Gloria Macarenko & Cecilia Walters vs Shelagh Rogers's MotherThursday, January 11, 2007
Be forewarned, if you read further, that I know little about television. My wife Rosemary and I limit ourselves to the Turner Classics Movies channel at 6:30 pm on Tuesdays for the Star of the Month series. This month we are thoroughly enjoying the films of Jean Arthur. While watching her it got me to thinking about CBC TV's Gloria Macarenko. There might not be any obvious connection unless you ever listened to Bill Richardson's fine CBC Radio program Bunny Watson, which like all good things had to go away. In that program Richardson showed how everything can be connected through association if you look hard enough. Jean Arthur was a forceful heroine who apparently in real life was absolutely terrified (unlike Katherine Hepburn as Bunny Watson) of appearing on a film set and fought nausea and worse. Yet she was so natural and wonderful.
There are forceful women in our media, particularly on CBC Radio, my radio station of choice. Mary Lou Finlay was one of my faves and Ana Maria Tramonti is growing on me. The most forceful of them all was Shelagh Rogers's ( Sounds Like Canada) mother who appeared on Rogers's show a few times. Her voice was stronger and her laugh louder than her daughter's. And of course there is the inimitable and wonderful Barbara Budd of As It Happens. Budd could make my granddaughter Lauren, 4, finish her Chicken a la Barbara (Lauren loathes it unless we call it paprika chicken) without any needed persuasion. On CBC radio, the women are women that are no-nonsense. They are intelligent. They matter to me. I would love to sit down for tea with any of them. I like them, I love them. But for TV, we Canadians ( at least here in Vancouver) choose a different kind of woman. She is not so forceful, she is more sensitive and there is some sort of Jean Arthur fragility and an almost hidden sadness that is masked by what seems to be an effortless performance. Two such women come to mind.
At 8:30 every weekday morning I get to hear Cecilia Walters (no speech impediment, no lisp, and a clean and crisp delivery) whom I met in the late 80s. She came to my studio for a photograph that accompanied a Vancouver Magazine profile. The magazine hired Sonny of Broadway to do her hair. I had my best makeup person and Tony Cavelti, escorted by an armed guard, brought the lovely emerald and diamonds ear rings you see in the picture here, above right. Perhaps we Canadians weren't as sophisticated then to appreciate a low key, sensitive (and intelligent) female TV news anchor and we would have settled for someone like CNN's Paula Zahn. The little I have seen of Paula Zahn reminds me of that scene in Butterfield 8 where Elizabeth Taylor drills and then grinds her stiletto high heel on Lawrence Harvey's shoe. Paula Zahn would probably have made it even more painful for Harvey.
Since I prefer to read my news in my daily print edition of the New York Times at 6:30 am, I have seen little of Gloria Macarenko on TV. But I have seen enough to be charmed and drawn in. For news of Vancouver I listen to CBC radio. I have had the good fortune of having Macarenko in my studio a couple of times. I don't think any man in my place could feel any different than I felt when this woman looked into my lens and straight (it would seem) into my soul. Then she spoke to me in her perfect Castilian. Had I been a few years younger (this happened in 1999) I would have challenged her husband to a duel at 6am (with time to rush home to read the NY Times) in the back alley to Holy Rosary Cathedral. I subsequently met the charming Mr Enrique Manchon, who is a terrific photographer, socially at art openings and desisted from striking him with my glove.
Recently I asked Macarenko if I could bring my granddaughter Rebecca to watch her during her CBC News: Canada Now broadcast. We did (escorted and given a tour of the place by cameraman Michael Varga) and as I watched this woman, I realized why it is that I love Canada and I why I especially like to live in Vancouver. We are now sophisticated enough and un-American enough to appreciate what we could not, back then with Cecilia Walters. Macarenko is the perfect TV news anchor. I wonder if the CBC knows? Rebecca was charmed by Macarenko and the next day nobody in school would believe that she had actually seen her live and talked to her!
Macarenko has been doing her own makeup for years (oh! the scandal) because the CBC does not have the budget for a makeup person. I am sure that if Jennifer Mather, in her new CBC TV show, does not get her makeup, there will be holes in her producer's shoes.