LaGuardia, “a paramount leader” in the industry, dies at age 63

By | May 17, 2012

Bonnie Brocious, marketing director/talent buyer, Great Allentown (Pa.) Fair, reflected about the passing of her colleague and good friend, Joe LaGuardia, as she packed on Thurs., May 17 to attend his wake that afternoon in Syracuse.

LaGuardia, who served the New York State Fair in Syracuse for 32 years, died at 12:21 a.m., Monday, May 14. He succumbed to complications while being treated for amyloidosis, a rare blood disorder. He was being treated at the Boston Medical Center. He was 63 years old.

“He was a guy that really meant a lot to me,” Brocious said. “I met him in 1990 at an IEBA (International Entertainment Buyers Association) convention. He represented the fair and a fairer man has never lived. He was a paramount leader in our industry.”

Brocious was planning to stay for the mass that was to be held on Friday, May 18.
Having the same job duties, marketing, booking entertainment, and publicity, for their perspective fairs, Brocious and LaGuardia not only became close colleagues, joining together as routing partners, but also formed a friendship that extended beyond them to their families.

Brocious and her husband, Carl, drove to Boston Friday, May 11, to visit with Joe and his family.
“He was just coming out of a medical induced coma,” she said. “But, he recognized me right away. He squeezed my hand. I told him that I was standing there with his wife and my husband, but that was the best squeeze I had ever had from a man.”

Brocious had also brought a list of industry names, people who had called about him.

“He nodded as I read each one of the names,” she said. “I was so very glad that I was able to bring the industry into his room that day.”

Brocious said LaGuardia forged huge relationships with the booking agencies and bands across the country over the years he was at the state fair. And, since LaGuardia, like Brocious, booked all entertainment such as grounds acts, he had relationships with many types of entertainment agencies.

“He brought huge acts to fairs, like Frank Sinatra — acts that normally didn’t book into fairs,” she said. “He broke through and booked shows into grandstands that normally didn’t go there, like music festivals. And, he wanted to take care of his talent. He wanted them to have the best facilities, because he knew they were on the road all year. He spent a lot time throughout the year finding the best for them. Joe was very respected in this position.”

Carey Harveycutter, executive director, Salem (Va.) Civic Center, home to the Salem Fair, said he had known LaGuardia for 15 years.

“He knew his market,” Harveycutter said. “He programmed his fair so well. He took his budget and stretched it better than anyone I have ever know.”

In a local news report, Tom Young, former Syracuse mayor and friend of LaGuardia’s, said his death was a shock. Although there is no cure for amyloidosis, there is treatment that can give patients a fairly normal life.

“Everyone expected he was going to recover,” Young was reported as saying.

In another report, former State Fair Director Peter Cappuccilli, was quoted as saying: “Joe was the leader in the industry, there’s no question about it. And if you know Joe, it’s because he cared and he knew his job. This is not only a tremendous loss for his family and friends, but also a tremendous loss for the community. Joe did so much in the community. He was active in so much and he just made it a better place to live in Syracuse.”

LaGuardia was mainstay at the New York State Fair. Brocious said she and LaGuardia, as well as others in that type of government positions, know that when administrations change, so does many staff positions. But, she said, LaGuardia went through several administrations and overlapping political situations.

But, in 2007, he was given a pink slip by Dan O’Hara, the fair director appointed under Governor Eliot Spitzer, who served New York in 2007-2008. O’Hara still serves as director.
LaGuardia subsequently worked as executive director of the Syracuse Lakefront Development Corp, retiring from that job in 2010.

He also was a partner with Bill Motto in Motto LaGuardia Consultants, a sports and event management company. Early in his career, LaGuardia was a reporter at the former Syracuse Herald-Journal newspaper from 1970 to 1974.

He served on the boards of the Syracuse Chiefs, the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame and the Central New York Arthritis Foundation.
LaGuardia was an ardent golfer and past president of Bellevue Country Club. When he was still at the Fair, LaGuardia sometimes brought music stars such as country singer Vince Gill to play at Bellevue.

He was very active in the International Entertainment Buyers Association.

“I can tell you there isn’t a dry eye in Los Angeles, New York and Nashville today,” she said.

LaGuardia is survived by his mother, wife, Carol, their three children and three grandchildren.