Jan. 23, 2007 - Issue #588: Factotum
Sunshine has everyone seeing stars
OK, I’m a total name dropper. Last weekend I went skiing with Golden Globe winner Alec Baldwin. Just a few days after accepting the award for his funny portrayal of the anal GE executive on NBC’s 30 Rock, Mr Baldwin was getting his first look at the dual slalom race course here at beautiful Sunshine Village.
Owner and operator Ralph Scurfield, Jr, had whisked Alec (Mr B) away from the media scrum outside the on-mountain hotel, cordoned off for the Hollywood stars attending the Waterkeeper Alliance Sports Invitational.
Fortunately, other than me and my partner in crime, Mike Pasychny of CityTV, none of the media have ski equipment. So rather than hang out at the media circus, we got to escape the scrum and tag along with Mr B, leaving behind the Entertainment Tonight crew and the rest in pursuit of their next interviews.
The Waterkeeper’s Alliance Sports Invitational at Sunshine had transformed the resort. Rumours abounded. Where was Robin Williams? Had anyone seen Clint Eastwood? (Apparently, Williams was keeping a low profile on the hill, but showed up early in the day. You can see his cameo at banff.com/sightsandsounds.)
At $500 a plate to attend the dinner and silent auction, I was tempted to fork out the cash. Peter Frampton was slated to entertain the crowd, following an anticipated stand-up routine from Robin Williams to open the gala. In years past, Williams has held the guests captivated for over an hour discussing Canada, the world’s environmental issues and anything that enters his brilliantly deranged brain. However, because it was a black-tie affair, I decided not to go. Next to A-list celebrities, I expect I might have felt uncomfortable in my jeans and t-shirt.
And so it was no schmoozing for us. Although we were unable to secure a room at the Banff Springs where all the “celebs” would be hanging out, Mike and I had booked a cosy room through the Banff Caribou Properties & Banff Lodging Company. On one of the season’s busiest weekends, our friendly host Claire was able to squeeze us into the Banff Ptarmigan Inn.
We’d settled in at the Ptarmigan the previous night. With the heated underground garage, we left our ski boots and gear in the truck for a warm fit the next morning. We needed to be up early, so we had a beer and a bite at the Ptarmigan’s very nice lounge and then hit our comfy beds.
The next morning we were late getting to the mountain because my ski buddy Mike had taken a digital video camera from CityTV without a key component required to film the weekend’s events. With the snow conditions so excellent, it was difficult to not just take off and scrub my journalistic responsibilities. But after spying breathtakingly beautiful film stars Virginia Madsen (movies including Sideways) and ER’s Julianna Margulies, I was lured into the celebrity machine. I have to admit, I have never been around a group of Hollywood’s “who’s who” before.
After talking to some of the major media cameramen and sound engineers, I discovered this is a very unique event where the stars are much more open to friendly banter and public accessibility. I was more than impressed with the gracious nature of huge stars like Baldwin. For example, after being asked if he would pose for a photograph with a women’s daughter, he picked the little girl up and waited until the star-struck mother got her camera working properly.
A few stars did seem aloof. For example, Corbin Bernsen from LA Law fame was noticeably unapproachable. During a lunch for us media types, one freelance cameraman who’d travelled the world over, thought it would be a good idea if Christie Brinkley just shut the hell up. “I think I know why Billy Joel divorced her,” he grumbled.
Normally I cover skiing and outdoor adventure stories, so being immersed in the National Enquirer culture was very eye-opening. For example, there were rumours about Ms Brinkley and Robert F Kennedy being an item, and how Kelsey Grammer was acting like a spoiled brat. That being said, I can understand how irritating it must be to have to repeatedly answer dumb questions. I listened to one TV correspondent ask Christie Brinkley how she kept her skin looking so radiant in these cold, dry winter conditions. Anyway, back to skiing with Alec Baldwin.
We were standing at the top of the dual-slalom race course and Mr B wanted to know which course we thought was faster. I thought it was kind of a dumb question considering his very intermediate skiing ability. We somehow decided the blue was likely the quicker because of a slight transition change in the red course. I said I would give the blue course a try.
I had previously noticed that Alec was skiing with his hands hanging low by his waist, and sometimes behind him. So as I left the start gate I said, “hands up front, just like you’re carrying two big cases of Canadian brewskis.” After stopping in the finish area, I looked up and saw Baldwin dropping his hands and then purposely extending them out front. I had just coached a Hollywood icon! I subsequently found out that Mr B had had a hernia operation shortly before accepting his Golden Globe a week ago, and was thinking seriously about not skiing this trip.
That evening we hung out at the Banff Springs and watched a group of Calgary firefighters play a game of shinny with some of the celebrities. I’m quite sure the hotel staff had fits watching pucks flying close to the huge glass panes that look out over the rink. I couldn’t help noticing the number of limousines parked around the property, either. I can only imagine that Calgary’s limo companies made some good coin providing exclusive rides to the top stars.
It was impressive how most celebrities seemed well informed about the Waterkeepers Alliance and the importance of having a vigilant watchdog protecting our most precious resource. Canada’s own Jason Priestley told me he was quite passionate about the cause.
“We have seen information from think-tanks that after we stop fighting over oil, water could well be the next commodity that causes wars,” he said.
Despite the circus atmosphere, it was good to see celebrities caring enough for the environment to travel to Canada and bring attention to water conservation and environmental issues. I did not want to ask Alec any typical gossip type questions, so instead I just said, “Thank you for coming up here and drawing attention to the importance of keeping our waters and land in good shape.”
Mr B responded graciously, “When you come up here and actually see the glaciers and then think that most of all North America’s water feeds out of these mountains, it makes you realize how important this is.” V
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