Barbara Amiel on Conrad Black’s flabby figure, terms of endearment and similarity to her dogs
Since getting out of jail, Conrad Black has rejected all media requests save a chat with CBC News anchor Peter Mansbridge. Thank goodness Barbara Amiel agreed to write a firsthand account for Maclean’s on bringing Black to Toronto. The lengthy article brims with candid recollections (“We had both become marginally bonkers in our caution and pessimism”), personal details (apparently, Black left jail with foam earplugs, four chewed-up pens, a tube of lip balm and a battered comb) and—of course—multiple dog references.
A roundup of some of the best bits:
• Before Black’s release, the ever-stylish Amiel was worried about Black’s health—and her wardrobe. She envisioned their reunion thusly: “I would stand at the gates of the Miami Federal Correctional Institution in a pretty dress in one of the colours the prison rules had never allowed when visiting—which was pretty much every colour that looked any good on me except for black.” But because she couldn’t meet him at the prison, she just wore jeans and got her hair did.
• Black didn’t seem to mind Amiel’s outfit. According to her, his first words to her: “My brave sweet duck. The night is over.” (Further proof that terms of endearment between partners should stay between partners.)
• Amiel manages to completely trash her husband while explaining her reticence about the press. She says media coverage is fine “if you are Kim Kardashian or a Nobel laureate but not if you are coming out of prison with a haircut that reads bad Liberace, a complexion that makes pastry dough look in good health and a figure that has gone due south.” Ouch.
• Amiel insists that her husband received no special treatment in being granted a return to Canada. She was treated like a “toxic area” at parties and snubbed by politicians of different stripes, including Jason Kenney and Bob Rae. “Being connected is only a guarantee of scrutiny,” she writes, pointing out that “someone in the civil service who was clearly opposed to the decision to give him a TRP leaked the information to the Globe and Mail in advance of Conrad’s return.”
• Amiel’s love of her dogs is manifest. Though Black’s health took a hit in jail, Amiel says his constitution is like that of her kuvasz Arpad, who rebounds quickly. And the non-descript grey Chrysler they used to drive away from to Toronto airport unnoticed was borrowed, because all of their cars have been modified for her dogs.