Hugh (Frank Digby) Pickett. Impresario, b Vancouver 11 Apr 1913, d Keriston, BC 13 Feb 2006. Pickett grew up in Vancouver, and first worked briefly in the Port Warden's Office, then for Dingwall Cotts Steamship Co until 1940, when he entered the Canadian Army. At the end of his military service in 1945 he went to Los Angeles, returning in 1946 to become press agent for Theatre Under the Stars
and Hilker Attractions. In 1947 he took on the additional role of company manager, and held both positions until 1960 when he became general manager, a position he held until 1964. In 1950, in partnership with Holly Maxwell (who retired in the late 1960s) he began Famous Artists (sold to Jerry Lonn of Seattle in the mid-1980s), an artistic management enterprise dedicated to sponsoring appearances by artists and by ballet and theatre companies in Vancouver and Victoria. Among the artists brought to these cities by Pickett were Margot Fonteyn (with the Sadler's Wells Ballet and New London Ballet), Laurence Olivier (with the National Theatre of Great Britain), Lillian Gish, Marlene Dietrich, Mary Martin (in Hello Dolly
and I Do, I Do
), Arthur Rubinstein, Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, John Gielgud, the Bolshoi Ballet, the Kirov Ballet, Igor Stravinsky, Jack Benny (in particular, for a benefit concert to raise money to save the Orpheum Theatre
), Ginger Rogers, the Red Army Chorus, Leontyne Price, Charles Laughton, Vincent Price, Maria Callas, and Danny Kaye. In 1964 Pickett also assumed the responsibility for publicity for the Vancouver International Festival
, and he was the festival's manager 1965-8. He was a founder of the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame.
Pickett's contribution to the artistic climate in Vancouver was significant; he, along with Gordon Hilker and Lily Laverock, took personal risks in underwriting and managing major concerts and other events, and ensuring Vancouver's place in the international artistic circuit. He did not believe in heavy government subsidy for musical organizations; rather, he felt that orchestras and other groups must strive to gain public support. His career was marked by hard work, dedication, and a desire to provide the best in management service for the love of the audiences, the artists, the music, and the theatre, rather than for financial reward. He was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1986, and was also a member of the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame Starwalk and a recipient of Vancouver's Civic Merit award. Pickett was the subject of a 2003 CBC television documentary.
Bryan N.S. Gooch
Potter, Greg, and Robinson, Red. Backstage Vancouver: A Century of Entertainment Legends (2004)
Links to Other Sites
BC Entertainment Hall of Fame
The B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame honours BC residents who attained outstanding success in the world of entertainment.