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The Informer

Columns

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Memoir: no doctor could diagnose my strange affliction—so I did it myself

In my late 20s, I became crippled with debilitating dizziness and headaches. I visited eight doctors—and no one could figure out what was wrong with me

Memoir: My Strange Affliction

A decade ago, I lived in a beautiful apartment near Avenue Road and Davenport, an elegant one-bedroom that contained most of the frothed-up dramas of my highly decorative 20s. I did up my living room in blue Albrizzi lacquer, with a deep feather loveseat upholstered in fuchsia velvet. It was honeytrap decor: my place wasn’t so much a party apartment as an after-party apartment. I filled my fridge with prosecco and my medicine cabinet with designer drugs and my closet with $1,000 dresses I had no business buying. I spent most nights waiting for a guy who usually called at midnight.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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French Immersion: Cluny is a belle époque fantasia of marble, mirrors and giant portions

Cluny, an ambitious new bistro in the Distillery District, elevates the neighbourhood’s ho-hum restaurant scene

The Critic: French Immersion

Top: Cluny’s dramatic coffered ceiling, intricate tiled floor and crusty house-baked loaves laid out on a central bread station add up to a supersized Parisian bistro; Bottom (left): A rich veal meatball, pierced tomahawk-style with a rib-eye bone, is offset by a bright tomato sauce; Bottom (right): The menu offers six options for steak frites

Cluny Bistro 1 star½
35 Tank House Ln., 416-203-2632
How our star system works »

Fifteen years ago, arts degree in hand and no prospects in sight, I took a job as a background extra in the first X-Men movie. It sounded exciting, especially the $250 a day, which was a suspiciously high compensation for someone with no acting experience. I arrived at a set in the defunct Gooderham and Worts distillery on ­Parliament, and followed my fellow extras into a warehouse where we were given scratchy woolen prison outfits and had our heads shaved. It turned out we were playing inmates in a concentration camp for a flashback scene with the villain ­Magneto. This left me uneasy, and I considered grabbing my stuff and fleeing—until I remembered the money. I spent the next three days in ankle-deep mud, drenched by rain machines, wondering what the whiskey barons would have made of all of it. The movie’s final cut includes a split-second shot of what I believe to be my forearm.

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The Informer

Culture

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Material Girl: the psychedelic, day-glo designs of art star Julia Dault

Material Girl

(Images: Laing by Jenna Marie Wakani and Anthea Simms; Art Works courtesy Julia Dault/Jessica Bradley Gallery)

The Toronto-born mixed-media marvel Julia Dault is New York’s latest avant-garde phenomenon. Dault had her big break in 2012, when her work was shown as part of the New Museum’s Triennial. The art world was so bewitched by her dizzying designs that gallerists jockeyed to represent her and the Guggenheim held a dinner in her honour. Among the collectors who now own her work are the fashion mogul Joe Mimran, Wall Street bigwig J. ­Tomilson Hill and the British millionaire Charles Saatchi.

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The Informer

Culture

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Shticks and Giggles: a laugh-lover’s guide to the city’s explosive comedy scene

Shticks and Giggles

Comedy Bar at Bloor and Ossington is the city’s undisputed hub of hilarity.

Toronto’s JFL42 comedy fest returns this month for its third annual 10-day laugh riot. For the uninitiated, the “JFL” part stands for Just for Laughs, and the “42” refers to the number of acts on the lineup, which this year includes Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer, Seth Meyers and a handful of local comedians. If, like most of us, you require comic relief all year round, this is a great moment to live in Toronto: the city’s indigenous comedy scene has flourished of late. We’re currently flush with neurotic kibitzers, daffy sketch troupes and enough nostalgically divey comedy clubs to fill an entire season of Louie. Here, a guide to navigating all the funny.

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The Goods

Shopping

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The Bespoke Club

The Bespoke Club

At Louis Vuitton’s VIP salon, bag buyers get to choose the shape, leather, colour and hardware. From $8,100. 150 Bloor St. W., 416-968-3993.

