Watching yesterday's clown parade in Ottawa, I couldn't help but feel some nostalgia for the old Press Club. If the Club were still alive, we would all be heading there noonish to chatter about former colleagues, rivals and ne'er do wells who seem to have their knickers in some pretty serious knots over their juvenile spending habits. The talk would turn to Mike Duffy, of course, who, as the French say had been farting above his asshole in recent days.
The usual crowd would chow down on Chef Paul's famous roast beef and pea soup lunch. Everybody who was anybody in Ottawa would be there. Charles Lynch, Stu McLeod, Gus Cloutier and the Van Dusens in one corner. The French table spreading out in the middle. Nino would be fighting with Michel Vastel who would be telling the manager to go fuck himself.
Vastel would be expelled.
Over at the Sandinista table all the Tories would sit in their various states of "in or out". They would be chain smoking and imbibing Manhattans and goblets of red wine.
Duffy's name would be raised at approximately 12:05 by some outsider, non-Tory type.
Tim Ralfe would draw on a cigarette, exhale and start laughing.
"Well, what the fuck did you expect from Duffy," he would say. "The man is a glutton. Glutton for food. Glutton for booze. Glutton for fame. Glutton for power. It costs a fuck of a lot of money to keep that bandwagon going."
"I can't believe it took them this long to catch him," Peter Cowan would boom in his Amazing Hulk voice. And then they would turn to other matters, mostly telling old war stories, like the time Duffy got rolled by hookers in D.C. and was brought back to his hotel by the RCMP, nearly naked. And how his crew managed to clean him up in time to throw the first question at a 9 a.m. press conference with the President.
Now that was some good shit.
Nobody would be talking about Mayor Rob Ford. Nobody in the Press Club would give a fuck about Mayor Rob Ford. For this crowd, the world didn't exist beyond the Parliamentary Precinct. But then, neither did the Internet or smart phones. Cell phones weren't even allowed in the Club restaurant when this group was still alive and kicking, and you could see they always got a thrill when they were paged for a phone call.
In the good old days, if you couldn't find somebody on Friday afternoon, any secretary worth her salt would know where to call.
On days like yesterday, the Club would have made a mint. Lunch would last until the girls came to clean up the tables to get ready for an evening event. The patrons would then pile around the upstairs bar, or play a little snooker or shuffleboard and wait for the second shift which would arrive at three and stay until eight.
Some of the hardier folk came at lunch and slithered into a cab at around 10.
Makes me shudder now even thinking about it.
I don't miss the Club that much. My liver is thankful it sputtered its last breath a few years ago.
But I do miss those guys. Ralfe and Cowan, John Terry, Tom Sloan. All gone now.
But if there's a Heaven, or in their case a purgatory, I'm sure they were watching yesterday.
On a Friday in May drinking Manhattens, maybe dry martinis, and dining on the carcass of Mike Duffy.