Tag Archives: TONY BENNETT

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!

*     *     *

Advertisements

No Last Names needed: Sweet black & white glimpses of times spent with three glorious gals — and the guy who made sure I got to know them

Woke up today thinking about three glorious songbirds — Ella, Lena, Peggy.

Remarkable, I think, that you already know who I’m talking about. I don’t have to mention their last names. And Gino was devoted to all three of them.

LENA: MGM publicity shot circa 1948

Okay, his last name I will mention. Gino Empry was a great publicist in the true, old-fashioned sense of that job description. At one point he was King of the Hill in Toronto because he had three of the biggest clients in the country: Ed Mirvish’s lovingly-restored Royal Alexandra Theatre; the fabled Royal York   supper club, the Imperial Room; and the star-laden Grandstand shows at the CNE.

At one time or another Gino also represented Ella, Lena and Peggy. As a newspaper columnist I enjoyed the privilege of sometimes interviewing and sometimes just hanging out with all three powerhouse ladies. And I enjoyed that privilege immensely. But the reason I got to enjoy it in the first place was because all three of them knew I had earned Gino’s stamp of approval.

LENA & TONY: all sold out

I met Lena when she and Tony Bennett were sharing the stage of the 3,250-seat O’Keefe Centre, in a weeklong series of concerts that were completely sold out by opening night. I already knew Tony — by that time I think Gino was also his manager — but I was a great fan of Lena’s, and already owned at least a dozen of her albums — okay, maybe two dozen — so I was a bit shy about meeting her. But then I think most men were. Lena was a revelation. She was one of a rare breed, one of those breathtakingly beautiful women who have no idea how truly stunning they are.

GINO & LENA

Backstage in her dressing room she asked me where I’d heard one particular song I’d mentioned (I think the song was Polka Dots And Moonbeams.) “It’s on your Songs by Burke And Van Heusen album,” I said. Her eyes lit up and we were soon gossiping like old friends. We had lots of time, too, because she did the first act in a dazzling evening gown, then changed into a comfy bathrobe while Tony did the second act, and then changed into a second glamorous gown to join Tony onstage for their duet finale. (Is it any wonder the whole week was sold out?)

Lena had an amazing history. She had gone from The Cotton Club in Harlem to MGM, where she appeared in all-star musicals like Words And Music, giving show-stopping performances of such American pop classics as The Lady Is

LENA: no songs for the south

A Tramp and Where Or When, sharing the screen with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney and  June Allyson some of the studio’s most celebrated players. Ironically she never got to perform with any of them. The studio shot her as a solo performer because her numbers were inevitably cut for audiences in the south. Her fans expected that MGM would cast her as Julie in the screen version of Show Boat; she’d already performed one of the songs in another all-star musical, Till The Clouds Roll By.  But it was only the ‘50s, and America was not nearly as enlightened as we like to think it was. Only a few years earlier, Judy and Mickey and Betty Grable and Dan Dailey had all donned blackface in some of their biggest production numbers. At MGM, after Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel were cast as Magnolia and Gaylord Ravenal, studio screen siren Ava Gardner said she thought her friend Lena Horne was perfect for the role of Julie. But the studio was afraid that casting Lena would kill box office receipts in the south, so it was Ava who ended up playing Julie.

LENNIE & LENA: MGM marriage

Although the Harold Arlen tune became her signature song, Lena’s private life had more than its share of storms. Her first marriage at 19 had left her with two children. When she married again she married a white man, in Paris, in secret – and not just any white man. MGM had several brilliant musical arrangers on staff, including André Previn, who was also a gifted young pianist, and Lennie Hayton, who was as comfortable conducting a symphony orchestra as he was a jazz quintet. It was Lennie who Lena married, and it was Lennie who came up with the innovative musical twists that would keep her at the top of her game. When Rosalind Russell opened on Broadway in Wonderful Town, a young soprano named Edith Adams (yes, the future Edie) got to sing Leonard Bernstein’s lilting ballad, It’s Love — but it was Lennie who slowed it down to a finger-snapping beat for Lena. When Can-Can opened on Broadway, Cole Porter unveiled not one but two strong ballads: I Love Paris and It’s All Right With Me. Lennie took the second ballad and electrified it for Lena. He created her classic Rodgers & Hammerstein rhythm medley, forever changing our concept of that surrey with the fringe on top. And when John Denver wrote his lyrical, folk-y monster hit Sunshine On My Shoulders, it was Lennie who translated it into a jazz waltz. Years after he died, Lena was still adamant about giving Lennie the credit he deserved.

