Newsmakers: August 4-11, 2011

Sean Avery gets arrested, the youngest Mulroney gets hitched and Amélie gets to say goodbye to all that

Kate Lunau, Richard Warnica, Alex Ballingall and Emma Teitel


Stan Behal/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency

All grown up

Brian Mulroney’s youngest son, 25-year-old Nicolas, who was born while the Mulroneys lived at 24 Sussex, tied the knot this week at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on McCaul Street in downtown Toronto. Nicolas and Katy Carlyle Brebner, 26, are both bankers at RBC, where they met. The former prime minister told reporters the service was “very, very nice” and his son’s new bride is “a beauty.” Three hundred guests attended the afternoon service, including Nicolas’s brothers Ben and Mark, who served as best men; Mila, with Brian close behind, walked her youngest child down the aisle.

The guidettes take Italy

The bronzed, undereducated, ever-intoxicated cast of Jersey Shore returned to the small screen this week for a fourth season, this time in Italy—you know, the country with the peso for its currency, according to Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi. Although her “Italian” was limited to ciao and gracias—yes, really—Deena Cortese was in her element in the homeland, though she hates the pizza’s “thin, thin crust.” The food, in fact, was a miss for the gang from Jersey. “They didn’t even have bagels!” complained Mike “the Situation” Sorrentino, now calling himself “The Situatione.”

Not a braid out of place

Ukrainian folk hero Yulia Tymoshenko appeared in court last week, trademark braids neatly coiffed, despite having spent the previous three nights in prison. Tymoshenko was arrested for contempt of court after refusing to stand before the judge and repeatedly mocking him on Twitter. She’s made her feelings clear about the trial, which she views as an attempt to block her from running in future elections. Tymoshenko, the darling of the 2004 pro-Western Orange Revolution and currently a fierce opponent of President Viktor Yanukovych, faces charges of abuse of power over gas deals with Russia. Apparently unbowed after her weekend behind bars, she refused, once again, to stand before the judge on her return to court, yelling, “Glory to Ukraine!”

Survival of the fishes

Two goldfish have become unlikely symbols of the hardy New Zealand spirit after surviving February’s Christchurch earthquake. Shaggy and Daphne, named for Scooby Doo characters, were trapped in a damaged office tower after the quake killed 181 people. But after a rescue worker found them swimming in their tank this summer, news of the unlikely survival story spread. There is little mystery, however, to how the fish made it through the ordeal. There were six goldfish in the tank before the quake; only Shaggy and Daphne survived. One corpse was found floating in the water. Three others had disappeared entirely.

One way to answer the call of duty

Quinn Pitcock, the all-American defensive tackle who was drafted to the NFL in 2007 as a third-round pick, retired after a single season. The reason? The 27-year-old was addicted to video games, especially the first-person shooter Call of Duty. Pitcock told the Detroit Free Press he could easily play for 18 hours straight. The 300-lb. football player, who is attempting a comeback with the Detroit Lions this season, called gaming his “drug of choice,” adding that he sometimes skipped meals without even realizing it. “When I was down, I got consumed in video games. For some reason, that’s what made me feel better and kind of block[ed] out life. I just got sucked in.”

Cancer doesn’t discriminate. But Medicaid does.

A South Carolina construction worker diagnosed with breast cancer has been denied Medicaid—because of gender. Only women are covered for that particular disease. That leaves Raymond Johnson, 26, who earns $9 an hour, without a way to pay for chemotherapy. Some lawmakers, however, hope to change the rules: “It’s silly as hell,” Kay Patterson, a former S.C. senator and male breast cancer survivor, told Charleston’s Post and Courier. “If you discriminated like this against a female, people would be up in arms.”

Au revoir, Amélie

Movie star Audrey Tautou says she may soon walk away from show business. The Amélie star—France’s most bankable actress—is apparently tired of the grind. “I have several plan Bs,” the 35-year-old told Britain’s Telegraph. “I want to become a sailor; I like to draw; I would love to learn many things, but I don’t have time.” Since starring alongside Tom Hanks in The Da Vinci Code five years ago, she’s appeared in only three films, all French, including her new comedy, Beautiful Lies. It’s unclear whether her talk of retirement is one of them.

