The unwanted advances of forward young men are a regular job hazard in the chosen profession of Gisel Della Chiara. “Men approach me on the street, saying, ‘You’re the girl on that sex show, what can you teach me?’ ” says the 32-year-old Chilean-born beauty and host of Discovery Channel’s The Sex Files. Conversely, the single Torontonian has found that more gentlemanly suitors are intimidated by a woman who is surrounded by sex all day. Her current boyfriend, says Della Chiara, is confident enough to handle the situation. But after two seasons on the air, her dad is still coming to terms. “He flipped out,” she says. “He tells everyone I’m on the Discovery Channel, but when they ask him what show, he says, ‘I don’t remember.’ ” It’s certainly conceivable that her father would be embarrassed by the graphic nature of The Sex Files. The program takes a scientific look at intimacy but doesn’t shy away from showing frontal nudity and couples in the act. The erotic and educational premise has helped to make the program Discovery’s highest rated show ever—and viewers, who see the show as a useful sex-education resource, often request video copies. Della Chiara, who also hosts Latin Vibes on CFMT, insists people are watching to learn—not for the pretty host. “I am the package,” she says, “but not the content.”
Prisoner of unconditional love
Her art, in the form of her new novel, Cargo of Orchids, and its convict narrator, is not imitating her life, Susan Musgrave says. Or at least not husband Stephen Reid’s current 18-year prison sentence. “I started this book eight years ago, and finished it a week before Stephen was arrested,” says the West Coast poet, as famous for her headline-making private life as for her writing. Reid was picked up by police after a bungled bank robbery in Victoria in June, 1999. But personal experience still infuses Musgrave’s darkly humorous tale of an unnamed woman sent to death row for murdering her child.
After all, Reid was serving time for earlier crimes when Musgrave, now 49, married him in 1986. (The couple have an 11-year-old daughter, Sophie; Musgrave has another child, Charlotte, 18, from a previous relationship.) The writer’s prison visits to Reid inspired Cargo of Orchids, which lampooned the insanely bureaucratic rules and jargon common to penitentiaries. For example, female visitors must hand over their tampons, for fear an “inmate could suicide himself by choking on one,” explains a guard with magnificent redundancy, while executioners swab prisoners’ arms with disinfectant before administering lethal injections.
The better-to-laugh-than-cry tone of the novel, which reflects Musgrave’s attitude towards her own family nightmare, does nothing to disguise the writer’s hatred of prisons. “You can’t see anything there that has life,” she says. But neither does Cargo of Orchids grim atmosphere obscure an ultimately hopeful story. “It’s really a book about unconditional love,” says Musgrave, “about how far you will go to protect someone you love.”
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