Friday, November 29, 2013

The Toronto Dreams Project at the AGO

The AGO before the AGO, 1907
New news! I'm teaming up with the Art Gallery of Ontario to launch the next three dreams in my project. They'll be part of the First Thursdays shindig at the Gallery next week. Each of the dreams is about an artist from Toronto who was working in the years between 1910 and 1918 — the same time period the AGO is exploring with their big new exhibit The Great Upheaval: Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Collection, which opens this weekend. Each of the dreams is inspired by an artwork from the Gallery's Canadian Collection: A.Y. Jackson's Springtime in Picardy, Frances Loring's Grief and Kathleen Munn's Cows on a Hillside. I'll also be talking a bit about the dreams in a "pop-up talk" (probably at 7:30). Meanwhile, singer-songwriter Julie Doiron will be playing, Kieran Adams from DIANA will be DJing, and there'll be all sorts of other art and music going on throughout the Gallery.
It all happens next Thursday, December 5, from 7-11:30pm. You can get tickets online and find all the rest of the details here.

In the meantime, you can learn more about A.Y. Jackson and Frances Loring in a couple of recent blogposts I wrote during my research for these dreams: "A.Y. Jackson Goes To War — The Group of Seven on the Western Front" and "Toronto's Lucky Lion — The Story Of One Of Our Most Famous Monuments." And the Toronto Star has more about Kathleen Munn here.

Hope to see you there!


Image: The Grange in 1907, via Wikiemdia Commons, with some photoshopping by me. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Torontonian Roots of Doctor Who — The Canadian Behind The Legendary TV Show

Doctor Who is more than 50 years old. The Guinness Book of World Records calls it the most successful science-fiction series of all-time. It's the longest-running, too. Since it first debuted in 1963, the show has aired nearly 800 episodes, plus specials, spin-offs, movies, radio plays, mini episodes, sketches for charity shows, books, graphic novels... It's an icon of British culture; the London Times called it "quintessential to being British." But if you want to trace the show back to the very, very beginning, to the person who more than any other is credited with the creation of Doctor Who, well, then you have to travel back to Canada, back to downtown Toronto, back to a brand new baby boy born in our city during the First World War.

His name was Sydney Newman. He was born in 1917, to parents who had moved to Canada from Russia. They owned a shoe shop, but their son dreamed of being an artist. As a kid, he went to Ogden Public School (just a block north-east of Queen & Spadina); as a teenager during the Great Depression he studied art and design at Central Tech (on Bathurst just south of Bloor). By the time he was in his early twenties, he was making a good living as a commercial artist, designing movie posters. 

But by his own admission, Newman was a restless sort. He was quickly developing a new passion: film. And his timing was absolutely perfect. In 1939, when Newman was just 21 years old, the National Film Board of Canada was created. The government had commissioned a report that recommended they commission another report that recommended they create the NFB. It was a way of strengthening Canadian culture and promoting national unity by making and distributing uniquely Canadian films, especially documentaries. Newman got in on the ground floor pretty much right away, working as a splicer-boy editing film.

He worked his way up quickly, writing and then directing and then producing. He got to work under John Grierson, a documentary filmmaker from Scotland who had written the government report and co-founded the NFB. He's hailed as "the father of British and Canadian film." With the Second World War breaking out just a few months after the NFB got started, Newman found himself working on the "Canada Carries On" propaganda newsreels that ran in movie theatres before feature films. Eventually, he'd be in charge of the whole series. His work would appear on hundreds of movie screens across the country. During his decade at the NFB, he worked on something like 350 films.

But now, with the war over, an even newer medium was catching on: television. By the late 1940s, some Canadians along the border had already bought their first TV sets to watch the earliest American shows. But we didn't have our own channel yet, so the CBC put together yet another report: this one was a plan to launch their own public television network. As part of the preparations for the launch, the government sent Newman down to New York City. He spent a year observing the various television departments at NBC, sending monthly reports back to Ottawa. "I fell passionately in love with television during my year in New York," he later remembered. He was particularly fascinated by the educational potential.

Sydney Newman at the CBC, 1950s
So when he got back from NYC, he left the NFB and accepted a job at the brand new CBC-TV. He was put in charge of all their outdoor broadcasts. Newman was the guy who put Foster Hewitt and Hockey Night in Canada on TV for the very first time. That same year, he broadcast the very first televised Grey Cup game.

But he would make his biggest splash as the head of the Drama department. He took it over in 1954; by then, CBC-TV was a big deal. Well over half the people in Canada now owned a television set; we had quickly become one of the leading television-producing nations in the world.

Newman, still only 31 years old, got to work implementing his new ideas. He was deeply influenced by his time making documentaries at the NFB, and he passionately believed television shows should try to connect with the lives of the people watching. "Canadians seeing themselves in dramatic situations always seemed to me the best way to get them to watch my programmes," he later said. At a time when a lot of the dramas on television were just classic old plays and novels shot with TV cameras, Newman hired exciting young writers and directors to produce original screenplays. He encouraged them to write about current events, tell stories about the world around them, and to break new ground. "[O]ne always complains about Canada," he said, "...we don't know who were are or where we're going or how we connect up with the USA. Well, I would say the bloody simple way to find out is to let the writers talk about themselves... and Canadians will quickly find out what they are."

By the end of the 1950s, Canada was getting a reputation for being on the cutting edge of the new medium. While Marshall McLuhan was teaching groundbreaking media theory just a few minutes away at the University of Toronto, the producers at the CBC were developing their own new ideas. "We were the only country that had no [pre-existing film or television] tradition," one CBC writer later remembered, "so television was our beginning. We did things on television they didn't do in England or America." The CBC gave them the freedom to experiment and Newman made sure they used it. His Tuesday night show, General Motors Theatre, became a hotbed for new story ideas, camera techniques and young talent.

He hired, for instance, Lister Sinclair, the future host of CBC Radio's Ideas, who had recently been called out in the House of Commons over a radio play he wrote about an unmarried pregnant woman considering an abortion. (The leader of the Conservatives denounced it as "disgraceful" and demanded government action.) Another was Len Peterson; he'd been criticized for daring to write about alienated youth and the erosion of democratic freedoms during the hyper-nationalistic years of the Second World War.

But it was a third playwright, Arthur Hailey, who wrote the biggest hit for General Motors Theatre. It was called Flight Into Danger, a tense thriller about an airplane whose pilots get food poisoning. It starred James Doohan (just a few years before he played Scotty on Star Trek) and it was a HUGE success. One critic called it, "probably the most successful TV play ever written anywhere." Hollywood turned it into a feature film (which was then, in turn, spoofed by Airplane!). The BBC aired the original CBC version, too. In fact, they bought more than two dozen Newman-produced CBC episodes. His shows were grittier, more innovative and more exciting than what the British were doing. And there, at the end of every single one, was Sydney Newman's name.

Flight Into Danger, 1956
So that's how he ended up in England.

The BBC had started their own television network all the way back in the very late 1920s — more than 20 years before the CBC did — and for a long time they had a monopoly on the British airwaves. But now, in the 1950s, they were forced to compete with private broadcasters. It was one of those private channels, ABC, who offered Newman a job. He was happy in Canada — he says he found the television scene here "terribly exciting" — but he just couldn't resist the opportunity.

So he packed his bags and headed off to London to become the head of Drama for ABC. He brought his trademark moustache and bowtie with him — along with his radical, new, Canadian ideas.

"I didn't really like what I saw here [in England] on television," he said. "Most television drama in 1958 — and when I say most, I mean 98% of it — consisted of either dramatization of short stories or a novel, or consisted of hand-me-down theatre plays, which were adapted for television... The theatre has always been a kind of middle class activity... These plays never had any real roots in the mass of the audience."

Or as he put it more bluntly: "Damn the upper classes – they don’t even own televisions!"

As part of his job at ABC, Newman took over a show called Armchair Theatre — sort of the British version of General Motors Theatre — where he again made sure to hire exciting new writers. This time, they were British ones, many of them playwrights who were having trouble establishing themselves in the upper-middle-class world of London's West End theatres. Newman helped launch the early careers of English writers like Harold Pinter, Ken Loach and Alun Owen (who would later write the screenplay for The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night). His writers wrote about issues like race, sexual assault and the potential for a nuclear holocaust. And the work they produced for Newman at ABC met with the same kind of popular acclaim he had achieved with the CBC.

"They were locals," Newman explained. "They were ordinary people... they wrote about the country that they knew... We discovered that the audiences were just eating this stuff up. And in retrospect, looking back, the audience loved the plays because the plays were about them, not about some elegant people in drawing rooms... They were plays, really, about the working class. And for the first time in England, the working class was being presented not as comic foil."

Newman & Kotcheff, CBC, 1956
Newman liked to call this kind of TV show "theatre of the people," but the programs would become better known as "kitchen sink dramas."

And it wasn't just the writers. Newman brought some Canadian directors with him to England. People like Ted Kotcheff (a Torontonian who would later direct The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and Weekend At Bernie's) experimented with new camera techniques. Instead of boring, static shots, they adopted a more cinematic style, including hand-held camerawork and more frequent close-ups. Newman used those Canadian directors along with young British directors who were interested in the same kind of innovation. "We wanted to push against the limitations of the medium," Kotcheff remembered, "to approach the freedom of film, and not to enslave it to the theatrical tradition in which we found it when we arrived..."

Meanwhile, Newman used the talent he assembled to create a slate of brand new shows. His biggest hit with ABC was an adventure thriller capitalizing on the public's obsession with spies during those early years of the Cold War. It starred one of the British actors Newman had regularly used back in Toronto. It was called The Avengers. It would prove to be one of the most famous television shows ever. But that was nothing. Newman had an even bigger hit coming.

In 1962, he left ABC for the BBC. Now, he would be the head of their Drama department. And the new boss wanted him to mix things up.

"Syd brought this breath of fresh air into the stuffiness of the BBC," one of his colleagues later remembered. "With all its invention and all its wonderful storytelling, the BBC had been very stuffy... I don't think Syd had read Dickens. He certainly hadn't read Thackery. And as for Jane Austin, I mean, it was absolutely dead meat as far as he was concerned. He wanted something new."

