When Shinan Govani started writing his gossip column for the National Post in 2001, there was no eTalk, there was no TMZ, and Drake was some unknown on the new Degrassi. Since then he has documented the rise of Toronto’s ruling classes, attending some 6,623 parties and anointing it girls and hotspots at every turn. Last week Mr. Govani announced his departure from Post (he plans to spend the next few months travelling, writing and maybe even – gasp! – staying in). Here, he dishes on how high society has changed since those early days behind the velvet rope.
Then: Leah McLaren was the ingénue that everyone was talking about. In 2002, [she appeared in an exhibit by] the artist Joanne Tod where [Tod] painted various Toronto notables as characters in the novel Vanity Fair.
Now: Barbara Frum Jr. is still in University, but I’ve seen her at a couple of events and I definitely can see her rising to the occasion. She certainly has the pedigree – granddaughter of news legend Barbara and the extraordinary, recently passed art savant Murray, daughter of Senator Linda.
Then: Galen and Hilary Weston. There has always been a patina of royalty about them. I remember writing, early on, about the Queen and Prince Philip attending Hilary’s 60th birthday, held in Britain at Fort Belvedere. Even today they have this je ne sais jet set about them. I saw them the other week at a party – for Pharrell! – at Soho House. She was wearing red leather pants.
Now: Rufus Wainwright and Jorn Weisbrodt moved back here last year so that Jorn could take a job with Luminato. Since then, they have been wined and dined around the city. They are sort of like the cool kids in high school.
A new breed of power couple for this city, for sure. Hipster high society.
Then: Mordecai Richler. He, his barbs and his brood loomed big in the city’s bookish cosmos.
Now: Sheila Heti. You know you’re a lit “it” girl when The New Yorker devotes an entire feature profile to an author from Toronto.
Most impressive export
Then: McGosling [Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams]. I remember when they were in town they would always go to this out-of-the-way spot, La Bruschetta on St. Clair West. People seemed to go particularly crazy for this coupling. Blame The Notebook.
Now: Drake is such a unique figure for this city. Not only has he put us on the map in terms of being a Canadian at the highest level of hip-hop, he also chooses to live here and is constantly using Toronto references in his lyrics.
Then: There was the Brazilian Ball and there was no other. It was the single most money-making night on the Canadian charity map. Today there are so many different kinds of events. You would never see all of society under one roof like you did at the Brazilian.
Now: People aren’t as interested in galas. Most of the hottest parties are intimate and hosted in private homes, though I was really impressed with the Bliss Ball last month, which was a benefit for Sick Kids. They really pulled out all the stops and flew in a bunch of celebrities.
Reservation of record
Then: When I was first going out, Rain was the place where everyone went. One my first big scoops was when Nelly Furtado, fresh off winning a whack of Junos, was, for some reason, denied entry to her own label’s party that night at Rain. The incident was joked about in Jay Leno’s monologue.
Now: The Chase is the new buzz spot. It opened right before the film fest and hosted some star-studded parties – Jake Gyllenhaal hung out on the patio for hours. It’s unique in that it feels snugged right into the midst of the downtown towers, and its main dining room has a kind of polish that’s been missing a bit in Toronto recently.
Then: Mini everything. Mini burgers were the first and then it became about how every food could be made into a miniature version.
Now: Authentic bo ssam – ideally hand-wrapped by Momofuku’s David Chang himself.
Then: It is funny to think about people using PalmPilots, but it wasn’t so long ago that you saw publicists whipping those pens out at parties.
Now: A selfie is worth a thousand words.
Special to The Globe and Mail
This interview has been condensed and edited.