Thursday, February 16, 2012

Paul Gallis
1924 - 2012

Paulie Gallis was an original, a charming bigger-than-life character, a force of nature. All who had the good fortune to know him would agree, Paulie was different, a remarkable personality like no other, he was simply unforgettable. He was the affable Greek endowed with street smarts from his salad days on the hardscrabble side of Chicago. A self-made man, Paulie's endearing persona conquered all. Smitten in his youth by the bright lights of the entertainment industry, he talked his way into show business. He got in the game working for tips, running errands and doing other valet tasks for performers, vaudevillians, that played the legendary Chicago Theatre. Serving others became his life's work. He earned a sterling reputation for his uncommon dedication to clients as well as the selfless hard work, persistence, and contagious enthusiasm he invested in every project.

Perhaps Paulie's greatest gift was his great love of life. He loved people and could be counted on to find the pure joy in every day, the hidden good in every situation. Joie de vivre! It was within his power to change the climate of any room he entered, his ability to read and work a room was peerless. Moreover, Gallis engaged all unconditionally as equals. He was as comfortable in the company of strangers as he was with his superstar clientele. He treated the unknown pick up musician and the wannabe vocalist with the same grace, respect, interest and good manners he'd routinely shown Tony Bennett and his many other famous clients and friends.

In the too often brutally competitive, harsh world of record promotion Paulie Gallis was the outlier. Known for his always refreshing sense of humor and easy going style, Gallis got the job done but he did it his way. His distinctive voice and  authentic laugh made indelible impressions. Ever the gentleman, he is remembered as "sweet" and "nice" rare qualities indeed in the music promotion trade. He cared seriously about the work at hand however he also cared deeply about the people involved in that work. Generous to a fault, Paulie Gallis gave his name and countless hours of work to projects which offered little if any promise of a return. Kind and thoughtful, he was a mensch, the class act that made a difference whenever he was involved.

An unabashed evangelist of all things Chicago, Paulie was an exceptional and vocal advocate for the unsung greatness of his beloved Third Coast, that so-called Second City. When a label head offered him a major executive post which would have required his leaving the flatland and moving to the west coast, the now famous Gallis rejoinder was "If I feel the need to look at mountains I'll buy a can of Folgers Coffee."

Of course, no writing about Paulie would be complete without his unique calling card - those little yellow stickers he placed on the black vinyl he promoted. Truth be told, those stickers are the subject of many a good story. From Billboard's Claude Hall discovering one that just appeared on the door of his Sunset Boulevard office to rival promoters finding a THANKS from Paulie plainly visible above the coin collection basket of their home exit on the Illinois Tollway. Truly, Gallis was the go-to guy, the savvy problem solver, the quintessential world-class promoter.

I feel blessed to have known Paulie Gallis, honored and humbled to say he was my dear friend. I love this incredible man and miss him much. We'll not again see his like. Sui generis. Paulie would not appreciate this writing because it's all about him and over the many years I knew him it was never about him. He wouldn't allow it. What he enjoyed was talking about others, especially his family and friends. He invariably preferred the conversation filled with genuine concern, interest, curiosity and appreciation about what everyone else was doing. As he often said to me "We're here to help other people. Who have you helped today?"

Paul Gallis photo courtesy of Fred Winston