Basil Peter PANTAGES
April 15, 1933 – November 10, 2020
Basil Pantages (April 15, 1933 – November 10, 2020)
The most magnetic element on earth is called neodymium. It doesn’t hold a candle to Basil Pantages. He was a charming prince amongst men and an even more charming prince amongst women.
His memorial deserves volumes, not columns.
When Basil walked into a room, he lit it up and everyone fell in love with him. Basil was Hollywood handsome with a rhinestone cowboy swagger. He actually knew everyone in Vancouver, or more precisely, everyone in Vancouver knew him. If you are over the age of 60 and don’t have “Penthouse, 2033 Beach Avenue, buzz 1101” in your little black book, chances are your wife does.
Born in 1933 in Vancouver, Basil grew up with brothers Tony and George and sister Ramona just east of Main Street on 13th Avenue. His mother Helen was known as “The Goose” to one and all and father Pete Pantages “The General” was a popular Vancouver figure who started the Polar Bear Swim and ran the Peter Pan Café on Granville Street directly across the alley from the Penthouse Nightclub.
Basil’s lifelong pals included George Mattis, the famous Pulos brothers (Andy, Lee, Mike and Pete), Drew Burns (The Commodore Ballroom) and Red Robinson. After high school he worked at the Peter Pan where Basil met many of his beloved ratpack, “The Rounders”. Baze had a gift for nicknaming everyone he met: John “Englishman”, Ellen “Arab”, Ross “Brownie”, Kenny “Bucky”, Lee “Dr. Crazy”, Bill “Kiwi”, Sheila “Squeeky”. Basil made you feel special whether you were royalty or the busboy. He loved everyone and never said a bad word about a soul. He believed in second chances and was always there for a friend in need.
Vancouver Stock Exchange legend Murray Pezim saw Basil’s talent and convinced him to join “The Pez” on Howe Street manufacturing and selling dreams. It was Basil who snuck The Pez out of a Las Vegas gold show convention (circa Ocean’s 11) after been tipped off that some “disgruntled investors” had staked out Caesar’s Palace and the airport, intending to intercept The Pez and teach him a lesson. Basil bought some surplus store fatigues in their sizes and, posing as GI’s on leave, talked themselves onto a military flight that left from a different terminal. There may have been a tip involved. They marched as best they could with the rest of the platoon right past the good fellas and onto the plane. Situation averted.
If you liked Newman and Redford in Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, then you loved Basil. His spirit animals were Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I. and Don Johnson in Miami Vice. He was as lyrical and warm hearted as a man can get and his greatest talent was being inclusive beyond compare. Basil’s good fortune was everyone’s good fortune. He was a beloved philanthropist and supported many of Vancouver’s charities, musicians and artists.
There was the time he and Andy Pulos and some pals broke Tom Capozzi out of the Ketchum, Idaho jail in the sixties during a boisterous Sun Valley ski trip or the infamous parties at his Grouse Mountain cabin “Rathskeller” and aboard his yacht “The Naughty Lady”. Golden days, lived to the fullest.
After the market closed each day, Baze & co. would be found at The M.A.R.C. playing racquet ball with Tevie Smith and cutting gold deals in the steam room. Afternoon tanning sessions on the penthouse deck with The Englishman, Herb Capozzi, Harry C, Black Bart, The Kiwi, Wally Dezura, Big Dave and a plethora of beautiful ladies are fodder for a Netflix period-piece including the time in ’81 when Basil casually served beer and sandwiches from the penthouse deck to firemen on a 100 foot aerial ladder while they put out the Englesea Lodge fire across the street. Basil is credited with pointing out and saving the life of the squatter who was on the roof amidst the smoke and flames and he received a golden axe from the VFD. On any given night, you’d find one of his red Corvettes, E-Type Jags or ’57 Thunderbirds parked curbside in front of the best social events in Vancouver.
Basil loved a good party so much that he opened clubs like The College Inn (1950’s), Pink Pussycat Club (1960’s), Bumbles & Sugar Daddy’s (1970’s) on Hornby Street (Wasserman’s Beat) and then Maxines (1980’s) in the West End, riding into the dining room on a white horse for the opening party. The best party in town? Basil’s pre and post Polar Bear Swim event at his Penthouse.
At the heart of Basil’s life was his family and friends. He is survived by his brother George, his last love Christine England and the entire Pantages family of cousins, nieces and nephews.
A very special thank you to George and Daphne Mattis, their daughter Stephanie, Big Dave, Lynda Moore and the staff and residents at Braddan House who were especially helpful in Basil’s last years. They each hold a special place in our hearts.
On November 10th, 2020, perfectly tanned and wearing a signature red Hawaiian shirt, beige stay press’d jeans and cowboy boots, Basil hopped into his old red corvette, turned up “King of the Road”, blew us a kiss and headed off into the sunset to the next great party.
There will never be another Basil Pantages.
In lieu of Covid-19 protocols, a celebration of life for Basil will be announced at a later date when gatherings are appropriate again (how ironic!). In the meantime, raise a glass, play a Nat King Cole song loud and enjoy some great memories.