Gary Warzin RIP

Among the terrible news coming out of the Gulf states these past few days, we heard the sad news that Gary Warzin, one of the co-founders, with Tony Gregory, of high-end distribution company Audiophile Systems, had died on Saturday August 27 at just 56. Audiophile Systems had grown to prominence in the 1970s and '80s marketing Linn components in the US, and after Linn had set up their own distribution, had worked hard to establish the Arcam and dCS brands in the US. We reproduce below the email we received from Audiophile Systems, telling us of the news, but I'd like to offer my own memory of someone whose abilities as a serious expert on marketing—he was a Disney Fellow—were matched by his penchant for practical jokes:

I flew with Gary once, and he showed me a red clown's nose that he always carried with him. Before the tragedy of 9/11 made air travel a serious business, he would offer his passport to the immigration officer, with his nose in the photo obscured by a a small red dot. When the officer looked up, Gary would have on the red clown nose.

A service for Gary was held on Tuesday, August 30 in Indianapolis. Rest In Peace, Gary.—John Atkinson

From Audiophile Systems:

Dear Friends,

Over the weekend we at Audiophile Systems, and in fact the AV Industry in general, lost a great man and a great friend. Very early in the morning of this Saturday, Gary Warzin, President of Audiophile Systems, passed away in his sleep. To those of us who are left there were no warning signs, he simply did not wake up.

I have been trying ever since to figure out just the right thing to say, and have failed. So please bear with me while I share some thoughts. I am sure that they will fall far short of what Gary deserves.

One of the first things I noticed about Gary was his oddly brilliant sense of humor. When I moved into the office at the foot of a spiral staircase which wound up into Gary's office, I had to climb the stairs every morning to plug in the overhead lamp. After griping for a month or more, I walked in one day and Gary said, "Bob, I bought a 'Clapper.' Just clap your hands once and it will turn off; and clap twice and it will turn on." I clapped twice and the light went on. For the next week or two I walked in, clapped and the light would go on. At the end of the day I would clap once and the light would go out.

I never once noticed that Gary was carefully getting into work every day before me and leaving everyday after me. Finally he could stand it no more and while choking with laughter he told me that in fact there was no "clapper" and that when I would clap, he was plugging the light in. The staff thought this prank was hilarious and ridiculed me for weeks. For myself I will always remember that, for a while, I had one of the most influential men I know in the business, one of the smartest and most creative men I ever met, turning on and off my light whenever I clapped my hands. I don't know who the joke was really on, but it was funny.

Speaking of electricity, I will also never forget that on the Millennium New Year, my wife Peg and I were at Gary and Julie's house for a quiet evening of cards to bring in the New Year. Of course Gary had programmed all of the lights in his house to go off at midnight to simulate a power grid disaster. Once again, weird but funny. I bet you all have your own favorite Gary moment.

Then there was "Business Gary." The Gary that was so integral to bringing Audiophile Systems to success and influence not once, but twice. So few of us ever get it right at all, let alone twice. Spanning the evolution of our business from a time when the idea that turntables might make a difference was the cutting-edge thinking, to the time we live in where everything electric can be integrated into a whole entertainment environment that extends throughout the house and beyond.

He was very early in integrating computers into the operation of the business and remained engaged in the latest advances throughout his career, yet he always believed that the basics of hard work, great demonstrations, treating people decently, and really trying to help the customer were the secrets of success. He had been an air traffic controller early in his life and would often say, "If 300 people aren't going to die in the next 30 seconds then we really don't have a problem, do we?"

Then there was "Magic Gary," who would delight hardened sales reps, business owners and other industry luminaries with strait-jacket escapes, appearing bowling balls, and occasionally cutting people in half. There was "Showman Gary," with laser light displays and snowstorms in Las Vegas. There was "Code Breaking Gary," who ended up in the Wall Street Journal, not because of his success in business but because he had gotten farther than anyone else in his attempt to break the code embedded in a statue at the CIA headquarters.

Mostly though, there was just Gary. A good, decent, kind and funny man who had brought Audiophile Systems back from the ashes and was loving every minute of watching it, and working it, as it bore fruit again for so many people. All the while he helped make the hard work that was required for success, and surviving disasters, fun. The truth was simple, he loved to play. The company he founded 30-odd years ago is solidly back now, having been tested by fire, and even though we will do so much of what he helped us prepare for, it seems unbearably unfair he will not be here to see it happen.

Gary, you will be missed.

Respectfully.—Bob Scranton, VP Sales, Audiophile Systems

A message to all of Gary's friends:

Bob's tribute to Gary above is so eloquent, and I am personally so stunned by the loss of my life-long business partner, that there isn't much I feel I can add at this time. I first met Gary when he opened an in-home hi-fi shop bearing the name Audiophile Systems in 1972. We actually hit it off at first based on a common interest in magic, rather than hi-fi. Time goes by so fast that it seems like just yesterday, but it's now been 30 years since I joined Gary as his first business partner in the hi-fi distribution business. Gary has been a fixture of my entire professional career—easily the most brilliantly creative individual that I have ever met—and the best business partner one could have asked for.

We got through some tough times together, first building the company, and then rebuilding it. I can't imagine many people with whom that would have been possible. I am certain that if I had not met Gary, my life would have been far less entertaining, and I know that many of you who interacted with Gary will appreciate this.

Gary and I always quipped that we got into hi-fi to avoid working for a living, and then reality tricked us. But in truth, Gary was having a ball, and he brought that enthusiasm to everything he did. His intelligence, humor, and creativity were larger-than-life. So many of the people I contacted on Saturday simply said, "I don't know what to say." And of course, there's nothing anyone can say. I can honestly say that I don't even know what I feel at this time. I know that the loss of Gary is hugely personal for many of us. And I know that it leaves a void in this industry that will be a long time being filled.—Tony Gregory, COO/General Manager, Audiophile Systems, Ltd.

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