One of his first challenges was to fix a slot in the BBC's Saturday afternoon schedule. They already had two big Saturday afternoon hits: Grandstand (a sports show) and Juke Box Jury (a pop music show). But right between them, at tea time, the ratings took a dive. The BBC had been airing a serial of classics, stuff like adapted Dickens novels. People were tuning out. Newman wanted to replace it with a new show of original material that would still educate and inform, but also appeal to the younger viewers who were already watching the other two shows.

He decided the perfect solution was a science-fiction show for kids.

Back when he was growing up in Toronto, Newman had been a big fan of science-fiction. And he still was. "[U]p to the age of 40," he said, "I don't think there was a science-fiction book I hadn't read. I love them because they're a marvellous way—and a safe way, I might add—of saying nasty things about our own society."

Pathfinders in Space, 1960
When he was at ABC, he had produced a science fiction trilogy called Pathfinders. And back when he was at the CBC, they'd done a Canadian version of the Howdy Doody puppet show with a science fiction twist: a character called Mr. X who taught kids about history and science by travelling through space and time in his Whatsis Box. (Mr. X didn't last long; parents complained he was too scary.)

The BBC was no stranger to science-fiction either. They had already done a bunch of shows with a sci-fi theme, stretching all the way back to some of their earliest programming. In fact, earlier the same year Newman joined the staff, the BBC compiled a pair of reports exploring the idea of a new science-fiction show.

So that's how Doctor Who started: with a meeting in an office at the BBC during the spring of 1963. Newman brought the authors of the science-fiction reports together with screenwriters from the old Drama and Children's departments (which Newman had now merged). It was the first in a series of brainstorming sessions over the course of the next few months, which produced a series of story ideas and character sketches that gradually coalesced into Doctor Who. A whole team contributed ideas, but it's Newman who generally gets credit for the core of them, from the name of the show to the basic premise. "The idea of Doctor Who," he later explained, "...was basically a senile old man, of 720 years or 60 years of age, who has escaped from a distant planet in a spaceship. And the spaceship had the capacity to go forward and backward in time."

Newman insisted the show had to be educational — about science and history — and that, even if the premise was extraordinary, it still had to connect with the ordinary lives of the people watching. He nixed the idea of making the main characters scientists (they wouldn't need to learn as much), proposed the cast should include a teenaged girl (who young people could identify with) and when the writers suggested the time machine should be invisible, Newman argued it should present a striking visual image instead. In the end, the Doctor's first companions would be a science teacher, a history teacher and his own teenaged grand-daughter, while the TARDIS time machine would take the form of an iconic blue police box — a familiar sight to English viewers in 1963.

But while Newman might have played a leading role in the creation Doctor Who, he wasn't going to produce it or direct himself. So, as usual, he set about finding the most exciting, young, innovative talent he could find.

Verity Lambert
First up: producer. "I didn't feel I had anyone on the staff who seemed right for the kind of idiocy and fun and yet serious underlying intent," Newman said. So he called up his old production assistant at ABC and offered her a promotion. Verity Lambert was just 27 years old when she became the producer of Doctor Who. At the time, she was the youngest producer in the Drama department and the only female producer at the BBC.

Meanwhile, the director for the first episode would be Waris Hussein. He was even younger: just 24, a recent graduate of Cambridge, where he'd worked with student actors like Derek Jacobi and Ian McKellan. He, like all of Newman's favourite directors, was interested in bringing a more cinematic style to television. And he, too, was breaking new ground: the very first Indian-born director to work for the BBC.

But as talented as they were, shooting that first episode would prove to be a major challenge for Lambert and Hussein. The BBC executives above Newman weren't completely sold on the show. They threatened to cancel it before a single episode had aired. The production team was forced to make do with a small budget despite their need to create entire alien worlds, historical costumes and the elaborate interior of the TARDIS. They were also forced to shoot on a sound stage so old it was nearly obsolete: Studio D at Lime Grove, a long, thin room which didn't give them much space at all. They couldn't even fit the police box in the elevator. "It was so old-fashioned, it didn't even have a lighting console," Lambert remembered in later interviews, "...It was like going into a studio that had come out of Noah's Ark... It was horrendous. If it got too hot, the sprinklers would turn on."

Their first attempt at shooting the first episode — in which the Doctor and his companions travel back to the Stone Age — was a disaster. The Doctor wasn't funny enough. The grand-daughter was too strange. Hussein had been too ambitious with his cinematic camerawork; the early TV cameras were just too clunky and heavy to pull it off. One of the actors remembered the day they screened the episode for Newman: "There was a long silence. And then Sydney got up and just said, 'Do it again, Waris.'"

Newman took Lambert and Hussein out to a Chinese restaurant in Kensington High Street to explain just how bad it was. "By rights I should be firing both of you," he told them, according to Hussein. But he believed in their talent and was willing to give them a second chance. Decades later, Hussein is still grateful: "For Sydney to put himself on the line makes him into somebody who, as far as I'm concerned, is a hero."

Their second attempt at filming the first episode went much better. The night before it was supposed to air they were already working on the filming of a second storyline. It was November 22, 1963. That date is better remembered for another reason.

The First Doctor, William Hartnell
Carole Ann Ford, who played the Doctor's grand-daughter Susan, was waiting for the elevator on her way up to the studio when she heard the news: John F. Kennedy had been shot. "I'll never actually understand how we got through it," she remembered, "because it was a very, very shocking thing... I was shaking. I thought, 'I'm never going to be able to do this.' ... I think I was trying not to cry, actually; I think we were all like that."

No matter how good it was, the premiere of Doctor Who was doomed to be overshadowed by the death of JFK. When the first episode aired the next day, it was slightly delayed in order to broadcast more news about the assassination. And the public just wasn't in the mood for time-travelling adventure. The BBC decided to the air the first episode again the very next week, but at the end of the first serial — four episodes based on the Stone Age story — the show's ratings were average at best. The BBC was going to need more convincing.

They say it was the Daleks who saved Doctor Who. The Doctor's arch-nemeses both terrified and thrilled children: their creepy robotic voices; their bone-chilling "Exterminate!" catchphrase; the aesthetics of a lethal salt and pepper shaker armed with a toilet plunger and a ray gun. The aliens who felt no emotion but hate were a hit as soon as they appeared for the very first time in the show's second serial. By the end of that storyline, there were more than 10 million people watching Doctor Who. Dalekmania had arrived.

Sydney Newman didn't like the Daleks. He agreed with one of the BBC reports when it said the show should avoid the use of "bug-eyed monsters." Newman called it "the cheapest form of science-fiction." But as you might expect from a 50 year-old show whose main character has been played in a dozen different forms by a dozen different actors, Doctor Who can't be reduced to the vision of one person. It quickly took on a life of its own. Those bug-eyed monsters became a staple of the show's format and a large part of its appeal, sending generations of delightfully terrified children scrambling to watch the action from behind the safety of their sofas.

But even half a century later, the use of those alien monsters still reflects the values Newman brought to the show when it first started. They're about more than just cheap scares; they're a learning opportunity. They give the Doctor a chance to demonstrate his respect for others and his belief that violence should be used only as the very last resort. He prefers to use his brain to solve problems. He's willing to risk his own life in order to open a dialogue with those bug-eyed monsters who, more often than not, turn out to have perfectly logical motives. Even if they're not always good ones.

"The Dalek Invasion of Earth," 1964
Those ideas about peace-making and peace-keeping had a new weight in the wake of the horrors of the Second World War. In fact, at the time Newman left Toronto, they were helping to forge a new Canadian national identity. The year before Newman's departure, future Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson had won the Nobel Peace Prize for being the champion of the brand new idea of United Nations peacekeeping. The idea quickly became a central part of the Canadian identity.

It was also, at the very same time, helping to reshape the British national identity. Pearson's peacekeepers were a response to British and French military aggression during the Suez Crisis in the Middle East. The Crisis was, for many Britons, a sign the Empire was not only over, but immoral. The BBC played an important role, clashing with the Conservative Prime Minster who wanted to muzzle opposition, pressuring the public broadcaster to support the government's position. It became a defining moment in the history of the BBC.

So it's not surprising a Canadian in the early 1960s would create a TV show reflecting something of a Pearsonian worldview — or that upon his arrival at the BBC, he would find plenty of people who agreed. Within a few years, in fact, Doctor Who had made the United Nations a major part of the show's storyline. And even today, the modern version of the series echoes the lessons learned in those dark days: the Doctor is haunted by the horrors of a recent Time War between his own people and the Daleks, and he's troubled by his own role in the violence.

Newman would continue on with the BBC until the late '60s — he was still there when the show made its next genius leap forward: the idea of "regeneration." It allowed them to replace the aging actor who played the First Doctor, William Hartnell, with a new actor playing a new twist on the same old character. It gave the show a built-in way of evolving over time, connecting with successive generations of viewers, and helping to ensure that it would still be a huge hit long after Newman and all the other original creators of the show had moved on. 

And for Newman, that time would come sooner rather than later. After he left the BBC, he stayed in England to make feature films for a while, but he didn't find much success with it. Besides, he missed Toronto.

"I am eternally interested in going back to Canada," he told one interviewer, "...it is my country. I mean, just the sheer thought of Yonge & College streets sends shivers... I can't wait to see the Toronto City Hall. I can't wait to go to Georgian Bay. It's my country. And there's something deep about this. It's corny and it's junior Chamber of Commerce stuff, but it's me."

Finally, after a decade in England, Newman headed back home to Toronto. London's Sunday Times mourned the loss. "Sydney Newman flew back to Canada yesterday, and British television will never be quite the same again. Arguably the most significant individual in the development of British television drama and a central architect of Canadian television in the fifties."

But the Canadian television scene he came back to wasn't quite the same as the one he'd left behind. The CBC had drastically slashed their drama department, prompting an exodus of Canadian talent. Homegrown writers, directors and actors all decided they would be better off in England or the United States. Newman called it, "a tremendous loss to... the consciousness of the nation... a tragedy for the country as a whole."

