GREY CUP CHAMPIONSHIP GAME Saskatchewan Roughriders versus the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, at the Rogers Centre (1 Blue Jays Way), Sunday (November 25), 6 pm. TRAILER PARK BASH Ricky, Julian and Bubbles host a rock concert w/ Hinder, Mobile and the Road Hammers at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (255 Front West), Friday (November 23), 7 pm. $53. www.cflgreycup.ca. Rating: NNNNN
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Interview excerpts with The Trailer Park Boys
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Halifax, NS - Hanging out with the Trailer Park Boys should come with a label like the ones on rap albums. "WARNING: Contains explicit fuckin' language. You will probably be offended. You will definitely laugh. And you'll want to avoid operating heavy machinery afterward."
Consider this random question from Mike Smith: "Ever pack your cock with cocaine like it's a musket?"
I'm in a booth at Bubbles Mansion, the Halifax eatery (and drinkery) owned by Smith, better known as Bubbles. An alcohol-fuelled shrine to life in Sunnyvale Trailer Park, Life Is A Highway is blaring from the speakers, shopping carts hang over the bar, photographs cover the walls and tables - Bubbles with Geddy Lee and Ed Robertson, the boys on the cover of Maclean's magazine - and there's a full-size replica of Bubbles's shack decorated with props from the show. No sign of the kitties, though.
Smith sits beside me, glass of tequila in hand.
"I don't drink beer. Strictly tequila. And good tequila, not shit tequila - 4 Copas, from a distillery in Guadalajara, the world's only certified organic tequila."
Smith's down-home hospitality also includes a pretty mean pizza and a great cup of seafood chowder served up by Shaggy, the Mansion's chef.
Bubbles' trademark fishbowl glasses are in a case on the table (should Smith feel the need to become his high-pitched alter ego, I suppose) next to a photograph of Bubbles, goggle-eyed and gleeful, pounding on Neil Peart's drum kit. Robb Wells (aka Ricky) and John Paul Tremblay (Julian) are across from us working on pints of "Keets."
The occasional patron walks past pretending to look for the washroom while sneaking a peek at three of the country's biggest TV stars. You may like the show or not, depending on how much you enjoy potty-mouthed pot humour. (As Smith explains, "My dad is probably the biggest fan, while my my mom doesn't like when I say 'cocksucker. '")
But after seven seasons, a Christmas special, a feature film (due to get a U.S. theatrical release in January), numerous public appearances and countless T-shirts and beer glasses adorned with their likenesses, it's safe to elevate Bubbles, Ricky and Julian to iconic status. We're talkin' something like Al Waxman, The Littlest Hobo or The Beachcombers.
"Can you imagine if people freaked out when Nick Adonidas showed up at a bar like people do for us sometimes?" asks Smith incredulously.
The boys will be in Toronto for Grey Cup weekend to host one of several pre-game rock bashes celebrating the CFL showdown's 95th year. "That'll be a good fuckin' time," says Tremblay, the most laid-back of the three.
Smith, the trio's obvious ringleader and party planner, Wells and Tremblay are hanging out and shooting the shit about football, rock 'n' roll and how to throw the ultimate tailgate party. And they're doing it as themselves, not their characters, which is rarer than seeing Julian without a rum-and-Coke.
Now, back to Smith's cock-and-bull (or is it coke-and-bull?) question. I should probably be shocked. But after four hours, round after round of drinks and a monster hash cannon that could've been used by the British to defend nearby Citadel Hill from a French invasion - or at least made the Brits feel better about being invaded - our conversation's already taken more twists than Mulholland Drive. Besides, at a certain point somewhere between the third and fourth round, I think, things start to get a little hazy.
Sure, there's the usual talk of dope and booze and making TV on a dime-bag budget.
But we also talk about the CFL versus the NFL (the boys agree that the CFL is better, if only because it's faster; see sidebar, this page); whether my digital recorder would fit up Smith's ass (definitely, according to Tremblay); how Janet Jackson's right breast BLEEPing killed the Trailer Park Boys' TV debut in the U.S. ("Suddenly, you couldn't swear or do dope or anything"); partying with Axl Rose during a Tokyo earthquake ("Axl's standing in the doorway of our hotel at 10 am wearing a bathrobe, shouting, 'Hey, Bubbles! Ever been in an earthquake, motherfucker?!"); how NOW's slogan should be that it's so environmentally friendly you can smoke it; Japanese ass models; and how not to be a dick ("I think we've done pretty well at not turning into dicks; if we made sick amounts of money, maybe we'd be dicks").
