In 1985, on Saturday, January 19, there was an inauguration gala for Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States.
The gala was being organized by famed entertainer Frank Sinatra but behind the scenes was Schuylerville’s Joseph Wood Canzeri. New York Times The Impressario of the Inaugural Galas, by Phil Gailey (17 January 1985) wrote:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 16— The sign on the door of a temporary office at the Washington Convention Center says ”The Boss.” The boss was not in today, and Joseph W. Canzeri, a fabled detail man for the rich and powerful, had taken over Frank Sinatra’s office. Mr. Canzeri, who gave up a career in hotel management, served for 16 years as an advance agent and personal assistant to Nelson A. Rockefeller. Later, in a short stint on the White House staff, he handled travel arrangements and other duties for President and Mrs. Reagan. Now, as a Washington public relations specialist with close ties to the White House, he is helping Mr. Sinatra stage two entertainment galas this weekend saluting President Reagan and Vice President Bush. Mr. Canzeri described his role as ”coordinating producer” of the inaugural galas, making sure that the White House, the Secret Service, the Presidential Inaugural Committee and Mr. Sinatra know what one another is doing. In addition, he said, ”We’ve got all these major talents coming to town who have to be housed, fed and transported. … ”
”What a pleasure it is to have the White House and Frank Sinatra behind you,” Mr. Canzeri said, puffing on a cigar. ”The heavies – Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, Sinatra – they’re easy guys to please because they know what they want.” And that, he added, is all he needs to know to do his job. His master’s wish is his command. ”Done” is the motto of this small, plump man with a taste for precisely tailored suits and Gucci shoes. It is not surprising that Mr. Canzeri and Mr. Sinatra, both sons of Italian immigrants, can share the same office. Mr. Canzeri is known for the kind of loyalty and discretion Mr. Sinatra values in his associates. In addition, Mr. Canzeri prides himself on never saying ”no” to an assignment, no matter how difficult.”
Joseph Wood Canzeri (16 May 1930 – 22 November 2004) was born in Schuylerville, N.Y., to parents who had immigrated to the United States from Sicily in 1900. He grew up in Saratoga, N.Y. according to his obituary in the Washington Post. “After serving as an Army infantryman during the Korean War, he enrolled at Paul Smith’s College of Arts and Sciences in New York, graduating with a two-year degree in hotel and restaurant management in 1955. He then managed restaurant and resort properties, including the White Face Inn in Lake Placid, N.Y., and the Otesaga Inn in Cooperstown.”
Rockefeller regularly attended conferences at the Otesaga Inn and met Mr. Canzeri shortly after becoming New York governor in 1959. According to Mr. Canzeri’s longtime friend Paul Auchter, the governor was impressed with his ability to fix problems and handle details, large and small. Canzeri was a political advance man who worked for Republicans such as Nelson Rockefeller and Ronald Reagan, and briefly for Ross Perot in 1992.
Saratoga has been defined by the people who by choice or by chance make up this community. There are many individuals like Joseph Canzeri that help define this country, our region, and this community. It is the determination of our forefathers, in surmounting overwhelming odds that help define the American spirit – the will and ability to shape a better future. It is the people it is that define this community by choice or by chance have changed this country and even the world. That is why studying the people of Saratoga is integral to a good understanding of the condition of being human.