Caroline Phillips’ Around Town: Rocking out for their generation

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From left, Michel Gauthier, Donna Holtom and Richard Patten on Friday, May 4, 2012, at the kick-off party held in the ByWard Market for the Canadian Tulip Festival. (Photo by Caroline Phillips)

Who are you? Who, who, who, who?

The mystery performer at the 20th Anniversary Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Gala, held Saturday at the National Arts Centre, turned out to be Pete Townshend, just as the rumours predicted.

The British guitarist rocked out to Pinball Wizard and Listening To You with guitar-playing theatre guru Des McAnuff and fellow musicians, surrounded by pinball machines and psychedelic backdrop.

Up in the balcony sat such glitterati as Governor General David Johnston and his wife, Sharon; honourary chair Hilary Weston with her husband, supermarket magnate Galen Weston; and the prime minister’s wife, Laureen Harper.

The three-hour tribute show honoured the 2012 laureates, including McAnuff, winner of the NAC Award for his hugely successful year (his Stratford Festival’s Broadway transfer of Jesus Christ Superstar nabbed two Tony nominations). Townshend was there because he worked with McAnuff on The Who’s 1992 rock musical, Tommy.

Earlier, film director and award recipient Deepa Mehta walked the red carpet with Sir Salman Rushdie, who later delivered a tribute to her on stage. Mehta has collaborated with Rushdie on her film-adaptation of his novel Midnight’s Children.

“I think getting this award is one of the high points of my life,” Mehta told Around Town.

South Park co-creator Matt Stone took to the stage to recognize Rush members Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart. Stone grew up in Littleton, Col. idolizing the rock band from “this far off land called Canada”.

“I remember buying their cassettes, tearing home on my BMX, running inside and throwing them into my Walkman, and sitting down to my drum set and just destroying my mom’s afternoon,” Stone recalled. “Rush was definitely the first band I ever loved.”

Another of the eight laureates, comedian Mary Walsh, was seen on the red carpet in a pair of dark sunglasses, insisting it’s a good look for older women. “I’m not ever taking my sunglasses off,” she vowed.

However, the shades were gone by showtime and replaced with a hanky. She used it to dab away her tears, having been visibly touched by the humorous tribute delivered by her colleague Andy Jones.


A quaint courtyard in the ByWard Market set the scene Friday for zebra-costumed stiltwalkers, fire dancers and other artists performing at the kick-off party for the 60th edition of the Canadian Tulip Festival.

Festival chairman David Luxton, who rescued the springtime tourist attraction when it was about to go under a few years back, was publicly heralded during the speeches as “the Godfather” of the Tulip Festival.

Back in the VIP tent, the businessman was quick to share the credit, naming such long-time supporters as developers John and Shirley Westeinde, BeaverTails owners Grant and Pam Hooker, Donna Holtom of Holtz Spa and Santé Restaurant and retired MPP Richard Patten, who’s battling cancer (lymphoma) for his second time. The prognosis is very good, he told Around Town.

Netherlands Ambassador Wim Geerts was also there, as was the festival’s creative director, Laura Brown Breetvelt.


It was Paris in springtime at the NAC on Thursday as 175 guests helped raise funds for The Ottawa School of Art’s outreach art classes for at-risk children and youth.

The event, called J’adart, featured a Paris bohemian theme with burlesque models and live accordion music. There was the auctioning of works by sculptor Deborah Arnold, photographer Jonathan Hobin and mixed-media artist Michèle Provost, as well as a rare print by Joe Fafard, who, years ago, was a visiting artist at the OSA.

From the art school were executive director Jeff Stellick and volunteer board president Nadia Laham. Also glimpsed were BMO Nesbitt Burns investment adviser Andrew Beamish, artist Jerry Grey, Canada Council Art Bank director Victoria Henry and Jeff Mierins of Star Motors and Dow and Kanata Honda. Mierins brought the whole gang, including his three daughters and his partner, Tara-Leigh Brouillette, with their six-month-old babe, Max.


So huge was the turnout for business leader Brian McGarry’s book launch that it, alone, could have propelled From Paupers to Prime Ministers: A Life in Death onto the bestseller list. We’re exaggerating, of course, but the book-buying crowd of 600 was an impressive sight at Ottawa City Hall.

Laureen Harper, Maureen McTeer, Gerda Hnatyshyn and NDP MP Paul Dewar were among those to attend the event hosted by Mayor Jim Watson.

Proceeds from the book — in stores any day now — are being donated to the Queensway Carleton Hospital. There’s a photo book, too.

Tuesday’s launch was held exactly 50 years after McGarry began working in a menial capacity at the funeral home, Hulse & Playfair. Today, McGarry is chairman of Hulse, Playfair & McGarry.

Rabbi Reuven Bulka described the book as “a rags to riches” and “feel-good” story. “If you work hard and you’re dedicated and committed, you can go places,” the popular rabbi told the standing-room-only crowd in council chambers.

McGarry thanked many people, including co-author Paul Mahar and publisher Tim Gordon. He put a plug in for PM Stephen Harper’s hockey book, expected to drop this fall. The men previously compared notes on how many years it’s taken to write their respective books: three and a half for McGarry and seven for Harper. McGarry cut his friend some slack, seeing as how he’s been busy running the country.


Politicians from all stripes and levels attended the 11th annual Festival of Friendship dinner hosted by the Ottawa Muslim Women’s Organization at the St. Elias centre last Sunday.

Absent was MPP Yasir Naqvi, but for good reason: he and his wife, Christine McMillan, just had a baby boy, Rafi.

The dinner attracted nearly 500 guests, including Mayor Jim Watson, police chief Chuck Bordeleau and former auditor general Sheila Fraser.

CBC’s Lucy van Oldenbarneveld and Adrian Harewood MCed while Amnesty International Canada’s Alex Neve was the keynote speaker. Representing the OMWO was its president, Shano Bejkosalaj.

The OMWO formed after the tragic events of 9/11. As Dr. Ferrukh Faruqui, a director with the organization, explained: “We thought, ‘The eyes of the world are on Muslims. Let us, as Muslim women, go out and show our fellow citizens that we are just like you and we are part of this community’.”

The dinner aimed to raise $25,000 for this year’s charity, the Bruyère Foundation.

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