Student FLQ rally, Montreal
Instead of heading back to the CBC, Newman took a job as the head of the NFB. But it, too, was an organization in turmoil. This was 1970: the height of the separatist terrorist attacks by the FLQ. The desire to separate from the rest of Canada had reached a boiling point in Québec: there were riots, bombs going off, kidnappings of diplomats and politicians. Two months after Newman returned to the NFB, the FLQ murdered a cabinet minister. The Prime Minster temporarily declared martial law in Québec. Newman — who didn't even speak French — spent a lot of his time at the NFB clashing with separatists inside the organization. He claimed Québecois filmmakers were too focused on high-minded politics, ignoring ordinary people. And when Denys Arcand — one of the great Québecois filmmakers, who won an Oscar in 2004 for The Barbarian Invasions — made a documentary for the NFB that included two members of the FLQ calling for armed revolution, Newman kept it from being released. He was denounced for censorship. The FLQ even considered him as a target for kidnapping.

Meanwhile, the greatest success of his career wasn't even being aired in Canada. The CBC had shown the first 26 episodes of Doctor Who, but then stopped. Canadians wouldn't be able to watch it on TV again until the late 1970s, when TV Ontario finally picked it up for good. They even added to the educational angle of the show: an intro or wrap-up put each episode in its scientific or historical context, hosted at first by a futurist U of T professor and then Torontonian science-fiction writer Judith Merril.

Sadly, by the late 1980s, the show's popularity was slipping even at home in England. On Saturday afternoons, it was forced to complete with Mr. T in the wildly popular American show The A-Team; when it got moved to Mondays, it was up against the mother of all British kitchen sink dramas: Coronation Street. Doctor Who was almost cancelled in 1986, survived and then got cancelled for real. Newman had some meetings with the BBC in an attempt to save it and take over as producer, but he didn't get along with the network's new management. For more than a decade, the BBC didn't make any new episodes of Doctor Who. A full-length movie by FOX, featuring a new Doctor in an American setting, was meant to spark new interest and a new series, but it didn't work. It looked like Newman's greatest triumph was finally, completely dead.

The Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith
But not for long. A new generation of BBC executives and producers realized what they'd lost. In 2005, Doctor Who came back with a new Doctor, a new companion, a new look, and all the old villains. This time the CBC played a more direct role. They aired the new series right from the very beginning — even accidentally allowed a leak of the first episode before it aired — and then co-produced the next two seasons. Canada had invested public funds in the career of the show's creator and now Canada invested public funds in order to help the show regain its position as one of the most popular dramas on TV. The reboot has been shown every week in more than 50 countries. The biggest episodes are seen by more than 10 million viewers in the UK alone. And there's not a single drama on television that gets a better appreciation rating from viewers. Half a century after the TARDIS first materialized at Studio D in Lime Grove, Sydney Newman's greatest triumph is quite literally the most loved drama on television.

-----

Tonight the BBC airs a drama all about Newman, Lambert, Hussein and the making of Doctor Who: An Adventure In Space and Time. This Saturday, they air the big 50th anniversary special. I could not possibly be more excited. #OMFG It's also being shown in theatres on Saturday and on Monday, though Saturday is already sold out. Cineplex has all the deets here.

I'll be writing about the new episode at the Little Red Umbrella, where I've already got posts up about the recent mini episode and pretty much all of last season. You can check that all out here.

Newman and Lambert have both been referenced a couple of times in the new version of the series. There's a character in one episode called Verity Newman; in another, in which the Doctor forgets who he is and think he's human, he gives his parents' names are Sydney and Verity.

There's a whole documentary about the origins of Doctor Who called, appropriately enough, Doctor Who: Origins. There's another one, too, called The Story of Doctor Who. They're both great. The BBC also did a radio program all about he creation of the show recently, which you can stream online here. And they have a whole website dedicated to the creation of the show, including all those early reports and character sketches. They also have an article about one of the documents here.

Jamie Bradburn has the full story of Flight Into Danger and "The Adventures of Sydney Newman" in a post for Torontoist here. Sydney Newman gave a long interview to the CBC in 1966, while he was still with the BBC, which is where some of the quotes in my post come from. You can watch it online thanks to the CBC archives here. The Museum of Broadcast Communications has a webpage about him here. The Canadian Film Encyclopedia has one here. The British Film Institute has another one here. He's also featured a bit in the book Rewind & Search which you can, in part, online thanks to Google Books here. And in When Television Was Young here. His Wikipedia page is here.

Sydney Newman interestingly enough, was also the first person to Marshall McLuhan on TV, as part of a series on University of Toronto professors which you can learn a little bit more about here.

Newman died of a heart attack in 1997. He lived in Governor's Bridge, just north of the Brickworks. When he passed away, the Guardian declared, ""For ten brief but glorious years, Sydney Newman... was the most important impresario in Britain... His death marks not just the end of an era but the laying to rest of a whole philosophy of popular art."

Verity Lambert has also passed away. The Independent shares more about her story in her obituary here. She would eventually run her own Drama department at Thames Television. Sad they're not both still here to enjoy the show's 50th anniversary.

You can watch a couple of Sydney Newman's WWII propaganda films here and here. The Canadian Film Encyclopedia has more about the entire "Canada Carries On" series here. You can learn more about the founding of the NFB here. And about the NFB in general from the book In The National Interest: A Chronicle of the National Film Board of Canada which is, in part, online thanks to Google Books here. The Canadian Encyclopedia shares the history of the CBC here. You can learn more about General Motors Theatre here. And about Lister Sinclair's controversial abortion CBC radio play here. Wikipedia has a bit about the Canadian version of Howdy Doody here. And there's a blog with a little bit more about it here.

There are a bunch of Canadian Doctor Who fan sites. In fact, the Canadian fan club offshoot of the original British fan club — The Doctor Who Appreciation Society — is the longest-running Whovian fan club in North America. 33 years old this year. They're called the Doctor Who Information Network. There's a terribly popular podcast, too: Radio Free Skaro. And countless blogs and Tumblrs, as well as reference sites like The Doctor Who Reference Guide and Doctor Who: A Brief History of Time (Travel).

You can learn more about the BBC and the Suez Crisis in this PDF from the BBC.

You can learn more about the Torontonian director of Weekend At Bernie's, Ted Kotcheff, here.

Oh and here's an interesting comment from Sylvester McCoy, who played the Seventh Doctor, linking the Daleks to that sense of historical militarism: "I think Doctor Who played a lot on the fears we were growing up with. You know, the Daleks were kind of like fascistic. Those images of tanks in the First World War coming over, a Dalek looks like one of those in a way."

I also wanted to include something about the amazing original theme song and title sequence, both done with cutting edge experimental technology by 1960s standards. The BBC Radiophonic Workshop put the music together using tape loops, piano strings, oscillators and filters. The TARDIS sound comes from scrapping keys along piano strings. Soooooo nerdily cool.

Alright, that's it. I'm done.


Monday, November 11, 2013

A.Y. Jackson Goes To War — The Group of Seven on the Western Front



"What war?"

In the summer of 1914, A.Y. Jackson was far from home, high among the peaks of the Rocky Mountains. He was there to paint. This was back in the earliest days of the Group of Seven, years before they used that nickname. Jackson was still new to the group; the others had only recently convinced him to join their efforts to change the Canadian art world forever — and with it, the way Canadians saw their own country.

Even before they met him, the other artists admired Jackson. His style was deeply influenced by his studies in Paris, at the heart of the Impressionist revolution that had yet to reach Canada. The group saw Jackson’s work — particularly a painting called The Edge of the Maple Wood — as the example they wanted to follow. So they and one of their patrons offered him free room and board for a year if he was willing to move from Montreal to Toronto and do nothing but work on his art. They even had a brand new building to put him up in: the Studio Building in Rosedale. He accepted.

But in those early days, the group’s paintings were terribly controversial. Established critics dismissed them in much the same way Van Gogh, Matisse and Picasso had been dismissed. "The Hot Mush School," they called them. "A horrible bunch of junk." "The figments of a drunkard’s dream." "Daubing by immature children." "A spilt can of paint."

Luckily, not everyone agreed with those critics. Some people were thrilled with the way Jackson and the others were using vivid colours and Impressionist techniques to capture the spirit of the Canadian landscape. When the Canadian Northern Railroad built a new line through the Rockies, they commissioned Jackson to travel with their construction camps as they worked along the Fraser River. That’s how he made his first trip out West.

While he was in the Rockies, Jackson would leave the camps behind for days on end, hiking up in into the mountains with a guide. "We took many chances," Jackson remembered later in his autobiography, "sliding down snow slopes with just a stick for a brake, climbing over glaciers without ropes, and crossing rivers too swift to wade, by felling trees across them."

It was at the end of one of these "scrambles" that he heard the news. When he returned to camp, an engineer was waiting for him. "What do you think about the war?" he asked the painter. It was the first Jackson had heard of it.

Before long, he would be all too familiar with the First World War, fighting on the front lines. But for now, it seemed a long way away. As the military might of Europe shifted into gear, Jackson kept painting. Most people thought the war would be over soon; there didn’t seem to be any pressing need for the artist to join the fight. Instead of heading back to Toronto, where young men were lined up outside the Armouries on University Avenue waiting to enlist, Jackson headed straight from the Rockies to Algonquin Park. There was someone waiting for him there.

Thomson at Grip Ltd. (via)
Tom Thomson was one of the most promising young artists in Toronto. But Thomson found that hard to believe. He had a steady, paying gig at Grip Ltd., a downtown design firm where many of the Group of Seven artists worked. He was known as the most accomplished outdoorsman of them all; it was Thomson who first fell in love with Algonquin Park and introduced it to the others. But he lacked their confidence when it came to his art. He worried that if he quit his day job, he wouldn’t be able to make a living off his paintings. And so, as part of Jackson’s deal to get a free year in the Studio Building, the others also asked him to take Thomson under his wing. The two artists would share a studio on the top floor. And while Thomson taught Jackson about life in the bush, Jackson would teach Thomson about painting.

The two met in Algonquin that autumn for their very first sketching trip together. While Arthur Lismer and Fred Varley (two future members of the Group of Seven who had recently emigrated from England) stayed in a lodge with their families, Jackson and Thomson roughed it in the bush: living in a tent, travelling by canoe and working on birch panels small enough to be carried through the wilderness. That fall, they made sketches that would lead to some of their most famous work. Jackson’s The Red Maple was a result of that trip. And so was Thomson’s Northern River.

Meanwhile, six thousand kilometers away, young men were facing a very different reality. "There was a war on too," Jackson later wrote, but "in Algonquin we heard little about it and hoped it would soon be over."

