BARBARA MATTHEWS November 2 1981


BARBARA MATTHEWS November 2 1981


Peter Hodgson was once “hungry, cocky and funny” enough to make $50 an hour playing his music on Ottawa street corners. Then, in 1977, using his stage name Sneezy Waters, he began to impersonate Hank Williams and hasn’t played streets or clubs he calls “toilets” since. Hank Williams: The Show

He Never Gave, with such oldies as Your Cheatin' Heart and I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry, sung in the steadily deteriorating manner of their originator, has been performed more than 200 times in North America. This month an album, Sneezy Waters Sings Hank Williams, is due, a made-for-TV movie is in the can and a six-week tour of Europe is set for the end of 1982. When he gives the concluding New Year’s Eve performance next year in West Berlin, it will mark the 30th anniversary of Williams’ drunken and drugged death in the back of a chauffeur-driven Cadillac at age 29. But Hodgson, 36, who still works as a stagehand between gigs, has no worries about ending up that way. “Hank had huge pressures and huge talent,” he says. “I don’t have those things.”

Innovative puppeteer Felix Mirbt calls the National Arts Centre’s current revival of his production of Le Songe by August Strindberg, “An outrage, a scandal.” Mirbt is miffed because the French-langauge interpretation—via

puppets—of the dream-play was recreated from videotapes and notes made of his acclaimed version at the Edinburgh Festival last year. But Mirbt himself was only called in to work with four new cast members in the final stage of the six-week rehearsal—not early enough to make an already good show better. NAC administrator Andis Clems is sympathetic but unrepentant. “Time and money did not allow us to work on Le Songe as if it were a new show,” he says. Sniffs Mirbt: “In the classical tradition of the National Arts Centre, everything happens by default.”

The federal government has cooked up a scheme to make next January’s official metric conversion more^ palatable. It has hired cooking queen Jehane Benoit and Celebrity Cooks host Bruno Gerussi to coddle Canadians into metrified mealtime via TV show appearances.

“Can you imagine anything more ridiculous?” snorts Peterborough MP Bill Domm, a longtime metric opponent. Domm reported in the Commons last week that the duo is getting $110,000 for their six-week contract. “No one wants it, no one can afford it, and no one can understand it, yet the Metric Commis-

sion will be spending $1.8 million in 1982 to educate people in the use of metric in food,” charges Domm. Montrealborn Mme. Benoit, who was educated in France where metric has been used since 1799, is optimistic about its acceptance: “You ask an old girl like me to wear pants and I can’t. It’s too much of a change from always wearing a dress. The same goes for metric, out the young will get used to it.”

His films may sometimes be obscure, but Robert Altman’s

meaning was crystal. Altman told an audience of 400 in Vancouver recently that Norman Levy, the head of 20th Century-Fox distribution, is “scum” and “an idiot.” Then he added that studio executives in general are “jerks.” The 56-year-old director of such films as M*A*S*H, McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Nashville was in Canada to preside over a special screening of his unreleased feature, Health. The big-budget satire drew considerable interest from Altman’s strong following when it was completed for Fox more than a year ago. But it was yanked in favor of Oh Heavenly Dog and never rescheduled. Consequently, Altman vows to “go anywhere anytime” he is invited to screen it. “I feel I owe it to those people who supported me,” he says of the movie’s stars Lauren Bacall, Carol Burnett, James Garner and Glenda Jackson. “Also, I like to get my licks in.” Though Altman sold his production company and is producing his first plays on Broadway, he plans to return to the screen next spring with Easter Egg Hunt starring David Bowie and Geraldine Chaplin. Presumably financing will not come from Fox.

Quilapayun was touring Europe in 1973 when Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s

right-wing junta toppled the Marxist government in its native Chile. The seven-man group has been living and performing in exile ever since. “We’ve been forbidden to go home because our music speaks of a return to democracy there,” sighs guitarist Rodolfo Parada. “It’s like we’ve been on the world’s longest tour.” Now based in Paris, Quilapayun has, however, found foreign favor for its blend of new protest songs and traditional Latin American styles played on the charango, pan flutes and native drums. Its current Canadian tour is something of a reunion for the 12,000 compañeros who fled Chile after Salvador Allende’s overthrow. Organized by Chilean solidarity committees, the concerts are being hosted by sympathetic political per' sonalities such as Québécois singer Gilles Vigneault and Vancouver NDP MP Svend Robinson. The Toronto show this week was seen as a test of loyalties for its master of ceremonies, newly elected alderman and former mayor John Sewell, whose favorite protest singer, Bob Dylan, was performing across town on the very same night.

