Wednesday, 04 May 2005
Farewell to Frosty, and BC's leaders debate
By Joseph Planta
VANCOUVER - Everyone might be talking about last night's election debate in British Columbia this morning (and I will below), but this is perhaps the biggest story: Frosty Forst retires. I know nothing more than what I heard on the 3.00 pm news yesterday on CKNW, and the note the station sent around, announcing the abdication of the ratings king of morning radio in the Lower Mainland, after 32 years in the morning drive slot, and ten years before that hosting in other capacities.
I'll admit to not listening to Frosty very much over the last couple of years, especially since Rafe Mair's departure from the station, but from time to time, on weekends especially, a real pleasure is hearing listening to him through the archive on the station's website. Despite his notoriety, ratings, and talent, Forst has been an enigma. Unlike other media personalities in this market, he's managed to keep a tight lid on his image-CKNW's website does not feature a photograph of Forst.
Nevertheless, there are those ugly rumours. Everyone thinks he lives in a trailer park in rootin' tootin' Newton. That he has an uncontrollable shoe fetish. That rather than schmooze and booze with the city's glittering demimonde when off the air, he'd much rather sit in his armchair eating pork rinds watching professional wrestling. And of course the unhealthy fascinations he'd have with local television personalities from Harvey Oberfeld to Tony Parsons to Dr. Rhonda Low.
Over the years there's been much written about the lack of community and disregard for its history at radio station CKNW. Frosty Forst was the last link to the station's past. Talk show hosts have come and gone at the station (not to mention other stations), but for over thirty years he was the constant. Between the hard news of the day, the frivolity of Frosty Forst was a relentless phenomenon in the morning. He pricked the pomposity around us with skill and ease. No one could attack Pamela Martin or Deborah Hope as he could, and with such self-effacing charm that was nothing less than wicked. His quick wit is unmatched and will be missed.
The provincial leaders debate last night was a far cry from the bloodless and stilted affair four years ago, where, get this, the party leaders were bound by rules that prevented them from addressing each other! It wasn't an all-out brawl on the airwaves of all the local stations that carried the debate, but it made for a more interesting format that provided the leaders a chance to get in their jibes at perhaps their only opportunity until the election two weeks from yesterday. Vaughn Palmer was great as the moderator, though I would have liked to see him asking questions instead. It seemed a waste to have him just police the floor and watch the clock.
I didn't think wearing a grey suit was a good choice of dress for the Premier. Gordon Campbell should have looked like a premier, by donning a darker coloured suit, thus appearing a bit more premier-like. We're so used to seeing Campbell in a dark suit that he looked a bit out of place while the other two leaders opted for darker colours. Campbell looks sallow and pale. He also could have gotten a haircut, as whenever he'd turn to his right or left, you could see the hair at the back of his head, which made his hair longer than it probably is. As for the attire of Carole James and Adriane Carr, I wasn't as distracted by their clothing as I was with the Premier's. We've all seen the Premier at daytime campaign events or photo ops with darker attire.
Carole James did not look sincere enough, I thought. It was obvious she was well rehearsed, but perhaps too rehearsed. As she'd rattle off indictments of the Campbell agenda these past five years, she'd have a creepy sort of smile on her face, which didn't match the tone implied by the rhetoric she was using. Talking about closed schools and hospitals with a sort of half-smile on your face is hardly honest. I'm sure her handlers warned her not to attack Campbell with much ferocity, as it wouldn't go over very well, but she didn't do much better when she would be addressing the Premier, by looking directly at the television camera in front of her. At least look at the guy you're trying to bludgeon.
Gordon Campbell did as well as he could. There's a delicate balance that Campbell has to contend with, because if he attacks Carole James and argues with her, he'll only get hammered for the unpleasant image of him yelling at a woman. He was called out a number of times, but he was restrained enough that he didn't do all that bad.
It's obvious despite his many years in public life, and the previous experience he's had in debates, that he's very much uncomfortable. If it were up to him, I'm sure he'd have gladly declined the debate. He was thrown a bit in the beginning when he would try to interject, but it was clear he was told not to go into the fray all that much. Nonetheless, I don't think the debate improved his chances, and I seriously doubt that it'll hurt him. His eyes bugging out of his head, was noticeable in the beginning a bit, and a tad unnerving.
Adriane Carr appears at this very early point, hours after the debate, the only one who seemed to have gained from the experience. She was able to take on Carole James and the NDP enough times thus providing some needed contrast. She took on Campbell with ferocity as well, though her interjection in the public safety part of the debate was hardly inspired, and frankly thin in its content. All she suggested was looking at the root causes of poverty, thus crime, and then she suggested decriminalising marijuana. That's hardly original. Decriminalising pot is something we'll probably hear the NDP spout off if it hasn't already, and I bet Rich Coleman might even be heard to suggest that in the future, seeing the federal Liberals have.
Carr did not pull a Gordon Wilson on Tuesday night. Unlike the Liberal leader in 1991, Carr made a successful case, but I hardly think she'll match his success on election night. It just might have gotten her elected in her riding of Powell River-Sunshine Coast, but I doubt her party will manage any more victories than that.
The debate Tuesday night proved one thing for me at least. The leaders in this province are uninspiring. All three are accomplished people, there's no doubt about that. Campbell makes for a fine administrator, but a sincerely uninspired political figure. Adriane Carr brings a lot of freshness and passion, but hers are ideas that have been found comfortable by the mainstream. I think the Green's emerged as more than a one-issue party last night, but they seem like a good one and a half, if not two issue party at best. And Carole James seems to have this unshakable aura of entitlement around her. Her campaign seems to revolve around the fact she's not Gordon Campbell, she's more compassionate than him, thus because of that why not just vote for the NDP.
Jim Lehrer, the estimable anchor of PBS's News Hour was on Don Imus's program a week or two ago humping his new book The Franklin Affair, a novel that takes liberties with Benjamin Franklin. Imus asked a very thoughtful question I thought, as to why there aren't orators of note, or real statesmen in our political discourse today like Franklin. Sure, there are many skilled and accomplished folks, and intellectuals of ample charisma in the world today, Imus noted, but it's clear they're not going into politics. So where are those inspiring leaders? Definitely, not in British Columbia as evidenced by last night's debate.
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