The politician, the playmate and the mukluks

Anybody at a fundraising party for John Crosbie 30 years ago in Toronto would have noticed that the only thing more blinding than Crosbie’s wit was the Colgate smile of one of the guests.

Crosbie was recently brought back to the night three decades ago when then Playboy playmate Shannon Tweed helped him auction off a pair of mukluks.

He relived the event this past weekend when he was in Toronto for a wedding and, at a private party one night, he was presented with a photo of himself with Tweed holding the pair of traditional aboriginal footwear from all those years ago.

Under what set of bizarre circumstances could this scenario have possibly occurred?

Like most things in Crosbie’s life, it all comes down to politics.

When Crosbie lost the Tory leadership race to Brian Mulroney in 1983, he found himself in a spot of trouble.

“When you lose, you suddenly discover that you got a big debt,” he says.

He was about $100,000 in the red, in fact, and an investor friend of his from Toronto “came to my rescue,” as Crosbie puts it, and planned a fundraiser following his defeat.

Crosbie says somebody came up with the idea of inviting Shannon Tweed as part of the entertainment to entice people to attend and help get Crosbie out of the hole.

Tweed, a Newfoundlander by birth and the daughter of a mink farmer, had found fame in the pages of Playboy magazine. She accepted the invitation.

The mukluks are another interesting part of the story.

Prior to running for the federal Tory leadership, Crosbie had been finance minister in Joe Clark’s government. He presented a budget that was defeated. When he presented it, though, he kept up the tradition of the finance minister wearing a new pair of shoes. In his own way, that is.

“I had worn mukluks from Labrador that were made by a woman from Labrador for the budget speech,” Crosbie says. “These boots, we auctioned them off that night to raise some money.”

The boots brought in $10,000 and the photo that was presented to Crosbie just a few nights ago shows Tweed helping him auction them off.

Crosbie says it was the first time he had seen the photo in 30 years. It was given to him by Michael Cooke, editor of the Toronto Star, who was also at the party.

“It was fun to see it,” says Crosbie.

The successful bidder for the mukluks gave them to the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto and, as far as Crosbie knows, that’s where they remain.

“I made an effort to get them back, but they wanted to keep them.”

The incident of Crosbie getting the photo came to public light when fashion afficionado and television personality Jeanne Beker — who was also at the party — tweeted to Shannon Tweed, “Hey! Was just at a party where Nfld’s John Crosbie was presented with a fab ’80s portrait of you+him+mukluks! SO random!”

Yes, it isn’t just former playmates the Crosbies know, but fashion mavens, too.

“(Jeanne) once visited us here on Hogan’s Pond and damn near froze to death going from our guest house to the house here with her friend,” remembers Crosbie.

So now that the mukluks, the politician, a fashion personality and the playmate are accounted for (Tweed is married to Kiss member Gene Simmons), what happened to the picture?

Crosbie’s daughter, Beth, claimed it.

“It’s a lovely photo,” she says. “I’ll definitely hang that here somewhere. Politics has been a big part of our family life, so it’s an interesting memory to have on the wall here somewhere.”

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