Of course, it wouldn’t be. The war on the Western Front had kicked off with a big, fast, German drive into France and an Allied counteroffensive that pushed them far back. But now that quick, dramatic war of sweeping movement — the kind everyone had been expecting — was settling into a grueling stalemate. That September, in order to avoid being driven back any further, the Germans dug the very first trenches. The French soon followed suite. By the time the artists got back from Algonquin, it was already becoming clear that this would be a new, more horrifying kind of war. And not a short one. "When we reached Toronto," Jackson wrote, "we realized that we had been unduly optimistic, that the war was likely to be a long one, and that our relatively carefree days were over."

He tried to get back into the swing of things at the Studio Building, turning sketches like The Red Maple into full canvases. "But I could not settle down to serious work. The war made me restless." With his free year at the Studio Building coming to an end, Jackson decided to head back to Montreal and join the army.

As it turned out, it would still be a few months before he finally signed up. The news from Europe shifted again and it seemed, again, as if it might be a quick war. Jackson seized the opportunity to take another sketching trip, this time to one of his favourite spots in rural Québec.

But in April, the Germans successfully deployed a deadly new weapon for the very first time: chlorine gas. In Belgium, near the town of Ypres, a thick cloud of poison yellow smoke descended on trenches full of French, Moroccan and Algerian troops. They say six thousand people died in the first few minutes: suffocating, lungs burning, frothing at the mouth, cut to pieces by German guns. The Germans attacked and drove the Allies back to a spot near the village of St. Julien, where Canadians rushed to plug the hole in the line, holding urine-soaked handkerchiefs over their faces as feeble protection against the deadly fumes. Three-quarters of them would die, too, but they would hold the line and keep the Germans at bay. That was just the beginning of a long, bloody battle — the same one that would inspire another Canadian, John McCrae, to write "In Flanders Fields."

"At the railway station one morning I heard the first news of the Battle of St. Julien," Jackson wrote. "I knew then that all the wishful thinking about the war being of short duration was over."

Finally, he saw this recruitment poster:


 It "ended any doubts I had about enlisting," he said. A few months later, he was on his way to the front lines.

Still, while Jackson was willing to fight, he was far from being seized with a patriotic lust for battle. His letters made that perfectly clear. "I'm a Social Democrat," he wrote to his sister from the battlefields of Belgium, "and don’t believe in war." He scorned the wealthy, Empire-loving Canadians who glorified the war from the safety of home while the poor were forced to fight it. "I don't think I ever in my life took so little pride in being British,” he wrote in a second letter. “The rough neck and the out of work far outnumber the patriot. Volunteers by pressure... when you hear all the bosh talked and written about our precious honor, Christian ideals, etc. it just about makes you sick… people who entrust their national honor to men they would not allow to enter their houses in times of peace are not worth fighting for."

Before he'd even left for Europe, Jackson wrote, "I wish we could send all our politicians to the front." And later, he added that warmongering members of the clergy would benefit from the same treatment. "At the front we would see examples of self sacrifice and sublime courage by men the church would regard as outside the law. His faith in the church might weaken but his faith in humanity would be better stuff after it."

When Jackson had first signed up, Lawren Harris (another, wealthier artist in the group) had offered to buy him a commission as an officer (and all the preferential treatment that came with it). But Jackson refused, preferring to earn his rank through experience. "This Canadian army," he wrote, "would be a far finer machine to my mind if all class distinctions were done away with, and officers lived under exactly the same conditions as the men…"

It was early in 1916 that Jackson ended up in the trenches just outside Ypres, not far from the spot where the St. Battle of St. Julien had raged a year earlier. It was a bombed-out, blood-soaked mess. "The flag waving was over," he wrote. But he did see some haunting beauty in the desolation. "Flanders in early spring was beautiful, as was Ypres by moonlight and the weird ruined landscapes under the light of flares or rockets."

Troops near Ypres, WWI (via)
That summer, the Germans launched an attack against the high ground held by the Allies outside the town. Jackson was there "crawling along a trench in Sanctuary Wood, and an aeroplane circling overhead like a big hawk, signalling to the artillery who were trying to blow us up. It was a day of glorious sunshine and only man was vile, in general, individually they were magnificent."

Once the Germans had pushed the Allies off the high ground it was up to the Canadians to counter-attack — the first time our army had ever been given such a task. It was, according to the official British history of the war "an unqualified success." The Canadian forces developed new methods for fighting this new kind of brutal war — changing, for instance, the number of artillery barrages before they went over the top, so the Germans wouldn’t know when they were coming.

Now, nearly 100 years later, a museum stands on that spot, still run by the grandson of the farmer who owned the land. Nearby, a monument has been erected as a memorial to the Canadians who died there. Some of the craters and the trenches where they fought are still there, too, preserved by the museum. In Toronto, we remember the battle every year with a parade at Fort York. We call it "Sorrel Day."

Jackson survived the barrages, the attack and the counter-attack, but it was hard for anyone to last very long in that devastated place. A week later, during a German bombardment, he was wounded. It got him in the hip and the shoulder.

He was taken to a hospital in France and then to England to recover. That’s where got a letter delivering tragic news from Canada.

When Jackson had left Toronto to enlist, Tom Thomson had stayed behind to paint. He had a medical condition that kept him out of the army. But at that point, his free year in the Studio Building was over too, and without someone else to help make rent, he was forced moved into the shed out back instead. He spent the warmer months away on sketching trips in the northern bush, while he spent the snowy months holed up in the shack on the slopes of the Rosedale Valley, deeply immersed in his work. There, he would paint some of the most famous canvasses in Canadian history, works like The Jack Pine (now in the National Gallery) and The West Wind (now in the AGO).

All the while, he worried about the war. The shed, as rustic as it was, was still only a few blocks away from the intersection of Yonge and Bloor, where thousands of soldiers marched by on their way to war. The military was all over the city. And Thomson had friends on the other side of the Atlantic to worry about, too. "I can't get used to the idea of Jackson being in the machine," he wrote to another artist in the group, "and it is rotten that in this socalled civilized age that such things can exist…"

Jackson would survive to see the end of the war, but Thomson wouldn't be so lucky. During the summer of 1917, he took another trip to Algonquin. It would be his last. The accomplished outdoorsman disappeared on a canoe trip and was found eight days later, floating dead in Canoe Lake, fishing wire wrapped around his leg. At the time, he was still barely known outside the small group of artists in Toronto. But over the course of the next few decades, his fame grew — and so did the legend of his death. A century later, he's hailed as one of the most famous Canadian artists ever and his suspicious accident is one of our most infamous mysteries.

But for Jackson it was a very personal tragedy. "I could sit down and cry to think that while in all this turmoil over here... the peace and quietness of the north country should be the scene of such a tragedy," he wrote in a letter home. "Without Tom the north country seems a desolation of bush and rock. He was the guide, the interpreter, and we the guests partaking of the hospitality so generously given."

In his autobiography, Jackson remembered, "The thought of getting back to the north country with Thomson, and going father afield with him on painting trips after the war was over, had always buoyed me up when the going was rough. Now I would never go sketching with Tom Thomson again."

Canadians at Passchendaele, 1917
And things looked like they were about to get even worse. Jackson had recovered from his wounds just as the Allies were getting ready for a big offensive — and just as the men in his unit had gotten so sick of the conditions, they were ready to mutiny. Soon, they would be back on the front lines outside Ypres, at the muddy Battle of Passchendaele, where hundreds of thousands of men would die in just a few short months. Meanwhile, Jackson was reaching the end of his tether — he had been worn down by the war and friends worried he couldn't take much more of it.

But a few days after he learned about Thomson’s death, Jackson got some good news. He was digging a latrine when an officer interrupted him. The army had a new project and they wanted him to be a part of it.

The man behind the idea was Lord Beaverbrook — a Canadian businessman turned British politician and newspaper baron. He was determined to make sure that there would an historical record of the Canadian contribution to the war. And so, he used some of his own fortune to establish the Canadian War Records Office. Part of his plan was to hire artists to capture the Canadian experience of the war. Eventually, there would be almost 120 of them, producing nearly a thousand paintings by the time it was all over. Jackson was one of the very first who was asked to join the cause. He would paint more canvases for the War Records Office than any other artist.

Now, instead of a gun, his main companion was a sketchbook.

It was challenging work — and not just because he was trying to make art in the middle of a war zone. In the past, battles had tended to be fought by men standing in fields in straight lines; they wore brightly coloured uniforms; artists were commissioned to glorify their exploits. Now, they were hidden away in trenches being torn apart by distant machine guns or blown to pieces by a rain of artillery. The old style of war painting wasn't going to work. "What to paint was a problem for the war artist," Jackson wrote. "There was nothing to serve as a guide. War had gone underground, and there was little to see. The old heroics, the death and glory stuff, were gone for ever; there was no more 'Thin Red Line' or 'Scotland For Ever.'"

Instead, Jackson chose to paint landscapes, much as he did back home in Canada. But these places were more dead than alive, dreadful and haunting, ruined by the ravages of the most destructive war in human history. Individual soldiers were dwarfed by the scale of the devastation around them.

He would start in France, in the same region he had visited years earlier on a sketching trip as a student. "The country around Lens was exciting, in a way, for an artist," he wrote in his autobiography. "The permanent lines had long been established, and back of them was a swatch, about five miles wide, of seemingly empty country, cut up by old trench lines, gun pits, old shell holes, ruins of villages and farm houses. In the daytime there was not a sign of life. Of all the stuff I painted at Lens the canvas I liked best was 'Springtime in Picardy,' which showed a little peach tree blooming in the courtyard of a smashed-up farm house."

It’s on display at the AGO:


"I went with Augustus John one night to see a gas attack we made on the German lines. It was like a wonderful display of fireworks, with the clouds of gas and the German flares and rockets of all colours." He wrote notes to go with sketches that night: "Sudden bursts of flame ... coloured glow ... old house silhouette ... Bright green lights behind clouds shining through gas clouds ... Blow star a shower of orange." The painting that resulted, Gas Attack, Liévin, is at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa:


The War Museum also has A Copse, Evening, which one of Jackson’s biographers, Wayne Larsen, writes about in his book, The Life of a Landscape Painter:

"Just west of Liévin, Jackson sketched what would prove to be one of his most striking and memorable wartime images — A Copse, Evening. This eerie scene of dead tree trunks in a wasteland of shell craters and war debris shows a few tiny figures of soldiers making their way along a makeshift walkway of planks. Above them, diagonal searchlight beams slash the sky. The atmosphere is chilling enough, but Jackson's bitterly ironic title drives home the anti-war message — the copse itself is no more; all that's left are the skeletal remains of the shattered trees." 


