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Rob Ford does Jimmy Kimmel (Or the other way around?)


“I am going to take the DNA from this tissue, we’re going to clone you..” ~ Jimmy Kimmel

Embattled Mayor Rob Ford made his late night debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live last night, and while he claimed he was there to promote travel and tourism, as well as the film industry in Toronto, it seemed there were at least two other reasons for his appearance.

Ford attempted to use the time to campaign to an audience not even on the same side of the continent, but also in the wrong country. Jimmy Kimmel used the time to hand out a litany of Ford blunders, gaffs and goofs, and sat giddy watching, as Ford stammered, laughed uncomfortably, and sweated (including a moment in which Kimmel, after wiping sweat off Ford’s forehead said “… I am going to take the DNA from this tissue, we’re going to clone you and we’re going to have a whole army of you in L.A.”).

 

What we ended up with, instead of any of these reasons holding their own, was an awkward, humiliating, and bizarre haze of reality, wrapped up in an hour which included a small child in a bathtub reciting Matthew McConaughey’s speech from The Wolf of Wall Street, and an in-depth interview with Gonzo, from The Muppets. An already disturbing evening of viewing became even more alarming when a puppet from my childhood became defensive in what should have been a fluff piece about the new Muppet movie, asking “why do I feel like Rob Ford right now?”

What About Toronto?:

For readers outside of Toronto, it may be worth a moment to explain what it is like here. Toronto is a beautiful city, and one I am proud to call home. It is diverse, and vibrant- filled with culture, sensitivity and pride. It is a city for artists, and for families. There is crime here, but it is rarely in the forefront of our minds. As a city, we have suffered through difficult periods- from SARS to the massive blackouts this winter which left large swaths of Toronto without power for days, and for some, weeks. We are a trusting people- when Conan O’Brien brought Late Night to Toronto in 1994, he did a piece about walking into people’s homes, because no one locks their doors in Toronto. Twenty years later, we are probably more jaded, probably a little less trusting, but I still know people who keep their doors unlocked.

Rob Ford was not the first of Toronto’s “colourful” mayors. Our very first mayor, William Lyon Mackenzie ran an ineffective council. He is known for shunning his opposition while in power, doing nothing to improve public works, and spent a great deal of time arguing within council (some things never change…). Torontonians were so unimpressed, a year later, Mackenzie was replaced as mayor.

More recently, our first female mayor, June Rowlands banned pop band “The Barenaked Ladies” from performing outside city hall, believing their name suggested they were sexist. The move, in 1991, offered the easy listening band all the free promotion they needed to become popular not only in Canada, but the world.

Mel Lastman is probably the template for crazy Toronto mayors. The first mayor after amalgamation saw the suburban areas around Toronto consumed into the Greater Toronto Area, Lastman’s time as mayor included building a square in North York, and naming it after himself, ensuring privilege to his constituents in North York (for years after Lastman retired, North York had enjoyed city snow shovelling of sidewalks, while the rest of the city was responsible for this task on their own), and well, just acting crazy. Some of his “best of” reel included Lastman chumming it up with bikers, and donning a Hell’s Angels jacket (then stating he was unaware biker gangs were involved with selling drugs), announcing his fear of a trip to Africa ending up with him being boiled in a pot by the natives, and when Toronto was in the grips of the SARS epidemic, Lastman appeared on CNN insisting the World Health Organization didn’t know what they were talking about, and stating he did not even know who, or what the organization was.

This history is no way a defense for Ford’s behaviour. He is an embarrassment and a sore spot for most Torontonians. His antics are not appreciated, and for many, Rob Ford does not represent the people, or the spirit of the city. It does illuminate a theory Rob Ford truly holds- as far as mayors of Toronto go, it is their actions on the job, not their personality that appears to matter. Sadly, Ford does not realize his actions are now forever wrapped around his personality, and the more he acts in the way he has been acting for the past few months, the more his actions mean absolutely nothing. This was made clear to everyone, except the Fords, when Rob Ford’s powers as mayor were stripped away, so he was left with nothing but his personality.

 

The Show Goes On:

Returning to Rob Ford’s appearance on Kimmel last night, probably the greatest example of Toronto’s tolerance was on display for the world last night, and in a way, he did what he originally claimed- he promoted Toronto. Unfortunately, it would take a Rosetta stone to understand how.

During the interview, Kimmel told Ford he was concerned when Ford had challenged Police Chief Bill Blair to charge him- fearing Ford would have ended up in jail, as the agreement had already been made for Ford to be on the show. Ford made this comment about Blair on February 27- which means he was aware of this Kimmel interview at least a week ago. Strangely, representatives of both travel and tourism in Toronto, and of the movie industry seemed completely unaware of Ford’s trip to promote Toronto. His efforts to promote films being shot in Toronto was limited to handing out business cards at an after party hosted by Jimmy Kimmel after the Oscars.

Both Doug and Rob Ford have voiced their disappointment about not being able to promote the city more during the extended interview time Rob Ford received. A look at how Rob Ford attempted to promote Toronto includes him throwing out Toronto Blue Jay shirts to the audience- no wait. They were Ford Nation t-shirts. Ford told Kimmel about the growth and opportunities Toronto has to offer (I believe this was when he stated Toronto had 150 cranes in the sky- a claim, which has consistently been debated as being incorrect, and another example- like building a subway extension, of Ford taking ownership of projects, even though these have been in the plans for years, well beyond the time he has been mayor). Strangely, his claims seemed more about him, than the city. In fact, any time Ford was allowed to speak for more than a brief answer, he seemed to talk about himself.

So, did Rob Ford fail at bringing travel and tourism to Kimmel’s show?

Yes and no.

As mentioned above, Toronto has suffered through some pretty difficult times in the past. As a Torontonian, whether it was SARS, or the ice storm, I have always been amazed by the love and support our neighbours and strangers have poured on us. Conan O’Brien came to Toronto to support after the SARS outbreak, as did artists like metal band AC/DC, offering Torontonians a free concert to show their love for the city. I do not believe people outside of Toronto dislike our city because of Rob Ford. I think they see it as another example of how Toronto is forced to plow through difficult times. I hope they see it this way. For a large portion of Toronto, not unlike the challenges we have faced in the past, we are waiting it out, getting through it, and hoping things will get better.

I truly believe Toronto is not being judged by its ineffective mayor. Just as shamed politicians in the past have been the focal point of ridicule, not where they represent, Ford is considered the problem.

This, however, can only go so far.

The Final Act?:

If the error was voting Rob Ford in as mayor, and people see that, then how will their perceptions of Toronto change, should Ford be re-elected? I believe it possible people might have more of an attitude of “you did it to yourself this time”. How confident will business be coming into a city that believes a side-show is acceptable instead of integrity? Will people want to visit a city, which one councillor claimed is “becoming Gotham City”?

Rob Ford continues to use the talking point “don’t judge me on my personality, judge me on my actions”, and as the history of Toronto goes, there might be some validity to those words. At the same time, the city needs to consider the exact same thing. Come October, will Toronto vote based on its personality, or will it seek action?


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