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Alex Barris: 1923-2004
Alex Barris
writer, media personality

Born: 1923 in New York, NY
Died: January 15, 2004 in Toronto, Canada

Radio/TV personality, Oscar Peterson biographer

by Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2004 Todd S. Jenkins

Writer Alex Barris, whose colorful career encompassed television, radio and publishing, died on January 15, 2004, at the age of 81.

During World War II Barris wrote for U.S. Army newspapers while serving as a field medic. He received the Bronze Star for rescuing several injured soldiers during a battle. After his discharge Barris became a clerk at the New York Times. At the same time he freelanced for two Canadian papers, the Montreal Gazette and Toronto Globe and Mail. Barris accepted an offer to report full-time for the Globe and Mail in December 1947, and he left New York for Toronto.

In the 1950s Barris covered the entertainment beat for the paper: music and film reviews, a regular column on show business, and eventually television reportage. He joined the CBC staff in mid-decade and was soon writing and appearing on-camera in shows like "The Barris Beat". Barris was also a writer and panelist for the popular game show "Front Page Challenge". On CBC Radio he hosted the jazz show "Tributes in Tempo".

In the 60s Barris was hired by the Toronto Telegram, and he moved to Hollywood to be closer to the entertainment scene. Once there he established a second career as a television variety writer for performers like Sonny and Cher, Kenny Rogers, Dionne Warwick, and The Fifth Dimension. He penned several books, among them "Hollywood According to Hollywood", "Stop the Presses: The Newspaperman in American Films", and two books about "Front Page Challenge".

In 1976 Barris and his wife, Kay, returned to Toronto to be closer to their children, son Ted and daughter Katy. Ted and his father co-wrote some books, including "Making Music: Profiles of a Century of Canadian Musical Artists". Barris also penned a biography of jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. In 1994 he was given the Gemini Award for his contributions to Canadian television and his writing accomplishments, and in 1999 he was appointed to the Order of Canada.

Todd S. Jenkins
Todd S. Jenkins is a member of the JJA, author of Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2004) and I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus (Praeger, 2006), and a contributor to Down Beat, All About Jazz, American Songwriter and Route 66 Magazine.


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