Garth Drabinsky was on the phone! Why on earth was he calling me?, I wondered. I said to him, “I don’t think we’ve met, Mr. Drabinsky, but I was down to your office a few months ago to try to get a donation for Campaign Life. Your secretary had a big picture of Henry Morgentaler over her desk, and she told me to get lost.”
“She did?!” exclaimed Garth. “I must remember to fire her when I get back to the office. You mean you didn’t see the big picture of Jim Hughes on the wall?!”
“No!” I replied.
“Well, you will when you get back to the office.”
“What can I do for you, Mr. Drabinsky?”
“Call me Garth. I’m doing some personal solicitation for my legal defence fund. I’m trying to raise $1.5 million.”
“One-point-five million dollars! (Those were heady figures for a guy like me who tries to beat to death a newspaper box that won’t give me back my quarter.) Why would you need $1.5 million?”
“We need the best lawyers. And they don’t come cheap.”
Then I remembered the old axiom, “The weaker the case, the stronger the lawyer.” “Well, good luck,” I told him.
“I have a strong intention to pay back whatever money is donated,” said Garth, stoutly.
“You want a loan, not a donation.”
“No,” said Garth. “A donation. You don’t have to pay interest on a donation.”
Then I realized why he was rich and I was poor.
“I was talking to a friend of yours today,” said Garth. “Bill Gates. He suggested that I give you a call. He said that you were a big player up here and that you had a lot of influence.”
“He said that?” I said, fighting a laugh. “Did Bill chip in any money?” I asked.
“No, he only gives in units of $100 million.”
“And he gave you MY name?”
“I realize that you want to protect your anonymity and I’m sorry to intrude on your privacy. Your donation will be kept in the strictest confidence. When you have a lot of your money off-shore …”
“Money off-shore?!” (Glory be if it was true.)
“Yes, but you have your name listed in the phone book and that’s very unusual.”
“It’s cheaper,” I said.
Garth laughed. “That’s how it goes with a lot of people of means,” he said. “They often don’t live ostentatiously. Well, you know what they say: ‘If you look after the $1,000 bills, the $100,000 bills will take care of themselves.’ Can I put you down for $100,000?”
“You can put me down for $1 million, but I don’t intend to give you a cent!”
“Why?” Garth asked, startled. “You don’t understand, I’m a poor man. I’ve plowed a lot of my money into Livent, and the stocks that used to be worth $22 million have gone all the way down to $1.5 million …”
“Look, Garth,” I interrupted. “I’d have to smell a lot of sliced onions before I could start crying.”
“I just got fired from the job that paid me $13,000 a week. I’m involved in litigation that’s draining me dry. I’m not the rich kid on the block any more! I need your help!”
“Garth, you’re not eligible for a tag day. You made $2.2 million in salary and stock options in 1997 and you’re poor? It’s time to sell your art collection. I gather it’s worth a bundle. It’s time to move out of your suite in the Sutton Place Hotel! Thirty-second floor? Up to $390 a night! You used to be able to get a good place at the Y. Have you looked there? Besides, I can’t see how you could become so poor so quickly. What about the $7.5 million in kickbacks you and Myron Gottleib are alleged to have gotten? What about the $50 million you owe the CIBC? What about the allegations of a $225 million fraud with which Livent is having you charged?”
“Lies. All lies. What about the 18 Tonys we’ve won?”
“What about the $56 you owe me for tickets to the concert that was cancelled at the Ford Centre for the Performing Arts?”
“You’re worrying about that?! Goodbye.”
I had a feeling that Garth wouldn’t be calling back.