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Wednesday Night #1000 The Westmount Examiner
Written by Diana Thebaud Nicholson // May 10, 2001 // Special Wednesday Nights // Comments Off on Wednesday Night #1000 The Westmount Examiner
A thousand Wednesday nights
By Martin C. Barry
David and Diana Nicholson were exhausted, exhilarated, although he admitted that “We are very weary,”. Three days after a big bash marking the 1,000th Wednesday Night Salon, over an almost 20-year period, the Rosemount Avenue residents were still recovering.
Back in 1982, David and Diana Nicholson decided that what Montreal Westmount needed was a current events ‘salon’ where intelligent conversation about the latest issues all over the world could take place discreetly once a week, with a special featured guest tying it all together. Ideally, the results would be beneficial to policy development, or at least contribute to greater understanding among people of divergent views.
Now, 1,000 weeks later, the Wednesday Salon has become a cherished institution among regular and occasional guests alike. Once described as the Algonquin Round Table updated and transplanted to Westmount, over the years the weekly session has attracted most of Canada’s brightest political stars, not to mention a long litany of prominent economists, scientists, artists and international diplomats.
To mark the Nicholsons’ 1,000th Wednesday Night Salon last week, a special committee was formed to organize what David believes was probably one of the biggest bashes Westmount has seen in a long while. Its success was measured by the number of wine glasses, 240 in all.
Among the many guests (over 120) who dropped by to help the Nicholsons celebrate their Wednesday millennium were Mayor Peter Trent, Margaret Lefebvre, Cynthia Lulham, John Ciaccia, Reverend David Oliver, Bill and Magda Weintraub, Jean Doré, Brian Morel, Michel Prescott, Herb Bercovitz, Marie Hélène Sarrazin, Allan Mass, Superior Court Judge Israel Mass, Helen Fotopoulos, David Berger, Harry Mayerovitch, Marie Cormier, Kimon Valaskakis, Ron Meisels, Jacques Clément, Reed Scowen, Martin Barnes, Tobi Klein , Carmen Robinson, Sam Totah, Margaret Cuddihy, Roger Warren and Ron Walker and, from Washington, D.C., U.S. diplomats formerly posted to Canada, David and Terry Jones.
Stanley Baker, who was one of the guests, commented that it was a great night and a fitting tribute to the Nicholsons by the Wednesday Nighters, who had organized and sponsored the event. A combination of last Wednesday’s heat and the sheer number of guests prompted many to carry the party outdoors. The heat also forced Trent to abandon his original idea of arriving in a full suit of armour as the ‘1,000th Wednesday Knight’.
In the years since it started, Wednesday Night has come to be seen as the place to be for anyone in Westmount interested in world affairs and the effect they have on investment markets. One of the rules established at the beginning would be that nothing said during a Wednesday Night session would be reported or quoted outside the room without specific after-the-evening permission.
Officials of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, while on stopovers in Montreal, would often be huddled around the Nicholsons’ dining room table. “My objective at the outset,” said David, an investment broker, “was that I’d get them arguing back and forth, and I’d just sit back taking notes, and tomorrow I’d just walk out and make a fortune.”
And did he? “No!” he exclaimed without hesitation. “They didn’t know the answers, either.”
Economists don’t know any more than the rest of us what will happen, agreed Diana, “they can only suggest the outcome given a specific set of circumstances”. Economics, she concluded, can’t stand on its own apart from everything else that is occurring in the world. “Economics is based on a whole lot of other things,” she said. “So pretty soon, it became quite obvious that for any of us to learn something, we needed to bring in experts in other fields, fields that influence the economy. Thus, the evolution to agendas that run from Astronomy and Bio-technology to zoology and zen.”
According to David, many investors looking for the inside scoop have come to Wednesday Night including politicians, even though politicians are obliged by law to place their investments in a blind trust. But, said David, “the managers of blind trusts might also be present on the same Wednesday Night.”
Two events, both related to the economy, convinced the Nicholsons of their Wednesday Night Salon’s influence. The week of the 1987 market crash, 48 well-placed people spontaneously turned up for the Wednesday Night meeting.
The Asian economic meltdown of three years ago caused a similar, though more subdued reaction. “A lot of people came here because this was the place to be,” said David.
“And partly to lick their wounds,” added Diana.