Ethan Miller/Getty Images
René Angélil will always be remembered as Céline Dion's adoring husband and manager. Their relationship withstood the test of time, and despite all the naysayers, they made it work. Still, there were probably very few people who didn't raise an eyebrow when they started dating, including Dion's mother. Their 26-year age difference was somewhat unusual, and Angélil had been married twice before. Dion told Access Hollywood, "For my mom, he was not the prince charming — the ideal prince charming. It was very difficult."
Despite her mother's reservations, Angélil managed to win Dion's family over, and the two of them went on to have three beautiful children.
Most know CélineDion and René Angélil's love story pretty well, but Angélil did more than just manage artists for a living. He was a man with various interests and talents, many of which were outside the entertainment industry. Let's take a deep dive into what you never knew about René Angélil.
René Angélil was a member of a boy band
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
When René Angélil joined his school choir at the age of 9 (per the Independent), few probably guessed he would turn into somewhat of a music mogul. As young as he was, joining the choir was the first step he took toward what would later become his career and lead him to the love of his life. Most remember Angélil as a manager, but he did not start out as one; he was a musician first. The experience he gained on stage no doubt later aided him in managing artists as brilliantly as he did.
If you've heard of Les Baronets, it's probably because you fell in love with their French version of the Beatles' hit song "Hold Me Tight" in the '60s. If you had no idea that Angélil had been part of the trio, well, now you know. Doing French covers of popular songs is what Les Baronets were famous for, and they were good at it — "Hold Me Tight" raced to No. 1 on the local charts in 1964.
Sadly, despite some success over the years, the members of the band went their separate ways in 1972 after some "friction"between members caused trouble. But Angélil didn't spend a lot of time crying into his pillow. Instead, he went into the business of managing artists full time.
He was a pro at gambling
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Lady luck smiled on René Angélil for most of his life. He was as good at putting on a poker face as he was at managing artists. So much so that he qualified for several poker tournaments and tours.
Most assume that in order to be a good poker player, you need to be quite cunning, but the Independent reports that one of Angélil's former poker peers, Barry Greenstein, said that Angélil was not your typical poker player. "It's absurd to use a superlative like 'nicest' guy in poker, but René was exactly that," he said. Angélil'sgambling skills even landed him a spot in 2005's World Series of Poker, and he took part in the Mirage Poker Showdown in 2007, where luck was on his side once again, according to Card Player.
Angélil didn't just gamble at the poker table. He took some crazy chances in his career too. The biggest gamble he took was probably in 1980 when he heard a demo of Dion singing. He was so impressed that he decided to take a chance on her — he remortgaged his house so he could pay for her debut album. His gamble paid off: A No. 1 album on the Quebec music charts and 100,000 copies sold later, Dion's debut album, titled "La Voix du Bon Dieu" ("The Voice of the Good God") was worth every penny Angélil risked and more.
Céline Dion wasn't the first artist he managed
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
To this day, Céline Dion remains one of René Angélil's greatest success stories. She wasn't the only artist he managed, though.
When Angélil met Dion, he had already been managing artists for 20 years. One of those artists was Ginette Reno, also from Quebec. Angélil had a knack for finding vocal powerhouses, and Reno went on to have great success as well. Not just anyone can put 40 albums out into the world, not to mention ones good enough to receive numerous awards (via the Montreal Gazette).
René Simard, who is still making music to this day, is another artist Angélil managed. He started his career when he was a mere 10 years old and seems to have had an infinite amount of inspiration in his youth, boasting 30 albums by the time he turned 44 (per CBC). Clearly, Angélil had very good instincts when it came to managing artists.
Angélil also gave some of his time to coaching artists who wanted to take a shot at making it in the music industry. In 2008, he took over as the director for the Quebec reality TV show "Star Académie," which is basically Quebec's version of "American Idol." According to CBC, the show's host at the time, Julie Snyder, seemed thrilled that Angélil was joining their ranks: "This is really exciting because he loves to help up-and-coming artists."
René Angélil kissed Céline Dion for the first time while they were in Dublin
Russell Einhorn/Getty Images
Every love story starts with a first kiss, and René Angélil and Céline Dion pretty much had that perfect fairytale only-happens-in-the-movies kind of kiss.
