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November 16, 2019

Style Q&A: Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Catherine Mary Stewart chronicles her life, from soaps to soles.

Actress Catherine Mary Stewart - Dress by Michael Kaye

Photography by Brad Trent; styling by Michael Kaye; hair and makeup by Kenneth Kiefer; shot on location at Michael Kaye’s studio

The fluffy hair, parachute pants and shoulder pads of the ’80s probably make most people cringe. But, for actress Catherine Mary Stewart, the era of over-sized tresses and threads brings back fond memories. During that time, the Edmonton-born and raised Stewart was the girl next door in films that have since attained cult status: The Last Starfighter, Weekend at Bernie’s and Night of the Comet. “It was a fun decade. I loved my permed, fluffy hair! To me, it was the pinnacle of glamour,” Stewart said from her Brooklyn, N.Y., home.

Stewart began her career as a dancer at Edmonton’s Marr-Mac school and, at 18, moved to London, England, to study. A split-second decision to skip class to go to an audition is to blame for her first break – she landed the lead role in the futuristic rock musical, The Apple. “It kind of catapulted me into this new career. It was one of those fairy-tale things,” the now 54-year-old said. Following that, she moved to Los Angeles and got another gig on the long-running soap Days of Our Lives. After starring in the soap, she got lead roles in a number of box-office hits and later moved to New York City with her husband to raise a family.

Tell me about your Edmonton roots.

I lived in McKernan, then we moved to Grandview Heights. I went to Strath-cona High School and Avalon Junior High. It’s funny. I just went back recently for a reunion. I graduated in ’77, so whatever terrifying number that is, that’s what it was. [It was the 30th reunion.] I’d never been to a reunion before. This friend of mine that I went to high school with, she moved to Vancouver; she and I decided together that if she was gonna go, I was gonna go. It turned out to be really fun and we reconnected with so many people. It was the classic high-school reunion, and it was interesting to see where everybody is and what everybody is doing. My friend and I went to the reunion, and visited a bunch of old haunts – Jasper Avenue and Whyte Avenue. We used to hang out at Boston Pizza in high school and fantasize about the men. You know, “he’s cute” or “look at him.”

I understand you come from a family with brains.

My dad was a professor at the University of Alberta. My mom got her master’s degree in physiology and taught at the U of A. My brother Alan [Nursall] is on [Discovery’s] Daily Planet. He’s the science guy. A lot of people know who he is. He lives in Sudbury.

How does it feel to star in movies that have become cult classics?

Someone called to interview me for Entertainment Weekly and they said, “did you know they screened The Apple all over the U.S.?” I thought it just died out. It has a cult following, like the people who go to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I went to a screening in New York with my husband and we sat in the back. I was like, whoa. The theatre was really full and people knew the dialogue of the movie. It was just wild. It’s more rare than The Last Starfighter and the Night of the Comet. They’ve become cult favourites as well. I’ve recently gone to sci-fi conventions, and it’s amazing these people that come out of the woodwork and they know more about the movie than I do. It’s really funny – kind of a rebirth in a way.

Why did you step back from movie-making? 

I was busy working a lot during the ’80s and the ’90s. I met my husband in New York at a birthday party of a mutual friend. He and I got married and we lived in Los Angeles, and he maintained an apartment in New York. I had my daughter by that time. I have to say my career was put on hold when I first started having kids, which is good. You have to focus on them. I tried to keep my finger in the pot as much as I could. I tried to stay relevant so people wouldn’t forget me completely.

What are you up to now?

Now I’m starting to focus more on the other side of the camera. I’d like to direct. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I went Ottawa to work on a movie for Lifetime. I hung out with the director and I have a small role. The movie is called The Husband She Met Online. It’s a murder-mystery thing. I feel like having been in this business for so long, whenever I worked I tried to pay attention to what’s going on behind the camera. I sort of feel like I’m ready. Once the kids are gone, Conor [her son] is pretty independent as a 16-year-old. It frees you up a little bit. I don’t want to stop; I’m not ready to retire.

What are your favourite pieces of clothing and why?

I’m a skinny-jeans-and-cowboy-boots kinda gal. I’m so happy cowboy boots are back. I lived in them in the ’80s.

What do you like to wear on a night out?

I have a couple of pair of platform shoes that I like to wear when I’m feeling particularly flirty. My favourites are by Reiss. They’re light tan with peek-a-boo toes and snakeskin heels and platforms.

Did you know there’s a page dedicated to your feet on a site called WikiFeet? You’ll be glad to know your feet got 4.5 stars out of five.

That’s nice. You learn something new every day. Maybe I should do a selfies of my feet. Send them in. Actually in Night of the Comet, they did foot shots. I don’t know what that was all about. When you first meet the characters, he’s playing this video game, and they’re watching my feet dance around as they play the video game. Another one, I was dancing in a mall to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” and you see my feet in that. Another one, we’re captured and bound in warehouse and I think they panned up from my feet. Maybe that’s what they’re talking about. I think the director of that film had a foot fetish (laughs). 

That’s what you’ll be remembered for – your beautiful feet.

Whatever it takes (laughs).

Catherine Mary Stewart’s Favourites

Actor/actress Daniel Day-Lewis, Carey Mulligan

’80s movie You mean aside from The Last Starfighter, Night of the Comet, Mischief and Weekend at Bernie’s? It’s impossible to say just one … sorry.

Romantic Say Anything, Splash

Tear Jerking Beaches, Terms of Endearment

Funny Airplane, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally

Scary Dead Calm, Fatal Attraction

Epic Chariots of Fire, The Name of the Rose, The Color Purple, Quest for Fire

Fantasy Adventure Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes and The Blue Lagoon. And, being a dancer before I was an actress, I loved: Flashdance and Dirty Dancing

’80s trend Perms

Hangout spot in Edmonton Boston Pizza on Whyte Avenue

Music Ed Sheeran and Kacey Musgraves

Designer Michael Kaye, of course!

Item in your closet Gold metallic blouse from The Shirt by Rochelle Behrens


Michael Kaye

Edmonton-born designer Michael Kaye, known as the Titan of Tartan, has designed Scottish gowns for the city of Edmonton, the University of Alberta, and even has one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s permanent collection in New York City.

Now Kaye, a University of Alberta graduate, has designed a tartan dress for Stewart, having been a fan of hers since she starred as a younger version of Joan Collins’s character, Helene Junot, in the late ’80s mini-series, Sins.

“She was representative of a certain glamour that wasn’t exactly found walking down the street in Edmonton,” Kaye said from his New York City studio, who added he was thrilled to have connected with her through a mutual friend about a year ago.

Kaye says Stewart’s character as a      glamourous model in Paris in Sins helped encourage him to further pursue a career in fashion design.

“I was dreaming and trying to make my way to New York and that just reinforced it.”

Stewart said she’s thrilled to have Kaye design a tartan dress for her, despite not having worn plaid since she was seven, at an event at the Jubilee Auditorium.

“It was torture. [My mother would] make me wear my little kilt. It was wool. It itched and we had to sit through an hour and a half of some guy going on about Indonesia,” she said. “I think [wearing tartan is] going to be a different experience this time.”

Michael Kaye’s favourites

Movie  Two for the Road

Drink Gin and tonic

Fashion era 1970s

Edmonton designer Laura Dreger

Item in your closet Gucci loafers

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