PEOPLE

BARBARA MATTHEWS October 26 1981

PEOPLE

BARBARA MATTHEWS October 26 1981

PEOPLE

It has been more than four years since CBC TV superimposed Mary Ann McDonald’s face over Parliament Hill on a Canada Day program and then miscued the music for her rock version of O Canada. “The song had been released as a single, but after that I never heard it again,” says McDonald, who has contented herself with acting ever since. Acclaimed for her portrayal of a battered wife in CBC’s A Far Cry From Home last year, she is currently starring in a Toronto stage production of The Threepenny Opera. In it, McDonald plays the unlikely daughter of black blues singer Salome Bey. And though she still sings, McDonald is glad she got out of the record industry. “I heard so much from other singers about how they were being messed around,” she says. Besides, “in Canada they can’t afford understudies”—so there is little likelihood of a lead actress being stabbed in the back by a watcher in the wings.

Looking like a tattered Moses, the legendary Charlton Heston, 57, is at work in the unceasing downpour of British Columbia’s rain forest this month directing and starring in Mother Lode. The $6-million adventure-suspense film co-stars Canadian actor Nick Mancuso, 32, who says his huge bear of a director is an “extremely casual” boss. Heston, who has not directed for the screen since Antony and Cleopatra in 1971, took the job partly because his son, Fraser, a Vancouver resident, wrote the screenplay, but it doesn’t signify a permanent change. “I’ve done five Macbeths. I’d like to do one more,” he says. “I figure that’s about all I’ve got left in me. Then I’d like to play Andrew Jackson again. I’ve played him twice and I haven’t got him right yet.” Though prior to Mother Lode Heston headed a U.S. presidential task force on arts and humanities, he squelches renewed rumors that he is seeking a senatorial spot. “I can’t do any job where they require all your time,” he says. Besides, “the greatest part I might ever have may be in somebody’s typewriter right now.”

Heather Robertson met Canada’s famed criminal Ken Leishman more than 10 years ago when she was a young Winnipeg reporter and he was on day parole trying to hawk a manuscript about his exploits. “He understood how big business worked as though he were one of the Bronfmans,” she says. “He thought he would get huge dollars from his story.” Robertson was impressed by Leishman’s writing, but the project was ended when he realized that the warden at Winnipeg’s Stony Mountain Penitentiary “didn’t approve of cons getting publicity when they were in the clink.” Then, American actor Darren McGavin became interested in the tale of the man who got away with $383,000 in gold bullion from the Winnipeg airport in 1966, cleanly escaped from prison twice and disappeared after five years of going straight, following a plane crash in 1979. But McGavin dropped the project, and now a Calgary film company has picked it up. Based on Robertson’s chronicle, The Flying Bandit, published last week, the film will be directed by Gordon Pinsent. Says Robertson: “Ken had big ideas. He thought it would be a Bonnie and Clyde and he wanted to star in it himself.” Perhaps if Leishman is alive and well and living in California, as some people believe, news of the plum part going to Len Cariou may yet bring him out of the woodwork.

Rabbi Abraham L. Feinberg looks, fittingly enough, like a fragile man of 82. Birdlike hands scribbling whole paragraphs, his failing eyesight requiring hunched concentration, he quietly signed volume after volume of his new book last week and then stood up and took the roof off. In the powerful tenor he used successfully in the 1930s as NBC-Radio’s romantic “Anthony Frome,” one of the world’s most controversial men of the cloth lambasted organized religion’s “outdated, oppressive” attitudes toward sex. It is all in his book, Sex and the Pulpit, but Feinberg didn’t mind saying it again, even if it did make some members of his former Holy Blossom Reform congregation in Toronto cringe. As his fortyish live-in lady, Patricia Blanchard, smiled benignly, Feinberg warned, “After you read this book you may not say hello to me on the street, but it is totally uninhibited, totally honest—and totally researched.”

It was an uneasy situation and it showed. When Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and B.C. Premier Bill Bennett posed for photographers outside 24 Sussex Drive last week prior to their huddle on the constitution, they didn’t even perform the traditional handshake. “No warm embrace?” queried blonde television reporter Gayle Morris of CFCF-TV Montreal. “I’ll embrace you anytime,” replied Trudeau, and with his customary flair for the unusual, swooped down and hugged the surprised Morris. Though her husband, Lome Nystrom, an NDP member of Parliament from Saskatchewan, has been his party’s chief dissenter to Trudeau’s constitutional plans, he didn’t mind his wife getting hugs from the PM. Says Nystrom: “She’s an independent person and it was all in good fun”—probably the only fun Trudeau had that day.

After 40 years in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, Pablo Picasso’s anti-war masterpiece Guernica has been returned to Spain where it will be exhibited for the first time next week. But the location of the exhibit, Madrid, has caused a furore among the Basque people whose town inspired the work. “This painting has much more than artistic value,” says Basque Nationalist Party Senator José Elosegui. “It is a symbol of our people’s suffering.” Elosegui, 65, was one of the rescuers who went into Guernica in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War when Hitler’s Luftwaffe joined forces with Gen. Francisco Franco to level the Basque city and kill thousands of women and children. The carnage provoked a worldwide outcry and moved Picasso to paint the protest, which he sent to the United States with the stipulation that it not be returned until democracy was restored. Now, six years after President Franco’s death,Guernica will hang in an 18th-century palace behind bulletproof glass guarded by squads of police with metal detectors. Says Elosegui: “The painting is still in exile.”

In case anyone doubted it, Jeff Conaway, the would-be actor in TV’s Taxi, insists “there is life after television.” As proof, Conaway is in Montreal this week wrapping up his sixth feature film, Dreamworld, with Canadian actress Debra Wakeham and ex-TV personality Tiiu Leek. Whittling down his Taxi appearances to six this year, the 31-year-old Conaway is concentrating on his next movie project, Grease II, which will feature a return of the old, old Rydell High School gang, complete with John Travolta, 27, and Olivia Newton-John, 33. After four years of financial security behind the wheel, Conaway will likely find Grease II a lot less lucrative. Though its predecessor was a boxoffice bonanza, it has been more than three years since audiences were asked to believe that snapping his fingers and cracking his gum made Conaway look like a high,school senior.

Since scaling the pop charts with I'm a Man and Gimme Some Lovin ' in the mid-1960s, Spencer Davis has been content to keep a low profile in Los Angeles’ video and music industries—until recently. “In 1981 I just decided to go back to work—and with a vengeance,” he says. The work has brought him north to produce an album in Edmonton for a West Coast band called Crackers and share some of the spotlight with Canada’s reigning blues band, Downchild. Having produced and performed on Downchild’s latest album, Blood Run Hot, Davis, 39, plans to tour as its special guest this fall. “In the States I feel like 20 people are always trying to get into my left shoe—in Canada I’m comfortable,” he explains—and while the shoe fits he will wear it.

In the middle of an address to a police convention in New Orleans this month, Ronald Reagan began to stammer and stumble over his words. The poor performance was so uncharacteristic that reporters asked White House physician Dr. Daniel Ruge if the president was having eye trouble or reading difficulties. Neither, said Ruge. The nearsighted Reagan was reading easily from a TelePrompTer until the lights from a TV camera obliterated the screen. When speaking from a written text, Ruge says, the president is even more talented. He uses only one of his contact lenses so he can see the page while fixing the people with his other eye. “The president is a very gifted man,” enthuses Ruge.

—EDITED BY BARBARA MATTHEWS