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Saturday 22 September 2018
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Holly B passes at 91

Former radio and television producer and presenter, as well as actor Holly Betaudier passed away peacefully at his home in Westmoorings at 11.20 pm on Sunday night. He turned 91 on January 27, 2016.

His wife of approximately 43 years, Valerie, was too distraught to speak on his final moments, opting to deal with her lost privately when Newsday spoke with her yesterday.

His son Holly Jnr however stated that last Sunday while visiting his father he called several family members and close friends on the phone, who all spoke to Betaudier.

He further stated that Betaudier saw all of his children within the last month and a half.

On his dad’s passing Holly Jnr said: “He’s done what he has done throughout his entire life. He is a legacy to a number of people who he has assisted in getting to their goals in the entertainment world.

And that’s what he seemed to have been placed on this earth to do, to assist people to get to wherever they needed to go in the entertainment industry.” Betaudier had been ailing for some time, before he was taken out of the public’s eye last year, even though his voice was still heard Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on I95.5FM doing a short feature called Toute Bagai. Betaudier’s career in media began in August 1946 at the American Naval base in Chaguaramas, working for the US Armed Forces radio service network WVDI as an announcer.

Later at Radio Trinidad he was the host of “Holly’s Happy Moments,” a popular radio show that featured the best of local talent.

Then in 1962, when Trinidad and Tobago gained its independence, Betaudier was among the pioneers at the birth of Trinidad and Tobago Television (TTT) station, securing a job as a salesman, landing ads with the Kirpalani Group of Companies, Angostura Ltd, and a few stores on Frederick Street that bought air-time on ttt.

He did several five-minute promos congratulating the country on achieving its independence, before those segments were converted into five-second “Spotlight” commercials.

During the height of the ‘63 season, Betaudier started hosting in-studio presentations from the various calypso tents with appearances from the likes of Sparrow, Melody and Kitchener. But at that time the local viewing audience wanted more local programming.

This resulted in Betaudier championing local cultural and entertainment programmes , including the most popular television talent show ever, “Scouting for Talent”.

This show helped launch the careers of many entertainers and became a platform for local culture.

Among the numerous entertainers the show produced were names such as Denise Plummer, Francis Prime, the United Sisters, Chalkdust, Singing Francine, Patsy John, Tommy Joseph, TT’s acclaimed soul and gospel recording artiste, Carol Addison and the internationally known celebrities Lorraine Toussaint and Sullivan Walker, both of whom became US-based film and stage actors, the latter, often appearing as a guest on The Bill Cosby Show.

Scouting indeed set the stage for other artistic programmes which showcased the cultural diversity of Trinidad and Tobago, such as the Indian Variety show with Pat Mathura and Mastana Bahar with Sham Mohammad.

Betaudier was also an influential advocate for keeping traditional parang alive with his Holly B Parang Bandwagon, a show that he originally launched during his stint at Radio Trinidad, “Parang with Holly”. While at ttt though he was well known as one of the highly respected three “H’s” at the station, the others, being Horace James, actor, writer and television producer who died in June of 2000, and another producer Hazel Ward-Rredman who passed away just a year and a half ago at age 79. They all promoted the talent of TT in one form or another.

Commenting on the passing of Betaudier yesterday were a number of persons who closely interacted with him over the years.

Former Radio Trinidad staffer and Programme Controller at ttt, and friend of Betaudier’s for close to 60 years, Ann Winston, said “Holly to me, was a gentlemen. He stood out as somebody who had a big heart and a special feeling for the underdogs. I enjoyed many enjoyable moments with him, whether it was at staff parties or parang sessions. He also sought to make people’s talent not go unnoticed. I will miss him.” Zola Holder, who was Chief Bridesmaid at his wedding said: “He was everybody’s friend. He was warm hearted, generous and a happy person. And his wife took exceptional care of him throughout their married life, even in his last days.” For Frank Ward of the Mas Camp Pub, where Betaudier produced Mother’s Day and Father’s Day shows yearly, Holly’s passing was a shock. He said: “I know he couldn’t come to Joey (Lewis’) last show because he was ill but it was Holly who started the ballroom dancing by us. I am still shocked. “ He added that their Father’s Day show this year will be in remembrance of both Betaudier and Lewis. For this reporter personally, it was indeed a pleasure working with Betaudier in ttt and as his Production Assistant on the Scouting For Talent show. It never ceased to amaze me when we travelled to all parts of Trinidad and Tobago how the village folk especially, reacted to Holly B as he was so fondly called, when “Scouting” was being held in their neck of the woods. It was like Christmas for them.

But our trip to Venezuela when Betaudier led a TT team comprising Crazy and Louis & the Lynx on a cultural exchange is what made me see a different side of him. It was that fatherly side of him that came out as he made sure everyone in the TT team were well taken care of at all time, both inside and outside of the shows.

Holly B will surely be missed by practically all of TT. He leaves to mourn his wife Valerie, sons Anthony and Holly Jnr, daughters Barbara and Jennifer, as well as several grandchildren and great grandchildren.

The Media Association Trinidad and Tobago also extended its condolences: “ We extend heartfelt condolences to the family of Holly Betaudier and to the artistic community of Trinidad and Tobago on his passing last night.

Mr Betaudier, a quintessential television and radio broadcaster, producer and impresario contributed in unquantifiable measure to the most positive aspects of our culture. We offer special condolences to the parang musicians with whom he worked passionately and tirelessly and also to former TTT staff who will feel his loss in a deeply personal way

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