For reasons that remain lost in the mists of time, during the summer of 1987 the Missus and I decided to celebrate the Fourth of July in Toronto, a city I described this way in an Adweek column I wrote upon our return to the Hub of the Universe.
[Our trip] tied in nicely with Toronto’s slogan, “Discover the Feeling.” We tried our best, but all we could come up with was this – Toronto’s a good town, if you like them on the dull side. It’s also the safest town in North America, so you don’t have to worry about muggers taking advantage of the general stupor.
Whatever. We had inadvertently stumbled upon a special time in the Great White North – namely, Egg Month – which was trumpeted by a billboard that featured half a hard-boiled egg, some broccoli, and a guy swimming. The billboard was, as I later noted, “signed by Alex Baumann, who must’ve been the swimmer because food can’t write. Underneath the signature, we were all urged to ‘Get Cracking.'”
So, the Missus and I tried – but I can’t exactly remember what we managed to crack.
Except for these two things.
On the Fourth we ventured out to Ontario Place, which was billed as “a tiny, ultra modern Venice,” but decidedly was not.
Aerial view from City of Toronto Archives.
No offense to Toronto, but the only things I remember clearly from that trip are that it was egg month – come on, that truly is bizarre – and that it was the cleanest city I have ever been in. It felt like Camelot, where as the song goes, the autumn leaves blow away completely, “at night of course”. They must have had midnight cleaning crews for the streets to be so void of any trash. It was very impressive.
I also fondly remember the oldies concert discussed below, and we weren’t even that old at the time.
We wandered into the Ontario Place Forum, an outdoor arena that happened to be hosting an Oldies Concert that night.
It featured, in no particular order, 1) The Spencer Davis Group, whose leader memorably appeared in a white polo shirt, plaid Bermuda shorts, black dress socks, and high-top Chuck Taylors; 2) Jan and Dean, who were both still alive at the time; and 3) Gary U.S. Bonds, who at the end of his set thanked “each and every one of [us] individually and collectively.”
All the while, Madonna was appearing right next door in front of 50,000 fans at the CNE Stadium, where her Who’s That Girl tour sort of turned into What’s That, Girl? when she opened the concert with “Happy Fourth of July, Toronto!”
Unfortunately, both concerts ended around the same time, so we got to ride back to our hotel in a streetcar stuffed to the gills with amped-up Madonna groupies. So much for Toronto’s general stupor.
The next day, however, it was Toronto as usual, so the Missus and I decided to take a trip to Niagara Falls, which looked like this according to a YouTube video recorded the following month. (Fair warning: Lots of Niagara, less of The Falls.)
Undaunted by how tacky the town was, we ventured onto the Maid of the Mist to experience the Full Niagara, as documented in this YouTube video.
(Resorting to other people’s videos, of course, is further evidence of our deeply ingrained resistance to recording every aspect of our lives, except in print.)
I do remember that the Maid of the Mist folks gave us rain slickers to wear and that The Falls were totally awesome.
Everything else about that trip, though, is lost in the Mist of time.
Niagara Falls really lives up to its reputation as a true wonder of the world. It’s awe-inspiring both from above and below, though Maid of the Mist is a bit of misnomer. If you don’t carefully button your yellow rain slicker all the way up with the hood, you will get absolutely soaked, not misted. The rocky boat trip also brought to mind the hair-raising denouement of the movie thriller “Niagara” starring Marilyn Monroe, where her murderous husband George (Joseph Cotton) almost succeeds in killing the innocent honeymooning ingenue (Jean Peters).
But happily, we lived to tell the tale.
As for the tacky surroundings, there were countless souvenir shops and various game entertainments for the kiddies. We wandered into one with bumper cars and carnival type games which were actually fun. You had to buy a roll of tickets which we hardly put a dent into when it was time to leave. So we offered all our remaining stash to family after family on the ticket line, and shockingly, everyone said no while eyeing us suspiciously. We kept saying they were free, to no avail. Finally, I just put them on the ground and walked away hoping someone would eventually pick them up. Since the people of Toronto were so uniformly friendly and polite, one would have thought tourists more trusting. Then again, we were on the Buffalo, New York side, so there’s that.
In retrospect, my saddest memory of Toronto is that the Bata Shoe Museum didn’t open until 1995, long after our visit. Currently holding nearly 15,000 shoes and related artifacts spanning 4,500 years of footwear history, this would have been manna from heaven as my fashion consulting business was flush with numerous national shoe companies at the time.
Ah well, back to John and his amusing ad commentaries.
• • • • • • •
When we got home, I wrote this piece for Adweek.
And while we’re talking about my favorite vices, get a load of this tag on a Benson & Hedges bus-shelter ad: “WARNING: Health & Welfare Canada advises that danger to health increases with amount smoked – avoid inhaling.” C’mon now. If you don’t inhale, why smoke? Just so you can smell bad? It doesn’t make sense.
Yeah – maybe just have a hard-boiled egg instead, eh?