NEWSMAKERS

‘THIS IS GOING TO BE THE NEW SKAT BOARDING'-HEATHER LEBLANC, COORDINATOR OF A NOVA SCOTIA UNICYCLE RACE, SAYS THE EVENT WILL SPARK A MANIA FOR SINGLE-WHEELED SPORTS

March 3 2008
NEWSMAKERS

‘THIS IS GOING TO BE THE NEW SKAT BOARDING'-HEATHER LEBLANC, COORDINATOR OF A NOVA SCOTIA UNICYCLE RACE, SAYS THE EVENT WILL SPARK A MANIA FOR SINGLE-WHEELED SPORTS

March 3 2008

‘THIS IS GOING TO BE THE NEW SKAT BOARDING'-HEATHER LEBLANC, COORDINATOR OF A NOVA SCOTIA UNICYCLE RACE, SAYS THE EVENT WILL SPARK A MANIA FOR SINGLE-WHEELED SPORTS

NEWSMAKERS

DAVID GARRETT VIOLINIST HAS CRUSHING MOMENT

He is a child prodigy who blossomed into a superstar among violinists, described by some as the David Beckham of his art. Born in Germany, violinist David Garrett made his debut at the age of 10, playing a solo in front of the Hamburg Philharmonic. At 13, he became the youngest musician ever to for the prestigious classical record label Deutsche Grammophon. While studying in New York, Garrett also became known as a model for fashion magazines such as Vogue so he could earn tuition. Last week, Garrett (now 25) became famous as something else as well: a world-class klutz. As he was exiting the stage at London’s Barbican Hall recently, he slung his Giovanni Battista Guadagnini violin, created by the Italian master in 1772, over his shoulder. Somehow he tripped, fell down some concrete steps, and landed atop the $ 1-million instrument, smashing it to pieces. Says the sheepish virtuoso, who’s currendy playing a loaned Stradivarius:

EDWARD WEDLER AROUND NOVA SCOTIA WITH A SINGLE WHEEL

It’s being billed as the Tour de France of unicycling, but with half of the wheels and with Nova Scotia substituting for France. “Ride the Lobster” is an 800-km relay race, starting in Yarmouth on June 16 and ending on June 20 after a hard slog through Cape Breton to Sydney. The idea for “the coolest sports race of I” was hatched by Edward Wedler, the non-unicycling owner Inside Story bookstores in Greenwood and Windsor. Event coordinator Heather LeBlanc says teams chasing $10,000 in prizes are expected from Canada, England, the U.S., and especially Germany and Japan, where unicycling is considered a serious sport. Wedler says the race is a boon for tourism, and a diversion in advance of the Beijing Olympics. “We’re going to use satellite track-and-map technology to help bring the race to the desktops and possibly smart phones of the world,” says Wedler. LeBlanc predicts the race will put unicycling on the map: “This is going to be the new skateboarding.”

RA JESH RANJAN BEHIND BARS, BUT STILL IN OFFICE

Ajit Sarkar, the leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), was gunned down by assassins in 1998. Last week, his family finally saw justice served. Rajesh Ranjan, also known as Pappu Yadav, a high-profile member of the Indian parliament, was sentenced to life in prison for ordering Sarkar’s death. The powerful Ranjan—he is a member of a crucial party in the Indian government’s coalition—is a symbol of the unscrupulous side of Indian politics that relies on money and brute force. Disturbingly, Ranjan’s case is far from unique. According to Social Watch India, which monitors the nation’s governance, more than 30 per cent of Indian legislators between the ages of 36 and 45 currently face criminal charges. In fact, Ranjan ran for his parliamentary seat while he behind bars awaiting trial, and will keep his seat until the next election.

