On the Town with Shinan: Steve Martin strums his banjo in Toronto's Distillery District

By Shinan Govani

A Woman of Influence

Lena Dunham always taps her as one of her biggest aha! inspirations. And Tina Fey has credited her with inspiring her to mosey into comedy.

The other night, meanwhile, the great, late Gilda Radner was given her due again, by one of her original boosters: Mr. Steve Martin. The perennial wisecrack proved to be a hit, indeed, at a benefit put on by Gilda's Club, a cancer support organization named in honour of the legendary funnywoman. “Loveable,” is what Steve still calls her.

The comedy star took the stage with his band at an intimate “night of comedy and music” held at the Fermenting Cellar in Toronto's Distillery District. It was an evening that struck a chord for those with longer memories: it was exactly 25 years ago this spring when a too-young Gilda, an original Saturday Night Live cast member, passed away – on a Saturday! – and a misty-eyed Steve was entrusted with coming out to commemorate her at the top of that night's show. It's a moment passed onto SNL lore and still stands as one of the most tragic-comic moments in TV history.

The white-haired jack-of-many-trades plays one mean banjo: that was the consensus in the room, as Steve played to a crowd that included fashion-constant Jeanne Beker and journalist Amanda Lang. Giving a nod to Gilda's Canadian phase – she acted alongside the likes of Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara at Toronto's famed Second Theatre in the 1970s – Steve mentioned that he originally met Gilda through another Martin – Martin Short! - when those two were dating.

See you soon, guys: that, too, was the comedian's message. He plans to be back in Toronto in about a year and half, as he mentioned at an even more VIP cocktail held that night. This time it will be for a show he's co-curating at the Art Gallery of Ontario centred around iconic Canadian painter Lawren Harris! Steve, as it happens – when he's not cracking jokes, writing novels or hosting the Oscars – collects major art, and is a huge buff, in particular, of the Group of Seven.

Meanwhile:

All eyes, this week, were on Eugenie Bouchard, as she became the first Canadian woman to reach the semis at the French Open and also basked in the distinction of being profiled in the new Vogue. With her fame-stock rocketing way past what it was only a week ago, the prepossessing tennis player even received a special visit from one Owen Wilson. She and the shaggy-maned movie star made chit-chat and posed for pics, while he was making his own rounds at Roland Garros, where the Paris tennis tournament is held.

Sadly, Eugenie admitted to the press that she hasn't yet had a chance to catch Owen's Woody Allen flick from a years ago, Midnight in Paris. But as the French Associated Press reported, she plans to do so tout suite. “I will give you a summary next time,” she promised.

Here! There!

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All smiles: that was supermodel Coco Rocha when she came out to support a chic in-store benefit for Sick Kids Hospital, held this week at Mulberry, on Toronto's Bloor Street, and hosted by socialite Sylvia Mantella.

* Little Mosque on the Prairie star Zaib Shaikh, who was just honoured with the position of Toronto's new film commissioner, enjoyed an old-school birthday meat-fest recently at Tom Jones Steakhouse.

* Joseph Gordon-Levitt – in Montreal these days working on the new Robert Zemeckis movie To Reach The Clouds – has become, I hear, somewhat of a regular at Communion restaurant there.

* Our man Drake was out to catch Zoe Kravitz when she and her band, Lolawolf, performed the other night, back here in T.O., at the Mod Club.

* It pays to have one's own olive oil farm: international handywoman and Canadian TV personality Debbie Travis tells website Le Travelist that she uses oil from her vines in Tuscany on her face and legs during long flights. “Works like a dream,” she oohs.

* Canada's former Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson showed her chopsticks-prowess when she was spotted enjoying an easy Chinese dinner at Dynasty, in Toronto's Yorkville hood.

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