Torontonians are suddenly clamouring for personalized shoes, hand-sewn jackets and one-of-a-kind accessories. A primer on the extravagant rise of made-to-order fashion

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The Informer

Culture

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Andrea Martin’s current obsessions: five things the Working the Engels actress is loving right now

The SCTV vet and newly minted author shares her cultural inspirations

Current Obsessions: Andrea Martin

(Image: courtesy Global TV)

On the hit Global series Working the Engels, Andrea Martin taps in to the madcap energy that made her a star on SCTV—her character, the recently widowed Ceil Engel, is perky, ditzy and riotously self-involved. But Martin’s range goes well beyond comic character work: in the past two years, she’s starred in two Broadway shows—including Pippin, which earned her a Tony—and written a memoir called Andrea Martin’s Lady Parts, out this month. Though she credits Broadway pal Nathan Lane for the title, the rest of the collection is pure, unadulterated Martin. Here, she reveals what keeps her inspired.

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The Informer

Columns

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Dear Urban Diplomat: can’t sidewalk-hogging joggers save it for the side streets?

Dear Urban Diplomat: Can't sidewalk-hogging joggers save it for the side streets?

(Image: Marc Falardeau/Flickr)

Dear Urban Diplomat,
I was window-shopping on Queen West last weekend, when a neon-clad sprinter came bounding along and bumped my daughter into my stroller, nearly spilling hot coffee on my newborn baby. The guy was incredibly apologetic, until I said, “Why the hell are you running on a busy sidewalk in the first place?” He snarled that the street was as much his as mine, then re-inserted his earbuds and jaunted off. Shouldn’t runners be banned from using busy main streets?

—Street Fighter, Little Portugal

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The Informer

Sports

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Ten things Jermain Defoe can’t live without

As the new face of Toronto FC, the English striker is leading the club’s drive for its first-ever playoff spot. Here, the 10 things he can’t live without

Ten things Jermain Defoe can't live without

1 | My Bible
I always have one with me. I grew up in a Catholic home, and my family taught me to have faith.

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The Informer

Columns

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Dear Urban Diplomat: can I ask my neighbours to cover up their naked kid?

Dear Urban Diplomat: Can I ask my neighbour to cover up their naked kid?

(Image: Amanda Tipton/Flickr)

Dear Urban Diplomat,
My neighbour’s little boy is four, and he’s been running around our street in his birthday suit all summer. It’s getting a bit weird. At what point should small children be clothed when in ­public? Is there a law?

—Unfree Willy, Riverside

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The Informer

Features

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The Vaccine Truthers: why parents shun life-saving shots

A new generation of parents are refusing to vaccinate their kids. They’re convinced the shots are far more dangerous than the diseases they’re meant to prevent, and they’re willing to become social pariahs to prove it

The Vaccine Truthers

Ananda More, a Toronto homeopath, treats her daughter with alternative therapies instead of vaccines

Jennifer is a 30-year-old store manager in Georgetown who agreed to talk to me if I withheld her last name. She dresses plainly, rarely wears makeup and follows what she calls a green lifestyle, eschewing drugs and chemicals in any form, taking homeopathic remedies when she’s sick and observing a strict vegetarian diet. She met her husband, Frank, an independent contractor, in 2008. In 2011, she gave birth to their daughter, Franca, at home in a bathtub.

Jennifer was adamant that Franca not be vaccinated. As a teen, she had a bad reaction to a flu shot that kept her in bed for a month. In her 20s, she read horror stories about parents whose children had adverse reactions to routine vaccines that contained things like mercury and formaldehyde.

Five months after Franca was born, her parents divorced. Frank only agreed to give Jennifer custody if she had their daughter vaccinated. So, in late 2012, Jennifer reluctantly took Franca, then 10 months old, for her first round. Jennifer says Franca developed cold and flu symptoms within hours, picking at her ears incessantly. Then, after Franca’s second and third sets of immunizations at 18 months, Jennifer thought she noticed her daughter’s speech and mobility development regressing.

