Chasing Ford’s fall to rock bottom

Tracking the mayor is like living his life without the benefit of drugs, and the fear of missing out is an integral element of the Ford vortex


For now, Mayor Rob Ford is (hopefully) getting help. And if only for a moment, we can rest.

His stamina is matched only by the elusiveness of his actions. For someone living in a surveillance bubble, he can be pretty difficult to track. Nailing down and reconstructing his movements over a given period is alternately exhilarating and wearying.

Why did it take so long for videos to emerge of Ford in an unambiguously intoxicated state? How did he get around at all hours before he hired a driver? All things being equal, the simplest answer is the correct one, and yet no one (other than perhaps the police) has proper proof that he has driven drunk.

Our blanket fear of missing out is an integral element of the Ford vortex, a socially enforced, insecurity-driven need to stay on top of all things at all times. It’s the closest I’ll ever come to understanding celebrity culture.

April 5

Checking my phone after 10 pm on Saturday, April 5, I find a 45-minute-old message: “Social media saying Rob Ford was kicked out of the Leafs game tonight for being intoxicated.”

As it turned out, the mayor was not ejected from the Air Canada Centre (merely warned) but was most definitely intoxicated. Scores of photos and videos were spilling online, and I’d wasted precious time not seeing them. He’s our mayor, and, damn it, I care. Especially if he drives intoxicated.

So when I found a short Instagram video of him saying he wanted a taxi to City Hall, and it appeared to be recent enough that I could maybe catch him there, I immediately rode over.

My press gallery pass grants 24-hour access to certain parts of the building, including a small basement room adjacent to the mayor’s parking space.

His Escalade was there.

I spent more than an hour in the basement waiting to see if he’d come down and retrieve his car. At midnight I gave up the stakeout but decided to head to the front of the building to check whether he was in his office, which has large windows facing the square.

The blinds were drawn and the lights were on. A TV was airing CP24.

The Star’s Daniel Dale soon came by, followed by Robyn Doolittle. Waiting outside the mayor’s office at 1 am on a Saturday night on the off chance that you could maybe – maybe – record him driving intoxicated is an excellent opportunity to reflect on your life and your choices.

There’s a blend of horror and wonder, like the better parts of a Guillermo del Toro film.

As we began to consider that he might have passed out, Ford appeared behind the glass of the secure councillors’ area, trailing a security guard into a stairwell.

Doolittle and I dashed down to the room next to his parking spot, only to observe the same guard standing on the passenger side of a taxi that was pulling away.

Security records later released in response to a freedom-of-information request indicate that Ford had arrived at City Hall at about 10:20 pm in a cab with two other people. He didn’t have his access card, and security had to let him in. His guests departed at around 11:45 pm.

“At approximately 00:50 hrs [I] informed Mayor Rob Ford that the media was on site to speak to him,” wrote a guard in his report. This was not the case, as there was no desire to talk to the mayor, and we certainly never suggested as much to security. “Mayor Rob Ford told [me] that he did not want to talk to the media.”

“Mayor Rob requested to have him escorted without any interactions with the media personnel at the 2nd floor,” another guard wrote. “On the request of Mayor Rob,” he called up Beck Taxi.

I got home after 2 am and was about to turn on the TV when I saw Dale share a photo of the mayor at Muzik nightclub.

“My god, even spending a few hours following Rob Ford on Twitter is exhausting,” writer and cultural critic Jeet Heer tweeted an hour later. “Imagine BEING Rob Ford.”

February 6

It was about midnight on Thursday, February 6, and Mayor Rob Ford just wanted to help.

That Michael Kopko had already declined his assistance didn’t deter him, any more than the low of -7 had kept him from going outside without a coat.

Kopko, a chartered bus driver, had driven home from work to find that his usual parking space on the south side of Annette, in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood, was blocked by leftovers from the day’s considerable snowfall. After making unsuccessful attempts to parallel park, he put his vehicle in the street with its four-ways on and began clearing the snow with his feet.

