Newsmakers

Skeletons in Princess Victoria’s closet, Dick Cheney meets his match, and LeBron James goes home

NewsmakersHelena Bonham Carter, fashion plate
Her corsets, crinoline and frizzy hair have made her a constant on “worst dressed” lists over the years, so when the British actor, who counts Marie Antoinette as her style icon and claims a “f–k it attitude” to red-carpet dressing, heard she’d made Vanity Fair’s “best dressed” list, even she burst into laughter.

When nature’s in your path . . .
Vancouver’s organic breakfast moguls, Ratana and Arran Stephens, may have cast their professional lot with the environment—their cereal company, Nature’s Path, aspires to “advance the cause of people and planet along the path of sustainability.” But this week they came under fire for razing 25 trees from their lawn in tony Point Grey: a violation of the city’s famously strict tree-protection bylaw, and a major no-no in Lotusland. Their sins made headline news in Vancouver, which bars homeowners from removing trees from their property, prompting the pair to apologize profusely and repeatedly, even writing a letter to Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson insisting that they be heavily fined.

NewsmakersNo place like home
There’s no more hated man in Ohio than LeBron James. So it was small surprise that a symphony of boos, profanity and jeers rained down on him in his first trip back to his old barn, Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena. James, however, drank it up, grinning and strutting his way to a season-high 38 points in the Heat’s 118-90 drubbing of the Cavaliers. That same night in Ottawa, another deeply despised former franchise player made his hotly anticipated return to the city he abandoned. Fans littered the ice at Scotiabank Place with Dany Heatley’s old No. 15 jersey (a more creative venting of public steam than the “Heatley Sucks” chants echoing around the rink). It was all in vain. The louder the taunts, the stronger Heatley looked. Alas, there was no sweet revenge in either Cleveland or Ottawa, where the Sens were thrashed, 4-0. On that night, the villains won.

One-way diplomacy
There’s shooting the messenger, and then there’s turning the other way and pretending the messenger doesn’t even exist. While Hillary Clinton laid out her case for greater engagement with Iran at a security conference in Bahrain—taking pains to flatter Iran as “one of humankind’s great civilizations”—Iran’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, attacked his dinner, apparently tuning her out. When the U.S. secretary of state, seated five seats from him, tried to approach Mottaki, she was rebuffed—for the second time that night. “I said ‘Hello, minister,’ ” Clinton told reporters. “He just turned away.” Instead, Mottaki took up with officials for Iran’s neighbours—a cluster of countries who appear terrified of Tehran’s nuclear and political ambitions, and have been deepening ties to the U.S.—making an awkward night of diplomacy stranger still.

NewsmakersA royal mess
Poor Crown Princess Victoria. Her wedding is hardly over, and out come the family scandals. Last month it was dad, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, who might more accurately be called Carl XXX, judging by allegations of wild sex parties, elk-hunt orgies and an affair with a pop star. Then last week, a Swedish doc unmasked the truth behind her mother Queen Silvia’s German father, Walther Sommerlath: a Nazi who grew rich producing arms in a factory stolen from its Jewish owners. Jävlar! The palace must long for the days when its biggest disgrace was the “common” roots of Victoria’s new husband, Daniel Westling.

He’s had the bird
Somehow, Arlan Galbraith, owner of Pigeon King International, convinced 1,000 investors in the U.S. and Canada to sink $20 million into a pigeon breeding investment scheme—a pigeon Ponzi, according to his embittered shareholders. Last week, charges of fraud and bankruptcy were laid on Cochrane, Ont.’s self-styled “pigeon king,” once featured on a 60 Minutes show about human gullibility. The 62-year-old entrepreneur promised to make his backers—a lot of them farmers, with little in the bank to burn—rich by raising then selling the birds and their young. Pigeon squab, the bird’s meat, he swore up and down, was huge in Saudi Arabia and Asia.

