( ENSPIRE Features ) Bachir Released His Memoir “First To Leave The Party”
ENSPIRE Contributor: Gabrielle Maya
Salah Bachir is best known for his publishing career. He began publishing in Canada’s first consumer video magazine, Videomania. He founded the trade publication Premiere to serve video distribution. For sixteen years, Bachir was president of Cineplex Media and was head of Cineplex Magazine, the most-read magazine in Canada. He currently runs the multimedia company Phamous Characters; he manages his business, art, and philanthropic ventures. Bachir has been featured in numerous publications, including The Globe & Mail, Playback Magazine, Dolce, Toronto Life, and many others.
Bachir released his memoir, “First To Leave The Party: My Life with Ordinary People Who Happen to be Famous.” His book is about his life through stories when he interacts with Hollywood’s most iconic names. Some examples include Marlon Brando, Princess Diana, Elizabeth Taylor, Muhammad Ali, Princess Margaret, Mary Tyler Moore, Sean Connery, Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day and more. Co-written by Jami Bernard, a former New York Post and Daily News film critic, this acclaimed memoir became a Top New Release on Amazon. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the LGBTQ+ rights program at Human Rights Watch.
Salah Bachir will be sharing his journey in writing his memoir, his interest in publishing and the entertainment industry, the philanthropy ventures and their impact, writing strategies, publishing tips, and more!
Why did you start writing your book, and when did you start taking an interest in the publishing and entertainment industry?
I always had an interest in the entertainment industry. I am a huge film, theatre, and music buff. We started a magazine called Videomania in the early 80s devoted to the home video experience. It was one of the first magazines of its kind. I went on to publish some of the best-read film-centric magazines in English and French, including Premiere, Famous, and Cineplex magazine.
My memoir “First to Leave the Party: My Life with Ordinary People… Who Happen to be Famous” comes out of my experience with publishing those magazines. Encounters and friendships with stars like Marlon Brando, Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day, Elizabeth Taylor, Muhammad Ali, and Andy Warhol.
The book is about a lot of people and a lot about me. I wanted to make sure some stories and contributions that “stars” made beyond their film career were remembered and celebrated, from Paul Newman’s foundation, which has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for several charities to civil rights activists like Eartha Kitt and Diahann Carroll.
Tell us about your philanthropy ventures and their impact on individuals and communities.
I think of myself as more of a volunteer than a philanthropist. I do organize events, galas, and capital campaigns. I actively participate to help raise funds. We have raised hundreds of millions of dollars, and so many volunteers and friends make these campaigns happen.
We are involved in and support healthcare, community centers, art galleries, food security, mental health, and several other organizations. We have founded support centers that have helped various things, from dialysis centers to AIDS prevention support.
With your new memoir, what makes these particular experiences with celebrities fascinating or close to your heart?
The 54 referenced in the book all made a significant impression on me. It was hard to edit it just to those 54 chapters. Some are anecdotes; some are complete chapters. Any could have easily been an entire book, like my relationship with Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, and the art world of New York in the 80s. These extraordinary individuals were or are also ordinary people trying to make a living. Sometimes, I saw them at the end of their careers when they could no longer get work. They were being dismissed, criticized, and ridiculed. Even those we all agree were the greatest of the great in their fields. When I think of spending time with Ella Fitzgerald, our bond struggles with diabetes and how simple and loving she was. Well, I believe there’s a whole other book there. And a movie.
What do you hope readers take away from your memoir?
I want readers to walk away with a feeling of compassion, belonging, and the need for community. No matter how famous a person is, they may be going through the same struggles as anyone else. Even though I’ve been in the entertainment industry for over 40 years, it was during my seven years of dialysis while I was recovering from the transplant that I realized the real heroes who deserve recognition are nurses, doctors, and frontline workers who got us through a pandemic. These people have dedicated their lives to helping others without the fame and glory that comes with being a “celebrity.”
I love my friend David Hajdu’s review, which describes the book perfectly. David is one of America’s most respected arts critics and a Professor of Journalism at Columbia. “Why would so many great and powerful people warm up to Salah Bachir? Clearly, for comfort in the personal warmth that permeates this lovely memoir of his life among the famous and the sensitivity and intelligence that make this something extraordinary: a celebrity book without fawning or hype.”
What are some pro tips on publishing content for big magazines? What is your writing strategy?
Keep it light, tight, and bright. Look for depth and something beyond a press kit.
Avoid gossip and hearsay. Celebrate diversity, inclusion, and a person’s unique beauty. Despite our fascination with fashion, it’s an inner beauty you should seek. What do they do with their celebrity? How do they give back to their community?
Can you elaborate on your decision to pioneer the inclusion of pronouns on a book cover?
I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been done before. It’s both a small and big gesture to use your pronouns. Every organization, bank, and corporation should encourage using gender pronouns. It’s just a courtesy. It’s also empowering if we normalize it and take the onus off only certain people having to tell you how they identify. It may be one of the easiest things we can do as allies.
Salah Bachir is held in high regard within the entertainment industry. Many celebrities say that his character and book are a sensation. Commentary such as “Salah Bachir is the biggest-hearted philanthropist with the rock star life.” —Elton John and David Furnish or “Salah Bachir’s encounters with stars over the years opens on a backyard garden barbecue with Marlon Brando, and bread continues to be broken with icons as fascinating and disparate as Muhammad Ali and Liberace, Margaret Atwood and Cesar Chavez, Andy Warhol, and Princess Margaret, to name just a few. But the true literary coup is that the biggest, brightest star we encounter is the author himself….” —Alan Cumming
In addition, Bachir has received five honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Alberta, Ryerson University, York University, OCAD University, and Wilfrid Laurier University in recognition of his business acumen and philanthropic work. He is a member of the Order of Ontario and the Order of Canada for his entrepreneurial leadership and commitment to the arts and social justice. Also, Bachir has received a few Notable awards, including the Pride Toronto Lifetime Achievement Award, from the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Bao has hosted over 100 charity luncheons and galas and is an avid art collector with over 2,000 pieces from Canadian artists in his collection.
Go buy Bachir’s memoir, “First To Leave The Party: My Life with Ordinary People Who Happen to be Famous,” by clicking here. Follow him on Instagram for future updates. To view his website, visit https://salahbachir.com/. Check out Bachir’s interviews with CTV News Atlantic and Today Extra Australia.