Peggy, like Lena, was a true original, a musician’s musician with the face of an angel and a voice to match.  I loved my visits to her exquisite home in Bel Air. One night I noticed that the peach-coloured guest towels in her powder room were all meticulously rolled, one on top of another, into a perfect pyramid. When I commented on the presentation of her guest towels, she beamed, both pleased and impressed that I had noticed, and I wondered aloud where her housekeeper had learned such artistic dexterity.

PEGGY: towel-folding in Bel-Air

“Would you like her to show you?” she replied, her eyes twinkling mischievously.  She led me back to the powder room and demonstrated how Miss Lee, not Miss Lee’s housekeeper, had personally acquired the art of towel-rolling during her visits to Japan.

Peggy was about to do a Broadway show, Peg, a musical autobiography of her life. An accomplished composer, she was still writing the score for the show, and I think it was that same night she asked me if I would like to hear a few of the songs she had written so far.

“I’d love to!” I said. “I didn’t know you had already recorded them,” I added, secretly hoping she might give me a copy.

GINO & PEGGY

“Oh, I haven’t,” she said with a shrug. “Not yet.”

Blissfully oblivious to the puzzled look on my face, she turned on a nearby tape recorder. As the sweet sound of piano and strings filled the room, she picked up a portable microphone, and sang three or four songs she had written for the show to an enthralled audience of one:  Me. Lucky, lucky me.

Gino admired Lena, and he loved Peggy, but he adored Ella. And Ella loved the way Gino treated her, the way he consulted her, the way he looked out for her. To Ella, Gino was Toronto. She understood that he was hired by the Royal York to make sure her Imperial Room gigs were well documented in the media, but they became fast friends, and in time she came to regard him as both her personal publicist and, at times, her personal property.

ELLA: the one, the only

One of my favourite Gino Empry stories occurred long after he and Ella had become bosom buddies. Ella’s agent accepted a lucrative booking at a major Toronto concert hall, so Ella flew in from Beverly Hills, where she lived, and after arriving at Pearson she was greeted by the concert hall publicist, who presented her with a beautiful bouquet of roses.

“Thank you!” she said, accepting the flowers with a shy smile. She looked around. “Where’s Gino?”

The concert hall publicist explained that Gino Empry did not represent the concert hall, and thus was not involved in this particular engagement.

“I see,” said Ella, who had stopped smiling. She glanced at her dainty diamond wristwatch. “So when is he coming?”

Gino was in his office, meeting with a prospective client, when he got a call from the concert hall publicist. “I’m at the airport with Miss Fitzgerald,” he said, panic rising in his voice. “She refuses to budge until you get here.”

GINO & ELLA

Gino had a heavy foot on a gas pedal at the best of times, so it didn’t take him very long to get to the airport. He raced towards the Arrivals, turned a corner, and there sat Ella, impatiently tapping one foot.

“Gino, do you know how long I’ve been waiting here?” she said, fuming.

“I’m so sorry, Ella,” he began. “I just – “

“This is very unprofessional!” snapped Ella, interrupting him.

“It was my sister,” he lied. “I had to rush home, because of my sister.”

“What’s wrong with her?”

“She fainted,” he said, further embellishing the lie. “But she’s all right now.”

GINO EMPRY: the one, the only

Ella slowly nodded her head. “Well, I’m glad she’s all right.” She adjusted her glasses. “You should have phoned, to say you were going to be late,” she added, scolding him gently.

“I’m so sorry, Ella,” said Gino sheepishly.

She patted him on the shoulder. “Never mind,” she said. “You’re a good brother.”

He stayed by her side the rest of the day and night, and waved her goodbye as she boarded her Air Canada flight back to Los Angeles. And then he went back to his office to work.

Ella, Peggy, Lena. Sweet memories of another time, another place.

Thank you, Gino.

See? I haven’t forgotten.

