George Cohon marches on Moscow, Barbara Bush buys Canadian, and Murray Pezim pays a price for freedom

January 30 1989


George Cohon marches on Moscow, Barbara Bush buys Canadian, and Murray Pezim pays a price for freedom

January 30 1989


George Cohon marches on Moscow, Barbara Bush buys Canadian, and Murray Pezim pays a price for freedom


Barbara Bush wore a blue satin gown when she toured the 11 simultaneous inaugural balls in Washington last week. That glittering appearance as her husband's presidency began was also a triumph for the Canadian-born fashion designer who created the dress, Arnold Scaasi. Canadian content has been highly visible in Washington recently: the new First Lady has attended functions in Scaasi creations that range from a black velvet dress to a tailored suit in a shade that the native Montrealer referred to as Bush blue. And for the top social event of Inauguration Week, Bush chose a Scaasi gown over dresses

made by such widely known U.S. designers as Bill Blass and Adele Simpson. Declared Scaasi—who reversed the letters in his family name, Isaacs, when he settled in New York City during the 1950s: "Barbara Bush is elegant and has her own image. She won't try to look younger than she is or wear fashions that aren't suitable." Scaasi, who has provided Bush with custom-made gowns costing as much as $5,000 during the past two years, already has experience outfitting first ladies. He designed clothes for President Dwight Eisenhower's wife—and reveals that Mamie nev| er wore a bra during the corsetted 2 social climate of the 1950s. Added g Scaasi: "Mamie had a great body and ^ beautiful skin, a great bosom. I was I surprised." But Scaasi is discreetly silent 1 about his current clientele—preferring to clothe rather than to reveal.

Golden arches over Red Square

The supply problems are formidable, but George Cohon is not retreating from his march on Moscow—and a plan to serve Bolshoi (Big) Macs near Red Square.

Cohon, the president of McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Ltd., signed a joint-venture agreement with Moscow city council to bring the chain’s fast food to Gorky Street last April—capping negotiations that he initiated in 1976.

Cohon said that he still hopes to open the first of 20 outlets planned for Moscow by year’s end. But some Soviet officials themselves worry that it will be difficult to provide the 650-seat restaurant with regular supplies of high-quality beef and potatoes. Indeed, a spokesman for New Jersey-based Astro Pizza Ltd. said that irregular delivery and the high cost of basic foodstuffs had prompted his firm to suspend operations of a popular joint venture in Moscow—a

mobile pizza stand—last September. But McDonald’s is pressing ahead with its plans. And to that end, five Soviet restaurant managers will visit Canada next spring for training in such skills as patty-flipping. Hamburger diplomacy to take out.


Norman Webster left his post as editor-in-chief of the Toronto Globe and Mail against his will on Jan. 6, embarking on a tour of the newspaper's foreign bureaus. But the trip that has Globe reporters buzzing is a parallel tour organized by four newsroom staffers. The staffers are using overnight courier pouches to send a plastic case containing a cockroach— nicknamed Jock, and captured on a reporter's desk— to the Globe’s domestic bureaus. Jock has been to Ottawa, with Montreal next on the list—and a tour picture album is in the works.


There were no members of the Royal Family present when the Scottish village of Lockerbie held a Jan. 4 memorial service for the 270 victims of a fiery plane crash late last year—prompting critics to suggest that at least one royal representative should have interrupted the traditional Christmas holidays. Still, the reputations of some family members were restored last week in London when The Times compiled a list of royal appearances in 1988. Tart-

tongued Princess Anne topped the list: she attended 665 events in a schedule that included a three-day visit to Toronto last November. By contrast, the widely popular Princess of Wales had only 248 official engagements in 1988, but Diana still outpaced the Duchess of York, who attended 153 functions. Andrew, Duke of York—Fabulous Fergie’s husband—is the sluggard of the group, turning out for only 111 events last year. Andrew, clearly, is not one to stand on ceremony.

From Russia— with a markup

For many Soviet citizens, scarce Western goods are coveted status symbols. But in a startling reversal, some Western music lovers are now paying large sums for an exclusive Soviet item: a Paul McCartney album entitled Back in the U.S.S.R. McCartney said that he restricted the release of his latest album as a peace gesture to the Soviet people. The collection of pop, rock and jazz classics sells for $8 in Moscow, but fans of the former Beatle in New York City and London have paid as much as $1,000 for smuggled copies of the album. Giving peace a chance can have a high price.

The high cost of leaving

For flamboyant Vancouver millionaire Murray Pezim, marriage is an institution that induces claustrophobia when he crosses its threshold. Earlier this month, the 68year-old mining-stock promoter initiated divorce proceedings against his third wife, Susan Hanson—a 33year-old fellow stockbroker who married Pezim in a lavish $100,000 ceremony last July. Reflected Pezim last week: “I shouldn’t have got married. I’m a downtown kind of guy and I’ve got to have my freedom.” Pezim will have to pay a high price to leave a union that he said had caged him: a prenuptial contract guaranteed Hanson a $3-million payment if the marriage failed. But the high-rolling Pezim said that he did not regret having to pay that amount to renew his bachelor status. He noted that he had lost $15 million overnight when he went bankrupt in 1972, and that the 1986 marriage settlement to his second wife had cost him $2 million. Pezim maintains that he will retain ownership of a $5-million house under construction in Vancouver’s exclusive Point Grey area. The plans for that 20-room mansion include what Pezim called a “fighting bedroom”—an alternative to the master bedroom that either partner could use after a heated argument. Pezim chose another form of retreat.


Tritium, a radioactive gas used to make nuclear bombs, is in short supply in the United States. Safety concerns have closed the three U.S. uranium-processing plants that produce tritium, which glows in the dark and has such nonmilitary uses as marking airport runways. Still, in recent months, the Darlington nuclear station, 50 km northeast of Toronto, has begun to produce tritium—which sells for $35,000 per gram. But officials in Washington said that President George Bush will not ask Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to patch the U.S. nuclear umbrella—because a request would spark a political uproar in Canada. Antinuclear activists hold similar views: Ottawa allows tritium exports only for peaceful purposes. Watch for fallout.


The publication last fall of Salman Rushdie’s surrealistic novel The Satanic Verses sparked protests in countries ranging from Saudi Arabia to Britain—where the Indian-born Rushdie now lives.

Many Moslems complained that the critically acclaimed work had blasphemed their religion with its thinly disguised caricature of the prophet

Mohammed. Last week—catching publisher Penguin Books Canada Ltd. unawares—W. H. Smith Canada began returning The Satanic Verses from its 200 bookstores. Earlier this month, the firm’s parent company removed the book &LT:from its 430 outlets in Britain. Bookstore officials maintained s that recent slow sales—and not such I protests as the burn3 ing of two copies in different Toronto bookstores last fall—had caused the withdrawals. Predictably, Rushdie described the removals as “a sad day for literature.”