Pioneering Canadian television star Juliette Cavazzi — who performed professionally under only her first name and was nicknamed “Our pet” — died overnight Thursday in Vancouver at the age of 91.
Juliette Augustina Cavazzi (née Sysak), CM, singer, entertainer, and television host, made her CBC Saturday night music variety program Juliette (1956–66) one of Canada’s most popular television shows. Over her career, she was honoured as Member of the Order of Canada, the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame.
Born in suburban Winnipeg to Polish-Ukrainian parents, she sang at the local Ukrainian hall where she won a number of amateur singing contests before her family moved to Vancouver when she was 10. After singing at the Kitsilano Showboat, she began performing with Dal Richards' orchestra at the Hotel Vancouver at age 13, under the stage name Juliette. At 15, she made her CBC network debut on George Calangis' radio program Sophisticated Strings.
Early Radio and Television Career
After spending 1943–44 in Toronto, where she appeared on Alan Young's CBC Radio show and with Lucio Agostini's orchestra, she returned to Vancouver and sang on many other CBC Radio programs, including Burns Chuckwagon (a country music show with the Rhythm Pals), and Here's Juliette. She also appeared at Theatre Under the Stars.
She married musician Tony Cavazzi, who became her manager, and in 1954 the two moved to Toronto, where she co-starred with Gino Silvi on CBC Radio's Gino and Juliette. She was also a featured guest on CBC TV’s Holiday Ranch and a regular performer — introduced as “our pet Juliette” — on Billy O'Connor's The Late Show (1954–56).
In 1956, Juliette became the host of the long-running Saturday night music variety program, Juliette (1956–66), succeeding O’Connor’s Late Show on CBC TV. It was one of the broadcaster’s most popular shows of the day, regularly ranking behind only Hockey Night in Canada and the national news in viewership. As the program followed Hockey Night in Canada, it was often shortened or extended depending on when the hockey game ended, adding an extra layer of spontaneity to the live show. The wholesome, conservative program took place on a living room set and featured Juliette beginning each episode with “Hi there, everybody” and ending it with “Goodnight, Mom.”
Juliette recorded two 78s for RCA's “X” label and one with the Rhythm Pals for Aragon in the early 1950s. She later made three LPs for RCA Camden: Juliette (1968), Juliette’s Christmas World (1968) and Juliette’s Country World (1969). She also appeared on a recording of Dolores Claman's musical comedy Timber! (1954) and the compilation album The Saga of Canadian Country and Folk Music (1972).
Member, Order of Canada (1975)
Inductee, BC Entertainment Hall of Fame (1994)
Inductee, Canada’s Walk of Fame (1999)