Introducing: Sandra Gold

Introduction

Sandra Gold.

Sandra Gold.

I first met Sandra last year at a concert at Woodbine Racetrack. During our brief conversation, I mentioned that I was going to see ETA Gordon Hendricks perform at the Casablanca Winery in Grimsby.  By coincidence, Rock and Soul, was one of Sandra’s many shows in 2016.  It was a spectacular evening of dining and entertainment, and was so well attended, it was repeated this year at the same venue.

If you read my article, Keeping His Memory Alive, you know that my knowledge of ETAs has snowballed these past few months.  I recently learned that many of the artists whose performances I have enjoyed at local casinos are shows that Sandra Gold has booked.  I was intrigued by the business acumen of the woman behind the concerts, and wondered what special qualities it takes to run such a successful business.  I was pleased when Sandra agreed to an interview for SIDEBURNS Magazine.


Introducing:  Sandra Gold

Q.  What circumstances led to you opening your business?

Sandra Gold.

Sandra Gold.

A.  I was tired of working for others.  I don’t drive, so I like to conduct business on the phone.  My Jewish family encouraged me to be an entrepreneur and own my own business.   

Q.  What services does your business provide?

A.  I am a booking agent, producer, and promoter.  I put on my own shows and provide entertainers to casinos in Canada and the USA. 

Q.  How long has your business been in operation?

A.  Stars on Stage Inc. has been in operation for 14 years.

Q.  What is your official title in the company?

A.  My title is President.

Q.  How many people do you employ on a regular basis?

A.  My company employs four people.  Entertainers are subcontracted on as per needed basis.

Q.  Are there many women operating your type of business?

A.  My only competition in Canada is men.  There are some women who do run similar businesses, but they operate in the USA.

Q.  What type of challenges do you face in your line of work?

A.  It is a big responsibility in making everyone happy, and making sure everything runs smoothly.  Sometimes things happen that are beyond my control—the weather and traffic, for example; but I try my best to make sure everything runs smoothly all the time.

Sandra Gold with ETA Sylvain Leduc (left) and ETA Gordon Hendricks (right).   Photo submitted by Sandra Gold.

Sandra Gold with ETA Sylvain Leduc (left) and ETA Gordon Hendricks (right).  Photo submitted by Sandra Gold.

Q.  How has your business changed since its beginning?

A.  I started with ETAs because I have been a fan of Elvis since I was four years old.  I became friends with ETAs at Collingwood.  As my company grew, more entertainers started asking me to book shows for them.  Fans will ask for different people from different countries, and I deliver.  I offer clients the best entertainers available for bookings. 

Q.  Do you meet with any resistance running a business dominated by men?

A.  My background in business has given me the confidence to book shows on the phone.  One man in particular was instrumental in helping me get started with OLG shows because he believed in me.  As the Director of Entertainment for Casino Niagara, he gave me a chance and assisted me in procuring my AGCO (Alcohol and Gaming Commission) licence.

Q.  What are the biggest misconceptions people might conclude when they first meet you?

"Tim E is one of my best best friends."  Sandra Gold.   Photo submitted by Sandra Gold.

"Tim E is one of my best best friends."  Sandra Gold.  Photo submitted by Sandra Gold.

A.  People may make assumptions because I am flamboyant; but what they may not know is that I have an astute business sense.  There are different layers to my personality.  I want everyone to be happy.  I want people to forget their problems when they are at my shows.  I am fun and spiritual.  I must laugh everyday—and at myself.  We must live everyday as if it is our last.

Q.  Running a business is hard work.  How many hours do you work per day?

A.  My work is ongoing.  I can work until 2 a.m.  Trust between my entertainers and me is crucial.  They know that I mean business, and they respect that.  I want them to enjoy the gig I have booked for them because I want them to be happy.  I work hard at making sure things run smoothly for everyone.  If it goes well, ‘Sandra is a star’; and if not…!  Travel is part of my work, and fortunately, I love to travel.

Q.  What do you do to unwind after a tough day of work?

A.  I listen to Elvis.  I like to do something that is fun, like going for dinner or to a movie.  I often get invited to entertainers’ shows.

Q.  What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Sandra Gold   with husband, Oscar.   Photo submitted by Sandra Gold.

Sandra Gold with husband, Oscar.  Photo submitted by Sandra Gold.

A.  People may be surprised that I have been married for 29 years.  My husband is definitely an Elvis fan—he would have to be or I wouldn’t have married him!

Q.  How does the process of hiring ETAs and other artists work?

A.  A customer calls me and asks for a show, or I book a venue.  People first, or venue first, it works either way.

Q.  How difficult is it to find someone to fill in should the occasion arise?  Does it happen very often?  Are there certain artists you know can rely on in a pinch?