It may be the worst of times for the average Joe, but it is the best of times for Alain Perrin, the chairman of France’s prestigious Les Must de Cartier International. Perrin, 39, recently hopped from Los Angeles (where he had gleefully overseen the destruction of a heap of fake Cartier watches by a steamroller) to Toronto to host a $200,000 gala theatre benefit thrown by his company to show off its wares. Compared to what he called “the big smashing,” the party struck some as a crashing bore: Canadian film director Norman Jewison, one of the few promised celebrities to show up, expressed less interest in Cartier’s costly trifles than in the food. But the 600 guests who shelled out $150 apiece to attend the event left with well-planted visions of gold lighters, watches and statussymbol leathers dancing in their heads. Perrin says Cartier plans to capture 40 per cent of the luxury goods market in Canada because, when times are bad,

people invest in gold and diamond collectibles, which appreciate in value. Ironically, he wears very little of his own product: he claims he loves jewelry—on women.

Last week Manitoba’s natural resources minister, Harry Enns, held a press conference in Winnipeg to discuss his government’s road-building activities near the location of a proposed Alcan smelter site. Things were running smoothly until a question about personal land holdings in the area obviously inflamed the minister. Enns shot back that he had purchased the land 12 years ago, “but that wouldn’t stop the [ Winnipeg] Free Press from that kind of garbage yellow journalism that they like to entertain.” Then, in reference to Free Press reporter Ingeborg Boyens (who wrote the story earlier this month about the land held by

Agriculture Minister James Downey, 3.6 km from the preferred site), Enns said, “I can’t answer for the Ingewhore, you know, Boyens.” After a further remark about the reporter’s sexual habits, he beat a hasty retreat. An unqualified written apology was on Boyens’ desk the next day. Boyens is shaken but refuses to comment—the matter is in her lawyer’s hands.

Malcolm McLaren, 33, the British pop Svengali who created the Sex Pistols and Adam Ant’s pirate look, has another outrageous invention—15year-old chanteuse Annabella Lwin. The teen-ager, who fronts a tribal quartet called Bow Wow Wow, was discovered in a London laundromat last spring and turned into a celebrity by McLaren despite her mother’s protests. Her infuriated mum even put Scotland Yard on to the case, but detectives reported that

Annabella was being properly tutored and chaperoned on the road. The Yard’s sleuths found no evidence to support Mrs. Lwin’s charge that the sultry songstress was being exploited as an “underaged sex kitten.” When McLaren dreamed up a photo re-enactment of Edouard Manet’s 19th-century painting Le Déjeuner sur VHerbe for the band’s debut album, however, mum threatened to sue and the shot was pulled. Says Lwin of posing mostly undraped and surrounded by Mohican-coiffed Bow Wows: “My mum and my friends may think of me as cheap. But it was very artistic and beautiful to look at. A lot of people reckon it’s a hell of a lot better than the painting.”

The Big Mac has already taken generous bites out of France’s gastronomic reputation. Now French cuisine faces the unkindest cut of all. Last week the potato kings from Florenceville, N.B., brothers Wallace and Harrison McCain, launched an assault on that national pride, the french fry. Opening a $27-million potato processing and freezing plant in Harnes, the heart of France’s spud-growing country north of Paris, the maritime millionaires have their hearts set on converting the French to a taste for pommes frites congelées. While skeptics point ' out that they must face the Gallic palate’s stubborn preference for fresh produce—the French consume nine times fewer frozen fries than North Americans—the McCains scoff. They have already captured a large share of the French frites market by shipping fries from their Dutch plant to France’s restaurants. Says chairman of the board, Harrison McCain: “I don’t think the French know they’ve been eating frozen french fries for years.”