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celebrating love and Canada

“The lesbian wedding of the century,” someone called it, and it was – at least, so far this century in Canada. And my daughter Anna and I were at the party afterwards. It was a mah-vellous party.

Anna works as a part-time nanny for Ilana Landsberg-Lewis, whose parents are Stephen Lewis and Michele Landsberg, two of the best-known and loved social activists in this country. Michele had a feminist newspaper column for years, has written many books and is involved in countless good causes; her husband was an NDP politician, then at the U.N., and is now the Canadian envoy in charge of AIDS advocacy in Africa. Ilana runs the Stephen Lewis Foundation. She has two young sons, 4 and 7.
Her love is Lorraine Segato, rock star, whose band Parachute Club was one of the fixtures of Queen Street West in the heyday of Toronto’s groovy club scene. The two have been living together for some time and were married yesterday afternoon at a huge estate in Paris, Ontario, owned by a gay millionaire who paid for the entire event – 50 guests in a lush garden in the hot fall sunshine, the ceremony written by the couple and presided over by Eve Ensler, writer of The Vagina Monologues and an ordained minister, followed by a banquet. A film of the afternoon’s events ran in loops above the stage throughout the evening.
And then, the party on Queen Street West West, as the further reaches of the street are now known. I was Anna’s date. And what a group was assembled – an extraordinary mix of Canadian, particularly Toronto, creme de la creme – gay royalty, leftist Jewish activist royalty and African royalty, perhaps literally in that case. I knew more faces than names. For example, I spent some time chatting to Stephen Lewis’s interesting sister Nina, only to be told that she is the famous architect Daniel Liebeskind’s wife and business partner. And of course Ilana’s brother Avi Lewis and his superstar wife Naomi Klein were there. What a family!
I talked with old friend Gerry Caplan and his wife Carol – Gerry, writer and activist, is a leftist pundit and the Canadian expert on the massacres in Rwanda, and Carol is a key figure in provincial labour relations – and to a beautiful woman with thick white hair – Barbara Coloroso, author of “Children are worth it,” my bible when the kids were growing up.
“I went to hear you speak once,” I told her, “and the product of your advice is playing with Ilana’s kids in the next room.” Barbara turned from general parenting advice to a book on dealing with bullying and from there, a hugely painful leap to a book on genocide. She told me she is supposed to be writing another book about this last topic and has found she just can’t. She has grandchildren now and wants to return to parenting advice. She’s on the board of the Lewis Foundation and had flown in from Colorado for the event.
Then I chatted with another old friend, Susan Feldman, executive producer of literary programming at the CBC. We discussed my afternoon spent cleaning my kitchen, as I usually do from 3 to 4 on Sundays while listening to Eleanor Wachtel’s superb literary interview program. And then with Ann-Marie Macdonald, one of only two Canadians to have been selected for Oprah’s book club and to have appeared on her show. It’s exactly 20 years since the opening of the Phantom of the Opera, which my then-husband produced for Garth Drabinsky; Ann-Marie was one of our guests in the limo that spectacular night. She and her partner Alissa have two children; Alissa is a busy director so Ann-Marie is the stay-at-home parent.
Who else? Politicos, artsies – actors, writers, producers – Sandra Schamas, the great comedienne – and advocates. So many fascinating people. Rita Zekas, the Toronto Star gossip columnist, came to sit at our table and complimented me on my sweater. “Vintage?” she asked. I didn’t even need to answer, given the state of it with bits of thread hanging off – but it is lovely, of 50’s acrylic with sequins and embroidery. FYI, I was dressed entirely by Goodwill of Gerrard Street, the sweater worn over a classic 50’s little black dress – “Dresstown,” says the label – with my mother’s sparkly jet beads. There were as great an assortment of wardrobe choices as social groups, as you can imagine, with one woman in a floor-length ball-gown, some of the lesbian contingent resplendent in snazzy suits, the Africans in traditional clothing and headdresses of magnificent fabrics, the Jewish social activists in plain “I don’t dress up for anyone” garb, one of the brides in a fluffy white wedding dress with a train and the other in satin suit jacket and ruffled blouse. “Are you a friend of the bride or the bride?” Susan Feldman asked me.
Time for music. Folksinger Murray McLaughlin sang a love song, Molly Johnson sang several great jazz numbers, colleagues of the rock star bride did some numbers while we all danced, and then we were invited to dance the hora, the traditional Jewish wedding dance. So we formed a chaotic circle, weaving around and clapping, while the two women were hoisted onto chairs held above our heads, Lorraine flapping the traditional handkerchief used after a Jewish wedding ceremony. That was about it for tradition, except that the dance ended with Lorraine waltzing with her father. Her parents immigrated to Canada from Italy. I do not think that the events of the day would have figured in their wildest imaginings about what awaited them in this new country.
Michele and Stephen spoke beautifully and with humour about the passionate love and commitment of the couple and their own joy. Then Lorraine leapt onto the stage and sang a fabulous number – she’s a live-wire performer, and spoke and sang about love as her spouse watched and clapped from the dance floor.
Like everyone else in the room, I was extremely proud last night of my city and my country – of the diversity and absolute tolerance, racial, socio-economic and sexual, in the room, and of the fact that these two women, devoted to each other, to their children, to their work, were able like any other couple to celebrate their union with an official, legal ceremony and a grand party.
Best of all, Ilana spoke to me with affection of a young woman who works for her. My Anna was exceptionally beautiful last night in a white pants suit and a sparkling diamanté bracelet recently bought for her on the Boulevard St. Michel. She was supposed to be a guest and enjoy herself, but when the woman who was going to keep an eye on the kids called in sick, she had suddenly to be in charge. So instead of relishing the spectacle with me in the great hall, she was in the next room with all the children, not only her boss’s but those of the other guests. She didn’t complain.
My daughter and I spent the end of the night lying on mats on the floor, I with Ilana’s elder son’s head on my shoulder, watching an animated film about ant bullies. A perfect end to a thrilling soirée.



