People

People

BARBARA WICKENS September 1 1997
People

People

BARBARA WICKENS September 1 1997

People

BARBARA WICKENS

The queen of rock TV

As the recently appointed vice-president and general manager of MuchMusic, she might be expected to reign from her office. But the infectiously enthusiastic Denise Donlon is highly visible at the downtown Toronto headquarters of Much, the music channel available to 6.5 million Canadian cable subscribers and 10 million Americans. When not travelling—-which she does often, including visits to Much sister stations in Argentina and Finland—Donlon is right in the thick of things, shepherding about guests like Annie Lennox or No Doubt, working with producers on technical concerns, and consulting with veejays on script outlines. "This place,” says Donlon, “keeps getting me charged up in the morning.” Toronto-born Donlon, 41, got her start in music while studying psychology at Ontario’s University of Waterloo, where she hired bands. After she graduated and moved to Vancouver, in 1985 then-fledgling MuchMusic asked her to be its Rock Flash News host. By 1993, she was director of music programming—and the wife of singer Murray McLauchlan, with whom she has five-year-old Donald.

Part of what keeps Donlon going is the chance to make a difference. In the ’80s, lamenting the mindlessness and sexism of many rock videos, she began thinking about ways to raise the consciousness of her audience. She initiated specials such as Rock & Roll & Reading, in which performers discuss books, and Too Much 4 Much, in which a community panel deconstructs music videos. And, on Sept. 18, Much is introducing the first “genderless” music video awards, rather than best male and best female categories. “We are trying to break down every bit of awards show protocol,” says Donlon. “These are the anti-awards.”

‘A perfect mission'

For Bjarni Tryggvason, the wait is over. The 51-year-old engineer, who was born in Iceland and moved to Canada at 7, was one of the original six Canadians chosen as astronauts back in December, 1983. Since then, he has been conducting flight experiments while

waiting his turn. Finally, his number, STS-85, came up, and on Aug. 7 Tryggvason blasted off aboard the space shuttle Discovery for an 11day mission to study changes in the Earth’s atmosphere. The first words he heard upon touching down last week at Cape Canaveral, g Fla., were from mission control: “Discovery, « welcome home, this looked like a perfect misI sion from start to finish.” s

Presto: bigscreen magic

Cirque du Soleil is expanding from the big top to the big screen. Since its first show in Montreal in 1984, the company, which recruits talent from around the world, has created magical effects by combining traditional circus acts—minus the animals—with street theatre, outlandish costumes and original music. Now, Cirque du Soleil, which has a permanent theatre in Las Vegas, Nev., as well as two touring outfits, aims to bring some of that magic to the movies. Currently filming on location in Berlin after a four-week stint in Amsterdam, Alegría—the Spanish word for joy—is a love story about Frac (German-born, Canadian-raised René Bazinet), a disillusioned mime, and Giulietta (English actor Julie Cox), a singer in a travelling circus. As their romance progresses, the two rescue a street urchin, Momo (nine-yearold Clipper Miaño of Toronto), from taskmaster Marcello (English actor Heathcote Williams). First-time film director Franco Dragone, who created eight of Cirque du Soleil’s nine stage productions—including 1994’s Alegría, on which the movie is based— hopes they succeed in their goal of lifting the human spirit. Says Dragone: ‘You can always participate to change ugliness.”