All that and it's not even 5 in the afternoon. So discovering that Bubbles is a tequila connoisseur comes as more of a surprise than talk of dicks and drugs.
The Halifax Explosion
On the East Coast (the real East Coast, which is everything east of Quebec, not Sudbury), hockey still rules.
But when it comes to the gridiron, Bluenosers just might be the biggest football fans in the country, especially if you're talking university ball. Home of the St. FX X-Men, St. Mary's Huskies and Acadia Axemen, Nova Scotia is where the Stanley Cup takes a back seat to the Vanier Cup. And with the Vanier being played in Toronto the same weekend as the Grey Cup - and with the Huskies facing the University of Manitoba Bisons - it doesn't take much prodding to get the Trailer Park Boys talking pigskin.
"College football's huge out here," says Smith.
"I'm a huge football fan," says Wells, an SMU alum.
"I always wanted to play football when I was at Cole Harbour High, butthey didn't have a football program until a year after I left," says Tremblay.
"You'd probably be in the CFL right now," Smith deadpans.
"Yeah, I think I'd be in the CFL."
"I think you would, too," says Smith.
It's the kind of playfully mocking beer buddy banter that typifies most of their exchanges.
There's long been talk of bringing a CFL franchise to Halifax. Back in 1984, the city was granted a conditional expansion squad, the Atlantic Schooners. But the team folded when financing for a new stadium fell through.
Since then, the idea has been floated several times - some even want to name the as yet non-existent team the Halifax Explosion, after a particularly popular Heritage Moment - and the city did host an exhibition game between the Argos and Ti-Cats two years ago that sold out SMU's Husky Stadium.
There's even a local legend recounted over pints of Alexander Keith's finest about the old New England Patriots scoreboard gathering dust in a warehouse across the harbour in Dartmouth, waiting for the CFL to arrive.
"It'd be awesome to have a team here, a team to get behind," says Wells. "Not just for Halifax, but for the whole region."
"It could be Atlantic Canada's team," adds Tremblay.
Bubbles wants to be your Cinnamon Girl
While the Grey Cup will see the Winnipeg Blue Bombers take on the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Sunday, the boys are (naturally) much more interested in the parties.
The lineup for the Grey Cup concert series reads like a who's who of classic Can-rock: Loverboy, April Wine, Trooper, David Wilcox. Only Rush and the Guess Who seem to be MIA.
I haven't seen Loverboy in years, says Smith, who used to play guitar in the Juno-nominated Sandbox back before shacking up in Sunnyvale seven years ago. I got onstage with Trooper last year, though.
Suddenly, the boys are talking music. No surprise. There's a strong connection between the Trailer Park Boys and rock 'n' roll. DVDs of the show are incredibly popular time-killers on band tour buses. The boys did a cross-Canada tour with Our Lady Peace after season two, and were featured in the Tragically Hip video for The Darkest One. And both Alex Lifeson of Rush and Skid Row's Sebastian Bach have been on the show, while Lifeson and Gordon Downie were in the Trailer Park Boys movie.
I'll listen to anything from reggae to heavy metal, says Wells.
You liked the Flock of Seagulls, says Tremblay.
You used to wear your hair just like that.
I don't remember that, says Wells, whose onscreen alter ego sports a Jason Priestleyesque pompadour circa season three of 90210.
Lots of celebrities like our show, says Tremblay, who somehow manages to make it not sound like he's bragging. Brad Pitt, Eddie Murphy....
I have a confirmed report that Ringo Starr watches Trailer Park Boys - and he does a Bubbles impression, says Smith. I also hear he's a tool.
When it's mentioned that Neil Young's also known to be a fan and that he's playing Massey Hall in a few days, Smith makes a shameless plea: If there's any reader out there with an extra ticket and you want to bring Bubbles to see Neil, get in touch with me, for fuck's sake.
