Barry Avrich wrote Moguls, Monsters, and Madmen An Uncensored Life In Show Business, published last May for his 12-year-old daughter with a message: live your dream and achieve anything you want in your lifetime.
Avrich’s creativity and chutzpah propelled him to foster a career in advertising and filmmaking.
For over three decades, Arvich, a consummate storyteller, created a repertoire of work, having directed documentary films such as The Last Mogul: Life and Times of Lew Wasserman; The Harvey Weinstein Project and Showstopper: The Theatrical Life of Garth Drabinsky.
Avrich is also the author of three marketing books and winner of the 2007 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. In 2008, Avrich built the Daniels Hollywood Theatre, the world’s first movie theatre in a hospital, at Sick Kids.
In his memoir, Moguls, Monsters, and Madmen Avrich takes readers from his early days, shaping his brand as a creative ad man to his acclaimed documentaries. Avrich spares no one as he details his relationships with various Hollywood legends, such as Frank Sinatra, Quincy Jones, Larry King, Mick Jagger, and Lauren Bacall.
“I am fascinated with a mogul’s life trajectory in that these are people drawn to something more than money. Once they have achieved wealth and a lifestyle that is incomparable, they need more and they are willing to take unbelievable risks for power that ends up costing them their legacy, with a great fall from grace.
“It was very hard to decide what went into the book. I had to settle some scores in the book – that was painful,” said Avrich.
Avrich made a documentary about David Steinberg regarded as one of the best and most creative directors working in television today.
“David’s a Winnipeg Jew who went on to become one of the most prolific sitcom directors in show business. We met while filming television commercials for a financial services company and discovered we were old souls; he loved the old comedy legends and when Showtime wanted to make a documentary about him he asked for me to direct.
“It wasn’t easy – it was a difficult chapter in the book but we laughed and laughed about all kinds of Jewish stories,” said Avrich.
Avrich shares one of those stories that he loves which is both in the book and in the film he made about him.
“When David’s parents arrived from Poland in Nova Scotia and got off the boat, his parents said ‘we’ve come from the coldest most horrible climate in the world, Poland. Where can we go?’ The immigration guy said – Winnipeg.” – as Avrich bursts out laughing – “it’s hilarious because he ultimately chooses the Poland of Canada, freezing cold. We bonded over that.”
Montreal-born Avrich grew up in a loving middle-class Jewish family with a mother, Faye Avrich [with whom he speaks daily] who introduced young Barry to the love of theatre and music.
“My mother’s phenomenal collection of phonograph records of stand-up comedians such as Woody Allen, Lou Jacobi, Allan Sherman, the You Don’t Have to Be Jewish album – became my portal to entertainment,” Avrich said.
Avrich’s late father Irving was in the clothing business.
“He was a road warrior garmento with an unbelievable sense of the ‘sell.’ He would book a hotel room, put up his own lighting and set the scene for buyers.
“I was lucky enough to watch my father. How he treated his clients taught me invaluable lessons of customer service which carried over into my work, as well as when courting celebrities with very large egos and demands,” said Avrich.
Avrich was enchanted from a young age with the theatre’s bright lights, and reveled in thunderous applause when he performed at the age of eight in minstrel shows at the YMHA in Montreal.
“I wanted to know everything there was to know about show business,” he said.
Moving to Toronto in 1982, Avrich did not know anyone, and over time became the architect of his astoundingly impressive Rolodex.
“I go back to the lesson that my father taught me. You have to decide whether or not you want to be the background or the foreground. You can choose to just hide in the shadows or you can make a contribution in life whether it’s to your family, to charity, to your art or to your work,” said Avrich.
“I didn’t come from a showbiz family. I wasn’t a spectacular student. I wasn’t part of the upper Montreal establishment. I am proof anybody can do anything they want in life – just do it,” declared Avrich.