Remembering Roger

 

Roger Ebert taught me a lot about movies.

When we sailed together on Dusty Cohl’s bi-annual Floating Film Festival, Roger would screen some already much-appreciated film — Citizen Kane, Raging Bull, Casablanca — and dissect it frame by frame. A master class, if you will. But Roger’s frame-by frame-process was different. He called it “democracy in the dark” and he urged his audience to share our observations during his narrative, even right in the middle of a scene if that was when the urge struck us. After all, it wasn’t as if we didn’t know how it was going to end.

Sometimes it took two or three 90-minute sessions to get through a film. To be honest with you, I never intended to stay for any of them. I had already seen Citizen Kane more times than I could remember; I felt neither the desire nor the need to see it again. My plan was to be present for the first session, just to show my support, and then quietly slip away after the lights went down. I would give it, say, 20 minutes, just to make sure the screening was going all right. But then Roger would make some little comment, give some historical background to a scene we were watching, and I would somehow lose track of time. And 90 minutes later Roger would be saying that he thought this was probably a good place in the film to take a break. By which point I would decide that I would only stay for the first 10 minutes of the next session. Because, after all, how many times could you watch Citizen Kane and keep finding new things in it? But somehow Roger always did. So I always stayed.

He was a great teacher. He taught by example. He didn’t preach; he practiced.

rogerebert-736078I remember the year that Roger came to TIFF with his new laptop voice. He was seeing lots of movies, but also doing some interviews. I asked Michael Caine how it felt to be interviewed by Roger and his new voice.

“Now that you mention it,” said Caine, “I realize I barely noticed it. It just seemed like another interview with Roger.”

I reported Caine’s reaction back to Roger. “Michael said he felt completely at home with you,” I added.

Roger scrawled something on his ever-present notepad and handed it to me. Of course he felt completely at home, he wrote. When I asked him questions I used the laptop voice with the British accent!

In the last few years he was living in a special state of grace. We spent far more time worrying about him than he did. He was busy establishing a whole new curriculum, teaching us how to be human. It was an amazing course. It was a tough course. It was, as you might have predicted, the course less traveled. Had any of us expected, even for a moment, that it could be anything less?

Roger left us a year ago today.

He left us richer for his presence. He left us poorer for his absence.

So why am I laughing?

Because when I think of him, as I often do, what I remember most is how funny he was.

My most vivid memories of Roger were at the Cannes Film Festival with Dusty Cohl and Billy Baxter. Dusty was the uncrowned King of the Hotel Carlton, and the most coveted Ask at Cannes was an Invitation to join him at his table on the Carlton Terrace. Billy was the boisterous Pretender to the Throne at the Hotel Majestic, and ruled the Majestic Bar with an iron American Express credit card.

Roger had carte blanche at both tables on both terraces, but on most evenings, after we had filed our stories, Roger would hold court at Dusty’s table on the Carlton Terrace and regale us with a bottomless repertoire of jokes. He was an extraordinarily good joke-teller, as good as any seasoned standup comedian, and his rapid-fire hysterically funny homages to Henny Youngman and Lou Jacobi and other Catskill comics frequently sparked uncontrollable shrieks of laughter from our table on the Terrace.

This was the ’70s, by the way, when our days and nights in Cannes were constantly fueled by cigarettes and alcohol and a fair amount of champagne. The day before the festival began, hotels and restaurants in Cannes produced ‘special’ menus and ‘special’ drink lists, both with outrageously high prices.. (When one of his guests ordered a glass of orange juice, Dusty winced. “How about vodka and orange juice?” he countered. “Same price!”)

And in one of Roger’s great columns from Cannes, he told his Chicago readers how Edy Williams had climbed up on our table to perform an impromptu striptease for a cadre of clamoring photographers. Roger admitted that he found this quite upsetting, not because Edy was taking her clothes off, but because when she got up on our table she almost knocked over his bottle of Perrier water. “And if you knew how much a bottle of Perrier water costs at the Carlton Terrace,” he assured his readers, “you’d be pretty upset too.”

