Bob McAllister, the congenial “Host with the Most” during a lifetime of event planning and execution (that’s him in the photo above, talking to Danny Sullivan), died on Valentine’s Day of cancer. He was 69 and left cousins and nieces.
Anybody who ever had anything to do with big-league auto racing in Toronto, Indianapolis, Montreal, Daytona and/or Vancouver probably was treated royally by Bob at one time or another. He was a “contract guy” whose business planned and produced receptions and press conferences for companies and corporations involved with those races.
If you were lucky enough to get a seat in a hospitality suite at the track, Bob was probably the guy who shook your hand when you arrived.
He considered it his mission in life to make sure everybody was happy and having a good time.
He was a fixer, too. One time, the paper I was on decided at the last minute to send me to Montreal to cover the Grand Prix. Anybody who’s ever been to Montreal for the Grand Prix knows you can’t get a hotel room. I did the only thing I could: I called Bob McAllister. And guess what? He got me a room. (Was there ever any doubt?)
Another time, a female body builder of my acquaintance complained that she wasn’t getting any publicity. I called Bob, who called in a favour and got her picture in the Toronto Sun.
He had a million connections. That’s why, at one time, he was executive assistant to an Ontario cabinet minister
Paul Madder, a racing photographer of note (he took the photo at the top of this story), went to visit Bob in Toronto Grace Hospital a few weeks ago. I tagged along and we had a nice chat and a few laughs for about an hour. As sick as Bob was, he talked about the 25th anniversary of the Toronto Indy that’s coming up this summer and how he had a few ideas that could maybe make the event that much better.
He did a lot of work for Goodyear Canada over the years, which meant he met and charmed people he’d arranged rides for aboard the famous blimp.
My friend Sid Priddle, media manager of the Molson Indy races in Toronto and Vancouver and lately of the Honda Indy Edmonton, emailed me this:
“One year, he’d arranged for Betty and I to go up in the Goodyear Blimp in Florida. We were going to be there on vacation. Bob asked us when we were arriving in Fort Lauderdale and we gave him the details.
“As we were heading to pick up our luggage, this man arrived with a sign that had our name on it. You guessed it, it was Bob. He said he’d just purchased a bottle of Port and needed someone to drink it with him.
“Although it was late at night, it didn't matter so we went to his place — which was walking distance from where we were staying — and did some serious damage to the bottle. My stomach wasn't great the next day up in the blimp, but we all had a great time and, as always with Bob, lots of laughs.”
Gary Dolson, who ran the PR department at Goodyear for many years, sent me this last night:
“Bob McAllister had a very accomplished career because he was extremely smart, and he was strategic thinker. He was also very good at making people feel comfortable whenever they visited one of his "Hospitality Suites" during a Blimp Visit, or a Race Weekend.
“During any race weekend, whether it was a Formula One race in Montreal, a Carb Day weekend at the Indy 500 in Indianapolis, a Rolex 24 Hour Race Weekend in Daytona, a Molson Indy race weekend in Toronto or the Molson Indy Vancouver, everyone wanted to be a part of Bob's world. . . For Bob, it was more than watching fast cars race around the track. For him, it was about the people — making them happy, and providing them with everything they’d need for a truly exceptional experience.
“He will be sorely missed.”
A celebration of Bob’s life will be held next Friday night, Feb. 25th, at the Musket Restaurant, 40 Advance Rd. (right off Kipling, about five blocks north of the Queensway). You can bet there will be a million stories.
One in particular — and I don’t want to mess it up by trying to tell it here so I’ll wait and relate it later — had to do with Bob sending a stretch limo to a retirement home to pick up his mother and take her to a birthday party being held in her honour. The limo driver went to the wrong retirement home and picked up the wrong woman. You can imagine the rest.
This is the death notice that was in the Star. I’ll see everybody at the Musket next Friday.
Bob (Robert) McAllister, born on January 1, 1942, passed away peacefully surrounded by love at Toronto Grace Hospital on February 14, 2011. He was a loving uncle to Patricia and Catherine, a special great-uncle to Darrah, Benjamin, and Rachel, and cherished cousin to Yvonne (Stroud), Ken (Stroud), and Larry (Stroud). He will be truly missed by his wonderful friends. A special thanks to all the dedicated staff at Toronto Grace Hospital 6th floor. Donations in his honour may be made to the SPCA as he was an animal lover. A celebration of Bob’s life will be at the Musket Restaurant, 40 Advance Road, Toronto, on Friday, February 25th, 2011, at 7:00 p.m. Condolences may be emailed to Ken at firstname.lastname@example.org .