A film­maker tells the story of an epic love tri­an­gle — with Miss Canada and Pierre Trudeau,

Toronto Star - - INSIGHT - JOHN KAST­NER John Kast­ner, a 4-time Emmy win­ner, is work­ing on fam­ily mem­oirs with his sis­ter Su­san Kast­ner.

OK: so you’re a cocky young guy of 22 and you think you’re pretty hot stuff be­cause when you walk into a room with your brand-new girl­friend Julie Maloney, Miss Canada — baddaboom, baddabing! — ev­ery eye in the place is on you and she only has eyes for you. Or so you think. One day, a lit­tle em­bar­rassed, she points out she started dat­ing this other guy be­fore I en­tered the pic­ture. “Noth­ing’s set­tled, and you and I can still date and ev­ery­thing but … I wanted to be hon­est with you.”

My ri­val? No less than the prime minister of Canada, fa­bled world-beat­ing, lady-killing, fud­dle-dud­dling Pierre El­liott Trudeau.

The year is 1970. Be­sides be­ing the world’s most charis­matic and chron­i­cled head of state, PET is one of the hottest bach­e­lors on the planet. Has his pick of a uni­verse of babes: ac­tress Mar­got Kid­der, glam gui­tarist Liona Boyd. He has just brought Bar­bra Streisand to Ot­tawa as his date for an event at the Na­tional Arts Cen­tre. But de­spite Streisand and the rest, de­spite be­ing 50 to Julie’s19, he is, nonethe­less, also af­ter my girl.

I could com­pletely un­der­stand why he would be in­ter­ested in Julie. An Ot­tawa girl, she was gor­geous, smart and funny. And charm­ingly un­pre­ten­tious. She turned down the of­fer from a wealthy Miss Canada spon­sor of lux­u­ri­ous pri­vate quar­ters in his Bri­dle Path man­sion. It was a care­fully guarded se­cret at pageant HQ, but for her en­tire Miss Canada reign the glam­orous beauty queen slept in her brother’s onebed­room Toronto apart­ment, on his couch.

Julie swears her heart be­longs to me. And that I should just chill about those news­pa­per shots of her danc­ing the night away with Trudeau — that I trans­late loosely as “Wa­ter­hole,” the name that in my jeal­ous pique/crazed com­pet­i­tive­ness I will call him from now on — at a state din­ner party for Prince Charles. She dances with Charles, too. And with hockey great Bobby Orr. She swears it’s just part of her gig as Miss Canada.

But I brood. I imag­ine hav­ing it out with Pete Wa­ter­hole in per­son. Alone. Man to man: just me and the prime minister of Canada.

And sud­denly, fate throws him my way. Un­ex­pect­edly, Trudeau agrees to ap­pear on Un­der At­tack, a cam­pus con­fronta­tion tele­vi­sion show I was pro­duc­ing.

On the morn­ing of the tap­ing at Car­leton Univer­sity, I am won­der­ing whether to prep him for the pro­gram or punch him out, when the RCMP sum­mon me to an ur­gent meet­ing.

I freeze: have they got wind of what I’m think­ing? But no. They have in­for­ma­tion that the cam­pus Maoists are plan­ning to sab­o­tage the video­tap­ing: “They will be sit­ting through­out the au­di­ence and when the prime minister speaks, they’re go­ing to stomp their feet in uni­son — boom! boom! boom! — to try and drown him out.” What did I in­tend to do about it?

What did I in­tend to do about it? They were the RCMP. I was not a se­ri­ous per­son, just a 22-year-old ac­tor try­ing to tran­si­tion into TV pro­duc­tion. A few months ear­lier, I had ap­peared in a nude love scene at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val! Trudeau had the armed forces, the RCMP, the Ot­tawa po­lice — but I had to deal with in­sur­rec­tion?

That night Trudeau ar­rived for tap­ing in his floor­length green leather coat and a scarf nearly as long, flung over his shoul­der. He was tense, coiled very tight, clearly aware of the Maoist threat.

I led him to the makeup room where the gor­geous cos­meti­cian bent over him, a lit­tle too close: “Sir, what would you like me to do to you?”

Straight-faced, he pat­ted the sparse growth on his scalp: “Er­rrr, give me a full head of hair like this guy,” he said, nod­ding at me, “and, er­rrr, give me back, oh,10 or 20 years. C’est tout.”

He ac­tu­ally winked at me. Don’t try to charm me, Wa­ter­hole. How’d you like a knuckle sand­wich?

But there was no time to get per­sonal. Out in the au­di­to­rium, things were get­ting ugly. That year, the Car­leton cam­pus, like most oth­ers, was boil­ing with anti-es­tab­lish­ment rage. When the doors opened hun­dreds of stu­dents poured in, loaded for bear, push­ing past se­cu­rity, dis­re­gard­ing the signs, spilling into seats re­served for the PMO.

I stepped up to the mic with a des­per­ate plan to defuse the stom­pers: I told the stu­dents that to ad­dress the PM they must use the two mi­cro­phones spe­cially set up in the aisles: “But I must warn you. These are tricky mi­cro­phones. They have a very lim­ited range — you have to be so close you’re al­most kiss­ing the mic. More than three inches from the mic and we hear noth­ing: Zip. Zero. Zilch. It’s dead air. Any ex­tra­ne­ous sounds will be lost.”

(In truth the mics would pick up ev­ery­thing, es­pe­cially any stomp­ing. I just prayed none of the Maoists was an au­dio buff.)

As the tap­ing be­gan, we breath­lessly waited for the cru­cial test, Trudeau’s first an­swer. He cracked a joke, the stu­dents laughed. We waited for the stomp­ing … but no­body stomped. They had bought it. The old wizard, charm­ing and funny, won the stu­dents over. The protest turned into a love-in. At the end they gave him a stand­ing ova­tion.

Boy, I re­ally showed him. I had handed my ri­val a fab­u­lous show­case, maybe his best ever. The Toronto Star’s TV critic Pat Scott called it: “A vir­tu­oso per­for­mance … His choice of Un­der At­tack as a podium was a cal­cu­lated risk … (but) Trudeau made it the most ef­fec­tive sin­gle podium he has found on tele­vi­sion.”

Trudeau slipped away af­ter the tap­ing be­fore I could set­tle my scores.

I suppose you’re won­der­ing about Julie and me. As a mat­ter of fact, I won. Wa­ter­hole mar­ried some­one else and Julie and I con­tin­ued dat­ing. What changed her mind? Well, she never ac­tu­ally said so, not in so many words … but I’m pretty cer­tain it was the Oc­to­ber Cri­sis later that year that did it. As I pointed out to Julie, faced with civil un­rest, Wa­ter­hole brought out the army. I re­minded her how dif­fer­ently I had dealt with civil un­rest, faced with it the night of the Un­der At­tack tap­ing: the RCMP came to me for help.

“Real men don’t need to call out the army,” I told her. I am not 100 per cent cer­tain, but I think she was pretty im­pressed.


A young Prince Charles dances dur­ing a state din­ner party in July 1970, while Miss Caanda Julie Maloney chats with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau..


John Kast­ner with Maloney in Inu­vik, N.W.T. Pierre Trudeau, whom the Miss Canada win­ner had also dated, ap­peared on Kast­ner’s TV show.

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