Today I Read…Crazy Town

Crazy TownToday I read Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story by Robyn Doolittle.

Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, has had a very…colourful year. Robyn Doolittle, a journalist writing for the Toronto Star, tells the story of Ford, his family, and how they turned Toronto’s City Hall into the insane reality show that it is today.


I live in the GTA, though not actually in Toronto, and I do read the Toronto Star, so I’ve been following the crack video scandal since it began. I really wanted to read this book when it came out to see what details it could add to the stories I read in the paper every day. While many of Ford’s previous offences to appropriate behaviour are mentioned every time he does something else foolish in public, it’s nice to have all of the details written down in one place to put things together, for those of us who weren’t obsessively following Toronto politics for years. I really only became aware of the Brothers Ford unfunny comedy act during their public fight with the Toronto Public Library, and the ridiculous comments Doug Ford made about Margaret Atwood and comparing library branches to Tim Hortons locations.

This is one book that I think I should have read in hardcover, instead of the ebook copy that I did read. The first few pages are a timeline of various significant events in Ford’s life, and of the many scandals and misbehaviours and news stories that have happened. Doolittle, while clearly having done her research, tends to skip around a bit, connecting different events to each other instead of laying everything out linearly. I think it would have been useful to have stuck my finger in the timeline and been able to flip back to it every so often to remind myself of how it all hangs together. It’s too slow to constantly flip back and forth between pages on my Kobo.

Doolittle’s account is highly biased. She believes that Rob Ford, rather than being an unfairly attacked everyman as he would like to present himself, is guilty of everything he has been accused of–drug and alcohol addictions, anger issues, violent tendencies, habitual lying, making personal attacks on his political enemies, prone to irrational and stubborn decisions, and in total being unfit for office. Her viewpoint is certainly understandable, considering Ford’s many attacks and accusations against the Toronto Star and against Doolittle and Kevin Donovan as the reporters who broke the story about the crack video. That said, she backs up her anecdotes with as much research as she was able to do, with a substantial list of citations at the end. She names sources whenever possible, without betraying confidentiality. The biggest problem with the book is that the story isn’t over yet. Rob Ford is running for mayor again, and the election isn’t until October. Every week seems to bring a new mis-step, a new scandal or video or something else. There was even a new story this weekend, about Ford being intoxicated at a Leafs games and arguing with the security guards who denied him entry to a private function he wasn’t invited to, claiming that it was a deliberate snub for not voting for a recently proposed expansion to the BMO field. Must be nice to have the world revolve around you. After October, Doolittle is really going to have to write another book summing up 2014, or at least release another edition with more content. After all, there’s the Jamaican accent video, the murder threats video, drunken antics on St. Patrick’s day, complete with video, and of course his trip to the Oscars, during which he did nothing but embarrass himself and Toronto and did absolutely nothing to help his claimed cause of promoting Toronto’s film industry (might have helped if he had talked to any of the people whose actual job that is first).

Rob Ford, whatever else he is, is polarizing. If you’re a member of Ford Nation, you’ll hate the book and believe, as Ford would have you do, that it is a pack of lies, meant to discredit the everyman bravely standing up to a corrupt/lazy/elitest/uncaring system. If you haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid, you’ll wonder that anyone can still support someone so determined to learn absolutely nothing from his many mistakes. And if you don’t live in the GTA, you’ll be laughing at the sideshow that Toronto has been forced to put up with for far too long, and hopefully be grateful that whatever the failings of your local politicians, at least they aren’t an international embarrassment.


A skinny Somali-looking man in a wrinkled black T-shirt appeared out of the darkness. He got in the back with Donovan. I guessed he wasn’t much older than twenty-five. He had a peculiar look about him, his face sort of caved in on itself, with his eyes, nose, and mouth squishing together between a large forehead and pointy jawline. His black hair was cut close to his head, and his arms were pocked with thick scabs. Donovan and I introduced ourselves, but he didn’t want to talk and never gave his name. He pulled out an iPhone and hit play.

I thought I was prepared, but I couldn’t hide my shock.

There was Rob Ford—and there was no doubt in my mind that it was Rob Ford—the mayor of the fourth-largest city in North America, slurring, rambling, wobbling around in his chair, sucking on what looked like a crack pipe.

Before becoming mayor on December 1, 2010, Rob Ford had spent ten years as a controversial city councillor. His checkered past included a drunk driving conviction, a domestic assault arrest (which was later dropped), and allegations of racism and homophobia. But Ford’s antics had rarely earned ink outside of the Greater Toronto Area, and even two and a half years into his term as mayor, it was unlikely the average Canadian would have recognized him on the street. That would all change on May 16, 2013. That was the night the American gossip website Gawker posted a story with the headline “For Sale: A Video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Smoking Crack Cocaine.” TheStar published a few hours later. By week’s end, Ford was on his way to becoming internationally infamous, a running gag on American late-night television, and the subject of one of the most astonishing political scandals in the country’s history.



Today I Read…Standing Up

Standing UpToday I read Standing Up: A Memoir of a Funny (Not Always) Life by Marion Grodin.

So…Addiction. Broken marriage. Cancer. The ABCs of comedy, amirite? Can I get a laugh track here?

Well, maybe not.

Marion Grodin tells the uncensored story of her life, from her relationship with her actor father Charles Grodin to her mother’s overabundance of pets, her long-running personal war with drug addiction, from falling in love to broken hearts, from writing for sitcoms to battling breast cancer, from stumbling around her life to finding the thing she was meant to do for the rest of it.

Living life? You’ve gotta do it. But finding the funny side, now that’s hard.


So, disclaimer, I was asked by the publisher to review this book. (Little bit of squee here- squee! Ok, done.) I don’t really follow stand-up comedy, so I wasn’t familiar with Marion Grodin or her work before reading her autobiography. Based on the title and the cover, and the fact that the book jacket immediately describes her as “Comedian Marion Grodin” I was expecting a funnier book than I got. It opens with her doing her routine at a Kennedy gala, and the first chapter ends with treatment for breast cancer and her husband leaving her. Hell of a punchline.

I have to compliment her on her honesty- she never shrinks away from anything she’s done or thought of felt, good or bad. There’s a lot of pain in this book- it makes you wonder if writing it was as much therapy as autobiography. But there’s also a lot of strength, for surviving and not breaking.  In the end, you have to admire her courage for standing up and surviving everything life has thrown at her- now if only she could kick her final addiction to Haagen-Dazs…