Newsmakers: June 8-14, 2012

The mayor who cheesed off Obama, an Ottawa man’s unfortunate likeness, and taking flak for hating Nickelback
Canada’s Jacques Villeneuve smiles after taking the pole position during qualifying session at the NAPA Auto Parts 200 NASCAR Nationwide race Friday, August 19, 2011 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Paul Chiasson/CP

Granny will be so proud

It was third-time lucky for Zara Phillips, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II. Horse injuries forced her from Olympic contention in 2004 and 2008, but now she has been selected for London 2012. Zara’s father, Mark Phillips, and mother, Princess Anne, were also Olympic equestrians.

Kids, just spinning their wheels

Jacques Villeneuve is a bit young, at 41, to be a grumpy old man, but he would seem to prefer that the kids get off his lawn, as it were. When protesters in Montreal threatened the Formula One Grand Prix, the racing champion said, “It’s time for people to wake up and stop loafing about. It’s lasted long enough. We heard them. We listened. They should stop.” Villeneuve said he thinks protesters grew up without their parents ever telling them no and deemed them “rebels without a cause.” Is it premature to speculate about Villeneuve running to be the next leader of the Quebec Liberal party?

Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

How deep is their love

Barry Gibb, the last survivor of the mega-selling trio the Bee Gees, fought back tears in a tribute at the funeral of his brother Robin on June 8. Fans lined the streets leading to St. Mary’s Church in Thame, in central England, to mark the end of Robin’s long battle with liver and colon cancer. His death came nine years after that of his twin, Maurice. The three brothers had a string of hits with their soaring harmonies, but nothing surpassed their 1977 disco classic Saturday Night Fever, the bestselling movie soundtrack of all time. Barry said he takes comfort in believing that Robin and Maurice are reunited, and he thanked the mourners. “The three of us have seen a lot of crowds, but I’ve never seen so much love in one crowd as I’m looking at today.”

Boxing on the ropes

When welterweights Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley squared off in the ring at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on June 9, the winner seemed obvious to most everyone in the crowd—except the judges. Pacquiao, an icon in his native Philippines, landed 253 punches to Bradley’s 159. The judges, in a split decision greeted by a chorus of boos, put more weight on Bradley’s late-bout resurgence. Pacquiao said he believed he won, but he won’t blame the judges. “It’s part of the game, and I accept that wholeheartedly. I do my best, but my best wasn’t good enough.”

Nukes: Noda bad idea?

Japanese prime ministers don’t normally stage national TV addresses wherein they deliver no-nonsense appeals to their citizenry, but Yoshihiko Noda has busted the mould. Last Friday, he sought to persuade the Japanese to put aside their growing distrust of politics and nuclear power and accept the restarting of at least some of Japan’s nuclear plants, closed in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Japan depends on nuclear power for a third of its energy needs. “Cheap and reliable electricity are essential for supporting prosperous and decent livelihoods,” Noda said. “Japanese society cannot function if we stop or try to do without nuclear power.”

Bain of his existence

Until late last month, Newark Mayor Cory Booker was a rising star within the Democratic Party who often spoke, unofficially, for President Barack Obama. Then, during an appearance on Meet the Press, Booker began freelancing, launching a critique of Obama’s re-election campaign and its relentless focus on Bain Capital, Mitt Romney’s former private equity firm. “Stop attacking private equity,” Booker said, calling the tack “nauseating” and “crap.” Hours later he released a video clarifying his position, an unconvincing performance; things got no better the next day during a backtracking spot on Rachel Maddow’s show on MSNBC. All of it was too much for Team Obama: “He’s dead to us,” an insider told the New York Post.

Muppet-sized but alive

In the 1970s, Paul Williams’s towering stature as a songwriter made short work of his diminutive height: with credits that included the CarpentersWe’ve Only Just Begun, Barbra Streisand’s love theme from A Star Is Born, and The Muppet Movie’s Rainbow Connection, he was a giant. He was also ubiquitous, appearing in films, celebrity game shows and opposite Johnny Carson. Drugs and drink pulled him from the spotlight, to the point where his Wikipedia entry recorded his death. But he’s still around, and now the subject of a documentary, Paul Williams Still Alive, in which his quiet humility as a recovered addict manages to sink efforts by the director, Stephen Kessler, to upstage him.

