John Anderson is smiling for a reason.With the inaugural Royal West (on right now!) John has brought international show jumping back to the heart of Calgary — for the first time in 30 years. Held at the new Agrium Western Event Centre on the Stampede Grounds, the hat of choice for the next week will be black velvet, not white Stetson.
“What is going to be healthy and delicious, and also make me happy?”The host of Literary Death Match is starving. Maybe not quite to death, but definitely in that just-got-off-a-plane and made-it-through-customs kind of way. Yet Adrian Todd Zuniga is not the type to order off a menu without some intense Q&A.
I get it. We’ve met at Joey’s Eau Claire, just around the corner from the Westin, the Wordfest hotel of choice, so I can do some grilling of my own. Once Adrian finishes his blackened basa, I want to know — what will he be wearing tonight as 4 authors face off onstage?A cornflower blue suit. Of course.
Literary Death Match is a traveling word circus. With Adrian as its ringmaster, no staid, snooze-inducing readings are allowed on his world stage. The show, which visits dozens of cities a year, is Def Poetry Jam meets American Idol (minus the meanness) meets Double Dare.
The Los Angeles-residing, Missouri-born author and screenwriter created LDM eight years ago. This is his second visit to Calgary. Being a man of style, he abhors being seen in the same outfit twice.
“I rotate through suits. It’s very important for me not to wear the same thing in the same city. It would be lame.”Last year Adrian wore a red velvet smoking jacket, which bookended nicely with 2013 competitor Todd Babiak, no slouch in the wardrobe department himself. See my style feature on Todd here.
Besides making sure he didn’t lame out with a suit repeat, Adrian didn’t feel comfortable wearing a bow tie back-to-back with his last appearance in Calgary. Also important to note: “I don’t wear bow ties on dates. I think it’s too much of a statement. I think I’m a more subtle gentleman on that front. But I do wear suit jackets to pretty much everything.”Even while our interview cuts into his pre-show quiet time, he has the rumpled flair of someone out of a Robert Doisneau photograph.
Like “The Kiss” sans a girl to kiss. Which is confirmed when Adrian volunteers, apropos of nothing, “I haven’t kissed a girl in Calgary yet.” Later that night, onstage, he mentions he is single.The downside of his fashion daring can have drawbacks. Like when he told his friends his new suit was the ultimate in Don Draper. They said, ‘You mean the Pete Campbell suit?’
Luckily, the Sterling Cooper doppelganger apparel on stage at the GRAND couldn’t derail the momentum of the 2014 Death Match. In fact, the cornflower shine only added to the intrigue of authors Michael Crummey, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Alison Pick and Matthew Thomas being rated on literary merit, performance and intangibles.
LDM is normally judged by a panel of three, but the only way to compensate for a last-minute cancellation by Mayor Nenshi was to bring in two backups. From left to right at the black table: comedian Chris Gordon, author Carrie Shyder, Olympic hero Mark Tewksbury and author Johanna Skibsrud. I will totally name favorites: even though Mark claimed he wasn’t a literature type, the author of three books was hilarious and enthusiastic. Ginger Jesus, aka Chris Gordon, was a close second, and as he made very clear, sponsored by Hudson’s Bay.
The evening ended in a race to ring the bell, to identify classics from one-star Amazon ratings. Lone stars, as Adrian aptly put it.
Don’t worry, Adrian, I’m not taking it personally. And thanks for this candid with the cows, by the way.
Don’t be fooled by his “this town ain’t big enough for the both of us” look — Paul Hardy’s just getting his cowboy on. Which is only appropriate, since the internationally renowned fashion designer has partnered with Calgary Stampede to take souvenir shopping to a stylish new level.
The richest rodeo on earth initially asked him to design a private label, but Paul declined after realizing their store wasn’t quite up to his brand standards: “They don’t like me saying this, but they were catering to the carnies.”
