OK, I don’t think Winston likes being called “a Muslim” at all, but otherwise the line doesn’t scan.
Thanks to Dr. Roy’s heads up, a bunch of us got in to see John Bolton at a taping of CBC’s The Hour yesterday morning. You may remember The Hour from such recent blog posts as my nasty article about the host, “Strombo”, in FrontPage — which my editor kept sending back as “not mean enough”, and finally had to fix himself, (as you can see from the rare coda at the very end of the piece):
If you’re a conservative, you don’t have to get arrested to get on The Hour, but coming close helps. When author Mark Steyn’s travails with Canada’s Human Rights Commissions became too big for even the CBC to ignore (Steyn and the nation’s oldest magazine having been charged with “flagrant Islamophobia”), he was invited on The Hour and graciously described his host later as a talented fellow and not “a reflex Trudeaupian liberal.”
Stroumboulopoulos was earnest and twitchy, hyperactively playing with his copy of Steyn’s book America Alone, which was conspicuously stickered with Post-It notes. “You say ‘immigration’ like it’s a bad thing” was the closest the host came to mounting a thoughtful challenge to Steyn’s thesis. He wondered why it would be so bad if Islam became Europe’s dominant religion; after all, “democracy means majority rules, right?” Stroumboulopoulos was his most animated when reminding Steyn that George Bush once told a “foreign minister” that “God told him to invade Iraq.” Except that never happened: the story is a widely debunked urban legend based on Palestinian propaganda…
So RightGirl and I arrived very early at the CBC studios and the snark started the second we passed through the doors:
Oh look! A Christmas tree in the lobby! Isn’t that illegal or something?
Sure enough, the bedraggled little tree was hustled away moments later.
Now, there is more uniformed security in the building that you’d ever believe. And employees have to swipe a card to get through turnstiles to get to work. Judging from the folks we saw doing just that in our short time there, all CBC employees except for the security guards are a) gay white men, b) straight white women, c) union guys who look like the homeless.
We waited in the designated line up place, and were eventually joined by two somewhat distinguished looking fellows in suits (very strange in these environs). One looked like “Karl Rove in the Special Olympics” (said Wendy) and was wearing an American flag pin, so we all exchanged shy “secret handshake” smiles. (Alas, all for naught: they turned out to be Democratic Super Delegates and Hillary supporters! We should have guessed when they were joined by a bearded “Saltspring Island” type wearing an orange and brown “Guatemalan” pattern vest from David Suzuki’s 1982 yard sale and who, it came out, had “voted for Obama.” Wendy: “Vest gave it away.”)
The rest of our little gang showed up and eventually we were all lined up somewhere else, then lined up in the opposite direction before being led to an ante chamber outside the studio proper — where one could purchase… Strombo Gear: t-shirts and mugs and such. Oh.
Two of our group went to find bottled water and had a little adventure of their own, involving recycling AND multiculturalism!
Finally they opened the door to the studio and we hustled inside to get the best seats, with one of us going, “Wal-Mart! Wal-Mart!!” as we all maneouvered our way to a chunk of front row seats.
This warm up guy came out — Wendy is convinced he’s a former Moxy Fruvous who needed a job after pawning his Junos (or whatever they’re called): typical spindly white “overgrown Santa’s elf” Toronto dude with artfully arranged facial hair (“ironic” handlebar ‘stache, goatees being so three years ago) and equally “ironic” headgear (“wooly Guy From The Monkees cap” seems to have replaced “snowflake patterened knitted pointy thing with the ear flaps”, which I’ll grant is a minor advance).
“So we’re all gonna have a great time today,” he announced, adding weirdly, “unless you like America!”
I coughed loudly.
Warm Up Boy swiveled around to see me sitting in the front row, my arms crossed, wearing a four foot American flag scarf, a red, white and blue FDNY hoodie, and a disapproving glare.
“Oh, uh, well, look what we have here!” he goes, describing my outfit to the audience. “So, uh, do you, like, support America or something?”
For some reason I switched into unblinking, unimpressed “Cameron on the Sarah Connor Chronicles” mode and started speaking in this “I’m a serious person and you’re a tedious twit I could crush with one finger” voice:
“I somehow doubt American needs my ‘support’, as you call it, but you might say that.” Beat. “You should see my t-shirt.”
“Sure, ok.” I stood up and unzipped the hoodie. “Uh, well now, oh.” Cough. “It takes a lotta guts to dress like that in downtown Toronto, I gotta hand it to ya. You know, you’d REALLY like my dad.” (Snort.) “You should talk to him.”
I sat back down and recrossed my arms. Maybe you should listen to him, I muttered.
I can’t quite remember how we got there, but after a few more sour comments from me, our exchange ended with me deadpanning:
“You play hacky sack, don’t you?”
“Er, yeah, how’d you know? I threw my knee out and everything…”
It’s amazing how you can “uncool” the average “cool” Toronto boy within seconds. Fun, too.
Then Warm Up Boy handed out free books to the audience.
“Hey, who wants a free copy of Scott McLeland’s memoir of his days at the White House?”
Us: spontaneous “ASShole” fake coughs and snorts.
More tedious warm up and practice clapping and camera blocking, then our host came out, looking his usual sleepy self.
“So, thanks for coming out this very early morning” — it is early for George, 11 AM for us normal folks. They usually tape in the evening, but this was the only time they could get Bolton in the studio, George explains. (Bolton was scheduled to debate Mia Farrow — yes, Mia Farrow — that night at the ROM).
“So stay tuned for the most exciting twenty minutes of your life!”
Wendy: “That’s an improvement. I heard it was only five…”
George took that with aplomb, but then added strangely, “Yeah, just ask my mom…”
Finally John Bolton strode out onto the set, across a very showbiz “walkway” and I gave him a standing ovation as he passed us by. We “whooted” and I waved my scarf around. After he took his seat, he turned and gave us a surprised smile and two thumbs up.
You’ll get to see the interview Thursday night. It wasn’t the worst thing I ever saw. But the anti-American overrtones were predictable and tiresome, and we spent a lot of time sighing, rolling our eyes and nudging each other. Bolton was his usual “I have a polished answer for everything without seeming like a big phony” self, to polite to give George a smackdown even if the opportunity had presented itself. The closest we got was:
George (smirk): “Well that’s pretty conVEEEENient since America is the one that makes all the rules, huh?”
Bolton: “If America made all the rules, the world would look very different, believe me.”
Then Bolton left the same way he came in, and I yelled “run for President” which got us another “I can’t believe I have a fan club” smile.
“You must be Bolton’s, like, biggest fan in Toronto,” chuckled George after the clapping died down. “So funny…”
Then we were stuck in the studio to tape canned applause for other segments. One of our group nervously checked with the floor manager to make sure she wouldn’t show up on camera, being so close to the stage and all, just in case her boss saw her on TV. (Answer: nope.)
So that was my little “leaving the house” adventure for the week. I don’t dislike George anywhere near as much as lots of people, or get the same “arrogant hipster” vibe from him that others do. Is it weird to see a pierced and tatooed guy chatting with the former US Ambassador to the UN? Yeah, but… welcome to Toronto.
At least the Warm Up Guy doesn’t have HIS own show. Yet…