Arts – From August 3rd to 5th 
The Osheaga festival reached new heights in 2012! With an all-star lineup, an expanded and improved site at the heart of the magnificent Parc Jean-Drapeau, exceptional fans from around the world, and Mother Nature toying with our emotions every step of the way, it was a seventh edition that will long be remembered! 105 groups came out, 18 of which are Quebecois, in front of a crowd that totaled 120,000 spectators. The three-day festival completely sold out, a first in the history of Osheaga! More than half of the fans came from outside Quebec, the other Canadian provinces and more than 25 countries including England, France, Australia, Mexico and the United States. OSHEAGA is now more than ever a major tourist event for Montreal, with an estimated economic impact of nearly $50 million.

Heavy MTL – From August 10th to 12th
It was also a record year for the 4th Heavy MTL festival at Parc Jean-Drapeau. With System of a Down and Slipknot headlining, and 10 Quebecois groups performing, fans of heavy and intense music were spoiled! 44,360 fans (46% of which were tourists) came out to enjoy the festival which is constantly evolving. The economic impact of Heavy MTL on the Montreal tourism industry is an estimated $5.2 million.

In 2013, collaborating with its many partners, evenko will continue to pursue its mission of development in the world of entertainment and culture, while contributing to the tourism economy of the greater Montreal area and surrounding regions. Between 2002 and 2011, the number of performance at the Bell Centre that were part of the Top 25 largest tours in the world rose from 11 to 16; so evenko has contributed significantly to the image of Montreal as a city of major performances and festivals. More than 77,600 foreign tourists take part in evenko shows every year, spending $48.4 million in Quebec from 2010-2011.

Finally, a big thank you to all of our partners and customers, and especially you, the fans, who have made these events at the Bell Centre and all the other Quebec venues great highlights that we will remember for a long time to come.

Saturday 8 December 2012

If disgraceful NHL lockout does not end Bettman and Fehr have to go

Will we see any National Hockey League games this year? Do you miss watching the Montreal Canadiens?

If a deal is  not made really soon, the 2012-2013 schedule will be wiped off the map. Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players Association boss Donald Fehr, putting their respective egos ahead of the game, will have effectively done significant and perhaps irreparable damage to the game. The only people who should be smiling are resident of Quebec City for they will get their long awaited team sooner than expected. Some NHL squads will not survive this mess. Sponsors will not return, nor will season ticket holders. Bettman, if he keeps his  job, will be so desperate he will probably have to put a team back in Atlanta.

I have spoken to many die hard Habs fans, corporate folks with private boxes and season tickets. Surprisingly they just do not care about the lockout anymore. Now that is a pretty bad sign! "I am doing other things with my time," one business-type told me.

"At this point I really do not want them to come back," said another season ticket holder. "It will be watered down product. Players will be getting injured because most are out of shape. Who wants to pay for that? Let them come back fresh next year."

My neighbour,  a student at Concordia's John Molson School for Business and one of those young men whose every breath is associated with the Habs, told me the lockout has been good for his studies. "Sure I miss watching the games," he said. "But I don't have that distraction any more when I have to study for exams."

I agree with him. With my heavy workload, I am out of the house at meetings a few nights a week. When I am home, it usually by the computer for several hours. If a Habs game on, I usually park myself in front of the TV with my laptop. But the work comes along a lot slower as I watch the game. So I guess the lockout has been good to me as well.

Personally, I may only go to a couple of games each year. Nonetheless, I must confess that I really do miss watching NHL hockey. I love listening to the talk shows after a Habs win or loss; following the news of a big trade; seeing the game highlights on the nightly sportscast; logging on to  Yes, I miss the Habs and would happily accept an abbreviated 50 to 55 game season.

So how does that happen? First of all, the owners need to send Bettman into a corner and let him stay there for a while. How this man commands a salary of   $7.2 million a year is beyond me.   He needs to be removed from all negotiations immediately and if the season is cancelled,  he should be fired. Yes, he has about three years left on his contract  so make him director of legal affairs. Put a real hockey man in charge of the game. A Ken Dryden type. Bettman is universally despised by players, fans and I bet by most owners.

Bettman could have avoided this whole mess if he just sat down with the owners handing out crazy contracts - Craig Leipold for example. Last summer the Minnesota Wild owner signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to insane longterm $98 million contracts. It was contrary to everything Bettman was trying to change in the collective agreement. 

I commend Habs owner Geoff Molson and others for holding their nose while Bettman ruins their businesses.

