OPENING NOTES

Barbara Bush as trendsetter, Mikhail Gorbachev plans more changes, and Robertson Davies goes to the movies

January 16 1989

OPENING NOTES

Barbara Bush as trendsetter, Mikhail Gorbachev plans more changes, and Robertson Davies goes to the movies

January 16 1989

OPENING NOTES

Barbara Bush as trendsetter, Mikhail Gorbachev plans more changes, and Robertson Davies goes to the movies

EXPECTING A FITTING START

During her husband's eight-year tenure as president, Nancy Reagan hosted more than 200 White House luncheons, receptions and state dinners. And through it all, Reagan unabashedly cultivated a reputation as her country's first lady of fashion. But, on Jan. 20, Barbara Bush will become the nation's taste-setter. Already Washington is abuzz with speculation about one of the best-kept secrets of the incoming administration: what Barbara Bush will wear on inauguration evening. Her spokesman, Sondra Haley, confirmed lait week that Bush has looked at creations by New York City designers

Adele Simpson, Bill Blass and Montrealborn Arnold Scaasi. And because official inaugural festivities last four days, fashion experts say that Bush will have a chance to wear the outfits of several designers. But most experts agree that the official inaugural gown will be either red, black or white, and that the fabric will be silk or velvet—all Bush favorites. At the same time, insiders are predicting that Bush will avoid emulating Nancy Reagan's choice of a heavily beaded creation for her husband's inauguration in 1981. The bare-shoulz dered gown, by American designer § Adolpho, was so weighted down with 5 beads that the Smithsonian Institu| tion—which displays past inaugural dresses—had to ask for donations in § 1986 to pay for restoration of the Sag'S ging outfit. Barbara Bush will carry a Barbara Bush: picking a dress lighter burden.

The makings of a shakeup

The KGB—the Soviet secret police—has been shrouded in mystery since its creation in 1954.

But according to government officials in Washington, plans for Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to announce a complete overhaul of the agency last month were interrupted by his emergency return to the Soviet Union after the catastrophic Dec. 7 earthquake in Armenia. Still, the Americans said they expect that before the spring, Gorbachev will officially outline his intention to take away all the KGB’s domestic security operations, including the role of watchdog of political dissidents, and to give them to the police ministry. “The effect,” said one state department official, “is to put those internal security troops under firm civilian command.” According to another official, the result would be to “enhance the rule of law” in the U.S.S.R. But, in theory at least,

the changes would mean an end to the dreaded secret-police image of the KGB—even as its continued espionage operations outside the Soviet Union continue to produce ample fodder for the imaginations of Western novelists.

A COUNTRY WITH CLASS

Canadians who think of their country as a boring place to live should think again. According to the magazine International Living, Canada is one of the world’s three most cultured countries — tied with France and Britain. In making its decision, a four-member editorial team at the Baltimore-based publication looked at such factors as the number of festivals and cinema houses in 160 countries. Afghanistan and Mozambique placed near the bottom of the list. But then, both of those countries were occupied with other things for much of 1988.

LONG ROAD TO THE SILVER SCREEN

Getting Canadian author Robertson Davies’s modem gothic novel, Fifth Business, onto the big screen has provided a serial of its own. In 1976, Hollywood director Nicholas Meyer bought the movie rights to the best-selling 1970 novel, the first volume of Davies’s Deptford Trilogy. For the next decade, he tried without success to sell his screenplay of the work to several producers. Then, in 1985, Canadian screenwriter Rick Butler asked Meyer to let him write a new

script. When Butler presented his script nine months later, Meyer said that he did not like it. Recalled Butler: “The nicest thing he did during our meeting was to close the office door.” Eventually, Butler raised the money to buy the movie rights from Meyer—for $300,000. Toronto-based Cineplex-Odeon Corp. has offered to finance production, but details are not yet final. Clearly, the odds against screen versions of Deptford II and III this century are considerable.

Trying to stop terror

After terrorists hijacked Kuwait Airways Flight 221 on its way to Pakistan on Dec. 4,1984, the U.S. state department offered a $300,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the men who had organized the attack. Since then, department officials have offered rewards relating to five other terrorist acts aimed at U.S. targets—including the Oct. 7, 1985, hijacking of the Achille Lauro off the coast of Egypt. But by late last year, no one had come forward with information in any of the incidents. Frustrated, state department officials decided to try a new tack—offering a $600,000 reward for information about terrorist acts still in the planning stages. According to department spokesman Phyllis Oakley, the new scheme aimed “to disrupt terrorist activities and to create uncertainty among terrorists, and increase distrust among their ranks.” Oakley added that the United States will distribute generic “Wanted” posters to its embassies and consulates around the world offering the new reward for information that aids in the prevention of terrorist acts. But only two hours after Oakley announced the program on Dec. 21, terror struck again, when a bomb destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 over the skies of Scotland—killing 270.

An animated response

Drawings for animated films produced more than 40 years ago by the National Film Board of Canada are becoming collector’s items in the land where Walt Disney and his staff perfected the art of the movie cartoon. According to Mike Glad, an expert on animation history in Fremont, Calif., many Canadian works are among “the major breakthroughs” in the held of animation art. Glad includes the work of Norman McLaren and Radio-Canada’s Frédéric Back—who won Oscars for 1982’s Crac! and 1988’s The Man Who Planted Trees— among the world’s finest animation. Next, Mickey Moose?

THE QUALITIES OF LIFE

Many Torontonians smugly proclaim their city as Canada's answer to Manhattan. Residents of Vancouver boast of their city's unrivalled scenery. But the honors for overall quality of life among 10 selected cities, according to a recent study at Ontario's University of Guelph, belong to Calgary. Dimitrios Giannias, a postdoctoral fellow in economics, has ranked the nation's cities based on such factors as climate, air pollution and crime rates. Overall, Giannias concluded, West beats East—with Vancouver, Edmonton and Winnipeg falling into place behind Calgary. Five Ontario cities came next, with St. Catharines in fifth place, followed by Toronto, London, Ottawa and Hamilton. Halifax took last place. Go West young man—but stop in Calgary.

CASHING IN ON GLASNOST

As president of Seabeco Group Corp., a trading company based in Toronto, Boris Birshtein has praised Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s openness to Western investment. Indeed, since 1983—two years before glasnost became a household word—Seabeco has marketed Asian-made electronic goods in the U.S.S.R. and has worked

with a number of Russian organizations to develop tourism in Moscow. But Birshtein is evidently not one to leave future success to chance, and last fall he convinced a well-placed Soviet official to be co-chairman of Seabeco’s new consulting arm, SONA Ventures Ltd. According to Seabeco vicepresident Emanuel Vorona, Georgi Arbatov, director of the Moscow-based Institute of U.S.A. and Canadian Studies, will act “in an advisory capacity” with the firm. The inside information could prove valuable.