Friends and neighbors

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Photo: JH.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Cold and raining much of yesterday into the night. 50 degrees and feeling much colder. Definitely one of the wetter, colder Mays we’ve had in a long time.

Tulips bending with the rain.

Monday night I went to a black tie dinner gala given by The Council for Canadian American Relations at the Metropolitan Club. CCAR, as they are referred to by members, has been in existence since 1972 when it was created under the influence or direction of David Rockefeller and Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Mr. Trudeau was then Prime Minister of Canada, having been elected in 1968, and would serve in the role until 1984. His eldest son Justin is currently Prime Minister.

The Council’s purpose is exclusively in support of Arts and Cultural Institutions. Its greater purpose is maintain a close and sensible relationships with the United States. The late Prime Minister Trudeau once remarked — and I’m paraphrasing — that (Canada) living next door to the United States was like sleeping — in close quarters — next to an elephant, so large that even a sneeze or a body twitch could almost feel like an earthquake to the co-sleeper.

Canadian filmmaker and emcee of the evening, Martin Katz.

In other words, it’s an intelligent diplomatic effort to maintain a good neighborly relationship with your next door neighbor. The Arts is an excellent vehicle of maintenance because it’s universal as well as of-the-moment.

Monday night’s dinner paid tribute/honored three people who have contributed notably and made “a significant difference in both Canada and the United States.” They were Jo Carole Lauder, Arts Advocate and Philanthropist; Christopher Plummer, the Stratford Festivals signature actor and iconically Canadian; and the Council’s inaugural creative Leadership Award to Guy Laliberte, Cirque Du Soleil founder and visionary entrepreneur. 

It brought out a large and enthusiastic crowd, many of whom have relationships with either country. Americans don’t tend to think much about our northern neighbor other than our awareness of its borders. Those of us who have visited or known Canadians see them as Canadian but very American as well as knowledgeable and sophisticated.

Norman Jewison.

I had the good luck to be seated at the same table as Mr. Plummer and next to his wife Elaine, also an actress, as well as the great film director Norman Jewison – who is also Canadian and has a farm up there where he had a “sugaring” event over the past weekend.  Mr. Jewison also has a house in The Colony in Malibu. These boys aren’t kids anymore – Jewison is 92, Plummer is 88 – but you can still spot their youth in both personalities. Laughter is often a nearby companion.

Norman Jewison introduced his friend Mr. Plummer.

There was no auction, as one often sees at these benefits. There was a moment of “entertainment” when a young contortionist from the Cirque du Soleil performed. I had never seen a contortionist before and so I was astounded at the “dexterity” — to put in sane terms — which is highly unusual and impossible even to imagine. The young man was very good and held the intense interest of the audience (also astounded, no doubt). It was brief, but compelling, and memorable. A bid, one might conclude, to exemplify what is possible in the two countries’ relationship with one another.

The young contortionist from the Cirque du Soleil …

Otherwise there were several speakers, presenting the awards. Jo Carole Lauder was introduced by Glenn Lowry, the director the Museum of Modern Art. Norman Jewison introduced his friend Mr. Plummer. You could see the director in the man’s natural personality with a natural sense of getting one’s attention. Again, the laughter companion. Mr. Plummer was brief, bemused, and gave natural stature to his words of appreciation.

Glenn Lowry introducing Jo Carole Lauder.
Jo Carole Lauder.

And then Mr. Laliberte was introduced by Catherine Loubier, Quebec’s Delegate General in New York. I was not aware of Mr. Laliberte and his immense effect and reputation. TIME magazine named him as one of the most influential personalities in the world. Forbes referred to him as one of the 100 Greatest Business Minds. The man himself, in accepting his Award, had an energetic manner and youthfulness. He didn’t look old enough to have accomplished what he has, although adventurous enough to start something new.

Guy Laliberte and Catherine Loubier.

Funds raised from the event will be directed to Canada Council for the Arts, Ottawa, Ontario, Foundation for Art and Preservation in embassies (FAPE) Washington, D. C. and Theatre Museum Canada in Toronto.

The Council has been successful and devoted to building “Friendship through the Arts” between Canada and the United States. Since its creation in 1972, CCAR produces programs that promote artistic excellence, honor cultural achievement, provide education opportunities for students, and facilitate cultural exchange.  CCAR enjoys the support of leaders in business, arts, philanthropy, and public life from the United States and Canada.  CCAR’s donation program beneficiaries include more than 170 cultural organizations, ranging in size and scope.

2017 CCAR Gala Honoree Frank Stella and his Stella orange shoes at evening’s end.

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