Jackson's House of Ypres is also in Ottawa at the War Museum:


But Jackson wasn’t the only future member of the Group of Seven who enlisted. Lawren Harris and Fred Varley were also in Europe. Varley ended up working for the Canadian War Records Office, too, producing paintings that were even more disturbing than Jackson's.

"I tell you, Arthur," he wrote to Arthur Lismer (one of the British-born artists who had been in Algonquin with Jackson and Thomson), "your wildest nightmares pale before reality. You pass over swamps on rotting duckboards, past bleached bones of horses with their harness still on, past isolated rude crosses sticking up from the filth and the stink of decay is flung all over. There was a lovely wood there once with a stream running thro' it but now the trees are powdered up and mingle with the soil."

Varley’s piece, For What?, is also in the collection of the War Museum:


Meanwhile, back in Canada, Lismer was also working for the War Records Office. He was in Halifax, painting the war effort on the home front. And before too long, his subjects would include war ships returning home to Canada, full of soldiers on their way back to their friends and family. The war, after four long, agonizing years, was finally over.


By the spring of 1919, Jackson had joined Lismer in Halifax to paint the final stages of the return to peace. Another one of his most famous paintings came out of those days. Entrance to Halifax Harbour now belongs to the Tate Gallery in England. You can barely even tell it's a war painting at all; the only sign is a few camouflaged ships in the distance:


Now, with the war over and Thomson gone, Jackson's darkest days were behind him. He returned to Toronto, to the top floor of the Studio Building, and reunited with the other artists in the group. He had earned an international reputation thanks to his war paintings, and had been accepted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Art. It would take him a while to recover from the war, to regain his enthusiasm for the Canadian landscape. But soon, his momentum was back. A memorial exhibition of Thomson's work, which Jackson helped to organize, met with the usual disdain from the older critics. The fight within the art world would last for at least another decade. But the tide was finally turning.

Canada had a new sense of itself in the wake of the First World War, and for the first time since Confederation, people seemed ready to support artists who wanted to capture the unique spirit of their own country. Jackson and the others had attracted the attention of younger artists. They were selling their work to the National Gallery. Their war paintings had won glowing reviews from the British press. Soon, they would have their first group show together at the AGO. The year after they returned from the war, they decided to publicly declare themselves as a new movement with a new name. They were called the Group of Seven. And they were going to do exactly what they promised to do: change Canadian art forever.

-----

You can get A.Y. Jackson's autobiography, A Painter's Country, from Amazon here or from the Toronto Public Library here. The biography by Warren Larsen, The Life of a Landscape Painter is here and here.

You can learn more about the trenches of the First World War here and here. The Canadian War Museum has more on Lord Beaverbrook and the Canadian War Records Office here. They've also got a great piece by Susan Butlin, "Landscape as Memorial: A.Y. Jackson and the Landscape of the Western Front" here, as a PDF. The CBC interviews Jackson as the Studio Building in a video here. You can find a bunch of his letters home from the war here.

There's a very interesting old piece about modernist art and the First World War here. And a blog talks about the Group of Seven and "the virtues of localism" here. There are lots of reviews of their early shows here. There's a website devoted to Tom Thomson here. And one that focuses on the mystery of his death here. The patron of the Group of Seven, Dr. John MacCallum, writes a tribute to Thomson here. And there's a kinda neat damaged photo of his canoe here. There's more about Grip Ltd. here.



A version of this story will appear in
The Toronto Book of the Dead

Coming September 2017 from Dundurn Press
Available for pre-order now

This post is related to dream
27 The Longest Earthquake in the History of the World
A.Y. Jackson, 1914

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Disturbing Rob Ford Crack Scandal Timeline

It's not history yet, but this is my attempt to compile a timeline of what we know so far about the Rob Ford scandal, by piecing together news reports with the information about the police investigation into the Mayor's driver, Sandro Lisi, which was recently released by the courts. It's pretty much every important event I could find that seemed to be related to the Mayor's crack scandal, the alleged video-related extortion, and the killing of one of the men who appeared in the infamous photo Ford took with three alleged members of the Dixon City Bloods.

Obviously, there's still a LOT we don't know and much of the information that has been made available by the media and the police is based on anonymous sources, so I've tried to be as transparent as possible about where all this information came from. I've provided links wherever I could. Many of the allegations have yet to be proven in a court of law.

It's also probably worth noting that I'm not always sure which news organization was the first to report something — so the publications I mention are the ones I've used during this research and not necessarily the ones who broke the story. The "ITO" is the 474-page "information to obtain" document which was released by the courts, containing details the police provided with regards to their investigation into Sandro Lisi. (You can download a copy of the file here.)

It's been an eye-opening exercise. And a disturbing one. The scandal is even more worrying when you put it in order. The Mayor's crack-smoking might just be the tip of the iceberg. There are a LOT of other questions Torontonians deserve to have answered.

I hope the Mayor gets the help he needs.

Update: In the months since this post was originally published, some more information has, of course, emerged, changing some of the details we know about. Most notably, Ford's cellphone wasn't lost in late March, but on the night of April 19-20. 


SOME TIME EARLY IN 2013: THE ROB FORD VIDEO IS RECORDED

At some point, likely early this year, the Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, smoked crack and was apparently caught on video doing it. Both the Toronto Star and Gawker would later watch the video and publish reports about it. The Police Chief has confirmed the existence of a video consistent with the media's description. The Star says that the Mayor was:
 
"inhaling from what appears to be a glass crack pipe. Ford is incoherent, trading jibes with an off-camera speaker... he is heard calling [federal Liberal Party leader Justin] Trudeau a 'fag.' Later in the 90-second video he is asked about the football team [he coached at Don Bosco] and he appears to say (though he is mumbling), 'they are just f---ing minorities.'"

The Gawker account matches the Star's description in most respects — though editor John Cook says that he doesn't remember Ford making the comment about Trudeau, and that it was the voice off-screen who said it instead. "Ford, pipe in one hand and lighter in the other, is laughing, and mildly protesting at the sacrilege. He seems to keep trying to light the pipe, but keeps stopping to laugh. He is red-faced and sweaty, heaving with each breath. Finally, he finds his moment and lights up. He inhales."

Both the Star and Gawker were told that the video was taken "within the last six months". Given that Gawker heard about it in May and the Star adds that they were told it was taken "when snow was still on the ground," it seems that it probably happened sometime early this year.

Ford then spent months denying the existence of the video and claiming that he is not a user of crack cocaine before finally admitting it in early November. "Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine," he told reporters outside the office of the Mayor of Toronto, "Probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago." Later he would tell the Toronto Sun, "I think I know what's on the video and I know it's not pretty. Did I smoke something? Probably. It's ugly." But he added that, "I am not a crackhead or junkie," and also claimed, "I wasn’t lying... No, I’m not an addict and no I do not do drugs." 


AT SOME POINT: THE INFAMOUS PHOTO IS TAKEN

Ford with Smith et al.
At some point in what appears to be light jacket weather, Rob Ford stood outside what appears to be 15 Windsor Road. There, he took a photo with three alleged members of a gang known as the Dixon City Bloods, or the Dixon Goonies. The house is about 300 meters away from a complex of apartment buildings on Dixon Road where police say the gang is known to operate. It is also allegedly a crack den. Many people assume it's where the video was taken. Both the Star and Gawker say the men who tried to sell the video used this photo as proof they were being serious.

In the ITO, the police say the house is "believed to be a crack house. Looked like drug trafficking going on." The document states that a confidential source told a detective that it's "a 'trap' house. The house belongs to a couple of crack heads but Dixon guys go there often to 'chop' crack or just hang out and get drunk." The ITO also says that the source has seen several alleged members of the Dixon City Bloods at the house, some of whom will play a large role in the Rob Ford scandal. Two of them are in the photo with the Mayor. One of those men is ANTHONY SMITH, who was then shot to death outside a nightclub at the end of March.

The Toronto Star has also reported that they "talked to people who witnessed drug activity there" and that they believe 15 Windsor has been used as a crack house. They also say that their sources tell them that another alleged member of the Dixon City Bloods has been seen at the house: MOHAMED SIAD, the man who would later try to sell them the Rob Ford video.

The house is the residence of what the Star calls an "old friend" of Ford's, FABIO BASSO, and his sister Elena. Basso's criminal record, according to the ITO, includes fraud, possession of narcotics, failure to attend court, driving with ability impaired, possession of a schedule I substance and possession of a prohibited weapon, while his sister's record includes (among other things) trafficking in and possession of a narcotic, being unlawfully at large, obstructing a peace officer, communicating for the purposes of prostitution, possession of property obtained by crime, theft, and an indecent act.

According to a report by the Star, a city official has told them that in January, a member of the Mayor's staff "called the city's water department on behalf of resident Fabio Basso regarding a sewage issue at 15 Windsor Rd." In the ITO, police describe a notebook containing entries relating to the house, the water department and outstanding bills. The police document suggests, "One possible explanation for these entries could be that the Mayor is dealing with house maintenance and bill payment at 15 Windsor Rd."


FEBRUARY 23: THE GARRISON BALL

Sandro Lisi (via CBC)
The Mayor made an appearance at the annual military gala and seemed, according to reports, to be intoxicated. Councillor Paul Ainslie said he was "approached by at least eight people who were concerned about the mayor’s state." After talking to the Mayor himself, Ainslie said he found Ford "somewhat incoherent" and told Ford's chief of staff at the time, MARK TOWHEY, that it would be a good idea for the Mayor to leave. It would be a few weeks before the Toronto Star published the story.

Ford's driver that night was apparently ALEXANDER (SANDRO) LISI, the same man who has now been charged with drug trafficking and extortion over the Ford video. According to the ITO, police have been told by a former Ford staffer that by the time of the Garrison Ball, Lisi had already been driving the Mayor around for a few months. "Everyone at the office was starting to wonder who LISI was." They also say this staffer "believes [Lisi] is a drug dealer" and that the chief of staff also shared those concerns: "Towhey had suspicions that Sandro was a drug dealer." The Star later reported that they had been told by their sources that Lisi brags about supplying the Mayor with drugs. The Globe and Mail reported that a source told them Ford was seen on Lisi's street "at least once a week" and that the two were friends. (Lisi lives just a few blocks away from the alleged crack house at 15 Windsor and the apartment complex on Dixon Road.)