A. I have a few I can call on with short notice.  Replacing an artist only happens once every few months. 

Q.  Are there certain people you would like to thank for enriching your life?

Sandra Gold and long-time  friend, Karen Pattiucci.   Photo submitted by Sandra Gold.

Sandra Gold and long-time  friend, Karen Pattiucci. 
Photo submitted by Sandra Gold.

A.  I would like to thank my long-time friend, Karen Pattiucci for helping me with contracts, making decisions--in fact, everything!  Karen worked long hours with me on the 20 page OLG application.  If it wasn’t for Karen I would not have gotten my AGCO licence.  I would like to thank my good friend, Rita Caruso, who has been by my side since the beginning of my shows.  Rita is my backstage manager and literally does a lot of running around to make sure that shows run smoothly.  Thank you to my good friend Sue Harris who helps me with all the extra things that need doing.  Sue also provides me with transportation to my shows at US casinos.  I am grateful to the three of you for your help, but most of all, I am grateful for your friendship.      

Sue Harris, Rita Caruso, and Sandra Gold taking care of business.

Sue Harris, Rita Caruso, and Sandra Gold taking care of business.

Q.  What would you like to add to this interview that has not been covered?

A.  I am blessed and happy for the people in my life, and they make me want to live.


Thank you so much, Sandra, for consenting to be interviewed.  I have been to many of your shows these past few months, and I can say with assurance that your goals of making people happy and offering shows that run smoothly have been met each time. During our interview I saw first-hand how you handled an incident involving unexpected heavy traffic, an ETA who was running late due to the traffic, and a client who was concerned because the starting time of the show was very close.  At the end of several back and forth phone calls, you managed to make all parties concerned happy.  Through it all, you kept your sense of humour, and managed to answer my interview questions—a true professional to the core!

I am looking forward to Sandra’s upcoming 2017 ETA shows:  Matt Cage - Nov. 17th at Mohawk Raceway; and James Gibb - Nov. 24th and Kevin Mills - Dec. 15th at Flamboro Downs.  Also, you can see James Gibb and Kevin Mills together - Nov. 25th, at Sheridan United Church, Mississauga, in an Elvis Christmas.  In 2018, Tim E Hendry will entertain at the Casablanca dinner and show on May 5th; and Gordon Hendricks will return to Canada for a three day show, October 25th – 27th (details TBA).  What an entertaining way to end 2017; and we have so much to look forward to in 2018!  On behalf of all ETA fans, I wish to thank Sandra Gold and Stars on Stage Inc.!  CM       

Contact information for Stars on Stage click HERE.

Sandra Gold with Frank (Sinatra) Campanile (left) and ETA Matt Cage (right).   Photo submitted by Sandra Gold.

Sandra Gold with Frank (Sinatra) Campanile (left) and ETA Matt Cage (right).  Photo submitted by Sandra Gold.

Sandra Gold with Andy Kim.   Photo submitted by Sandra Gold.

Sandra Gold with Andy Kim.  Photo submitted by Sandra Gold.

Sandra Gold with Rita Caruso.   Photo submitted by Sandra Gold.

Sandra Gold with Rita Caruso.  Photo submitted by Sandra Gold.

Sandra Gold with husband, Oscar.   Photo submitted by Sandra Gold.   

Sandra Gold with husband, Oscar.  Photo submitted by Sandra Gold.
 

Sandra Gold with husband, Oscar.   Photo submitted by Sandra Gold.

Sandra Gold with husband, Oscar.  Photo submitted by Sandra Gold.

Introducing: The Women behind the Flaming Star Festival

On Sunday, October 15th, 2017, I attended my first ETA competition, and it was a wonderful experience.  I could not have picked a better event than Pam Pettit and Sue Harris’s Flaming Star Festival.  From the moment we signed in, the love that Pam and Sue have for organizing and running a top notch event was evident.  A three day festival of this calibre requires extensive knowledge on the part of the organizers in order for such a large event to run so effortlessly.  I am delighted that Pam and Sue have graciously agreed to share their bios. Through their words, we will get to know the women behind the scenes and how their individual talents came together to make the Flaming Star Festival such a successful annual event.  


 INTRODUCING:  Pam Pettit

Pam Pettit.  Photo by Cathy Montgomery

Pam Pettit. Photo by Cathy Montgomery

First of all, I am a proud mom of a daughter, son and stepdaughter, and have six amazing grandchildren.

I have worked in high schools the majority of my career and will eventually retire from the educational sector. I can honestly say that organizing convocations at Seneca College were my first steps at learning how to put together large events.

