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Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder

Norman Jewison, Sondra Gotlieb, Pat Carney and others remember the late actress and activist Margot Kidder, who died last Sunday aged 69. Known for her Lois Lane role in Superman (1978), the Yellowknife native went on to support a variety of liberal and progressive environmental and political causes.

Riding injury
Larry Hagman, actor

…After the movie [Superman], she moved out to Malibu [Ca.] and I got a call from her, asking if I knew a good doctor.

“What’s the matter, honey?” I asked.

“I was riding a horse with a Western saddle,” she said. “It bucked me up and I landed on the saddle horn. I think I broke my clitoris.”

“Oh, honey, I know just what to do,” I said and made a few calls before finding a doctor who fixed her up.

I was a hero to her and advised her to ride English saddle from then on. (late 1970s)

from Hello Darlin’: Tall (and Absolutely True) Tales About My Life, by Larry Hagman with Todd Gold (Simon & Schuster, 2001)

*             *             *

Warmly helpless 
Norman Jewison, film director

The summer of 1980 I met Pierre Elliott Trudeau for the first time. I was walking my dog along the beach close to our house in Malibu Colony [Ca.] when I saw a guy in a French bikini bathing suit with a woman wearing a wrap. I recognized her right away as Margot Kidder. It took a little longer to discover that the sporty-looking man with the full-body tan was Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

Margot told me she had brought him down to show him the beach, she had lost her car keys, couldn’t get back and couldn’t phone for help, everything was locked in the car.

“Can you help us out?” she asked in her warmly helpless way.

We walked back to our place, me wondering the whole time where in hell are the Mounties, the U. S. security detail, and why isn’t someone making sure our prime minister doesn’t get stranded on a beach? …

from This Terrible Business Has Been Good to Me: An Autobiography, by Norman Jewison (Key Porter Books, 2004)

*             *             *

“Whoring for peace”
Helen Caldicott, physician and Nuclear Freeze activist

Margot Kidder, a forthright, beautiful Canadian, also became a good friend. We agreed politically on all issues, and she was a close confidante and working partner. I first met her at a press conference, where I turned to her and in my typical up-front fashion asked, “Who are you?” Margot, who had played Lois Lane in the movie Superman, smiled and said, “Superwoman.” I’d never seen a Superman film, although I’d devoured the comics as a child, so her answer did not ring a bell. …

At that time Margot was closely involved with Pierre Trudeau, then prime minister of Canada. Because of this relationship she was able to arrange a lunch for us at the prime ministerial residence early in 1983. I stayed in a Toronto hotel the night before, and she rushed into my room the next morning, straight from an early shoot. She had a quick bath, powdered herself and put on a gorgeous soft, white creation, and off we went to see Trudeau. She turned to me as we left the room and said with a wicked grin, “This is what you call whoring for peace.”

from A Desperate Passion: An Autobiography, by Helen Caldicott (Norton, 1996)

*             *             *

Getting on with John Irving
Judy Kessler, television producer

…Why not get the stars themselves to interview the stars? [for NBC’s Today show] They could even pick whomever they wanted to interview. We could do it as a special series, on a regular basis. I even had the perfect name for it. We would call it “Close Encounters.”

…….

…PMK, the big public-relations firm…offered me Margot Kidder, better known at the time as Lois Lane in the movie Superman…Kidder wanted to interview the well-known author John Irving, who wrote The World According to Garp and The Hotel New Hampshire. This would be, I thought, an interview that was not only different, but compelling.

The arrangements were more complicated than ever. Irving was traveling around the country promoting his latest book, and would be in L.A., where Kidder lived, for two days during his publicity tour. He proposed that she accompany him to a reading he was giving on his first night in L.A., and that they have dinner afterward so that they could get to know each other before they did the interview. He would pick Kidder up in a limousine at her home in Malibu canyon. The interview would be the following morning at nine, which Kidder’s publicist had not been thrilled about because it was so early. I went in the limousine with Irving to pick up Kidder that first night. When I realized how well they were getting along, it occurred to me that Kidder might have been interested in Irving for more than just the interview. I got a ride home separately from the reading and do not know what happened after that. I only hoped that both of them would show up the next day for the interview. I had the slightest suspicion that my “Close Encounters” might end up getting even closer than I had intended. (1983)

from Inside Today: The Battle for the Morning, by Judy Kessler (Villard Books, 1992)

