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Jack Singer just outside of Puerto Vallarta in 1973. (Grant Gallelli)
Jack Singer just outside of Puerto Vallarta in 1973. (Grant Gallelli)

BUSINESSMAN AND PHILANTHROPIST, 95

Calgary tycoon Jack Singer was larger than life Add to ...

In 1984, the Singers bid $12.3-million at auction for the studio. Several lawsuits followed, along with the inevitable falling-out with Mr. Coppola, who, according to the Los Angeles Times, accused Mr. Singer of “using the loan as a wedge to take away his studio.” He privately believed the family was trying to ruin him, the newspaper reported in 1990.

The matter was eventually settled out of court.

For years after that chance encounter, Mr. Singer, known for delivering one-line zingers, would say, “I went there to get an autograph and I ended up owning a studio.”

In doing so, Mr. Singer ended up counting George Burns, Truman Capote and Peter Lorre as among his friends, and suddenly attracted a lot of media attention himself.

For her book Controlling Interest, in which Diane Francis profiled families that owned a swath of Canadian assets, she described Mr. Singer as “pure Hollywood: large pinkie rings, open-necked shirt, hairy chest and gold chains.”

She perhaps neglected to mention his ever-present cigar and mahogany-hued skin.

“My dad loved the sun,” Stephen Singer said, “He would get so tanned.”

Mr. Singer pumped about $20-million into modernizing the renamed Hollywood Center Studios and over the years added production stations and branched out beyond feature films into television. While he never fulfilled another dream – to make his own movie there – the studio did become home to Jeopardy, Star Search, and the children’s series Pee-wee’s Playhouse.

It still operates today, with son Alan, who resides in Los Angeles, at the helm.

In 2011, Los Angeles city council thanked Mr. Singer for his “vital role in the revitalization of the District of Hollywood” by creating a “world-class resource for feature film and commercial production.” The special resolution declared him “an angel in the City of Angels.”

Mr. Singer was too ill to travel to accept the honour. He was in hospital with a bout of pneumonia, followed by a broken hip.

Hollywood didn’t forget Mr. Singer, even as he aged. Not even an old foe.

Mr. Coppola sent Alan a note upon learning of Mr. Singer’s death.

“I always thought your father would outlive me,” it said.

And in Calgary, where Mr. Singer’s sons donated $1.5-million in 1982 to the arts on his behalf, one of the city’s premier music venues bears his name – the Jack Singer Concert Hall – an especially pleasing honour.

“My father always loved publicity,” said Alan. “He would love seeing his name in the paper with the concert listings.”

Whatever ego he may have had, Mr. Singer never lost his sense of humour.

“Everybody said such nice things about me,” he said after his 90th birthday party, “I almost started to believe them myself.”

Mr. Singer leaves his two sons and four grandchildren. About 300 people attended his funeral service at Beth Tzedec Synagogue in Calgary.

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