By the time of the Garrison Ball, Lisi already had a long history of trouble with the law, as reported by the Star, including convictions for "threatening bodily harm, assault and criminal harassment for 'repeatedly' following a [...] woman," and "possession of marijuana under 30 grams." He was also, at the time of the Garrison Ball, facing charges for "uttering a death threat against a woman in 2011." In June of this year, he was convicted. He's appealing the decision. Others charges for "assault and harassment" of the same woman were dismissed not long after he drove the Mayor to the Ball in March.

Another man who is reported to have driven to the Garrison Ball with Ford and Lisi was BRUNO BELLISSIMO. The Star describes him as a "crack addict" "who lives in his parents' basement" and has "known Ford since high school days". He and Basso (the guy who lives at 15 Windsor) went to Don Bosco at the same time. The Globe reported that Bellissimo's mother told them he has been friends with Ford since they were kids. The ITO also mentions his criminal record, including fraud, theft and possession of property obtained by crime as well as his "consumption and addiction of crack cocaine." The ITO refers to him as a "self-admitted 'crack user'."


MARCH 2: About a week after the Garrison Ball, Bruno Bellissimo assaulted his parents. According to the ITO, he "threatened to kill his mother, spat in the faces of his parents and pushed his mother to the ground and hit her in her head and body." He was convicted in May and has since been "admitted to a substance-abuse program for treatment," according to the Star.


MARCH 8: Two weeks after the Garrison Ball, Ford is again thought to be publicly intoxicated, according to later reports. This time it's at the gala of the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee. Sarah Thomson, who ran against Ford for Mayor, later says (according to this CityNews timeline) "Ford made inappropriate comments and grabbed her butt... Ford denies the allegations." Thomson later told a radio station that she thought Ford was on cocaine at the time, but had no proof.


MARCH 18: The Toronto Police Service begins Project Traveller, which the ITO describes as a "wiretap project" investigating "the alleged criminal activities" of the Dixon City Bloods. Much of the gang's activity, according to police, is centered around a complex of apartment buildings on Dixon Road, right next to the alleged crack house at 15 Windsor.

Phone records later revealed as part of the Lisi investigation and mentioned in the ITO, show that at this point calls were being made between Ford and Lisi's cellphones pretty much every day, usually more than once.


LATE MARCH: ROB FORD'S MISSING CELLPHONE

At some point in the "latter" part of March, Ford is rumoured to have lost his cellphone. The Toronto Star has reported that they learned about the story of the missing cellphone several months ago. They describe it as "an incident that panicked the mayor and some of his staff." They add that a source told them the phone "was apparently retrieved."

A leaked police document would later suggest that during this same month, Sandro Lisi was thought to have attempted to secure "the return of a cellular phone stolen from an associate" in exchange for marijuana. Ford is not mentioned by name, but the ITO does record — following a long segment of redacted information — that "A unified search query of Mayor Rob Ford does not reveal that his phone was reported stolen."


MARCH 25: At about 7pm, according to a report by the Globe and Mail, Ford showed up at the Toronto West Detention Centre long after visiting hours were over. The newspaper says the Mayor asked for a tour and then, when his request was refused, he asked to see Bruno Bellissimo, who was being held in the jail. The Globe says that request was also denied and Ford left.


MARCH 26: The Toronto Star published their story about Ford at the Garrison Ball. It was the first big public account of the Mayor's problems with public intoxication.


MARCH 28: THE DEATH OF ANTHONY SMITH

Shooting scene (via CP24)
In the wee hours of the morning, Anthony Smith (one of the alleged gang members in the photo with Ford) was shot in the head and killed at King & Portland. It happened at about 2:30 am, after he'd been at a club called Loki Lounge. Another one of the men from the photo, MUHAMMAD KHATTAK, was also shot ("in the chest and neck," according to the ITO) but he survived.

Two other alleged members of the Dixon City Bloods, NISAR HASHIMI and HANAD MOHAMED, were both eventually charged with first-degree murder. (Mohamed had fled to Fort MacMuray; the police tracked him down and arrested him there.) Police had initially described Smith's death as a "targeted" killing, but the charges against both men were later reduced. Hashimi plead guilty to manslaughter and aggravated assault and was sentenced to nine years. According to a report by the Canadian Press about the "agreed statement of facts" in the case, Hashimi said he had "ongoing animosity" with Smith and Khattak. He admitted to shooting them both, but said he "'acted instinctively' and did not intend to kill Smith."

The media later reported that some people believe the Rob Ford video may have been on Anthony Smith's cellphone at the time he was killed. "There is now widespread belief Smith was killed for his phone, which may have contained the video," the Edmonton Sun wrote on May 30. The CBC reported that "some friends" of Smith believed "he might have had the video stored on his cellphone." And Ford's (now former) chief of staff, Mark Towhey, would later reveal that he heard a similar rumour in the days immediately following the first Gawker and Toronto Star reports about the video: "There were a lot of phone calls coming into the office from people... One of our staff received some information from someone he trusted that we didn't know... that [the video] might have been the motive for a murder."

According to the ITO, yet another alleged member of the Dixon City Bloods, AHMED DIRIE, was also there when Smith was killed. He was never charged in connection with the murder, but he would be arrested months later: during the Project Traveller raids in June. The ITO says that a police source told them that Dirie was also seen, at some point, at the alleged crack house at 15 Windsor.

The ITO also notes, among a long list of phone calls between Lisi and Ford:

March 28th, 2013: (Anthony SMITH is killed)
(a) LISI and Mayor FORD speak 7 times.


MARCH 30: Two days after the Smith killing, Sandro Lisi called Fabio Basso (who lives at 15 Windsor) five times, according the cellphone records in the ITO. It's the first time Basso is mentioned in those records, which go back to March 18.


MARCH 31 or APRIL 1: THE VIDEO IS NOW FOR SALE

Three or four days after the killing of Anthony Smith and about five days after their report on the Mayor's behaviour at the Garrison Ball, the Toronto Star was contacted about the Rob Ford video for the first time. (This article says it was on the 31st; this one says the 1st.) According to an article by Poynter, reporter Robyn Doolittle was contacted on her phone and met the man in a park. She says she was told the video was for sale and was shown the photo of Rob Ford posing with Anthony Smith and the other alleged members of the Dixon Bloods outside 15 Windsor.


APRIL 2: A day or two after the Star was contacted about the video, and about a week after the story about the Garrison Ball, DAVID PRICE was hired to join the Mayor's staff. He was given the newly-created title of "director of logistics." When the Globe and Mail asked Doug Ford about Price, all the Mayor's brother said was, "You can't teach loyalty."

The Globe would later publish an article called "The Ford family's history with drug dealing," (which also alleged the Ford family once had ties to the KKK) in which they claimed David Price and Doug Ford sold large quantities of hash together during the 1980s: "Several sources have identified David Price as a former participant in Doug Ford’s hashish enterprise." One source referred to it as "a partnership." Another added, "Doug brought the supply, and Dave brought the demand."


APRIL 20: According to the phone records in the ITO, on this Saturday morning between about 4:30 and 5:00 am, Sandro Lisi called Rob Ford's cellphone 19 times. He also called Fabio Basso (the guy who lives at 15 Windsor) twice.

Lisi continued to make a flurry of phone calls over the rest of the morning and into the afternoon, including six calls to LIBAN SIYAD. Siyad is another alleged member of the Dixon City Bloods and another man who the police source in the ITO says had been seen at 15 Windsor. He was later arrested as part of the Project Traveller raids in June. In their current charges against Lisi, the police claim that Siyad is one of the two possible victims of Lisi's alleged video-related extortion.


MAY 3: THE STAR SEES THE VIDEO

Robyn Doolittle (via Twitter)
It was this Friday night that the Toronto Star says they saw the video. Reporters Robyn Doolittle and Kevin Donovan met with the man selling the video outside the apartment buildings on Dixon Road. The man who wanted to sell it was Mohamed Siad, described by the media as an alleged gun dealer, alleged crack dealer and alleged member of the Dixon City Bloods. "Money is protection," he told the reporters.


THE WEEK OF MAY 6: The week after the Star saw the video is the week Gawker editor John Cook says he received "a tip from someone claiming to have a videotape of Ford smoking crack." They also had the photo of Ford posing with the recently-killed Anthony Smith and the other alleged gang members. According to the post Cook would soon publish, he came to Toronto and was also taken to the Dixon Road apartment complex where the man who wanted to sell the video showed it to him.

Cook also said the tipster made three claims, that Rob Ford smoked crack, that there was a video, and that:

"Rob Ford purchases his crack cocaine from a crew of Toronto drug dealers that service a veritable who's who of A-list...Torontonians? Torontites? Anyway, a lot of prominent people in Toronto purchase and enjoy crack and powder cocaine, and they all buy it from the same folks. The same folks Ford buys it from. Ford's longtime friend, people on his staff, his brother, a prominent hockey analyst, and more."

The Toronto Sun would later also admit that, at some point, they received a call from someone who said they wanted to sell an embarrassing video of the Mayor. They didn't follow up.


MAY 8: The same week John Cook was travelling to Toronto to watch the video, our Mayor and Sandro Lisi attended a Leafs game together at the Air Canada Centre. According to a report from the Star, "Ford and Lisi disappeared together into a small washroom in the director's lounge, with no explanation given when they emerged."


MAY 14: This is the day our Mayor "sprinted" out of a Community Council meeting and went around slapping a bunch of "Rob Ford Mayor" magnets on the cars in the parking lot. David Price helped him.


BY THIS POINT: Police say they had already learned about the video.


MAY 16: THE NIGHT THE VIDEO STORY BROKE

At 8:28pm, Gawker published their account of the video. By the end of the night, the Toronto Star was reporting that they had seen the video, too.

But that afternoon, according to Gawker, before they published their story, they told CNN about it. One of CNN's Canadian reporters then called "a source who used to work in Rob Ford's office" to ask about it. Gawker's editor, John Cook, called that "a pretty fucking big mistake" and said that, "Within 40 minutes, word had gotten back to me that 'CNN called Ford's office asking about a crack tape.'" So it's assumed by some that the Mayor knew the story was coming just before it was published.