Immediately to the west, in an area marked No Stopping, was parked a black Cadillac Escalade on whose dashboard sat a yellow sign bearing the City of Toronto logo and the words Authorized Official Vehicle.

“It was a ghost town – no one’s around,” Kopko told me in an interview the following week. “And I hear the door to an apartment or a house open, and some chatter, some people walking out. I’m going about my business kicking the snow. All of a sudden I hear, ‘You okay, buddy?’ And I look up and it’s Rob Ford.”

What had brought Ford to the neighbourhood was unclear. Three hours earlier, he’d wrapped up the first debate of the mayoral election at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus. His driver, Jerry Agyemang, accompanied him to that event but was apparently nowhere to be seen in the Junction.

Kopko said Ford repeatedly offered to assist him, figuring his Escalade was obstructing the spot. “It almost seemed like, you know, he tried to play this sort of hero role, almost belligerent in a way. Like, I was trying to explain to him that ‘You [can’t] help me,’ but he insisted on trying.”

Further complicating this, Kopko said, was that the mayor “was slurring a little bit” and had trouble understanding what Kopko was saying. “It was almost like a rapid-fire exchange that wasn’t rapid fire.”

Eventually, according to Kopko, the mayor got in his SUV, did a U-turn and zipped up High Park Avenue, where Kopko later saw the vehicle parked in an area off-limits for post-midnight parking.

(Ford’s spokesperson at the time did not respond to a request for comment on this point.)

Ford then arrived at 3030, a Dundas West bar up the street.

“He appeared very red-faced when he came in,” said a bartender. A patron described him as “beet-red and sweating.” Both spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Witnesses didn’t see Ford drink at the establishment, and 3030 owner Jameson Kelly emphasized in a letter to NOW that “the mayor did not order or consume any alcohol during his visit.”

Ford was, however, sitting at a table with young people he appeared to know, and the aforementioned patron said it had several drinks on it. Upon telling him that perhaps he shouldn’t be sitting at a booze-laden table in a Junction bar after midnight on a weekday, she said the mayor dared her to drink the whisky shot for which he’d been reaching. She obliged.

The bartender said the mayor left at about 1 am. It’s not known how he got home.

He didn’t show up at work the next day, and his spokesperson told the Sun he was “not feeling well.”

Kopko provided two addresses as being the houses from which Ford may have emerged. Property records for one list Gina Kindree among its three owners. She is the mother of Alana Kindree, a young woman who joined Ford on St. Patrick’s Day 2012, when he had a reportedly wild evening at City Hall and the Bier Markt.

A woman who answered the door at the house wouldn’t give her name but said she was a renter and had neither seen Ford in the neighborhood nor knew of any connection her home may have had. Contacted by phone at a residence in Ajax, Gina Kindree declined to speak.

February 12

The following Wednesday, February 12, I was at the launch for Doolittle’s Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story when a tweet about the mayor hanging at Gravity Sound Bar came into my timeline. I got to the club as he was leaving accompanied by brother Doug, driver Agyemang and friend and former staffer David Price.

I caught up to them as they entered the parking complex across the street, where the Fords posed for pictures with two grateful women.

“Just to go on record,” Doug said to them, “this guy’s a reporter over here, and [the mayor’s] drinkin’ water, okay?”

Indeed, Mayor Ford appeared fully in control of himself and was neither red-faced nor sweating to any conspicuous degree. Doug explained they were at the nightclub to celebrate the 48th birthday of Tony Monaco, a radio DJ with whom they’d gone to school.

This was, for my purposes, a false alarm.

But I told the mayor that I’d spoken to someone who saw him drive to 3030 the previous week.

He gently tossed the bottle in his hand and mumbled something about “water,” then said he was “only there for two minutes. Same thing.”

They took the elevator to the garage.

In some ways, tracking the mayor is like living his life without the benefit of drugs.

Brief accounts of every imaginable thing flit out there in the ether, and a journalist’s job is, in theory, to find the concrete facts at their core.

At a certain point, though, you’re torn between a craving for some kind of truth – and a fear that you’re starting to enjoy the hunt.

jonathang@nowtoronto.com | @goldsbie

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