*             *             *

Nuclear attack
Sondra Gotlieb, journalist and wife of Ambassador Alan Gotlieb

The first time Prime Minister Trudeau came to Washington during our stay there, he told us that he had asked Margot Kidder to the dinner we were planning for him. He asked me to sit her next to him. The rest of the guest list—and the seating—he left to us. Margot, like many of Pierre’s dates, looked upon him as possible marriage material, but at the dinner he played his usual flirtatious but aloof game with women. He seemed bemused, not annoyed, at the hot attack Margot mounted against Michael Deaver over Reagan’s attitude toward nuclear disarmament. (1984)

from Washington Rollercoaster, by Sondra Gotlieb (Doubleday, 1990)

*             *             *

Advancing for Trudeau
Patrick Gossage, Counsellor of Public Affairs for   Canadian Embassy

One day in the fall of 1984 I was called to the Ambassador’s residence for an unlikely meeting. The Canadian actress, peace activist, and sometime escort ofTrudeau, Margot Kidder, was languidly arranged on a veranda settee with her pretty and exquisitely dressed daughter discussing a party for Pierre Trudeau with a slightly uncomfortable pair of Gotliebs [Alan and Sondra].

Trudeau had just won the prestigious (we were assured) Albert Einstein Peace Prize. There was to be a lunch in Washington in November at which the prize would be presented. Then it was proposed there should be a full-scale party at the Ambassador’s residence, scene of so many affairs for Trudeau when he was prime minister. A guest list with a slight left-leaning tilt towards friends of Margot’s was discussed. This wonderfully attractive and agile lady was taking charge of advancing Trudeau’s first Washington visit as a private citizen. I remembered some confusion at an earlier party when Trudeau was PM, when we were instructed by the PMO to invite a stunning girl Trudeau knew in the U.S. Peace Corps, only to have him walk in unexpectedly with Kidder on his arm. There would be no confusion this time as to who was Trudeau’s date!

from Close to the Charisma: My  Years Between the Press and Pierre Elliott Trudeau, by Patrick Gossage (McClelland and Stewart, 1986)

*             *             *

Home to Yellowknife
Pat Carney, Minister of Trade and senator

In 1985, returning to Yellowknife for Homecoming to mark the city’s fiftieth birthday, I ran into actor Margot Kidder in the Edmonton Airport ladies’ washroom. She was washing her hair in the small sink, a feat I greatly admired since I have never been able to master it. Born in Yellowknife, Kidder was also returning for Homecoming. She asked me to sign her into the airport lounge, which I was glad to do, because she told me her wallet, with her NWT birth certificate, had been stolen in Washington, DC.

“Someone in DC is running around with a birth certificate marked Indian, Inuit and Other,” Margot joked. We talked all the way to the territorial capital, where she rode a float in the parade and I watched from the hotel window with my buddies. We never met again, but if we did, our affection for Yellowknife would be our common bond.

from Trade Secrets: A Memoir, by Pat Carney (Key-Porter, 2000)

*             *             *

Great company
Michael Palin, comedian

 …We [the Amnesty International benefit comedy show Secret Policeman’s Ball] pass regally through the town of Ashbourne, then out, up and over the quiet hills, and ride into Alton Towers between cheering—well, waving—crowds until we’re drawn up outside Bagshaw’s Restaurant. …

…….

We’re at tables. Next door but one to me is Margot Kidder, less irrepressible than usual, as she is jet-lagged and flu-ey, but still great company. Beside her, looking distinctly unhappy, is [singer] Nick Lowe, her current man. He turns out to be a kindred soul, articulate and full of the same sort of childhood memories I have. We get on well, though later Margot tells me this is exceptional, as Nick is not happy at this sort of do and fears for his street cred. (England, 1987)

from Diaries 1980-1988: Halfway to Hollywood (Phoenix/Orion Books, 2009)

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