BARBARA RIGHTON February 8 1982


BARBARA RIGHTON February 8 1982


Fifty-six years is a long time to be crying the blues, but the legend of B.B. King has been built on tears. “If I was to sit down and just start talking, it would be very boring,” he claimed last week in Toronto. “Blues is a way of expressing, a way of letting people know how you feel.” It was also the way out for an enterprising nine-year-old who first made a living plowing plantation fields in the Deep South. Alternating his blackest-blue wailing with the sobbing of his guitar, Lucille, King spends 300 nights a year on the road with his seven-man band. It’s a life that has left the tired-eyed man with two broken marriages, a highway of women who have “mostly” left him, and a repertoire of hundreds of love-gone-wrong songs. “Nobody out there loves me but my mother,” he moans “and she could be jivin’, too.”

Ebullient Quebec actress Celine Lomez is hardly a plastic subject. But in CBC-TV’s For the Record segment High Card, she becomes the subject of actor Chuck Shamata’s wanton plastic splurges with credit cards. Lomez, who is best known for slitting her throat on a fish tank in the 1978 film The Silent Partner, plays a model in Card who is courted shamelessly by Shamata on the wings of revolving credit. “He goes into debt for me, but in the end he finds out it is true love, not uni-charge, that lasts,” says Lomez, 28, who admits to having had “sprints” with credit cards herself. High Card, which will be aired next month, marks the end of a yearlong sabbatical for the actress during which she studied Italian and history at

Concordia University while movie deals in Los Angeles fell through and the Canadian film industry iced over. The Lomez solution to the woes of underworked Canadian performers: “I would invite Francis Fox over to my place for dinner,” she says. “It would be a very quiet affair with only a few people. Then we could, you know, talk.” Somehow, with liberal doses of her Gallic charm, it might just work.

ne of the crustiest old men of the sea, 82-yearold U.S. Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, was retired against his will at midnight last Sunday by Ronald Reagan. A naval officer for 59 years, Rickover had been in charge of America’s nuclear navy program for the past 33 years. That entitled him to make a few famous last remarks. “The arms race is so far out of control that the human race will probably blow itself up in a nuclear war,” he told a congressional committee last week. “I’m not proud of the part I played in it. Our own ships and submarines are a necessary evil. I would sink othem all if a mutual disarma^ment could be negotiated.” I Then, commenting on the bua reaucracy, Rickover grumbled: £ “To increase the efficiency of the defense department you’d

first have to abolish it. If it cannot be abolished, the people who are there should be divided into three groups, with one doing the work and the other two writing letters in longhand to each other so they would not get in the way.”

In China, when a leader is out of sight, conjecture immediately occupies the mind. As a result, it was not surprising that when Vice-Chairman Deng Xiaoping failed to appear with other senior officials at a lunar new year celebration last week the Peking rumor mill ground into action. Was the 77-year-old Deng ill? Was he in political trouble? Or was he finally acting on his long-stated wish for retirement? Some foreign journalists were told Deng had come down with the flu. Others said the Russians were circulating stories that Deng had been arrested. The foreign ministry was so swamped with calls that it finally issued a statement. “ViceChairman Deng Xiaoping’s health is very good and he spent the spring festival away from Peking,” the ministry announced obliquely. Veteran diplomats in Peking were amused by the ruckus. “He’s not obligated to appear,” said one western European. “He can have a cold, can’t he?” A more plausible explanation is that, unlike Mao’s selfperpetuated image of a semi-deity, Deng is opposed to personality cults. He simply wants to make the people realize that he is not going to be there forever.

The lady means every word of it.

