OPENING NOTES

KING OF CHIPS

July 26 1993
OPENING NOTES

KING OF CHIPS

July 26 1993

KING OF CHIPS

OPENING NOTES

Most former prime ministers retire to lives of comfortable obscurity, occasionally catching the public’s attention with a statesmanlike pronouncement. Not John Turner. Before becoming prime minister for 79 days in 1984, Turner was known as the Liberal’s prince in waiting. Now, he may well become the king of french fries. A Toronto lawyer, Turner plans to step down before the next election as MP for Vancouver/Quadra. But he is also chairman of Vancouver-based Harvard International Technologies Ltd., currently a popu-

lar company among Wall Street investors. The reason: it owns the rights to Spud Stop, a vending machine that dispenses french fries cooked for 50 seconds in vegetable oil. Company president Edgar Kaiser Jr. insists that the fries are excellent but, he acknowledges, “it’s very hard to get someone to believe that.” Still, the company’s shares have doubled in value since the middle of last month. Turner came aboard as a longtime friend who had been counsel to one of the Kaiser family’s companies. Having a former prime minister as chairman certainly helps to impress prospective investors. But consumers may want to know more: Has Turner eaten his company’s product? Says Kaiser, who claims to have gained 10 lb. while promoting the product: “Sure he has.”

WORD FOR WORD

LEARNING, OR A LARK?

Every year, some 40 to 45 Canadians are chosen from the ranks of the military, government and the private sector to attend a 10-month fellowship program at the National Defence College in Kingston, Ont. Funded by taxpayers to the tune of $1.2 million a year, the course includes travel in Canada and around the world so that students can learn about domestic and international affairs. Critics say it is a waste of money. The following is from a paper by Lt.-Col. John English, NDC curriculum co-ordinator from July, 1991, to July, 1992. English, now a fellow in the history department of Queen’s University, left the college after a disagreement with superiors about the program’s content.

“While visits to Canada’s principal overseas trading partners, the European Community and Japan, can no doubt be justified in terms of national interests, other international junkets are not always undertaken for their strategic or security import. Statements to the effect that ‘the shopping is better there’ or, ‘we should plan to be here on Superbowl Sunday’ are often heard during planning conferences not notable for their discussions of substance— By 1991-1992 it was blatantly obvious that NDC colonels were better qualified to lay on hors d’oeuvres and buses than consider questions of grand strategy or national security— During the 1991 northern tour, the NDC course travelled by Hercules aircraft from Iqaluit to Cape Dorset, ostensibly to sample Inuit cul-

ture, but actually to give students an opportunity to purchase quality aboriginal artifacts. In Zimbabwe in 1992, the course Boeing 707 aircraft also made a return trip from Harare to Victoria Falls for the express purpose of sightseeing. The effect of such pandering, of course, is less apt to produce students with a lean and hungry desire for knowledge than sybarites with a thirst for the cocktail circuit.”

In an interview last week, the college’s outgoing commandant, Lt.-Gen. Scott Clements, described English’s criticisms as “spiteful”and “absolute drivel.” He acknowledged that students in the program often go on sightseeing expeditions, but said that such trips are an integral part of the curriculum. “We examine all aspects of how a country is made up—the politics, the economics, the social and cultural life,” Clements said. “That includes the prominent major sights. If you go to Zimbabwe but fail to go to Victoria Falls, how can you say you’ve captured the essence of the country?”

BEST-SELLERS

FICTION

1. The Bridges of Madison County, Robert Waller (D

2. The Night Manager, John Le Carré (2)

3. Honor Among Thieves, Jeffrey Archer (8)

4. Pleading Guilty, Scott Turoui (4)

5. Gai-Jin, James Clavell (3)

6. The Client, John Grisham (6)

7. Violent Ward, Len Deighton

8. The Scorpio Illusion, Robert Ludlum

9. The Dixon Cornbelt League, W. P. Kinsella (5)

10. Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel (9)

( ) Position last week Compiled by Brian Bethime

NONFICTION

1. Women Who Run with the Wolves,

Clarissa Pinkola Estés (D

2. Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, Deepak Chopra (5)

3. Culture of Complaint, Robert Hughes (2)

4. The Great Reckoning, James Dale Davidson and Lord Rees-Mogg (3)

5. Love & Friendship, Allan Bloom (8)

6. A Short History of Financial Euphoria,

John Kenneth Galbraith (6)

7. The Fifties, David Halberstam (4)

8. Days of Grace, Arthur Ashe and Arnold Rampersad (10)

9. Beating the Street, Peter Lynch

10. Post-Capitalist Society, Peter Drucker (9)

Return of the pinstripe gang

They’re back: the stockbrokers and investment bankers who were symbols of the acquisitive 1980s in their yellow ties, red suspenders and tassled loafers are on the march again. After the stock-market crash in October, 1987, a recessionary chill spread across the brokerage industry. Now, low interest rates and renewed economic growth have rekindled the securities market and revived some flamboyant practices on Bay Street. Among the leading indicators of another bull market:

$ Toronto money managers Ira Gluskin and Gerry Sheff of Gluskin, Sheff & Associates Inc. recently added a personal assistant and valet to the payroll. He’s none other than Werner Jankosky, the butler to the stars who catered to the whims of celebrities at Toronto’s Sutton Place Hotel.

Among Canadian companies that have recently issued shares to take advantage of

booming demand are White Rose Crafts, an Ontario garden and craft store, and The Second Cup, a chain of coffee shops.

$ According to Michael Knowles, general sales manager of Downtown Fine Cars Inc. in Toronto, sales of Porsches have “picked up somewhat.” He added: “All of the buyers are brokers.”

Frank Mersch, manager of the top-performing Altamira Equity mutual fund, told The Globe and Mail recently that he is chafing under the pressure of success: “My problem isn’t beating the market, it’s beating the expectation levels people have of me.” He added: “I never realized that we in the financial community have become rock stars.”

Junk-bond mutual funds, which assemble portfolios of high-yield, high-risk corporate debt issues, are among the hottest-selling investments in the United States.

Up in smoke

Finally, some news to light up the lives of smokers. Two Cocoa Beach, Fla.-based entrepreneurs have launched a chartered airline service called Smokers’ Express. By selling $25 memberships to what they claim is a private club, co-founders William Walts and George Richardson can circumvent U.S. regulations that ban smoking on all regularly scheduled domestic flights. The first of three Smok-

ers’ Express DC-9S is due to take off in September—just in time for a planned smokers’ rights march in Washington. Said Richardson, a packa-day smoker himself: “My partner thought it up after spending six hours on a plane with bad food and no cigarette.” On Smokers’ Express flights, which will be limited at first to 10 major U.S. destinations, passengers will be able to indulge their addiction with free cigarettes. And the only people butting out, for a change, will be nonsmokers: their seats will be at the back of the aircraft.

POP MOVIES

Top movies in Canada, ranked according to box-office receipts during the seven days ending on July 15. (In brackets: number of screens/weeks showing.)

1. Jurassic Park (145/5).......................$2,127,100

2. The Firm (120/3)................................$1,843,800

3. In the Line of Fire (86/1)..................$1,105,500

4. Rookie of the Year (79/2)...................$889,900

5. Sleepless in Seattle (91/3).................$855,300

COPYRIGHT ENTERTAINMENT DATA INC.

6. Dennis the Menace (119/3)...............$850,300

7. Snow White (103/2).............................$650,900

8. The Son-in-law (86/2).........................$630,000

9. Weekend at Bernie’s il (63/1)............$415,500

10. Last Action Hero (86/4)......................$291,100