Newsmakers: Nov. 17-24, 2011

The Natalie Wood case is reopened, Silvio sings a new song, and a baby girl for Bollywood’s first family


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A mystery fit for Hollywood

One of Hollywood’s most enduring mysteries, the drowning of Natalie Wood during a trip on the family yacht, Splendour, made headlines again last week. In a bombshell interview, captain Dennis Davern admitted he hadn’t told investigators the “honest truth” 30 years ago. Davern told the Today show he holds Wood’s husband responsible for her death—though the L.A. County Sheriff’s Office said Robert Wagner is not a suspect. “It was a matter of ‘we’re not going to look too hard, we’re not going to turn on the searchlight, we’re not going to notify anybody right at the moment,’ ” said Davern.

Baby takes Bollywood

After months of breathless speculation, Bollywood’s First Baby finally arrived this week, born to Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. The former Miss World became Bollywood royalty in 2007, when she married leading man Abhishek Bachchan, the son of Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan. After furiously tracking the pregnancy, India’s rambunctious media was oddly restrained last week, the result of a 10-point code of ethics governing the birth. The self-imposed blackout meant the Bachchan birth could not be treated as breaking news, no cameras were to be dispatched to hospital, and journalists were to keep broadcast birth stories to within 90 seconds.

A new low

News broke that Rebekah Brooks, former editor of News of the World, is expecting her first child via a surrogate with husband Charlie, as the phone-hacking revelations continue. She is reportedly “overjoyed” by her baby news. Meanwhile, the Leveson inquiry investigating press standards heard that the mother of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler felt “euphoria” when she finally got through to her daughter’s voice mail—the false hope came from thinking her missing daughter had checked the messages, when in fact News of the World hackers had deleted some. It also emerged that Welsh superstar Charlotte Church’s mother Maria attempted suicide after a News of the World story suggested her husband was having an affair and taking cocaine, a story padded with details from hacked voice mails. Brooks, who received a $2.7-million severance package, is currently on bail, and has denied committing any criminal offences.

Canada’s hoops dream

It was almost inevitable, given what came before, that the next big thing in Canadian basketball wouldn’t be that big at all—at least not physically. Newmarket, Ont.’s Kevin Pangos stands about six foot one, about the same size as the greatest Canadian basketball player of all time, two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash. The 18-year-old, playing for Gonzaga University in only his second NCAA game, tied the school’s record for three-pointers—nine—last week, sinking a total of 33 points. “Every time he shoots it, we think it’s going in,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few told CBS.

Confirming bias

Daniel Klein is the economics prof who, last year, published a Wall Street Journal piece detailing research suggesting “liberals” aren’t generally very bright, particularly on economic matters—a finding he admitted he found “easy to believe,” given his right-wing politics. But this month in The Atlantic, a mea culpa: new research shows that “conservatives and libertarians were as likely as anyone” to get economic questions wrong, Klein wrote. “The tendency to judge a statement according to how conveniently it fits with one’s settled position . . . is pervasive among all of America’s political groups.” And, it seems, among academics.

One author’s gift

With bookstores shuttering across North America, it may feel like a strange time to open a new one. But Ann Patchett, award-winning author of Bel Canto and other novels, has done just that. Compared to Nashville’s massive Borders bookstore, which closed shop last year, Parnassus is as small as a “shoebox,” Patchett told NPR. “I think of this as my gift to the city,” she says, “and if I want to live in a city with a bookstore, then I’m willing to pay for it.”

If the T-shirt fits

George Bernard Shaw counselled against wrestling with pigs: “You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.” But what if both opponents are equally porcine? Consider this: Mike Sorrentino, the Jersey Shore star known as “the Situation,” has sued Abercrombie & Fitch, the clothing retailer, over an apparently tongue-in-cheek suggestion it was willing to pay Sorrentino not to wear its brand, citing fears the association caused “significant damage to our image.” Sorrentino’s people say there was no such offer and that the comments amount to an advertising gambit that generated significant profit for Abercrombie & Fitch.

Campaign travails

Two B.C. mayors were struck in the final days of their re-election campaigns—one by a fundraising scandal, the other by a car. Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson, whose left-leaning Vision Vancouver party elected all seven candidates last week, faced questions over the $194,000 his campaign received from a web of companies connected to two charities: Tides Canada and the Endswell Foundation (charities are barred from making political contributions). Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart, who was hit by a car while campaigning, was released after two nights in hospital—time enough to spend a final day knocking on doors. Meanwhile, Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, who swept Surrey council, received four injections in her spine just so she could stand to deliver her acceptance speech; the politician injured her back this summer when she fell off a horse.


Silvio Berlusconi released an album of love songs this week. Memorable lines tell of tormented love—“Another day of wind and rain, another night without you.” True Love marks a return to familiar terrain for the former Italian prime minister, a one-time cruise ship crooner. Speaking of surprising returns, Ricky Gervais will once again host the Golden Globe Awards. His insult-laden act last spring took aim at Charlie Sheen’s drinking habits, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s then-president Philip Berk and Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp’s widely panned film, The Tourist. “The outrage I caused was of course, as usual, totally out of proportion to the things I said,” he wrote on his blog. “This year I’m going to make sure their offence is completely justified.”

Brave bride

Farzana Yasmin walked out of her own wedding when, at the last minute, her husband’s family demanded a dowry, which is technically illegal in Bangladesh. Yasmin is now seeking a divorce. “The dowry has become a cancer of our society,” she told the BBC. “I have always wondered why people should put up with it.”

FARC’s next stand

After the Colombian military tracked and killed rebel leader Alfonso Cano, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) named Timoleon Jimenez—better known as Timochenko—to succeed him. The appointment of the hard-liner, announced last week, is widely seen as a bad omen for peace. Still, there are questions about how much power FARC still wields. Government forces have pounded rebel positions in the past decade, weakening the army. Timochenko’s first public dispatch as leader, meanwhile, came off as more peevish than threatening. The new FARC chief griped about Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos boasting over Cano’s death–what did he expect, flowers?

That f–king tweet

Pat Martin was so enraged that the Conservative government was cutting off debate over budget legislation, he whipped out his smartphone. “This is a f–king disgrace,” he tweeted. “There’s not a democracy in the world that would tolerate this jackboot s–t.” Another tweeter, moments later, labelled him a “foul-mouthed socialist.” “F–k you,” responded the NDP MP, who remains unapologetic.

Wither Detroit?

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing doesn’t mince words. In a TV address last week, the former basketball star and businessman asked unionized city workers to take a 10 per cent pay cut, to pay for their own health care, and to play along if he privatizes services. “Simply put, our city is in a financial crisis,” he said. “And city government is broken.”

The Biebs fights back

What better way to shake off nasty paternity claims than a dance with LMFAO at the American Music Awards? Mariah Yeater may have dropped the paternity case against Justin Bieber, but his legal team intends to take action against her. Last week, Bieber took a DNA test to support his case.