TIFF SPECIAL: Dressing daggers, part 2

Story by Leanne Delap, one of Toronto’s top writers (fashion or otherwise), who will be covering all the glitz, glamour and Glowerers for The Style Notebook during TIFF. Today: Celebrating the inimitable Jeanne Beker.

As of today, our televisions are peopled by a shiny perky army of celebrity presenters, chirpily presenting celebrities. I often can’t tell them apart, so pleasant, nondescript—well, nice looking—and even of tone are they.

They all follow in the footsteps of, and don’t hold a candle to, the woman who is our real cultural ambassador, the woman who introduces us to famous people and us to them: Jeanne Beker. Who is darn well tremendous looking, just not in that talking head kind of a way.

And though I’m a newbie to this spontaneous medium, I hope there is room between the ventilating and the fanning for some old-fashioned earnest appreciation. For I have tremendous admiration of and respect for Jeanne Beker, the hardest working woman in the business. She has been on-air since 1985, first at New Music where she belied the mold of bubbleheaded VJ with her feisty personality and gravitas. Yes, I said gravitas. Call her questions air-balls, call her fawning and you would be missing the target by a mile.

Jeanne has helmed FT for a quarter decade, along with innumerable newspaper, magazine and radio gigs, a relentless schedule of hosting duties at charitable events where she is unfailingly gracious no matter how tired a (divorced) single mum she ever was. Then there are the TV specials, shifts filling in on the anchor desk, and a stint filing for MovieTelevision—not to mention her tireless support of the Canadian fashion industry. Others dazzled by the lights of Milan and New York have forgotten their homeland; never Jeanne.

The great thing about Jeanne is that her voice—the pitch, the sway, how she does voice-over—is how she talks and how she writes. It is why she clicks: There is a through-and-through authenticity to her style. Watch other hosts, they follow a time-honoured formula of erasing their own personality. Their goal is to make it look easy.

Jeanne’s art is that you see the brass tacks. She hustles, she pushes her way through the throng. That is fashion! She fits!

And what she does is damned hard: Even as the senior vet among the television crews of the world, even beloved by all the players, she phones nothing in. Look, I’ve interviewed Karl Lagerfeld, to use the most extreme example in the business, and he makes you sweat blood. The famously taciturn Tuton breaks into a beam with Ms. Beker.

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