137 Responses to “celebrating love and Canada”

  1. Carolyn says:

    No wonder we read your blogs. What a gathering!

    I was riveted to the previous blog too. Too bad about the velvet blazer. We have put in a reserve for Wayson Choy's book at the library.

    What an accomplished and admirable man Stephen Lewis is. He was in Prince George recently to address the fact that HIV is increasing at an alarming rate in reserves in northern B.C. He certainly knows his way around a microphone.

    The Shock Doctrine,has provided us with lots of discussion over the last couple of years. I thought Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis had children but I guess not.

    Molly Johnson is a visitor in our home most Saturday mornings. She picks the most interesting music for her show. Great voice too.

    That gathering hosted the creme de la creme of the whole country.

  2. beth says:

    Carolyn, this event was particularly marvellous because I was the guest of my daughter. And then the poor girl had to work and I was left to enjoy it without her company.

    Stephen Lewis is a phenomenal man, so idealistic, thoughtful, almost sweet though I hate to use the word for such a powerhouse, but he is … sweet. An old friend of Gerry Caplan's, he came to our table to talk of the wedding and his intense pleasure in the event, and onstage, he was almost raunchy in his humour. Someone said, Royalty finds royalty, and it was true last night – Ilana and Lorraine both queens of different realms.

    And there were far more great souls in attendance, I'm sure, whom I did not know, there to honour this grand event. I hope the gossip columnist Rita will list them, so we'll know whom I missed.

  3. Carolyn says:


    Do you know how difficult it is to comment in writing to an actual writer? However, I do think you should get responses from time to time so you don't have the illusion you are writing in a void.

    It had to have been an outstanding day when you received the invitation from your daughter. Your chest must have puffed up with pride and love.

    My thoughts, when you wrote about your daughter, were that she was working in a place that would be overflowing with ideas for how to spend her future and how wonderful it is that her employers appreciate her.

    If your daughter decides to continue life as a nanny, there are so many good story endings in that genre. Also, after spending most of my working life as a kindergarten teacher, I can attest to the wonders of working with small children. So, any path she takes, her future is bright. Says me who, like all parents, is forever anxious about my children. The oldest are 32 and 34 for Pete's sake. I guess we are only allowed to sit back and observe with pleasure or fear.

  4. beth says:

    Carolyn, I thank you for taking the time to write to me – it does make a difference to know that someone is out there. And yes, I'm finding this next phase of parenthood as challenging, in its way, as any other – how to love unconditionally and be 100% there when needed and then vanish discreetly when not. It's not an on/off switch exactly – now I am this adult's parent, now I'm not – but a dial that goes up and down in force, depending on what's needed.

    I think.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.


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