When Roger stopped drinking I suspected he’d never again be as funny as he was on those nights at the Carlton Terrace. Happily I was wrong. Maybe our nights in Cannes had been fueled by alcohol, but his richly refined sense of humour and his magical sense of timing were fueled solely by his unique talent and his irrefutable skill as a superb storyteller.

They’re all gone now. Dusty, Roger, Billy. Gone, but not forgotten.

All the links in this blog today are kinda special, but here’s the most special one. This is a link to Roger’s tribute to Billy. Read it and, well, laugh. Go ahead. Laugh out loud. We certainly did. And some of us still are.

Here’s (still) looking at you, kid.

 *****************

World Global International Home Office

Dear Lord Lew,
All arrangements are in order for
the maiden voyage of your lordship’s yacht.
I have been successful in inviting the top film
critics of England and America to join you.
They are eager to learn about
your legendary show business career.
As of today, I have confirmations from
Kathleen Carroll and Rex Reed of the New York Daily
News, Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles
Times, George Anthony of the Toronto Sun,
Alexander Walker of the London Evening
Standard, Richard and Mary Corliss of Time
magazine, Andrew Sarris of the Village Voice,
Molly Haskell of Vogue, and Roger Ebert of the
Chicago Sun-Times. I have told them to keep
tomorrow morning free for embarkation.
Please have your office send cars
to the front entrance of the Majestic at about 10.”

Billy Baxter

-/-

 

Today’s Top Tips: Bernie & Ruby, a slapshtick night at the Opera, and where to take Mom on Sunday

I’LL TAKE ROMANCE: Just added two movies to my Must See list that I didn’t know even existed until quite recently. The first one is Bernie, a black comedy based on a true story about the ill-fated romance of a young mortician

MACLAINE & BLACK: Must See new movie

and a not-so-youthful Texas widow. Jack Black is the mortician. Shirley MacLaine is the widow. I think you’ll understand why I’m dying (you should pardon the expression) to see it after you click on this sneak preview. The second movie on my new Must list is Ruby Sparks. It’s about a young novelist (Paul Dano) struggling with both his writing and his romantic life. Then he creates a character named Ruby who inspires him. And then he finds Ruby (Zoe Kazan), in the flesh, somehow manifested by his writing, sitting on his couch. Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening and Elliot Gould are along for

DANO: Sparks f;ly

the ride, which to me strongly resembles a romantic rollercoaster. Click here for the sneak preview of that one.

SHOWSTOPPER: It’s just one of those songs/that you hear now and then/you don’t know just where/you don’t know just when …  but you sure know it when you hear it. There is a soft stirring in the audience at the Four Seasons Centre this month as soon as the first strains of Puccini’s haunting melody O mio babbino caro come soaring up from the orchestra pit during every performance of Gianni Schicchi. The surprise for some of us less well-versed in operatic endeavours is that this beautiful ballad comes right in the middle of a slapstick farce about a greedy family trying to cheat monks out of an inheritance.

THE GAMG’S ALL HERE: A family schemes as Puccini serenades

Aided and abetted by a brilliant ensemble, soprano-turned-director Catherine Malfitano displays a fearless flare for broad comedy that suggests she’s a serious fan of such screwball classics as Weekend At Bernie’s and Fire Sale, and Wilson Chin’s stylishly topsy-turvy set consistently keeps us in on the

MAYNARD: first visit here

joke. The lush musical score, sensitively and splendidly conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, makes the contrast even more appealing, and Simone Osborne’s rich vocalizing on O mio babbino caro earns every minute of the tumultuous applause she receives. Check it out at www.coc.ca.

Still not quite sure which aria it is? To watch Montserrat Caballe’s version, click here; to watch Maria Callas’ sing it to Japanese fans in Tokyo, click here. And, enjoy!