NewsmakersOne way to win over the critics
Filmmaker Guy Maddin will marry L.A. film critic Kim Morgan in the Peg. Fittingly, news of the nuptials was revealed in a tweet by fellow critic Roger Ebert. Maddin, whose film Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench opens this week, told the Winnipeg Free Press the couple owe him their relationship. Maddin wrote his future wife after being incensed by the “patronizing” way Richard Roeper treated her during a discussion of the Elia Kazan film Baby Doll on Ebert’s show At the Movies. The rest is history. Meanwhile, Montreal singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright proposed to his boyfriend, Jörn Weisbrodt, over Indian food. “I was very nonchalant,” Wainwright told Vanity Fair, “like, ‘Maybe we should get married. Will you marry me?’ The next day I played the Royal Albert Hall in London and announced it onstage.”

Former friends in high places
Calgary professor Tom Flanagan spent the week recovering from his flip remark about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The comments—“I think Assange should be assassinated, actually,” he said—made on CBC’s Power and Politics last week sparked headlines, and a police investigation in Calgary, where Flanagan lives. Britain’s Telegraph was among several papers to note that Flanagan, who has since apologized for his remark, was a former aide to Stephen Harper, prompting the PMO to make clear that Flanagan “is no adviser” to Harper, and hasn’t been for several years. The comments, Harper spokesperson Dimitri Soudas added, “were simply not acceptable, whether they were serious or not.”

NewsmakersSpeaking of nuts and cracking
The classical dance world is not a reliable source of media firestorms, but New York Times dance critic Alastair Macaulay managed to set one off when his review of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker took on a speculative tone about the dietary predilections of its dancers. “Jenifer Ringer, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, looked as if she’d eaten one sugar plum too many,” he wrote, “and Jared Angle, as the Cavalier, seems to have been sampling half the Sweet realm.” His review, coming as Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky’s portrait of the dark, obsessive side of ballet, hits theatres, sparked a frenzy of comments online, leading Macaulay to write another piece explaining his position. “When a dancer has surplus weight, there can be no more ruthless way to demonstrate it than to dance in a tutu with shoulders bare,” he wrote, adding that in most of her recent roles, Ringer “has actually looked slender.” That’s just it—to most of us, she still does.

Not exactly a denial of guilt
Nigeria has barrelled ahead with fraud charges against former U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney, a 16-count indictment that energy services firm Halliburton spent US$180 million bribing Nigerian officials in order to win a US$6-billion natural gas contract in the oil-rich southern delta. (Last year, Halliburton and Kellogg Brown & Root, a former subsidiary, pleaded guilty to similar charges in the U.S. and agreed to pay $579 million in fines: the biggest paid by U.S. companies in a foreign corruption case.) All this happened “well over a decade ago,” Terrence O’Donnell, a lawyer for the ex-Halliburton chief, said in dismissing the new allegations. “Any suggestion of misconduct on his part, made now, years later, is entirely baseless,” he added.

Do as he says, not as he does
Media mogul and unguarded tongue Ted Turner is again raising eyebrows with a call for a global one-child policy to curb population growth. “If we’re going to be here 5,000 years from now,” he told global leaders gathered in Mexico for a climate conference, “we’re not going to do it with seven billion people.” Not surprisingly, he found a money-making angle in the plan. Fertility rights, the father of five added, could be sold so poor people could profit from their decision not to reproduce.

Almighty fumble
Steve Johnson had the perfect pass in his hands—it would have given his Buffalo Bills a dramatic overtime win against heavily favoured Pittsburgh. Alas, the football slipped through his fingers. The wide receiver turned to Twitter to express his feelings. Had the sun caught his eye? Was it a sudden cramp? A case of butterfingers? Or, just maybe, the fault of a higher power? “I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!!,” Johnson tweeted from his iPad. “YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO.”

NewsmakersWe regret the error (so do they)
The Guardian newspaper admitted, in a correction, that pop star Mick Hucknall hadn’t “slept with more than 1,000 women in a three-year period during the mid-80s,” as reported. The true figure was “more than 1,000 a year,” meaning more like 3,000. An “editing error” accounted for the gross lowballing of the Simply Red singer’s sexual conquests, the paper added. Hucknall was using an interview with the paper to apologize to women, including the likes of one ex, Catherine Zeta-Jones, who may have been hurt. “They know who they are, and I’m truly sorry,” he said, adding it was all because his mom had abandoned him as a child. Or maybe they just all made him feel brand new.

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