On July 1, Canada celebrates its 150th year of independence from the U.K. And during the mid-1960s, Canada fell into our lap, where its remained forever to our delight.
The flight was delayed hours at LAX before taking off, and near the Midwest we encountered ominous rumblings with warnings of a severe storm. Unsettling. Beyond Chicago, the storm exploded. Lightning, thunder, pounding rain. Unnerving turbulence, worse as we approached Canada.
Bump, bump, bump … passengers convinced we were headed for a crash-landing at Pearson International Airport in Toronto.
The landing was terrifying, we all applauded our brave pilots.
Everyone’s shaken while clearing customs. No taxis available in the lashing rain.
We were traveling as the roving editor for Town & Country magazine, with limited expenses.
Our mission was to produce a large section about nearby Buffalo, having received a huge ad budget. Yet to reach Buffalo, one flew to Toronto.
A kind Canadian couple was met by their driver, and asked if they could be of help, offering to take us to our destination, which was the Park Hyatt Hotel. Where we checked in, anticipating Buffalo executives to pick us up the following morning. When Toronto greeted us with sunny blue skies an immaculate community surrounded by Canada’s scenic allure.
Upon completing our week-long T&C assignment with its 40 pages of photographs and text about Buffalo, we chose to stay, on our own dime, in Toronto, which intrigued us, for the weekend.
Thus commenced our years-long love affair with Canada.
Again and again we’ve returned. Many months and years. Soon enough hosting a Four Seasons luncheon for 30 years, morphing into a pow wow scene as it were, to kick off the openings of the Toronto International Film Festival. Gratis, as it were, a love connection and our gift to a great country.
We gathered the Who and the Who to gossip about the festival’s slate of movies the studios were previewing for release later during the holiday season.
Clearly, we found ourselves smitten with the graciousness and manners of our Northern neighbors. Super bright multi-lingual folks, very likely reflecting a better educational system than ours.
A multiethnic populace. Beautiful ladies, sturdy gents. Many from the Balkans, Italy, Greece, the Middle East. Old-world and modern architecture, high-end shops, antique boutiques, and excellent restaurants. Sports reign, with hockey as king.
A cosmopolitan culture with a European appreciation and love for the arts. Beguiling.
Joining us during our Saturday festival fete were locals such as founder Dusty Cohl with wife Joan, Norman Jewison, CTV commando Ivan Fecan with producer Sandra Faire, Garth Drabinksky, Margaret (The Handmaid’s Tale) Atwood, and prime minister Brian Mulroney with gorgeous Mila and their handsome successful sons Ben and Mark with their wives Jessica and Vanessa.
Our Greek heritage deemed that the best parties always included all ages. And that husbands and wives should be separated, which, at first, created a ridiculous kerfuffle, that mercifully faded. But, hey, such is the rulebook of protocol.
Festivalgoers Kim Cattrall also joined us, as did Jim Gianopulos, Norman Mailer, Whoopi Goldberg, Naomi Campbell, Ed Limato, Bruce Weber, Frank Gehry, Conrad Black and Barbara Amiel, Kevin Costner, Geoffrey Rush, Princess Lilly Fallah Lawrence, Ambassador Ken Taylor.
We launched the trend (possibly addiction?) for chicken pot pie with our annual menu during the luncheon’s history. Magazines published our recipe, etc.
May we add that our dessert creation was a hit from the get-go. Sliced fresh farmstand peaches (in season every September), with homemade vanilla ice cream, drizzled with chocolate sauce and sprinkled with crushed amoretti from Italy.
So many friends, so many memories. Hoteliers Hans Gerhardt and Klaus Tenter, Marc Dorfman, Audrey and David Mirvish presently enjoying a Broadway musical success with Come From Away, Ann and Ed Mirvish, Barry Avrich, Lynda and Jonas Prince, Myrna and John Daniels, Hilary and Galen Weston, Bob Lantos, Jodie Foster, Sara Waxman and Al Waxman, Eartha Kitt, MP Seamus O’Regen, Helga Stephenson, Piers Handling, Michele Maheux, Andra Sheffer, Maria Topalovich, Brian Linehan, Gail and George Anthony, Julie Rekai, Hannah Fisher, Estee Lauder vice-president Phyllis Melhado of the crackling good humor who lately completed a chick-lit novel, The Spa at Lavender Lane that’s destined for bestsellerdom.
Eternal gratitude to photographer Rosemary Goldhar for documenting our luncheons and events for our many columns.
Our luncheon guests thanked Roots founders, Michael Budman and Don Green and their families, who gifted everyone with their impeccable Roots creations – leather bound dairies, tote bags, shoulder bags, passport cases, etc. Designed by Roots leathermeister Karl Kowaleski.
Generous people and a generous country … O Canada, happy birthday … O Canada, how we love you …