OUR TOWN: Lots of sparklies on the radar this week. New Brit pop music sensation Conor Maynard, who’s 19 if he’s a day, was on hand to co-host New.Music.Live on MuchMusic last night. This morning he’ll make live

JOHNSON: on stage this week

appearances on the KISS 92.5 Morning show at 8 a.m. and CP24 Breakfast at 8:45 a.m. So will he sing Can’t Say No? Whaddya think? …  enduring pop music siren Tabby Johnson entertains Thursday night at Maggie Cassella’s Flying Beaver Pubaret … Jayzm Bee hosts Word Jazz – “ten poets doing ten minutes each in a truly unique evening of spoken word” — with Don Francks, Robert Preist, Dale Percy, Myna Wallin, Phatt Al, Mike Schram, Chris Hercules, Amanda Hiebert, Howard “Dr. Possibility” Jerome, Mike Hanson and Bruce Hunter, Thursday night at the Now Lounge on Church Street …. also this Thursday: Betty Buckley kicks off the 15th and final We’re

COHEN: he’s Our Man

Funny That Way festival with a concert at Buddies In Bad Times that’s sure to be spellbinding …  don’t say I didn’t warn ya: This Friday’s night concert by the legendary Lighthouse rock orchestra at the Molson Canadian Studio in Hamilton is expected to go SRO … so is female illusionist Christopher Peterson’s Saturday night WFTW festival show at Buddies … also on Saturday: The Three Lennys, a special Toronto Jewish Film Festival screening of three Leonard Cohen films at the Bloor Cinema in honour of the recently-announced ninth recipient of the Glenn Gould Prize. And before Cohen receives his newest accolade next Monday at a gala evening at Massey Hall, local musicians will take to the streets to play his music all over downtown Toronto. So keep your eyes and ears open!

RICHARDSON: Sunday salon stint

SUNDAY’S SPECIAL: Looking for significant stuff to do on Mother’s Day? Look no further.  Take her to The Flying Beaver Pubaret on Parliament for a 1 pm jazz brunch with Shannon Gunn on Vocals, Reg Schrager on guitar and Rosemary Galloway on bass, or a 7 pm Mother’s Day concert by singer-songwriter Duff MacDonaldJackie Richardson joins Paul Hoffert at his weekly jazz salon at Musideum on Richmond on Sunday at 3 pm … Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie have added an extra show to their world premiere of From the House of Mirth,

THOMPSON: Glory-watcher

directed and choreographed by James Kudelka, at the Citadel — which means you now have a choice of two Sunday performances (3 pm & 8 pm) …  Judith Thompson previews her new one-woman show, Watching Glory Die, in a staged reading this Sunday at 2 pm at the Factory Theatre … just looking for something special to slip in the envelope with that Hallmark card? The National Ballet of Canada is offering a special Mother’s Day deal on its upcoming premiere of Hamlet. Buy tickets to see the high-flying Prince of Denmark on Friday June 8 and get 30% off the price of tickets, in all sections. To take full advantage of this special I Love Mom promotion, click here!

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Wassup with those fabulous femmes on Smash? Hey now, don’t get me started! (Oops!Too late)

BROADWAY BABIES: Currently wowing them on the Great White Way in Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, veteran song-and-dance man Eric McCormack says he’d love to do another musical on Broadway, and would have

MCCORMACK: he’s the Best

played Che in the current revival of Evita if they’d asked him.  Unfortunately Ricky Martin got there ahead of him. Meanwhile, McCormack is onstage doing drama, while his Will & Grace partner Debra Messing is starring in a lavish new weekly series about building a Broadway musical. Can McCormack see himself doing a guest stint on Messing’s new series Smash? “Sure! I could go on the show in character, as Will Truman, lawyer. She could meet with me to discuss getting a divorce from her husband, Brian D’Arcy James. And then just as she’s leaving my office she could get this puzzled look on her face, as if she knows she knows me from somewhere but can’t remember where.” What happens then? “She leaves, and I get to do a big song about divorce!”

MCCORMACK & MESSING: dynamic duo

Messing, in the meantime, has been going through her own life-imitating-art-imitating-life drama. On Smash she cheats on her schoolteacher husband (the aforementioned Brian D’Arcy James) by having an affair with a Broadway leading man played by Rent star Will Chase. In real life she’s split with her hubby, screenwriter Daniel Zelman, and is spending most of her time with, ta-DAH! — Will Chase, who has also split from his wife.

