The theatre impresario and the pea - Metro US

The theatre impresario and the pea

If former Livent head Garth Drabinsky ends up in jail, I for one will chip in on a decent mattress for him.

What else could you do after hearing his lawyer Edward Greenspan argue on day one of Drabinsky’s sentencing hearing that the former impresario is unlikely to find a prison mattress approximating the one he uses at home?

Clearly, he needs a good sleeping surface, firm but with a bit of give. As Greenspan noted, Drabinsky suffers from an array of infirmities, including arthritis, bursitis and back spasms. Carrying a tray of food, such as you might have to do in a prison cafeteria, would not be possible. Walking up stairs and navigating slippery surfaces would be a great hardship; indeed, walking any distance at all would be problematic.

Yet such is Drabinsky’s willingness to make amends for his fraud and forgery conviction that Greenspan, as part of a conditional sentencing arrangement, would have him embark on an exhausting speaking tour of Canada’s theatre schools. His topic? The avoidance of unethical conduct, naturally.

Such was the outpouring of tribute and support at the hearing for Drabinsky and his co-convicted business partner Myron Gottlieb, it’s hard to imagine either of them harbouring so much as a larcenous thought.

Drabinsky in particular was described as roughly an amalgam of the legendary Irving Thalberg and Mother Teresa. There were tributes from some of Canada’s business greats, including Isadore Sharp, the founder of Four Seasons Hotels, Seymour Schulich, the financial expert and philanthropist, and Douglas Bassett, the former broadcasting executive.

Christopher Plummer, suitably theatrical, added his “voice in the wilderness” to describe Drabinsky’s loyalty and generosity as well as his invention, achievements and optimism. And architect Moshe Safdie noted Drabinsky “was a creative force in everything he touched.”

Sadly, this last point is correct in ways that Safdie didn’t imply. When Drabinsky and Gottlieb were found guilty of fraud and forgery back in March Madam Justice Mary Lou Benotto noted the major contributions the two had made to theatre and the arts, but she also focused on the essence of their 62-day trial. The two were guilty of using an accounting system at Livent that systematically misrepresented results over a five-year period, costing investors an estimated $500 million.

That’s a significant fraud, and while there’s no need for a Madoffian punishment of a century plus, house arrest isn’t sufficient. Jail time, as uncomfortable as it may be, is in order.

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