Earlier today, I had a Twitter exchange with a woman I've never met. Her name is Catherine Solmes and she's @ccath on Twitter.
Catherine seemed quite upset by Rob Ford's trip to LA to appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live. My plan was to completely ignore this story, and most of the Fords' embrace of worldwide infamy. In my opinion, the remaining Rob Ford supporters just enjoy seeing progressives aghast, and I'm not interested in feeding their perverse desires. But I could tell Catherine had something she needed to get off her chest, so I asked her to write a guest blog entry.
The following words belong to Catherine.
When news broke on Saturday afternoon that Rob Ford was on his way to L.A. to attend the Oscars and appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the disbelief, anger and frustration that overflowed in my Twitter feed was telling. After all the events since the news of a possible crack video featuring Rob Ford broke last May, this reaction struck me as significant. I myself reacted with outrage, annoyance and an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. My city was, once again, about to be humiliated by the man who is a continued source of controversy and shame for so many of my fellow Torontonians.
Over the unbelievable past year, Ford had become world-famous for being the crack-smoking mayor of Toronto. Torontonians are privy to a lot more – the drug and alcohol abuse; the murderous threats; the bigotry, homophobia and racism; the gang affiliations; employing friends and associates with criminal backgrounds and little to no credentials in the Mayor's’ office; the domestic abuse allegations; the driving under the influence; the nonsensical outbursts in City Council meetings; the horrible, unrepeatable and unfounded accusations against a Toronto Star reporter; the exploitation of impoverished communities for photo ops; the public urination; the sexual assault allegations; and the unexplained and unaccounted-for absences from City Hall. It’s exhausting.
This man is not only the mayor of Canada’s largest city, he had reportedly been invited to the Oscars by Jimmy Kimmel. Ford supporters, accused those who took offense to this of being jealous. Yes, jealous. I honestly don’t know if there could be a further disconnect between those of us who want Ford gone and those who support him. It’s as if we live on different planets.
Of course, Rob Ford didn't end up attending the Oscars due to security issues (this comes from Doug Ford, so it’s likely they were never invited at all). I didn't watch the Oscars, but there was no mention of or awareness of Rob Ford among the glitterati on the red carpet or during the ceremony. Thank goodness for small favours. Knowing that the In Memoriam segment would prominently feature Philip Seymour Hoffman, who very recently died as a result of a drug overdose, Hollywood in any way celebrating “the crack-smoking Mayor of Toronto” would have been truly awful.
Tonight, he'll appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. While he and his brother Doug have done interviews with American media before, this feels different. This is a late-night talk show, albeit one with a less famous host, but the one which has arguably skewered him the most. Jimmy Kimmel has not only cracked jokes about him (no pun intended), he’d had an actor (Parks and Recreation’s Jim O'Heir) portray him in video clips. So what was this going to be about? Who in their right mind would allow themselves to be a willing participant on a show that played him as a joke? Who in Toronto actually believes that Rob Ford will be an intelligent and sympathetic guest for Jimmy Kimmel? Or that Kimmel will allow him to be?
Ford was accompanied on this trip by his brothers Doug and Randy, his Communications Director, Amin Massoudi, and two other staff. If this was a special trip to Los Angeles, where were his wife and kids? Doug claimed they were there to promote Toronto to the film folks in Hollywood. So I guess it’s a business trip then? If so, he neglected to mention it to Toronto’s Film Commissioner Randy McLean, whose very job it is to grow and promote the city’s film industry.
I have two theories. One, that Rob Ford is fully aware, from presumably having some understanding of the city’s budget and reputation (wow, I wrote that without sniggering), that many Hollywood films and series are shot here, that Toronto’s architecture and streets are easily substituted for many American and international cities on film and on television. With that assumption, Ford is using this as an excuse to be in L.A. and, while he’s there, take Kimmel up on his invitation to appear on the show. Here’s the kicker – Ford has had no meetings booked with studios or producers. He’s spent his time walking down Sunset Boulevard and taking photos with anyone who recognizes him (and some who don't).
My second theory is that he really thinks that L.A. film bigwigs don't know about Hollywood North and believes he is legitimately doing the city of Toronto a favour. (I wrote that, too, without sniggering or crying.) The man who votes against any motion that would benefit the city’s arts community is making a special trip to promote it to the Hollywood film industry?
I don't like to assume Ford is an idiot, because despite the truly ignorant things he says and does, he wouldn't be able to be as successful a politician as he has been. But this trip to L.A comes a few days after he claimed on an episode of his YouTube series Ford Nation that he doesn't like to be a celebrity and that he’s just your average guy, an everyman. Oh really? If you're shying from all the attention, and don't want to be photographed and have reporters follow you around, why would you chose to go to L.A. to appear on a late-night talk show? A talk show that has done nothing but mock you since they first heard of your crack use?
Ford claims he wants to be judged on his record as mayor, not his police record. Does he really think that Kimmel or anyone he meets in L.A. cares one bit about Toronto’s budget, unions, taxes or transit system? I suspect that anyone who approaches Ford for a photo or an interview is hoping that he’s high and/or drunk and banking him to say something idiotic on camera.
The episode has not yet aired, but we got a taste of it last night on Kimmel’s Oscar special. Ford wandered onto the set, in a tux, when his name was spoken. Kimmel reminded him that he was on tomorrow night’s show. Oh dear. Let’s all laugh at the “intoxicated and confused Rob Ford” as if this was a hilarious character he'd created. Let’s pretend that he’s not fully in control of his senses and wandering around in a daze. Toronto’s mayor is willing to be the butt of jokes about his drug and alcohol abuse. It’s come to this. Oh, how I wish we were the butt of an elaborate joke. Because I don't want this to be real.
Ford’s global infamy is based on one thing – he is Toronto’s crack-smoking mayor. And for having “enough to eat at home”, for refusing to step down, for having unwavering support from Ford Nation, and for having the gall to run for re-election. Some admire his balls, his determination to say and do what he feels like. Some enjoy the sheer entertainment value of it all. Some find him hilarious. Some find him relatable.
Kimmel should be ashamed of himself for having Ford as a guest. Ford should be ashamed too, but as we well know by now, he has no shame. Unfortunately, Toronto does. Anyone who continues to perpetuate this ongoing controversy is rewarding Ford’s shockingly bad behaviour and enabling a man’s dangerous downward spiral. Toronto is rightfully angry at Kimmel for following through on their “Rob Ford is a clown” bit. To us, this has ceased to be funny long ago. This isn't just making fun of Rob Ford, it is perpetuating the mockery that Ford has made of himself and the city he purports to lead. I don't know what will happen tonight on Jimmy Kimmel Live! The most likely scenario is that Kimmel will gently rib him and Rob Ford will get to showcase his “everyman” charm and laugh off his drug and alcohol abuse.
Optimists out there are hoping that Kimmel will be merciless with Ford. Considering that Ford doesn't talk to anyone who asks tough questions, and that Jimmy Kimmel Live! is an entertainment show, this is highly unlikely. What will most certainly happen is that Toronto’s mayor will glow with misplaced pride and “aw shucks” charm, chuckle at his “indiscretions”, spout his “saving the taxpayers” clichés and allow himself to look bad, very bad.
Despite what happens, it’s all going to be about Rob Ford, the crack-smoking mayor. I think this will make Toronto look even worse than it already does. And after the year we've had with this man as our mayor, that’s saying something.