Them fighting words only whet the whistle of Stampede execs, who then asked Paul if he’d like to be the creative director of all their product merchandise. Opting to become the Oprah of favorite western things, Paul agreed, and CS Mercantile was born.Under Paul’s direction, overt Calgary Stampede branding has been dialed down. Instead, he opted for a subconscious association with Stampede colors of red, white and black, traveling the globe to find exclusive items he felt reflected Calgary culture– ie, ones that can exist outside the ten days of Stampede, like this gorgeous, subtle wolf scarf. (Shopping hint: they’re rolled up in that basket to the left).Paul believes Stampede style is more urban western lifestyle than costume, hence the home decor items. “Everyone in town has a small section of their closet that is western apparel for ten days,” he says. “But as Calgary evolves, becoming a global center of finance, we’ve become a lot more cosmopolitan and a lot more diverse in our culture. People are starting to interpret Western in their own way.”You can still find souvenir T-shirts, but they’re interspersed with paintings by Calgary artist Jane McCloy, inspired by the historic photography of Edward S. Curtis. Coincidentally, in his mission of curation, Paul sourced other products inspired by Edward Curtis’ photos, including Pendleton blankets, coffee table books and a belt buckle.Even though the buckles aren’t officially Paul Hardy designs, his collaboration has influenced almost every aspect of the CS Mercantile collection, from graphics design, to packaging, to piping on shirts.Paul’s fave belt buckle. Mine too!Besides the high-end fashion items, there’s a whole bunch of novelty going on, with prices on rubber duckies and tattoos that dip below ten bucks.Meanwhile, if you have a few more doubloons in your saddlebag, Paul has some of his own jewelry for sale, at a lower price point than usual.You can find CS Mercantile at the Grandstand until July 13th, with the online store continuing in virtual foreverness. Will we be seeing a future Paul Hardy-curated trading post off Stampede grounds, in the wild west of Calgary retail? Paul hints that there’s a possibility he may soon have another place to hang his hat.
Captain Kirk, Denny Crane, Bill — whatever you call him, the 2014 Stampede Parade Marshal has arrived in Calgary. Note those suspenders he’s wearing, because they’re a style statement.Facing the media today before he faces the throngs along the parade route tomorrow, William Shatner took all questions. Including my urgent fashion query.
ME: “What will you be wearing tomorrow?”
This isn’t William Shatner’s first rodeo. He’s won a few buckles in his day, breeds horses and has ridden just about every style imaginable. Of course, I had to ask him if he ever played polo. Nope. “I like my knees,” he says, telling me he has a few friends who have taken a beating playing the sport. But he’s ridden polo ponies. “They’re indefatigable. They never stop. They just keep going.” My horse Simon says Bill is right.Bill charmed us all. Even us hardened media types. See you at the parade!
If you saw President Obama up against the Confederate flag, would it stop you in your tracks? On a recent meander through the Calabasas Fine Arts Festival (yes, the Californian region of recent Bieber and Kardashian renown), this painting compelled me to ask the artist what the heck it meant. Which, it turns out, is the whole point of Kaleo’s “cerebral pop art” — and so integral that he’s trademarked the phrase.
“I really love pop art, in and of itself,” says Kaleo. “But I wanted to create layers and do something that actually gets people to think, rather than just enjoy the image. I wanted to evoke more emotion.”
Scars and Bars certainly rouses a reaction. Some folks love it. Others have told him that he shouldn’t have put Obama on the Dixie flag (!!). For Kaleo, who grew up poor in Pasadena, the love child of a European-American mother and a Hawaiian-Spanish-Puerto Rican father, the dialog around this piece makes its own statement. “It shows far we’ve come since the time of the Dixie flag to have a black president elected… and yet how far we still have to go.”Besides being thoughtful, down to earth and charming, Kaleo is a natural hustler, faux-hawked and hawking his art at fairs around LA. He’ll hit ten in total this year, all while promoting his brand through every social media channel going. Celebrity obsession juxtaposed against a commercialized image to tell a story that’s in our collective consciousness? I’m in! After viewing the “Images of Irony” in his tent gallery, I had to see more.When Kaleo invited me to his studio in Santa Monica, I didn’t expect it to be at the Real Office Center on Arizona. As he gives me a tour of the space for small companies, I start to understand why. With Kaleo in the house, besides being a business incubator, the Santa Monica ROC location is also an artist incubator — although Kaleo seems to have the exclusive. His art adorns almost every surface in the building. Real Office Centers CEO Ron McElroy commissioned the tables, above, and bought other pieces to infuse the cubicles with a creative vibe. Kaleo, whose name means “the voice” in Hawaiian, grabs a Starbucks under his Start Ups Brewing custom light box, where the mermaid’s lei winks at both his Hawaiian heritage and to ROC’s new Honolulu location.Then, it’s down to Door Number Bruce Lee: Kaleo’s studio in the basement parking garage.Why use a drop cloth? Then you’re just cleaning up the magic.Inside, Kaleo takes off his sunglasses and gets to work. His latest series, “Positive Pop” gives iconic commercial slogans an inspirational angle. It’s his top seller.Kaleo didn’t take a direct path to this studio, where he works while standing, under the apoxy resin Mona Lisa gaze of three presidents. After playing college football, he jumped into music industry. He got signed, but didn’t quite make it… and ended up becoming a gold broker. Just when he was agonizing about losing his soul to a job that paid well but gave him no intrinsic satisfaction, he had an inspiration for his “Images in Irony” series. He stockpiled canvases for a year before approaching a gallery. Now, with galleries in London, Dubai and LA, Kaleo’s following his bliss. He plans to dress that bliss with his new line of Artwork by Kaleo T-Shirts, launching soon. If you’re in the Bu, July 26 & 27th, hobnob with him at the Malibu Art Show. Living the dream, Kaleo, living the dream!