HILTY: as MM in Smash

Meanwhile, Smash scene-stealer Megan Hilty, the buxom Broadway belter who desperately wants to play Marilyn Monroe in the fictional musical in the series, is actually playing the Marilyn Monroe role in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes this week on Broadway (the real Broadway.) And yes, I know, Carol Channing was the first and remains the most famous Lorelei Lee. But just to cap it all, on tonight’s episode of Smash Anjelica Huston makes her much-anticipated debut as a singer – and not with just any old song. Ms Huston sings a classic ballad from a classic, 74-year-old Broadway musical, Knickerbocker Holiday.

HUSTON: … from May to December

The timeless tune she warbles is September Song, introduced to audiences in 1938 by her grandfather Walter Huston. Now that’s show business!

QUOTABLE QUOTES:Mike Nichols was the director and I had a great audition. Tommy Tune personally taught me to tap, and everyone was really happy, except Lee Gershwin, Ira Gershwin’s widow, who said, ‘Over my dead body will that whore be in the show.’ That was when it changed for me and I thought, ‘Oh, this is not going to be easy, it’s not just about talent.’ She had no idea of who I was, what I had accomplished up to that point, and all the shows I’d done. That was an ‘aha!’ moment for me.”

WILLIAMS: tale teller

The speaker? Vanessa Williams in conversation with Broadway.com, describing her failed audition for My One And Only, one of several juicy morsels in her new autobiography, YOU HAVE NO IDEA: A Famous Daughter, Her No-Nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other), co-authored with her mom Helen Williams.

PAIGE: on with the show

SHE’S STILL HERE: After she finished her stint in the revival of Follies on Broadway – not to mention her first New York concerts ever, at Lincoln Center no less — British SuperDiva Elaine Paige treated herself to a “heavenly” holiday in Barbados. “I just lazed around, swam, read my book and caught my breath,” she reports. “Barbados was such fun and I managed to catch up with a couple of pals, Cliff Richard and Cilla Black. Both of them have places there and we went for a drink.  The next day Cilla flew home to the UK and upon arrival realized she’d left her mobile phone in Barbados – guess who became the ‘phone courier’? I safely brought it home to the UK and ensured it was returned to her.” La Paige is currently in L.A. doing Follies at the Ahmanson with Broadway cast mates Jan Maxwell, Danny Burstein and Ron Raines. (Tony Award winner Victoria Clark has replaced Bernadette Peters.) Meanwhile, Follies leads Maxwell and Burstein are both nominated for Tony Awards. And guess who’s nominated for a New York Drama Desk award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical? Ms. Elaine Paige. Which certainly won’t hurt Hollywood box office sales for Follies.

Redford channels Nia, Kudelka builds a House of Mirth in Peterborough, and TIFF chats up Ms Turner

OUR TOWN: Talk about your embarrassment of riches. Monday May 7 must hold some special showbiz magic, because that’s night that enduring stage and screen siren Kathleen Turner will be on deck for an In Conversation

TURNER: at TIFF Bell Lightbox

session at Tiff Bell Lightbox. Also set to light up the Lightbox that night is another talk-and-tell event from the Canadian Film Centre’s Test Pattern series, with Mad Men executive producers Andre & Maria Jacquemetton. And just down the street, at Oliver & Bonacini’s re-dazzled Arcadian Loft, a few dozen of our brightest sparklies will engage in fund-raising wordplay at the 8th annual Scrabble With The Stars, co-hosted by perennial favourites Jeanne Beker and Barry FlatmanAdrienne Clarkson will salute Leonard Cohen the following Monday, May 14, at

CLARKSON; kind words for a poet

Massey Hall, when he’s feted for winning the ninth Glenn Gould Prize, Musicians set to serenade include his son Adam Cohen, the Cowboy Junkies and Gordon Pinsent with his new sidekicks Greg Keelor and Travis Good … and James Kudelka is premiering his new work, House Of Mirth, in Peterborough next week before opening here at The Citadel on May 9.  Produced by Coleman Lemieux & Co., it’s based on the Edith Wharton novel of the same name. Set in the 1890s, it features four female dancers (including the iridescent Laurence Lemieux,) four male opera singers and five-piece chamber orchestra, in a setting designed to evoke a 19th-century society salon. After its run of performances here in Toronto, Kudelka may take House Of Mirth to The Mount, Wharton’s estate in Massachusetts, and possibly on to New York,