*     *     *

More news, more gossip, more stars, and more award show dates than you ever wanted to know

OUR TOWN: Music master Paul Hoffert and sidekick Bruce Cassidy host a jazz salon this Sunday afternoon at Musideum on Richmond Street west …

LIGHTSTONE: new showecase

30 Rock scene-stealer Tracy Morgan brings his special brand of funny to the Sony Centre tonight … Marilyn Lightstone premieres her latest art showcase, New Directions, on April 12 at Latitude 44 … more than 60 chefs will gather at the Royal Ontario Museum on June 3 to showcase their finest creations in support of Second Harvest. Tickets are $250 with a tax receipt issued for $125. You may think that sounds a bit pricey, but be warned: Tickets to last year’s Toronto Taste sold out in record time. To purchase yours, click here …  and Natalie Cole is set for this year’s TD Toronto Jazz Festival with a June 25 concert at the Sony Centre.

PENMANSHIP: Additional marquee bait set for the third annual Toronto Screenwriters Conference at the Ted Rogers School Of Management next weekend (March 31-April 1) include ex-Toronto types Graham Yost (Speed,

CLOONEY: Sunshine boy

Justified) and Robin Gurney (Arrested Development, Parenthood) and Skype participants Abi Morgan (Shame, The Iron Lady) and Michael Hirst (The Tudors.) Closing speaker at this year’s creative clambake will be Lee Aronsohn (Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory.) Sounds like a pretty lively weekend … say what you will about the politics of the Toronto Sun, the headline writers at the Little Paper That Grew are still the best (and consistently most irreverent) in the country. The Sun’s front page pic of George Clooney in handcuffs last Saturday was captioned You Have The Right To Remain Handsome. Now that’s funny … by the way, Sun co-founder and columnist Peter Worthington, still typing up a storm, is now 85 (!!!) And Worthington’s latest boss, Quebecor emperor Pierre Karl Péladeau, recently announced new annual Sun Media awards for his newspapers outside of Quebec. Will there be a prize for CBC-slagging? Just askin’ … and here’s one for your calendars: The 9th annual gala fundraiser for Pierre Berton’s writers’ retreat in the Klondike will celebrate the Canuck victory of 1812 with a festive June 5 bash at old Fort York. Berton House clambakes are always a blast, and this one should be no exception … and speaking of good writing, the justifiably-lauded screen version of Mordecai Richler’s Barney’s Version premieres Sunday night on CBC, and the much-anticipated fifth season of Mad Men kicks off Sunday on AMC. That is, if you can tear yourself away from Canada’s Got Talent on Citytv. And the beat goes on.

CALENDAR JOTTINGS:  Next big award show on our horizon is the 2012 Tony Awards. Nominees will be announced May 1
live on TonyAwards.com and CBS will host the three-hour 66thAnnual Tony Awards telecast on Sunday

GERVAIS: will he be back?

June 10 …  the 27th Annual Gemini Awards’ Industry Galas are set for Tuesday August 28 and Wednesday August 29. CBC will host the Broadcast Gala on Wednesday September 5, the night before the 37th annual Toronto International Film Festival begins its time-honoured 10-day movie marathon on Thursday September 6 … 2012 Emmy nominees will be announced July 29, with ABC hosting the 64th annual PrimeTime Emmy Awards on Sunday September 23 … and before you know it we do it all over again in 2013, starting with the 70th annual Golden Globes, with or without Ricky Gervais, on Sunday January 20 on NBC, the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday January 27, the Directors Guild Awards on Tuesday February 5, and the 85th annual Academy Awards, with or without Billy Crystal, on Sunday February 24 on ABC.

STREISAND: Queen of Columbia

SHARPS ‘N’ FLATS: Soprano-turned-director Catherine Malfitano and world-renowned conductor Sir Andrew Davis are joining forces for the Canadian premiere of Alexander Zemlinsky’s A Florentine Tragedy and the return of Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, an extravagant double-bill opening April 26 for eight performances at the Four Seasons Centre. Since both one-act operas are set in Florence, expect some eye-catching cityscapes from set designer Wilson Chin, costume designer Terese Wadden and lighting designer David Martin Jacques… first headliners announced for the 46th edition of the

FEORE: hosting

Montreux Jazz Festival are Noel Gallagher’s High-Flying Birds, who are now set for a July 4 gig at Auditorium Stravinski. Gallagher says he and his band will perform songs from their first CD as well as some favourites from his previous band, Oasis … when they were the fast-drivin’, rubber-burnin’ Dukes Of Hazzard, who knew they could sing? But three decades later John Schneider and Tom Wopat are still warbling and obviously not superstitious. They’re set to play Fallsview Casino showroom on Thursday April 12 and – wait for it — Friday April 13 … in celebration of the company’s 60th anniversary season, The National Ballet of

