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Manager for Johnny Mathis Dies

April 10, 2002

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LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Helen Noga, a club owner and music manager credited with discovering singer Johnny Mathis, has died. She was 88.

Noga died Monday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center of heart failure, according to her publicist, Warren Cowan.

Noga and her husband, John, owned two important San Francisco jazz clubs in the 1950s, the Black Hawk and the Downbeat. They attracted such talents as Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis and Billie Holiday.

A sextet from San Francisco State University led by a 19-year-old singer named Johnny Mathis often played in Sunday afternoon jam sessions at the Black Hawk. Struck by Mathis’ talent, Noga immediately established herself as his manager and arranged other club bookings.

Mathis signed with Columbia records and in 1957 began his string of smash hits with ``Wonderful! Wonderful!,″ ``It’s Not For Me To Say″ and ``Chances Are.″

Noga and her husband sold their clubs and moved to Beverly Hills, where Mathis lived with them from 1958 until he severed their business relationship in 1964.

At a time when black performers were still often treated badly in Las Vegas, Noga once refused to sign a contract for Mathis with the Sands Hotel unless its managers allowed him to come and go through the front door.

After working with Mathis, Noga wrote a novel, ``Ayisha,″ published in 1972, the story of a love affair between a Turkish Muslim and an Armenian Christian.

Her husband died in 1999.

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