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Camera: financial and diplomatic bigwigs hobnob at the Canadian International Council gala

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Ritz-Carlton, October 25. Masters of the financial and diplomatic universes took part in the gala for the Canadian International Council, the global affairs think tank funded by ex–RIM boss Jim Balsillie. This year the Globalist of the Year award—past honourees include Egyptian telecom titan Naguib Sawiris and super-investor George Soros—went to International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde, for keeping the eurozone intact post–Greek meltdown. After a meeting where they conspired to solve the world’s problems, the VIPs broke for cocktails and Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney dotingly ushered Lagarde around the room. She lauded Canada’s financial soundness and called Carney a fantastic central banker; he evoked a 2009 Financial Times article that ranked Lagarde the best minister of finance in the eurozone, then paused before delivering the punch line: “and that was back when that meant something.”

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Camera: rock stars vs. movie stars at Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice fundraiser

Camera: rock stars vs. movie stars at Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice fundraiser

U of T President’s Lodge, September 8. Attendees shelled out $1,250 a head to hobnob with celebrities at the Artists for Peace and Justice fundraiser, the annual bash hosted by Oscar-winning screenwriter, lapsed Scientologist and Hollywood power player Paul Haggis. But the celebs themselves seemed most interested in headliners Arcade Fire, particularly when frontman Win Butler led his bandmates on an acoustic parade through the audience, pausing to climb up on a table covered in “Reserved for VIP” placards (take that, Establishment!). True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård stopped talking Swedish to his comparably hunky brother and nodded to the beat, six-foot-five tennis stud Milos Raonic galomped to the front to get a better view, and Jude Law stripped down to a T-shirt and dance-clapped like a dad at a wedding. The moral of the story: in celebrity hierarchy, rock stars take top rung.

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Camera: Karl Rove and friends duke it out for the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies

Camera: Karl Rove and friends duke it out for the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies

Allstream Centre, May 29. Some 2,100 guests of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies gathered for what promised to be a rollicking debate. The resolution: “The world is safer under Barack Obama.” James Carville opened with a zinger: “I’m staying at the Trump Tower. They asked for ID when I checked in, so I showed them my passport. They said they needed to see my long-form birth certificate.” Donna Brazile joined Carville in defending the commander-in-chief, while their right-leaning frenemies Karl Rove and Mike Huckabee begged to differ. The Republican side was victorious by a whisker (51 per cent to 49, by audience vote), but the big winners were co-chairs Paul and Judy Bronfman, who raked in $2.58 million for the centre.

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Camera: South African golf superstar Ernie Els holds court at the Right to Play gala

Camera: South African golf superstar Ernie Els holds court at the Right to Play gala

July 24, Westin Harbour Castle. Organizers of the Right to Play gala achieved the near impossible: wrangling a slew of A-listers away from Muskoka, the Hamptons and/or Lake Como in mid-summer to boogie down in Toronto and raise money for athletics programs in the developing world. South African golf superstar Ernie Els attended, despite having won the British Open two days earlier in a breathtaking come-from-behind victory, after which he announced, half-jokingly, “I’m supposed to go to Canada, but I think I’m going to blow that thing off.” Els did more than make an appearance: he vogued for the press, indulged a gaggle of camera phone–clutching men and talked golf with RBC CEO Gord Nixon (with whom he shot a round at the Rosedale Golf Club the following day). He also found time to tend to matters of international relations. “I think Canada is a great place,” Els said to chuckles during his keynote address. “I’m really glad I came.”

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Camera: Leonard Cohen at the Glenn Gould Award Gala (and Fran’s Restaurant)

Camera: Leonard Cohen, Party Animal

May 14, Fran’s Restaurant. By the time the VIP after-party rolled around, few attendees expected the man of the hour to show. Leonard Cohen is 77, after all, and it had been a long evening: first a lavish dinner at the Arcadian Court, then a tribute concert at Massey Hall, where Cohen was awarded the Glenn Gould award (the so-called Nobel Prize for the Arts). The late-night doubters spoke too soon: as the clock struck 11:47 p.m., Cohen swept into the diner to a buzz of excitement and a striking-up of the band (CanCon rockers Lighthouse) and began to boogie, an inexpert little shuffle that the legendary troubadour made look effortlessly cool.

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Camera: Jerry Seinfeld regales the city’s well-heeled at a fundraiser for Toronto East General Hospital

Camera: Jerry Loves 'Em, Leaves 'Em

April 12. The begowned and tuxedoed set could barely keep their composure in the presence of Jerry Seinfeld during Laughter Is the Best Medicine, a fundraiser for Toronto East General Hospital. His musings on energy drinks, cellphone etiquette and the perils of attending, well, black-tie parties had guests wiping away tears. Post-event, VIPs retreated upstairs. “I wore my puffy shirt just for you!” cooed TEGH Foundation president Teresa Vasilopoulos, earning a laugh from the man himself. After an hour of glad-handing, Seinfeld made a break for his SUV—a minor faux pas, since he hadn’t said hi to Thomson sibs Taylor and Peter, the latter having recently donated $5 million to the hospital. Not the types to accept a snubbing, they hurried out to the curb and snapped a few keepsakes, and everyone left happy—not least the hospital, which raked in $3 million.

