YYC POP: Poetic Portraits of Poetry, a Sheri-D Wilson Laureate Project

Bob DiPaolo Story

– Denise DiPaolo

I would like to submit a story about my father, Robert DiPaolo, (Bob) who was born in Villalago, l”Aquila, Abuzzo, Italy October 24, 1924. Two months after my father was born, my grandfather Angelo DiPaolo, left to build a new life for the family in Canada. Ten years later, the family was reunited after a lengthy journey to Calgary, Alberta.

My dad grew up in the community of Bridgeland, known then as Riverside, attending St. Angela’s School and then St. Mary’s High School. My dad told many funny stories of the good times he had with his friends known as the Riverside Rats. As a youngster, he was a newspaper boy, selling the Calgary Herald on the corner of 8th Avenue and 1st Street West.

My dad had big dreams and after World War II was over, he started booking big bands into dance halls across Calgary while working at a local steel mill. He met my mother Dulcie Davies, at one of these dances, having been introduced by a mutual friend. Seeing a future in the entertainment business, Bob became the founding partner in KBD Enterprises in the mid-1940’s, eventually becoming the sole owner.

As his business gained momentum, my dad travelled extensively throughout Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. He helped municipalities both large and small celebrate local events by producing family-variety shows. He produced celebrations and big Extravaganza’s at such events as the Dauphin Fair in Manitoba, the Swift Current and Weyburn Exhibition, the Peach Festival in Summerland, the Kelowna Regatta, Vancouver PNE and several others in the four western provinces.

His productions were often mentioned in local newspapers and Billboard Magazines. One journalist once quipped in the Albertan, “If you want to see the live performance of an alligator wrestler, Tiny Tim, or a whole field of wild racing animals, the man to contact is Bob Di Paolo of Calgary.”

For a while, KBD Enterprises was “Canada’s Largest Theatrical Agency”, billed to have the “Finest Outdoor Acts and Shows in the Entertainment World” and he was referred to as “Hollywood of the North”. He booked high wire acts, aerial trapeze artists, ventriloquists, jugglers, clowns, dancers, musicians and the night always ended with a spectacular display of fireworks.

He would hire local talent both in and behind the scenes as much as possible. He predicted it wouldn’t be long before many Canadian-based entertainers would not only be featured in Canadian shows but American ones as well.

Over the years, my father worked with countless talented performers including, Wilf Carter, Ted Knight, Shari Lewis, Rich Little, Reveen, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, The Stampeders band, Tiny Tim, Barbara Mandrell, The Flying Wallendas, Sons of Pioneers, Stratus Faction, Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura in Star Trek), Al Cherney, Catherine McKinnon, Lucille Starr, Mart Kenney, and many more.

My upbringing was very interesting and unusual. Our summers were spent travelling to various cities and towns where my Dad would astound audiences with his incredible grandstand shows. At home, my dad would often invite the celebrities to our house for dinner. One day, I learned Reveen was invited for a house party. When he arrived, I hid under my bed during the party for fear of being hypnotised.

As Murray Cameron, from Stratus Faction said “to sum it all up, Bob DiPaolo was one of a kind and I think one of the last Vaudeville style producers” Bob had a pulse on what was going on around the country. He would find out what little town was celebrating or had a milestone anniversary and would put together a great show for them with the top variety show acts.

My father had a gift of making everyone feel welcome. He always had such a positive attitude and a smile and kind word for everyone he met. Everyone who knew him loved and respected him.

He lived a good life and sadly passed away on January 29, 2017 at the age of 92. He will always be remembered as a loving and caring husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. He will be greatly missed by everyone that knew him. He was a talented, creative and gifted entrepreneur who lived his dream. There was no one like him nor will there ever be.

Denise DiPaolo

My name is Denise DiPaolo. I am a native Calgarian. I grew up in the community of Killarney. We were considered a small Catholic Family with only five children. I was the middle child. Like my father, I am an entrepreneur and started my own fitness, health and wellness and started my own business called “Matter of Fitness” in 2001.