This week: Newsmakers

Michelle Obama visits Soweto, the world’s richest divorcée goes broke, and tennis’s grunting gals get called out

Newsmaker

Mike Hewitt/FIFA/Getty Images

Hollywood’s high rollers

His day job is playing such film roles as Spiderman and Nick Carraway, in the upcoming Great Gatsby adaptation. But incredible as it may seem, Tobey Maguire’s hobby—high-stakes poker—may be even more lucrative than the silver screen. Maguire’s winnings, which could amount to as much as $30 to $40 million over three years, came to light in a lawsuit filed against the 35-year-old actor by a group of investors attempting to recoup money lost to Brad Ruderman, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for operating a $5.2-million Ponzi scheme. Ruderman lost much of the money playing Texas Hold ’em, including over $300,000 to Maguire, in an exclusive poker ring that drew players like Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Now, Ruderman’s investors want some of that cash. DiCaprio, Affleck and Damon aren’t being sued, though. “Matt never won,” a whistle-blower said.

One for the lads

As contingencies go, this one was a doozy. David Hart, a 23-year-old Royal Marine killed by a bomb blast in Afghanistan last year, earmarked $160,000 from his life insurance policy for an all-expenses paid trip to Las Vegas for his best friends and their girlfriends—32 people in all. “In a letter, David said he had had a great life and had no regrets about anything,” one friend told a reporter. “He said, ‘Go and have a good time and spend all this money.’ ” He left a second portion to his family, and the rest to charity. Hart, who died a day short of his 24th birthday, had always dreamed of a Vegas weekend. When his pals return to England they will continue training for a 275-km bike ride to raise money for the Royal Marines Charitable Trust.

Stick with a bike

The 911 call to police in Caseville, Mich., went something like this: “Believe it or not, I just passed about a five-, six-year-old flying down the road with a red Pontiac Sunbird.” Actually, Chief Jamie Learman discovered that the driver, who stood on the floorboard of his stepfather’s car to see over the steering wheel, was a pyjama-clad seven-year-old. He hit speeds of 80 kph during a 32-km drive across Huron County, north of Detroit. Police gingerly boxed him in, stopping him without incident. “He was crying, and just kept saying he wanted to go to his dad’s,” Learman said. “That was pretty much it: he just wanted to go to his dad’s.”

Quit that racquet!

There are tasks where a grunt or two are justified. Piano moving or childbirth come to mind. But tennis? It’s all a bit much, says Ian Richie, head of the All England Lawn and Tennis Club. “Whether you are watching it on TV or here, people don’t particularly like it,” he told Britain’s Telegraph, with precisely the sort of understatement he’d like to see on Wimbledon’s grass courts. Jimmy Connors was a pioneering grunter back in the 1970s. Women then took it up with great enthusiasm. Maria Sharapova was recorded at 105 decibels in 2009—as loud as a car horn from three feet. Portugal’s Michelle Larcher de Brito and Serena Williams have also employed the tactic as a weapon of mass distraction. Richie has made his concerns known, but certain fans find the sound effects appealing. Former Wimbledon Champ Michael Stich accuses the women of trying to “sell sex.”

#DMFail

Think a weakness for sexy social networking, à la Anthony Weiner, is a purely American failing? Turns out the language of <3 knows no borders. Xie Zhiqiang, a health bureau official in the Chinese city of Liyang, set up an account with Weibo, a Twitter-like service in China, early this year believing it was a private chat tool. “Please marry me if there is a second life, so that we can live in romance until we are 100 years old,” he wrote to a married woman on the site before the pair were able to follow through on a planned tryst. Xie learned of the mistake after a reporter called about the exchange. “How can you view our messages on Weibo? It is impossible, isn’t it?” He has since been suspended from his job.

Captain courageous

For more than a half-decade, she has been the face of Canadian women’s soccer—though perhaps never more so than now. Christine Sinclair wrote herself into the country’s sports lore for refusing to leave the field after her nose was broken in the opening game of the women’s World Cup at Berlin’s Olympiastadion. “You can’t play on,” Canada’s team doctor, Pietro Braina told her, trying to corral her onto the bench. But the Canadian captain turned, teary-eyed to Italian-born coach Carolina Morace who shrugged, palms up, and nodded to the field. Sinclair, of course, went on to score Canada’s lone goal, on a beautifully executed free kick in the dying minutes of the gutsy 2-1 loss—the first goal the two-time defending champion Germans have allowed since 2003. Sinclair, after having her nose resculpted by a German doctor, took to Twitter to opine on the new appendage: “amazing,” she wrote—joking, of course.

