©Photo by Lois Siegel
Brigitta von Dulong

Portrait Photographer Brigitta von Dulong Meets
Former Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau

By Brigitta von Dulong

My portrait photography studio was located just across the street from the Bank of Canada on Sparks Street in Ottawa. One day a young man who looked familiar walked in off the street
for a passport photo. He stood forever in front of the mirror to arrange his thinning hair until I said Mr. Trudeau, I think that is good enough now.

I had just read an article about him in Maclean’s Magazine. It said he was Prime Minister Pearson’s Parliamentary Secretary and that it was predicted that he would go far in life. This was 1966 when I had just opened my own studio at street level.

During the sitting we had an interesting talk about hitchhiking through Europe, both of us had been there at different times, but we did not agree at all when we talked about politics.

Fast forward to 1969.  My parents visited from Germany.  When my father went moose hunting in the North, my mother and I had tickets for the first concert of the National Art Centre Orchestra. To make it a special occasion before the performance, we went for dinner at “L’Opera,” which at that time was the name of the cafe upstairs in the art centre.  We were seated a few tables away from the former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson.  I pointed him out for my mother, as well as the soon to be Governor of the Bank of Canada, Gerald Bouey, my customer, and various other notables. After the concert we joined a reception behind the stage, and who was there - the real Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Since I knew some of the press photographers, they convinced me to walk up to Trudeau and have some snapshots taken with him.

 Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Brigitta von Dulong

I could not resist, and he recognized me as  having “that little shop on Sparks Street. ”While we talked, flashbulbs went off around us like mad.  My mother, standing in the wings, 
was wondering what was going on. I explained to her that this finally was the real Prime Minister as I was proud to know him. She was not impressed. It’s not like meeting the Kaiser who hunted on her parents estate in Silesia, East Germany. The estate was lost to Germany at the end of World War II and now belongs to Poland.  So much for trying to impress my mother.

Shortly after that encounter, Pierre Trudeau was a guest at a diplomatic wedding where I was the official photographer. At the reception, lots of people wanted photographs taken with him. 
I asked his permission, and he typically just shrugged his shoulders and said ,“Let’s do it, after all there is an election coming up.”  Later the mother of the bride asked Trudeau to please start the buffet,  but he answered, “This little girl (meaning me) worked so hard, I am going to get her dinner first.”  Off we walked together to the long table while I was telling him the story of my mother and the Kaiser and how I could not impress her at all with any Canadian Prime
Minister.  He had a good laugh.

At another wedding assignment in the Chateau Laurier, who was a guest but Pierre Elliott Trudeau. I think the bride was his secretary. While I was taking a photo of the bride's family,
Trudeau was standing behind me making all kinds of silly faces and movements,  presumably to get a good laugh out of everybody. He wanted to assist me. Laugh they did but too much, which never looks good in photographs.  I was annoyed because I could charm the customers into smiling myself. So I turned around and said quite loudly, “Mr. Prime Minister, if you ever lose your job, you can work for me.” He turned on his heels and did not try his monkey business again.

My last encounter with Pierre Elliott Trudeau took place when the European Union ambassador gave a costume party at his residence in Rockcliffe Park.  I was dressed as a satellite. I had a silver dress on and a wig with silver balls sticking out of it. This time I was invited as a guest, not as a photographer, but I was neither a diplomat, civil servant or a politician like the others. Close to the end of the evening, who showed up but Pierre Elliott Trudeau as a gypsy. Later on,  I watched another gypsy, this time a lady, reading Trudeau’s fortune by observing the lines in his hands.  Since this was my hobby,  I noticed she was completely wrong as to her interpretation about his life. She did not correctly predict his future. Loud and clear,  I declared that he was going to lose the election according to the lines in his hands. I received some dirty looks from both gypsies….but three days later Pierre Elliott Trudeau was defeated. So I must have lost an admirer after all. I never saw Pierre Elliott Trudeau again. His son Justin became the Canadian Prime Minister in 2015. I have yet to meet him.


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