SOFIA MILOS A SUPPORTING ACTRESS SCORES A BIG AWARD

Does somebody who guest-starred on The Sopranos deserve the same recognition as the guy who created The Sopranos? The Banff World Television Festival thinks so. The TV event, which starts June 8, will present its annual Award of Excellence to Sofia Milos, who had the recurring role of Mob boss Annalisa Zueca on the hit show. The award usually goes to widely respected industry leaders with long resumés, such as Sopranos creator David Chase or NormanJewison. Milos has a reputation in the U.S. as a reliable supporting player on shows like CSI: Miami. She appears on CBC’s The Border, and the network gave her a publicity buildup more suitable to an international superstar. Did that lead to her award? If only U.S.

actors knew the prestige they’d get by being willing to work here; maybe every Sopranos guest star could come here for recognition.

SILVIO BERLUSCONI INDISPENSABLE?

Looking dapper in a doublebreasted suit, Silvio Berlusconi kicked off his campaign last week to become the prime minister of Italy—it would be his third time in the role—in typical style. The right-wing media mogul made his announcement on a TV talk show. “I may be 71,” he said, “but I feel and act as if I’m 35.” Berlusconi has been tried 11 times for corruption, with some trials still ongoing (he denies wrong doing). Under his previous administration, Italians’ incomes stagnated and he was criticized for letting tax evasion become a national plague. The nation is mired in economic gloom. The popular former mayor of Rome, 52-year-old Walter Veltroni, is Berlusconi’s most serious rival. He advocates lower taxes and a minimum wage for the many Italians who get by on short-term contracts. But Berlusconi remains irrepressible as ever, and remains voters’ No. 1 choice in public opinion polls. “It seems that Silvio Berlusconi is indispensable,” he says.

FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS READY FOR TAKEOFF

Two cheeky, geeky musicians from New Zealand, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, have capped a year of astonishingly unlikely success. The unexpected stars of an HBO comedy series (they were discovered at a Montreal comedy festival in 2004), they call their act Flight of the Conchords. The show was a leftfield hit in the U.S. and Britain and concerns two Kiwis who ve to New York City to further ;ir singing. It showcases McKenzie’s and Clement’s song parodies that celebrate the modest ambitions and fantasies of real people, such as The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room (You could be a part-time model/but you’d probably have to keep your normal job). Recendy they won a Grammy award for their debut album, and are scoring the unlikeliest accolade of all: recognition as woollyhaired sex symbols. Salon.com included them in its 2007 Sexiest Men Alive list.

CHRISTINE DAY A WOMAN’S PLACE IS AT THE HELM

Vancouver yoga-wear retail giant Lululemon Athletica aims its products at women, but it’s still not controlled by women. That’s the way founder Chip Wilson sees it, and he’d like to do something to remedy that. He told a meeting of the Canadian Marketing Association last week that

while the company’s staff is 95 per cent female, half of his executives are male, including the CEO. That would be Bob Meers, a business Wunderkind who Wilson recruited in 2005 from sporting shoe giant Reebok to help with Lulu’s ambitious growth strategy. But since then, Wilson has also recruited a Starbucks Corp. executive, Christine Day, to head up retail operations. So when he made his remarks about women at the top last week, it must have sounded like good news to Day, whose 20-plus years at Starbucks included overseeing the coffee giant’s expansion in Asia and the Pacific. Wilson offered no predictions as to how much longer Meers will be at the chain but business observers saw his remarks as sign that Day will soon be ruling the roost.

OREN KOULES HOCKEY IS IN HIS BLOOD

When he played junior hockey in the early 1980s, Oren Koules was a middling player for such teams as the Brandon Wheat Kings. But even after he left to pursue a career as a Hollywood movie producer, hockey stayed in his blood. His company, Twisted Pictures, is the producer of the hugely successful, crimsonsoaked Saw series. The first picture made 100 times its investment, making Koules a rich man. Now, after four more lucrative Saws and a fifth in production, the 47-year-old has the money to return to his first love. Last week, his OK Hockey LLC bought the Tampa Bay Lightning. This is the second bid that Koules has made for the 2004 Stanley Cup champs. Four months ago, an offer fell apart before it could be approved by the NHL. This time the purchase is expected to get a thumbs-up before summer. And Koules will be a hands-on owner—he’s already talked with GM Jay Feaster several times about the roster.