“Nina Simone does not sing anybody else’s songs anymore.” Speaking with the fiercely articulate voice, part honey, part growl, that has made her legendary among jazz and blues fans, the 48-year-old singer-pianist-composer-arranger is now calling the tunes (she wrote all 14 songs on a yet-to-be released album recently recorded in Paris), although there was confusion in Montreal last week about who’s paying the piper. Simone, who first gained prominence in the 1960s by performing such defiant material as the selfpenned Mississippi Goddam, wound up in the custody of Montreal’s constabulary when she was unable to pay a hotel bill. Her release came only after she made a deal with a local club owner to perform this week in exchange for the $128 room. At week’s end, the owner was holding her passport as security. As for the $450 he offered to pay her for the three-night engagement, Simone said: “Nobody in hell pays me so little money.... There is no reason to make me feel like an insect.”

Toronto comedienne Sheila McCarthy laughs as she tells the story of her closest brush with Broadway. “This typical producer, big cigar, two blondes, puts his hands on my face and says: ‘I’m thinking of doing a sequel to Funny Girl. When you hit the pavement in New York, honey, there will be no stopping

you.’ Argh! It was downhill from there.” The show was Say Hello to Harvey, and although the role of Myrtle Mae was a great opportunity for the then 25-yearold and its venue—the Royal Alexandra Theatre—impressed her parents, the bunny trail ended after six weeks last fall. Undaunted, McCarthy landed the zany and critically applauded part of Vivien Bliss, the Harlequin novelist, in Allan Stratton’s popular play, Nurse Jane Goes to Hawaii. Her goofy, wideeyed stare and unearthly giggle also won her a TV commerical with skier Steve Podborski and parts in CBC-TV’s Hangin'In—“\ play a 16-year-old on a pig date”—and The Great Detective— “I’m a 32-year-old hag.” But though McCarthy is the first to suggest she is not the stuff of which ingenues are made, she does want to project a more serious image in her next two plays, Noel Coward’s Private Lives and Rosemary Radcliff’s new Skin Deep. And when she says “I would kill to do a film,” there isn’t a trace of humor in her funny face.

Despite Windsor, Ont., Mayor Bert Weeks’s dour prediction that only a corporal’s guard would show up, more than 1,200 Windsor residents gathered at a town hall meeting last week to talk positively about their beleaguered city. The meeting was called by Aid. Elizabeth Kishkon, 51, whose initial concern with the city’s image was piqued by the Kentucky Fried Chicken sign that welcomes people from Detroit to Canada with a sometimes malfunctioning UCKY FRIED CHICKEN. But with an unemployment rate of 14.9 per cent and a population loss of 6,800 over the past five years, Windsor’s image is tarnished by more than tackiness. Among the solutions offered at the meeting were a CFL franchise, a prohibition-era theme park with rum-running cars raised from the bottom of the Detroit River, a day of

prayer and the display of I LOVE WINDSOR stickers. (One wag suggested that I TOLERATE WINDSOR would be more realistic.) Most of the serious suggestions centred on attracting American tourists and expanding the industrial base. A second meeting to hear 50 more ideas is scheduled for this week. “It’s almost as if it’s triggered a flood!” exclaimed the delighted Kishkon. One local businessman was less thrilled, but admitted, “It’s better than riots in the street.”

Maintaining an illusion of vigorous political life is difficult enough in the House of Commons, where the Liberals have governed for 40 of the past 47 years. But in the Senate, where entrance is dictated by the rulers of the other chamber, life can be lonely indeed for a Tory. So, to retain at least a few senatorial Conservatives, Pierre Trudeau agreed eight years ago to a sort of political endangered species act. Trudeau promised to replace retiring Conservatives with politicians of the same stripe. As a result, when Allister Grosart, the architect of John Diefenbaker’s election victories, retired last December, a rare opportunity arose for someone to join the 24 Tories in the 104-seat chamber. According to word on the Hill, the lucky Conservative is likely to be Bill Kelly. He is the 56-year-old bagman who was instrumental in persuading William Davis to run for the Ontario Conservative leadership 11 years ago and then provided him with the wherewithal to triumph in the next four elections. Also on the short list are Tory war-horses John Bassett and Hal Jackman, but Kelly is favored because of his Davis connection. As the object of the speculation, Kelly is honored, but not enthralled, by his prospects. “I’m too old to sit on tenterhooks wondering what will happen,” he says.