And so, with both a bang and a whimper, Adam Giambrone’s campaign to become mayor of Toronto came to an end, a mere ten days after it began.
What fascinates me about the whole thing isn’t the impropriety or the controversy, but the stories that came out of them. Stories about a career-climbing overly image-conscious politician who’s having a premature mid-life crisis, an equally overly image-conscious “other woman” who took the revenge of a 21st century woman scorned, respectable and not-so-respectable newspapers racing to the bottom, gossip sites striving for more “hits”, clashes of archetypes, oppressed white men who need a hero and how technology has changed our personal lives. Not bad for ten days!
With Friends Like These…
“The White Tiger”, as some wags now call him, had enough going against him before the sex scandal, what with his being the Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission in the midst of a fare hike, customer complaints and a cold war between its workers and passengers, as well as the presumed endorsement of outgoing Mayor David Miller, who lost a lot of support after last summer’s garbage strike.
If you want an interesting indicator of David Miller’s standing in the business community, try mentioning his name at the Island Airport during the middle of the day. At that time, it’s mostly business commuters taking the magnificent Porter Air. I’ve heard his name mentioned many times while waiting for my flight in the lounge, and he’s generally regarded in the same light as pond scum. On my last trip, I heard an older business guy who felt that he had to precede the name “David Miller” with the phrase “the socialist” every time. All this may have something to do with the fact that Miller’s not a fan of the airport, despite the fact that it’s incredibly useful for businesspeople – myself included – and that regular city noise is still far louder than the sound produced by the (rather quiet) planes.
White Man’s Burden
When Giambrone announced that he had had an “inappropriate relationship” with someone other than his live-in partner, there was the usual tsk-tsking in the press. There was one notable exception, however: Mike Strobel, columnist for the low-brow Toronto Sun, had been won over:
Well, he’s got my vote.
I mean, who knew? Who knew what a lusty, savage heart beats under Adam Giambrone’s pale, puckered chest?
Sex with a sultry lass on his City Hall couch? No wonder our wunderkind councillor and TTC chairman wants that nice, big, comfy mayoral chair.
Good for Giambrone.
C’mon, Adam, fight back. Clearly, your mojo is working. So embrace it, like madcap Smilin’ Bob in those male enhancement commercials.
You may have lost the prude vote, but the testosterone vote is yours for the tapping. All us suppressed male electors pine for a champion.
Every Tom, Dick and Harry in this town has done what you did, or something like it — or wishes he had.
The line about “suppressed male electors” pining for a champion is pathetic and laughable. He’s a white guy in a white-collar job in North America who makes money writing at the grade 6 level; he has precious little to complain about. Despite the best efforts of that humour-impaired wing of feminism (Michele Landsburg, I’m lookin’ right at you), that status of women has improved without any significant cost – and a fair bit of benefit – to men. His remarks remind me of a conversation I had with a guy who worked in Maxim’s advertising department – he said that the magazine was for the younger guy who’s been robbed of much of the joy of life because of the social changes brought about by the rise of women. I couldn’t take him seriously, since we were both enjoying martinis in the swanky lobby bar at the W Hotel in Manhattan, talking to women who were approaching us to look at my accordion, saying “My father used to play one of these!”
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Archetypes
I’m still amused by the construction that went into the Toronto Star’s photo featuring Kristen Lucas (the “other woman”), Giambrone and his long-time partner (he always referred to her with the rather clinical term “partner”) Sarah McQuarrie. As I’ve said before, it screams “Madonna/whore complex”, with McQuarrie as the fantasy librarian contrasted with a sultry Lucas, leaning against a wall in an overcoat, looking at the camera with an expression that says “I will do things to you that most women can’t even pronounce”, all with a beaming Giambrone looking off into the distance. It doesn’t tell the whole story, but wow, what a story it tells!
What the photo doesn’t tell you is that neither woman knew about the other. McQuarrie thought she had a faithful live-in boyfriend and Lucas thought that Giambrone lived with his brother.
High Tech Meets Hijinks
If we were in the film noir era, Giambrone’s infidelity might’ve been proven through a love letter or perhaps photos taken by a private eye following him around. Since we’re in the era texting and tweeting, the damning evidence that Lucas brought to the Toronto Star after discovering that Giambrone was living with his girlfriend came in the form of text messages on her mobile phone.
The text messages told an old story about nebbish-y student council types who go into politics: they try to have their (mangia) cake and eat it too, sticking with one woman for appearances and to further their career, while enjoying the other for the sex and illicit thrill.
Sex and State Secrets
From Lucas, we got another old story about politicians: revealing inside information to their lovers. As the chairman of Toronto’s rapid transit system, Giambrone let her know that there would be a twenty-five cent fare hike at the start of 2010. This seems rather lame to me; we all figured a fare hike was coming, and I’d have been more impressed if he’d revealed the secret of how they get the caramel into a Caramilk bar.
Controlling the Story, Millennial Style
Lucas also tried to make sure that her story was told. As someone who’s just left her teens – she was 19 when she and the early-thirty-something Giambrone hooked up – she did so in the way that makes complete sense to an aspiring actress/model from the Millennial generation who grew up with MySpace and Facebook. She sent photos of herself – some of them heavily airbrushed in Photoshop — to local celebrity-chasing/party-scene reporting blog Drink the Glitter (she is said to have attended a number of their parties). Her reason? According to Drink the Glitter editor David Robert, “She didn’t want ugly pictures of her out there…she wanted good pictures.”
Drink the Glitter is the sort of blog where they end an article about Hillary Duff and her boyfriend with the line “SEX! TAPE! PLEASE!” and where Harrison Ford’s recent appearance in Toronto at a movie premiere was given the headline It’s Harrison, Bitch! They’re not the only gossip site trying to get the scoop on Giambrone’s illicit goings-on; Zack Taylor’s site is doing the same, and the Toronto Sun is reported these unsubstantiated reports as news.
The National Post’s Posted Toronto blog is on to something when they suggest that in the end, Giambrone, for all his claims of being social media savvy, was out-social-media’d by Lucas. She seemed to be aware, unlike Giambrone, that certain modes of communication leave an electronic trail.
When Others Tell Your Story
Giambrone’s case is the first one where a politician was brought down due to an error in fact-checking. According to the Toronto Star, Lucas came forward with her evidence because in an earlier article, they incorrectly reported that McQuarrie was his wife, and not his live-in girlfriend. This is going to end up as a cautionary story at Ryerson’s School of Journalism.
The day the story broke, Giambrone’s campaign team insisted that he would continue to run for mayor. He implied that the relationship was non-sexual, but that was contradicted by his text to Lucas telling her that she “looked pretty good naked”. In response to the text messages that Lucas brought to the Star, the team produced a “threatening email” purportedly sent by Lucas to Giambrone, a strange bit of evidence that was never mentioned again. If you’re looking for a PR team, you should find out who Giambrone used – and never, ever hire them.
In the end, Giambrone held another press conference in which he delivered a teary apology and revealed that there were more “other women”, and then abruptly left the stage. An aide stepped up and finished the story with the announcement that Giambrone would drop out of the race for mayor, sparing the city of the possibility of “Mini-Miller” running the show.
(Photo from David Topping’s Flickr stream)
In what might be an interesting idea for a short story or a movie but a terribly and painfully awkward real-life situation, Giambrone and McQuarrie (who seems to be sticking with him through all this) have travelled somewhere out of the country, presumably to work things out and save the relationship. I don’t know what the best outcome for that story is – personal experience leads me to believe that the best way to deal with a cheating significant other is to dump them – but I hope they get it.