Column

‘With one ear protected by the warm left breast of his versatile secretary...'

Allan Fotheringham January 15 1979
Column

‘With one ear protected by the warm left breast of his versatile secretary...'

Allan Fotheringham January 15 1979

‘With one ear protected by the warm left breast of his versatile secretary...'

Column

Allan Fotheringham

One April evening in 1968 in the Otdays after Martin Luther King was shot and the night they decided to burn down Detroit—I witnessed one of the more astonishing sights of my youthful malehood. The sight was Judy LaMarsh, in thigh-high plastic boots, appearing in the Paul Hellyer cheering section in the fight for the Liberal leadership. I’m not sure whether I’ve ever recovered. The next day, during the furious powerstroking after the second ballot that saw Hellyer trailing both Pierre Trudeau and Robert Winters, my frail little body was crushed in the stampede of thrusting microphones around the insanely stubborn Hellyer as Judy pleaded passionately with him to throw in his lot with Winters to stop “that bastard” Trudeau. It was one of the more well recorded—and honest—assessments of our time.

Judy LaMarsh does not like Pierre Trudeau. I beg lieve it can be surmised— £ since Trudeau is not given ^ to confiding his inner g thought processes—that the prime minister does not like Ms. LaMarsh. What is certain is that the PM—plus an astonishing number of other high figures in high places in Ottawa and Toronto—are going to dislike the obstreperous lady even more later this month when her first “novel” is published. To call it a novel is to call a stiletto a paring knife. The title is A Very Political Lady and the object at hand is a careful evisceration of the most proud, the most vain—and the most masculine—members of the Liberal party which dear, deadly Judy once served as a cabinet minister.

There is, in finest literary tradition, the acceptable form of the roman à clef, depicting historical events and characters in the guise of fiction. Readable stuff. The most recent victim of excess has been the precious Truman Capote, who has been shattered by being banished from all the Beautiful People spas after stripping naked all his playmates from Jackie O. on down in a thinly disguised assassination called Answered

Prayers. Such has been the vicious retaliation against Capote after some segments were excerpted in magazines, that the book has yet to be published.

The scandal to hit the fan when LaMarsh’s prose lands in the bookstores is likely to be somewhat the same. The lady thinks she is verboten now; she ain’t seen nothing yet. For the first thing, she will never be confused with Capote. As an author,she is somewhat like Anne of Green Gables crossed with Harlequin romance. But as the proprietor of a literary slaughterhouse she

will have everyone in Ottawa buying.

There is Prime Minister JeanJacques Charles, whose ways “were not to be questioned. Enigmatic and haughty, he was like a High Priest except that he believed in no one but himself. Charles was a leader and he expected to be followed .... His eyes glittered, and his facial muscles worked, drawing the pebbly skin over the high cheekbones.” Anyone you know?

That is kind, considering some of the other carcasses carved up. There is this minister of finance, you see. His name is Hume Frazier. He is first encountered in the West Block, interrupted as the division bells ring “with one ear wedged against the leather of his office couch and the other protected by the warm left breast of his versatile secretary, Molly Paradis.” Ms. LaMarsh, the apprentice Capote, goes on: “He was a handsome, almost pretty man. He noted with approval the way his hair was silvering at the temples. Those startling blue eyes with their unwavering stare

had often been used to advantage— whether to discomfit an opponent, or to compel the interest of a new woman.” Gee whillikers, that sounds like . . . but no, it can’t be, because a few pages onward an anonymous woman comes to the PM’s aide to reveal that Hume Frazier has signed a woman not his wife into a hospital to obtain an abortion and forged the signature of her husband. Surely author Judy is confused?

Judy LaMarsh can’t write her way out of a cheque book, but she could lead a knee-capping squad in a banana republic. Allen Drury, a respected American reporter, founded a new cottage industry through such novels as Advise and Consent, titillating the Washington diplomatic circuit with a paper chase as to the real identity of his characters. For Judy’s villains, the Rockcliffe cocktail crowd needs the subtlety of a paint-bynumbers correspondence course.

Jim Coutts, the PM’s principal secretary, is “ ‘Boots’ Jamieson, short, blonde, with a cheery face.” Keith Davey is “the shaggyhaired, stoop-shouldered Sen. David Kirke.” Walter Gordon? Carter Warden, “despite the June day, in a dark pinstriped suit.” This is not even to mention the beautiful, naive woman (guitarist Liona Boyd crossed with someone else) whom the PM marries.

I mean, if you’re going to be vicious, you might as well have fun—or vice versa. “The impeccably garbed chairman, crossed his legs, bringing into view the pebble-grained white loafers that marked him as a Vancouverite.” John Nichol, surely that couldn’t be you? Bonnie Costello (“usually flushed with enthusiasm for one project or another”) is Iona Campagnolo. Word is that Francis Fox, on legal advice, has decided not to sue. He is not the man who should worry. Some of the bedroom scenes featuring Hume Frazier—whoever he is— and his frigid wife, I would not wish on Gerald Ford. One thing is guaranteed. The very political lady is going to be even more a very unpopular lady.1^?