Blame Canada

There, now all your problems are solved.
There, now all your problems are solved.
Today provided another embarrassment of riches when it came to stories about the odd or demented. Even after tiptoeing through the minefields of dubious veracity, I was left with a couple of very solid choices. I went back and forth several times trying to decide. I even asked my cats which one they’d choose. The three votes were; one for story A, one for story B and one demand for a tummy rub. The decision finally came down to this; I either went with the story that had me howling in laughter all the while making yucky sounds or the one that would allow me to keep my job here at Nude Hippo.

When that didn’t work, I flipped a coin.

Look at it this way, heads you win, tails you don’t lose.

Even after having made the decision, I couldn’t leave you guessing about the story I spiked. It was a tale of romance unlike any you’ve ever heard. Richard Elwood Sanden was arrested on charges of necrophilia after video taping himself making love to his dead girlfriend. Even though she’d been dead for a while, Sanden claimed she didn’t look or act any different than she had in the past. There’s just so much room for un peu d’humour noir here that I almost overruled the coin toss.

But that wouldn’t have been a fair treatment of an honestly won contest.

And since the winning article is all about fairly won contests, I had to abide.

Just like The Dude, but without the bowling.

Here in Illinois we are accustomed to our politicians being corrupt. We currently have three living governors sitting in jail land a fourth looking to join them. In some perverse way, we embrace that corruption like a warm blanket. After all, it’s kind of the essence of democracy that you get what you pay for, and Illinois has always allowed its citizens to have the right to pay for a politician. Without bribery and the mob, I’m not sure we’d have a single viable road to drive on.

However, as it turns out, we’ve got nothing on Toronto. As Mark Maloney of The Globe and Mail reports, Toronto has elected murderers, traitors and a bible thumper, to name a few, to the office of mayor.

Now they have this guy named Rob Ford who just might be the best thing to happen to their economy or clinically insane. Time will tell.

So, Toronto, think things are a bit wacky under Rob Ford? Well, no matter what kind of monkey business our new mayor may get into, it’ll likely pale in comparison to some of the 63 mayors who have come before him. Since the City of Toronto was created in 1834, we’ve had a murderer, a torturer, a home invader, a mayor charged with treason, a traitor, and a tax cheat who beat up the councillors he didn’t like.

One had 18 kids, another went insane due to syphilis while in office. Our fifth mayor tried to kill our first, and we’ve been presided over by a everything from a bible-thumping evangelical zealot to a bon vivant party animal who – to use Mr. Ford’s lingo – virtually invented the gravy train.

Toronto writer and historian Mark Maloney, who is currently working on A History of the Mayors of Toronto, gives us a little perspective on the city’s most colourful Worships to date:

The Murderer

With a single well-aimed bullet to the head, John Powell (1838-1840) shot and killed rebel Captain Anthony Anderson in cold blood a month before becoming mayor, an act that actually increased his popularity. The unanimous choice of council, our fifth mayor also tried to kill our city’s first, but his gun jammed.

The Torturer

Mayor George Gurnett (1837 and 1848-1850) tortured a reform opposition candidate with a tar-and-feathering. His opponent was first stripped and beaten, then had boiling molten pine tar poured over his body. He was then rolled in chicken feathers; when trying to peel them off after several days, it meant peeling off his own skin.

The Tax Cheat

Pugnacious Mayor Sam McBride (1928-1929 and 1936) lost an early mayor’s race after a newspaper breathlessly reported that he’d paid just $203 in income tax the year before, then photographed him in his $52,000 chauffeur driven limo. Swaggering and quick with the fists, Mr. McBride was also known to beat up councillors he didn’t like, knocking them around the chamber and swatting them with council agendas.

The Traitor

Thrown in jail for months without bail after the 1837 Rebellion, Mayor Thomas Morrison (1836) was hauled up on a charge of treason, and though it didn’t stick, he was forced to flee Toronto with just the shirt off his back and live for years outside Canada as a refugee. Our only physician mayor, Mr. Morrison is also the father of Canadian pharmacare, distributing free medicine in Toronto as far back as 1832.

The Home Invader

Henry Sherwood (1842-1844) and an unruly drunk mob carried out a home invasion in 1826, busting into the newspaper offices and home of William Lyon Mackenzie (mayor in 1834), destroying his printing press and dumping it into Toronto harbour. Mr. Sherwood would later have 18 children and publicly cry poor, but died on a luxury vacation to Europe.

The Inventor of the Gravy Train

A party animal like none other, Mayor Allan Lamport (1952-1954) spent $373,000 over two years on liquor, champagne, steaks, cigars, cocktails, gourmet dinners, and room service in a magnificent Royal York Hotel suite, all paid for by city taxpayers. He did so without council’s approval, authorization, or knowledge, prompting a judicial enquiry that was called off once Nathan Philips, known for his fiscal prudence, assumed the mayoralty.

The Syphilitic Scrapper

Running for 17 offices before winning, Mayor Ernest Macdonald (1900) had once spent three months in jail and was so combative that city commissioners refused to give him briefing materials allowing him to make his inaugural council address. Mayor just a year, he died soon after when a slow and agonizing case of syphilis attacked his brain. It was believed he was going insane while still mayor.

The Moral Crusader

An anti-vice, anti-liquor, anti-gambling, bible-thumping crusading social reformer (and Board of Trade president), it was Mayor William Howland (1886-1887) who coined the term “Toronto the Good.” With an evangelical zeal, he set up a special police squad to root out corruption, close dens of gambling, drugs, drinking and prostitution, and stop the “desecration” of the Sabbath.

The Twisted Tightwad

A wealthy realtor, Mayor Thomas Foster (1925-1927) was so tight-fisted he believed that it was cheaper to just reimburse robbery victims for their losses than to hire new cops to help catch the culprits. His chauffeur even had to pay for the matches carried in his limousine. Mr. Foster sponsored a contest to find a woman who could have the most children in 10 years, and in his will left bequests for Toronto birds, office cleaning ladies and newsboys.

The Sex-scandal Beneficiary

George Monro (1841) got the job because of a sex scandal, though it had nothing to do with him. It seems the previous mayor, anxious to again be re-appointed by council, had unfortunately sublet one of his properties for use as a brothel by one of Toronto’s best-known hookers. Council was aghast, and Mr. Monro got the job while his predecessor hit the bricks.

Sure Chicago outsourced its bus stops to a French company because, you know, shipping steel all the way from Calumet City was too much of an effort. And we sold our parking meters for pennies on the dollar so that the city could be besieged by poorly trained enforcement officers and skyrocketing fees.

But all of that pales in comparison to a mayor who murdered a guy and got to be called “Your Worship.”

Yeah, that’s how you address a mayor in Toronto.

Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821) wrote in 1811: “Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle merite.” (“Every nation has the government it deserves.”) No, it wasn’t Alexis de Tocqueville, despite what you may have learned in public school. But it does seem fitting that a Frenchman would enunciate so well the political pedigree of a city with French heritage.

Now, when people talk about corrupt politics or preposterous politicians, you’ll know what to do.

Cue video.

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