Toronto rockabilly singer “Rompin” Ronnie Hawkins, 51, says that he has encountered considerable racial prejudice touring the southern U.S. with black musicians. His attempts to desegregate rock 'n' roll in the 1950s is the focus of a new film about his early career, Blackhawks, by Canadian producer/ director George Mendeluk. But last week Hawkins, a native of Arkansas, said that prejudice was still overt in the South as late as 1967 when he was touring Texas with singer Eugene (Jay) Smith. Said the Hawk: “Jay is light skinned and had his hair slicked down then so that the kink was out of it, and I was trying to pass him off as an Eskimo. But Jay said, ‘Oh no, I’m a Canadian Negro.’ I had to pull a gun on four or five rednecks.” Hawkins added that he still has Hawkins: to do most of the fighting in barroom brawls: “Every time I get into a little trouble, most of my band runs to the women’s washroom.”
Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, 34, the eldest daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy, is seeking her party’s nomination as the candidate for Maryland’s Second District Congressional Seat in the House of Representatives. While political observers anticipate that Townsend will have little difficulty winning the primary, they are not so certain about the outcome of the Nov. 4 election. They say that Townsend, who wears thick glasses and is noted for her intense manner, is at a disadvantage because she lacks her clan’s famous charisma. Her campaign advisers have told her that her squeaky voice is a drawback, and Town-
send has been trying to lower its pitch by practising speaking with a bottle cork in her mouth. Republican incumbent Helen Delich Bentley, for one, is not impressed; the tough-talking former newspaper reporter declared: “If she wasn’t a Kennedy, she wouldn’t be running.”
New York recording star Alisha, 17, is known to her fans as the new Madonna. The daughter of a former policeman who is now her manager, Alisha has 11 years of vocal training and started performing at 8: “My father pushed me,” she said. “At times I would cry onstage. So what did I know at 8?” She is now a freshman at Brooklyn’s Kingsborough Community College studying music between gruelling rounds of club dates. In Toronto recently to perform at Club Z, Alisha said that her first visit to Canada was a revelation: “I didn’t even realize people spoke English here.”
Torontonian R.H. Thomson, 38, regarded by many critics as Canada’s finest actor, has been nominated for an ACTRA award (CBC TV, April 2) for his role in the CBC TV drama, Charlie Grant ’s War. But Thomson says that he finds it irritating to be constantly asked why he does not go to the United States to compete with such American actors as William Hurt. Said Thomson: “Why does everyone want me to leave the country? The Canadian psyche amuses me.” But he added, “When I stop getting
opportunities to do things like Charlie Grant ’s War, maybe Bill Hurt and I will go and have coffee.”
Seven hundred celebrities paid $100 a ticket for last week’s black-tie dinner to honor bombastic Vancouver broadcaster Jack Webster, 67, and to launch a journalism foundation in his name. Among the guests paying tribute was Maclean’s columnist Allan Fotheringham, who said that Webster was the only man he knew who “could strut sitting down.” And Webster speculated on what his father might have said on the occasion: “My God! Imagine anyone paying $100 to have dinner with that boy.”
lthough no an productions won Oscars at last week’s Academy Awards ceremonies, the presentation of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award reflected some Canadian connections. The award is named for actor Jean Hersholt, the late uncle of Deputy Prime Minister Hurt Erik Nielsen and his brother, actor Leslie Nielsen. And this year’s recipient, former actor and band leader Charles (Buddy) Rogers, 81, was married for 42 years to Toronto-born actress Mary Pickford, who died in 1979 at age 86. Pickford regained her Canadian citizenship in 1978 so that she could, as she put it, “die a Canadian.”
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