GALLAGHER: High-Flying gig

Canada Orchestra will make their concert debut at Koerner Hall on Tuesday April 3. Colm Feore will host the event, and the Orchestra will perform select works that highlight each decade in the company’s 60-year history … and how many of us made deals that last for half a century? Barbra Streisand is celebrating her upcoming 50th year with Columbia Records – her one and only label – by signing a new contract with the Sony-owned label. Only Tony Bennett has been on the label longer. Columbia will celebrate her signing by releasing a 12-set DVD which promises unprecedented access into Streisand’s professional and personal life, including never before seen footage directly from her archives. Streisand’s most recent Grammy nominated album, What Matters Most, was her 31st to reach the Top Ten.

AND NOW, THE WEEKEND WEATHER FORECAST:

Happy weekend.

*     *     *

Beck bows out, Tony loves Adele, and Gosling thriller & Churchill doc top FFF 12 honours

 AND THE WINNERS ARE:  Participants on the 12th annual Floating Film Festival voted the hugely-overlooked Ryan Gosling-Kirsten Dunst thriller All Good Things the Dusty Cohl Best Feature Award at a ceremony at sea last night on the sleek sophisticated Seabourn Sojourn cruise ship. Coming in a strong second was Winnie,  a sweeping biopic of South African iron lady Winnie Mandela, with stellar support from Elias Koteas and Wendy Crewson, a finely honed portrayal of Nelson Mandela by Terrence Howard, and a remarkably disciplined, outstanding performance of Jennifer Hudson as Winnie. Winner of the Brian Linehan Award for Best Documentary was An Unlikely Obsession: Churchill And The Jews, an unexpected coup for producer and Floating filmfest commander Barry Avrich, who had confided earlier in the week that he was sure  another FFF  contender, Jealous Of The Birds, which ended up in second place, would take the prize. Other major favourites with FFF 12 viewers included the Oscar-nominated father vs. son drama Footnote, from Israel. which gave us a new and somewhat squirmy inside look at academia; and Where Do We Go Now, from France, which won the TIFF Audience Award last September. Unexpected highlights of the week-long filmfest included Rex Reed’s master claass  tribute to actor-director Richard Benjamin and his wife Paula Prentiss, which included screenings of Benjamin’s 1969 screen debut with Ali MacGraw in Goodbye, Columbus, as well as a closing night showing of My Favourite Year, the 1982 Peter O’Toole classic that Benjamin directed with such style and panache. Most controversial entry at the festival was Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz, which left the cinephile audience arguing about its merits for several hours after the lights came on again. But more on Ms Polley’s film and other Floating Film Festival events in future columns.

BENJAMIN & MACGRAW: in Goodbye, Columbus (1969)

SHARPS ‘N’ FLATS: Rocker Jeff Beck will not be attending this year’s Slacker Canadian Music Week after all. Originally scheduled to perform at The Phoenix on March 22, followed by a one-on-one interview on March 23 at the Fairmont Royal York, Beck had to cancel his appearances due to delays in his recording schedule … supersongstress Norah Jones is getting her Irish on. She’s set to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by serenading fans at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. Jones’ new album Little Broken Hearts drops May 1, and Jones will tour extensively this year, with other North American dates to be revealed shortly. Hard to believe that it was 10 years ago this month (February 2002) when she released her first album, Come Away With Me, now the #10 best-selling album of the Soundscan era after selling 25 million copies worldwide … good news for Alice Cooper fans – your hero will open for Iron Maiden when the vet rockers bring their splashy new Maiden England World Tour to Montreal, Toronto, Sarnia and Quebec City in July … and you can add Tony Bennett to the growing legions of fans for Grammy sweeper Adele, who he compares with U.S. music legend Kate Smith. “Adele is magnificent,” he told Rolling Stone. “She’s the best British singer I ever heard.”

AKERMAN: piloting with Portia

CASTING ABOUT: Michael Stahl-David and Zoe Kazan are the leads in Joss Whedon‘s upcoming supernatural indie romance,  In Your Eyes Michael Marc Friedman has been cast in the Fox comedy pilot Living Loaded from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia castmember and producer Rob McElhenney Shawn Ashmore and Valorie Curry are joining Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy on Fox’s new Kevin Williamson drama about a serial killer who creates a cult of serial killers …  Malin Akerman is set to star opposite Portia de Rossi in the ABC comedy pilot The Smart One … British actor Jamie Blackley has been cast as the lead in the upcoming 300 sequel … and Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson are set as the stars of Michael Bay’s black comedy action thriller Pain and Gain.

