“In that sense, he was a visionary,” said Green, who still remembers being invited to Atkinson’s home days after he arrived in Ottawa in 1960 “when I didn’t know a soul.”
The irony of Atkinson’s success with a rock-mad young audience was his keen interest in the bygone golden age of Hollywood, which he exploited while manager of sister FM station CFMO, a position he held for 22 years.
He travelled extensively across the United States, interviewing the likes of Fred Estaire, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Jimmy Stewart for his signature program, Showbill, which ran until 1991.
“He lived a completely full life,” said Peter. “We’re all actually joyful today” at his peaceful passing, he added.
Atkinson also had an admirable record of philanthropy. In 1982, he helped put together a fundraising concert by Sinatra and Little, an effort that raised about $1 million for a special-care nursery at the Civic hospital.
(In 1987, he was chosen citizen of the year by the Ottawa Lodge of B’nai B’rith.)
Later in life, he had a magazine column, produced a couple of books on his Showbill years and acted as a musical guide on vacation tours.
His son said his father was able to get as many as 200 celebrity interviews in his day because he treated each subject with respect and wouldn’t delve into gossip, especially about their private lives.
“He absolutely refused to talk about the so-called dirt.”
Over the years, Atkinson was often taken back to that Elvis concert, one of the few The King did outside the U.S.
“They knew what was coming when I walked out on the stage,” Atkinson told Citizen writer Bruce Ward in 2000. ”There was a cacophony that nearly lifted the roof. They never heard a word I said, and then Elvis came on. Pandemonium. His big record then was All Shook Up, and that’s how the crowd was.”
And how parts of Ottawa are today — shook up, sadder, at another lost note.
To contact Kelly Egan, please call 613-291-6265 or email [email protected]
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