CAPITAL DIARY

MITCHEL RAPHAEL ON AN EVENING AT 24 SUSSE ITH LAUREEN HARPER, JEANNE BEKER, JEANNE BEKER’S & MOTHER, JASON KENNEY, FIVE KITTENS, AND ON AMSTER—PLUS WHAT THE PM GOT FOR HIS BIRTHDAY

LAUREEN MAKES SURE THE PM CAN BEAT HIS OWN DRUM

May 19 2008
CAPITAL DIARY

MITCHEL RAPHAEL ON AN EVENING AT 24 SUSSE ITH LAUREEN HARPER, JEANNE BEKER, JEANNE BEKER’S & MOTHER, JASON KENNEY, FIVE KITTENS, AND ON AMSTER—PLUS WHAT THE PM GOT FOR HIS BIRTHDAY

LAUREEN MAKES SURE THE PM CAN BEAT HIS OWN DRUM

May 19 2008

MITCHEL RAPHAEL ON AN EVENING AT 24 SUSSE ITH LAUREEN HARPER, JEANNE BEKER, JEANNE BEKER’S & MOTHER, JASON KENNEY, FIVE KITTENS, AND ON AMSTER—PLUS WHAT THE PM GOT FOR HIS BIRTHDAY

CAPITAL DIARY

LAUREEN MAKES SURE THE PM CAN BEAT HIS OWN DRUM

Based on the heckling that Fashion Television host Jeanne Beker heard when she stopped by question period recently, she says MPs can be as bitchy as fashionistas. She also noted that the main aisle in the House “would make a perfect runway,” with all the seating on the two sides. Beker was in Ottawa with her mother to attend the annual Holocaust memorial service on the Hill. Bronia Beker’s entire family was suffocated to death when the Nazis blocked the airways to their hiding place. Miraculously, Jeanne’s mom was found alive among the bodies; she was revived by a doctor. Eventually she was reunited with her boyfriend, Joseph Beker, who would become her husband.

A day before the memorial service, Beker, her mother and a few cabinet ministers attended a dinner at 24 Sussex hosted by Laureen Harper, who, though she’s a big fan of the Canadian fashion icon, had never met her. The date of the dinner, Beker discovered at the last minute, coincided with Stephen Harper’s 49th birthday. The PM ended up spending the evening in Calgary with his mother, but Beker made an emergency run to Holt Renfrew and got him a Salvatore Ferragamo tie with tiny dragonflies on it. (Small animal prints on ties are very in, she noted.) Mrs. Harper’s own present for her husband was a mini set of three drums so he could jam with their son, Ben Harper. Beker also brought to 24 Sussex a Jeanne Beker Bratz doll for Rachel Harper, who recognized the host as the woman in the FT promo ads that ran in movie theatres a while back.

Beker and Mrs. Harper bonded immediately: among the connections they discovered was the fact that Mrs. Harper

knows Nicolas Sarkozy from G8 meetings, while Beker knows the French president’s new wife, model Carla Bruni, from the fashion business. Before the dinner, the PM’s wife showed Beker the room where five foster kittens are currently living.

There is a scale in the room so Mrs.

Harper can weigh the cats and monitor their health.

At the dinner, the wine list included a white from Canadian golf legend Mike Weir’s Niagara vineyards. During the meal, Mrs. Harper told the table that when she was in New York years ago she walked by actress Sarah Jessica Parker while she was being filmed for one of the final episodes of Sex and the City, and now her back makes a very brief cameo in the show. Not to be outdone in the show business department, Beker noted her boyfriend is an actor:

Barry Flatman recently played George W. Bush in the play Stuff Happens.

When the conversation turned to shoes, Multiculturalism Secretary of State Jason Kenney was disinclined to take an active role in the animated footwear talk, but did volunteer that he buys cheap shoes and that it’s hard to find his size because he has wide feet. Seated beside Beker’s mother, Kenney spent time encouraging her to have the Polish man who hid her and her boyfriend during the war recognized as one of “the Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Israel.

