By Malwina Gudowska
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 6th, 2007 issue of the National Post
Although he was competing with His Excellency Jean-Daniel Lafond, who was across the street offering his thoughts on cultural development, and faced an even more formidable rival in Brad Pitt, who rumour had it (wrongly, it turns out) would be sipping vino at a wine tasting next door, Christopher Hitchens more than held his own at the inaugural evening of the Teatro Speakers Series this week.
The outspoken author of nearly a dozen books, most recently God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, was in town to address his audience on American foreign policy and the Iraq war.
He certainly had the dishevelled-writer look down to a T: a light-grey suit, the first few buttons of his shirt undone, perfectly messy hair that screamed “I don’t give a damn about my hair but doesn’t it look good.” And, naturally, the trademark drink in one hand — Johnnie Walker Black with a splash of soda. He had soon established a pre-dinner salon outside the restaurant (where he could smoke), attended by Ron Mathison, president and CEO of Matco Investments, and Bill Siebens, president of Candor Investments, and his wife, Sharon.
The guests — oil tycoons, academics, politicians and prominent businesspeople who had paid $1,000 for the four-dinner speakers series— tended to be the sartorial opposite of Hitch, most of them clad in regulation Calgary business attire, a sea of grey, black and navy suiting. But several of the ladies stepped up to the plate. Anne McLellan, former Liberal deputy prime minister, looked smashing in an iridescent skirt slightly ruched at the bottom and matching blazer by Tucci. Philanthropist Judith Griffin, a dead ringer for a slimmer Gena Rowlands, chatted with Linda Crossley, who stood out in the crowd with her black-and-white print blazer and pink eyeglass frames.
After being charmed by Hitchens’s polemical style, everyone got a little piece of him to take home: a copy of his book, admittedly not light bedtime reading.
The Teatro speaker series continues next month with Josef Joffe, the editor of the German weekly Die Zeit and an expert on U.S. foreign policy; in February, author Robert Kaplan, who specializes in international affairs and the Middle East; and Fouad Ajami, director of Middle East Studies at the John Hopkins University, in May.