Canadian Folk Culture images selected from
the RUNAGATES CLUB digital archives,
by Ronald J. Jack
Most Canadians of middle-age (my age) have seen photographs of Margaret Trudeau's... "bum". The word bum is of course, a euphemism. Canadian slang for what Margaret flashed to the paparazzi is her "beaver", although folks today are more direct.
So why did Maggie's "bum" become a political story back in 1979?
Pierre Elliott Trudeau resigned his party leadership following its defeat in the 1979 Federal Election. The LIBERAL PARTY was thrown into chaos and could not find a new leader. The pitiful TORY government under Joe Clark collapsed after only a few months, and Trudeau rushed back to lead his party in a crushing defeat of the CONSERVATIVES.
I was at university during both Federal elections and I considered both federal parties archaic and corrupt. During the 1980 Canadian Federal Election, though busy with my studies, I was asked to work as campaign manager for the LIBERTARIAN candidate in Fredericton, N.B. We didn't have a pot to piss in, no campaign buttons or lawn signs, but we offered an alternative to voters in the UNB campus area. I was aware that Trudeau's wife had disgraced herself in New York, but I had not seen what many Canadians had seen - the photographs in HIGH SOCIETY magazine.
In 1979 Margaret Trudeau was separated from her husband, promoting her memoirs, and trying to establish herself as a serious career woman. Trading on her fame as the wife of Canada's "playboy" prime minister, she spent too much time in New York nightclubs, including STUDIO 54, where she mixed with bigger egos and competed for attention. Her chosen stratagem was to deliberately hitch up her skirt and expose herself to photographers.
HIGH SOCIETY magazine (two million copy circulation in 1979) bought a few photos and decided to give Mrs. Trudeau the cover. In August of 1979 Canadians were salivating to get their hands on a copy. When a Canadian reporter questioned the magazine's motives, the editor responded: "She's a public figure. If she doesn't want this kind of attention, then I think she should keep her panties on."
The insinuation had always been that the pussy photos had damaged the Liberals, but I don't think that was true. In the region of Canada I come from, the Maritime Provinces, you needed few excuses to denigrate your political opponent. I do recall hollow comments at the time like, "If he can't control his wife, how can he run the country?" Any honest critic had to admit the truth - that Pierre Trudeau was a master tactician, and he would continue Lord it over Canada as long as it pleased him.
I was not one of those mocking the Emperor for his wife's indecent exposure, because at the time I just didn't think Margaret Trudeau was interesting in any respect. And I was far too serious in my studies to think of buying a trashy magazine to snicker over.
But something odd happened. In the summer of 1984 I was invited to travel to Taiwan to join with representatives from twenty-four countries on a fact-finding tour. We were introduced to dozens of top business and political leaders, and toured everything of interest in the country including military bases. As the sole delegate representing Canada, I was approached by a radio reporter from South African Broadcasting who was doing a story on the cultural exchange. I just couldn't fathom his initial question. A full five years after the Margaret Trudeau photo-scandal, a reporter wanted me to record what Canadians thought about her behaviour. Now, Maggie's hairy monkey hadn't meant a thing to me, but I had to respond with something worthy of his recording tape. But I'm sure I disappointed him.
I found interesting employment in Taiwan and stayed for a few years, but on return to Canada I did eventually encounter the infamous edition of HIGH SOCIETY. The shots of Maggie's pudenda are not so hot, but they are reflective of where society was already headed. Margaret's mania was only limited by technology. Had she a cellphone back in 1979, Mrs. Trudeau would have taken her own crotch-shots and posted them all over Social Media. Showing your body to the world is a rather obligatory stunt among the truly desperate in 2016. It was sad then, and it is boring today.
It might amaze a few readers to know that the assorted Trudeau scandals have been studied by serious scholars, including Canadian folklorists. One research paper I have at hand is a collection of Trudeauisms, including satire songs and jokes. Two of the more amusing are:
Q: What has the most fingerprints - the RCMP, CIA or MTA?
A: MTA - Margaret Trudeau's ass.
Q: What do Margaret Trudeau and Maureen McTeer have in common?
A: They both like to blow a little dope?
[Ms. McTeer was P.M. Joe Clark's wife. Margaret Trudeau was widely known to be an addictive pot smoker. She passed that pleasure on to her son Justin.]
D-jay Frank Proctor recorded the satire "MARGARET" in 1977,
but it got banned from Canadian radio after a few weeks. The
song predated Maggie's display of pudenda by two years.
The recording is on YOUTUBE. Just jump to MARGARET.
WIKIPEDIA articles often discuss a given events "Cultural Impact", or how often it is referenced or parodied in the Popular Culture. There is certainly other Trudeau trash besides the campaign button I could share here in the Blog, but perhaps the most interesting referent is a printed album jacket produced in Vancouver in 1979. It is for the punk rock band "D.O.A." who recorded a record entitled "TRIUMPH OF THE IGNOROIDS". The first pressing off the record was 1000 copies and it sold out instantly... perhaps a testament to the qualities of the music, or maybe because buyers sensed that a shot of Margaret Trudeau's hairy snatch might amuse their friends.
Trudeau went into deep psycho-therapy and claimed to have given up the recreational drugs. But there is is some evidence that she never managed to pull herself together. All through her life she continued to act weird, especially when anyone pointed a camera at her.
Following the election of another Trudeau in 2015, CBC meat puppets and journal fawned over the Trudeau's like they were witnessing the second coming of "Camelot". One of the more obnoxious suggestions came from a very senior reporter - Neil MacDonald, who wrote a column "Let's give Margaret Trudeau the credit she deserves". If at some point in life I had been lobotomized, I would be his man. The myth making was well and truly underway. Today's blog is for those Canadians who value historical memory. I doubt any of this material is preserved in the collection of our National Archives in Ottawa.