For eight years, author Stanley Burke and cartoonist Roy Peterson
have been collaborating on a series of satiric fables on contemporary life in the great Canadian swamp. Their latest shot at Ottawa, The Birchbark Caper, chronicles the attempts of hero Peter Waterhole to raise a constitutional monument with the help of Mrs. Hatchet and her Bulldogs. Readers will undoubtedly chuckle as Waterhole fights with “demi-derriere” Peter Lowspeed and tramples the Hapless Preservatives. But Burke maintains that the book’s disastrous ending is no joke. “I’ll bet a case of good wine that in five years an impartial referee will decide that we will rue the day Peter Waterhole erected that constitutional monument,” says the 58-year-old former CBC broadcaster and B.C. newspaper publisher. While he is waiting for that prediction to pan out, Burke is busy preparing for new projects. They include a journalism posting at the University of Regina this
month and a serious book on the constitutional question, “which I’m sure everyone will laugh at.” As for his and Peterson’s plans for yet another satiric fable, Burke shrugs, “The mother lode of Canadian political idiocy can be mined forever.”
The inflections were W.C. Fields’s.
The face might have been Archie Bunker’s. But the white-haired man who ambled into the back room of a Toronto pool hall last month was highstakes proposition-maker Rudolf Walter Wanderone Jr. (AKA Minnesota Fats). Spotting his nervous opponent, local firefighter Pat McGrath, 37, resplendent in a three-piece tuxedo, Fats cracked,
“Don’t you know playin’ pool in a tux is like puttin’ ice-cream on a hot-dog?” McGrath didn’t mind. Playing nine-ball against the renowned hustler was his dream come true granted by the CTV show Thrill Of A Lifetime. As the cameras rolled, the 69-year-old pro from Dowell, Ind., won the match and everyone in the room with his running street-smart patter. “Understand it,” said Fats waxing nostalgic, “I was playing in Montreal in 1931 for $500,000. I could have bought Canada.” He did get to take a chunk home the next morning when he was paid $1,000 for a five-minute appearance on a celebrity awards spoof at Global TV. Commented Fats dryly: “I once coughed for more than that.”
Vaudeville veteran George Burns, 85, has some pointed advice for the elderly. “Don’t ever retire,” he says, “you’ll just end up sitting there playing with your cuticles.” Back in Hamilton, Ont., again last month after an absence of 32 years, the inimitable half of the comic Alien-Bums duo sang and danced to full houses as Global Television taped him for a pay-TV special. Between cigars, the comedian, who has played roles ranging from the title in Oh God! to an aging bank robber, mused that he might soon record his second country and western album. His new partner may be fellow entertainment institution Willie Nelson. Burns’s future film plans lean toward drama because, he quips, “it’s easier to make people cry than laugh. I’ve even made people cry with my jokes.” Although he has worked every angle of show business from radio and TV to Carnegie Hall,
there is one platform that Burns says he will never mount. “I don’t get mixed up in politics. I don’t tell Ronnie Reagan how to run the country, and he doesn’t sing the Red Rose Rag.”
During the past 12 years, Mario Bernardi’s magic baton has formed Ottawa’s National Arts Centre Orchestra into one of the best in the country. And now that Bernardi is ending his association with the NAC, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra is hoping to lure him west. Though a local critic recently called the CPO “a national joke” because of its well-publicized manage-
rial debacles, the orchestra has become a well-disciplined group and ticket sales have risen to record levels year after year. With conductor Arpad Joo’s fulltime commitments over at the end of the season, the CPO’s board of directors has some ambitious plans in the works, including, they hope, Bernardi. Describing the conductor’s job as “one of the most exciting prospects of any symphony orchestra in the country,” CPO general manager John Shaw adds, “We are probably the only one in any kind of financial position to do anything spectacular.” Bernardi will say only that he is looking for either “a challenge or a good position. I certainly don’t mind challenges. Coming from London, England, to Ottawa pretty well proves that.” If the coffers are as full as Shaw says, the man who has come to be known as “Canada’s best all-around musician” may soon be wearing a Stetson.
If Randall Bane ever runs out of work, the job-placement people will be hard put to find a niche for him. The 40year-old Missouri resident—in the character of Obie Good—is a clown for Christ. Bane, a former actor who made it as far as a Walt Disney movie in the late 1960s, gave birth to Obie following his own “rebirth” in 1974. “Five years of analysis didn’t help me much, until I met a Christian psychologist. . . . Through him, I met Christ. It was a real road-to-Damascus experience.” Obie (Bane frequently speaks of his alter ego in the third person) now tours North America for most of each year, interpreting the Bible through dance, pantomime and music for church gatherings, drop-in centres and school groups. He seldom charges a fee even for his appearances on TV’s evangelical PTL
Club. “What money Obie gets, he prefers to come from ‘love offerings.’ The least he ever got was $7, the most $700. The Lord always provides,” says Bane. Winding up his fifth Toronto tour, Bane was back on the road to Chicago and then Kansas City. He will blitz Alberta next summer.
Next week, radio drama addicts are in for a special fix as CBC launches its 13-part series on the adventures of Nero Wolfe, detective extraordinaire, with Mavor Moore as Wolfe and Don Francks as his tough legman, Archie Goodwin. For Moore the role is a chance to indulge his more Socratic nature as his character solves even the most baffling cases from the comfort of his library, while Goodwin does the dirty work. Moore may well wish the problems of the real world were solved so easily. Last month he agreed to extend
his term as chairman of the embattled Canada Council for another two years. Francks is planning some real leg work, searching for a buyer for his screenplay, Do You Have a Reservation? “No one in this country wants to do a film about Indians,” says Francks, a convert to Saskatchewan’s Red Pheasant tribe. “I’ll probably contact Marlon Brando.”
Former fighter pilot William Stevenson has no difficulty bringing history to life. Following the success of A Man Called Intrepid, his 1976 account of Canadian-based secret intelligence operations during the Second World War, the 57-year-old author turned to documented fiction. Despite warnings from his publisher that the sympathetic portrayal of a German would not appeal to North American readers, Stevenson wrote The Ghosts of Africa. It is a dra-
matized look at real-life German war hero Lt.-Col. Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck
and his tenacious campaign to defend East Africa from the British during the First World War. The new paperback edition, with a print run of 85,000 copies, was quickly bought up by bookstores across Canada, and Stevenson is already negotiating the film rights. “I liked the idea of reversing the roles,” says Stevenson of his “enemy” hero. “Von Lettow comes out clean.” The Allies will not fare as well as von Lettow in Stevenson’s next project, another documented novel, about a Polish fighter pilot’s repeated attempts to concern them with atrocities in Nazi concentration camps.
When three of Deborah Samuel’s
black-and-white prints were selected for the Christmas Artful Giving exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontar-
io, the 25-year-old photographer-artist was able to add another accomplishment to her list. Since 1974 when she had her first exhibition in Limerick, Ireland, Samuel has had shows in Toronto and Paris, works published in Saturday Night, City Woman, Toronto Life Fashion and Impulse magazines and shot three album covers for Canada’s internationally acclaimed heavy rock band Rush. The Vancouver native is best known for her fashion photography— often macabre pieces with sinisterfaced models of indeterminate gender. The glamorous world of fashion is “very fast, very superficial,” says Samuel. “I use people as props for my ideas.” A trip to Rome, Paris and Milan this month will prove whether that unique approach to fashion sells as well in Europe as it does at home.
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