LEMIEUX: a House Of Mirth in Peterborough

REDFORD: movie lover

NO PEOPLE LIKE SHOW PEOPLE: Remember I Hate Valentine’s Day, the romantic comedy written by and starring My Big Fat Greek Wedding screen-stealer Nia Vardalos? Me neither. But fans of the Sundance Channel are about to discover it for the first time, because Robert Redford has chosen Nia’s neglected rom-com for his new series, Robert Redford Presents. Set to debut tomorrow night, Redford will kick off his series with the 1996 version of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible with Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder. Already the Creative director of the Sundance Channel, Redford will now curate rates and critique independent movies weekly. Also on his personal Must list: Tony Scott’s Domino with

COLLINS: on stage tonight

Kiera Knightley and Mickey Rourke, and David Lynch’s Blue Velvet with Dennis Hopper and Isabella Rossellini (as if you didn’t know) … TV drama exec Robin Neinstein, who put his career as a director (Souvenir Of Canada) on hold six years ago when he became a CBC production exec, is exiting the Mother Corp to join the Original Programming production team at Shaw …  Marvin Dolgay, Eva Everything, Michael Hirsh, David Hoffert, Paul Hoffert, Marilyn Lightstone, Maria Topalovich and Elaine Waisglass were among the showbiz boldface who turned out for shutterbug Brenda Hoffert‘s new-and-improved Shoes exhibition at the Cecile & Harry Pearl Gallery last night …  and get ready to laugh when funny girl Carla Collins takes the stage tonight and tomorrow night at Maggie Cassella’s Flying Beaver Pubaret on Parliament.

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Attention, Swiss music lovers — Dr House is in the house, and he’s gonna tickle the ivories in Montreux

MUSIC IN THE AIR: For a grande dame of 46, the Montreux Jazz Festival is looking pretty hot this year. In addition to the previously  announced Noel Gallagher, headliners now confirmed for the two-week summer music

LAURIE: piano man

extravaganza in what may be Switzerland’s most beautiful city  include Jethro Tull’s  Ian Anderson, Erykah Badu, Tony Bennett with daughter Antonia, Jane Birkin, SNL semi-sensation Lana Del Rey, Bob Dylan,  Juliette Greco, Buddy Guy, Herbie Hancock, piano man Hugh Laurie (does he play House music?), Bobby McFerrin & Chick Corea, Pat Matheny, Sergio Mendes, Alanis Morissette, Sinead O’Connor [maybe,] Van Morrison and Rufus Wainwright, Yeah, that ought hold ‘em for a couple of weeks …  musical performance artist Peaches, buoyed by the

MORISSETTE: jazz baby

2010 success of her one-woman version of Jesus Christ Superstar (yes, she performed all the characters herself) has a new eyebrow-raiser in the works. Om May 1 in Berlin, in a new showcase funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, she’ll play the lead male role of Orpheus in L’Orfeo, a full-blown opera composed by Monteverdi at the beginning of the 17th century. The opera tells the story of the singer Orpheus who triumphed over the underworld and enchanted people, gods and wild animals with his warbling. Sounds like a good fit so far …  Tony Award owner Betty Buckley has

BUCKLEY: funny that way

a new touring show, Ah, Men! The Boys Of Broadway, in which she gets to sing the great men’s songs from Sweeney Todd, West Side Story, Guys and Dolls, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, Pippin, Mame, and La Cage aux Folles. Accompanied by her pianist Christian Jacob, she opened the show this month in her town – Fort Worth, Texas – and is already set to dazzle ‘em at The Rrazz Room in San Francisco October 30-November 4.  But first she’ll dazzle us with a concert evening May 10, a glamorous kick-off to the 15th and final We’re Funny That Way comedy festival. Seeing and hearing Buckley in concert is a rare and exceptional delight. For ticket information, click here.

HATHAWAY & JACKMAN: Can they hear the people sing?

