On the Town with Shinan: David Foster's tales of Celine, Whitney and Madonna

By Shinan Govani

“That one's a stallion,” the girl in the barn was telling me this week. As I made his acquaintance – his eyes, on the blue side; his coat, fairly lavish – the neighbouring horse neighed. And right then, I ran into David Foster, hitmaker behind Celine, Whitney, et al. Fancy meeting you here. We exchanged pleasantries, and talked World Cup, as one does, on the grounds of the DeerFields Stables & Country Inn, where the star was taking part in an exclusive fundraiser for his eponymous charitable foundation. It had been his job to support The Netherlands’ soccer team, he told me, being married to Dutch beauty Yolanda, one of the stars of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

And then, faster than you can say “I Will Always Love You,” we'd been shuttled into a tent mounted for lunch on the property, also home to the DeerFields Clinic – a fancy place one goes for wellness and to “lie down” in Caledon, Ont. That's when it got really interesting.

Celine always gave me exactly what I wanted, and was hearing in my head,” David started telling the room, as he sat at the piano. She has an incomparable precision – “Whitney, on the other hand would never give me what I asked. She would often give me better. She was a laser beam.”

As guests slurped chilled cucumber soup and later finished with a peach crumble and Tahitian vanilla ice cream, he gave us the Coles Notes on a sterling career, which has earned him 16 Grammy Awards...so far! The highs, the lows, the sweat. One tidbit: Madonna is extremely punctual. Another: Natalie Cole wept openly in front of him when she first heard their “Unforgettable” experiment with her late father, Nat King Cole.

“I'm in the service business, I really am,” said the Victoria, B.C.-raised music man at one point, reflecting on a career that's taken him from Chaka Khan to Kenny Rogers. And as the lunchers took it all in – heavy-hitters like Belinda Stronach and Jim Treliving included – the biggest revelation, perhaps, came not from David, but etalk's Ben Mulroney, who emceed the proceedings. Turns out that when Ben was 16, his dad, the prime minister, arranged for him to go to New York to sit in on a recording session that David was helming. Oh, yes – Ben was there for the birth, in part, of what is still considered the best-selling soundtrack of all time: The Bodyguard. “I talked to Whitney, and her mother,” Ben recalled when I quizzed him more about this later.

I think even the horses, in the back, were impressed by that.


Lady Gaga, Lady Gaga, Lady Gaga. While she made a lot of commotion in Toronto these last few days – whether indulging at Vapor Central on Yonge Street or vintage shopping at Divine Decadence Originals in Yorkville or rolling down her window to talk to fans after her concert – the biggest shocker, in my book, is that she traded in her regular hotel, The Hazelton (where'd she always, always, always previously stayed in Toronto), for the Four Seasons on Bay Street. Hotel wars!

Here! There!

    * Nelly Furtado was a good sport when she hit Woody's, the granddaddy of gay bars in Toronto recently.
    * To Capri, in Italy, this week, for the Dolce & Gabbanna couture show: Canadian fashion-plate and philanthropist Suzanne Rogers. She was among the select invitees, as she shared on Instagram.
    * Getting her Newfoundland and Labrador on? That'd be Margaret Atwood. The famed scribbler was just spotted cruising the most easterly reaches of Canada aboard an Adventure Canada vessel.
    * “What's next for you?” someone asked moody hunk Michael Pitt when he appeared at Toronto’s Varsity Cinemas for a panel conversation following a screening of his new film, I Origins. “I'd like to go swimming at some point,” he replied.
    * Among the throngs heading to hot new Eastern Mediterranean spot Byblos, here on Duncan Street: those celebrity makeover mavens, Colin and Justin, who were spotted there the other night.

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