Remarkable new allegations were revealed this past weekend that Rob Ford, the Toronto mayor, recently spent “more than an hour” in a washroom in British Columbia. The Toronto Star, a daily newspaper in Canada, reported these findings as part of its ongoing investigations into Mr. Ford’s, er, goings and comings. The most shocking aspect of this report? That it no longer seems unexpected to readers that the editors of this journal might determine a politician’s toilet habits to be headline-worthy.
Of course, Rob Ford is no mere politician. He is a self-proclaimed civic-leader/dope-fiend, a dual role that inevitably must tantalize students of politics, or pharmacology, or the points where these subjects intersect. (And it turns out there are intersecting points spread all over town, such as here, and here — but the trail of spilled powders and cast-off Slurpee cups grows familiar and tiresome, by now.)
Similarly, The Star is no ordinary newspaper. Several of its vaunted writers would require comprehensive remedial coaching to rise to the level of ordinariness, and other recent recruits, content to pluck the news from Twitter and Facebook, might find it far too ambitious, aspiring to be ordinary.
Again and again, the paper’s brain trust has justified placing Mr. Ford’s private life under close scrutiny, insisting that the press has a duty to report on the high-spirited after-hours behavior of the town’s top elected official. This would be a stretch, if the mayor had not been central to a police investigation that, as of now, has uncovered whiffs of drug trafficking, murder, jailhouse beatings, and a thriving black-market trade in human organs operating out of a day care center in the Humbercrest Plaza. (Kidding, but only about the last part.)
Along with the genuinely salacious stuff, The Star has issued an continuing screech of catcalls concerning the mayor’s intellectual capacity (insufficient), mental hygiene (nutty-as-fruitcake), culinary preferences (fried chicken, cheeseburgers), fashion proclivities (Bills, Broncos), choice of friends (plebes, low-lifes and his brother), and even the proscribed third-rail subjects of his parenting skills and marital relations. Until now, however, there remained one uncrossable threshold, leading through the lavatory door.
But the traditional sanctity of the water-closet has been breached; the cherished solace of the comfort-station has been sullied. The Star‘s chairman, Mr. John Honderich, did not personally whomp on the plywood door of the loo, brandishing the stop-watch app on his iPhone, and bellowing, “Do you have any idea how long you’ve been in there? More than an hour!” But in the broader sense, that’s precisely what he did, in preparing the conditions for the wide dissemination of an article speculating about Mr. Ford’s prolonged stint on the potty.
Of course, if the mayor had his wits to call upon, or anyone else’s, one snap explanation would have proven satisfactory to all. “Did an hour really fly past? I brought today’s copy of The Star into the cubicle, and I must have become caught up in all that keen analysis, great reporting, and dazzling wordplay. Sixty minutes well spent with The Star can make it feel as though only five or 10 minutes slipped by. Although a shorter period with any lesser newspaper would seem an eternity, just as Professor Einstein postulated.”
Self-serving nonsense? Naturally, but that would have been nonsense of the sort agreeable to Mr. Honderich. The nature of Mayor Ford’s latest offence that he was “talking gibberish in what sounded like another language,” to quote the Star‘s account. The article’s headline reinforces the seriousness of this charge: Rob Ford ‘Talking Gibberish’ During Late Night B.C. Pub Visit.
Well, this is news. It’s one thing to take your sweet eternity in the men’s lounge, but it compounds the crime to be overheard talking tavern-trash in a… tavern. A so-called eyewitness tells the newspaper: “You could not understand a word he was saying.” Tough to imagine. Any denizen I’ve ever witnessed at closing time in a suburban beer-hall, or airport-area gin-joint, unfailingly demonstrates the diction of Noël Coward, the commanding vocal presence of James Earl Jones, and the erudition of V. S. Naipaul.
The Star asserts “he [Ford] was incoherent,” but lishen, dash jush rid-ik-i-lous. If the barroom discussion might have touched on subjects such as penny mining stocks, bridge traffic in the lower mainland, UFC matches, ferry capacities, pick-up hockey, idiot bosses, motorcycles, Trader Joe’s new line of frozen poutine, property taxes, lottery jackpots, NASCAR, pornography, religion, or domestic vehicle resale values, it might very well have sounded like another language to Mr. Honderich, or any in his circle of alumni of the Neuchâtel Junior College in Switzerland.
This Honderich, after all, is the same fellow who recently issued a madcap invitation to Toronto’s business, cultural, academic and moral leaders, calling on them to join him in publicly denouncing their mayor. Here is Honderich’s call-to-account, from Dec. 5, 2013: “As the city continues to be a laughingstock around the globe and the Ford antics […] likely to provide additional fodder for the likes of Jay Leno and Jon Stewart, what has been the reaction from the opinion leaders of Canada’s largest city?” What? Chirping crickets, that’s what.
Setting aside that half the potential problem, the Leno threat, seems to have been resolved on its own, without intervention from the Toronto upper crust, Mr. Honderich has a wacky way of dealing with his gelotophobia. (That’s the medical term for his fear of being laughed at.) He’s afraid folks will make mirth, and so he seeks to make himself increasingly obvious as a figure of fun.
The big-shots he summoned could not be bothered to heed his call, as they must have been engrossed in watching the televised polo matches on the One Percenters’ Channel. Incensed by the insolence of the refined classes, The Star next assigned a reporter named Marco Chown Oved to marshal 70 of the town’s most eminent grandees into lending their support to the Honderich putsch.
I’d say if you want to discourage laughter, you don’t enlist to do your bidding a fellow with a handle such as Marco Chown Oved.
I’m sure I was not the only party curious enough to type Mr. Oved’s name into the online anagram generator, just to see what might come back.
The result would make Jon Stewart snort coffee into the camera lens.
Macho Cow Vendor.
Havoc Come Drown.
Narc Mooch Vowed.
Faced with the demands of Marco Chown Oved – which, spelled sideways, is Men Vow Roach Doc – two-thirds of Toronto’s thought-leaders simply giggled and ignored him. And while it’s true that you don’t stay on top of the thought-leader dog-pile by sticking your neck out at any fool’s summoning, it still seems like no way to treat Coach Nerd Om Vow.
And then, just as prophesied, John Honderich’s worst fears were realized last Thursday when funnyman Stewart devoted a segment of his Daily Show to les bouffonneries de Rob Ford.
The guest-enabler (and fodder convener) for Stuart’s jocularity was none other than Robin Doolittle, the Star reporter whose paychecks are signed by John Honderich. Miss Doolittle appeared on the program to publicize her new book that amplifies and expands upon the mayor’s, you know, antics.
Her TV appearance, and the approving Star coverage that followed, summarizes the unwritten corollary to Honderich’s December 5 Declaration, which is, “It might be okay for Toronto to be a laughingstock around the globe, but only if there’s some way I can monetize it.”
So, everyone finally gets the joke. Except Jon Stewart. Leave it to a professional comedian to spot the pathos beneath the guffaw. “This man [Ford] is going to die, and probably relatively soon,” he mused.
Should that occur, you can count on the Toronto newspapers (that is, those still struggling in the rapidly declining market), to feverishly try to spin money by selling ads for their special Rob Ford memorial souvenir supplements — just as certainly as you can predict the string of heartfelt 140-character lamentations tweeted by Miss Doolittle and her boss. Mayor Ford may be indeed unwell, according to DSM-V criteria for addiction, and thus may deserve a dollop of sympathy. On the other hand, Chairman Honderich and his enterprise have invested for years in trying to exploit this matter, and they have worked tirelessly to earn every last bit of the public’s disgust and contempt.