Cause Célèbre

b and w rod in fur

It’s likely that Rod Stewart didn’t quite know where he was when he performed at the Confederation Hill music festival in Newfoundland earlier this month. It’s not that Rod’s advancing age or prior rock and roll lifestyle of champagne and cocaine suppositories has led to irreparable memory loss but when you hit a certain level of musical celebrity, a team of accountants draws up your schedule. They will send you to places where the brand is strong. All travel is coordinated by how much cash can be wrung out of a particular performance and what it can add to the bottom line. Certain stars have garnered so much wealth this way that it has gone to their heads, giving them a notion that they are Very Important Players on the world stage. Bono, the Papal King of musical types, feels a deep messianic need to walk among the global high rollers and give them advice as if he were an actual head of state. Second only to the Kurds, Celebrities are the largest stateless nation of people on Earth. If they ever start issuing their own currency, King Bono will be on the Kingdom of Celebrity’s million dollar bill. Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire Roderick David Stewart might end up on the penny. Yes, that is Rod’s actual title.


Lord Roderick the Raspy was well aware he was wearing a coat made of some type of animal when he posed for a fairly typical celebrity photo in a St Johns clothing shop, although he vehemently denies knowing that it was made of seal. It could have been rendered from Newfoundland dog for all he knew; the only thoughts in Rod’s head would have been a quiet Homer Simpson voice saying “mmmmm – fur”, followed by a few random bars of Ain’t Love A Bitch. Fur coats were the ultimate declaration of decadence for the 70s musical elite, from the day John Lennon wore Yoko’s coat at the Beatles last show up to when Paul and Linda became activist vegetarians. The furriers had an excellent decade. Rod’s fellow traveller Sir Paul McCartney didn’t fair very well on the geography test when he was in Atlantic Canada on an animal rights junket. He was soundly beaten in his 2006 CNN duel over the seal hunt with former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams.

“You’re in PEI now and IM in Newfoundland/Labrador” Williams snaps with something just shy of contempt. It’s obvious which one would of these combatants would triumph on Celebrity Survivor: The Ice Floe edition. Without their team of handlers, Paul and Heather and Rod and Ellen would last about ten gruesome minutes in the icy wild until the polar bears came. There are no vegetarians, vegans or anyone with a food allergy in a hardscrabble outpost. I learned this while living near flat broke on an island in Northern Ontario. Bless my neighbour Una, who handed me a dripping plastic bag with a kind “Here’s a couple of moose steaks hon.” In these places, you’d drink a 100% gluten smoothie in a heartbeat if it took away the hunger.


Tanya Tagaq knows exactly what a seal fur coat looks like and will wear one whenever she damn well pleases. The singer, who hails from Ikaluktuutiak (Cambridge Bay) Nunavut, made massive waves in animal rights circles by posting a photo of her child with a dead seal (since dubbed a “sealfie”) and by declaring “FUCK PETA” in her 2014 Polaris prize acceptance speech. “People should wear and eat seal as much as possible” she said.  The saintly Armchair Activists instantly let loose with the tweets, calling her an unfit mother, savage, inbred, scum shit – all of the typical racist crap that those lacking a cogent argument tend to default to. Some took it a gruesome step further, Photoshopping Tagaq and her daughter being stabbed and skinned in place of a seal. None of this has prompted her to back down however: “I would give anything to be in the same room with that guy and just look at him. I’m not threatening, I’d just look him in the eye. And I bet you he couldn’t hold my eyes. I want him to come to a concert and see me sing and just see how pissed off I am.”  This guy might learn a thing or two, for Tagaq’s music comes from a soul tied directly to the Earth. She possesses and delivers enough natural sonic energy to disable every pablum spewing oldies station on the planet. Tagaq would never accused of being a foppish poseur in an uptown boutique. Not only does she wear seal fur with pride, she doesn’t hesitate to consume the entire being out of necessity and tradition. And if you check out her music it just might consume you.

Slapping on a sealskin coat is probably the least offensive thing Rod Stewart has ever done. Any senior citizen who would sing the line “Don’t say a word my virgin child” in a serious fashion should be viewed with suspicion. If “Tonight’s The Night” is autobiographical, it’s problematic at a Bill Cosby level of WTF. Rod is forever secure though, sticking with his elite gang that saunters on untouchable, protected by his net worth and the force field that surrounds an icon, even in the most dumbass of moments. If you’re in the area, he’s playing Bloomington, Illinois on Wednesday the 22nd. You can get an up close view in the floor seating for $257.52 USD plus service charges. If you happen to see him, let me know if he’s still rockin’ the leather jacket and if you thought it was sexy.


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