BRYAN: Spring breker

GOLDSINGER: Country warbler Luke Bryan’s album Tailgates and Tanlines is now officially certified gold in Canada. Plus, his first single from the album, Country Girl (Shake it for Mes, is now platinum here, and his second single I Don’t Want This Night To End is already gold.  All this after his I Don’t Want This Night To End spent four weeks at #1 on country music radio charts. So expect some hootin’ and hollerin’ when Luke’s fourth Spring Break EP — Spring Break 4: Suntan City  — drops tomorrow.

*     *     *


Tommy turns 75, Celine & Tony sound off, Kelly & Jay play Fallsview and Arlene writes a bestseller

SHARPS & FLATS:  Crowd-pleasers Kelly Clarkson and Jay Leno are both set to entertain at Fallsview Casino next month, with the increasingly popular World Rock Symphony Orchestra now set to return in April …

PIECZONKA: Toronto Tosca

sublime Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka continues to dazzle as Tosca in the lavish COC production at the Four Seasons Centre now through Feb. 25 …  Daniel Lanois is set for two CBC Music concerts next month at the Great Hall on Queen Street.  The concerts coincide with Lanois’ induction into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame during Canadian Music Week festivities that same week … and legendary country gentleman Tommy Hunter will celebrate his 75th birthday by hanging up his guitar once and for all. Currently on tour, he’ll blow out the candles at a splashy birthday party in London, ON, on March 20, right after he gives his final concert at the John Labatt Centre. Should be quite a night!

HATS OFF:  To Tony Bennett and Celine Dion, who skipped the platitudes and went straight to the heart of Whitney Houston’stragic demise. Bennett says he has received mostly positive reaction to his statement urging the legalization of drugs in the U.S.

HUNTER: birthday boy

Legalization, he believes, would get rid of all the gangsters. “One thing I’ve learned about young people, when you say ‘Don’t do this,’ that’s the one thing they’re going to try and do. Once it’s legal and everybody can do it, there is no longer the desire to do something that nobody else can do.” Bennett, now 85, survived his own cocaine habit in the late ‘70s. Houston, who was 48, had admitted to using cocaine, marijuana and pills in the past. Dion, who is now, 43, considered Houston  “an amazing inspiration” but was clearly upset that “drugs, bad people, bad influences, took over her dreams, her motherhood,” she told Good Morning America this week. “When you

DION: remembering Whitney

think about Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson — to get into drugs like that for whatever reason – because of stress, bad influence, whatever — something happens that I don’t understand. That’s why I’m scared of show business, of drugs and hanging out. That’s why I don’t go to parties!” The private By Invitation Only funeral for Houston is set for tomorrow in New Jersey.

AND YES, YOU SHOULD TAKE IT PERSONALLY:  She’s worth millions and demonstrates how she got there every week on CBC’s megahit series Dragons’ Den.  But Arlene Dickinson shares even more of herself in her first (but, I predict, not her last) bestselling book, Persuasion, with some hard-won personal advice that everyone can use. “It’s a good idea,” she notes, “to take a hard look at your own narrative. Think about how you’d tell your life story to a Hollywood producer, how you’d explain the highs and lows. Have you cast yourself as a victim of circumstance? If so, maybe your story could use a rewrite, starting with the lead character who has choices – and sometimes makes the wrong ones.”

DICKINSON: persuasive life lessons

Making the wrong ones is something Dickinson knows about. She’s made quite a few herself. But, as she points out, those of us who have made some wrong choices along the way are in good company. High achievers are mistake makers, a fact she illustrates with engaging examples from Henry Ford to Oprah. (My favorite? Thomas Edison’s perspective on his many unsuccessful attempts to invent the light bulb. “I didn’t fail one thousand times. The lightbulb was an invention with one thousand steps.”)