Cavalia’s new show Odysseo opens tomorrow in Calgary. Invited to the media preview today, I have to say this mystical, magical show is like nothing you’ve ever seen.With 70 horses and 49 human artists performing under the big white tent at Canada’s Olympic Park, Odysseo is the largest traveling show on earth. Bigger than U2. With a stage that’s bigger than a hockey rink. It’s twice as big as their original show, simply named Cavalia, which is still touring places like Dubai, Belgium and Australia.Beyond the amazing equestrian and acrobatic spectacle, special effects include high-def computer graphics on a screen called a “cyclorama” — the size of three IMAX screens. When the horses come toward you, it’s like they’re breaking free from a film or a painting.Show creator Normand Latourelle calls this 6-D. “It’s like watching a big Hollywood movie, but it’s live.”Seating seems intimate, yet the big top has enough room for an audience of 2000. Of course, it feels really intimate when you have a front row seat.Dream sequence followed by fantastic dream sequence, enhanced by acrobats, live musicians and a massive merry-go-round that lowers from the rafters, finally transforms to an aquatic vision.300,000 liters of water fill the stage to create a lake for the finale. If you’re lucky enough to have a floor seat, you may get splashed.After the incredible 50-minute preview, I trotted to the stage to take a selfie with some of the stars of the show, like Indigo the Appaloosa and his lovely rider…… and bumped into Normand, who tells me he doesn’t ride. “They put me on the horse once for a picture and I looked like a potato bag.”
But that doesn’t stop him from creating spectacular shows. After all, he helped start Cirque du Soleil without ever trying a trapeze. “Why should I ride? But I can pretty much understand what the horse do,” he says, his Quebec accent coming through. “The rule here is let the horse be a horse. Don’t make them do human tricks.”The natural scenes surrounding the horses were inspired by Normand’s view from home, an hour outside of Montreal. “I watch out my window when I’m in the kitchen. It’s what I have reproduced on stage. So I brought the mountain. I have almost a lake, a forest, all the images we project.”Behind the scenes, the temporary stable rivals pony digs at Spruce Meadows. Performers tend to their mounts before getting out of costume.No lead rope required!Pompon is a Canadian Cross. I didn’t realize that this breed, descended from horses sent to the New World by Louis XIV, was once on the verge of extinction. Now numbering 2500, there are two of them here.This is where the horses poop before the show! I’m not kidding! Thanks to my time at 19 Action News in Cleveland, I’m not afraid to ask the tough questions. And Normand was willing to talk. “We exercise them before. When they poop in the warm up, we thank them. They know it’s the place to do it. So they don’t do it often on stage.”I thought there would be all kinds of crazy hooks and loops to assist the performers, but many of the saddles looked like regular English ones to me.No mares in this barn! All the horses are either stallions, or geldings, like Raz, this six-year-old Arabian.Don’t tell my horse Simon, but I think Raz and I had a little connection.1200 invited VIP guests will be under the big top tomorrow night for Odysseo. I’m thrilled to be one of them, since I have a feeling I could watch this performance a thousand times over and not tire of it. Stay tuned for my official show review, later this week.