Ten minutes before Gawker's story went online, the ITO's phone records show that Rob Ford called Sandro Lisi. That call lasted 40 seconds.

Then, according to those phone records, Lisi started making his own calls, including a series of phonecalls to Fabio Basso (at 15 Windsor) and Liban Siyad (the possible victim of the alleged extortion). The first series of calls was around 9:30pm. He then called them again at about 2:00 in the morning.

According to the charges against Lisi, police allege the video-related extortion happened during this period: sometime between May 16 and May 18.


MAY 17: THE DAY AFTER

The morning after the video story broke, Ford was faced with reporters outside his home. "Absolutely not true," he told them. "It's ridiculous. It's another Toronto Star whatever." David Price was there, too, helping to keep the reporters at bay. And so was Sandro Lisi.

That same morning, the Star says Ford held a meeting. They wrote about it later:

"sources have told the Star that at a meeting the morning news of the video broke, Ford cited 'our contacts' and told close confidants not to worry because he knew where the video was, and provided two apartment addresses in the Dixon Rd. complex. Later that day, Price sought out Ford chief of staff Mark Towhey, and raised the 'hypothetical' question: What if he knew where the video was, what would be done? At one point, according to an account of the conversation, the straitlaced Towhey was heard to remark, 'We’re not getting the f—ing thing!' Towhey reported his concerns to police and was interviewed by detectives that weekend."

Meanwhile, according to the phone records in the ITO, Sandro Lisi kept making telephone calls. He called Fabio Basso (at 15 Windsor) five times that day. He also called Mohamed Siad (the man selling the video) twice that afternoon. Siad, according to the charges against Lisi, is the other potential victim of Lisi's alleged extortion.

Here's the detail of that charge as reported by NOW's Johnathan Goldsbie: it's alleged that Lisi "did induce Mohamed SIAD or Liban SIYAD by threats or violence or menaces to deliver said digital video recording to Alexander LISI Contrary to the Criminal Code."

According to the phone records, the Mayor called Lisi 5 times in a span of 17 minutes late that afternoon. His executive assistant, Thomas Beyer, had also placed a call to Lisi that day. Ford then called Lisi again at about 9 o'clock that night.

Around 11:30pm, Lisi called Siad two more times, according to those records. Both of those calls lasted only 3 seconds.

The phone records also show that Lisi was in frequent contact with David Price this day. The ITO suggests they called each other more than a dozen times.

Meanwhile, according to the Star's report on email records released under the Freedom of Information act, on this day Ford's current chief of staff (then his deputy chief of staff) EARL PROVOST stopped sending emails — the last one at 1:18 in the afternoon — and didn't start again for four days. The Star points out that they don't know if that's because he didn't send any emails through that account, or because not all of the records have been released as they should have been. "Provincial law does not include a penalty for refusing to disclose the existence of requested records," they add. His inbox also apparently went silent at this point, with no messages reported as having been received over the next three days.

This is the same day Gawker launched a Crackstarter campaign to raise the money to buy the video.


MAY 18: TWO DAYS AFTER

Det.-Sgt. Giroux (via the Star)
Two days after the video story broke, the Toronto Police Service put a homicide detective, Detective Sergeant Gary Giroux, on the case: "Specifically to investigate the existence of a cellular phone containing a video of FORD smoking crack cocaine," according to the ITO.

The phone records show that on this night, Lisi and Ford called each other back and forth at the same time Lisi was making calls to Mohamed Siad (the man selling the video and one of the possible victims of the alleged extortion). According to the information in the ITO, Ford and Lisi would be in close contact over the course the next week, as they usually were, calling each other multiple times every day.

This day also marks the end of the period in which the police allege that Lisi extorted Siad or Siyad in order to recover the video. If that's true and the charges by the police are found to be accurate, it seems logical to conclude that by the end of this day, Lisi had recovered the video.

This is also the first day, according to what VICE claims they were told by an "anonymous source" that the Mayor's current director of communications — who was working in Doug Ford's office back then — allegedly contacted a hacker in order to break into an online account where the video was being hosted. The subdomain name of that webpage was reportedly "goonies," which suggests a possible link to the Dixon City Bloods.

According to the source in the VICE report, the staffer first emailed the hacker from his official City of Toronto account (before switching to Yahoo): "Got something I want you to look into. Think you probably know what's been reported. What's the best way we can talk… T said you might be able to help us again."

According to VICE: "the hacker told VICE that 'T' stands for Mark Towhey." (The mayor's chief of staff.)

VICE continues: "During one of our interviews with the hacker in August, he told us that Amin [the staffer] and Ford were certain the goonies directory was the last and only place the video existed because the phone used to film the crack tape was 'gone.'"

Also according to claims made by the source in the VICE report, the staffer offered to match the $200,000 from Gawker's Crackstarter fund plus an additional 10% in order to ensure the hacker wouldn't sell the video to someone else once he had retrieved it.

The hacker told VICE that he was eventually able to download two videos from the website, but was unable to delete them.

The staffer has denied the allegations, calling it a "disturbing and false story."


MAY 20: On the Monday after the video story broke, Sandro Lisi made a visit to 15 Windsor and talked with Fabio Basso, according to a report by the Star. They published an account of the conservation:

"'Where are the guys who made the video, Fab,' Lisi said, according to a witness who was present. 'You know where they are.'

Fabio Basso, a quiet man, was nervous. 'They’re gone. Out of town. Gone to Windsor,' said Basso.


MAY 21: The very next day, Sandro Lisi was again seen making a visit to 15 Windsor, according to a Star source.

Around 11:00 o'clock that night, there was a call to police about an "assault in progress" at 15 Windsor. The Star later reported that "Fabio [Basso], his girlfriend, and Fabio's mother were assaulted by an unknown attacker brandishing an expandable baton who broke into their home."


MAY 22: Rob Ford was fired from coaching football at Don Bosco.

He also attended the funeral of Toronto Sun reporter Peter Worthington, where his staffers handed out "Rob Ford Mayor" magnets to the mourners.

The Sun later reported that sources told them that on this night, Rob Ford wanted to throw a pizza party for his now-former football players. His chief of staff, Mark Towhey, "balked" at the idea. The Mayor also wanted to retrieve the football equipment he had donated to the school. Towhey, said a Sun source, talked him out of it.

That night, Towhey sent an email to staffers with the subject line: "Direct order." It said, "Do not answer calls from the mayor tonight. Take the night off."


MAY 23: The very next day, Ford fired Towhey. A source told the CBC it was because Towhey told the Mayor to "go away and get help."


MAY 24: A week after news of the video first broke, Ford made his first statement since the few words he gave reporters the next day. This time he stood outside the office of the Mayor of Toronto and said, "I don't use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine." He added, "I cannot comment on a video that I have never seen or does not exist."


MAY 26: On the Ford brothers' Sunday radio show, the Mayor blatantly denied the existence of the video. "Number one, there’s no video, so that's all I can say. You can’t comment on something that doesn't exist." He also called reporters "a bunch of maggots." When a caller asked the Mayor if that is, in fact, him in the photo with the recently-killed Anthony Smith and the other alleged gang members, Doug Ford accuses her of being "racist."


MAY 27-31: Over the course of the next week, several members of Rob Ford's staff quit their jobs. According to the phone records in the ITO, Ford and Lisi call each other 6 times during Monday and Tuesday, but then, unusually, not at all until the following week.


JUNE 4: Gawker said they'd been told by their contact that the video no longer exists.
  

JUNE 13: THE PROJECT TRAVELLER RAIDS

Project Traveller (via National Post)
Early in the morning of this day, nearly a month after news of the video first broke, the police moved against the Dixon City Bloods. According to a CTV News report, 42 tactical police teams from 17 different agencies raided the Dixon Road apartment complex. They arrested 44 people and seized weapons, drugs, money, and other items, including one very important hard drive.

That hard drive, according to police, contained a deleted copy of the Rob Ford video. (It would, however, be more than four months before the police recovered the file.) The Police Chief also later revealed that there was a second video of the Mayor also recovered on the same hard drive.

Some of the people arrested in the raids had familiar names (all alleged members of the Dixon City Bloods):

Mohamed Siad: the man selling the Rob Ford video and one of the possible victims of Lisi's alleged extortion. He was charged with "trafficking in firearms, participating in a criminal organization and trafficking in cocaine." The Toronto Sun later reported that "unnamed sources" told them Siad subsequently attempted to use the Rob Ford video as leverage against his charges, but prosecutors refused. Days after Siad was arrested in the raids, he was stabbed in prison. The Sun says a source told them he was attacked by alleged gang members who "wrongly blamed him for the heat coming down on them in Project Traveller because of the alleged crack video."

Liban Siyad: the other possible victim of Lisi's alleged extortion. The ITO also says that a police source told them that he had been seen at 15 Windsor.

Muhammad Khuttak: one of the men in the photo taken with Ford outside what appears to be 15 Windsor. He was the second victim in the shooting that killed Anthony Smith. He was charged with "participating in a criminal organization by trafficking cocaine, and trafficking in a substance held out to be marijuana."

Monar Kasim: the third man in the photo with Ford. He was charged, according to the Star, with "trafficking in weapons and drugs for the benefit of a criminal organization, as well as charges of breach of house arrest, theft under $5,000 and conspiracy to commit unauthorized possession of a firearm."

Ahmed Dirie: the other man who was said to have been present at the murder of Anthony Smith and was said by a police source, as reported in the ITO, as having been seen at 15 Windsor.


JUNE 14: Lisi's sentencing hearing (after his conviction for threatening to kill a woman). A letter of support from Rob Ford was submitted, written on official City of Toronto stationary. Months later, when the media tried to ask the Mayor about it, he refused to answer and walked away. "Anything else? Thanks. It’s over. Forget it, forget it. Done."


