At a dinner party in Joe Clark’s home recently, guests listened with growing amusement as their host reminisced about the time he travelled to Cameroon as Prime Minister. An enthusiastic crowd lined the route of his motorcade, waving flags and chanting something Clark could not quite make out. To general laughter, he confessed that on making inquiries he discovered that then-French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing had been in Cameroon the week before and the crowds were shouting the chant they had learned for that visit: “Giscard! Giscard!”
That self-deprecating humor, Clark’s friends say, is often on display in private. In public, it is a different story. After getting what he considered a rough ride by the news media early in his public life,
Clark now keeps his guard up—and the Clark the public sees on the nightly news striding stiff-armed, chest extended, through the corridors of Parliament contrasts sharply with the congenial host described by friends.
Hectic: These days there are fewer occasions for Clark and wife Maureen McTeer to entertain in their rambling brick home on Chaudière Lane in Aylmer, Que., up the Ottawa River from the capital.
If anything, he is busier now than when he was prime minister because of the travel that goes with being external affairs minister. Even in Ottawa, Clark’s schedule is a hectic, nonstop round of meetings and briefings. Said Jim Hawkes, a longtime friend and fellow Conservative MP: “He works all day, every day.” No one disputes that Clark is a workaholic. And much of his precious spare time is spent reading weighty books related to his work. But when Clark puts politics aside, he will often pick up a mystery novel (one favorite author: John le Carré) or take in a movie (most recently, Stand By Me). Over a diet Coke or a social glass of
wine, he likes to draw nonpolitical dinner guests into conversation about subjects ranging from baseball to theatre. Conspicuously absent from Clark’s agenda is any form of regular athletic activity. Said Clark: “We have a dog [Mickey], who walks me. I don’t do any exercise. My system—and I
don’t recommend it to anyone—has been to work hard and then to collapse for a while.”
Baseball: More often than not, he chooses a foreign spot to collapse in—the Hawaiian island of Molokai last Christmas, France last summer. He also grabs brief respites on foreign trips, such as a night at the theatre with Maureen and 10-year-old daughter, Catherine, while in London last August for a Commonwealth meeting. His biographer, David Humphreys, says that Clark still joins the occasion-
al movie lineup in Ottawa, but is usually accosted. “That’s why he likes to get out of the country for holidays. There’s no recognition in Normandy,” says Humphreys.
At home, McTeer jealously guards the family’s privacy. One friend describes life on Chaudière Lane as surprisingly traditional. Maureen likes to bake; Joe likes to watch baseball. And both try to spend as much time as possible with Catherine, nicknamed Muffin. Three days a week, Maureen practises law with Lyons, Goodman, specializing in legal research, and she writes a monthly column for Chatelaine, but still considers herself a fulltime mother. Clark does prepare the odd meal for himself and Catherine when Maureen is out of town, but her law colleague Jeff Lyons says: “I don’t think anybody is going to give him a Cordon Bleu award.”
award.” Sedentary: But McTeer’s image as a feminist tyrant at home is, says Lyons, far from reality. She kept her family name, he says, out of respect for her father, not out of lack of respect for her husband. “She always says to me that he’s the boss, and I believe it.” Finding family time is difficult, so Clark tries to take Maureen and Catherine with him when possible. Fortunately, McTeer shares his love of travel, But while she water-skis, rides horses, plays tennis and cross-country skis, his
leisure-time pursuits tend to be more sedentary. Lyons, a friend since he and Clark were Tory student organizers, says that Clark wanted to work when other students wanted to play. His little black book contained phone numbers of politicians, not girls. The private Clark would be quick to laugh at that reminder. “One thing I’ve learned about laughing at yourself,” he said. “You’ve got to do it first.”
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