Toward the end of the evening, Mrs. Harper asked Beker who she thought the top up-and-

coming Canadian designer is. Toronto’s Jeremy Laing was the answer. The Fashion Television host then offered to take the PM’s wife shopping sometime so she could start wearing Canada’s next big designers’ clothes and get them some

Beker said she found the PM’s wife to be “down-to-earth and really refreshing. She’s someone you could carpool with.” And even though he was not at the dinner that night, Bronia Beker said she thinks the Prime Minister is “gorgeous.”

MEET THE NEWEST RESIDENT OF 24 SUSSEX:

AHAMSTER Joining the foster and adopted cats at 24 Sussex, there is now an adopted hamster. Laureen Harper says the Ottawa Humane Society’s vetting process to get a hamster is a lot easier than what you have to go through to get a cat. They practically just give you

a hamster, she says. When the Governor General’s daughter, Marie-Eden, saw Rachel Harper playing with the hamster she wanted one too. Mrs. Harper said good neighbours babysit each other’s pets, and since MarieEden lives across the street from 24 Sussex she might get the chance to babysit the Harper hamster when the family goes on vacation.

PLEASE, NO BLUE OR RED DRESSES FOR THE GG

Michaëlle Jean’s gown for this year’s Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards gala was designed by Ottawa fashion duo James Jefferson and Frank Sukhoo. Among their instructions, they were told not to use blue or red to avoid partisan interpretations. They went with fuchsia. At noon on the day of the event there was a last-minute emergency alteration to cinch in the Asian-inspired obilike “waist-ware” part of the gown. Has the GG joined the government weight-loss program à la Harper? Two days before the gala, Speaker Peter Milliken held a reception for the winners. Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip sported a tie with a Pierre Trudeau print. He got it when he ordered the matching Trudeau T-shirt, which he plans to wear in Calgary when they tour this summer. Trudeau, he joked, “is a big star out there.”

The GG winners, who included filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin and arts fundraiser Eric Charman, were driven around in huge stretch limos, a rare sight on the Hill. Do “GG” limos perhaps stand for gas-guzzlers? Award recipient Eugene Levy brought his family, including his MTV Canada-host son Dan Levy, to the gala. Levy Sr. was known as “Butch” back in Hamilton, where he grew up. Hamilton got a stage nod that night from George Stroumboulopoulos. When The Hour’s host introduced the Tragically Hip, Hamilton was noted as the place where the band once played for “nobody” while Jell-0 wrestling went on in another room of the club. Stéphane Dion was the only party leader to attend the gala. His wife, Janine

Krieber, wore a beautiful necklace from Holt Renfrew with a huge sparkling clasp. The showstopper on stage that night was Crystal Pite, a dancer/choreographer who is part of the inaugural year of the awards’ mentorship programme. Dance legend Veronica Tennant, a 2004 award laureate, mentored Pite, whose moves blew the audience away.

RUBY DHALLA REALLY SHOULD HAVE LISTENED...

Ruby Dhalla needed to get the red streaks out of her hair after she was hit with coloured powder while celebrating Holi, the Hindu spring festival. Dhalla’s assistant Bryn Hendricks carefully wrote out what she should do for the hair intervention in an email. But Dhalla and her stylist didn’t take his advice and the Liberal MP’s red streaks turned pink. The stylist made a panic call. His mother, a seasoned colour technician, gave him step-bystep instructions on what to do next to save Dhalla’s hair. The stylist had to cancel his clients for the rest of the day and the whole procedure took six hours. “That’s what happens when you don’t listen to your gay assistant,” snapped Hendricks.

THE JUSTIN TRUDEAU GIFT SHOP?

At a brunch for his Papineau riding association, Liberal candidate Justin Trudeau sold out of travel mugs with his photo on them. Now his campaign is ordering more and will soon launch eco-friendly Justin T-shirts and reusable Justin shopping bags that promote his website justin, ca. Can a full Justin gift shop be far off? M

ON THE WEB: For more Ottawa outtakes or to contact Mitchel Raphael, visit macleans.ca/ mitchelraphael