The Centennial Tycoons

June 4 1966

The Centennial Tycoons

June 4 1966

The Centennial Tycoons

Canada's hundredth birthday party doesn't start for six months yet, but the caterers are already busy. Across the country they're working to supply commodities as diverse as flags and ornamental fountains — and some of them are already finding it very profitable. But, as these pages show, it’s a new kind of tycoonery: for the first time in our history, a lot of people are earning good livings — not by selling sausages and grommets, but by providing things that are fanciful, frivolous and beautiful. This wholesale willingness of governments and corporations to spend money on things that are fun may be the Centennial’s most important residue once the party’s over. It’s one way of telling when a nation has come of age

Bert on's first hundred years

ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND is a magic figure in the low-budget world of Canadian book publishing; until last year, no one had succeeded in selling that many copies in a single season of any book written by a Canadian. But 1965 was the year that Pierre Berton’s The Comfortable Pew sold an astonishing hundred and fifty thousand copies and forever expunged the notion that Canadians won’t buy books. Now Berton is out to disprove the notion again — not once, but repeatedly — with a series of eight hard-cover books about Canada which he expects will sell a hundred thousand copies each within a year. If he’s right — and the market surveys say he probably is — it means that Berton, as his own Centennial project, will have sold more books in less time than anyone in Canadian publishing history.

Berton’s promotional vehicle is called the Canadian Centennial Library, a corporation jointly owned by the publishing firm of McClelland & Stewart and Weekend Magazine. As editor-in-chief and one of CCL’s six directors. Berton’s job is to cover Canada’s first century with the sort of authority and visual flair with which Paris Match covers last

week’s news. The first book of the series, historian William Kilbourn’s The Making Of The Nation, indicates that he’s succeeding. Kilbourn’s lively text, which somehow makes the Conquest of New France sound as contemporary as Eddie Shack, makes most high - school history texts seem obsolete.

Still to come are Great Canadian Sports Stories, Great Canadians (“Twenty-five famous Canadians,” says Berton, “very controversial, very few soldiers”), an anthology of Canadian writing edited by University of Toronto President Claude Bissell, Great Canadian Painting, The Centennial Food Guide (a sort of epiglottal social history), and two collections of nostalgia and memorabilia — The Canadian Look and Remember Yesterday.

Berton says CCL’s break-even point is seventy thousand copies per book. But with orders already pouring in from individuals, schools and libraries, he’s betting that most of the eight volumes will break the magic hundred-thousand-copy barrier. “If that happens,” says Berton. sounding more like a Centennial tycoon than a journalistic superstar, “our profits will be considerable.”

Color Ontario "extravagant"

FOR THE PAST YEAR, David Mackay, Chris Chapman, and Barry Gordon (left to right, above) have been prowling Ontario in a cameraladen car and trailer, shooting color movies of such disparate subjects as Canada Geese skidding into landings on James Bay, and the stately rural charms of Brockville. Miles of film.

For the next year, they’ll be editing it into three units — a thirtyminute documentary, a twelve-minute, wide-screen, multi-imaged extravaganza, and four film loops running from one and a half to five minutes in length. The loops, designed to repeat themselves endlessly, will be shown at Expo 67 as parts of the Ontario Pavilion’s exhibits of such themes as Youth in Ontario, Leisure in Ontario, and so on. The wide-screen film will be the focal point of the Ontario exhibit — all the traffic through the pavilion will be directed through the theatre where it’s shown. “The theme is still in flux,” says David Mackay, who functions as executive producer on the project, “but one

thing’s sure: thanks to TV, you can't make a nice, ordinary little film any more. You've got to make it extravagant, or make it at ¡east look extravagant, or people will be bored to tears.”

To make Ontario extravagant, Mackay brought producer-director Chris Chapman and technical director Barry Gordon to TDF Artists Ltd., a Toronto producer of TV commercials for which he is in charge of film. The three groups of films they will produce—the thirtyminute “selling film,” the loops and the wide-screen effort, represent a four-hundred-and-twenty-five-thousand-dollar commission for TDF — a budget greater than most Canadian feature films enjoy.

“It's a lot of fun.” says Mackay. “and we’re gaining invaluable experience for the coming of color TV. But more than that, it’s a challenge. It’s a challenge, for example, to make it apparent that Brockville is not just a place that is one hundred miles from another place, but a place with its own personality.”

