Joseph Pampena was born in November 1955 at Toronto Western Hospital. His mother, Teresa, worked in a factory in Mimico, while his father, Salvatore, did construction. Though his family was “never deprived of food or anything,” his parents worked very hard, facing the ugly discrimination that met postwar Italians immigrating to a WASP town.
The family (including one brother) moved from College Street’s Little Italy to Corso Italia along St. Clair, before ending up near Dufferin and Wilson in a house just blocks from where Pampena lives today. He was a sickly child, suffering from scarlet fever and its complications, but by high school had cultivated his dandyism, wearing his signature suit. “I always say, ‘you may meet someone who will discover you,’ ” he explains.
In the late ’70s, Pampena was at a Scarborough restaurant-nightclub when he spied a dark-haired woman having dinner with her friends. It was almost as soon as he began dating Paulette Moulaison that he started having trouble with his vision.