How to lose a billion dollars

It takes a lot to go from “the wealthiest divorcée in history” to bust in two decades—a lot of waste, that is. Patricia Kluge landed a $1-billion settlement when she split from media mogul John Kluge in 1990, only to blow the lot on parties for royalty, a 120-hectare estate in Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains and a private winery. Kluge and her third husband, William Moses, have racked up $46 million in debt and filed for bankruptcy last week. Her antiques, and her personal jewellery collection have already been auctioned off, and the Kluge winery was sold at auction—to none other than Donald Trump, her old friend, for $6.2 million. But Kluge isn’t the only one exiting the billionaire club. Research in Motion’s co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis lost their status after a sharp drop in RIM’s share price cut their personal net worth to around $800 million each, down from $1.8 billion in March.

The Doc returns

After 12 years on the mound for the Toronto Blue Jays before he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, star pitcher Roy Halladay is set, this week, to make his long-awaited return to the mound at Rogers Centre, where he earned both a reputation and a nickname. The two-time Cy Young winner, Toronto’s first pick at the ’95 draft, was set to pitch against the Jays last year, but security concerns around the G20 summit forced the series to be shifted to Philadelphia instead. “Doc,” as he’s known around the league, was calm before the game: “I feel like it’s any other start.”

Tears of joy

“Alec! Now we can get married!” Steve Martin tweeted to his Oscar co-host, after New York legalized gay marriage in the state. “Ok,” Alec Baldwin responded, “but if you play that effing banjo after eleven o’clock…” Lady Gaga, meanwhile, was a bit more emotional: “I can’t stop crying,” said the staunch gay-rights activist. “We did it kids. The revolution is ours to fight.”

Life out of office

It was a good week for Gordon Campbell, who is off to London as Canada’s high commissioner to the U.K.; the plum posting comes with a chauffeur, a chef and an official residence in swank Mayfair. In London, the former B.C. premier, who always resisted the temptation to bash the feds, will further hone his diplomatic skills among royals and the global elite. Gilles Duceppe, an Ottawa basher par excellence, had a big week too, granting his first televised interview since the Bloc’s stunning collapse in the last federal election. Unless Quebecers choose sovereignty, they’ll be “eating gumbo” in 50 years, he told Radio-Canada. He went on to hint at a return to politics, likely at the helm of the PQ, which appears to be imploding, a mere two months after the Bloc. He may well return to helm a sovereignist party, but the better question may be whether anyone will still be interested in the idea.

No medal for the penguin?

Dozer, a three-year-old goldendoodle from Fulton, Md., now merits his own runner’s page on the Maryland Half Marathon website, after escaping his masters Sunday and running the race. He crossed the finish line at the 2:12:24 mark, limping and exhausted, and received a medal from organizers after they discovered he was running solo. Truth is, Dozer probably slipped into the run several miles into the event. Far more impressive is the emperor penguin who swam an astonishing 4,000 km from Antarctica to New Zealand. Happy Feet, as he was nicknamed, was operated on at the Wellington Zoo to remove the stick and pebbles he’d eaten on Peka Peka beach. A committee has been struck to decide whether he should be returned home.

Building ships, and political futures

After a week in Ottawa spent championing the province’s bid for part of an estimated $35 billion in federal shipbuilding contracts, B.C. premier Christy Clark returned home to announce a major investment in a new marine trade training facility on Vancouver Island, sweetening the pot. If successful, the contract, which could create thousands of new jobs and raise millions in spinoffs, could also help Clark in a possible fall election, which could come as early as September.

Returning the warm embrace

Michelle Obama was hailed as a queen in her first solo trip to Africa this week. There, the U.S. First Lady spoke passionately to students, danced with African youth, met with Nelson Mandela and even squeezed in a dinner with her gal-pal Oprah Winfrey, a queen in her own right.

 

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