People

Maureen Piercy April 28 1980

People

Maureen Piercy April 28 1980

People

One of the most disturbing Canadian murder trials ever was that of Wilbert Coffin, a Gaspé prospector who was hanged in 1956 for killing three American bear hunters. Despite a royal commission inquiry and Jacques Hebert’s 1963 book, I Accuse the Assassins of Coffin, which raised serious doubts about Coffin’s guilt, the verdict was never overturned. The lurid case will be reopened next month when the bilingual film The Coffin Affair is screened at Cannes. “They had no proof,” says actor August Schellenberg, who plays Coffin. “There wasn’t even a single witness called for the defence.” Meanwhile, Schellenberg continues to be involved with controversial projects and is playing a trapper in the $10.5-million film Death Hunt, now being shot in Banff. Starring Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin, it is loosely based on Jack London’s The Mad Trapper. Just how loosely has become of concern to some westerners, including Canadian author Rudy Wiebe, who says the story is being distorted and that clean-cut RCMP hero Edgar Millen is being portrayed as a washed-up drunk who “occasionally rises from his stupor to fornicate with Indianwomen.”

i í^he Germans had better start makI ing stronger rope—if they want to hold Canadians captive,” shouted Second World War cartoon hero Johnny Canuck. Johnny’s spirit has been reincarnated in Captain Canuck comics, where the defender of the glorious and free tends to react somewhat cautiously, rather than with the knee-jerk violence of many U.S. superheroes. Comicstrip artist Richard Comely, 29, of Calgary, says the captain’s main concern is “to stop international terrorism.” While there’s no Lois Lane in his life, he has had a couple of chance meetings with a nurse—whose husband is a nuclear monster. Later this month, 110,000 Canuck copies will be shipped south of the border and become the first Canadian comics to get nationwide U.S. distribution. Comely’s secret weapon for putting Canuck in the limelight is six-foot, three-inch, 210-pound Mike Jackson, a heavy-equipment salesman by day who sometimes dons stretchy outfits emblazoned with maple leafs by night. Jackson holds a black belt in karate, but Comely thought Canuck breaking boards might be “bringing coals to Newcastle.”

ff^ut wandering among the polar \/bears in 60-below weather is low risk compared to putting your head on the line in a big advertising or movie company,’’says Arctic veteran, sculptor and author James Houston, 58, whose 12 years in the Canadian North resulted in 12 novels and the “discovery”

of Inuit art. Houston is concerned that the northern way of life may disappear when it is most needed. “Eskimos should be very careful of the future and guard their asses,” he says frankly. Houston has more confidence in the future of his books as films. His 1971 novel, The White Dawn, was made into a movie and this September his 1977 book, Ghost Fox, begins production, while Houston readies his latest, Spirit Wrestler, for the screen. “I treasure time when I can sit down in the Queen Charlotte Islands and have a white, scrubbed pine-board table and some paper lined up on it,” he says of his current schedule. “I want to have no bother except to write and catch salmon. That’s what I call living.”

When school lets out this June, one teen-ager who will definitely not be going to camp is 15-year-old Allana Williams. In lieu of pillow fights, Wil-

liams will be bunking in with four or five other young women in the New York modelling stable of top-fashion agent John Cassablancas. “I’m not ready to move out of the house permanently,” says Williams, a Grade 10 student at Queen Elizabeth High School in Edmonton. Williams and her mother, Elizabeth, met Casablancas when he dropped in on his Edmonton agency last month on one of his famous “new faces” talent searches, which helped him unearth fresh beauty for the covers of Vogue last year. Williams had to give up a part-time job at a local sporting goods store to accept Casablancas’ offer, but in New York she stands to earn up to $2,000 a day. “It’ll certainly be a new experience for me,” she says. “I’ve never been anywhere except Saskatchewan.”

