Juliette (Juliette Augustina Sysak)
Origin: St Vital, Manitoba
Juliette was the queen of early Canadian television. She had a long and fruitful career as a radio and singing TV host from 1942 to the late 1970s. Americans had Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day, and Dinah Shore and Canadians had their “pet Juliette.”
Juliette Augustina Sysak was born into a working class Polish-Ukrainian immigrant family in St-Vital (Winnipeg) in 1927 and raised in Vancouver. She was spotted and hired by bandleader Dal Richards, became a nightclub singer and had her own radio show by age 15. Moving to Toronto in 1954 with husband Tony Cavazzi to pursue a television career on the CBC, she first worked as a vocalist on The Billy O'Connor Show and soon replaced him in the same time slot with her own Juliette Show. The show ran from 1956 to 1966, an era in which having your own TV show was considered the pinnacle of success. It was without a doubt the highlight of her career. According to the CBC Archives, the show had a winning formula for early television: “A typical program would include Juliette, always showing off an exquisite new dress, performing several musical numbers solo and several with one of her male escorts and singers.” Relying on her cute demeanor, she was really a female crooner. Her hit TV show featured all the elements of the best American shows hosted by Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and Andy Williams. The show's arrangers and conductors were, successively, Bobby Gimby, Bill Isbister, and Lucio Agostini. The orchestral theme was the Sinatra hit song “Love and Marriage.” While the theme song played, announcer Gil Christie would say the famous words: “Now here's your pet ...Ju-u-liette.” She was a permanent fixture on Canadian television. Only Hockey Night in Canada and the National News had a larger audience
By the mid-sixties the ratings had dipped and, in CBC executive's jargon, “scored low on the enjoyment index” and the show was given the axe. The dresses went up for sale and became highly sought after fashion items, purchased by connoisseurs: Vancouver's drag queens. Impersonating “our pet Juliette” scored very high on the queen's “enjoyment index.” She was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1975 and in 1999 given a star on Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto. Juliette recorded two 78s for RCA's 'X' label and one with the Rhythm Pals for Aragon in the early 1950s and later made three LPs for RCA Camden. CBC also recorded many transcription discs of the Juliette show. Harshly criticized by the high brow media for her kitschy pop, she would venture on occasion in folk territory. Using her popularity, she notably promoted Canadian authors by introducing their songs to a national audience. This track comes from a 1960's CBC Radio-Canada (LM-24) transcription disc on which Juliette also performed songs of Gordon Lightfoot. She is accompanied by Lucio Agostini and his orchestra. Her brief introduction illustrates the kind of support she was willing to give to a new breed of Canadians songwriters.