Artist with a stained-glass palette

WHILE MOST of Expo’s commissioned artists strive and strain to outdo each other in verve and vitality, a vivacious New Canadian named Ernestine Tahedl is settling down into the most serene-sounding assignment of all. Her workplace is to be The Sanctuary, an interdenominational chapel in the Canadian Pavilion. And her task, as she sees it, is to create a thousand square feet of stained glass that will “give the whole place a religious feeling.”

She plans to achieve that feeling by following one tradition and breaking away from two others. The tradition she honors will be in the coloring; she will choose the same rich reds, blues and purples that have evoked reverence among Christian congregations for centuries. At the same time her design, being nonobjective, will contain none of the recognizable human figures traditionalists like to see; and she will eschew the traditional lead borders between panes. Instead, each colored pane will blend into its neighbor, for an effect

which (she hopes) will be as pleasing as it is symbolic as the glass mural sweeps with rich brilliance around the upper circumference of the chapel.

The Sanctuary mural should be Ernestine Tahedl’s most spectacular commission yet. but it is by no means her first. Though she is just twenty-six and has been in Canada only since 1963, she has done stained-glass windows in three Alberta churches and a huge ceramictile mural in the new post office in Edmonton. She settled in Edmonton first after arriving from Austria with a degree from the Academy of Applied Arts in Vienna. Last year she moved to Montreal to become the wife of Dr. Richard Ogilvie. Soon after, she began preliminary sketches for the Expo project. Then, just last February, Expo awarded her the commission, and it seems to be her most compatible assignment yet. “It’s a nondenominational chapel,” she says, “and I am nondenominational.

“But any artist, I think, has a religious sense.”

At Expo, it's Eber all over

SEVENTY YEARS AGO in George Francis Eber’s native Budapest, Hungary staged a world’s fair that was much smaller than Expo 67. But despite wars and revolutions, he says, the architectural influences of that long - ago exposition “are still etched in the map of Budapest and on its skyline.”

Eber’s knowledge of what one world’s fair did for Budapest makes him eloquent about what Expo 67 can do for Montreal. It is also making him rich, for Eber will probably have more to do with Expo’s overall look than any other single architect. He’s designing two major Expo buildings — the Sermons From Science pavilion and an aquarium backed by the Aluminum Company of Canada and the City of Montreal; acting as on-thespot associate architect for seven foreign pavilions, those of the Netherlands, Belgium, West Germany, Switzerland, Iran, Jamaica and the United States; and is principle architect for the BarbadosBritish Guiana pavilion. This adds up to twenty million dollars' worth of construction; and Eber, who emigrated to Canada aboard a steerageclass steamer in 1950. will take the architect's normal commission of about five percent. Around Montreal, contractors are referring to the world's fair as “Eber 67.”

He got into the foreign-pavilion business through a semi-accident. The Dutch pavilion's designer. Walter Eykelenboom, was scouting Montreal two years ago for a Ca-

nadian associate. When he saw a church Eber had designed for a Dutch Reform congregation in suburban Montreal, he thought he’d found his man. Eykelenboom was sure a few days later when Eber accompanied a Dutch delegation on an early-morning inspection tour of the muddy site. Spotting a waterfilled quarry covered with oil slick, the delegation’s leader suggested a swim. “Since Europeans love to swim and prefer to swim in dirty water rather than not to swim at all,” says Eber, “I didn’t feel it was the moment to demur. We stripped to the buff and dived in. When a policeman appeared, the Dutch were undismayed: “This is my property,” shouted the delegation's leader. “I got it yesterday from Mayor Drapeau.” The policeman left.

Eber emerged from that dip covered with oil slick — and with an idea: when the Dutch pavilion

opens, the abandoned quarry will be an elegant artificial lake.

As a result of all his Expo commissions, Eber has quadrupled his staff and made ten trips to Europe and the Middle East in the past two years. With colleagues from such places as Munich. Teheran and Brussels continually dropping in, his office is now becoming a sort of international architectural clearing house, with Eber as moderator. “I sometimes feel like a synthetic compound that connects various elements,” he says. “I'm the caulking that fills in the gaps.”

Carving out a fortune at the fair

GERALD GLADSTONE, a Torontoborn sculptor who talks like a pitchman for headache remedies, has spent much of his artistic career complaining (usually in front of reporters) about the need for business and government to patronize the arts. Apparently somebody was listening, for three separate Expo 67 exhibitors have put their money where his mouth was. And when the fair opens next spring, there'll be $180,000 worth of Gladstone sculpture commissions scattered about.