Maybe time to grow a beard

Joey Ghattas recently found himself winning a very unfortunate look-alike contest. “You should probably go indoors,” an old lady told him at the grocery store, “because you look like that Luka guy.” The 24-year-old Ottawa man bears a slight resemblance to accused murderer Luka Rocco Magnotta and Ghattas told the Ottawa Citizen that strangers are taking note. At the Bay, he was even approached by two security guards. “They said, ‘With all the hoopla and the hysteria of it all, we wanted to make sure. You kind of resemble him from a certain angle.’ I was kind of insulted. I don’t think I look like him at all,” Ghattas said. “I had to get out. I was so embarrassed.”

Tricky Dick revisited

Attempts to rehabilitate the reputation of late U.S. president Richard Nixon hold no sway with Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the two Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate scandal that precipitated his resignation. Information that has come to light since shows Nixon was “far worse” than they thought, they wrote in Saturday’s Post, marking 40 years since the June 17, 1972, break-in. They say from the start of his presidency in 1969 he showed a “willingness to disregard the law for political advantage.” They claim he waged five unethical wars: against the anti-Vietnam War movement, the news media, the Democrats, the justice system and against history itself as he tried to cover up his actions. “Long before the Watergate break-in, gumshoeing, burglary, wiretapping and political sabotage had become a way of life in the Nixon White House,” they wrote.

And the award goes to . . . Mom

Canadian A-list actor Ryan Gosling and his girlfriend Eva Mendes made cameo appearances at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., last week, happy to play a supporting role at the graduation ceremony of Gosling’s mother, Donna. The star of such movies as The Notebook, Drive and The Ides of March jumped to his feet and snapped pictures as she received her bachelor of education degree. Ryan and Mendes tried to keep their appearance low-key. “This is my mom’s day,” he said politely when approached by a reporter. “He is very fond and proud of his mother,” said a university spokesman. “He was beaming.”

A Nickelback for your thoughts

Things are getting noisy in Boise, and that’s before the Canadian rockers Nickelback fired up their guitars and pyrotechnics at the Idaho Center on June 13. A concert preview in the Boise Weekly trashing the band has earned music critic Josh Gross plenty of notoriety. Gross suggested other uses for the $45 cost of a ticket: buying a dozen Big Macs, doing 10 loads of laundry, “or you could buy 45 hammers from the dollar store, hang them from the ceiling at eye level and spend an evening banging the demons out of your dome.” The preview generated more than 500,000 Internet hits in the first few days. One typical post said, “Have fun sitting in your studio apartment while these guys make your annual salary in one night.” Gross concedes other bands are more deserving of criticism, “but they are not playing in Boise this week.”

Horse sense

Scratching I’ll Have Another from the Belmont Stakes due to a tendon injury crushed hopes of a Triple Crown victory, but it also showed the classy side of thoroughbred racing. Owner Paul Reddam had more respect for his horse than many coaches and owners who patch up their human athletes and send them out to play hurt. Reddam had invited friends and family from his hometown of Windsor to Belmont. “They made the trip hoping to see something great and, through just a bad accident, it isn’t going to happen,” he told the Windsor Star. A day after announcing his horse’s retirement to stud, the party went ahead.

No slam for Novak

Novak Djokovic, the world’s No. 1 ranked male tennis player, came two sets short of making history at the French Open as the first man in 43 years to win all four Grand Slam singles. He lost to Rafael Nadal. The 25-year-old Serb made no excuses for losing: “The better player won today, so congratulations for that.” Toronto’s Daniel Nestor was also in fine form in Paris. He and partner Max Mirnyi of Belarus defended their doubles title against top-ranked twins Bob and Mike Bryan of the U.S. “They weren’t their normal selves,” Nestor said of the twins. “We were a bit fortunate for that.”