Now we get to Fehr, a hired gun who has absolutely no interest in the game of hockey or its future. Clearly, this whole thing is about him getting the upper hand.  If the season is cancelled, he has to go as well. The players could step in at this point and hammer out a deal without him. The league wants a 10 year deal and the players eight -so settle at nine. As for the NHL's insistence that five year contracts be the limit, the players should accept that too. However, they would be absolutely correct to say that what has been signed is signed.

Where Fehr has shown a total lack of leadership is not coming down on the many players who headed to Europe. If the NHLPA wanted to end this, perhaps a novel idea would have been to setup a rival league. Our Montreal squad could play out of the smaller Verdun Auditorium or maybe even the Quebec Coliseum.

As TSN's Pierre Lebrun rightly said the other day, the NHL should be embarrassed by this whole mess. It is a disgrace and both sides are to blame.

Watch this clip though and tell me you would not love to see an opening day of hockey on January 1 with these type of introductions:

Wednesday 5 December 2012

NDG comic Sean Keane passes away before his time

NDG native and standup comic Sean Keane passed away a few days ago. He was only in his 50s, yet suffered a fatal heart attack. 

My old friend Warren Campbell gave me the news via Toronto. Warren, myself and a bunch of friends would frequent the Comedy Nest regularly in its glory days on Bishop Street. Sean performed there often and we loved his dry humour, especially the prank phone calls he'd do. I got to know Sean off stage too.

He was not anything like his act, in which he would typically come out wearing a suit and dark glasses with his hair slicked back. He would talk in a very deep voice and sway his body back and forth. His jokes were lighting fast and funny. Nope, Sean was in fact a little bit shy when you'd see him in person.
In recent years I would run into Sean often at the Provigo on Sherbrooke Street West in NDG. He'd always be headed to the cash with some cat food. Sean adored the feline species, as do I. We were supposed to sit down for an interview. "Why would you want to write about me?" he asked.

I even proposed he return to his old school to talk to kids about life as a standup comic. He was considering the offer. Well, just take a look at  his recent performance (below) at the Winnipeg Comedy Festival. Sean had a unique style and delivery. Audiences ate up his humour. My sympathies go out to his friends and family. Hopefully Sean is up there enjoying a few laughs with Comedy Nest founder Ernie  Butler, another man who we lost way too soon.

Monday 3 December 2012

Global Morning Show taking shape; time to hire on air staff

The Global Morning Show in Montreal is starting to take shape.

While there is no word yet exactly when it will hit the  airwaves, two important hires have been made.
Robert Ostiguy
Experienced writer, director and producer Robert Ostiguy has been appointed senior producer of the yet to be named show.  Jim Connell, a fixture on Montreal radio and a truly great guy, will serve as studio director.  The latter is an interesting development given the fact Connell was set to join the new AM 600 Radio station, set to launch in the spring.

"Both bring a wealth of combined on-air and production experience with them to the Global Montreal team, and will be instrumental in the development of an English-language breakfast program that will revolutionize the way news is delivered to viewers in the city,"  says Nick Poirier, a spokesman for Shaw Media, owners of Global.
Laura Casella (right) would be a good choice for Global

Poirier says that more information concerning Global Montreal’s new morning show, including the show’s on-air team and additional details regarding its format, will be made available in the coming month.
So who do you think will be part of the team? Will Tracy McKee return? Does Andrew Peplowski want back in? Amanda Jelowicki has been off for personal reasons. But if she is ready to return she'd be a good choice. Richard Dagenais did a great job on the previous Global Montreal morning show as the field reporter. He seems content as the late night anchor, but might want back in the morning. Peter Anthony Holder does a dandy job on weekends and I am sure would like a steady gig. Laura Casella is CJAD's morning field reporter. She is young, attractive and has some TV experience with CTV. Definitely someone to consider. Lisa Fisette is now  working as the Global Montreal assignment editor, but has plenty of on air experience.

Friday 30 November 2012

Visiting with Mayor Applebaum

I had my first opportunity to visit with Michael Applebaum since his election as mayor of Montreal. He will serve in that post until November 2013.  Michael welcomed myself and some colleagues from the English Montreal School Board to his office at City Hall. With very little notice, he accommodated us in order for Grade 10 student Juliana Delmar to conduct an interview for LaurenHill Academy's new student radio station called The Voice.
Mayor Applebaum (left) greets me in his office.

Back when LaurenHill was known as Sir Winston Churchill High School, Applebaum was a student there. I was very impressed with Juliana's knowledge of all that is going on at City Hall. When her interview airs  I will post a link.

It was the same old Michael  Applebaum I have known for many years. In fact he reminded me how we first met at Dawson College more than 30 years ago. When I began to set up a photo, he suggested the blinds be closed to block the sunlight. There was no secretary or assistant called to do the job. He took care of it himself.

