Category Archives: Celebrity

Vive le Israel

Television talk-show host Stéphane Gendron embodies everything that is wrong with Canada’s most fractious and xenophobic province. There is no shortage of intolerance in North America. Ask a black man in Georgia. Ask a Democrat in Texas. Ask a Liberal in Alberta. But nowhere is intolerance more pervasive, more entrenched in cultural ideology than in Quebec, a province that abhors anything and everything that is not Mayflower Francophone. Case in point: Mr. Gendron’s televised assertion that Israel “does not deserve to exist.”

Oh, Quebec, where did we go wrong?

Let’s be clear: Everyone has a right to exist. Even bad people. Even that neighbour whose three dogs bark twenty-four hours a day. Even the unidentified juvenile delinquent who broke into your car only to discover there was nothing of value to take. Even the New York waiter who was rude to you (it’s his job, by the way, so get over it). Bad people exist, and perhaps the best the rest of us can hope for is that we can lead by example, encourage good behavior, perhaps show these baddies a bit of love or respect, a kind word—something they need, in order to see the light. What they don’t need is for some crackpot to leap out of the Canadian woodwork, making inflammatory statements. Do you hear me, Mr. Gendron? Foreign policy is not the preferred domain of lifestyle celebrities—Oprah notwithstanding.

Strife between Israel and its neighbours has persisted for more than half a century, and it will not begin to abate until all parties stop using the phrase “right to exist.” There can never be peace with that hair in the soup. And it’s a phrase that has no meaning in the real world, since they all do exist, and will continue to do so, regardless of the other side’s best efforts. It’s unhelpful for a bystander, eight thousand kilometers away, to make an uninformed and naïve proclamation on national television.

Even more foolish was his attempt to defend his action. “I have the right to express publicly my position,” said Mr. Gendron.

Not if it promotes hatred, sir. For your own good, and for the good of the world, it behooves you to stick to the topics on which you are informed: cheese and fashion. Merci beaucoup.



According to Ms. Blatchford

In her recent National Post entry, esteemed columnist Christie Blatchford raises some interesting questions. The subject of the article was NDP leader Jack Layton and his “sad and too soon” death—an event she refers to as a “thoroughly public spectacle.” And she doesn’t mean it kindly.

According to Ms. Blatchford, it was unseemly for the media to don “their most funereal faces” and dig out the “heavy organ music.” She singles out CBC man Evan Solomon for talking about the difficulty of trying to cope with Jack Layton’s death. Question: Is it appropriate for us to try to cope with the death of a prominent public figure? Furthermore, is it appropriate for journalists to talk about our difficulty in doing so? If Ms. Blatchford has a better way to cope than to talk about it, perhaps she could enlighten us.

According to Ms. Blatchford, the “over-the-top nature of such events” (Jack Layton’s death) is a phenomenon begat by Princess Diana’s untimely death. Says Ms. Blatchford: “People the planet over routinely weep for those they have never met and in some instances likely never much thought about before.” She means celebrities and tv personalities who die. Question: Is it fair to compare Gary Coleman’s “too-soon” death to Jack Layton’s? As Ms. Blatchford rightly states, I hadn’t given Coleman much thought, except when he made a brief appearance on The Simpsons. On the other hand, I have given Jack Layton—arguably both celebrity and tv personality, not to mention politician—plenty of thought in recent years. Whether or not I voted for him, what he had to say meant something to me, one way or the other. In other words, he mattered to me, as a Canadian, more than Gary Coleman did. And, at the time of his death, as the official opposition leader, Layton was one of the few people who could bring some measure of balance to parliament. He was powerful and influential in a way that Gary Coleman wasn’t.

According to Ms. Blatchford, Jack Layton’s death-bed letter is “vainglorious” and “ruthlessly partisan.” She doesn’t like the fact other people, including his wife—yes, also an NDP politico—helped him write the letter. She also doesn’t like the letter because “it shows what a canny, relentless, thoroughly ambitious fellow Mr. Layton was.” Question: Is it wrong to have help writing a letter? Personally, I’m writing my ninth novel, and even after all these years, I continue to rely on my wife’s help with the process. She sees things I miss, points out discrepancies, odd word choices, flimsy characterizations, and so on. I usually give her a “shout out” on the dedication page, but her name does not appear on the front cover. Perhaps I, too, am vainglorious. Another question: Was it wrong for Jack Layton to be thinking about his political party’s future, when he is facing death? Shouldn’t he have been hugging the kids and scratching the pooch’s chin one last time? Who the hell cares about politics when you are about to die? Someone else’s problem, if you buy into Ms. Blatchford’s concept of a proper and noble death.

According to Ms. Blatchford, even the timing of the letter’s release, mid-day, was strategic, ensuring the greatest possible coverage by journalists who, by that time of day, were “in danger of running out of pap.” Question: Is Ms. Blatchford separating herself from that group of journalists? Was she, in fact, running out of pap when Layton’s letter farted through her fax machine? To be sure, she wasted no time composing her column on the subject of Jack Layton’s death, and his vainglorious letter.

I only hope that, in due time—and not too-soon—Ms. Blatchford can show us all how to die well. I’ll be waiting, pen in hand, to give her the send-off she deserves.

