Q&A: departing National Post columnist Shinan Govani on life with the city’s glitter girls and power players
After 12 years and 6,623 parties, Toronto’s gossip guy of record is parting ways with the National Post. Here, Shinan Govani dishes on on his favourite celeb encounter, why Toronto could totally support a Real Housewives series and whether he’s ever puked into Hilary Weston’s shoes* (*he has not)
You have met innumerable celebs on the job—who sticks out as being the most amazing?
It was pretty groovy when I went to a little party a few years ago and Liza Minnelli sang in my face. There are probably a lot of more au courant movie stars I could name, but…
More au courant than Liza!?
Ha! But really, she was more than a star. She is so iconic—it was like the Eiffel Tower coming to life.
The Toronto “scene” is sort of it’s own beast, wouldn’t you say?
Yes, though there’s been sort of a flat-lining of the things that distinguish one large metropolis from another. Everyone watches the same media and gets information at the same time. Today some kid in his basement in Ajax can see the same things they’re seeing at Milan Fashion Week. This globalization has led to a more acute sense of strutting and peacocking here in Toronto.
But aren’t we a little more reserved here? People say the Real Housewives franchise wouldn’t work in Toronto because our rich people here are so discrete in terms of dirty laundry.
I don’t really buy that. Nobody had heard of Bethenny Frankel or Countess LuAnn before the Real Housewives turned them into stars. It’s not like actual high society types are doing that show in any city and I think it’s overly pious to think that ambitious star fuckery doesn’t exist here. It does.
Having attended over 6,000 parties, you obviously have some thoughts on what makes a good bash.
There is a certain mysterious alchemy, which is part of what has kept my job interesting. I have said that people are the best decor and that a little bit of gauche goes a long way. Also, Woody Allen was wrong—eighty percent of life is lighting.
What is the most drunk you’ve ever been on the job?
It wouldn’t have happened that often.
I was fairly happy at the party for the re-opening of the Carlu [in 2003]. I don’t think I had words with anyone, but it was a big night.
Care to confess your biggest social faux pas?
Hmmm, let me think…
Maybe you woke up and thought, ‘Jeez, I wish I hadn’t vomited into Hilary Weston’s shoes.
Nothing like that. I once made a frosh-week-level mistake when I ran into Albert Brooks at a TIFF party and pretended to have read his recent novel, only to get called out by his wife.
Okay, let’s talk the future. What are your plans post-Post?
I’m taking a big trip to Asia next month. I’m going to ride the Orient Express from Bangkok to Singapore. Professionally, I’m going to let myself be courted a bit and see what other opportunities arise and I’m also going devote myself to a book project that’s been on the go for a bit, but I haven’t had time to focus. It’s called COATTAILS: A short history of pedigree, privilege and genetic lotteries. Basically a string of social biographies united by a particular theme—the children of.
Really what I’d like to do is figure out the Fran Lebowitz career model, which seems to involve writing a piece every five years and going to all the best parties. I think there’s only one Fran Lebowitz though.
Speaking of one and only, do you really get mistaken for Jian Ghomeshi?
It used to happen about once a week. The apex was when a chief of staff to a minister on Parliament Hill emailed me to say how wonderful it was sitting beside me at an event. I informed them that they were looking for Jian. I think it was kind of an incident because it was a conservative federal cabinet minister mixing up two brown men. You don’t really want to be associated with that.