When Tanya Taylor brought her trunk show to Holt Renfrew Calgary on a recent Thursday, the highlight of her evening plans included spending some quality time with the television. “We haven’t had very much sleep, so we might do some room service and Scandal.”While she may love a show whose main character is known for wearing white, Tanya’s palette this spring is anything but. Her designs are driven by color, and the one she’s loving this year is poppy orange.That’s what Tanya calls it. I saw tangerine. But deep coral, peach, citrus zest, no matter how you interpret it, the color was a definite theme, spreading throughout the back room on Holts’ second floor.There’s a couture element to this off-the-rack collection, available in Canada exclusively at Holts. The New York based designer says fabric is an integral part of her process. “I paint all the prints originally, then print them on silk. There’s an original hand-drawn quality about everything in the collection.”Originally from Toronto, Tanya is painter at heart. With a finance degree. She found fashion to be the perfect intersection between art and business. “I liked the idea of starting my own company, similar to the entrepreneurship I’d studied, but also being able to sit down and paint on a canvas, then translate that into a dress.”Trunk shows tickle Tanya with the opportunity to interact with the customers. Visiting Calgary comes with the bonus of interacting with her extended family here.For those who need more than poppy orange, there are options. And while Olivia Pope has been branching out from her go-to color of late, Tanya Taylor’s Spring 2014 Collection has an outfit to bring her white wardrobe back.
Best-selling author Todd Babiak knows exactly how many suits he owns.“30 in total. 11 in rotation.” The man who identifies as overdressed on his professional Facebook page has a passion for fashion. That’s why we’re meeting at the Fairmont Palliser in Calgary ahead of Wordfest, which starts Monday — not to discuss the new book he released September 25th, with promo billboards coming soon to a city near you.
“There’s a stereotype of writers that they’re frumpy and they don’t dress well,” he says. “Because writers aren’t supposed to have any money, they’re supposed to be struggling and they’re supposed to be counter-cultural.”
His penchant for personal style is a rebellion to that — and growing up poor. He started off doubling preppy polo shirts in high school, collars up, and moved on to suits. Still, he’s embarrassed by his numbers, as if it might be a tad too extravagant. As a former news anchor, I think 11 sounds woefully low, especially for someone who wears them almost every day, even when he’s skateboarding to a business meeting in Edmonton (his home base). But then I remember he’s a guy. I ask him how many ties he has. “Oh, zillions.”According to his latest count, he also has a zillion shirts. Todd favors Banana Republic shirts for their slim fit and French cuffs. Which, in turn, can only mean a zillion pairs of cufflinks. These ones are from Artworks in Edmonton.With accessories like this conversation starter at the top of his fly, no one will ever notice if Todd wears the same suit twice. He picked up this Flightpath Designs belt buckle at the Art Gallery of Alberta.
Dressing up is the great divide between his books and his business — a marketing company called Story Engine. “I have a psychological switch in the day. I work on novels in the morning wearing comfortable clothes, even PJs. Then I shower and get ready. Even if I’m going to stay at home, I get dressed up to work on Story Engine.”
He’s color-blind, but he knows the J. Lindeberg suit he’s sporting is brown. He’s got a thing for Swedish menswear designers (Tiger is another go-to for Todd) who do that slim Euro fit. “It works for me because I’m little.”A new round of drinks arrive, distracting us from a lengthy digression into the history of pleated pants. The Oak Room’s cocktail menu had so many delectable creations it was a tough choice, but I settled on the Green Park, because of the basil, and substituted Hendrick’s Gin for Bombay. Lemony and refreshing, it also part of the same color palette as the cover of Come Barbarians. But as delicious as it was, those floating green bits made me nervous. I ducked out to the loo to make sure nothing was stuck in my teeth.Which gave me a chance to appreciate the sumptuous lobby. With centennial celebrations in the works for June 2014, the Fairmont is one of the few old-school places in Calgary where you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The lobby is usually bustling, yet hushed. The perfect place to rock my new skinny crops that I stole from the Gap for $16.99. Who cares that they were on the summer sale rack? The fact that it’s not snowing yet in YYC is the ultimate excuse to bare some ankle. Purse, Gucci. Shoes, MICHAEL by Michael Kors. But back to Babiak in the Oak Room, where he was still focused on fashion. “You can’t wear bow ties all the time,” he says. “They’re too whimsical. So I’m probably 20% bow ties.”He looks for ones that are hand-made in small batches. Last time he was in Brooklyn, he discovered a boutique where he picked up this Pierrepont Hicks bow: 100% cotton and 100% hipster.“Also, I like the way an untied bow tie looks.”
