Remembering Newsfirst Multimedia columnist Alberto del Burgo

A true man of the world, he chose Montreal after leaving Lebanon

Alberto del Burgo met a lot of people during his long and productive life. And many of those with whom he came into contact will remember him in different ways – depending on the hat he was wearing.

Alberto, who passed away recently, was an actor, a journalist and editor, a writer of books and a newspaper columnist, a photographer, a musician, an artist and a cosmopolitan who decided one day in the late 1960s to come to Montreal from Lebanon.

A loyal contributor

For us at Newsfirst Multimedia and its affiliated publications (Laval News, Nouvelles Parc Extension News, North Shore New and Ta Nea), Alberto was also our longest-serving contributor since the company’s founding in 1993.

As it woud be no understatement to say that advertising is the lifeblood that keeps newspapers and print publications running, here’s a bit of lore about Alberto’s first months with us during the early 1990s: He had a key role in selling Nouvelles Parc Extension News’s very first block of advertising, which was to a large Montreal-area furniture and household furnishings chain.

A humorist at heart

In most recent years, he was a regular contributor to Nouvelles Parc Extension News’s editorial and opinion pages, where his French-language ‘Parlez-moi d’humour’ column (often written under the pseudonym Alcide Borik) irreverently lampooned everything under the sun, while generally casting all of humanity in a satirical light – and all with his typically Gallic flair.

For example, in a November 2017 column, del Burgo poked fun at the City of Montreal’s newly-elected mayor, Valérie Plante, while only alluding vaguely to her. Referring in the title of his piece to “La Mairesserie de Montréal,” del Burgo noted that it was the first time Montreal had elected a woman as mayor, while also taking some playful swipes at outgoing mayor Denis Coderre and former mayor Pierre Bourque.

Gentle political swipes

“So what if Denis made great efforts to clean up outsourced contracts, as well as the finances of the city,” del Burgo wrote. “As a matter of course, as a result of cleaning up, room was made for a beautiful Plante! It’s Mr. Bourque who must be dreaming now for his Botanical Gardens.”

Alberto was also a prolific author of books, and that same issue of NPN carried coverage of the launch of his most recent work at that point – ‘Jalons 2 : Beyrouth-Montréal – Un voyage de 50 ans,’ at the seniors retirement residence in Outremont where he lived. Despite his admittedly diminutive physical stature, Alberto’s charisma appeared to charm the ladies considerably, for indeed his book’s launch was attended by a mostly female crowd of admirers.

Autobiographical book

An autobiography, it was his fourth published work and it described the various stages of his adventurous life, from Lebanon to his arrival in Montreal. In an interview with Nouvelles Parc Extension News, del Burgo said his hope was that the book would inspire other would-be authors to follow his example and set down their thoughts and experiences into a publishable form.

“It’s the greatest legacy that can be left behind for children, and even for others because there is an almost archeological worth,” he said, noting that many of the things mentioned in his memoir no longer exist.

Del Burgo spent his life in many parts of the world. He had worked as a correspondent for the French Paris-Match feature and news magazine, and sent them despatches from Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Tibet.

He had many callings

As a photographer/painter, he held a number of exhibitions of his work under the pseudonym Berty. He was an actor whose stage name was Alcide Borik. He cut a record with the Phillips label in 1963 and was a featured host on Lebanese television. Later, he had a role in the full-length feature film ‘Les espions meurent à Beyrouth.’

Around the time of the Israeli Six Day War in the mid-1960s, del Burgo decided it was best for him to leave the Middle East. He was in France for the social upheaval that tore that country apart during the late 1960s, before finally finding his way to Canada in 1969.

In 1980 when Quebec was preparing to hold an independence referendum, del Burgo wrote an open letter, as a newcomer to Quebec, expressing concerns but support at the same time for sovereignty. To say the least, it went viral.

Also acted in films

In later years, his career in Quebec included supporting roles (as Alcide Borik in) in feature movies, like the Michel Brault film Les Noces de Papier starring Geneviève Bujold, which concerned a woman who agrees to a marriage of convenience with a refugee. The film later became the basis for an American remake film called Green Card starring Gérard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell.

In Montreal, del Burgo was also a columnist for a good number of publications, including Actualités Côte-des-Neiges, the Journal d’Outremont, the Laval News, Mosaïque, the Journal de Mont-Royal, the Journal de Saint-Laurent and Actualité médicale. At the same time, he was a frequent writer of letters-to-the-editor to many other publications.