Persuasion is about the art of connecting with the person you seek to persuade. It’s about caring. And about how to master “a little-known secret to success in business”  – listening. But because Dickinson makes it personal, Persuasion is much more than a How To book; it’s a survival guide for the mind and, sometimes, the soul. And within that survival guide are some valuable insights on corporate culture. “Staying in a situation you hate and complaining about everything that’s wrong, but never trying to fix it, doesn’t make you a martyr. It makes you complicit.”  Similarly, her views on our ability to choose the consequences of failure are bracing and refreshing. Bitterness is not an option, she insists, and shares another favorite quote, this one by mathematician Blaise Pascal: “Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

As CEO of Venture Communications she also has  some genuinely amusing business stories to tell, including the time one of her partners,  trying to save the company money, arranged for her team to stay on a friend’s sailboat off Vancouver Island instead of paying for pricey Vancouver hotel rooms. When they arrived at the dock she noticed that the boat’s name was Important Business  — andsuddenly realized what my partners meant when they told me in the past that they work ‘going away on important business.’ They were talking about this sailboat!”

Stylish on screen and off, she appreciates the fame that television has brought her but resists the urge to take it for granted. “I have exactly the same insecurities anyone has,” she admits. “If anything, they’re even more overwhelming when you know a couple of million people are seeing all your flaws in high definition!” And despite the fact that her on-screen chemistry with fellow Dragon Kevin O’Leary has made her an audience favourite, her account of her auditions for Dragons’ Den (yes, she had to do more than one) and how she had to discipline her own self-doubts to get the job — she replaced another Dragon when she came to the series in its second season — is intriguing inside stuff.

Of course that’s why Persuasion is a bestseller. It’s a hypnotic, hard-to-put-down book of life lessons shared by someone who had to learn most of them the hard way. As Arlene Dickinson sees it, the main obstacle standing in our way is, not surprisingly, us. “Our past shapes and influences who we are, but it doesn’t limit who we can become.” Persuasion, as promised, is a new approach to changing minds. And although she preaches the power of persuasion, she urges her readers to be sure of their objectives, be they personal or professional. “Before you set out to persuade someone,” Dickinson writes, “you need to be certain that you actually want what you’re asking for. Because you just might get it.”

*     *     *

Hannah goes to Krakow, Brigitte goes to Sarasota, Liz cheers for a Ghost Writer & Tina Fey is EVERYWHERE!

NO PEOPLE LIKE SHOW PEOPLE: Where is Tina Fey these days? Everywhere, promoting her new movie with Steve Carrell on every talk show on the dial, Yesterday it was

FEY & FRIEND: she's everywhere!

Oprah, this morning it’s Regis & Kelly, and this weekend she’ll host Saturday Night Live with Canadian pop music phenom Justin Bieber as her musical guest … despite the rave reviews she won when her hypnotic Hugh Hefner documentary premiered at TIFF last September, Oscar-winning director Brigitte Berman returned to the edit suite in January and has emerged with an even sleeker version. Last month she screened it to sell-out crowds and positive press notices at the Miami International Film Festival and at the Museum Of Modern Art in Manhattan, the latter as part of the prestigious

BIEBER: set for SNL

MoMA Canadian Front organized by MoMA’s Larry Kardish and Telefilm Canada festival booster Brigitte Hubmann. “At the first screening in New York Tony Bennett, Dick Cavett, Geoffrey Holder, Dr. Ruth and Christie Hefner were in the audience,” reports Berman, “and the response could not have been more enthusiastic!” This month she’s off to introduce the film at the  Sarasota Film Festival, and next month she’ll fly to L.A. to join Hefner when UCLA hosts a special screening of the film in his honour at the Billy Wilder theatre … Amber Marshall invited her Heartland fans to help her find a new name for her foal, “the horse soon not to be known as Harry,” and has been swamped by thousands of suggestions. Now all she has to do us sort through them all and pick one! … international filmfest planner Hannah Fisher is packing her bags for Poland, where she’ll welcome Aussie director Jane Campion and Bollywood superstars Amitabh & Jaya Bachchan to Krakow and The Off

MARSHALL: she's not wild about 'Harry'

Plus Camera Film Festival of Independent Cinema … and New York gossip girl Liz Smith is not a fan of Roman Polanski. “Let let him submit to the law as he should have years ago,” says Liz flatly to her devoted wowOwow.com readers. But that doesn’t change her belief that Polanski is a great filmmaker. Ms. Smith is an unflagging champion of his new Pierce Brosnan-Ewan McGregor thriller The Ghost Writer, which she insists is only “a whisper away from being as great as Chinatown. It is a tension-filled, politically based noir with just enough twists to keep you slightly off-balance but never off-track. This one makes you think and demands all your attention. One deep dig

HAWCO as DOYLE: season finale tonight

into the popcorn and you’ll miss something.All the performances are superb – wonderful turns by Kim Cattrall and Tom Wilkinson – with an especially great hand to Olivia Williams. She is the prototypical noir female – in danger, dangerous, impossible to know. And better if you don’t!”

