“They’re gonna put me in the movies. They’re gonna make a big star out of me” (Act Naturally – The Beatles)
Last February a film crew from Emmy award-winning Director and best-selling writer Michael Moore (no relation to “Deputy Mayor” Janis Moore) came into town to shoot footage for Michael’s new film “Bowling For Columbine”. The movie is about America’s love affair with guns and the Canadian difference. The title of the film describes what the two young teenagers did before going on a shooting spree in which over a dozen people were murdered at Columbine High School in Colorado. Moore is a social satirist whose latest book, “Stupid White Men” has been a number one best seller in North America this year. He is famous for his ambush interviews and satiric attacks on corporate presidents and politicians, particularly George W. Bush. The film crew interviewed me for over one hour about gun control and Canada’s social safety net and my own beliefs about a “just society.” I had forgotten about the interview and put it out of my mind (Editor’s Note from “Deputy Mayor” Janis: The Mayor checked the Internet every day for five months trying to find out if he was in the movie!)
“Well, I’ll bet you I’m gonna be a big star. Might win an Oscar you can never tell. The movies’ gonna make me a big star “cause I can play the part so well.”
Early on the morning of September 7th, the phone rang at my home. It was Jeff Gibb, one of the film’s producers, calling to invite me to Toronto. (Special invitations normally don’t mean a lot to me. In October I am invited to meet with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip; however, I am not attending as I understand it is the same songs and special effects since their last tour.) He told me when the film was shown in Colorado, Columbine’s home state, the audience cheered my comments on the need for “a fair and just society” to deal with root cause of crime and welfare. Jeff said Michael Moore was inviting me to join him at the Toronto Film Festival that night for the Canadian debut of the film.
“Well, I hope you come and see me in the movies. Then I know that you will plainly see the biggest fool that ever hit the big time and all I gotta do is act naturally”
I searched my closet trying to create a “film festival” outfit but alas could not locate black pants, black t-shirt, black beret and black-framed sunglasses. Settling for casual attire I drove to Toronto in the “Mayormobile” carefully observing all speed limits considering what happened to me on my last road trip. “Deputy Mayor” Janis came along in my attempt to create an entourage. Michael Moore and his film crew met us at the Park Hyatt Hotel. Michael is a big, hulking figure who wears jeans, t-shirt, sneakers and a ball cap and has a great sense of humour. His first words to me were “you are the voice of reason. You should run for President. We could use you.” I was taken aback by his comments having been called a lot of things but “the voice of reason” never being one of them.
Three black super-stretch limos took us to the Elgin Theatre on Yonge Street. Hundreds of people were lined up and down the street, hoping to get “rush seats.” We were the second limo to pull up with Michael’s limo following ours by a couple of minutes. When we pulled up to the red carpet, I was the last one out of the limo and you could hear the groan of the crowd and people murmuring “Who the hell is he?” Cameras stopped flashing, television lights were shut off and cameras were pointed to the ground. After Michael Moore arrived we were escorted to our special reserved seats. I was very nervous as the film began. Sure, I had been part of and witnessed hundreds of Academy Award winning performances at Council meetings on COGECO TV but this was different. This was the movies, not Cable TV. The thought of looking at yourself on a 40 by 40 foot screen is both scary and thrilling at the same time.
The film is one-sided, abrasive, funny, brilliant, sorrowful and it makes its point with humour and despair. Half-way through the film there is a 15 minute segment on Canada with Sarnia featured for about 10 minutes. Three teens give a funny and thought-provoking interview in front of Taco Bell on London Road. Local gun control activist Peter Smith and Inspector Phil Nelson of the Sarnia Police Services have brief appearances. Sarnia Firefighter Robin Gifford is interviewed coming out of Emergency at Sarnia General. There are also clips with unidentified people in a local bar. Not that I was counting, but there are three clips where I am featured. The key clip is when Moore says “the politicians up there even talk funny” and leads into me talking about being a caring and just society that helps the afflicted and not using the power of government to crush people. I voice my concern on where Canada is going as a country with the right wing agenda that has taken hold of Ontario that is destroying health care, social assistance and creating more homelessness. Moore used those comments to frame his own message about the U.S. It’s not gun control or getting tough on crime that are the only solutions to people killing people with guns. It’s about giving people dignity, a decent job and hope for the future. The segment ends with a good natured joke about Sarnia. (I won’t tell you what it is, unlike most reviewers). The film received a 10 minute standing ovation followed by Moore taking questions from the audience where he returned over and over again to the theme of a just and good society and caring about each other. He warned the audience not to go down the same road as the U.S. with right wing agendas.
Our limos then took us to a private party at an exclusive hotel. Moore, along with his wife and film crew, mingled with us. (Sharon Stone and Dustin Hoffman probably tried to get in but as their careers decline, they just didn’t have the “star power” to join those of us on the rise.) The movie will be released across North America in October.
Well, I hope you come and see me in the movies. Then I know that you will plainly see, the biggest fool that ever hit the big time and all I gotta do is act naturally.
Please be assured my 4 minutes of fame will not change me.
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