Friday, December 03, 2010

Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford: Prankster & Pragmatist

In a wide-ranging interview with Inside the Hotdog Factory, newly elected Toronto Mayor Rob Ford reflects about his time on the hit TV sit-com According to Jim and how he plans to make parking everywhere in Toronto free for one and all.

Before we got started, Ford put on a headset connected to his 18-line Lucent Technologies telephone and said, "Check this out."

He proceeded to call a Kentucky Fried Chicken location in Rexford, Kentucky -- this journalist saw the name and telephone number on a Google Maps page on the mayor's laptop screen.

"Hello, may I speak with the manager," Ford said when someone picked up on the other end of the line. After a pause, he said, "Then, may I speak to the shift supervisor -- OK, that's you. Perfect."

After bizarrely introducing himself as a local fire inspector (local? With no Southern accent?), Ford proceeded to instruct the shift supervisor: "This will seem highly irregular, but I assure you this is an absolute emergency."

Ford winked at this reporter and pantomimed jacking off.

He continued: "I'm going to need you to trigger the fire suppression system -- yes, you heard that correctly: I need you to trigger your fire suppression system.

"We're getting reports from other locations that the chemicals in the system have 'gone over' . . . yeah, like leaving cole slaw out of the fridge too long. Well, these rancid chemicals can actually cause a major explosion when they come into contact with fire.

"So, we have to get those old, bad chemicals out before there is a fire. That's why I need you to trigger the system.

"Once you do that, you may get some of the chemicals on yourself and some of the other employees. I must stress -- these chemicals are toxic and dangerous, so the moment you get outside of the restaurant, be sure to remove your clothing."

At that point, Ford put his phone conversation on MUTE and laughed for approximately 30 seconds.

"OK, I'm still here," he says on the phone, regaining his composure. "When I say 'go', trigger the fire suppression system.


At which point, Ford hangs up and removes his telephone headset, chuckling.

"Pranks always get the heart pumping," he says.

To the question of whether Ford believes Toronto will continue to be passed over as host for the Summer Olympics until it gets its Parking Enforcement Division under control, Ford says, "Obviously that's true. We should have the Olympics, and would have them, but for our parking Nazis, as they're called.

"My solution is to think outside-of-the-box, engage in a little asymmetric warfare, and I believe that making all parking in the City of Toronto free of charge will solve that problem."

When asked how the revenue from parking will be made up, Ford waves a hand.

He appears unready for the next question: "What could have been done differently during the G20 Summit to curb the scenes of violence and charges of police brutality?"

Ford thinks for a moment before offering: "We can't go at these things half-assed. We need robust budgets for this type of thing."

When reminded that a billion dollars had been spent on G20 security, Ford replies, "Only one? Well, there you go."

How does Rob Ford feel about the cancellation of According to Jim and his acrimonious parting with his costars?

"Look, Jim Belushi is an artist and Courtney Thorn-Smith is gorgeous," Ford says. "I'd just like to leave it at that."

As the next question was being asked, Ford interrupted, getting up from his desk: "I'm due over at Taco Bell -- I mean, I have a meeting with the Chamber of Commerce. Thank you for coming in."

Cut short and out on the sidewalk, I looked for a light rail vehicle to take me home, but could not find one.

"At the end of the day, it's all about having a laugh" -- Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

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