FLICKERS: Director Francis Lawrence (Water For Elephants, I Am Legend,) is set to direct the next installment in the Hunger Games franchise with Jennifer Lawrence (no relation) … Taylor Swift, who surprise everyone with her solid acting chops in Garry Marshall’s hit romantic comedy Valentine’s Day, will play Joni Mitchell in the screen version of

CROWE: on camera in Les Miz

Sheila Weller’s book Girls Like Us. Looks like Alison Pill, so good as Zelda Fitzgerald in Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris, will play Carole King.  No word yet as to who will play Carly Simon …  the two writers who created the screenplay for Gus Van Sant’s new feature Promised Land are none other than Matt Damon and John Krasinski … and shooting of Les Miz continues with Republic Of Doyle alumnus Russell Crowe playing Inspector Javert, the nemesis of Hugh Jackman’s Jean Valjean. Anne Hathaway gets to dream a dream as Fantine, Amanda Seyfried plays her daughter Cosette, Samantha Banks stays on her own as Eponine and Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen play the mercenary Mme and M’sieu Thenardier. Sounds pretty fabulous so far. All fingers crossed!

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Marty plays the Jester, Bernie tells tales, Howie gets a new Deal & the Glee gang gets ready to graduate

HOW WILL I KNOW: Glee stars salute Whitney Houston tonight.

CALLING ALL GLEEKS: You thought Glee was a hot TV show? Hey, it’s all that and so much more. The Glee gang has sold more than 43 million songs and over 12 million albums worldwide. So far the show has scored three consecutive #1 releases with Glee: The Music, The Power of Madonna, Glee: The Music, Volume 3 Showstoppers, and Glee: The Music, Journey To Regionals. Meanwhile, Glee: The Music, Volume 1 and Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album have each sold more than 1 million units – and of course there’s more to come. Glee: The Music, The Graduation Album will become available May 15 and includes Glee versions of hot tunes by Queen and Lady Gaga. Also featured on the May 22 finale are songs by Bruce Springsteen, Beyoncé, Madonna and Green Day. And wait ‘til you hear what they do with Whitney Houston’s music on tonight’s episode. This crew is clearly on top of their game, and in case you have any doubts, check out tonight’s opening number – and enjoy!

SURELY YOU JEST: Currently on view every weekend with fellow judges Measha Brueggergosman and Stephan Moccio on Canada’s Got Talent, fabled funnyman Martin Short has the juiciest role in the new animated

SHORT: off to see the Wizard?

feature Dorothy Of Oz, playing the evil Jester who has taken over the kingdom. Glee showstopper Lea Michele voices the role of Dorothy, aided and abetted by Tin Man Kelsey Grammer, Cowardly Lion Jim Belushi and Scarecrow Dan Aykroyd. Adding even more lustre to an already lustrous talent pool are Smash showstopper Megan Hilty as a China Princess, Oliver Platt as Wiser The Owl and Broadway showstopper Bernadette Peters as Glinda the Good Witch. Sounds like a hot Original Cast album to me … and speaking of star power, there’s less than one week left to help select the 2012 Inductees to Canada’s Walk of Fame and the 2012 Cineplex Legends Award recipient.  Submit your nomination and you could win a trip for two to attend the 2012 Canada’s Walk of Fame Awards Show and red carpet to celebrate with the stars – and

HILTY: a SMASH-ing performer

you can submit your nomination and contest entry once per day.  Click here to submit your nomination – and do it now!

NO PEOPLE LIKE SHOW PEOPLE:  Toronto International Film Festival co-founder Henk Van Der Kolk has a new gig in Central America – he’s the Director of the new week-long IFF Panama — Panama’s first international filmfest —  which opens this Thursday and promises to screen more than 50 ground-breaking films in Spanish and English before closing night on

COCKBURN: True Northerner

May 2 … it’s official, and it’s in stores now: Bernie Finkelstein tells all – well, almost all – in his new McClelland & Stewart memoirs, True North: A Life In The Music Business, from breaking into the Greenwich Village scene with The Paupers at the age of 20, discovering Bruce Cockburn, producing what might have been the “loudest band in the world,” Kensington Market, managing and producing Murray McLauchlan, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, and Rough Trade, winning 40 Junos, and much more. Sounds like a fun  read … Howie Mandel, who successfully reinvented himself as a game show host with Deal Or No Deal, is now set to

MANDEL: Elephsnt in the room

host a new NBC game show, White Elephant, a spin-off concept on those mystery ‘doors’ from Monty Hall‘s classic Let’s Make A Deal. NBC will test the new series with seven episodes … and Pat Ferns continues to be one of the busiest men in showbiz. As he has done since the inception of the 14th DocAviv event for Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers, he’ll return to Tel Aviv next month to moderate the pitching sessions and to interview key guests at this annual industry gathering of Documentary filmmakers. He’s also has been retained as the lead consultant for the third CNEX Chinese Documentary Forum in Taiwan in September and for the 7th China International Conference of Science and Education Producers in Yuyao, China in October, before returning to Guangzhou for the 10th anniversary of the Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival in China in December. Now that’s what I call Air Miles!