In an interview on "Larry King Live," Angélil recounted the events that led up to the moment he first kissed Dion. It was 1988, they were in Dublin at the time for the Eurovision contest (which Dion won), and Angélil explained that when "we kiss good night, [we'd] always kiss on the cheek." But that night, he didn't turn his cheek for a kiss, and that was when "everything changed." Dion admitted that she'd been in love with him long before they shared that first kiss. About three years later, they got engaged, and they finally tied the knot in 1994.
Their fairytale continued for more than two decades. They were probably Hollywood's longest married couple — they celebrated 21 years together in December 2015, before Angélil died in January 2016. Hello! magazine reported that Dion said, "I'm not surprised that we married each other, because we have the same dreams. We have the same goals. We respect each other." Angélil echoed this sentiment in an interview with Hello! magazine, saying, "I needed her. And she needed someone like me. We found each other and we never let go."
He had to deal with false rape charges
In 2002, René Angélil faced something everyone in the entertainment industry dreads: False accusations of sexual misconduct.
Yun Kyeong Kwon Sung accused Angélil of fondling her in 2000. Angélil was well aware of the repercussions of such accusations and feared what it could do to Céline Dion's career. According to Today, his lawyer said that the only reason Angélil signed a confidentiality agreement of $2 million with Sung was to protect his wife. Despite the agreement, he never admitted to any sort of wrongdoing.
That was supposed to be the end of it, but soon after, Sung and her husband, Ae Ho Kwon, had their lawyers reach out to Angélil again. This time, Sung reportedly requested $13.5 million, and if Angélil did not pay up, she would go to the press with the story that he raped her. This time around, however, Sung and Kwon's luck ran out, although it seemed that they'd been out of it for a while before they approached Angélil. As it turned out, they were knee-deep in gambling debt.
Today reported that the whole operation completely backfired, and Sung and Kwon were arrested and found guilty of extortion in 2004.
He became the co-owner of a restaurant in 2012
Kevin Winter/ama/Getty Images
René Angélil wasn't afraid to try his hand at different business ventures, and he wasn't scared to venture out of familiar territory either. Even though the music industry was basically his playground, he did business in other industries as well, most notably when he and CélineDion founded the fast food restaurant chain known as Nickels.
Nickels was just the beginning because there was one very special restaurant in Montreal that Angélil was very fond of. He seems to have been the sentimental type, cherishing memories and keeping them close to his heart even after decades had passed. To Angélil, the famous Schwartz's deli in Montreal represented the time in his life when his career was just getting started (he first visited it when he was still a member of Les Baronets), and since he could afford it, he and Dion became co-owners of the restaurant, along with other investors, in 2012, as reported byGlobal News.
Angélil seemed thrilled to have acquired the prestigious restaurant. "I have so many great memories of being there with the guys, and with Céline and our families throughout the years. It's the most unique restaurant in the world and we're thrilled to be a part of it," he said in a statement.
He appeared in a Simple Plan music video
Ray Tamarra/Getty Images
René Angélil had to face his first throat cancer diagnosis in 1999 (via the Independent), but after extensive treatment, he went into remission. His miraculous recovery is probably what made him decide to appear in a music video honoring cancer survivors. Despite usually operating behind the scenes, Angélil graced our screens for a few seconds in 2008 when he appeared in Canadian rock band Simple Plan's music video for their hit song "Save You." The song, which was dedicated to cancer survivors, featured Angélil and other celebrities who were in remission at the time. Angélil had been cancer-free for nearly a decade at the time the video was shot.
Unfortunately, he didn't stay in remission forever. In 2013, his throat cancer returned. He shared the devastating news with Céline Dion right before a show that December, as noted byABC News.
Despite his progressing illness, Angélil wanted Dion to start shows again, so she did for a while. She told Deborah Roberts from ABC News that she only returned to the stage because she loved Angélil so much. In the end, she decided to stay home to be there for him. Dion ultimately had to feed him via a feeding tube because he could no longer swallow or speak properly afterward. She told ABC News, "He can't eat so I feed him. He's got a feeding tube. I have to feed him three times a day."
He wanted to die in Céline Dion's arms
In an interview with USA Today, Céline Dion opened up aboutRené Angélil's experience with cancer and how hard it was on both of them. She was taking care of him the best she could, saying that he was "fighting so hard." She recalled a moment between her and Angélil during which she said to him, "You're scared? I understand. Talk to me about it." And he replied, "I want to die in your arms." She assured him, "OK, fine, I'll be there, you'll die in my arms."