So do I Todd, so do I.Did you notice the vintage polo photos on the wall behind our table? Of course this is now my favorite nook in the Oak Room.You’ll have plenty of opportunities to acquire your own autographed copy of Come Barbarians at the 18th annual literary festival in Calgary this week. With three Wordfest appearances, we’ll see if Todd ups his bow tie ratio. And if he wears one, will it stay tied?
In the video, shot at the Santa Barbara Polo Club, Britney ditches the patron (played by an English model who exaggerated his riding abilities to get the gig) for polo pro Mariano Gutierrez. Good move, Brit.In real life, Mariano “Guti” Gutierrez spends much of his workday at a flat-out gallop…… so it’s no surprise that around the barn, he likes to enjoy his tranquilo time dressed casually. I figured his favorite fashion items would be trademark Argentine attitude, like the Alpargata shoes that Toms has appropriated, but the boy from Buenos Aires doesn’t wear much of his country’s traditional clothing.Still, when I join the 5-goaler at the back barns of the Calgary Polo Club, I find him at a table covered in the makings of the ubiquitous Mate, the must-have drink of Argies everywhere.
Mariano never planned on being a polo pro, even though he started playing when he was 7. It wasn’t till after he logged a few years in law school that he was lured away by the siren call of the white ball. After a dozen years of playing in places like Paris, Deauville and Aspen, the 34-year-old came to Calgary to play in Fred Mannix’s 20-goal league.
Meanwhile, he has several businesses back in BA. “Soccer there is like hockey here,” says Mariano. The polo player takes full advantage of that, renting synthetic turf fields by the hour. He also has a skateboard shop which sells surf and skater styles. But don’t expect to find him in a pair of board shorts any time soon. “I dress casual,” he says. “Very casual.” And he’s low-maintenance, cutting his hair only twice a year……unlike his ponies, whose manes are shorn on a regular basis.At the game, his Converse are usually close by.Even his mallets are low-key. No flashy paint job on these babies.His only act of conscientious color coordination is a burgundy helmet to match his horses’ burgundy wraps — btw, buen trabajo Amanda!This pony switch could qualify as flashy, except it’s just part of the game for Guti.After riding into the Calgary sunset, Guti plays in Buenos Aires this fall and Indio this winter. Hasta luego, Mariano. Come back next year!
If you’re filming in Alberta, this town is big enough for the two of us.When Hollywood comes to Calgary, Hotel Arts is a natural choice for a meeting. But when it’s the team producing the next film in the Eastwood legacy of western epics, the art at this boutique hotel simply makes good horse sense. Seen here, Producer/Director Lawrence Roeck and Executive Producer Shana Wilson had just arrived from Longview……where they met with John Scott, Clint Eastwood’s wrangler from Unforgiven, among many other IMDB-worthy accomplishments too long to list here. But does that little Brad Pitt flick Legends of the Fall ring a bell?Let’s just say when Hell on Wheels needs saddles, John Scott has a loaner or three. Between rustling props from farms in the foothills to moseying through this art-laden lobby in the heart of Calgary…
… pre-production on the feature starring Clint Eastwood’s son Scott is keeping Lawrence busy. Meanwhile, at Hotel Art’s new Yellow Door Bistro, Ennio Morricone isn’t part of the DJ selects, but Lawrence does his best Good, Bad and Ugly anyway — under the watchful eye of yet another equestrian objet d’art.Maintaining LA standards, we paired Dungeness Crab Salad with St. Supery Sauv Blanc. Food not visible because we gobbled it all up. It was a very serious meeting. Which led to a very serious article on creative financing.
Afterwards, I went out front to collect my ride from the valet…… the bike, not the Bentley. And discovered another thirst-quenching service touch.Thanks, Hotel Arts! Diablo starts filming in Alberta early 2014. Dress, Diane von Furstenberg.