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Camera: Michael and Diane Budman host a private screening of Frank Marshall’s new doc in their Forest Hill home

Camera: Movie Night at the Budmans

February 29. It wasn’t quite musical chairs, but there was a flurry of seat swapping between courses during a dinner at the Forest Hill home of Michael and Diane Budman. The buzz was mostly about a new ESPN documentary by Holly­wood producer Frank Marshall that they’d just previewed in the basement theatre. Right to Play centres on Budman’s friend, Johann Olav Koss, the founder of the humanitarian sports organization of the same name. Things started slow as Budman spent a few minutes figuring out the DVD player, leaving the guests in the dark. (Martin Short couldn’t resist: “It’s a triumph, Frank.”) After dinner, Short nudged musician Stephan Moccio, his fellow judge on Canada’s Got Talent, toward the piano and delivered a semi-improvised, mostly nonsensical song that referenced bin Laden, deadbeat dads, dirty beards and Navy SEALS, and left the crowd howling. The moral of the story: when throwing a dinner party, always invite a comedian.

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Camera: Robert F. Kennedy and Edward Burtynsky host the inaugural Waterkeeper Gala at the Corus Quay

Camera: Waterkeeper Gala

February 7, Corus Quay. Almost 50 years after Camelot, the Kennedy name still draws a crowd. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. joined photographer Edward Burtynsky to host the inaugural Lake Ontario Waterkeeper gala. Kennedy, president of Waterkeeper Alliance, an organization that strives to preserve clean water around the world, had only to flash a smile to get the city’s enviro-elite to kick in a few bucks to help save our Great Lake. At the VIP reception, a flock of fans backed Kennedy into a corner—even Margaret Atwood rushed over for a handshake. The charm worked wonders at the art auction, too: Burtynsky’s Dryland Farming #24, an aerial shot of the Spanish countryside, went for a whopping $30,000. In his keynote address, Kennedy shamelessly buttered up the audience, praising Ontario’s environmental laws and calling the United States “the 14th province.” As far as speeches go, it was no “Ich bin ein Berliner,” but the night’s tally of $289,000 suggested it did the trick.

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Camera: a mix of Canada’s best filmmakers and top critics at the Toronto Film Critics Association Awards

Camera: T.O. Film Critics Bash

January 10, The Carlu. The annual Toronto Film Critics Association Awards mixes Canada’s best filmmakers and critics—which can be a great opportunity for a little payback. David Cronenberg, whose latest film, A Dangerous Method, is nominated for 11 Genies, took advantage of his turn at the presenter’s mic to characterize critics as a “scruffy lot”; TFCA president and Maclean’s film critic Brian Johnson volleyed back: “Without us, how would filmmakers know why their films stink?” Cronenberg didn’t win Best Canadian Film (that honour went to Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar), but he easily won best anecdote of the night—and proved his chops in the art of self-criticism. He described one of his early directing efforts, 1975’s Shivers, which included a soft-core scene featuring sex on a swing. In his eagerness to impress, he admitted, he may have captured the action from “a few too many angles.”

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Camera: a snow globe, Rockettes-inspired leg kicks and more at the Ronald McDonald House Gala at the Carlu

Ronald McDonald House Gala

December 8, The Carlu. The ballerina pirouetting inside a giant snow globe and the Flintstonian bone-in beef main course reinforced the notion that to raise money, you’ve got to spend a little—in this case, to help finance the new, $33-million Ronald McDonald House, which will accommodate up to 81 families of kids who are undergoing treatment at Toronto’s hospitals. Event chair Suzanne Cohon handled the evening’s MC duties with aplomb, even delivering a rousing Rockettes-inspired performance punctuated by high kicks. But her five-year-old daughter, Parker, stole the show. The MC-in-training frolicked freestyle onstage—dancing and running amok—behind Mom, who took it all in stride: “I knew I was a ham,” said Cohon. “Apparently, it’s genetic.” By night’s end, some $360,000 had been raised. Even Morgan Spurlock would approve.

