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Elizabeth May remembers the first man to ever send her flowers

Actor Cliff Robertson, who won an Oscar for his role in the 1968 film Charly, is show in this July 11, 1986, file photo.

Peter Hvizdak/AP

She may lead a party of one but Elizabeth May's connections continue to astound. Not only is Bill Clinton a family friend, but she's got Hollywood connections too.

The Green Party Leader is on her way from her B.C. riding Thursday night to East Hampton, N. Y., for the funeral Friday of Academy Award winning actor Cliff Robertson. He was her godfather.

Mr. Robertson, who won an Oscar in 1968 for his portrayal of a mentally-handicapped man in the film Charly, died Saturday. He was 88.

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"Cliff was the first person to ever send me flowers," Ms. May told The Globe. "... When I was born he sent a dozen roses to the hospitals. Of course this was really for my Mom but the note was for me. And it said, 'Baby, when did you get to town?'"

The Green Party Leader was born in the United States. Her uncle, who was also an actor, was a close friend of Mr. Robertson. It was through that connection that Mr. Robertson became friends with Ms. May's mother and father. In fact, Ms. May says Mr. Robertson's daughter, Stephanie, with whom she is a close friend, was named after her mother.

It was through her mother, too, that Ms. May got to know former U.S. president Bill Clinton. In the 1970s, her mother – an organizer for George McGovern and the Democrats – met the young Yale law student and the two became life-long friends.

Mr. Robertson has his own presidential connections too. He played John F. Kennedy as a naval lieutenant during the Second World War in the Pacific. The 1963 film, PT 109, was based on the late president's biography and Mr. Kennedy apparently wanted Mr. Robertson to play the role.

Ms. May, meanwhile, had been in contact with the actor over the years and when she finally made her breakthrough in the federal election she called and left him a message with the good news. She never heard back from but learned recently that he had received the news. "I'm glad he knew," she said.

Those who have never heard of Mr. Robertson should take note: "When I was in Grade 4 he was as big as George Clooney is now," Ms. May said.

The Green Party Leader, 57, will be back in the House of Commons for the return of Parliament Monday – but not for long. At the end of the month, she is having her left hip replaced and figures she'll have to miss a couple of days of work.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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