"Thus open the gates of paradise."

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Pierre Elliott Trudeau

06 Apr 2002

I was performing the quintessential 21st century activity of surfing the web this evening while performing the quintessential 20th century activity of listening to the radio. It was the wireless that told me about the death of Trudeau. Interviews with his political contemporaries came close on the heels of the announcement. I heard an interview with former cabinet minister Marc Lalonde who said, "I don't think this is the time for anecdotes." And yet, dear readers, that is all I have to offer you: my anecdotal memories of the former PM.

Toronto, 1974

I am in grade 3, and it's an election year. At school, a friend asks me to chant with him, "We Want Stanfield!" and we do -- arm in arm in front of the school. A few moment later I realize that I don't even know who Stanfield is, and while I don't have any real sense of the issues, at least I have heard of Trudeau, and so I am probably for him. We unlink arms, and I have not participated in a political rally since.

Sarnia, 1979

Trudeau is on a VIA Rail train, dogged by reporters on the platform. Through the window, he gives them the finger. It was shown on all the 6 o'clock news reports, and I thought it was hilarious. We had the kind of Prime Minister who felt it was OK to make rude gestures at the press. This is such a breath of retroactive fresh air compared to the politically sensitive new-agers that line the halls of power these days.

"Fuddle Duddle"

We've all said it.

"Just Watch Me", 1970

All I want is what's coming to
me. All I want is my fair share.

I didn't see this interview until years after the fact, but it's my very favourite. He's cavalier and chummy with the reporter. Again, this is the kind of thing you don't see any more, and maybe it just nostalgia that makes me smile when I see it. Imagine Yugoslavian President Slobodan Miloscevic saying, "How far am I willing to go? Just watch me." It's chilling, not thrilling.

Watch the interview (you'll need RealPlayer)

CBC Radio, The 1980s

CBC Radio used to have a half-hour drama of the macabre on Friday nights. One story involved a television set that showed broadcasts from 20 years in the future. One of the things it showed was the coverage of Trudeau's funeral. "He looks so old!" someone says. Sitting in my room, listening to this, I was thoroughly creeped out. Well -- I remember it to this day. And now I'm living in the TV world, wondering: What the hell happened? How did I get so old? (Moral of this story: Don't watch TV.)

I just checked the web to see if any of the international media have taken notice. I'm astounded. It's the lead story on CNN. It's on the front page of the BBC. Even Radio Australia has a piece.

Mr. Trudeau died this afternoon, 28 September 2000.