Sun, October 17, 2004
The brother of Catherine Clark, only child of the former prime minister and his wife, lies in a box in the basement of her home in Stittsville where she lives with her husband whose father was once the king of goons in the World Hockey Association and of whom he has few memories and no relationship since he walked out on the family many years ago.
Catherine Clark, at 27 years old, is blonde and blue-eyed and refined and perfectly beautiful, a Barbie doll some would say disparagingly, but Barbie doll had no brain, no thoughts, no smarts, never drank, never smoked, never did drugs, never was expected to prove she wasn't what she was, and Catherine Clark, despite growing up pampered and privileged and, she admits, spoiled, is no Barbie Doll, and never was and never will be.
The daughter of Joe Clark and Maureen McTeer, she was sometimes a lonely child, but never once questioned why she was an only child; she didn't have to share with a sibling the love of her parents who overindulged her and gave her the nickname Muffin which they call her to this day.
And, yet, there was Joey.
"My parents took me to New York for my sixth birthday. I wanted a doll, so my mother took me to a toy store and the salesman showed me one. I pulled down its pants. I wanted a boy doll who had private parts and peed. He went away and came back with one. I named him Joey after my dad. I loved Joey. I fed him with a bottle and changed his diapers. I singed his diapers on the radiator in our hotel room. On the plane home, Joey peed water all over the seat and Mom was mortified.
"An uncle of mine made a crib for Joey and a high chair. I didn't need a brother because I had Joey. I was infatuated with Joey for about 18 months. But, I'll never part with him. My favourite children's book was about a little unhappy, lonely girl who lives in an orphanage and is rescued by a big, friendly giant who takes her away to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen."
Did you ever meet the Queen?
Her eyes brighten. "Yes. I was four. She was visiting Canada and my dad took me to the airport for the official greeting. I thought her pink coat was very pretty and her flowers were nice."
Catherine Clark glances at her watch. She soon has to leave the restaurant to get back to Rogers 22, the cable TV station, to prepare for the new nightly current affairs show she hosts, and she knows there are those whispering she got it only for her celebrity appeal as the young and drop-dead pretty daughter of Joe Clark and Maureen McTeer.
"People are going to say it all my life, the favouritism thing. If people think I'm dumb, then wonderful because it'll only take me four minutes of conversation to prove them wrong. The best advice my mom ever gave me was 'don't chew gum in public,' but my dad's was that 'life is a series of opportunities that come along when you least expect them.' "
With a degree in art history from the University of Toronto, her first taste of independence was at 18 when she moved alone to Paris to attend the American University for five months, and lived in a tiny one-bedroom flat. It was liberating. On a school outing to Amsterdam, she smoked pot. "Just one time. Didn't have an effect on me." She laughs. "My parents won't know until now."
Just as they didn't know, until now, that, in Grade 6, she smoked cigarettes. "I had a wild friend who smoked. I smoked about three or four of them, and then quit."
DAD A PUSHOVER
Her parents visited her overseas once a month. Her relationship with them was and is bound by a fierce love. "I was never spanked or grounded, all that was needed was a lecture. Dad was a pushover. He'd read me bedtime stories, and make up parts. 'And Nancy was driving her blue convertible Mustang and met a bear and asked the bear if he'd like a ride.' I'd go, 'Oh, D-a-a-d.'
"When I was little, I'd sneak into bed with Mom and Dad and bump them while they were sleeping and dad would go 'Hmmm, that's funny, this pillow is moving, this pillow is alive', and then 'Oh, it's you, Muffin.'
"My parents are very normal. My dad is a big fan of Willie Nelson. I grew up on country music. The McTeers are all country music nuts. I love my parents."
A career in politics is a possibility, she says, but "It's not my goal. I know how difficult it can be. It'd be tough on my husband and children."
Her husband is Chad Schella, director of community and corporate relations with the Ottawa Senators Foundation. They met when he was the executive assistant of her father. They married in June 2002.
'I LOVE ROMANCE'
"We were sitting on a cement pier near the waterfront in Toronto and I saw some ducks going by. I went 'quack, quack, quack' and the next thing I know Chad is on one knee holding out a ring. He asked me to marry him." She smiles. "I love romance. Candlelight. Wine. Eating out. My birthday is Nov. 6 and I'm hoping Chad will take me to Paris for a romantic weekend."
EPILOGUE: I dig out the article I wrote on the king of goons of the WHA. The year was 1973. John Schella played defence for the Houston Aeros. He was 26. He, too, had a nickname. Mad Dog. In the article, he boasted about his fists and retribution. We were in a restaurant, and he suddenly jumped up. I read again the last paragraph of my piece. "My little girl's birthday, gotta go. I bought her this toy duck. It goes quack, quack when you pound it on the head." Romance.