Adolf Hitler’s bunker becomes a hot property, Pierre Berton loses his way, and two feuding tenors sing for soccer

April 30 1990


Adolf Hitler’s bunker becomes a hot property, Pierre Berton loses his way, and two feuding tenors sing for soccer

April 30 1990


Adolf Hitler’s bunker becomes a hot property, Pierre Berton loses his way, and two feuding tenors sing for soccer


McLean House, a secluded Georgian mansion in north Toronto, provided a glittering setting In which to announce the winner of the 44th annual Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour last week. But as nominees for that award, among them broadcaster Larry Zolf and Vancouver author Susan Musgrave, mingled with other guests, it swiftly became apparent that an important literary personality was absent: author Pierre Berton, who, according to the event's official invitation, was to have been the master of ceremonies.

Indeed, as he made his way to the podium, Pete McGarvey, a representa-

tive of the Orillia, Ont.-based Stephen Leacock Associates, speculated aloud that Berton was perhaps "wandering around north Toronto, lost." As it turned out, McGarvey was right. Berton later told Maclean's that he Wouldn't find the damn place" and that he had ended up on the campus of Glendon College, just north of the wooded site of McLean House. Berton was not the only no-show. Leacock officials eventually announced that W. O. Mitchell had won his second Leacock award for a book of stories entitled According to Jake and the Kid— but neither Mitchell nor a representative from his publisher, Torontobased McClelland and Stewart, showed up. Said McClelland spokesman Kelly

Hechler: "Mitchell was at home in Cal-

gary, and we seemed to have lost our invitation." Leacock himself would have

relished such a scene.

A woman’s place is still elsewhere

The bearskin caps and scarlet tunics of the Governor General’s Foot Guards are a familiar sight on Parliament Hill each summer—symbols of a proud military history that began with the regiment’s founding in 1872. Still, retired members of a reserve unit under the command of Gov. Gen.

Ramon (Ray) Hnatyshyn had to retreat recently when the veterans’ association executive broke with tradition and voted to allow their wives to eat with them at the annual dinner in September. But several of their spouses were not amused. They promptly declined that offer—on the grounds that the association was reluctantly paying lip service to the principle of sexual equality. Indeed, the wife of the association’s past president argued that most of the men in the 800-member organization clearly preferred the custom of male-only dining. Said Estelle

Lane: “It is the boys’ reunion, and up until now they only condescended to have us join them after dinner.” For his part, Joe Pelisek, the association’s current president, expressed the hope that men and women would dine together at the 45th reunion—in 1991.


Persistent reports that conductor Charles Dutoit is planning to switch jobs have circulated among members of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra for several months now. And last week, a Paris daily newspaper added fuel to that speculation. According to Le Monde, Dutoit, who has led the Montreal orchestra since 1977, is a prime contender to replace the departing Lorin Maazel as the director of France's National Orchestra. But Dutoit, who was working in Philadelphia last week, spoke only through his baton—and declined to comment.


Their legendary feud apparently began during the 1970s, at a chance meeting in a hallway of New York City’s Metropolitan Opera House. At the time, Placido Domingo was the second-ranked tenor in the world of opera, and, the story goes, he stopped the reigning king, Luciano Pavarotti, to ask him how he was feeling that day. “Fine,” Pavarotti supposedly replied to his rival, “unfortunately for you.” In any event, the worldfamous singers have agreed to perform to-

gether for the first time in support of a common passion: soccer. To that end, they revealed last week that they will sing at a July 7 concert in Rome. Its purpose: to help Italy defray the costs of staging the following day's final game of the month-long World Cup championships. Said Pavarotti: “We are artists who love football and we will put everything aside for the sport. We are not going to be there to see who is best, but for the sport.” That is a game that only those two can play.

Real culture in France

Many Frenchmen cherish the image of their country as a widely cultured land, a place where patrons of the arts move easily from attendance at a Molière play to a café discussion on the existentialist philosophy of JeanPaul Sartre. But the French ministry of culture recently released a survey that paints a different picture. For one thing, the survey of 5,000 respondents aged 15 and older revealed that simply watching television is the most common cultural activity in France. Indeed, French viewers are now spending 20 hours per week before the TV set on average—up from the 16 hours per week recorded by a similar survey in 1973. The latest study, entitled Cultural Practices of the French, also revealed that 71 per cent of those interviewed have never attended a classical music concert and 55 per cent have never seen a play. Only one-third of the respondents had read any books recently, and no one in that group had read more than nine books during the past year. Philippe Lethel, a special adviser to Culture Minister Jack Lang, said that the study’s findings had not surprised him. Said Lethel: “We French are an arrogant people, so what is important to us is to have the appearance of being cultured and not the fact.” Call it a victory of form over content.

Snooping on a grand scale

According to U.S. intelligence officials, the Soviet Union is expanding a large electronic listening post in Cuba. The officials predict that the base, located just east of Havana, will soon increase its power to intercept U.S. and Canadian government communications as well as phone calls that are transmitted by microwave relays across North America. According to Central Intelligence Agency director William Webster, one possible reason for expanded Soviet surveillance as East-West tensions wane: inside information can still be useful in trade negotiations.


Adolf Hitler committed suicide on April 30,1945, as Soviet Red Army units advanced on the Führers bunker. With last November's fall of the Berlin Wall, however, the grass-covered rubble of the bunker site near the Brandenburg Gate has become one of Berlin's hottest properties. Indeed, several large firms have voiced interest in building an office tower on the site. At the same time, municipal spokesman Hans-Friedrich Müller expressed doubts that the site would be marked with a historical plaque. Said Müller: "We haven't decided yet what to do with the bunker, but we will take every precaution to prevent it from becoming a shrine for Nazi diehards.''


According to New York magazine, author Margaret Atwood was the subject of an intense debate among editors at another weekly journal, the venerable New Yorker, recently. The New York article claims that several members of The New -

Yorker's fiction department were “up in arms” over a story

that appeared in the March 5

issue. “Kat,” Atwood’s sevenpage story, focuses on a woman who loses her job at a fashion magazine for being “too bizarre.” Distressed, she conceals a recently removed ovarian cyst in a box of truffles that she sends to the man who succeeded her. But Atwood said that no one at The New Yorker had informed her of any controversy. And Robert 5 Gottlieb, that magazine’s editor, maintained that New

York had presented

“an exaggerated account of routine editorial discussions.” Fic-

tion can be stranger than truth.