Which leads me to ask what band they'd love to play with if they had the opportunity.
I kind of did join Guns n' Roses and went on tour playing with them for two months, says Smith, who met Axl Rose through Bach. Smith - as Bubbles - would perform his song Liquor And Whores in concert. It was awesome, amazing, completely surreal.
I'd join Steel Pulse, says Tremblay, referring to the British roots reggae outfit. I'd have a pretty good rockin', chillin' time with those guys on tour.
I want to recant my answer and say Menudo, says Smith, straight-faced. Back when Ricky Martin was with them. They were nothing without Ricky.
It's an important question, though, Smith continues with what I believe is mock seriousness. You have to factor in how hard the band parties. You could say the Police, but they're not partying - they're off doing yoga.
The Stones? asks Wells.
Not now. Back in the 60s, but if you were in the 60s you'd join the Beatles.
No. You'd want to join somebody like...
Not the Who, says Smith.
Who's all banged up on heroin? asks Tremblay.
They're cleaned up.
Boys, I'm joining the Hip, declares Wells.
The Hip's good, says Smith.
I'd party with those dicks, says Tremblay.
Nice comfortable tour bus, lots of stuff to do after the show, Smith says.
Smoke different things, says Wells.
And they don't do yoga.
And on and on the debate continues, over another round of drinks.
It's strange - we've hung out and toured with a lot of bands, and we always seem like the crazy ones, says Tremblay. They're all chilled out and we're like, Boys, this is a fuckin' rock tour!'
Except for Guns n' Roses, says Smith.
Axl is the only one who ever out-partied us, says Tremblay admiringly. Ever.
The night started in L.A. at Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's pad. Rose even sang a few songs. By 7 am, he'd taken the boys to another house party where he ordered the windows blacked out so it still felt like night.
This is Axl and just booze, not any other substance - just liquor, says Smith. He can drink for two days straight. He's a machine. By midafternoon, Rose was ready to hit a strip club.
We were like, That's it. We're done,' says Tremblay. All three TPB slept until the next day, missing the Oscar after-parties they'd been invited to.
Not that it was the last red-carpet affair for the three.
The Drunk And On Drugs Happy Fun Time Hour
Somewhere amid the booze and banter at the Mansion, the subject of the future of the Trailer Park Boys comes up. Turns out the movies finally getting a U.S. release on January 25, with a fancy Hollywood premiere. Were pulling out our whole celeb list of everyone weve met in the last seven years and saying, Please come to our premiere and make it look like a bigger fuckin deal than it is, says Smith.
Many reviewers, including me, panned the film because it feels like a rehash of the best bits from the series, and the boys understand where the criticisms coming from.
It wasnt totally the movie we wanted to make, Wells admits. Showcase has been great to let us do what we want with the show, but we had a lot of creative influence from the U.S. for the movie. I dont think it stayed true to our characters. There was very little gunplay or dope.
While there is talk of a sequel - Nothings 100 per cent, but we have ideas for it, says Tremblay - things are even more uncertain for the series. Showcase continues to air repeats but has yet to make an official decision about an eighth season.
Not that Bubbles, Ricky and Julian - or Mike, Robb and John Paul - are sitting around drinking and smoking dope. Uh, well, okay, they are doing that.
But theyre also deep into development on a brand new series that could get the green light in the next few weeks.
Its called - are you ready for this? - The Drunk And On Drugs Happy Fun Time Hour. Its actually a half-hour mockumentary series about Mike, Robb and John Paul, actors who used to be on a series called The Trailer Park Boys.
Were playing fake versions of ourselves as well as a whole bunch of other characters, says Wells.
The series was inspired by all the real-life shit thats happened to them - people always wanting to smoke dope with them would seem to be a continuing plot line - as well as Curb Your Enthusiasm and the British show The League Of Gentlemen.
"It's Curb Your Enthusiasm after it got smashed in the head with a hammer and force-fed liquor and drugs," says Smith, grinning broadly.
As the interview slurs to a conclusion, I start one last question: Do you guys spend all your time...
"...drinking?" says Smith. "Yeah. I don't want to put it too much in the article, but we do drink a little bit."