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Camera: Toronto’s peerage class gets dolled up for a royal visit at the TIFF Lightbox


Camera: Grace Kelly Exhibit
November 2, TIFF Lightbox. It’s not often that royalty comes to town (not that we’re bitter, Will and Kate). So when Prince Albert Grimaldi, ruler of Monaco, arrived with his new wife, the South African former Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock, Toronto’s peerage class got all dolled up. The couple was here for the launch of Grace Kelly: From Movie Star to Princess, a TIFF exhibit celebrating Prince Albert’s late mom. They toured the exhibit, then repaired to the VIP room, where the prince downed brewskis and the press-shy Wittstock, understated in Dior, chatted quietly with the much less understated Suzannes (Boyd and Rogers). Though the royals departed around 8:30, the rest of the party hit the dance floor to the grooves of a live Motown band, energized as they were by their brush with nobility—the champagne-soaked jelly desserts didn’t hurt, either.

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Camera: the $1,500-a-plate fundraiser celebrating the new Marc Chagall exhibit at the AGO

Camera: Chagall Ball

(Image: George Pimentel Photography)

October 15, AGO. If ever there were an event to rouse the city’s tastemaking, power-brokering elite, the $1,500-a-plate fundraiser celebrating the new Marc Chagall exhibit at the AGO was it. Outside, at least nine valets parked Beemers and Bentleys. Inside, ladies dazzled in sequins and feathers while men toed the sartorial line in black tuxedos. ­Bottles of Stolichnaya took the place of ­centrepieces, so the crowd was well lubricated by the time the event’s honorary chair, Norman Jewison, rose to speak about the painting (titled The Fiddler) that he donated to the exhibit. He told the story of how he purchased the work at an auction in London, a rollicking tale that involved an overzealous cab driver and a spot-on Cockney accent. When he received a standing ovation, he seemed touched, but astutely credited the Stoli shots for loosening his tongue and the crowd.

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Camera: Meeting Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi at the first annual Urban Futures lecture

Man of the hour Naheed Nenshi

Man of the hour Naheed Nenshi (Image: George Pimentel)

September 20. Hard as it is for Torontonians to admit to envying anything Calgarian, this group of developers, architects and urban activists was practically drooling over Calgary’s mayor. Naheed Nenshi is a Harvard grad (okay, we had one of those, but still…) who advocates for walkable cities and was the grand marshal of the Calgary Pride Parade. He was in town to deliver the first annual Urban Futures lecture, put on by star architects Jack Diamond and Donald Schmitt at the glistening Corus Quay building (a Diamond and Schmitt design) next to Sugar Beach. “In his short time as mayor of Calgary, Naheed Nenshi has grasped the issues facing cities better than anyone,” said Diamond. If it wasn’t obvious at the outset that this was the mayor most of the guests wished Toronto had, it was by the end, when Nenshi was peppered with so many questions that Diamond had to call time. As attendees spilled onto the patio for the reception, one guest was overheard saying, “He even pronounces ‘library’ correctly.”

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Camera: a who’s who of Canadian cinema gathers at the Lightbox to kick off TIFF’s retrospective of Norman Jewison films

Camera: Norman Jewison Bash

Canadian film honcho Wayne Clarkson with art house icon Atom Egoyan and Lynne St. David-Jewison

August 11, Malaparte.

An air-kissing who’s who of Canadian cinema gathered on the sixth floor of the Lightbox to kick off Justice for All, TIFF’s retrospective of the films of Norman Jewison. One of Hollywood’s most prolific directors, Jewison is the kind of success story this city loves to laud at every opportunity. Following the reception, everyone shuffled downstairs for a screening of Moonstruck, Jewison’s 1987 rom-com. The crowd was also treated to a Q&A with Olympia Dukakis and the screenwriter John Patrick Shanley (both snagged Oscars for the movie). But it was Jewison who got the loudest applause, for dropping a well-aimed F-bomb while recounting an on-set incident: Nicolas Cage demanded a moment to think over a line, and Jewison replied: “Don’t think, just say the fucking line.” Beats watching Moonstruck at home in your PJs for the umpteenth time.

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Do-gooders cavort to conga beats—with K’Naan—at the Hope Rising after-party

Hope Rising

Alicia Keys, Ngozi Paul and K'naan (Image: George Pimentel)

May 3, Rosewater Supper Club. After-hours at the Rosewater usually means loose-tied Bay Street types swirling grand cru and planning their next hostile takeover—not the conga-beating, boogying and boisterous boozing that broke out at the after-party for the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Hope Rising concert. Supporters poured into the decadent downtown resto following a fundraising show at the Sony Centre, which featured Alicia Keys, Rufus Wainwright, K’naan and Jully Black. The party peaked when a corps of conga drummers started playing along to the backbeat of the DJ set, enticing even the suits to shake a tail feather. Up on the mezzanine, K’naan was too preoccupied with fending off a throng of female fans to hit the dance floor. At the concert he’d brought fans onstage to sing his anthem “Wavin’ Flag”; mercifully, no sloppy renditions were attempted in his honour at the after-party.

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