THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED TO ADD A LINK AND MORE:
Alright, here's the scoop from the Maclean's 100th anniversary gala, from which I have just returned.
500 people, seated around beautifully set tables on the stage of the Toronto Performing Arts Centre, a $35 cab ride (plus tip) from my house. No hors d'oeuvres. No buns and butter. Lots of booze. Gorgeous centrepieces. I think they were hibiscus flowers.
Looming over the seats, a massive display of Maclean's covers though the decades, each one illuminated depending on the era being highlighted. That's where the show, emceed by Arthur Kent, took place. In other words, the guests were on the main stage while the performers were in the bleachers.
Among the presenters, Maclean's columnists Paul Wells and Barbara Amiel, federal Human Resouces Minister Belinda Stronach, Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall, Ontario's former lieutenant-governor Hilary Weston, and Maclean's publisher/editor Kenneth Whyte.
Spotted among the guests: Conrad Black, Ted Rogers, Bob and Arlene Perly Rae, David and Shelley Peterson, David Frum and Danielle Crittenden, Peter Worthington, Jack Rabinovitch, Knowlton Nash and Lorraine Thompson, Michael Goldbloom, John Honderich, Peter Herrndorf and Eva Czigler, Ivan Fecan and Sandra Faire and about 200 journalists who have worked for or still work for Maclean's.
Interestingly, there was almost no TV boldface and, from what I could see, nobody from CBC, Global or CHUM.
Most of the women wore long gowns. Most of them were black.
My table included National Post editor Doug Kelly (we called a truce), investigative journalist Stevie Cameron, Dr. Henry Morgenthaler and Terry Mosher (Aislin) with whom I had many laughs.
In an homage to himself, entertainment entrepreneur Garth Drabinsky, who conceived and produced the evening, had a couple of dozen chandeliers drop from the ceiling to illuminate the table. (Phantom of the Opera, geddit?)
Then we had salad.
The show, which inlcuded performances by a capella group Cadence, Brent Carver, Colm Wilkinson, Natalie and Buddy MacMaster, the Nathaniel Dett Chorale and Patricia O'Callaghan, took us through the years with music and spoken word.
Trouble was -- and I was not the only one to observe this --there was very little Canadian content and even less journalistic content. For example, I did not pick up a single reference to the 1980 Quebec referendum. Aside from a brief spotlight on Peter C. Newman -- who, word had it, insisted that Maclean's fly him and his wife in from London to attend -- there were no references to other past Maclean's greats such as the late Peter Gzowski. As for the music, it was almost all American, save for Oh Canada at the beginning, a rendition of Gilles Vigneault's Mon Pays and a cover of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah.
The chicken and mashed potatoes were pretty good, and the pumpkin crème brûlée was for dying. There were nice little individual boxes of chocolates on the tables as well. Drinks were served after the show ended at 11 but I needed to follow the breadcrumb trail home before it disappeared.
Ironies: Amiel and Frum's presentations. Both neo-cons, they got to read the bits about the counterculture '60s and the the rebellious '70s. It was rather amusing listening to Amiel talk about Pierre Trudeau.
Sidedish: National Post gossip columnist Shinan Govani told me that Shelley Peterson praised his TV show on CBC. Which would be great if Govani actually had a TV show. But he doesn't. Which means she must have been thinking of someone else.
Er, that's it. Nobody got blotto. Nobody got into a fight. Nobody did anything to embarrass themselves. But like I said, I left early.
MORNING AFTER UPPITY DATE: My colleague Martin Knelman has a bang-on piece about the event, and he saw it much the same way as I did, except he probably had less wine.
Among other things, the evening marked yet another comeback for Drabinsky after the fall of his Livent empire seven years ago; he's had more of them than anyone in showbiz history with the possible exception of Judy Garland. This was the same stage where he produced many Broadway musicals in the mid-1990s; last night was his first return gig here since 1998.
Unfortunately, in terms of content, he seemed to have lost track of where he was and what the occasion was. Decade after decade rolled by with sound clips and extended references to Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Alfred Kinsey, Martin Luther King, Ed Sullivan and the Beatles.
There was no mention of Laurier or the Dionne quintuplets, let alone cultural pioneers like Jack McClelland. It all added up to a glossily packaged social and cultural history, but one in which Canada hardly had a right to exist.
The story of World War II was told without reference to Mackenzie King. The arrival of talking pictures in Hollywood was covered, but not the birth of the CBC or National Film Board.
Canadian literature? You'd assume from this show there was none worth mentioning. Mordecai Richler, Alice Munro, Robertson Davies and Margaret Atwood did not make the cut.
It was all very entertaining. But, as Martin points out, it could have been a Vegas show -- a very high-minded one -- but certainly not a celebration of Canadian history and a great Canadian institution.