Newsmakers

Burton Cummings finishes high school, Lady Gaga tries to liven her show with a few corpses, and a big week for—poets?

The never-ending story
It took John Isner of the U.S. from Tuesday until Thursday—a record 11 hours, five minutes—to post a first-round victory at Wimbledon over France’s Nicolas Mahut. An exhausted Isner lost in the second round Friday to Thiemo De Bakker of the Netherlands. “I was just low on fuel out there,” Isner said.

Big news for little Monaco
It’s 55 years since the postage-stamp principality of Monaco experienced the wedding of a prince. Back then it was the fairy-tale marriage of Hollywood star Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III. Last week 52-year-old Prince Albert II, the only son of the late couple and a former Olympic bobsledder, announced his engagement to Charlene Wittstock, 32, a former competitive swimmer from South Africa. The prince, a long-time bachelor who admits to having fathered children with two of a bevy of younger ex-girlfriends, met Wittstock in 2000 when she won the 200-m backstroke at a swim meet. Rumoured plans call for them to tie the knot twice next summer: once inside the prince’s 235-room palace, then in a televised ceremony at Monaco’s Nôtre Dame of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral.

Loud and proud
The Stanley Cup came out of the closet Sunday, held aloft at Chicago’s Gay Pride parade by defenceman Brent Sopel in one of his last acts as a Chicago Blackhawk. Sopel, traded Thursday to the Atlanta Thrashers, rode the Chicago Gay Hockey Association float accompanied by his wife, Kelly. The couple made the gesture in honour of Brendan Burke, the son of Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke. Brendan died in a car accident in February, months after announcing he was gay. Brian Burke said his family was moved by the gesture. “This is not a small step,” he said. “It’s a bold and important one.” Meantime, New York’s Pride event featued a Cinderella story of sorts. Constance McMillen, who was banned from her Mississippi high school prom, served as grand marshal of the Manhattan parade.

Cheaper than a Hooters franchise
For years the Naked Cowboy (real name Robert Burck) has wandered New York’s Times Square wearing briefs, strumming his guitar and extracting cash from tourists for pictures. Now, cue the Naked Cowgirl, the new persona of Sandy Kane, a former stripper. She poses for photos in her red, white and blue cowboy hat and matching bikini. Last week Sandra Brodsky, her real name, was served with a cease-and-desist letter for trademark infringement by Burck. He demands Brodsky sign a Naked Cowboy Franchisee Agreement, at a cost of US$5,000 a year or
$500 a month.

Greed is also kind of annoying
“Greed is good,” actor Michael Douglas famously said in his role as the grasping Gordon Gekko in the 1987 hit Wall Street. Apparently his ex-wife, Diandra Douglas, took the lesson to heart. She wants half his earnings from his upcoming movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. The two divorced in 2000, with Diandra collecting an estimated US$45 million and two houses. A clause in the settlement allows her 50 per cent of revenues for any movies he did during their 23-year marriage. Her lawyer Nancy Chemtob told a Manhattan Supreme Court justice that Diandra is entitled to the cut because the new movie is a spinoff of Wall Street.

Guns, money, iambic pentameter
For Vancouver Island poet Suzanne M. Steele it wasn’t enough to imagine the Afghan theatre of war. She had to see it for herself. “Theirs is a tough job. An ugly job sometimes,” she wrote recently of her experience as an embedded poet with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. “But inevitably they laugh. Almost always they laugh.” Now, back on Canadian soil, she runs the Arms poetry project with Alice Major, Edmonton’s former poet laureate. They’re gathering works from soldiers and family members at the website www.inarms.ca as part of the Edmonton Poetry Festival. Meantime, Karen Solie has enjoyed the kind of month most poets only dream of. Last Thursday she won Ontario’s $10,000 Trillium Book Award for Poetry for Pigeon, her third collection. Weeks earlier she won the $75,000 Griffin Poetry Prize for the same book. “You rule, Karen,” a fan called out that night.

Dying to get to Vegas
Singer Lady Gaga has already acted out her own death on­stage, and now plans to outdo that performance by including dead bodies in an upcoming show. She is said to be in talks with scientist Gunther Von Hagens—known for his Body Worlds, exhibits of human corpses preserved with silicon—about ways to use his knowledge in her Monster Ball tour. She reportedly asked him to create a set for her shows in Las Vegas for March next year.