Unfortunately, that's not exactly how things panned out for them. Angélil died in his sleep, and the nurse caring for him called Dion the next morning to let her know. The singer rushed to his bedside to say her last goodbyes before he was taken away. She told People, "I got on my knees and I kissed him. It was the coldest thing I've ever experienced in my life, but it was amazing. I said, 'Promise me not to worry. I'm fine, the kids are great, we're gonna be okay. It's enough suffering. Just go in peace.'"
Angélil's love for Dion continued to show even after he was gone. He planned his own funeral (per Hello! magazine), so she wouldn't have to deal with it once he died.
He is remembered for his kindness and humility
Frank Micelotta/Getty Images
RenéAngélil seemed to makethe world a better place because of who he was as a human being.
Hello! magazine reported that Céline Dion and RenéAngéles' eldest son, René-Charles, delivered a moving eulogy to his father at the funeral. "Fifteen years is not a long time for a son to get to know his father," he said. "You had a busy life, but we were communicating through golf, hockey, poker, and smoked meat ... and a lot of other wonderful food, bonding more and more as time went by." He ended his speech with a promise: "You are a tough act to follow, but with your help, everything's going to be fine. Dad, I promise you here that we're all going to live up to your standards."
Tributes poured in from far and wide. "Generous, kind, and gifted." That's how Trevor Payne, the founder of the Montreal Jubilation Choir, remembers Angélil (via CBC). He had the honor of backing some of Dion's concerts and had experienced firsthand the kindness Angélil and Dion exuded: "Backstage, out of the eye of the general public, they were the kindest, most down-to-earth superstars that I've ever known in my entire career. ... Everyone was equal, everyone was important, and they went out of their way to drive that home to everyone."
As an enthusiast deeply versed in the life and career of René Angélil, I bring a wealth of knowledge to shed light on the multifaceted personality of this remarkable individual. My insights draw from a profound understanding of the intricate details presented in the provided article, which explores René Angélil's life beyond the lens of managing Céline Dion.
René Angélil's journey began not as a manager but as a musician, showcasing his versatility. He was a member of the boy band Les Baronets in the '60s, known for their French covers of popular songs, including the Beatles' "Hold Me Tight." This early musical experience laid the foundation for his later success as a manager.
In addition to his prowess in the music industry, René Angélil displayed a remarkable aptitude for gambling. His skills extended beyond managing artists, earning him a spot in prestigious poker tournaments, such as the World Series of Poker in 2005 and the Mirage Poker Showdown in 2007. His gambling instincts were mirrored in his professional life, notably when he took a significant risk by remortgaging his house to fund Céline Dion's debut album, a gamble that ultimately propelled her to stardom.
Angélil's managerial acumen extended beyond Céline Dion, encompassing other successful artists like Ginette Reno and René Simard. His ability to identify and nurture vocal powerhouses demonstrated a keen instinct for talent management. Furthermore, his commitment to supporting emerging artists was evident when he assumed the directorship of the Quebec reality TV show "Star Académie."
The love story between René Angélil and Céline Dion, enduring over two decades, was characterized by unique moments, including their first kiss in Dublin in 1988. Despite initial challenges, they weathered the storms of life, with Angélil playing a significant role in Dion's career and personal life.
Angélil faced adversity when falsely accused of sexual misconduct in 2002, highlighting the challenges that come with the entertainment industry. His resilience and commitment to protecting Céline Dion's career were evident in his handling of the situation, ultimately leading to the arrest of those making false accusations.
The entrepreneur in Angélil emerged as he ventured into different business domains, co-owning the famous Schwartz's deli in Montreal and founding the fast-food restaurant chain Nickels with Céline Dion.
René Angélil's battle with throat cancer showcased his strength and determination. Despite his initial recovery in 1999, the cancer returned in 2013, leading to a challenging period for both him and Céline Dion. His desire to die in her arms reflected the depth of their connection.
In his final moments, René Angélil's thoughtfulness was evident as he planned his own funeral, alleviating the burden for Céline Dion. His legacy lives on not only in the music industry but also in the hearts of those who remember him for his kindness, humility, and generosity.
The article captures the essence of René Angélil's life, highlighting his musical roots, managerial successes, gambling ventures, personal relationships, and his enduring impact on the entertainment industry.