Okay, I’m sold!

The Ghost Writer is stiill on view at a neighbourhood theatre near you.

P.S. To REPUBLIC OF DOYLE fans: Don’t miss tonight’s first-season finale of the Allan Hawco hit series at 9 pm on CBC-TV. And don’t be surprised if you hear people talking about it tomorrow. My spies tell me it’s quite an eyeful!

-/-

Rick’s grand finale, k.d.’s recollections, Zach’s funny ferns & the unsinkable Debbie (she ain’t down yet!)

ALL-SINGING, ALL-DANCING DEBBIE: She may be 77, but like her Oscar-nominated Unsinkable Molly Brown, Debbie Reynolds runs on her own energizing batteries. La

REYNOLDS: over there

Reynolds is about to embark on a 15-city concert tour of England which will climax with ten dates in London, her first performances there in 35 years. “We start in Norwich and we’ll do a show, get on the bus, go to the next theatre, do another show and so on. It’ll be like the old days bus and truck.” She’s been prepping with a daily regimen of swimming in her indoor pool, lifting weights and hanging upside down for 15 minutes. And practicing her notorious impersonations. Her U.K. concerts will include her impressions of Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis and Jimmy Stewart. “I grew up with these people.” What’s her new show called? “Debbie Reynolds: Alive And Fabulous.” Sounds right to me.

MERCER MADNESS: Canadian TV icon Rick Mercer wraps his seventh season tonight with a mirthful visit with the Canadian competitors who sparked last week’s Paralympic

MERCER & FRIENDS: on tonight's finale

Games in B.C. Mercer, who has consistently showcased these amazing athletes on his weekly show, was one of their chosen torchbearers in Ottawa and tonight provokes huge laughs (his specialty) with some new death-defying feats of daring (also his specialty) with some of our gold medalists including superSkier bro’s Brian & Robin McKeever. Good news is, Mercer has just had his most successful season ever. Better news is, he and his top-rated Rick Mercer Report will be back this fall. And you can catch his season finale tonight at 8 pm on CBC.

THE SINGER, NOT THE SONG: Luscious-voiced k.d. lang has released her first-ever career retrospective. Recollection is on the small Nonesuch label – an offshoot of Warner

LANG: 25th anniversary

Records. This  set contains her greatest hits remastered, and a collection of rare tracks.Released 25 years after the release of her debut album. Recollection features 22 of k.d.’s most beloved recordings, including an all-new interpretation of the Leonard Cohen classic, Hallelujah. Plus — wait for it — Constant Craving, Helpless, Miss Chatelaine, I Dream Of Spring, Crying with Roy Orbison, Calling All Angels with Jane Siberry, and Moonglow with Tony Bennett. My hero Liz Smith says k.d.’s new collection is, quote unquote, “a masterpiece.” Hey, what’s not to like? … also gearing up for record sales: Sarah McLachlan, set to launch  her first album of new songs in seven years, The Laws of Illusion, on  June 15 … and chalk up another biggie for Luminato, because Rufus Wainwright‘s first opera, Prima Donna, will make its North American premiere here in June. Meanwhile, Wainwright’s sixth solo album, All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu, drops today. (And isn’t it funny how we’re all calling CDs ‘albums’ again?)

PORTMAN: she got Zach'd

SEE/HEAR: As a rule I can take Zach Galifianakis or leave him, but Between Two Ferns, his bogus Interview show on Funny Or Die.com (the only website with its own show on HBO) is so outrageously politically incorrect I’m becoming addicted to them. His new ‘session’ with Ben Stiller is a squirmy classic — no wonder so many stars want to play with him. His list of willing victim to date includes Michael Cera, Bradley Cooper, John Hamm, Jimmy Kimmel, Natalie Portman (!!) and Charlize Theron (yes. you read that right — Charlize Theron.) Not since  Martin Short created monster celebrity-swooner Jiminy Glick have we seen anything like this. To check it out, click here. And here. And here. And enjoy!

TOMORROW:

Marion Cotillard, Ryan Reynolds, and more!