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.