Dear Book, Write Thyself

Forbes Magazine has announced that James Patterson is the highest paid author in the world. Good for him. Thank the gods neither Forbes nor Reuters had the nerve to call him a writer.

Mr. Patterson shamelessly admits he does not write his own books, but is the “idea man,” who then passes the onerous task of actual writing along to some intern or aspiring writer. And it is this anonymous grunt who churns out the book and collects a ghost-writing fee. This practice allowed Jimmy to publish not one, not two, but ten books last year. Even Stephen King, who only rated number three on Forbes’ list, couldn’t keep up with that pace. Then again, King writes his books himself.

As a hardworking and underexposed writer, I am just slightly offended that James Patterson can appear on the same list as genuine writers—even Romance writers! He is called an entertainment mogul, which is accurate, but he is a writer in the same way that Britney Spears is a singer—who no longer sings during her live concerts but lip-synchs to a pre-recorded voice. Both she and Patterson misrepresent themselves as artists.

This isn’t sour grapes from an envious hack; it’s an issue of basic taxonomy. Rather than grouping Patterson with King and Steele and Meyer, he should be on a list with Dreamworks and Cirque du soleil.

Of course, because these books are published with his name on the cover, he qualifies as an author. But for all he is a writer, he could put on some tights and stick his head in a lion’s mouth. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind seeing that.

(Okay, okay, maybe the grapes are a little sour.)


“I Did Not Have Sexual Relations with that Hoagie”

Now that Toronto voters have awoken from their dream and realized the horror of their well-meaning if misguided actions, there is only one solution:

Impeach Rob Ford.

There must be a way. If there is a legal process to do so, it should be enacted without delay, before the “swirl” turns into “glug, glug, glug,” before the Ford administration takes Toronto to lows not enjoyed since 1970’s Detroit. I’m pretty sure there are more lawyers in Toronto than libraries, so perhaps two or three of them can take up the challenge and save this city before it’s too late.

If there is no legal precedent to impeach a mayor, make one. There has to be a first time for everything. If enough voices shout, they will be heard.

Never mind “Margaret Atwood for Mayor.” She’s busy showing the world that art means something to many people, current mayor & family notwithstanding. She’d be wasted on local politics. But perhaps we could introduce a standardized test for future mayoral candidates, something akin to provincial EQAO tests. (Here is a link; as you read, simply change the phrase “education quality” to “leadership quality.” Any potential mayor should at least know who Ms. Atwood is, and be able to pick her out of a police line-up.

And just a quick note to Mr. Ford: It should have occurred to you by now that the reason you are finding it so hard to balance the budget is because it is simply not possible to do it in one fell swoop. 800 mill is a lot. And it just might take two, or even three years to balance the budget. It serves no purpose to amputate the leg to save the little toe. Better you do nothing, like David Miller, than perform this unnecessary and dangerous surgery.

Mayor Ford does not care about Torontonians. How do I know? A little “birdie” told me so.


Sing Me a Song…

Another sad “I told you so” moment for music fans and celebrity watchers. Amy Winehouse, dead at 27.

Maybe it’s easier when you see it coming. After Heath Ledger died unexpectedly from an overdose of sleeping pills, we felt the loss acutely not only because his brilliant career had been on a steadily upward trajectory, but also because he had no rehab track record, and was not regular fodder for tabloids. In Amy’s case, the bookies have been taking bets for years.

Those same bookies lost their shirts when Robert Downey Jr., quite to the surprise and joy of fans and train-wreck-watchers, cleaned up his act and resumed putting out good work. Iron Man, indeed. So far, they’re breaking even on the Britney Spears: after several years fighting a seemingly hopeless battle against her personal demons, she appears to be regaining some momentum—although no one ever accused her of being anything other than a marketing doll, and a singing career in which she routinely lip-synchs can only be short-lived. Still, these two embattled celebs came through the other end of the tunnel and survive to fight another day. The odds-makers are still divided over Lohan, so place your bets, folks. For more than a decade we witnessed Michael Jackson disintegrate before our very eyes, figuratively and literally.

The saddest thing for us, and for their posterity, is that when they are in the depths of these addictions, they produce nothing of artistic value. When was the last time Jackson released a blockbuster album? 1991. Before the child molestation charges, and back when he still had most of a nose. Everything after that was epilogue. And what about Winehouse? Everyone talks about “Back To Black,” released in 2006. Five years ago. What was she doing these last five years? Committing suicide the hard way, and doing it publicly. She was no longer able to perform her own songs, never mind write one.

So it’s a double-barrelled tragedy when an artist suffers an untimely death: there is the personal loss for loved ones, and then there is the loss to the world, of the work that the artist has not yet created. Imagine if Mozart had lived to be eighty. Or Lennon. Led Zeppelin broke up after drummer John Bonham’s drug-related death, ending a decade-long reign as the Greatest Rock Band in the World. Hendrix, Cobain, Morrison, they all had more to give us. I believe that. Since I did not know any of these people personally, it is this loss, the loss of their artistic potential, that I feel the most. That’s the tragedy for me, the fan.

I will miss the smoky darkness of Amy Winehouse’s delicious voice. But at least I’ve got her existing body of music to sustain me, small as it is. If only she had managed to hold on just a little longer. We’ll never know what we’ve really lost.

Good-bye, dear girl.