As a politician, Applebaum has shown his smarts by getting the job in the first place. He cleverly formed a coalition with opposition party members and brought a number of his former Union Montreal colleagues with him. At a time when we have a PQ government in office, how comforting is it to have an anglophone mayor in office whose French is pretty darn good. His performance on the top rated Radio Canada program Tout le monde en parle was highly impressive.

Applebaum clearly remembers what it was like to be a student. Despite a jammed agenda and staff people continually pointing to the clock, he slowly and enthusiastically responded to Juliana's questions.

Jonathan Abecassis, Applebaum's former political advisor in the borough of Côte des Neiges-N.D.G., has come over with him to City Hall.  Applebaum wisely kept Agop Evereklian  on as his chief of staff and Darren Becker as director of communications.   Former councillor Marcel Tremblay is back on the scene, this time as an advisor in the borough. Marcel, the brother of former Mayor Gérald Tremblay, will not run again. He does not even live on the island of Montreal anymore. His experience will serve the borough well.

Applebaum, in the meantime, continues to be the political story of the year. Bigger than Pauline Marois becoming premier. As the secretary who walked us into his office said: "Everyone wants to meet with him."

The fact he took some time so early in his mandate to meet a young student says something good about his character.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Mary Poppins at Place des Arts just outstanding

The past few months have been difficult for our family, with the passing of my dad on September 3. While my brother and sister and I are naturally very sad, it is our mom Elaine who has had the toughest adjustment.

Mom and dad did a lot of fun activities together, but Broadway-style musicals were not on his wish list.  So when I heard that Mary Poppins the Musical was Montreal-bound I told mom I would try and get tickets.

"When you were kids, I had the L.P. that I played for you all the time," mom said. "When you were a little boy, daddy and I took you to the movie and you were fascinated when Mary Poppin  flew on her umbrella. After that I read you the storybook and daddy brought home the record .I remember the old LPs. We had a wonderful collection,  but unfortunately we got rid of them because they went out of style like the horse and buggy."

I am 50 years young now. So  I was only a toddler when I saw the motion picture starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyck. Nonetheless, those wonderful songs have been ringing in my head for decades. Well, I secured the tickets and mom was raring to go. What a treat this was! Mary Poppins continues at  salle Wilfrid-Pelletier of  Place des Arts through Sunday, November 25. If you are a fan of musicals, then get your tickets without any delay for you will not see this quality of a production in Montreal that often,

The show was spectacular from beginning to end. While young children will naturally enjoy it, this was by no means a "kids" show.  It tells the tale of the Banks family, who live  in a big house in London on Cherry Lane.  Kids  Jane and Michael are out of control and in need of a new nanny.  Suddenly,  a mysterious young lady  named Mary Poppins arrives at their doorstep, weaves a little magic and changes everything for the better.

Now  I must say,  Mary's job interview was very brief. There was no resume or references submitted. She was hired on the spot. The kids were glued to her immediately as out of her magical suitcase came a tall coat hanger, a clock and a few other items.

The cast was magnificent. Madeline Trumble as Mary had me thinking Julie Andrews right from the start while Con O'Shea-Creal as Bert had a little Van Dyck in him. Micheal Dean Morgan and Elizabeth Broadhurst were just dandy as Mr. and Mrs. Banks, but it was the two child actors who totally stole the show. There are four youngsters rotating the roles. Julianna Rigoglioso and Eli Tokash were on stage for the presentation we saw. Besides being absolutely adorable, their singing, acting and dancing was at a very high level.

This was a truly polished shows, with one of the most magnificent sets for a travelling production I have seen in some time.  There was the amazing pop up house, the rooftops, the park and  the very believabl raindrops. Mary did indeed fly and Bert climbed the walls and danced upside down.  

I looked around at the audience and everyone just had big smiles on their faces. The songs were amazing and mostly familiar:  Chim Chim Cher-ee, Cherry Tree Lane,The Perfect Nanny, Practically Perfect,  Jolly Holiday, A Spoonful of Sugar, Feed the Birds,   Supercalifragilisticexpidalidocious  and more. I have them all humming in my head.

Here is what the song looked like on Broadway:

At the end of the show, Michael Dean Morgan announced that the cast was raising money for a number of charities, including to assist victims of Hurricane Sunday. Audience members were invited to drop some cash in buckets on the way out, purchase some special merchandise or for $250 get a back stage tour.

Oh yes, and mom went home on cloud nine! She loved every minute of the show.   

For more information  on how to get tickets go to or

Thank you Evenko and Broadway Across Canada for bringing such a top quality musical to Montreal. Next on the horizon is Billy Elliott, January 8 to 13, 2013, also at the Place des Arts.