Thursday, September 30, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
By Greg Nikkel
He didn’t come as Jack Bauer, the rebellious one-man nation-saver on the series 24, but as just himself, and it was really quite interesting meeting him and seeing how much of a genuinely nice guy he is.
The occasion, of course, was the unveiling of the new bronze statue of Tommy Douglas, gifted to the city by the extraordinarily-talented sculptor Lea Vivot, as the “Greatest Canadian” who ever lived just happens to be his grandfather.
I’m sure by now everybody in the country knows this, but still, it was major news for this city to have Kiefer visit here; consider when it was announced that he was coming, even the Financial Post carried that on their front page.
The first time I got to meet him was at the T.C. Douglas Centre, as he had a look around at the memorabilia and the photos of his mother, Shirley Douglas, and of Tommy and Irma Douglas, his grandparents. One photo showed his mom and her bike, and it reminded him of a family story, which he shared at the Legion Hall.
The story goes that Tommy came one day to find his daughter crying; as Kiefer explained it, the tears didn’t fall down her face but shot straight out from her eyes. Anyway, she explained that her bike had been stolen; asked why she didn’t get it back, she said the one who stole it was bigger than she was. As Tommy was a former boxing champ, he then gave his daughter her first boxing lesson, and two days later she came home with her bike and a broad smile.
What impressed me about Kiefer was his seemingly infinite patience and graciousness; when we walked out of the museum room at the T.C. Douglas Centre, I was the last one out as he held the door, and he turned to me, holding his hand out and said, “Hello, I’m Kiefer; and you are …?”
I shook his hand and introduced myself, amazed that a Hollywood star (Jack Bauer, dude!) just introduced himself to me. At the Legion, he stood and talked to absolutely everybody who wanted his autograph and/or a photo with him, and he was tireless and gracious to them all.
And, he was so nice about what Weyburn means to the Douglas family; to be sure, this is Tommy’s grandson, and he was clearly proud to be his grandson rather than Jack Bauer facing the Hollywood press. (And in four months he will be Jack Bauer for the 24 movie!)
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Sculptor's threat to remove statue looks self-serving
Sculptor Lea Vivot, who donated her time to produce a sculpture of the revered former Saskatchewan premier and father of medicare, is so upset with the Sept. 10 unveiling ceremony in Weyburn that she is considering taking back the statue and perhaps moving it to Mr. Douglas's birthplace of Scotland.
In interviews this weekend Ms. Vivot called the ceremony, which attracted nationwide attention due to the presence of Mr. Douglas's grandson, Hollywood actor Kiefer Sutherland, "a publicity stunt" and a "Hollywood circus"
She is certainly within her rights to be upset about the ceremony, which she felt should have focused more on the former premier and the sculpture. But to suggest that it's a good reason to remove the work of art from the community that raised the $30,000 to pay for the materials stretches logic to the same degree that Mr. Sutherland's TV series, 24, stretched believability.
The truth is that the presence of the actor, with whom Ms. Vivot posed smiling for photographs with the statue, attracted more attention to the ceremony and the statue than it would normally have received. Without the Emmy-winning actor, there might not have been the same degree of national news coverage that Ms. Vivot said left her feeling "jilted," because she was not mentioned by name.
This leaves the unsavoury impression that she was fine with the attention that Mr. Sutherland would attract, so long as the focus remained on her and her work.
No one knows better than Mr. Sutherland, who has had several scrapes with the law, that you don't always get the press coverage you want. Mr. Douglas as a politician didn't exactly get a smooth ride from the media, either.
The actor's presence was known well in advance and any reasonable person could have predicted the reaction to his celebrity. Still, for a movie star descending on a city of about 9,500, the event appeared restrained and reverential.
Mr. Sutherland's presence dominated the news coverage, but it's not as if he yapped about his latest film project; he was clearly there to honour his grandfather, not to enhance his own image.
