Thank God for Drake. Without him, Toronto wouldn’t have stood a chance. As it was, their celebrities badly outnumbered ours. It was the U.S. against us, or rather, Drake.
A grateful mayor duly presented the Grinning One with the key to the city. The crowd duly cheered and the NBA all-star shindig, the first ever held outside America, was off to a promising start.
In an All-Star City, A-Lister Central, celebrity is the only currency that counts. And these days, Toronto has a lot to feel good about. There’s Jian Ghomeshi, the Silent One, hiding behind his look-alike defender — not quite the Hollywood swag-bag crowd, right up there, though, local celebrities, anyway, and right now globally hot.
Nowhere was the promise of celebrity sightings greater than at the NBA Friday night celebrity basketball game. Sadly, a few players had a dubious provenance — don’t celebrities have to be famous? — and the result was pure mixed. Obviously, Win Butler, the Sweaty One, didn’t know he’s not a big enough celebrity to get away with political posturing. That requires a Leonardo DiCaprio or a George Clooney, who’s in Germany for an important meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel and couldn’t be in Toronto.
By the time Kobe Bryant, the Aging One, showed up, retainers on hand to carry his train, the eyes of the world were on Toronto. He’s so big a celebrity, he can keep the media waiting while he relieves himself — and tell them.
Snoop Dogg rates high enough that he can photobomb a hapless television reporter, who might himself become a 15-minute celebrity because of the exposure.
Indeed, Torontonians might be forgiven if the NBA all-star celebrity orgy left them ogling and hankering for the good old days when Toronto basked in the glory of its once-and-future celebrity mayor, Rob Ford. He even made it to late-night TV before crashing and burning. It was more than anyone could hope for.
Then along came Drake. He’s so big that he — and Rihanna — can turn The Real Jerk (the new one in a strip mall at Gerrard and Carlaw) from grubby to cool. And let’s be honest, Red Lobster’s got nothing on this place.
We should remember, however, that although Drake is Toronto’s go-to celebrity, we can’t take much of the credit. It’s not because of anything we did. He was anointed south of the border, where he was signed and made a star. Same story with other Canadian celebrities, from Justin Bieber to The Weeknd. The thing about Drake is that he likes Toronto. He must; he stayed.
In a cultural colony, that counts for a lot.
Maybe we’re OK, after all. That’s easier to believe once a celebrity has so decreed. And not just another celebrity carpetbagger from the U.S., but one born and raised right here. Drake could have left years ago, escaped the hinterland for the imperial centres to the south where the forces of celebrity are concentrated, cultivated and exercised at the highest level.
Toronto has been a good city, appropriately grateful, well behaved, excited, a bit nervous, but ready for its debut. We’ve had a lot of practice. In the movies, at least, Toronto, or as it’s now known, The 6, has stood in for any number of American cities. If you don’t look to closely, it could pass for, say, Minneapolis, Chicago, or in a pinch, parts of New York.
We’re the next best thing to the real thing. We like to think we’re better, but there are many reasons to doubt. Yes, we’re more polite, quicker to apologize and don’t carry guns. But what would we do without Drake?