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TIFF 2014

TIFF Guide

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TIFF 2014 Insider’s Guide: Where to Eat, Drink and Party

A highly discerning look at the festival’s hottest hot spots

TIFF 2014: Where to Eat, Drink and Party

The Chase (Image: Dave Gillespie)

Where everything sparkles

The Chase
10 Temperance St., 647-348-7000
The glitzy surf-and-turf room on Temperance Street serves up expense account dining at its finest. Last year, at the after-party for Enemy, Jake Gyllenhaal and Alyssa Miller were holed up in a booth with a view on the fifth-floor terrace, and Isabella Rossellini hung out nearby, laughing with friends, while director Denis Villeneuve schmoozed with Dallas Buyers Club director (and fellow French Canadian) Jean-Marc Vallée.

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TIFF 2014

TIFF Guide

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TIFF 2014 Insider’s Guide: Where to Get Pampered

The best salons, spas and gyms the city has to offer

TIFF 2014: Where to Get Pampered

Stillwater Spa at the Park Hyatt (Image: courtesy of Park Hyatt)

WHERE TO GET A ONCE-OVER

Stillwater Spa at the Park Hyatt
4 Avenue Rd., 416-926-2389
The Park Hyatt isn’t the city’s newest or shiniest hotel, but its spa is one of the best. It’s also one of the most obliging: in response to a VIP request during last year’s fest, staff arranged for an off-menu oxygenating facial and even brought in tanks to pump more O2 into the treatment room. This year’s TIFF package delivers a detoxifying wrap, a smoothing facial and a mask ($513).

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TIFF 2014

TIFF Guide

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TIFF 2014 Insider’s Guide: Where to Go All Out

Over-the-top services that help you do TIFF the way it was meant to be done

TIFF 2014: Where to Go All Out

The Four Seasons

where to live large

The Four Seasons
60 Yorkville Ave., 416-964-0411
The two-year-old hotel is the city’s swankiest spot for a luxury staycation, with iPads in every room, flat-screen TVs embedded in the bathroom mirrors and incredibly attentive staff—they’ve been known to make late-night lingerie runs for visiting starlets. It’s also a prime spot for celebrity gawkery: last year, we saw Paul Haggis partying with Norman Jewison at George Christy’s annual luncheon.

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The Informer

Culture

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Love, Actually

The F Word, starring Daniel Radcliffe in his post–Harry Potter prime, is a lo-fi love story for the digital age—and the most authentic romantic comedy in years

Love, Actually

(Image: courtesy of eOne Entertainment)

The new movie The F Word begins with a vintage rom-com meet-cute. At a house party, Wallace, a witty med-school dropout played by Daniel Radcliffe, spells out “Love is stupid monkeys” with word magnets on a fridge. His poetry draws the attention of a pretty animator, Chantry (portrayed by Zoe Kazan), sparking an instant romantic connection—but Chantry has a boyfriend, so she and Wallace embark on a fraught friendship. The F Word—renamed What If in the States—examines whether a man and woman can have a platonic relationship despite their mutual attraction. It’s a sweet, smart millennial spin on When Hary Met Sally.

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The Informer

Real Estate

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The Chase: They did the near-impossible—landing a house in Toronto, without a bidding war

The Chase: September 2014The buyers: Peter Loewen, a 35-year-old political science professor at U of T, and Yvette Lam, a 35-year-old business development officer at Harbourfront Centre.

The story: After meeting at a David Myles concert and ­dating for two years, Lam and Loewen took a series of quick leaps forward. First, she rented out her Esplanade one-­bedroom and moved into his Distillery condo. Four months later, he proposed while they were on vacation in France. Post-proposal, they started talking about having kids in the next year or two and, in preparation, they decided to trade up. The plan was to hold on to Lam’s condo for the rental income, sell Loewen’s place and search for a house. They set out with a firm $900,000 ceiling and a list of must-haves: an office where Loewen could write, a clean look to match their mid-century modern furniture, and a location within walking distance of good public schools and a subway.

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