Above photo by Ted Grant, shot in 1968, is a classic of Canadian photojournalism. Pierre Trudeau was running to succeed Lester Pearson as Liberal party leader, and prime minister. The press corps waited outside as Trudeau left Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier Hotel. Grant however was inside, and heading down the stairs in front of Trudeau when he heard laughter. Turning around, he saw Trudeau sliding down the railing. Of three photos he took of that moment, only one was in-focus. “The third one, he was practically on top of me,” Grant recalled.
The photo began Trudeaumania. Before it fizzled out after 1971 with the prime minister’s rocky marraige to Margaret Sinclair, Trudeaumania would define an energetic and nonconformist generation and propel Trudeau to three election victories.
Allegedly bisexual,Trudeau dated celebrities — including Barbara Steisand and Margot Kidder — and invited John Lennon and Yoko Ono to his office. A racy bachelor with penchant for flowers in his lapel, fast sportcars, judo and scarves, he wooed Canada with his irreverent, “un-Canadianly immodest” behavior. He did a pirouette behind the back of Queen Elizabeth II, and also slid down banisters at Buckingham Palace and Marlborough House. He wore sandals to the parliament and accused of using obscenities inside the parliament once. He waved his middle finger at protestors.
Socially liberal and high-living, Trudeau was staunchly nationalistic and internationalist. He crushed a violent separatist movement in his native province of Quebec (once he stared down an attacker), while promoting French language and Francophone minority. With his attempts to form close relations with China and Cuba, his nonchalance for NATO and quixotic campaigns for world peace and nuclear disarmament, Trudeau remained a constant thorn for the White House.