The man behind the music

Documentary details Doc Pomus, writer of many Elvis Presley hits

In 1969, three friends turned an early 1900s Winnipeg movie theatre into an art house cinema called Cinema 3. 

William Hechter, then in his earlier years of university, Basil Logopoulous and David Rich each contributed $400 to renovate the theatre in the Mac’s building at the corner of Ellice and Sherbrook – now home to the Ellice Theatre – and bring in art films from all over Europe.  

Hechter then spent years in a different line of work, graduating with a Masters of Law from Harvard University in 1974, founding and publishing Canadian Lawyer Magazine in 1977, and teaching as an assistant professor at Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. 

Today Hechter manages Excalibur Capital Management, an investment firm in Toronto, but his love of films and art never left him. He has worked with the likes of Andy Warhol, and about five years ago he founded Clear Lake Historical Productions and began directing films with director Peter Miller (Jews and Baseball). 

Hechter shares credit when asked about his role.  

“From starting to shoot the interviews to editing, post production… It’s really a team effort,” Hechter says.

The company, a not-for-profit organization, is principally concerned with making movies that are entertaining and educational.  

Hechter’s roots in the Jewish community spurred the direction of the company’s first two films: Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story and A.K.A. Doc Pomus. The latter concerns a legend of the American recording industry from New York.  

The late Doc Pomus – alias of Jerome Solon Felder – penned and performed a massive amount of songs, undeterred by post-polio syndrome, which kept him on crutches and eventually confined him to a wheelchair. His hits were recorded by Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Marianne Faithful, and many more. 

“The music I grew up with in Winnipeg was the music he wrote… I was very interested in that music, it reminds me of a wonderful youth in Winnipeg, of wonderful times,” Hechter says. 

When he read a biography on Felder, Hechter realized he had to make a documentary about him. 

“Not many people know about this man, but they know about his music. He’s the most improbable of persons to do what he did.”

Following decades working in law, Hechter is now turning towards movies.  

“I’m going to concentrate more and more on the film work,” he confirms.

He lauds the work of Winnipeg’s Cinematheque, which will be screening the film.  

“I think the Cinematheque is a great exhibition place in Winnipeg. Exhibitors have a very, very hard time today, competing with Netflix and video-on-demand, but there is still something special about going to the theatre and seeing a movie with other people. I give a lot of credit to the people at Cinematheque.”

Published in Volume 68, Number 15 of The Uniter (January 8, 2014)

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