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Meryl tackles Juliet, Betty returns to T.O., Maggie rallies her troupes, and Brenda shines up her Shoes

NO PEOPLE LIKE SHOW PEOPLE: Okay, so they’re not teenagers – they were all grown up way back when, when they co-starred in Sophie’s Choice – but Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline will play Shakespeare’s

STREEP: reading in New York

famous star-crossed lovers in a one-night-only reading of Romeo and Juliet, as part of a gala celebrating the 50th anniversary of Shakespeare in the Park. Public Theater vet Daniel Sullivan will direct the reading, to be held on June 18 at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park … Patrick Habron’s new exhibition of Rock ‘n’ Roll Icons opens May 10 at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center … Phylicia Rashad, currently in Atlanta filming the TV adaptation of Steel Magnolias for director Kenny Leon, will return to that Georgia city this summer to star in Leon’s stage adaptation of Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner … American TV icon Larry

HAGMAN: guesting in Lucerne

Hagman (Dallas, I Dream Of Jeannie) and Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson are among the sparklies set to light up the 51st Rose d’Or Festival in Lucerne next month … fillmmaker Roger Larry is just wrapping a feature doc on Canadian cannibis advocate Marc Emery (aka The Prince of Pot) entitled Citizen Mark. “I describe it as Citizen Kane meets Spinal Tap,” says Larry. Will we see it at TIFF in September? Just askin’ … former BBC CEO Paul Lee, who founded BBC America before becoming President of ABC, is set to deliver the CBC/Radio-Canada opening keynote speech at this year’s Banff World Media Festival on June 10 … and Brenda Hoffert launches

BUCKLEY: singing in T.O.

her new-and-improved exhibition, Shoes, on Thursday April 26 at the Cecile & Harry Pearl Gallery. She’s added eight new photos to this exhibit which first premiered at CONTACT 2010.

SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY: On a bit of a bittersweet note, the celebrated Toronto comedy festival We’re Funny That Way is about to celebrate its 15th and final year.  According to the WFTW website, festival producer Maggie Cassella has decided to call it quits – but she’s closing the festival with a major slam-dunk. First up is a May 10 concert by the vocally astonishing Betty Buckley, a benefit

CRAWFORD: back to Buddies

for the We’re Funny That Way Foundation, which directs funds to queer charities across Canada. Then WFTW crowd-pleasers Lea DeLaria, Gavin Crawford and Christopher Peterson strut their stuff on May 11 & May 12 to close the festival with appropriate star power. Showbiz dynamo Cassella is also working with filmmaker David Adkin on a sequel to his 1998 doc on her festival – DeLaria and Peterson were featured in that one too – to revisit the questions they first asked 15 years ago. “We’re hoping to track the evolution of queer comedy over the last 15 years and ask a lot of questions about where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going.” Cassella is also one of the busy beavers behind the high-flying Flying Beaver

CASSELLA: Maggie for Mayor?

Pubaret on Parliament near Carlton – Carla Collins is set to headline there this weekend — and brings her brainy energy and unique street savvy to everything she does. Not that I want to punish her, but isn’t it time we forced her into public office, so she could look out for all of us? (I’m just sayin’ …) Meanwhile, I suspect we’re talking about three about-to-be historic nights to remember. For tickets to what is sure to be an amazing evening with the spellbinding Betty Buckley, click here; for tickets to see We’re Funny That Way dazzlers Crawford, DeLaria and Peterson, click here.

Adds the indomitable Ms Cassella: “Please come and help us pack Buddies and Bad Times Theatre one last time.” And who can say no to Maggie?

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