Should he have been excluded because of his celebrity? If Ms. Vivot had approval over the ceremony -- as one media report suggests she thought she did -- would she have denied his participation?
Ms. Vivot also thought the presence of politicians detracted from the event. That's like decrying the attendance of hockey players at the unveiling of the statue of Wayne Gretzky in Edmonton.
Mr. Douglas was a politician, even if his beloved legacy transcends the feelings for most in his profession. His accomplishments were in political office, and he is strongly identified with the dominant party in Saskatchewan politics for the last 66 years. To suggest politicians should not have played some role in a ceremony honouring a former premier and national party leader is ridiculous.
Ms. Vivot should reflect on her inspiration to make the monument and ask whether her current threat befits her motivation, which at one time seemed quite moving and unselfish.
The Czechoslovakia-born sculptor was inspired to learn more about Mr. Douglas when she received free medical care after a car accident. She decided he deserved a statue to honour his role in medicare and says the project took her two years.
The threat to remove the statue because she didn't get the press coverage she wanted makes her now seem petulant and self-serving.
She need not worry that her name was not mentioned in initial stories, because her threat is getting national coverage.
As for moving the statue to Scotland, if there is a statue of Mr. Douglas it belongs in a community and a country where he is an icon, not a mere footnote.
If Ms. Vivot carries through with her threat -- and it could devolve into an ugly legal battle with Weyburn -- let's hope another artist would step forward with motives more closely aligned to those of the man being honoured.
"Democracy cannot be maintained without its foundation: free public opinion and free discussion throughout the nation of all matters affecting the state within the limits set by the criminal code and the common law." - The Supreme Court of Canada, 1938
Monday, September 20, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
"The Greatest Canadian" Honoured with Statue in Weyburn
BY JENNIFER LACHARITE
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
"Stunning:"Kiefer Sutherland's reaction to statue of grandpa Tommy Douglas
WEYBURN, Sask. - Socialist icon Tommy Douglas is considered the father of Canada's public health-care system, but he was simply "grandpa" to actor Kiefer Sutherland.
Sutherland travelled to Weyburn, Sask., Douglas's hometown, to unveil a statue of Douglas on Friday.
"This has been such a desire of mine since I can remember. I was about five or six when I started hearing the stories from mother and from my grandma and grandpa about this amazing town," Sutherland told the crowd gathered under overcast skies.
"You have been a part of my life growing up and you certainly have had a huge impact on my family's life and I can never express the depth of the gratitude that I have for all of you."
Rays of sunshine broke through the clouds just as Sutherland reached up to uncover the statue.
"That's just gorgeous!," Sutherland exclaimed, then placed his hand on the hand of the Douglas statue. "I have waited a long time to hold my grandpa's hand again."
He later told reporters it was an emotional moment for him.
"My grandfather died when I was 18 years old and it wasn't until I stood next to that (statue) and kind of could just feel the proximity of the size and the likeness and everything else, how much I missed him and I got sad about that actually for a moment."
Sutherland got a hometown welcome from a star-struck crowd of hundreds, as he signed autographs and cheerfully posed for pictures.
One grinning fan stood next to the "24" star wearing a custom-made T-shirt that said "I'm with Jack Bauer," referring to Sutherland's character on the show. Another gave Sutherland a Saskatchewan Roughriders ball cap.
"I think it's a real historical day for Weyburn, for the province and for the country really," said Wendy Tingle, who waited more than an hour for the unveiling, sometimes under driving rain.
"He's the greatest Canadian," Tingle said of Douglas.
Sutherland said he was flattered by the attention, but not surprised by the number of people who showed up for the unveiling and to pay tribute to Douglas.
Douglas, a former premier of Saskatchewan and a former federal NDP leader, was committed to social reform. Sutherland said his family, including his mother, actress Shirley Douglas, appreciated the recognition from the community.
"It was very funny. My grandpa never wanted a monument. His work was going to be his legacy and I think we all respect that," said Sutherland.
"I think it'll probably mean a lot more to us though."