september inspires, in some, fondmemories of school days. For those who miss the regimen of standing in line, sitting in rows and remaining silent through the presentation of frequently mind-numbing material, there is the Toronto International Film Festival.Years ago, when I first happened upon a huge festival queue in the middle of the day, I thought, "That's the most pretentious-looking bunch of unemployed people I've ever seen." I have since learned that many of these zealots have jobs -- jobs that are so bad that spending two weeks and hundreds of dollars to rush from screen to screen in a blur-inducing cinematic binge is considered a vacation.
I enjoy the odd film, but I lack the indiscriminate appetite for cinema required of a real fan. My being unmoved by pictures is understandable, since as a child all I saw was A Man For All Seasons in the Catholic school gym and The Poseidon Adventure on an inexplicable class outing. I missed The Sound of Music the first time around, and I skipped Star Wars: The Movie to wait for the real thing to come out.
Hollywood stars are people who get paid a lotta money to do and say exactly what they're told. Toronto is always full of American movie stars clogging blocked streets so stuff can be blown up for their latest piece of crap, their make-waste, product-placement propaganda "project." Oh, I'm just bitter because my showbiz career was destroyed by what they said about me at Cannes that year.
Oh, yes, I know all about showbiz. I told Jim Carrey, backstage at Yuk Yuk's, "Get out of this place, Jimmy lad. Go before you end up like me!" He took a look at me, did a double take, his face twisted 50 ways and now he's worth $171 million U.S.
First Friday of the festival and it just so happens I have to visit my aunt who has retired to a suite at the Park Plaza. Auntie says nix nix on the star sightings -- since Greta Garbo packed it in, why bother? Of course, she's right. Hardworking writer Geoff Pevere is on the trail, and a thousand credential-bearing non-stars are blabbing on their cells. Hans Burgschmidt, the projectionist I personally imported from Edmonton who is now a TIFF techno honcho, walks by wearing a headset and ignoring my pleas for him to pay up on my long-overdue "connection fee."
No $tars shopping on Bloor, but my friend Brad corrals me to help fetch the stilts and props he designed for the opening of the Hermès boutique the night before. He was not dressed to be allowed into the event but stood with a crowd on the street and overheard, "Anthony Hopkins is in there."
As I nip over to the Manulife LCBO for our post-prop-shifting boissons, an autograph hound runs triumphantly past the Windsor Arms. "I got Anthony Hopkins!"
When I pass the Arms again, Garth Drabinsky is sitting outside with a running motor. Brad has been joined by fellow Islander Tom Butscher, who rowed a tiny wee skiff across Lake Ontario last weekend. A star! Tom knew he was approaching Toronto when he saw a Loblaws plastic bag in the water.
Saturday afternoon, in between dodging doorings on my bike, I see two anti-stars of the horror movie that is my life, a dyke duo who once spent an eternity describing to me in minute detail all the ways they'd planned to kill me. Women -- my people. On Bloor, wannabe star Mark Breslin is getting into a cab. In Yorkville, filmmaker Helen Lee hands me a flyer for the party after her flick The Art Of Woo, starring Sook-Yin Lee, who used to visit me at my Hastings Street hotel until she found out I liked her.
At Roy Thomson Hall, a rush seat to a movie that will be released next month and probably be out on video by Christmas costs $24 if you can get one. Cameras are flashing and tele-interviewers are gushing in the face of a white-haired man in a coal-black suit whose back is on view to a crowd of reverent fans. Steve Martin. I'd never call his name. Not after those things we said to each other in Vegas. But my side of the crowd somehow psychically organizes a moment to politely hail, "Ste-e-eve!" No response.
Helena Bonham Carter (HBC) is upwind dressed in a little Brillo frock. It seems like the chatterbox Mr. Big Star will never run out of things to say. My little crowd cries "Steve" again. He turns his pink face in our direction, sees me and whips his head around. I think I saw a tear. That's what happens when two worlds collide.