For 3 years, I was the Executive Assistant to the Telethon Coordinator at the Easter Seal Society.  Together we produced the annual provincial Easter Telethon on live TV, at that time CBC.  I also participated and helped with many other celebrity events organized by Easter Seals.

I grew up listening to Elvis music, and when my sister became friends with an ETA, I started attending Elvis tribute shows and the Collingwood Elvis Festival.

In 2009, I attended the Toronto Elvis Festival produced by Heather and Nevin Grant and Stage West.  Nevin was the Program Director of OLDIES 1150 CKOC and 820 CHAM, and music director of CKOC.  Nevin is recognized as one of the top music programmers in Canada.  I volunteered as a Judges Assistant, along with various other duties, at their annual Toronto festival.  Upon retiring as producers of this Festival in 2013, the Grants handed me the reigns to take over the festival.  Stage West in 2013 made many structural changes and closed the dining theatre and their involvement in the Elvis festival.

Cynthia Pepper and Gordon Henricks, Flaming Star, 2017. Photo by Louis Young

Cynthia Pepper and Gordon Henricks, Flaming Star, 2017. Photo by Louis Young

I have supported Rockin Ray Michaels, host of 92.9 The Grand radio, with his annual Kings and Classics Festival in Rockton for quite a few years.

I am always ready to lend a hand to ETAs with shows and fundraisers.  For a while I created websites and posters for various ETAs and their shows.

The Flaming Star Festival was established in 2014 to help fill the void of an Elvis Festival in Toronto.  The inaugural festival was welcomed by the ETA world and so began the growth of Flaming Star.

The festival has showcased the following very talented champion headliners:  Doug Church, John Cigan, Connor Russo, Tim E. Hendry, James Gibb, Pete Storm, Benjamin Dalske, Richard Wolfe, Gordon Hendricks, Sylvain Leduc and Matt Cage. Cynthia Pepper, who co-starred with Elvis in Kissin Cousins, has attended each festival and is a cherished member of the Flaming Star Festival family.

The Festival has a welcoming coziness.  The weekend may be filled with Elvis music, but it also a coming together of Elvis Tribute Artists, families and friends to have a great time.  It has been said that the ETA world is the “huggiest” group of people ever.  It takes an hour to say goodbye at the end of a show with all the hugs and kisses.

Flaming Star Festival Poster by James Gibb.

Flaming Star Festival Poster by James Gibb.

In my 'spare time', I say jokingly,  between working full time and the Festival, I also produce tribute shows particularly at the Stone Grille Restaurant/Bar in Innisfil owned by Mark Lovell.  We have showcased tributes to John Denver, Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Cher, Shania Twain, Roy Orbison, Tom Jones, Neil Diamond, Connie Francis, the Deceiving Divas, Whitney Houston etc.   We have a show on November 18 that stars Tom Jones and Neil Diamond tribute artists.

Over the years, I have been a judge at many venues, including the Tweed Tribute to Elvis Festival, a preliminary qualifying contest to the UETAC, King Attractions contests, and Kings and Classics Festival in Rockton and more.  This can be a very difficult task that can only be truly carried out with a background and knowledge of Elvis, his songs, lyrics, moves, presence etc.  It is a position I hope to continue for a long time.                                   

I have been a Backstage Manager at the Windsor SuperStars Festival as well as at other tribute shows, including the first Niagara Falls Elvis Festival this past year, where I have been asked back for 2018 in the same capacity. 
 

Over the last 4 years, I can’t begin to count all the hours Sue and I have spent together working on the Festival.  During that time we have tried to ensure our passion and love for Elvis is reflected in all we do for the Festival.  Sue and I now have a close friendship thanks to the creation of this Festival.  I can't imagine doing this with anyone else.  Her close friends are now my close friends, and we are family.  I am so grateful to Sue and our ETA family for all they do to help us.  What an incredible amount of Elvis knowledge is contained in this small group. Marcus Wells likes to refer to us as his posse. 

We have a small but solid group of volunteers that fill all the necessary jobs at the Festival.  We are forever indebted to these hard working friends.

Victor Hanson

Victor Hanson


Victor Hanson is a major component of our festival and a forever team member.  He loves to create fun promotional videos. Be sure to ask Victor about his trigger finger the next time you see him. He keeps the festival running smoothly no matter what happens.  Victor's sense of humour keeps the audience entertained all weekend long. He is our "life-saving hero" in times of inevitable technical glitches!  From the business aspect, Victor offers us his professional expertise for which we are very grateful. Cynthia Pepper and Victor co-wrote Pigtails, Presley and Pepper together.  Victor and Cynthia have become very dear friends to Sue and me. 

