A tale of two cities

Ottawa XPress – Shotgun – October 27, 2005

Once upon a time, The Rolling Stones made a video called “The Streets of Love” in Ottawa (rollingstones.com/abiggerbang). But it was a fairy-tale make-believe Ottawa, and all the little Ottawans got silly with glee!

A downtown Ottawa nightclub owner, a head honcho at an Ottawa-Gatineau film office, and local actors and fans went crazy as they kissed the wrinkled arses of the rock legends, and played sycophant while the band’s new video premiered on the daytime American soap opera Days of Our Lives.

Eugene Haslam, the owner of Zaphod Beeblebrox, told the Ottawa Citizen’s Lynn Saxberg that he was thrilled with the depiction of the club he’s been operating on York Street for almost 14 years, and that he believes Stones fans from around the world, who do their research, will hear about the club and want to come and visit it.

In the same article, Ken Korral, director of the Ottawa-Gatineau Film and Television Office, said he was impressed with the video’s perspective of the city. He credits the “right lighting [and] a little bit of rain” which makes Ottawa appear as any place, anywhere. “Now we’re showing Ottawa as a real city,” he said.

Actress Maxine Brown, who plays a prostitute in the video, told Saxberg she “squealed” when she spotted herself in the video that “shows a dark, gritty side to the nation’s capital.”

Then there were the fans. Daisy Szabo told the CBC, “A lot of stuff got cut. A lot of my parts got cut. A lot of my friends got cut. But it’s still an awesome video.”

Cut the bullshit already. “Awesome video”?

I tried to approach the vid with a mind as open as my legs were for a hottie over Thanksgiving weekend, and yet I got no satisfaction.

The syphilitic pain endured watching bad acting on Days in the lead-up to the video premiere may have seriously compromised my video appreciation abilities.

“I heard the concert footage from this video is supposed to be amazing,” says Days airhead Mimi to her boyfriend before it comes on.

Then it starts. A camera sways over a faceless crowd (sorry to all you extras) to Jagger upon the unmarked stage in an unidentified club (sorry Eugene), singing, “You’re awful bright/ you’re awful smart/ I must admit/ you broke my heart/ the awful truth/ is really sad/ I must admit/ I was awful bad.”

Step aside Leonard Cohen.

So… a dude is crying as we’re flashed the image of a woman. Then buddy walks the streets alone, “and they’re full of tears” and fears.

He walks by a bar (Zaphod’s): “A couple watch me from a bar/ a band just played a wedding march.” He goes to the corner store (Domestic Foods on Gladstone) to buy booze: “the corner store mends broken hearts.” He sees a prostitute (Brown) exit a phone booth, fighting with a cop: “a woman pays for her debts.” Then out of the blue, some people street-fight him, a taxi hits him, he’s on the ground, then comes back to life as the girl looks on, listless.

You know, a typical Friday night in Ottawa.

Come on. Passing an Ottawa corner shop off as a dingy dépanneur? That’s an insult to our Gatineau friends.

Passing an actress off as a hooker? The Stones can afford to pay for a real one.

If the Stones – whose musical integrity has shrivelled up to the size of a gnat’s scrotal sack – require the dingy and dodgy to create their marketable cityscape background for the video, at least get it right and support local industry.

But fine – roll with the Stones’ manufactured image of Ottawa as a big city like Vancouver or Toronto. Just remember while you’re parading the coolness banner that the dark issues that come with urban ghettos and sex, drugs and rock’n’roll-like prostitution and STIs, methadone clinics, Alcoholics Anonymous, safe injection sites and complimentary crack pipes remain very real even after the band’s skipped town.

In this, we are a city divided. For some, it’s the best of the Stones’ videos, and for others, the worst.


Beautifully done See Toronto’s Lindy nail the dark city/lost love theme in his video “Beautifully Undone” at www.lindymusic.com (Look/Listen).


Still Our Bodies, Still Our Choice One dark, real side to Ottawa is that a lot of women are still not being supported in their choice to have an abortion here. Outaouais residents will be rallying on November 19 in support of women’s right to choose. Organizers are in great need of support from local businesses, organizations and individuals to help plan this event. Attend the planning meeting on November 4 at 5:30 p.m. at Second Cup (Elgin and Lisgar). For more information, contact madey@riseup.net.


Heroine Addicts Two of Ottawa’s highly accomplished women are Helen Levine (she received the Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case, for advancing the equality of women in Canada) and Oonagh Berry (she was a teacher of handicapped children for many years, then became a counsellor in addictions, working for 30 years at the Rideauwood Institute and at the Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre in Ottawa). Addicted to writing to one another, they’ve published their two-year letter exchanges on feminism, politics, family, friendships, joys and sorrows, and the laughable trivialities of daily life, and will share that correspondence on October 27 at the National Archives of Canada at 7 p.m. Free. (ISBN: 1-897187-01-7, 280 pages, $14.95)

– Sylvie Hill