The busy, busy life of a PTA mom
It began when a man installing signs at the side of the road in West Valley City, Utah, had his car stolen, allegedly by Sylvina Beagley, who happened to be nude and who also happens to be president of the Day Break Elementary School PTA. The man grabbed her car and gave chase, along with police. Beagley crashed into a fence, police said, but somehow slipped away from her would-be captors. The mother of two then snatched a police car, only to crash that. Police finally resorted to Tasers to make the arrest. She faces multiple charges, including lewdness.

Guess Who finally graduated?
His marks at Winnipeg’s St. John’s High School were dubious, but rock legend Burton Cummings finally got his diploma, 45 years after dropping out. The honorary sheepskin was presented Monday during grad ceremonies by school principal Linda Bulka. She learned Cummings, now 62, quit school at 16 after his principal said his marks were too poor to sing in the school operetta, Pirates of Penzance. Gilbert and Sullivan’s loss proved rock’s gain when Cummings become lead singer of the Guess Who. Cummings said on his website he was “thrilled” with the diploma.

It was all that talk of a hot planet
Add “crazed sex poodle” to the list of descriptors for Al Gore, the straight-laced former vice-president of the United States, environmentalist and Nobel laureate. At least, that is the claim of an unnamed 54-year-old masseuse who said Gore groped and propositioned her during a massage at his Portland, Ore., hotel room in 2006 during a global warming tour. She filed a statement with police in 2009 but they concluded there was insufficient evidence for a charge. The story, “Al Gore Sex Attack!” broke in last week’s National Enquirer. The New York Post reports the woman wants a US$1-million media deal to go public. She claims to have her pants, stained with Gore’s DNA, locked in a safety deposit box. Gore declined comment.

Canadian, you say?
The 11 accused members of a Russian spy ring operating in the U.S. did their best to lead bland, suburban lives while trying to steal state secrets. It may explain why four of them assumed false Canadian identities. Ten members were arrested in a sweep on Sunday. The 11th, using the Canadian identity of Christopher Robert Metsos, was nabbed in Cypress Tuesday. The other “Canadians” arrested were Donald Heathfield, Tracey Lee Ann Foley and Patricia Mills. The arrests left acquaintances shocked. “They couldn’t have been spies,” said a neighbour of accused couple Richard and Cynthia Murphy. “Look what she did with the hydrangeas.”

As murderous drunks go, you guys are great
Actor Val Kilmer got dressed in a neat black blazer and commenced grovelling last Wednesday before the San Miguel County commissioners in rural New Mexico. Perturbed, they had invited him to explain magazine interviews in which he said he lives in the “homicide capital of the Southwest” and that “80 per cent of the people in my county are drunk.” He said his statements were misunderstood, and he loves his home of two decades. With that settled, the commissioners gave Kilmer the go-ahead to open three tourist guest houses on his Pecos River Ranch. His plans were put on hold last month after protests from neighbours.

Mouths that roared
If there’s anyone’s more tight-lipped than a top military commander, it’s the head of a spy agency. Yet in the U.S. and Canada last week two such men paid a price for bursts of candour. President Barack Obama fired General Stanley McChrystal as commander in Afghanistan after quotes by him in Rolling Stone signalled his distrust of the U.S. administration. North of the border, Richard Fadden, director of CSIS, claimed in a CBC interview that cabinet ministers in two provinces and some municipal politicians in B.C. are in the sway of foreign governments. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell demanded Fadden explain himself, and the Prime Minister’s Office said it was unaware of any such claims. Expect Fadden to retreat to the shadows.

Really Happy Valley
A half share in last Friday’s $50-million Lotto Max draw has sent spirits soaring in four families in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador. Gerald Healey and his wife, Winnie, owners of a small business in town shared the $25-million win with co-worker Marg White. And Sherry Bessey, who owns the Daybreak Café where the ticket was purchased, earns a one per cent commission: $250,000. That’s enough to get her thinking of a return to school or a new career. “I’ve had this place for 10 years now,” she told CBC, “and it’s time to live life.” The other share of the winning ticket was purchased in Saskatchewan.

CSIS

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