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Conrad Black appears in TV comedy bit
By Andrew Harris | Bloomberg News
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Published: 10/5/2007 12:37 AM

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Conrad Black, the former Canadian newspaper publisher confined to the U.S. while he awaits a possible 20-year prison sentence for fraud, appeared in a comedy skit on Canadian television making light of his predicament.

The segment, during which Black explained how to properly wax maple leaves, also provided him with the opportunity to promote his new book on Richard Nixon.

The ex-Hollinger International Inc. chairman, convicted in July of defrauding his company, is also set to appear by two-way television at a book signing Oct. 15 in a Toronto bookstore.

Black has decided to promote the book before entering a U.S. prison, his lawyer said. The campaign may worsen his plight as the U.S. Justice Department prepares recommendations for his Nov. 30 sentencing.

"Book signings and comedy shows are not likely to net a low sentence for anyone," said former federal prosecutor Steven A. Miller. "Criminal defense lawyers usually advise clients who have been convicted and are awaiting sentencing to do charitable work and engage in activities that benefit the community."

Randall Samborn, a spokesman for Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, declined to comment.

Black, 63, and two other ex-Hollinger executives were found guilty of stealing millions of dollars from the company, owner of the Chicago Sun-Times, while they engineered its sale of $3 billion in newspapers and other assets between 1998 and 2001.

The Canadian-born Black, who in 2001 renounced his citizenship to accept a life peerage in the British House of Lords, is free on $21 million bail while he awaits sentencing.

He is promoting his recently published biography of late U.S. President Richard Nixon. The book, "Richard Nixon: A Life in Full," went on sale in Canada in May.

On Tuesday, Black gave a three-minute, tongue-in-cheek instructional chat on how to wax and preserve a maple leaf -- Canada's national symbol -- during the season premiere of the Canadian Broadcasting Co.'s satiric television news program, "The Rick Mercer Report."

The British lord tells viewers they can "call me Connie," and proceeds to describe "the ancient art of waxing maple leaves," which he describes in a droll tone as "a very uplifting activity."

His Nixon book, which is more than 1,100 pages long, was paired with his equally long biography of U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as leaf-pressing props during the skit.

Black alludes to his previous job as a publisher while instructing viewers how to position newspaper and waxpaper around a pressed leaf prior to ironing.

"First you acquire a newspaper -- a single copy, not the publication or the whole chain, and you lay it flat," he said, evoking laughter from the studio audience.

At the conclusion of the segment, he holds up the finished product -- a neatly waxed red maple leaf -- while bemoaning his inability to travel to Canada. U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve in Chicago refused his request to travel to Toronto while he awaits sentencing.

"And here we have a perfect waxed maple leaf, a great solace to everyone, and especially to those, who for complicated reasons, can't at first hand observe the changing of the seasons this autumn in Canada," Black said.

After his conviction, St. Eve, who presided over the trial, ordered him to surrender his passport and confined him to the Chicago area and Palm Beach, Fla., where he has a home.

Black is scheduled to sign copies of his book via computer at the downtown Toronto branch of the Chapters/Indigo book store, using a device called the LongPen, which allows Black to wield a pen in his Palm Beach home electronically connected to a robotic arm also wielding a pen, hovering over the book to be signed.