For Expo itself he’s designing a huge and fanciful fountain, in cast concrete and neon tubing, that will dominate the entrance to the fair’s amusement area. For the Canadian pavilion he’s working on a mechanical sea monster (someone in Ottawa thought it would be nice to have a sea monster) which will rear up its two heads every fifteen minutes, wave them around as mechanical volcanoes erupt, and belch flames

fed by natural gas. Gladstone’s third creation, for the Canadian engineering profession, is a twentythousand-square-foot plaza that will feature a sculptured “space column.” another fountain, Gladstonedesigned benches and a three-thousand - square - foot mosaic design underfoot. It’s the first time anyone can think of that engineers have sought out a sculptor to present their image at a world’s fair.

To complete these three commissions, Gladstone has opened a “sculpture factory” outside Toronto, where six craftsmen are producing components for his Expo designs. Later he’ll hire two assistants to help him supervise on-site construction. For Gladstone, the whole assignment is a kind of vindication. “A lot of people think I’m some kind of weird huckster,” he says, "but finally people are beginning to realize that there’s a need for this kind of work, and they’re putting up the money for it.”

Flag-waving—the Joy ploy

CENTENNIAL YEAR is bound to be an occasion for flag-waving, and that’s all right by a thirty-six-yearold promoter named Tom Joy. Thanks to an early start, an aggressive sales approach and the aid of seven hundred Lions Clubs across the country, nearly every flag that gets waved and every yard of bunting that gets hung in 1967 will enrich Joy and his associates in a Toronto-based firm called Consolidated Centennial Services Ltd. He expects a minimum gross of two million dollars, but won't be surprised if it goes to five million.

CCS is selling wooden wall plaques with the Canadian coat of arms, plastic shields with the various provincial coats of arms in all sizes, maple leaf street standards, bunting, Canadian flags. Expo flags in various colors and sizes — things like that. They will produce them to order.

Joy and his eleven associates spent two years and one hundred

thousand dollars doing market surveys in two hundred and twenty municipalities, getting their decorations designed and patented and lining up suppliers. They discovered there are thirteen hundred towns in Canada with populations of five thousand or more, and that the single link between them all was the ubiquitous service club. So they approached the Lions, who were delighted with the idea of being Centennial salesmen in their own and surrounding towns. This summer, in all thirteen hundred towns, there will be L.ions canvassing city halls, dentists’ offices and butcher shops, selling the CCS product in return for a healthy commission. If CCS grosses two million dollars, Joy and his associates will realize $250,000 profit on an investment of a hundred thousand. “We deserve it,” he says. “We got in early and spent a lot of time and money on the Centennial. If anyone deserves to make a profit, we do.”

Sinclair: he says what they mean

OKAY, LET’S SAY you're a provincial government and you've decided to spend several million dollars on a building at Expo 67. But before you even call in the architects, you’ve got to decide what your building is supposed to say. That’s where broadcaster Lister Sinclair comes in. He’s a leading member of what has almost become a Centennial profession: theme-consulting.

Theme consultants are to world’s fairs what public-relations men are to political campaigns. How, for instance, do you use sculpture, architecture, movies and loudspeakers to express a notion as nebulous as “Man the Producer”? Well, Sinclair is attempting just that for one of Expo’s five theme buildings. He says it’s a question of taking an obvious notion, “thinking what no one else has thought about it, and then communicating it.” It also means attending a lot of committee

meetings, for Expo’s “Man the Producer” theme has been broken down into .yn/>-themes (Man and Progress, Man in Control) and Sinclair, besides consulting on his own, is also paid to co-ordinate other theme consultants.

It’s a queer business (one group of Ontario consultants did some of their best thinking in a plane they’d chartered to give them an overall view of the province) but Sinclair is a natural for the job. He’s spent two decades at the CBC as a packager and popularizer of esoteric topics, from Galileo to the Galapagos. And by now, sitting on committees trying to decide what on earth to say about “Man the Producer” has become his natural milieu. He won't disclose the size of his fees, but he’s eloquent in denying the suggestion that all this theme consultancy is, well, a bit frilly. “I'm not a highbrow or a lowbrow,” he says. “I’m an omnibrow.” ★