Cover

The Star of His Own Movie

Whatever role he played, Trudeau was always the remote and rakish sex symbol who made women swoon

Jane O’Hara October 9 2000
Cover

The Star of His Own Movie

Whatever role he played, Trudeau was always the remote and rakish sex symbol who made women swoon

Jane O’Hara October 9 2000

The Star of His Own Movie

Cover

Whatever role he played, Trudeau was always the remote and rakish sex symbol who made women swoon

Jane O’Hara

There was Barbra Streisand and Jane Fonda. Liona Boyd and Maggie. Pierre Trudeau also dated actors Margot Kidder and Kim Cattrall, now one of the stars of HBOs sizzling series Sex and the City. Some were lovers, some just friends. But their combined numbers and beauty made one thing clear: Trudeau was more than Canadas Prime Minister—he was also our leading man.

Following a generation of dutiful but dour postwar politicians like Lester Pearson, John Diefenbaker and Bob Stanfield, Trudeau arrived like a comet, entering the Canadian atmosphere adorned in black cape and fancy fedoras. Whether playing the role of urban dandy or buckskinned outdoorsman, he was always the star of his own movie, always the remote and rakish sex symbol who made women swoon. And what a range of characters he played. He moved from eligible bachelor to married man, doting dad and cuckolded husband without ever losing his appeal. “There was a 1940s movie star quality about Trudeau,” says Linda Griffiths, the Toronto actor and cocreator of the one-woman stage play Maggie and Pierre. “He had that old-fashioned courdy, gentlemanly thing, where somebody was always on his arm.”

But he also had a modern magnetism that the mass media both fed on and magnified. In June, 1968, during his first election campaign as leader of the Liberal party, the country was swept up in Trudeaumania. As if at a Beades concert, young and not-so-young girls screamed and demanded kisses when the unpredictable 48-year-old politician whisdestopped into their towns. Trudeau gloried in the adulation. But, according to Christina McCall, it also changed him.

In her book Grits, McCall says Tmdeau was not always the dashing lothario. Before coming to power, he was socially shy and diffident. As an MP (he was first elected to Parliament in 1965), he would slip in and out of official gatherings without anyone noticing but his closest friends. His relationships with women—who were often half his age—were usually brief. But after 1968, McCall says, Trudeaus “sweet reticence had vanished and was replaced by a display of overweening pride.” Now, when he entered a room, “women swarmed to him, mouths moist, eyes translucent.”

One of them was Margaret Sinclair, a naïve Vancouver flower child who first met Trudeau on a beach in Tahiti before he became prime minister. In 1971, after a clandestine courtship, they were married in a ceremony kept secret from the public. He was 51, she was 22. Together, they had three sons: Justin, Sacha and Michel (who was killed in 1998 at age 23 in an avalanche in British Columbia). By 1977, the marriage had collapsed when Margaret sought her freedom from what she described as the “unbearable” confines of her life with Trudeau at 24 Sussex Drive.

Margaret was the only woman who ever lived with Trudeau. The rest of his celebrity dates seemed at times intended to be little more than glamorous appendages for photo ops, arm candy for this otherwise solitary man. What did these women really mean to Trudeau? We may never know. In his book Memoirs, Trudeau summed up the breakup of his marriage to Margaret briefly and tersely, concluding: “Anyone who has gone through the breakdown of a marriage—perhaps without three small children, and perhaps not in the glare of the public spodight—will understand why I choose to write no more about the matter.” He has said nothing about other relationships. Perhaps for the impermeable Trudeau, silence was the best refuge. E]