JUNE 15: "PROJECT BRAZEN 2" IS UNDERWAY

Police surveillance photo
At this point, I'm not entirely clear on whether the code-name "Project Brazen 2" refers to the police investigation of Sandro Lisi or of the Mayor himself and whether it might have already started before this point. But June 15 — two days after the Project Traveller raids — is the date of the earliest surveillance of Lisi recorded in the non-redacted portions of the ITO. That document describes frequent appearances by the Mayor while the police were watching Lisi over the next few months. The ITO reports that Ford and Lisi met repeatedly at the ESSO station just down the street from the Mayor's house and in the parking lot of nearby Scarlett Heights, where the Ford brothers and David Price all went to high school. Police say that on several occasionas when Lisi met Ford, he dropped a bag off with the Mayor.

The ITO also suggests that during the investigation, Lisi frequently used what the document describes as counter-surveillance techniques — stuff like erratic driving, U-turns, high speeds, and running stop signs or red lights. At one point, they suggest he bought a "burner" cellphone to evade their efforts to track him. They used, among other things, a camera mounted on a telephone pole outside Lisi's home, a special mobile unit, an undercover officer, cellphone tracking and wiretaps (the records of which have not yet been released, but will be very soon). The ITO even describes police searching a van registered to Lisi's father while Ford and Lisi were off together sitting in another nearby high school parking lot. By the end of June, the police had started using an airplane to follow Lisi around. But after noise complaints from residents and a threat to expose the surveillance technique to the Toronto Star, the police reconsidered that tactic. Later, Doug Ford would tell the Toronto Sun that the Ford family was aware of the aerial surveillance. "I stood there and gave them the finger," he said.

Meanwhile, the police continued to conduct interviews with both current and former members of the Mayor's staff.


JUNE 25: This was the day that a judge gave the police permission to access Sandro Lisi's phone records all the way back to the beginning of Project Traveller in March. The police would have to get permission again, later, for Lisi's phone records after this date — which makes this the dividing line between the two batches. The ITO notes a "dramatic change" between the two. After this date, Ford and Lisi generally stopped using Ford's cellphone and started using the Mayor's OnStar and his home lines instead. Before this date, Lisi had no contact with a number registered to DECO (the Ford family company), but after this date, he started to have regular contact with it: 50 calls over the course of the next few weeks.


JULY 28: This is the day police say they saw Lisi and Ford meet at Scarlett Heights after Ford made a late afternoon trip to a nearby LCBO. They sat and talked and ate — and at one point, the Mayor got out and urinated on a tree. Ford also threw out some garbage; police later checked it and discovered empty vodka bottles.


AUGUST 9: THE TASTE OF THE DANFORTH

(photo posted by @JamieCastillo_)
This is the night tweets and videos started appearing from people who said they saw Rob Ford stumbling around drunk at the Taste of the Danforth. Months later, after more denials about his drinking problem, the Mayor eventually apologized for being "hammered" that night. (Phone records also later revealed that he called Lisi around the time of his arrival in the neighbourhood of the festival.)

Later that night, according to the ITO, at about 1 o'clock in the morning, a CBC reporter saw the Mayor at that same ESSO station down the street from his house. The reporter asked the Mayor about having made "big news" that night and Ford replied, "I'm big news. I'm a big guy... I guess anything happens with me is big, right?"

At 2:29 am, also according to the ITO, Sandro Lisi called the police to complain about a "white minivan" "circling the area" near the Mayor's house. The document says he refused to give his name. Police report that he called back a few minutes later to give them the plate number and told them the van was "driving around the area at a high rate of speed." The ITO says the van turned out to be registered to the CBC and by the time the police arrived, it was already gone.


AUGUST 13: This is the day police say Ford and Lisi met in Weston Woods Park (which was actually renamed "Douglas Ford Park" in honour of the Mayor's father in 2009). It's right across the street from the plaza where the Globe alleges that Doug Ford sold drugs during the 1980s, just behind the house where the Mayor's mother lives, and just a minute up the street from Scarlett Heights, where the Mayor, his brother, and David Price all went to high school. According to the ITO:

"LISI and Mayor FORD eventually met and made their way into a secluded area of the adjacent woods where they were obscured from surveillance efforts and stayed for approximately one hour... Surveillance officers were able to locate the area in Weston Wood Park where LISI and FORD met, a vodka and juice bottle were seized from this spot."



AUGUST 17: The Star published an article about the police investigation into Sandro Lisi.

On the same day, the ITO says Lisi again called police to complain about a vehicle he claimed was speeding — this time on his own street. When the police checked the plate number, it proved, once again, to be a reporter.


AUGUST 18: The ITO says police watched Ford and Lisi meet in the parking lot of Scarlett Heights on this day. This time, they were accompanied by another man, MLANDEN MANDERALO, who is recorded in the ITO as having been repeatedly seen with Lisi and Ford during the investigation. Police say he took up a position on the bleachers while Lisi and Ford hung out in the parking lot inside the Mayor's Escalade. (The ITO says that Lisi had arrived in a Safari van registered to his father.) The document doesn't say whether police thought Manderalo was acting as a lookout on this day — but in later reports, they suggest that he checks cars for Lisi as "a counter surveillance method." 

The cops got made. According to the ITO:

"After approximately twenty-five minutes, it is believed that one of the three [men] had spotted one of the surveillance vehicles in the area. MANDERALO was observed using his cellular phone and running toward [Lisi's van]. The surveillance vehicle slowly left the area [...] LISI was observed getting back on board [his dad's] van with MANDERALO and both Mayor FORD and the Safari van left the parking lot at a high rate of speed, Mayor FORD was observed continuing at a high rate of speed [in] the last known direction of the surveillance vehicle. [...]

"Mayor FORD and LISI then circled the neighborhood for a short time. LISI and MANDERALO were observed parking in the plaza lot at 1500 Royal York Road [that's the same plaza where the Globe alleges that Doug Ford and David Price sold drugs in the '80s, across the street from Douglas Ford Park], the two then walked over to the parking lot where they had previously met Mayor FORD, they were observed looking at all vehicles that passed by them."

That same day, the Globe and Mail published a quote Ford gave to the Sun, in which he defended Lisi: "He is a great guy and he is as straight as an arrow."


AUGUST 23: According to the ITO, a member of the Mayor's staff called the police on this day in order to relay a complaint from Ford: he says he's being followed. The police say they were then given a plate number that was just one letter different from the plate of the surveillance vehicle the Mayor, Lisi and Manderalo had seen at Scarlett Heights five days earlier. The police offered to speak with Ford directly, but it seems he never followed up personally.

Instead, the ITO says that the next day Earl Provost (the Mayor's new chief of staff) asked the police to give him the registration information of the vehicle. He also, according to the document, told them that Ford was angry with him for not being able to "give him what he wants." The police say they told him that it was confidential information and couldn't be given out.

In the ITO, the police write that the actions "clearly indicate that Mayor FORD is utilizing his position and the powers of the Office of the Mayor, to obtain information not available to regular citizens... I believe that Mayor FORD was trying to get the registration information for the vehicle that he and LISI observed on August 18th, 2013."


AUGUST 24: THE UNDERCOVER OPERATION BEGINS

Richview Cleaners (via the Sun)
It was on this day, according to the ITO, that police launched the undercover operation that would eventually land Sandro Lisi in jail. They say the phone records and surveillance showed Lisi was in frequent contact with a dry cleaners in Richview Plaza — making and receiving calls to that location even at the height of the Ford scandal in the days after the news of the video broke. The ITO says that a source told police that "LISI delivers marihuana to Richview Cleaners 2 to 4 times per week." The document also says the police saw Lisi make frequent personal visits to that location.

So on this day, an undercover officer dropped some dry cleaning off — with rolling papers purposely left in the pocket. Those zig zags would provide the excuse to start a conversation about marijuana with the owner, JAMSHID BAHRAMI. Police say the ruse worked. Over the course of the next two months, their records show the undercover officer arranging to buy a large amount of pot through Bahrami.

According to the ITO, "Information on the identity of BAHRAMI's supplier of marihuana was provided to the undercover officer, that being a male known as 'Sandro' who was described as the Mayor's bodyguard... BAHRAMI advises that his guy is SANDRO and that SANDRO is Rob FORD's bodyguard... It is the opinion of investigators that LISI is the supplier for BAHRAMI."

But the ITO also says that the first attempt by police to buy marijuana supplied by Lisi didn't work out. Bahrami, according to the document, told police that Sandro "cannot do it because he has too many problems right now." Instead, the ITO says he hooked the officer up with another supplier from the jewellery store next door — and that a little less than two weeks after the undercover police officer first made contact with the dry cleaner, he was able to buy a pound of weed off the jeweller.


AUGUST 27: David Price missed a train at the Georgetown GO Station and freaked out. He told a GO employee to "fuck off" and broke a door. When a journalist later asked him about it, he is reported to have answered, "Yeah, fuck you dickhead, what are you going to do about it?"

When reporters asked the Mayor about his staffer's behaviour, he replied, "It's actually no one's business what happens in my office."


AUGUST 28: Mayor Ford admitted to the media that he has smoked "a lot" of pot.


SEPTEMBER  27: According to the ITO, the undercover police officer began another attempt to buy marijuana supplied by Sandro Lisi. The documents states, "BHARAMI advises that Sandro is getting 'psycho.' Says Sandro is panicking and thinks that BHARAMI is setting him up... Sandro advises that everyone is after him since the newspaper article." Still, complaining that the contact at the jewellery store was unreliable and that his prices were too high, the officer said he wanted to buy from Lisi instead.


OCTOBER 1: This time, according to the police, the plan worked. The ITO states that the undercover officer bought half a pound of pot from Bharami and that police then waited for Lisi to pick up the money. When he arrived at the dry cleaners and went inside, the police say they entered the building and found Lisi with the same money they had just paid for the drugs inside his pocket. They also say he had a ginger ale can with a hidden compartment in his possession — he dropped it during the raid — which contained a small amount of what "appeared and smelt like" pot.

Lisi was charged with "possession of and trafficking in marijuana, possession of the proceeds of crime and conspiracy." The video-related extortion charge would be added later.


OCTOBER 29: This is the date that, according to the Police Chief, the police were able to recover the videos of the Mayor that were on the hard drive they had seized during the Project Traveller raids four and a half months earlier.


OCTOBER 31: THE WEIRDEST HALLOWEEN EVER

A month after the police arrested Sandro Lisi, the ITO related to his case was released. The Police Chief announced that the police have the two videos of the Mayor in their possession. And everything went crazy.

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Top photo via Canada.com

The post also appears on The Little Red Umbrella.