The beloved storybook elephant Babar, who has been described as looking “like an unbaked cookie,” will star in his first Canadian animated television film, Babar and Father Christmas, based on the story by Parisian author/illustrator Jean de Brunhoff, the originator of the popular picture-book series. Produced by MTR Productions and Atkinson Film Arts of Ottawa, the film will be released for Christmas next year. De Brunhoff’s son, Laurent, who took over the 54-year-old series when his father died in 1937 and wrote and illustrated most of the 34 books, is acting as consultant and narrator for the half-hour film, which will feature Babar’s wife, Celeste, and pachyderm poppets Pom, Flora, Alexander and Arthur. Although de Brunhoff denies that any of the Babar characters are based on real people, he admits that “they are combinations”—and added that Babar’s utopian world is meant to be a gentle satire on human society. In fact, the only truly “human” inhabitant of Babar’s village kingdom of Celesteville, The Old Lady, will not be in the film.
Working with both children and animals does not bother busy movie actress Helen Shaver (The Oster-
man Weekend, In Praise of Older Women), who last week completed a threepart episode of CBC TV’S and the U.S. Disney Channel’s series The Edison Twins. In it she costars with an elephant called Sheeba and child-actor regulars Andrew Sabiston, Marnie McPhail and Sunny Besen-Thrasher.
Said 34-year-old Shaver:
“I enjoy working with children. They bring out the child in me—which is the place creativity works from in the adult anyway.” Added Shaver:
“I rarely do TV but I wanted to do something for the kids. Of my 18 nieces and nephews, only eight of them are old enough to see something like my latest movie, Desert Hearts.” Shaver, who is also starring in the forthcoming films Lost and The Men ’s Club, says that she was not always as confident as an actress. Declared Shaver: “When I was 20 I quit acting and when I came back I was scared. I couldn’t talk properly. I’d go T.. .1.. .1.. .ah.. .ah ...ah....’ ” Shaver solved the problem temporarily by accepting a nonspeaking role. Now, she says, “I talk too much.”
It may not have been magic or his sense of humor that landed actor/ magician/stand-up comic Shawn Thompson, 27, the role of mysterious Canadian hustler Simon Corday in the daytime TV soap The Guiding Light on the CBS network, where his character made a steamy debut last week. But the show’s writers and producers are taking full advantage of Thompson’s flair for sleight-of-hand and comedic turns. Said Berwick, N.S.-born Thompson: “I have been adding comedy routines to my scenes, and soon I will get to do a magic act with seven pages of monologue.” Thompson says practising hand moves as a magician has given him a great sense of discipline, and he describes his approach to comedy as “visual and bizarre—more Martin Mull than Bill Cosby.” As the host of Toronto’s CBLT TV’S hot new series Switchback, Thompson will need both his senses of discipline and humor: working on both sides of the border has plunged him into a commuter’s nightmare. “It means that I don’t have a home of my own,” he said. “And I’m working eight days a week.”
His rambling discourses are irritating, and his blunt pronouncements can anger TV viewers. But sports broadcaster Howard Cosell has rarely been dull—and despite the implication of his new book’s title, I Never Played the Game, the 67-year-old lawyer is still batting a thousand. In his best seller I Cosell criticizes corruption in profesI sional sports, fan violence and “Jockocracy”—that stratum of retired athletes-turnedbroadcasters. Declared Cosell (ungrammatically): “Put an ex-jock in the booth, and their clichéridden presentation of a game is the least of their sins.” The abrasive excommentator of ABC TV’S Monday Night Football series blames boring jock talk by ex-colleagues Frank Gifford, Don Meredith and O.J. Simpson for ratings that have plummeted since he left the series last year. Still, he says he cannot understand why he has been such a controversial figure: “I took blows that seemed incomprehensible because never had I been indicted for rape or any of the major felonies. What had I done?” Then he added that the success of his book means that “all that garbage has been forgotten.”
Britain’s Prince Charles and Diana,
Princess of Wales, returned home last week after their tour of Australia and the United States to an ecstatic welcome by the British press. Gushed the London Daily Star : “They have conducted one of the most successful royal tours of all time. They have silenced the republicans of Australia and dazzled the doting Americans.”
U.S. doters included President Ronald Reagan, who referred to the 24-year-old princess as “Princess David,” then as “Princess Diane” at the first of the major social events, a White House dinner-dance. For
her part, Nancy Reagan “dressed down” while the
royal couple was in Washington to avoid outshining the princess. Diana, stung by criticism in Australia that her clothes were “dowdy,” had a red suit flown in from Britain to wear on her first day.
Some were not so dazzled, among them Jack Kent Cooke, the Canadianborn owner of the Washington Redskins
football team, who turned down an invi-
tation to lunch with Charles and Diana at the estate of financier Paul Mellon because it conflicted with his desire to watch his team play the Dallas Cowboys. Cooke, 73, explained, “It’s a matter of priorities.”
Although Diana’s White House dinner partner, ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov, could not dance because of recent knee surgery, she had several replacements—even though she had to make the first move toward singer Neil Diamond, who confessed that his stomach “was all butterflies.” The princess asked, “Is it proper in this country for a lady to ask a gentleman to dance?” It was, and she did. Actor/dancer John Travolta spun the princess around and later said, “She’s a good little mover.”
The princess also danced with actors Tom Selleck (“She is utterly beautiful and charming,” he said), and Clint Eastwood, who teased her by saying, “You’re too old for me.” Touring a J.C. Penney department store two days later, Diana reminisced happily about the ball. Said the princess: “I’m very up for dancing now.”
During the tour, Prince Charles often stood in his wife’s shadow—her hats seemed to get more attention than he did—but at the Mellon luncheon he enjoyed a chat about horses with John Kennedy, son of late president John
Kennedy and Jacqueline Onassis, and
urged Kennedy to consider taking up polo as a sport. And on the last day Charles had a chance to shine when he helped his team to an 11-10 victory in a polo match at Florida’s world-rank Palm Beach Polo and Country Club.
On the final evening, Charles and Diana were the guests of industrialist Armand Hammer at a charity ball at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach. With tickets ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 a couple, several of the invited socialites made a point of not going, but the party was well-attended. Among the 400
_ guests were comedian
Bob Hope, actor Gregory Peck and TV’s newlywed Dynasty star Joan Collins, 52, who had tried and failed to get an invitation to the White House ball. Although press reports said that Diana does not like Collins, the princess seemed to have an avid interest in the actress: at a British Embassy reception earlier, when members of the press were presented to the royal coupie, Diana sought out a reporter from the London Daily Mail to pump
him about Collins’s wedding the previous week to Swedish industrialist Peter Holm, 38. After hearing the details, the princess said: “She’s amazing. At her age. Husband number 4.”
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