Can a B.C. boy save Toronto’s Jays?

As with all things, professional athletes’ fortunes have their ups and downs. For the upside, consider Brett Lawrie’s stellar debut series with the Toronto Blue Jays. The 21-year-old ran in a homer in Baltimore last week, in front of his proud parents and big sister Danielle, who pitched for Canada at the Beijing Olympics. “T.O. comininhot,” tweeted the brash rookie, in line to become the next face of the franchise. Then there’s NHL bad boy Sean Avery. The native of North York in Toronto, no stranger to controversy, was once traded after making sexist slurs about his celebrity ex-girlfriend. This time, he’s in trouble with the law. When police visited his Los Angeles mansion during a party last week, he allegedly called the officers “fat little pigs,” shoved one of them, then slammed the door in their faces. The cops, naturally, didn’t take kindly to the celebrity treatment, and Avery spent the night in the slammer before being released on US$20,000 bail. Charged with battery of an officer, he could face a year in prison if convicted. “North York cominincold,” you might say.

Poland’s new flight plan

Poland’s prime minister fired a series of senior military staffers last week after a report blamed a deadly plane crash on poor training and general incompetence. Donald Tusk made the move 15 months after president Lech Kaczynski and 95 others were killed when their military plane went down over Russia. Investigators put the blame mostly on the Poles. Thirteen officials, including the deputy defence minister, were given the pink slip. “These are just the first steps,” Tusk declared. “The Polish military needs them.”

The price of love

Spain’s Duchess of Alba is so fabulously wealthy, royal watchers claim, she can traverse the country from north to south without setting foot off her own estates. Until now, however, Spain’s top aristocrat—said to have more titles than any other royal on the planet—has been barred from marrying long-time companion Alfonso Diez, a minor civil servant 24 years her junior, by her six children (whom, the 85-year-old duchess likes to point out, are all divorced). In 2008, a proposal was reportedly squelched after a disapproving phone call from King Juan Carlos himself. Now, to appease her family and secure the right to wed, the duchess is giving her vast personal fortune—which includes palaces and a collection of artworks by masters like Goya—to her children and grandchildren. Apparently, Alfonso doesn’t mind. “All he wants is me,” says the duchess.

Second prize was 90 days

To most, airports are a drag: all that dodging the groping hands of security guards and jostling through crowds at the baggage carousel. But Jaeger Mah, 29, is planning to live at one, around the clock, for 80 days and nights. The Port Alberni, B.C., businessman won the right to shack up at the Vancouver International Airport via a contest to celebrate its 80th anniversary. Starting Aug. 17, the self-described “Anderson Cooper of YVR” will blog, tweet and broadcast daily on the Live@YVR website. There will be stories about the strangest cargo, and loved ones parting or reuniting. But he won’t be camping on benches under fluorescent lights: Mah will sleep at the airport Fairmont, complete with soaker tubs and soundproof windows.

Plus ça change

The International Monetary Fund just can’t catch a break. The same week that Le Parisien reported that Air France had an all-male cabin crew to fly with former director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, his successor, former finance minister Christine Lagarde, found herself in hot water. French prosecutors are calling for an inquiry into Lagarde’s 2007 decision to award millions of dollars in damages to business tycoon Bernard Tapie.

Enslaved—in West Vancouver

Mumtaz Ladha, a 55-year-old West Vancouverite, appeared in court this week on charges of human trafficking and human smuggling. Police say she kept a 21-year-old African woman working as a slave inside her home, located in one of Canada’s wealthiest neighbourhoods. In 2008, Ladha allegedly promised the woman a work visa and a job in a Vancouver hair salon. But on arriving in Canada, say police, Ladha took the woman’s passport and put her to work inside her mansion, sans pay, feeding her table scraps and ordering her to hand-wash the entire household’s underwear. The victim managed, eventually, to escape to a women’s shelter.

Fifty candles!

Barack Obama celebrated his 50th birthday at a party-cum-fundraiser in Chicago this week. The U.S. President, bruised by the debt-ceiling battle and tales of economic woe, received what is for him a rare thing these days: an appreciative audience. Admirers, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, packed the star-laden event.