The motto “Festivals Working Hand In Hand” was created in our inaugural year to bring together a feeling of comaraderie and togetherness with other Elvis festivals.  We are not in this to compete with each other.  We are all trying to honour Elvis and keep his memory alive for generations to come. Let us all help each other do this.

Helen Keller once said “Alone we can do so little.  Together we can do so much”.  Sue and I have proven to be the enduring and unbreakable team bringing Flaming Star to the success it is today.  We look forward to celebrating our 5th Anniversary of the Flaming Star Festival in the fall of 2018.


 INTRODUCING:  Sue Harris

Sue Harris

Sue Harris

I discovered my love for Elvis when my uncle and godfather took me to see Kissin’ Cousins at the Glendale Theatre.  While very young, the music and fun topped off by two very handsome Elvises resonated with me.

I worked in the Telecommunications industry from my teenage years until my retirement in roles associated with Customer Service and Process Engineering.  My main passion was the Toronto Blue Jays where I was a season ticket holder for over 20 years.  While with Bell Canada, I met a lovely lady who introduced me to the ETA world through a weekend excursion to Collingwood in 1999.  Although a closet fan through most of my teenage years, I firmly was hooked. I started attending concerts and festivals every weekend.  I loved and respected the dedication and passion that each of the ETAs, good or bad, brought to their tributes.

They say when God closes a door, he opens a window. The need to take care of my aging mother and Downs Syndrome brother made it impossible for me to continue to attend Blue Jay games…Door closed.  Enter the Elvis World and the window opened for me into a new passion. I started talking to the various ETAs - totally amazed at the different reasons and ways they entered this new and strange world.  I met caring and unselfish people who believed in helping each other and who were all united by one common goal – to pay tribute to a great entertainer – Elvis Presley.  The more I knew, the more I saw the same generosity of spirit that Elvis was so revered for.  They were like no other people I had ever met, and I was swept into their world.

When the opportunity to join the Flaming Star Festival in its inaugural year - 2014, I leaped at the opportunity to bring the fan perspective into the group as well as the chance to draw on my project management and process skills. I was also inspired to create an automated score sheet for tabulations for the Flaming Star Festival and have had the honour of extending that responsibility to the Niagara Falls Elvis Festival and the Collingwood Elvis Festival.

Before joining the team, I only knew Pam Pettit having met at various events.  As I worked more and more with her, my respect and admiration for her grew.  We started the whole adventure as acquaintances and have grown to be family. Pam is more than just a partner in the Festival, she is my sister.  I feel that through our diverse experiences, we create an unbeatable team that has created a Festival that has grown and gotten better and better over its 4 year span.


All about the Flaming Star Festival

Flaming Star Festival Poster by James Gibb

Flaming Star Festival Poster by James Gibb

In 2014, the first Annual Flaming Star Festival was launched. Our inaugural event was wildly successful from all perspectives and has flourished every year since then. The event is centered around 30 Elvis Tribute Artists from around the world, paying homage to the music and performances of Elvis Presley. This three-day competition is held at the Crowne Plaza Toronto Airport Hotel, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, culminating in the crowning of three champions in a Non-Pro Division, Pro Division and Gospel Division. As these artists strive for authentic representations of The King of Rock and Roll, they are judged in categories such as vocal ability, costume, and performance for an opportunity to claim the Championship title.  The festival garners compliments and praise from contestants, judges, volunteers, VIP guests, and of course, our all-important audience members.  Hotel and venue all under one roof --buy your ticket, book your stay and ride the elevator to all the fun.  No weather to hold us down!

Ticketholders sit back and enjoy not only the competition itself, but a headline show, as well as Meet and Greets, while ending each day with an always fun and entertaining Open Mic. 

The festival is hosted by the comedian extraordinaire Victor J. Hanson.  Cynthia Pepper co-starred with Elvis Presley in the movie "Kissin Cousins" and is a treasured member of the Flaming Star Festival family and will always be on hand to tell her tales of filming with Elvis.


 Thank you, Pam and Sue, for sharing your stories of how your past individual experiences and expertise have come together to create a festival that offers an atmosphere of family in the midst of competition.  It has a pleasure meeting you both, and getting to know you better through your words.  ETAs and their fans, I am sure, are grateful for all you do on their behalf.  


Introducing: Wendy King

It is my pleasure to introduce Wendy King, ETA judge and blogger, who shares her story of how Elvis Presley has influenced her life since a very young age. As well as sharing links to Wendy's blog and an amusing video of driving on a roundabout with Sergio, I have included Wendy's article, His Gospel Will Put Goosebumps On Your Goosebumps. Dedicated fans will appreciate Wendy's passionate tribute to the King of Rock and Roll.  Thank you, Wendy, for sharing your personal story and tribute to Elvis.  CM

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