Almost Famous in Toronto

• Talking hockey over dinner with Kate Hudson

•  I ❤️ Toronto

•  Watching hockey in enemy territory

I’ve spent time in five of Canada’s big cities. Toronto is my favorite (although I’ve yet to visit Vancouver).

My first visit was to attend a game in the first Canada Cup series in 1976.

Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto

Then in 1997 I got to watch the Rolling Stones rehearse there.

Masonic Temple, Toronto

And several times I was sent to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) to take part in film release junkets, the most memorable one coming 20 years ago this summer for the premiere of Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous.

A clever piece of movie swag, the key to good publicity

During my interview with Kate Hudson, charmingly indelible as Penny Lane, the “Band Aid,” I mentioned that I had recently interviewed her then-husband Chris Robinson, founder of the band The Black Crowes. She said, “Oh, you must join us tonight at the after-party!”

Following the premiere, at a popular restaurant, dinner was served at long tables. Kate caught my eye and had me sit opposite her and Chris. We talked about the film, about Chris’ rock music and, to my surprise, about hockey.

When Kate was growing up, her mother Goldie Hawn and partner Kurt Russell had a cabin on Lake Rosseau, about two hours north of Toronto, In a cottage next door were Bonnie and Carl Lindros, whose son, Eric, would have a 15-year NHL career and wind up in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Kate told of what fun she had playing all sorts of sports year-round at the lake with Eric, six years her senior. She is charming in real life. And so were Goldie and Kurt when I met them in the ’80s.

So that was cool.

You probably should know that I never really leveraged my 12 years as a CNN entertainment correspondent into any sort of hanging-with-the-stars relationships. Which may be why this evening stands out. While I attended my share of A-list parties, I never went in for the sort of active self-promotion and sucking-up that’s designed to get you in boldface print on Page Six, the tabloid arbiter of New York’s celebrity scene.

An anecdote from that same Toronto party shows how it usually went for me. At the press junket for Almost Famous, I had met a woman who did entertainment news on a local channel. She kind of latched on to me, and we went to the after-party together. She was very attractive (so I let her latch . . letch that I was), but I could sense she was maybe more interested in just knowing someone from CNN than in knowing me, in particular. We were sipping wine before dinner when Carlos Delgado, the Toronto Blue Jays’ slugger, came up and engaged us in conversation. But I could tell right away that he was less interested in talking with me than in her. He couldn’t keep his eyes off her as I tried to talk about movies and baseball.

I might claim I blew her off for Kate Hudson, but that would be patently false.

So, that’s basically all I ever was, almost famous.

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Another unforgettable date of a sort took place in Toronto, in 1996. I was at the TIFF, doing press junkets and, while hanging out with a TV reporter from Los Angeles, John Corcoran, discovered he and I were probably the only out-of-town attendees who were hockey fans. At the hotel bar, we were watching a game between the US and Canada during the finals of the World Cup of Hockey, a tournament being played in Montreal. We struck up a conversation with a local woman who was enjoying the 5-2 defeat of Team USA. We asked her where would be a good place to watch the deciding game two nights later. She recommended the Varsity, a bar near the U. of Toronto campus. She said she’d meet us there with a friend. A hockey double date.

That night the four of us slid into a booth with a great view of a big screen TV and ordered some Molson’s and LaBatts. The three-story bar was loud and packed with boisterous fans pulling for Team Canada. We two Americans had to bite our tongues as things started to go much better for our guys than theirs. As gloom descended on the bar, it was all we could do to sit on our hands while the US squad racked up goals to come from behind. With NY Rangers goalie Mike Richter standing on his head on his way to MVP honors, the USA turned the tables, winning 5-2 and hoisting the trophy on hallowed Canadian ice. Needless to say our dates called it a night shortly after the final whistle.


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