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Holiff, Saul, 1925-2005
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Dates of existence
Saul Holiff was born in London, Ontario in 1925 to Joel and Esther Holiff. Joel immigrated to Canada in 1914 from the Kiev region of Russia. Esther, as well as Joel’s sister Ann joined him in 1921, their arrival delayed by the start of the First World War and by anti-Jewish violence in Russia. Over the course of his life, Saul pursued many career and personal endeavors including airman, salesman, entrepreneur, restaurant owner, promoter, talent manager, columnist and television host, and in later years, a student of history.
Holiff left school in grade 10. Soon after, he, along with his brother Morris, joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). During World War II, he served as a physical fitness instructor, flight sergeant, and rear air gunner. With support from a Veteran’s fund, Holiff was later able to complete business courses. Following his discharge from the RCAF, Holiff traveled to Hollywood where he spent time on the film studio lots, met celebrities and became fascinated by the celebrity culture of the age and show business generally.
Following his service, Saul sold clothing door to door, ran the family business, Holiff Kustom Klothes, and opened a drive-in hamburger restaurant, Sol’s Square Boy. Holiff‘s interest in music (his own tastes ran to jazz and big band music) and the entertainment business led him to promoting concerts in London, Toronto and elsewhere. Holiff was one of the first promoters to bring the early rock and roll acts into Canada, including Bill Haley and his Comets, The Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Buddy Holly. Through these connections, Holiff met Johnny Cash, becoming his personal manager in 1960. At this point, Holiff started his entertainment management company Volatile Attractions. Under this name he managed several Canadian and American acts including, Tommy Hunter, Statler Brothers, George Jones, The Carter Family, Carl Perkins, and Debbi Lori Kaye, among others.
Saul married Barbara Robinson in 1964. Barbara was born in Winnipeg and moved to London, Ontario in 1957, where she worked as the personal secretary to the director of advertising at the London Free Press; it was at the Free Press that she met Saul. Barbara later provided assistance to Saul in his business affairs. Barbara and Saul had two sons: Jonathan, born 1965, and Joshua, born 1966. Barbara became increasingly interested in the nuclear disarmament movement after moving to Victoria.
Saul Holiff resigned as Cash’s manager in 1973. Following his departure from the music industry, Holiff studied history at the University of Western Ontario, wrote restaurant reviews and hosted a cable television program “Ego’s Nest.” In 1980 he joined Barbara, Jonathan and Joshua in Victoria, British Columbia, where he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Victoria in 1983. After moving to Nanaimo with Barbara, Holiff occasionally wrote for local publications. He was interested in the right to die movement and a member of the Hemlock Society. Saul Holiff died by suicide in 2005.