it lesus is working to break the devWil’s hold on you,” intoned Bob Dylan at his Massey Hall concert in To-

ronto last week. The gospel according to Dylan had the faithful swaying in the aisles, and when the unconverted interrupted with demands for Blowin'in the Wind, he snapped back: “Neil Diamond just recorded that song. It’s an excellent version.” The reformed Dylan confesses he “used to drink everything straight out of the bottle,” but Perrier water and herbal tea were the only beverages on tap at rehearsals. Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins pronounced Dylan “a lot healthier—his nose wasn’t dripping into his mouth like it used to.” Hawkins, who was miffed that Gordon Lightfoot and Dylan ignored their reservations at his current court, the Club House, dedicated a song to “those Howard Hugheses, wherever they may be.” The Hawk told Maclean's:“He had this black chick following him everywhere carrying a Bible and praising the Lord every two seconds. Dylan told me that he has sold 12 million records since he became

a Christian. I told him to become a Moslem and he might sell 60 million.”

Between the discordant yelps of new wave and the swoon-syrup of Barry Manilow, groups like Downchild Blues Band have provided a haven for listeners with their barrelhouse-blue sharp rhythms and earthy sentiments. Now that they have acquired high-profile fans, Jake and Elwood Blues, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, Downchild members, are riding the crest of the current blues popularity wave in the U.S. “The Blues Brothers started out as a hell of a good skit, but those guys sincerely loved the blues,” says Downchild creator Donnie Walsh, who wrote three of the arrangements the brothers bleated out on their Briefcase Full of Blues album. Sultry blonde Jane Vasey, who provides the sex appeal and jackhammer-piano backbone for the group, is Winnipeg-born and studied classical

piano for 11 years before the style of Muddy Waters’ half-brother Otis Spann

turned her on to blues. After 10 years and six albums, they’re on their third gruelling round in 12 months of bars, concerts and one-night stands, and Walsh says: “We’re going harder and harder all the time, but I finally think more is coming of it.”

Veteran comic and character-actor Jack Lemmon likes to recall that Bernard Slade mailed him his play Tribute “in a brown paper garbage bag, tied with a string and postmarked Edmonton.” Luckily Lemmon overlooked the dubious envelope, and his first stage appearance in 18 years has won him a Tony nomination and the Los Angeles Drama Critics Award. He is now repeating the role of flashy, philandering press agent Scottie Templeton in the screen version of Tribute, and keeping fellow-players Lee Remick, Robby Benson and John Marley in stitches. The script calls for Lemmon to pull what is known in the vernacular as a “moon” and he showed a marked tendency to over-rehearse. Between moons, the 55year-old Lemmon likes to tinkle George Gershwin tunes and instructs listeners to “show your appreciation by contributing coins to the jar on the piano.” He is looking over three other movie scripts, but his recent stage rebirth has him revelling in the joys of a live audience: “It doesn’t matter if they miss a line because of a belly laugh. That’s a disease you should suffer from the rest of your life.”

ff I’m not planning on becoming too I saintly,” says actress Lynne Griffin about her upcoming turn as Joan of Arc in Jean Anouilh’s The Lark. She may have to crop off her two-foot mane to play the Maid of Orléans but says that the part doesn’t otherwise intimidate her because Joan is “basically a simple peasant girl.” Although Griffin, 27, has been working regional theatres across Canada for the past few years attempting to elude ingenue roles, Joan is one of two parts she wanted to do that require “an incredible innocence.” She admits that she’s too old for the other one—she doesn’t like “geriatric Juliets.” In her search for meatier roles, she has played “a lot of crazies” and says her role in the recent film Midnight Matinée was “one where you have one big emotional scene, and you kill yourself, and everyone talks about you for the rest of the film.” She also recalls the challenges of doing an intense 10-minute nude scene in Equus in Edmonton: “I remember coming out one night and we had farmers sitting in the front row in plaid shirts— they’d come to see a play about horses.”

By Maureen Piercy